December 5, 2006

Okay, this is a tough one. Folks all over the city have been saddened and shocked by the violent and very unfortunate car accident that involved three members of the ~BAR CRUDO~ team last week. Graciela "Gracie" Sholl was tragically killed when the driver of a minivan ran a red light on Laguna St. and broadsided the taxicab that was also carrying chef/owner Mike Selvera and sous chef Carina Lampkin (the cab was traveling on Fulton Street). Carina is still in the critical unit at SF General but thankfully is now in stable condition, suffering from a broken pelvis and internal bleeding (she is going to have surgery this week), while Mike suffered from a broken jaw and a punctured lung. Mike had surgery on Monday, and is expected to return home on Wednesday to heal, with a wired jaw (poor guy, but good thing: I've heard he likes milkshakes). For details about the accident, the Examiner has the story here) and the Chronicle also wrote up the accident here.

Many people are wondering what they can do and how to help… I spoke with Mike's twin brother and partner in the restaurant, Tim, and he said they expect to reopen Bar Crudo on Wednesday, so the first thing you can do is patronize the restaurant, one of my favorites in the City, in the coming weeks.

Tim also mentioned they are holding a benefit this Sunday, the 10th, from noon until 6pm. There will be oysters, crudos, beer, and wine served. The benefit will be a $10-$25 sliding scale. A percentage of the proceeds will go toward a variety of purposes, from the victims' needs to the fact that Bar Crudo has lost a week of revenue since it's been closed as of last Thursday. Hog Island has magnanimously donated 800 oysters and a shucker for the benefit on Sunday (hearts). If you are a restaurant (or an individual) and want to figure out how to help or what to donate, feel free to get in touch with Tim at the restaurant (415-956-0396), or through email at tim [at] barcrudo [dot] com. Definitely try to come by on Sunday and show this dear group of folks some support and care. We love you Bar Crudo, and are so sorry for your great loss and tribulations right now. Our thoughts and condolences are with you, and especially with the Sholl family.

Okay, I don't really know how to switch gears here, so I'm just gonna throw it into third.

I know a bunch of you loved those ~COZMO CARDS~/restaurant discount cards I was able to give away earlier this year. Sorry to act like a crack dealer and get you all hooked on them, and then hit you up for cash when you want some more, but that's how business goes. The 2007 deck is out and Cozmo Cards have offered tablehopper readers 10% off! The individual decks are $30 each, or you can customize your 52-card deck and take your pick of just your favorites (i.e. you can pick multiples of just one place, like ten Mamacita cards) for $65. There are definitely some fun and quality restaurants in there, like Globe, El Raigon, Deep Sushi, and Destino. To refresh your memory, all you have to do is spend $40 and when you present that restaurant's Cozmo Card you get $15 off your bill.

Just be sure to use the code "tablehopper" when purchasing your deck, and if you're opting for the custom option, simply specify which restaurants and the quantity of each in the comment box of the order form to complete your order. Perfect stocking stuffer for your food-obsessed friends.

Last Monday night (11/26) was the last night for a slice of pizza with Nick AKA "The Mayor of Polk Street" Fasanella at ~NICKY'S PIZZERIA RUSTICA~—he is handing the keys over to some new owners, Escape From New York, and is taking a break. We'll see where he turns up next… for now he's doing some consulting around town, and has some potential international projects in the mix. Nick also said he's "feeling NYC" at the moment, and is mulling over the possibility of opening a taqueria there. It would certainly offer a bit more distance from his former partner who's still next-door at Nick's Crispy Tacos. Escape From New York should be opening early in 2007.

Just up the street, there's a new chef in the kitchen at ~TABLESPOON~. Rob Riescher left in early October and returned to New York, while Alvin Luna has scooted over from Antica Trattoria to take his place. Luna's track record includes Antica for 2 1/2 years, plus Gary Danko when it first opened (which is where he met John Jasso, managing partner of Tablespoon), and Viognier down in San Mateo. Luna will be continuing Tablespoon's legacy of inventive takes on American cuisine, adding a rotating array of dishes, like some wintertime-appropriate braised Kurobuta pork cheeks with Savoy cabbage, and braised short rib ravioli. Luna stressed how important simplicity and good ingredients are for him, something he really honed in on while at Antica. (His presentations are also supposed to be quite elegant.) Just a little reminder to you all: since Tablespoon recently got a liquor license, you should swing by to sip some quality spirits at the bar, plus they are open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. They also offer a $35 three-course prix-fixe menu, and a Sunday prix fixe for $26.49. I've always enjoyed dining at this joint—it's cozy, friendly, and his some nice style to boot. 2209 Polk St. at Vallejo St., 415-268-0140.

I caught up with Sharon Ardiana of ~LIME~ in the Castro, and as of December 1, you will no longer find her in the kitchen there. She was the opening chef at Lime (since July 2004). They will be promoting from within, but Ardiana will still be offering her guidance in the coming weeks. Ardiana is busy getting her soon-to-open Glen Park pizzeria ramped up. It was originally going to be named Angelina in honor of her grandmother, but has been renamed to ~GIALINA~ (Gialina was her nonna's nickname). The pizzeria is going into the Sunset Pizza space, and will have 38 seats with room for four at the counter. There will also be a display of personal family photos on the deep red walls. Ardiana looooooooooves pizza, and enjoys how it brings people together, which is exactly what she'll be doing with thin-crust pizzas like a classic margherita, a white clam pizza, and probably five other pies influenced by seasonal toppings. Get ready, she even developed a dessert pizza concept. There will also be some Italian ices offered. Gialina will be open for dinner seven nights a week, and will eventually start lunch too, which is when she plans to introduce some Sicilian/thicker-crust style pizzas. Intended opening hours will be 4pm-10pm, and probably until 11pm Fri-Sat. (When lunch kicks in, it will open around 11am.) 2842 Diamond St. at Kern St., 415-239-8500.

I was just at Weird Fish this weekend, and owner Timothy Holt is also working on another project a few doors down in the former Fabuloid space, on the corner of 18th and Mission. The café is tentatively going to be called ~MILK & HONEY~, or perhaps ~MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO~. The concept is to have some serious ovens that will crank out fresh pastry, flatbreads, roasted vegetables, and sandwiches, along with "vegan junk food" (how's that for an oxymoron?). Puerto Rican-style coffees will also be offered, plus a wine bar. Holt is bringing in a chef, Bradford, who has a vegetarian/vegan background (he cooked at Millennium for some time) and he will also be helping out at Weird Fish.

Large sliding glass door are going in, and will open up to 18th Street, which will have plentiful outdoor seating, and an awning with heaters and speakers. They plan to have live music and a big street scene, almost like the vibe over at Revolution Café. In an odd twist, all the furnishings will be for sale, even the tables and chairs. Arrangements and the actual partnership are still being worked out (there are some folks from Boogaloo's involved in the deal) so none of this is totally final yet. They are gunning for a May 1 opening.

One thing that is official: ~WEIRD FISH~ is now serving brunch every day from 9am-3pm. You can get eggs, hash browns that are made-to-order, shrimp and crab omelettes, buckwheat pancakes, French toast, and grits, like one dish called Little Al's Grits, with grilled shrimp, blackened catfish, mixed veggies, and corn tortillas. There are also a number of vegan offerings, like vegan pancakes, vegan sausage, and vegan bacon. Dude! 2193 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-863-4744.

Hayes Valley will soon have a cute little place for sweets—the owners of Miette in the Ferry Building Marketplace, Meg Ray and Caitlin Williams, are opening ~MIETTE CONFISERIE~, "a modern candy store that blends penny candy simplicity with the bygone opulence of European sweet shops." (I was not even going to attempt to rewrite that one.) The tiny space will be chock-full of candies displayed in apothecary jars, like saltwater taffy and caramels, literally from floor to ceiling. The shop is in the former Bank of American building, just next door to Café Grillades, overlooking the Octavia Green. The hope is to open in mid-January, Tue-Sun, 11am-7pm. 449 Octavia St. at Linden, 415-626-6221.

Over in the Marina, there is a new Indian place opening next Sunday in the old Bombay Curry House space called ~ASHOKA FINE INDIAN CUISINE~. It's an intimate little space, and will be serving Indian classics, like curries and some tandoori faves, plus some newer dishes as well. The husband and wife owners are Benny Singh and Maria Kinard, and they will be serving dinner nightly. 2034 Chestnut St. at Fillmore St., 415-567-8124.

Oh, and ~GILBERT PILGRAM~ has officially started at Zuni.

Some openings to report: ~OUT THE DOOR~ finally opened on the concourse level (i.e. downstairs) of the Westfield Centre on November 29. There are 138 seats for those who want to get their fill of some Ferry Building location faves like chicken claypot, plus some new dishes from a rotisserie and a duck oven (food is also available to-go). Sustainable, organic, and local in full effect. There are also some cooking kits offered (minimal assembly required, and I can tell you firsthand these things are delish and ridiculously fast). Lundberg Design has put together a unique interior, with a one-of-a-kind wok setup where the woks are cooled from the runoff of water cascading down a long window (you gotta see it to believe it) and a glowing 60-foot honey wall made of Plexiglas. (Sweet.) Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm. 845 Market Street, concourse level, Westfield Shopping Centre.

~PRES A VI~ opened in the Presidio last week. Take your pick from one of their 300+ seats, and have fun attacking the wine list. One Letterman Drive, 415-409-3000.

~BIONDIVINO~, the cute Italian wine boutique I mentioned weeks back opened up at 1415 Green St. at Polk St., 415-673-2320.

Those of you bumming over the closure of ~CAFÉ VENUE~ on Market and Third can now head over to its new digs in the former Boudin space, right across from the old Mint (AKA the granite lady), open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat 8am-5:30pm, Sun 11am-5:30pm. 67 5th Street at Jessie St., near Mission St., 415-546-1144.

Here are some offers around town:
On Mondays through the month of December, ~CITIZEN THAI & THE MONKEY~ will offer 50% off on almost all of the wines on their wine list—there are over 50 wines from around the world to choose from. (Bottles only.) 1268 Grant St. at Vallejo St., 415-364-0008.

~LE METRO CAFÉ~ on Divis has launched a kids and family night on Mondays, offering a chef's special kid's meal for $10, with drinks and dessert. Crayons will be on hand, plus smoothies and juices for the tykes. On Tuesdays, you can bring a bottle of wine in and they will not charge you a corkage fee. Isn't it time to go check out what the new chef, Nathan Foot, is up to? 311 Divisadero St. at Page St., 415-552-0903.

~CORTEZ~ has launched a special Iowa Heritage Suckling Pig menu, with dishes like baby gem lettuces with torn basil, pomegranate seeds, Fuyu persimmon and crispy house-cured guanciale; hand-cut noodles with tender pulled pork, Meyer lemon and black pepper sabayon and pecorino; and a presentation of various cuts of suckling pig: herb-roasted porchetta, slow-cooked leg and "sous vide" loin with grain mustard-glazed Russian banana potatoes, buttered cabbage and cippolini onions. (These dishes can be ordered a la carte, or all together to form a piggy deluxe menu, with wine pairings.) 550 Geary St. at Jones St., 415-292-6360.

~SCOTT HOWARD~ is now serving lunch during the holiday season (until December 22), Monday through Friday from 11:30am-2pm. The new lunch menu will offer a choice of appetizers, such as Kumamoto oysters with pineapple and vanilla bean mignonette and chipotle cocktail sauce; smoked trout truffled egg salad with crostini; and the famed carrot broth with chervil sabayon and black truffle oil. The entrées will include short ribs, salmon, and white cheddar grilled cheese on brioche with tomato soup. 500 Jackson St. between Columbus and Montgomery, 415-956-7040.