August 21, 2007

I am starting this week’s missive on a serious note: I know the world is horrified with what poor Peru is suffering through right now. James Schenk, the chef and owner of ~DESTINO~ is contributing a portion of his restaurant sales to assist earthquake victims in Peru. Schenk mentioned the Consulate General of Peru in San Francisco has initiated an urgent campaign within the Bay Area to support the Peruvian citizens affected by this tragedy. If you wish to contribute directly to this campaign, you can make donations by contacting the Consulate General of Peru in San Francisco: 1-877-490-7378. Donations may consist of: nonperishable canned or bottled foods, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and air mattresses, plus financial contributions. James has also been accepting donations at Destino—in fact, he just carted a huge truckload of items to the consulate yesterday. Destino, 1815 Market St., 415-552-4451. How do you suddenly transition to frivolous news about what’s open and where to eat around town? Well, here goes:

Burger lovers: Joie de Vivre’s ~CUSTOM BURGER/LOUNGE~ opened in SoMa last night. Custom is serving lunch and dinner (late into the night), and breakfast should kick in by mid-September, say by the 15th or so. What you do is select your burger (1/3 lb. Angus from Golden Gate Meat Company? American Kobe? Curry vegetable?), then choose from some premium toppings like avocado, apple wood-smoked bacon, and what is sure to be my personal favorite, a Petaluma fried egg! You also get three toppings at no charge, with your choice of items like balsamic marinated onions, salsa, piquillo peppers, and sautéed mushrooms or sweet yellow onions. Lastly, get saucy with some “ketchipotle” or perhaps some romesco, or chana masala sour cream! Oh yeah, and there are four kinds of buns to choose from too. Sounds like the ultimate build your own burger to me. You’ll also be able to build your drinks in the adjoining lounge, with custom martini, drop, and mojito options, plus some classic concoctions, like a manhattan or side car. 121 Seventh St. at Howard, 415-252-2633.

More SoMa news: the ~BAZ~ gastro bistro project from Sean and Isabel Manchester of Mighty and Wish, and chef David Bazirgan, won’t be happening. The original location out near Nihon and Chez Spencer didn’t pan out, and it seems a new location isn’t on the horizon. Bazirgan just finished putting together the menu for Bossa Nova, and is now busy with the new Chez Papa opening in Mint Plaza.

One place with a bit of a gastro-something focus will be ~THE MONK’S KETTLE~, opening in the short-lived Rasha space (formerly Kelly’s Burgers) in the Mission. One word for you: beer. Or as Homer Simpson would say, “Mmmmm, beeeeeer.” (NOTE: it’s a WAV file!) This soon-to-open craft beer tavern will feature a large number of most beer styles hailing from regions from around the world. There will be 24 taps (many will be local beers) plus 100 or so available by the bottle. There will be at least two–five of each style, say, brown ales and stouts and Belgians, which will make for some nice side-by-side comparisons. There will also be a menu of gourmet pub fare, with burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads, all designed to pair as much as possible with the beers. A tight but good wine list will insure there is a little something for everyone. The space is getting freshened up, and once the work is complete it should have about 40–45 seats, with room for eight at the bar. The look is going to be historic American tavern meets European alehouse—think dark woods, earthy colors, and soft lighting. The owners also hope to offer outdoor seating under some heat lamps by next spring. The project is from Nat Cutler, who has more of a finance, marketing, and economics background, and Christian Albertson, who has 20 years of restaurant and bar experience under his belt. The staff will be very educated about the beers, and will help build a welcoming neighborhood vibe. Look for an early November opening, with hours from 11:30am–2am, and serving food until late. Yay, burgers will be back! 3141 16th St. at Albion.

~GRAND CAFÉ~
has kicked off the new menu from chef Mauro Pando featuring many brasserie classics, some with a twist (the coq au vin is made with duck)—you can read the menu here. Most entrées hover in the mid-20s, like the cassoulet ($23) with duck confit, boudin blanc, duck sausage, smoked bacon, butter beans, and garlic breadcrumbs, and a bouillabaisse ($24) made with rockfish, shrimp, mussels, calamari, crab, and potatoes in a tomato-fennel broth, with rouille toasts. 501 Geary at Taylor, 415-292-0101.

So since we’re in Kimpton Land, it was finally revealed whom the buyer of the ~PALOMAR HOTEL~ is: Griffin Capital out of LA. Kimpton will continue to operate the hotel. Here’s more from the San Francisco Business Times on the sale. And no, still nothing is confirmed about who is taking over the restaurant. Just rumors. And plans for big renovations of the space.

I know many of you miss seeing the lovely ~MARIQUITA FARM~ folks (and their equally lovely produce) at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, but now here’s your chance to say hi! Have you heard about the San Francisco “Mysterious Thursdays/guerrilla produce pick-ups” rotating at restaurants around town? The next one will be Thursday, August 30, when Mariquita will be at Piccino in Dogpatch from 5pm–7pm, where you can pick up your custom order of summer produce, and if you are so inclined, you can hang out with some fun folks over a glass of wine and perhaps dinner too! For the produce, all you have to do is contact Mariquita's Julia Wiley, place a $25-minimum pre-order for your own selection of seasonal heirloom tomatoes, basil, peppers, summer squash, carrots, etc. (or you can have Mariquita assemble a "mystery box" for you), and drop by during the designated hours for your order. Cool, no? Click here for details and to order up your box! Future dates include: 9/6 at Zuppa, 9/13 at Incanto, and 9/20 at Pizzetta 211.

More box-oriented news: Bernal residents and curious readers, you’ll be happy to know ~TINDERBOX RESTAURANT~ is slated to open to the public and serve its first meal on Friday, August 31. You’ll be able to check out some cool art from Sam Flores, and of course what sounds like some tasty eats from Blair Warsham. For a recap on the concept, check out this past tablehopper issue here. 803 Cortland Ave. at Ellsworth, 415-285-TBOX (8269).

Need your beignet fix taken care of? ~BRENDA’S~, Brenda Buenviaje’s cute New Orleans-influenced café, should be opening for lunch this Thursday, and is starting breakfast on Friday. Just call and check before heading over, you know how openings can go! You can read more about Brenda’s here. 32 Polk St. at Eddy, 415-345-8100.

~PETE’S TAVERN~ opened last week in the former (and hulking) Kingfish space, just across from AT&T Park. This American tavern comes from Peter Osborne, the owner of Momo’s. The casual menu has starters like mini corn dogs, chicken and chorizo nachos, and classics like garlic curly fries and onion rings, while mains like the PLT (pancetta, lettuce, tomato), a New York steak sandwich, burgers, a selection of salads, and a variety of “Big Dogs” are sure to keep the ballpark crowd—and the neighbors—satisfied. The most expensive item is the $16 BBQ platter—most mains hover around $10. There is a full bar, and 12 beers on tap. Open 11am–midnight, bar until 2am. 128 King St. between Second and Third, 415-817-5040.

Greg Bronstein has sold ~LUNA~ in the Castro to new owners: Ruben Marty, who has a background in hospitality, and Victor Garcia. They plan to upgrade the entrance and add more light and seating, plus fix the spacious back deck and spruce up the garden. There’s also a BIG cleaning in the works. Marty and Garcia are keeping the same chef, but will be making changes to the menu, adding a Southern Mediterranean influence, spanning Greece, Spain, France, Italy, and Morocco, with some dishes like couscous and paella making their way onto the menu. There will be a focus on using quality ingredients; service is getting tightened up, and the wine list will be expanded too. 558 Castro St. at 19th, 415-621-2566.

I was tablehopping around town on Thursday, and swung by ~SCOTT HOWARD~ for a cuppa. Cup of his carrot soup, that is. Okay, so homeboy has done it again: he’s totally revamped the menu, and let me tell you people, this joint is one of the best deals in town. (It’s no mistake that I saw four folks from the industry dining at the bar.) Howard has structured the menu in a way that you can make up your own tasting menu, grab a casual bite, or do it small-plates style and share with your pals. Nothing was more than $16 on the menu when I looked at it: skate wing for $15, his wicked veal sweetbreads are $14, and how about some roasted quail stuffed with chorizo for $14? Nice raw selection too, including scallop sashimi with uni, yuzu, almond oil, and fennel pollen ($14). You can also pick any three items off the menu for $31.98 (available 5:30pm–6:30pm, and then again from 9:30pm–10pm!). 500 Jackson St. at Montgomery, 415-956-7040.