December 2, 2008

So here’s a recap of the event I’m hosting next Tuesday December 9th: it’s a fun chocolate and cachaça cocktail-and-food competition at Rosewood in North Beach from 6pm–8pm. Five teams, each comprised of a local chef and bartender, will be competing.

The event is celebrating the final month for entry submissions for Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie.com's Chocolate Adventure Contest. To inspire beverage adventures, they’ve partnered with Sagatiba Cachaça, which is co-sponsoring this special event.

To get on the guest list, please email me your first and last name at luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com, and if you have any guests coming with you (+1? +2? Fine. +7 however, is not cool.) Be sure to say “Party RSVP” in the subject line, thanks! Space on the list is limited, so first come, first served. Please don’t RSVP unless you think you can make it, schwanks.

The party is free
, and we’ll be serving complimentary Sagatiba Velha cachaça cocktails (offering a sneak peek and taste of this soon-to-be-released aged cachaça!), plus some mole sliders from Veronica Salazar/El Huarache Loco and sweet treats from Kika’s Treats, both of La Cocina. We’ll also have my buddy DJ Jolu on the decks, providing a slick soundtrack to your eating, drinking, and carrying on.

Our fab judges include Elizabeth Falkner, chef and owner of Orson and Citizen Cake; Lisa Schiffman, founder of TuttiFoodie.com; Brad Kintzer, Master Chocolatier of Scharffen Berger; and Jordan Mackay, wine and spirits editor of 7x7, wine and cocktail contributor to CHOW.com, and author of the upcoming book Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America's Pinot Noir Country.
Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
6pm–8pm
Rosewood: 732 Broadway at Stockton


And here are a few tips: for parking, I remember there’s a pretty darned affordable parking lot just around the corner on Vallejo, between Powell and Stockton. None of that $12 for 20 minutes B.S. And if you want to stick around the neighborhood for dinner, there’s always Lichee Garden (1416 Powell St. at Broadway) and Yuet Lee (1300 Stockton at Broadway). Or you can walk a few blocks down to ‘E Tutto Qua (270 Columbus Ave. at Broadway) for some affordable pasta—and drinks at 15 Romolo (at Broadway).

And now, some restaurant news: ~SAMOVAR TEA LOUNGE~ is opening a third location in the former Laguna Sidewalk Café corner spot in what they are calling the “Zen Valley.” (The project is through a partnership with the Zen Center, who owns the building.) The opening is scheduled for Monday December 15th. This location will have a tea-tasting bar so guests can interact and learn more about tea, and the menu will be almost the same as the other two Samovar locations. The overall size will be similar to the Sanchez Street location, and there will also be a similar large table in a raised-platform area, with room for 15 (perfect for small gatherings). The materials used in the space are recycled, salvaged, or sustainable, including some lovely wind-fallen old-growth redwood. Hours will be 10am–10pm daily. 297 Page St. at Octavia.

Over at ~FRINGALE~, there is a new executive chef, John Marquez. He was previously chef de cuisine at Coi, and was trained at French Laundry, Picasso, and Per Se. He was the sous chef at Fringale for six months before taking the position as executive chef, replacing Tripp Mauldin, who was the executive chef for just shy of a year. 570 Fourth St. at Brannan, 415-543-0573.

We’ve got more BBQ firing up on the local scene: opening on Saturday December 13th (barring any permit and construction snafus) will be ~BABY BLUES BBQ~ in the former “The Drug Store” space on Mission, right across from El Rio. I know many of you have been awaiting this opening since I mentioned the project a year ago! To recap, it’s a second location of the original Baby Blues BBQ that was started in Venice Beach by Rick McCarthy and Rick Fischer—brother Paul Fischer is the one launching the SF location. There will be 45 seats, and a décor style that is “country BBQ-meets-SF hip,” including recycled materials (the table bases are old manhole covers and factory wheels), and the eight-seat counter is made from reused marble. The meats feature a Texas dry rub, a special house blend that does its magic overnight, and then the meat is slow smoked; the sauce is a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce. The menu will be pretty similar to the Venice location, but the chicken here will be free-range. There will also be a four-cheese mac-n-cheese, 12 vegetarian dishes, and desserts made by a local lady. Hours will be 11:30am–10pm daily, and until 11pm on the weekend. 3149 Mission St. at Precita.

I heard from a tablehopper reader that the Filipino restaurant in the Castro, ~PALENCIA~, has a sign on the window that says something like “due to economic conditions, we are taking an extended holiday closure to retool.” But according to some posts on Yelp, it sounds like it’s a complete closure. My calls and email went unanswered, so that’s all I have for now. If the owner is in fact planning to reopen, I’ll let you know when I hear back. 3870 17th St. at Noe, 415-522-1888.

More interesting Yelp findings: ~PIAZZA MARKET~ is potentially opening this Wednesday December 3rd, according to a sign on the window. I drove by this weekend and it looked pretty darned huge, lit up, and close to opening. About a year ago, I reported that Piazza was moving into the former Rossi’s Market space, and is going to be a grocery store that will also offer food for take-out, catering, and there will also be an area for casual, self-service dining. Diners can choose from a number of hot and cold buffet-like stations, and there will also be a large array of specialty foods, and a wine shop featuring Italian and Californian wines. These details were from a year ago—we’ll see what’s changed once it opens. Hours were originally slated to be 11am–10pm. The phone number isn’t listed yet, so details are sketchy! 627 Vallejo St. at Columbus.

I know some of you have been wondering what’s happening with ~QUINCE’S~ projects in the former Myth and Myth Café spaces. A small timing update: they will be opening the casual café concept first, probably late winter, and then the fine dining part of the project that’s moving into the Myth restaurant space will launch in early spring. As for the names, the concept, the food, the fate of the original location, etc., well, that will take some time, so sit tight for more. 470 and 490 Pacific Ave. at Montgomery.

More project updates: ~CENTRAL PARC~, the bistro opening in the former Café Organica space near Golden Gate Park, is now looking like a May 2009 opening. The owners are from Baker Street Bistro, Jacques Manuera and his wife Claude Belliot. 562 Central Ave. at Grove.

~SUSHI BISTRO~
is getting closer to opening their second location on 24th Street, next to St. Francis Fountain in the Mission. If everything goes well, it should be ready in early 2009. Sushi Bistro will also be moving four doors down from their current Richmond location, just next door to Namu. The new space will offer more storage and seating—the build-out is scheduled to be complete in late winter or early spring. 2809 24th St. at York; 445 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-933-7100.

Here are some details on Jessica Gorin’s menu at ~THIRSTY BEAR~: a few new dishes include chorizo and lentil soup with spigarello kale and garlic croutons; jamón Serrano flatbread with black Mission figs, Idiazabal cheese, and micro arugula; piperade with soft-cooked egg and garlic breadcrumbs; and empanadas stuffed with ground pork, roasted Musque de Provence pumpkin, and queso fresco. Overall, look for quality organic ingredients, slightly more complex flavors, and a fine-tuned tapas format. There’s also a new pastry chef who just started, Julie Ausiello, who will be rolling out some changes soon. 661 Howard St. at 3rd St., 415-974-0905.

This coming Sunday is the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s 13th annual ~WINTERFEST PARTY~, with live entertainment, beer from New Belgium Brewery, and great deals on bike goodies, plus local art, handcrafted items, and gift certificates from local favorites. I wanted to let you know yours truly will have a special tablehopping night on the town as one of the auction items. We’ll hit a couple spiffy restaurants, all on our bikes! $15 sliding scale admission for SFBC Members; $40 for people joining at the door (includes SFBC membership and admission). 6pm–10:30pm. SOMArts Gallery, 934 Brannan St. at 8th St. Free valet bike parking provided.

The holidays are here, which means ~BIX~ starts serving lunch on the weekdays for December. I can’t think of a better location for a multi-martini mid-week holiday lunch. 56 Gold St. off Montgomery St. between Jackson and Pacific, 415-433-6300.

Heading to Civic Center for the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House? Take note that holiday hours are on at ~JARDINIÈRE~! The restaurant will be open for lunch (for the first time ever!) on Fridays throughout the month of December from 11:30am–2:30pm, and will open at 4pm on Nutcracker matinee days (December 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 27th, 28th). The new lunch menu includes a warm bread salad with roasted artichokes and Bellwether Farms marinated-crescenza cheese ($15); Dungeness crab sandwich with house-made pickles and spiced potato chips ($17); and carnaroli risotto with butternut squash, Asian pears, toasted walnuts, and aged balsamic ($18). The entire menu looks mighty appetizing. 300 Grove St. at Franklin, 415-861-5555.

Now, this is exactly my kind of holiday special: ~JEANTY AT JACK’S~ is starting an early holiday happy hour this month: a dozen oysters and a glass of Champagne for $25. The oysters will be brought in from Hog Island every day, and the Champagne will rotate—the happy hour is kicking off with G.H. Mumm Brut. Fun fact: did you know that oysters have been on the Jack’s menu for almost 150 years? The offer is Mon–Fri 2pm–6pm. Jeanty at Jack's, 615 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-693-0941.

~A16~ has conveniently come up with a holiday family-style five-course menu for parties of six or more in December, with a variety of menu selections and optional wine pairings. Menu orders must be placed one week in advance—call for menu details. Prices range from $50-$75 per person, exclusive of wine, tax, and gratuity. 2355 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-771-2216.

~LA FOLIE~ will be open on Sundays during the month of December. (La Folie will also be open on Christmas Eve, serving a five-course dinner for $105 per person, not including beverages, tax, and gratuity.) 2316 Polk St. at Green, 415-776-5577.

And restaurant event managers, we all know these are tough times, but don’t forget there are some fraudulent people out there ~TRYING TO SCAM MONEY~, often with too-good-to-be-true large party bookings. The latest I’ve heard is there is someone “in Scotland” trying to book reservations for a large party (like 15) for three consecutive nights that they will pre-pay for. (I got a note from Allison Hopelain at Camino who said one time the company was one that actually existed, so she emailed them to check up, and then discovered it was a scam.) Be careful!

As of yesterday, ~JOEY & EDDIE'S~ is going to run a family-oriented special on Monday nights: all children under 12 will receive a free 8" cheese pizza. (How do you card a kid?) 1652 Stockton St. at Union, 415-989-7800.

Chocolate lovers, Michael Mischer will be visiting ~FOG CITY NEWS~ on Friday December 5th, from noon–2pm, featuring his New American Classics Collection (banana split, apple pie, and more). And Ginger Elizabeth Hahn will be in on Monday December 15th, from noon–2pm (I gotta try this bar: Salty Cocoa Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate Bar, a rich, creamy 70% dark chocolate offset by a crunchy brittle of cocoa nibs and a hint of salt). 455 Market St. at 1st St., 415-543-7400.

This is sure to be a madhouse: ~THOMAS KELLER~ will be at Sur La Table—Ferry Building next Wednesday December 10th at 5pm, signing his new book, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide. Sur La Table, Ferry Building, 415-262-9970.

Truffle mania continues! Over at ~FARINA~, they have some spectacular truffles from Alba from their special purveyor—the truffles should be available until the end of next week. You can indulge in dishes like the unforgettable tortino caldo di formagetta della Valle del Bitto—I still dream of this dish, a soufflé-like number with shaved white truffle from Alba ($20); plus there’s whole-roasted young chicken stuffed with white truffle, pork sausage, and potato, served with Madeira sauce ($38); and hand-made taglierini served with egg yolk, butter, and white truffle from Alba ($50). 3560 18th St. at Guerrero, 415-565-0360.

And we also have olio nuovo to celebrate! Man, I really love this time of year, I gotta say. Next Wednesday December 10th, ~COCO500~ is hosting a special dinner, Festa dell'Olio Nuovo, featuring olio nuovo from DaVero's Dry Creek Estate (yuuuuuum). The five-course dinner menu reads as follows: grilled Monterey squid, tangerines, olives, arugula; farro soup, fennel pollen, Buddha's hand, Parmesan; buckwheat cavatelli, squash, pecorino, chestnuts; slow-braised pork cheeks, chickpeas, cardoons, artichokes; and olive oil cake, quince. Sounds like a winner to me. $65. 500 Brannan St. at 4th St., 415-543-2222.

Tomorrow, Wednesday December 3rd, is a special DaVero olive oil dinner at ~PICCO~ in Larkspur. Picco is offering a seven-course à la carte menu, featuring DaVero's 2008 harvest Sonoma olive oil, and it’s only $50. Dude! With gas as cheap as it is (oh my God, did I really see it for $1.99 a gallon for supreme today?), I say hop in your ride and head over the bridge for this killer menu. They are also serving their regular dinner menu, so guests may choose items from either menu. The DaVero menu is as follows: Hog island oysters, Meyer lemon “caviar,” olio nuovo; white radicchio salad, watermelon radish, celery root, herbs, olio nuovo; Tuscan chickpea soup, soffrito, olio nuovo; olio nuovo-poached black cod, salad of arugula, fennel, tangerines, olives; Devil's Gulch rabbit roasted in the wood oven, soft polenta, rosemary, olio nuovo; Marin Sun Farms lamb loin, braised cipollini onions, new potatoes, olio nuovo; and for dessert, naturally, Straus dairy soft serve ice cream, olio nuovo, and sea salt. 320 Magnolia Ave. at King, Larkspur, 415-924-0300.

~ASTARIA RESTAURANT~ in downtown San Mateo has a new chef, Tony Flier, a local who was most recently the corporate chef for the Avenir Restaurant Group (Town, Nola’s, and Milagros). His new menu style is described as “robust California fare,” which will be seasonal and highlight local purveyors, as well as focus on sustainable ingredients. Astaria is in the space that was once the coffee shop in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel (a family friend used to work there many moons ago—I will never forget Freda, and the Shalimar perfume machine in the ladies room she used to douse herself with!)—it later became the Café For All Seasons, and most recently the Lark Creek Cafe. 50 E. Third Ave. at S. El Camino Real, San Mateo, 650-344-9444.

Another bit of chef news: back in May, I mentioned ~PICÁN RESTAURANT~, which is coming to Oakland in March 2009. They just hired their executive chef, Dean Dupuis, who will manage the California-influenced Southern menu. Dupuis hails from South City Kitchen, one of the first restaurants in Atlanta to offer “new” Southern Cuisine. (Fun fact: Usher had Dupuis cater his 2007 wedding.) 2295 Broadway at Grand, Oakland.

Opening in downtown Oakland this Friday December 5th will be the second location of ~OZUMO~. Jeremy Umland, Ozumo founder, will be joined by executive chef Jennifer Nguyen and chef de cuisine Christian Geideman. Nguyen most recently helped open Aja Steak in Chicago, while Geideman was the chef/owner of the Santa Fe restaurant Kasasoba for seven years. On the menu, there will be sushi and robata grill items, plus an izakaya (small plate) selection. The sake list has over 90 brands, plus there is a full bar, wine, and Sapporo and Kirin beer on tap. AGE Design of Japan did the décor with an underlying theme of water, air, and earth, with earth-tone slate floor tiles that extend up the walls and columns; custom oak-wood tables, chairs, and banquettes covered with traditional Japanese fabrics; a lounge with tatami mat bench seating with overstuffed pillows; and a charcoal-fired robata grill (seats 12) with a sunken kitchen area and hard wood counter top. Hours are Mon–Thu 5pm–10:30pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–11pm. 2251 Broadway Ave. at West Grand, Oakland, 510-286-9866.

And down in Palo Alto, Adam Torres, chef-owner of the popular Sancho's Taqueria in Redwood City, plans to open a ~SANCHO'S PALO ALTO~. (He cooked at Boulevard and at The Village Pub for three years.) He's shooting for a January opening, and the menu will be similar to the original location, with the famed red snapper fish tacos, plus a few additions and changes, such as different ceviches and more vegetarian options. It’s small: 16 seats, with a few tables outside. 491 Lytton Ave. at Cowper, Palo Alto.