November 28, 2017

November 28, 2017
TheGrotto-cioppino.jpg

A Wharf classic: crab cioppino. Photo: William Pruyn.

grotto-diningroom-view.jpeg

The back area of the dining room (with an incredible view). Photo courtesy of Lisa Robins.

grotto-diningroom.jpg

The dining area, with booths, new yet retro seating, and black walnut tables. Yelp photo by Alisson M.

grotto-tables.jpeg

The timeless look of the updated dining room, with wood tables and oak floors. Photo courtesy of Lisa Robins.

theGrotto-cobb.jpg

Seafood Cobb salad. Photo: William Pruyn.

thegrotto-chowder.jpg

Don’t let just the tourists enjoy the chowder in a seafood bowl. Photo: William Pruyn.

Some big news regarding one of the Wharf’s most beloved stalwarts: ~FISHERMEN’S GROTTO NO. 9~ has reopened under new owner Chris Henry. It has had quite the thoughtful remodel, thankfully keeping its fabulous vintage style intact, just refreshed and gently updated.

Henry bought the historic property back in October 2016 (it was the first full-service, sit-down restaurant in the Wharf when it opened in 1935) from the Geraldi family, who have owned the Grotto for three generations, but with no one in the family’s next generation taking it over, they decided to sell and retire. (You can read more about the deal in this in-depth piece in Forbes.)

Henry recently took over another SF icon, Tommy’s Joynt, and understands the importance of keeping the nostalgia of these places preserved and intact while giving things a gentle polish—he says, “I want to bring things up to today’s standards for diners, but it’s important to preserve the rich history of the Wharf.” He’s also the owner of Barrel House Tavern in Sausalito and Dawn Patrol in Santa Barbara.

The upstairs restaurant is The Grotto, and all the original woodwork was stripped and repaired and repainted white, from the panels to the beams—it now has such an airy and light feeling. The view remains as spectacular as it always has—there are two sides of windows looking out on the boats and the bay. The former fisherman carpet has been replaced with blonde oak floors with wavy planks (inspired by the bar), and some bronze fish, crabs, and starfish have been inset as well—there is some ocean-inspired carpet that has been installed in the back section of the dining room. There’s also quite the carpet on the staircase, with an octopus on it!

There are banquettes and blue booths along the wall (that are slightly elevated), plus some round tables down the center too. The white tablecloths have been swapped out to reveal the wood tabletops, although there are some fabric runners on the table that tuck into two slots on each end. The black walnut tables were handmade by Eastern European craftsmen Henry has been working with for more than 20 years. There are also some postmodern-inspired chairs, in two retro styles (one is more upholstered), that add to the vintage-yet-modern look.

The menu (here’s an initial peek at the daytime menu) continues to offer the kind of seafood dishes people expect from the Wharf, from chowder to cioppino to crab Louie, but everything has been given a bit of a lighter, fresher presentation. Heidi DiPippo is the corporate culinary director, and Paul Bruno is the executive chef. Sustainability is highlighted, and they have added some fun seafood plateaus from the new raw bar (it’s where the restaurant’s dining room bar used to be—you can still sit there). There is also an herb garden and a beehive on the roof deck garden.

The dining room has a staggering 240 seats. I spoke with GM Lisa Robins (previously at another vintage SF favorite, Alfred’s!), who said it’s quite the marathon each day. She updated the wine list, with wines by the glass that are all from California and from kegs. Both discriminating locals and chard-happy tourists will find plenty to love.

They have reopened the crab stand downstairs, with some total pros running it—you can order cracked crab, seafood cocktail, fish and chips, and some of the Wharf’s best chowder (made fresh two or three times a day). And yes, you can get it in a sourdough bowl. It’s a grab-and-go situation, but there are tables where you can sit (unlike the other stands). The crab stand is open daily from 11am-6pm and it closes a little later Fri-Sat.

The downstairs casual café—which they are calling No. 9—will reopen next (they are targeting March 2018). They are busy preserving the Venetian look of the room, from the jaunty striped poles to the charming booths that were totally falling apart. I’m so glad they are being restored! Some of the amazing blue barstools from upstairs will have a second life at the downstairs bar as well.

Speaking of the bar (the Fireplace Lounge), which was one of the finest retro time capsules in the city, it’s now the Sinatra Bar. The beautiful undulating bar is still there, along with the funky gold medallions on the walls, the diamond-patterned wall paneling, the herringbone ceiling, and more. They even got the fireplace working. A jellyfish tank is coming soon, and you can come by and enjoy some piano playing Sat-Sun afternoons from 1pm-3pm. Tuesday evenings will also be happening.

Behind the stick, you’ll find the talented Ken Furusawa (previously 1300 on Fillmore, Ichi Sushi, Range, Saison, and La Folie), who has gently updated the cocktails but nothing too crazy—classics done right, all of them $13. Frank would approve of the Ol’ Blue Eyes, made with Jack Daniel’s (his favorite) single-barrel whiskey, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, bitters, and a brandied cherry.

The iconic vintage signage remains intact—you’ll easily find the restaurant because of it. And you can just guess where I want to throw my next tablehopper vintage dinner!

Another little tidbit: some ABC license-transfer activity reveals Chris Henry is buying Tarantino’s Restaurant as well. I’ll keep you posted on that too—I should have something to share in a few weeks. Open Sun-Thu 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm. 2847 Taylor St. at Jefferson, 415-673-7025.

Lemarais-castro-2.jpeg

The welcoming and timeless space at Le Marais Bakery Castro. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Lemarais-castro-front.jpg

The charming entrance to Le Marais Bakery Castro. Photo courtesy of Le Marais.

brisket-siegel.jpeg

Chef Michael Siegel’s famous brisket and creamy garlic mashed potatoes. Photo courtesy of Michael Siegel.

lemarais-castro-dinner.JPG

A previous family-style fundraiser dinner at Le Marais Bakery Castro. Photo courtesy of Le Marais.

WE ARE SOLD OUT, THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT! Hey everyone! Okay, Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to think about brisket! This Thursday November 30th, I am cohosting a fundraiser dinner with ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ in the Castro, which is generously donating their charming space and event support. We’re calling the event Comfort Food: A Benefit Dinner for Wine Country Relief, and we have chef Michael Siegel, previously of the dearly departed Shorty Goldstein’s in the Financial District (RIP) cooking us a heartfelt, homey dinner. Yup, he’s going to be making his famous family brisket! Michael is a Sonoma County resident and wants to do everything he can to support his neighbors, so we put our heads and hands together to host this event!

It’s going to be a family-style dinner, cozy and friendly, a midweek meal that won’t have you out too late, but you’ll come home with a full belly and warm heart. The Le Marais Bakery Castro location is so inviting, have you been yet? It’s a happy place.

There are a lot of people who are not in a happy place right now, due to the horrific fires that ripped through Wine Country, leaving more than 100,000 people displaced and 9,000 homes destroyed. So much loss, so much devastation. Forty-two precious lives were taken. It’s hard to fathom, but fortunately the outpouring of support has been a bright light in all the darkness. Everyone has been so generous, with time, supplies, money, food, fundraisers, helping hands, spare bedrooms, and hugs. But we have to keep doing more, giving more, and showing up for our beloved Northern California friends. We have a long road ahead of us to assist in rebuilding, and every dollar is needed.

It’s the week after Thanksgiving, so let’s continue with that feeling of gratitude as we sit at communal tables with 60 of our neighbors and friends and break bread (like Le Marais’ wonderful levain)! Maybe you didn’t get to see your friends over the holiday, so why not invite them to get together at our fundraiser?

Michael’s fall-inspired three-course menu is as follows:

-Arugula salad with Fuyu persimmon, toasted almonds, chèvre, and preserved Meyer lemon vinaigrette

-Pot-roasted brisket (kindly donated by Newport Meat Company), creamy garlic mashed potatoes, watermelon radish and baby carrots, veal demiglace

-Mini fall tarts and cheesecake from Le Marais

We will also be pouring some lovely donated (and local!) wines with the dinner, including Pomebandit 2016 albariño (sustainably farmed in the Sierra Foothills—you may recognize the name from Duna’s wine list!) and Artesa’s 2014 Los Carneros pinot noir!

We will be hosting a silent auction as well. We have some fantastic auction items, including tastings for four at the following wineries: Repris, Texture, and Pangloss Cellars, plus Seven Stones Winery in Napa and a magnum of Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Napa. We have a $60 gift certificate from Little Star Pizza and a pair of tickets to this Saturday’s sold-out Fine & Rare crab feed!

We also have copies of perfect-for-the-holiday books: two copies of the brand-new Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way by Rolando Beramendi and the new book by Robin Sloan, Sourdough. Karen Solomon kindly donated copies of her books, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Asian Pickles. And we have some 2017 olio nuovo and honey from Séka Hills. Thank you to everyone who has contributed!

All proceeds from our dinner will be going to the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund, which will be directed to North Bay community foundations, service providers, and government partners supporting the low-income communities hit hardest by the fires. Their approach has three phases: relief (3 months), recovery (3-9 months), and rebuild (4-12 months). You can read more here, and if you can’t attend, please consider donating!

Dinner is at 6:30pm, and tickets start at $50, all-inclusive of food, wine, service, and tax. We want everyone to be able to attend, but if you could possibly afford to buy a higher-tier ticket, please do! We want to raise as much as we can! Tickets are also listed at $65, $75, $95, and $150. We only have three tickets left!

If there is another amount you’d like to pay, please let me know! To repeat, it’s a 100 percent donation to Tipping Point’s Emergency Relief Fund. If you need to make your donation tax-deductible, do NOT buy a ticket on Eventbrite—we will need to make special arrangements ahead of time. (Just get in touch.)

Thanks everyone. We know there are a million fundraisers and holiday events to consider, but we’d so love to see you at our table! Let’s chow down on some brisket!

05_Coi_Interior_Maren_Caruso.jpg

Photo by Maren Caruso.

This was some pretty crazy news: after landing three Michelin stars, it ends up chef Matthew Kirkley was no longer at ~COI~ and was training for Bocuse d’Or, which takes place in Lyon, France, in January 2019. Eater reveals chef de cuisine Justin Mauz was an interim chef, who has since left, and now Erik Anderson (formerly of Nashville’s lauded Catbird Seat) is the executive chef. Look for a new menu in January. But until then, Daniel Patterson is back in the kitchen through the end of the year—take a look at some of the Coi classics he’s bringing back, plus new dishes too.

~DOSA~ has a new executive chef, Arun Gupta, who was previously at New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Maysville. His background is Indian and Polish, and he has always had an affinity for gardens and market-fresh ingredients. He is enjoying the Bay Area bounty and has reportedly added a modern touch to many of Dosa’s signature items. He has also added dishes like spiced carrot soup (yogurt, orange, candied pistachio) and South Indian goat biryani (dough purdah, basmati rice, squash, kale, pomegranate raita). The pumpkin masala dosa with sweet onion chutney and toasted pumpkin seeds also sounds like a winner.

barbercollege.png

The awesome location for Pentacle Coffee while it was still under construction. Instagram photo by @pentaclecoffee.

I’ve been tracking the opening of ~PENTACLE COFFEE~ on 6th Street in SoMa, and owner Bobby Valentino Sanchez just opened the shop! It’s in the former San Francisco Barber College location (such cool signage) but it was quite the extensive renovation and restoration (oh, old buildings—you can read more in this Hoodline piece). Let’s just say there’s a lot more light in the place. You may recognize Bobby from Four Barrel Coffee Roasters, and after 12 years in the Bay Area coffee biz, he is so happy to be opening his own place. He’s going to be focusing on Central American single-origin coffees and looks forward to forming relationships with farmers so they can improve and adjust growing practices for better beans. He’s also going to be offering some Latin-inspired desserts from Dave and Mauro’s Famous Farm and pastries from Neighbor Bakehouse. Sanchez is also going to be serving some Mexican queer realness and has created a welcoming space for everyone. Open daily 7am-7pm. 64 6th St. at Jessie, 415-508-6258.

If everything gets approved, Russian Hill residents have a shot at having a ~PHILZ COFFEE~ open in the former Russian Hill Bookstore on Polk and serve up their fully caffeinated cawfee. Socketsite notes: “But with 43 locations worldwide, including 13 stores and a mobile truck in San Francisco alone, and Formula Retail restrictions in place for the Polk Street Corridor, San Francisco’s Planning Commission will have to approve a Conditional Use application to allow Philz’s move.” 2230 Polk St. at Green.

Good_Food_Awards_Podium.jpg

The Good Food Awards podium. Photo from Facebook.

autentico.jpg
thesaratoga-Steak_and_Eggs.jpeg

Some mighty fine lookin’ steak and eggs. Photo courtesy of The Saratoga.

The finalists for The Good Food Awards have been announced (after a blind tasting of 2,057 entries!), and the winners will be given their awards on Friday January 19th, 2018, at a gala (tickets: $165) in the historic San Francisco War Memorial, followed by the industry-only Good Food Mercantile (tickets: $35) on Saturday January 20th and the open-to-the-public Good Food Awards Marketplace (tickets: $5) on Sunday January 21st.

Coming up this weekend is a visit from Rolando Beramendi, founder of Manicaretti Italian Food Importers, who just released his cookbook, Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way. This Saturday December 2nd, he’s hosting a book signing and tasting at Rockridge Market Hall, and if you RSVP, you get a bonus gift (free). You will get to sample pantry ingredients, learn about authentic Italian products, listen to Beramendi tell stories about his culinary finds, have your book signed, and enjoy a pantry and holiday pop-up. 2pm-4:30pm. 5655 College Ave., Oakland.

You can also visit ~A16 ROCKRIDGE~ for dinner from 5pm onward (also on Sat Dec 2nd), which will be featuring dishes from the book, from crostini misti to the “greenest pasta,” with winter greens, pine nut, and olio nuovo. Reserve for dinner to enjoy the Autentico-inspired menu.

Looking for some brunch options this weekend? Don’t forget, starting Sunday December 3rd, ~THE SARATOGA~ is starting Sunday brunch service (11:30am-4:30pm).

And also on Sunday December 3rd, ~LORD STANLEY~ is hosting their monthly English breakfast, $25, 11am-2pm (details and a pic of last month’s here). One more note: during the month of December, Lord Stanley will be open on Mondays!

Saturday December 2nd, the ~SAN FRANCISCO COOKING SCHOOL~ is hosting a Holly Jolly Bake Sale, with all proceeds donated to No Kid Hungry in support of fighting childhood hunger. Imagine a roomful of treats created by some of the Bay Area’s top pastry talent (from Avery Ruzicka/Manresa to Nicole Krasinski/State Bird Provisions)—and you’re given a pastry box to fill! You’ll also enjoy a cup of Guittard cocoa and a goodie bag full of other sweet surprises. Plus there’s an awesome raffle. Tickets are $75, 9am-11am. 690 Van Ness Ave. at Turk.

Next week marks the beginning of Dandelion Chocolate’s fifth annual 12 Nights of Chocolate, which is also a fundraiser in support of the SF-Marin Food Bank (last year’s event raised enough money to pay for more than 65,000 meals!). Guest chefs and pastry chefs come in for various nights, serving both sweet and savory dishes and more. Take a look at the amazing lineup, which sadly includes some that are sold out (wish they would update the website accordingly), but there are still plenty of great nights to choose from.

The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco is hosting a series of December pop-ups, starting with a Zahav Hanukkah Dinner at The Alembic on Thursday December 14th (with chef Mike Solomonov—yes, you get his insane hummus, menu here), a Federal Donuts Pop-Up at Hanukkah Shabbatikkah FRYday on Friday December 15th (4pm), and the Federal DUNA: Lángos, Coffee, and Book Signing pop-up event on Saturday December 16th (10am-1pm). Read more here. Bring on the doughnuts.