November 23, 2021

November 23, 2021
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The tablehopper 15-year anniversary tote.

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The Blue Fox tablehopper t-shirt.

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Pot d’Huile’s hemp CBD olive oil. Photo: Meghan McNeer.

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My Fat Miilk phin filter in use with their full-bodied Blue Roast ground Robusta beans. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Dial down the frazzle with Goldmine Adaptogen Powder. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Black Food cookbook.

The holidays are here, whether you can believe it or not (yeah, it was 66 degrees yesterday, but let’s put the tree up and have pumpkin spice everything!). I know some of you are going to be looking for ideas of awesome gifts for your favorite food-lovin’ folks, so let’s do this.

First off, one of the best gifts you can give is a restaurant gift certificate! It helps support our local industry as they try to get back on their feet, and who wouldn’t love a free lunch or dinner somewhere?

Charitable donations on someone’s behalf are also so thoughtful, like SF New Deal, the SF-Marin Food Bank (give by midnight on 11/30 to have your gift matched!), and 18 Reasons (where $18 supplies a family in their Cooking Matters program with a full bag of healthy groceries!). You could also help support organizations like La Cocina, or gift a membership to 18 Reasons.

You can show your support to yours truly by purchasing a tablehopper 15-year anniversary tote bag! Carry allllll your goodies in this oversized, sturdy, natural cotton canvas fifteenth anniversary tote (this isn’t one of those flimsy cotton totes—and the gusseted bottom means it won’t tip over, even after a couple drinks, ha-ha!). Limited quantity! When it’s gone, it’s gone.

I also still have some limited stock of tablehopper vintage SF restaurant and bar tees, from t-shirt designs of the famous Blue Fox to the sassy Players Club. Thanks for showing your tablehopper love on your sleeve.

Let’s pop into my kitchen, shall we? I have been obsessed with Reem’s Spice Blends from Burlap & Barrel, and while two of the trio are sold out, the khalta hara remains, a chile spice blend I love to shake on my eggs, avocado toast, and any dips I’m munching. Magic! B&B’s site is full of awesome spices and chef collabs and gifts, check it out.

I have been loving my new sturdy cheese grater from Italy from Garrett Wade—bye bye, messy box grater that likes to eat my knuckles. Their site has all kinds of unique gifts, from vintage French paring knives (these are wonderful for trimming fruit and slicing up salumi), to all kinds of classic kitchen gear, to garden tools.

Many of you know what a dedicated espresso lover I am (read: fanatic), but I have been having such a good time taking out my phin filter and making myself a Vietnamese coffee in the afternoon, thanks to Fat Miilk (I recently brought my phin on the road for a perfect coffee in my hotel room—have phin, will caffeinate). Fat Miilk uses Robusta beans that are organic, directly traded, and ethically sourced—and Robusta reportedly has two times the caffeine and antioxidants of most beans, so get ready to launch. I have personally enjoyed their bold Blue Roast the most in their cheerful phin filter (they come in four colors!), but you can check out which roast level appeals the most, and if you want it ground or in whole beans.

Over the years, I have recommended gifting a bottle of olio nuovo (“new oil”) since it’s such a fabulous, seasonal treat (Market Hall in Rockridge usually has a great selection—and they have some fantastic holiday food gifts). But the harvest from Tuscany this year is greatly diminished, let alone any likely shipping snags and delays, so you may want to consider domestic and local olio nuovo from top producers like Séka Hills or McEvoy Ranch (preorder is limited!).

Or, you can order some well-made hemp CBD-infused olive oil from Pot d’Huile, which is beautifully packaged and on special right now! They also make Sessy sesame oil, Loud Grandma chile crisp, and Hot Sloth hot sauce, all favorites in my pantry and for chilling out. (Full disclosure: I did some website writing for them. But I really love love these products.)

Whenever I’ve had someone over to my place for drinks or a meal (or both), I’ve had fun pouring a taste of the trio of California-inspired amari from Brucato Amaro. From the chartreuse-like Chapparal, to the orangey-spicy Orchards (perfect for holiday vibes), to the dark fruity-bitter Woodlands, I love having these around for a fun tasting after dinner. Pick up a bottle (or all three) at these local stockists.

You have a friend who is stressed out (aren’t we all)? Gift them a jar of Goldmine Adaptogen Powder to dial down the UGH and be sure to point them to the awesome recipes, too. (You can also book them for a one-on-one mymilligram cannabis consultation with yours truly: 20 minutes for $40, and I’ll help suggest tailored products for sleep, pain, anxiety, and good times.)

Every bookshelf needs Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora [A Cookbook], edited by Bryant Terry. “In this stunning and deeply heartfelt tribute to Black culinary ingenuity, Bryant Terry captures the broad and divergent voices of the African Diaspora through the prism of food. With contributions from more than 100 Black cultural luminaires from around the globe, the book moves through chapters exploring parts of the Black experience, from Homeland to Migration, Spirituality to Black Future, offering delicious recipes, moving essays, and arresting artwork.” Find it at Green Apple Books, Omnivore Books, and other local booksellers. Or, the evil Amazon, if you really have to go that route.

Not Food, But Friends
I wanted to give a shoutout for a few more gift ideas from my fab friends:

My dear friend of 30-plus years, Andrea Scher, has her first book coming out at the end of the month: Wonderseeker: 52 Ways to Wake Up Your Creativity and Find Your Joy, which is exactly the kind of book we need right now to help cultivate daily joy. I can attest that she is someone who can really make you see things differently.

My dear disco genie and brother from another mother, local designer Basil Racuk, just launched this new collection of four exquisite candles at his two shops in Noe Valley. Will it be Marrakech or Late Night Sessions? Magic Garden or Purple Room? Pay a sniff visit (3980 24th St.) and find out.

Just Because
And lastly, since I have to transition from caftans to PJs for my work-from-home style for the winter, I want to do a mention of my favorite leopard sleep set from Printfresh. (I adore my Royal Palms PJ set, too.) They’re made with the softest, stretchiest cotton, with pockets, piping, and a comfortable waistband, all the details that count. Here’s my link for $15 off! Their nightshirts are also fab.

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The new California Gold cocktail at Bluestem Restaurant & Market. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

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Baja fish taco from Cholita Linda. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The new Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Cafe at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Photo courtesy of Tsar Nicoulai.

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Some of the delicious dishes from chef Sean Thomas at Buddy. Photo courtesy of Buddy.

After being closed for the duration of the pandemic, Stacy and Adam Jed’s Bluestem Brasserie is returning as ~BLUESTEM RESTAURANT & MARKET~, with a new menu focused on California coastal fare and a flexitarian style, an all-day retail market (grab pastry chef Lori Baker’s cinnamon crunch babka muffins, or products for dinner later—plus locally made items), new cocktails (including a cioppino cocktail made with tequila, mezcal, salted tomato water, lime, serrano pepper, and a splash of clam juice), wellness drinks, and some renovations to the space. The market is open now (Tue-Sat 9am-8pm), and meal service launches at lunch on Friday November 26th (attention shoppers!) from 11:30am-2:30pm and is available Tue-Sat moving forward (the shrimp and crab roll awaits)—dinner and weekend brunch will come soon.

Over at the Ferry Building Marketplace, ~CHOLITA LINDA~ has finally opened in the former Mijita. The Oakland food stand became famous for its fish tacos at farmers markets, and has two locations in the East Bay (Oakland and Alameda), and now, SF. The menu has other kinds of tacos, plus sandwiches (like a Cubano, lechon), salads, and plates with picadillo, chicharron, and fried fish. Owner Vanessa Chavez has a Cuban-Mexican father and Peruvian-Chinese mother, so you can see these various influences all over this California-born chef’s menu, where tortilla chips and plantain chips are both equally at home. Open daily 8am-10pm. [Via SFist]

The Ferry Building Marketplace is seriously buzzing with new openings, because the ~TSAR NICOULAI CAVIAR CAFE~ is finally open as well. Although this is actually a return: the sustainable caviar producer originally had an outpost at The Ferry Building over 10 years ago! The Instagram post mentions housemade blini, bubbles, and, of course, delicious caviar from the first and oldest sturgeon farm in the country (founded in 1984). There are Champagne and caviar flights, smoked sturgeon and salmon, and bites like deviled eggs with paddlefish roe—plus bagels with smoked salmon and caviar on the weekends. Hubba. Walk-ins only; to-go options are available, so swing by and stock up for the holidays (or before you come see me, ha!). Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 9am-6pm, and Sun 11am-5pm.

Looks like ~VICO CAVONE~ in the Castro is doing some trial service (the next round is this weekend). This new Italian restaurant is opening inside the former Firewood, and will be taking advantage of the wood-burning oven and is serving pizza, as well as pasta and hot dishes. Hoodline originally reported the owners are Alessandro Raimondi (who is from Naples), Sanaa Hams, and Giancarlo Esposito (a master pizzaiolo). The grand opening is set for Sunday December 5th. Follow their Instagram for updates. 4248 18th St. at Diamond.

Just a little update since my last piece that ~BUDDY~ bar and café has now opened in the Mission. You can peep the menu here, with cocktails made by an all-star team, well-chosen wines, and sure-to-be-delicious snacks and dishes from chef Sean Thomas, like gougères with smoked trout roe and bay leaf labneh, and roasted trumpet shrooms with truffle honey, French feta, and walnut salsa macha. Sign me up! The former Californios space has been given a more-casual look, although the tobacco leather banquettes remain. Outdoor seating launches this weekend. Hours for now are Wed-Thu and Sun 4pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 4pm-11pm. Check out their Kickstarter to help get them through this opening push and enjoy some perks. 3115 22nd St. at S. Van Ness.

~PROPOSITION CHICKEN~ will be moving its flagship location from Market Street to Laurel Village, opening Monday December 6th. On offer: fried chicken, flipped (rotisserie) chicken (both use Mary’s Organic Chickens), or fake (crispy BBQ tofu) as a sandwich, salad, or entrée. There are also wings, chicken strips, and sides (including brown sugar Brussels sprouts, homemade bone broth, and matzo ball soup). Pssst: come by on Saturday December 4th from 1pm-3pm for their pre-opening celebration, with free sandwiches. Open 11am-9pm. 3465 California St. at Locust.

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A selection of cookies from Flour & Branch. Photo courtesy of Flour & Branch.

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A cross-section of the Salty Sombitch. Photo courtesy of Flour & Branch.

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The Hold My Beer bun. Photo courtesy of Flour & Branch.

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Both sweet crêpes and savory galettes will be available at Grande Crêperie. Photo: Grande Crêperie.

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Slanted Door’s spring rolls. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Rendering of The Madrigal by Carly Rose, Rose Design.

It’s always uplifting to hear about new openings, and when dessert is involved, even better! Coming to SoMa in the former Picnic on Third space is the first brick-and-mortar storefront for ~FLOUR & BRANCH~, a baked goods and gifts company from owner Lauren Arnsdorff. She was launching her business just before the pandemic struck, and pivoted to become a commercial catering kitchen, offering delivery throughout the Bay Area, and shipping nationwide through her online shop. She launched on Election Day, 2020, and was fortunate to be accepted to Goldbelly’s roster within a month.

But now, after many pandemic-related and bureaucratic delays and snags, she’s ready to greet you in person, and watch your eyes widen over an array of creative cookies, cakes, and bakes like stuffed French toast, plus café items, espresso service, and a market and gifts section (this will expand in time—the “branch” part of the business name is a reference to flowers, as well as hospitality).

Her cookies are soft-baked but thick and crumbly, and made with quality ingredients. There are stuffies, with Nutella inside, or The Hopper—which I obviously need to try—and tastes “like your favorite minty cocktail got down with cookies and cream.” Oh my. There’s The Chipper, a Food Network favorite, with chocolate chips, espresso, and s’mores; The Brookie: “a brownie, a cookie, and a peanut butter cup all in one”; and The Salty Sombitch, which is like “butterscotch reinvented.” Super fun.

There are a couple kinds of decadent stuffed French toast, “hold my beer” buns, a floral & Prosecco trifle (made with layers of sponge cake drenched in a Prosecco glaze, Prosecco and vanilla bean custard, house strawberry rose compote, and salted brown butter streusel), marshmallow treats, and more. Her head baker is Paul Abuan, who makes kouign-amann, pastries, and other Viennoiserie. Lauren has been baking since her 20s, and has been on a quest to make the best cookies (this project has been in the works for the past ten years), but was previously in marketing and financial services, working for companies like eBay.

The space will have seating at four café tables, plus a few other additional seating options. The target was to open this Friday November 26th, but Tuesday November 30th is looking more likely due to oven shenanigans—I’ll keep you posted on Instagram. Hours will be Mon-Fri 8am-6pm and Sat 10am-6pm, with hours extended later as they ramp up. Can’t wait to check this sweet spot out! 493 3rd St. at Bryant.

Coming very soon to the Ferry Building Marketplace is ~GRANDE CRÊPERIE~, a French crêperie from Patrick Ascaso and Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso of Le Marais Bakery fame. This project will pay homage to the authentic crêperie experience found in Brittany, where Patrick spent his childhood, the home of the crêpe! There will be naturally leavened sweet crêpes and savory buckwheat galettes using local ingredients (and from other Ferry Building merchants), designed to be enjoyed on-site or rolled to go. There will also be a special crêpe cone filled with local Straus Milk’s organic soft-serve ice cream.

Ascaso is working with famed French master baker Gontran Cherrier to develop the recipes and menu, which will also feature Breton pastries, such as kouign-amann, Far Breton fruit (prune) flan, gâteau Breton butter cake, caramel meringue chocolate fondant Baulois, and famous Breton cookies, like Gavottes and Breton butter biscuits to go with their special dark French roast blend from Wrecking Ball. Le Marais Bakery’s executive chef Emmanuel Pradet will be developing seasonal salads to round out the menu, with family-style brunches and dinners to-go coming soon. Evenings will feature French cider on tap and cider and Champagne cocktails. Catering and delivery will also be offered. The space will have 6 indoor seats and 36 outdoor seats, with large glass windows overlooking the Bay Bridge and the back Ferry Plaza. Hours will be daily 8am-8pm. Suite 46, Ferry Building Marketplace.

Since we’re over in that neck of the woods, you should know ~SLANTED DOOR~ is confirmed to reopen—SF Business Times ran the news that chef-owner Charles Phan signed a 10-year lease extension, and plans to reopen in mid-2022 after renovating the space with original architect Olle Lundberg. Great! He’s also working on a springtime project in Napa at 1650 Soscol Ave.

The Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (Trestle, MAMA, The Vault Garden, and The Vault Steakhouse) are going to reopen the former The Corridor space as ~THE MADRIGAL~ this December. It’s going to be a modern cocktail bar (that takes reservations!), as well as a place for a full meal. Since it’s right by City Hall, the Symphony, Opera, Jazz Center, and Orpheum, it will be designed to be ideal for a pre-show dinner or late-night cocktails.

Director of Culinary Development Joe Humphrey will offer cocktail-friendly dishes, like a pull-apart style bread service with fermented black garlic bread, plus a Liberty duck smash burger with Fontina cheese and black truffle mayo, with main dishes like a risotto with Monterey Bay squid and shaved porcini mushrooms. There’s also going to be a late-night breakfast sandwich special with a housemade breakfast sausage patty, over-easy egg, Kennebec potato hash brown, and cheddar cheese, on a griddled Martin’s potato roll (oh yeah!). I’ll have more details when it’s opening time in December. 100 Van Ness at Fell.

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The new Miette in Montclair Village. Photo via Miette.

I heard one of the more disheartening pandemic landlord stories recently from Meg Ray of ~MIETTE~, who relayed why they had to move Miette from their Jack London Square location. When all their locations were closed during the pandemic and they couldn’t pay their rent, Miette negotiated a rent reduction with their JLS landlord, CIM Group. Their space could then potentially be taken over by another tenant, a risk they had to take. But it didn’t happen, and Miette reopened and they were able to pay their rent again. But the renegotiation actually triggered a change in their lease terms, and it ends up CIM could relist their space in perpetuity, something Miette didn’t realize. Sure enough, CIM found a new tenant who could pay more rent (Timeless Coffee), and instead of moving this new tenant into one of the empty spaces at JLS, they in essence evicted Miette from their bakery space they have been in since 2009. CIM even tried to sell Miette’s space with their equipment (but Miette didn’t let that happen)! And they only had 60 days to vacate. A wonderful way to treat one of your starting tenants.

But, now the sweet news: Miette ended up finding a location in Montclair Village, the former Batch Bakery. They were barely able to fit their bakery equipment in, but they worked it out, and they now have a retail storefront up and running, offering cakes, cookies, candies, macarons, holiday treats, and a special selection of after-school treats, too. Sourdough bread is coming soon! (Their Hayes Valley, Ferry Building Marketplace, and Marin County Mart locations are all open.) Hours are Mon-Sat 9am-6pm and Sun 11am-4pm. 2220 Mountain Blvd., Montclair.

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The cozy dining room at Venticello. Photo courtesy of Venticello.

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The awesome mural inside the restroom at Dosa by Dosa. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

This part of my column is always a bummer. Some closures to report include the 29-year-old ~VENTICELLO~, which has been closed throughout the pandemic (their business relied on tourists staying in nearby hotels). Sibling owners Christina and Michael Deeb will continue to run the nearby Nob Hill Cafe. 1257 Taylor St. at Washington.

The chef hangout ~HALU~ (a tiny yakitori izakaya in the Inner Richmond) and the historic ~U.S. RESTAURANT~ in North Beach (it has been in the neighborhood since the 1890s) have both closed. [Via Chronicle]

~MELA TANDOORI~ in Civic Center posted about their decision to close, although they hope to reopen elsewhere. 536 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness.

A tablehopper tipster let me know the short-lived ~EL COREANO~, which was at the corner of 23rd and Bryant, “appears to be done—windows papered over, menus taken down. It’s sad as Mission Local just featured an article on the manager, Fidel, and he really was a sweetheart.” 2848 23rd St at Bryant.

After seven years in the Castro, ~RÉVEILLE COFFEE~ has closed this location. Their other locations in the nearby Lower Haight, Russian Hill, Mission Bay, and Berkeley remain open. According to their site, they have a Marina location coming this winter. 4076 18th St. at Castro. [Via Hoodline]

I was sorry to read in Nosh that the last Dosa location has closed, ~DOSA BY DOSA~ in Uptown Oakland. Sigh. 2301 Broadway, Oakland. [Via Nosh]

And lastly, while this isn’t a restaurant, ~FOG CITY NEWS~ was a big part of our local culinary culture, with one of our city’s best chocolate selections. Read more about their upcoming closure in their heartfelt note here. 455 Market St. at 1st St.

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