July 22, 2008

Before diving in here, have you heard of ~TALK SHOW LIVE~? It’s a monthly variety show that just moved to 330 Ritch, and yours truly is going to be a guest on Monday, August 11th. The doors open for live Django-gypsy jazz music by Café Americain and mingling at 7pm, and the guest interviews and performances start at 8pm, with host Kurt Bodden. Joining me will be sketch comedy troupe Kasper Hauser, and web design pioneer and internet personality Jennifer Niederst Robbins—you can read all about us here. Tickets are $15 each, or bring a friend and take advantage of the $20 Talk Show Live two-for-one ticket (available online). Anyone who buys their ticket online gets the special VIP package: seating up front in a reserved section, and entry in a VIP-only prize drawing after the show—you just have to be at the club by 7:30pm to claim your seats. 21 and over. See you there? I’ll be out on a rare Monday night! 330 Ritch, between 3rd and 4th St., Brannan and Townsend.

So while the Nopa project in the outer Mission is in flux, one new project that is underway is ~FLOUR + WATER~, moving into the former Mi Mazatlan Restaurant space on the corner, across the street from Café Gratitude. This 49-seat restaurant will offer five–six rotating kinds of pizzas from a wood-burning oven, and the same number of house-made pastas each day, plus two–three entrées, like branzino with salt crust. There will also be seasonal antipasti, vegetables, and salumi; ingredients will be local and organic where possible. No chef yet—the search is underway, and will be decided once things get closer. No dish will be over $19, and all wines will be $59 and under. Another interesting note about the wines: they will all be made in Italy, or from makers of Italian descent, or Italian varietals.

flour + water is a project from two Davids: David Steele, and David White, most recently of Nua. The look of the space will be unique: Sean Quigley of Paxton Gate will be designing it. His aesthetic has been described as "David Lynch meets Martha Stewart," with some monkeys thrown in for good measure. Reclaimed materials will be highlighted, plus there will be communal seating, some window seating, and eventual outdoor seating as well. There will be a strong neighborhood focus, with bicycle delivery and a big bike rack out front (thank you), plus some fun touches, like an album-oriented musical program of indie music instead of the usual iPod shuffle. flour + water will be open for lunch and dinner daily, 11am–11pm, and later on Fri–Sat. Look for a March 2009 opening. 2401 Harrison St. at 20th St.

MMMM, donuts. Yup, ~DYNAMO DONUT & COFFEE~ opened today, just next door to Casa Sanchez. As a sleuthy Mission-residing tablehopper reader so kindly recaps for us: “Gourmet, organic, handmade, yeast-risen donuts made by Sara Spearin, Liberty Cafe alum. Today they had vanilla glazed and banana dulce de leche. I can vouch for the vanilla glazed. It may have been the best donut I've ever had. Old-fashioned cake style with zero trace of that typical donut grease after taste. Soooo good! The whole deal will be locally sourced as soon as Jeremy from Four Barrel is good to go. In the meantime [the coffee is] Stumptown. All made-to-order French press coffee and espresso drinks.” Open from 7am–5pm daily. 2760 24th St. at Hampshire, 415-920-1978.

Rumors have been swirling a-plenty about chef ~JEN BIESTY’S~ next move (she was most recently at COCO500 and was a contestant on Top Chef). A few weeks back, I heard she was being considered for the executive chef position of the Drake Restaurants, which would mean overseeing Scala’s Bistro, the Starlight Room, banquets, and room service—but nothing is final yet. She’s asked me to remain mum about her other potential gig, consulting at a local Mediterranean place—everything is TBD and off the record at the moment. Darn, sometimes I hate OTR!

But the one thing that is confirmed is Biesty just launched Savage Feasts, a catering gig that’s an extension of Living Room Events, and was started for newly married gay couples looking for a caterer. As for the name, no, it’s not an homage to having a secret, burning love for Fred Savage—it’s actually a play on her last name, which sounds like beasty. Take THAT, all you bratty kids in Brooklyn who teased her when she was growing up!

The opening of ~ZARÉ AT FLY TRAP~ is getting close: the opening is potentially looking like August 5th. The team is coming together, with Marisa Churchill on board as the pastry chef and Reza Esmaili as the opening consultant and head bar manager (while still working at Conduit). Esmaili plans to put together a list of classic “Barbary Coast cocktails,” honoring the restaurant’s century-long history, and is also putting together some Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cocktails, utilizing ingredients from the main menu, like saffron, fenugreek, cardamom, and citrus.

Speaking of the menu, I got a peek at some initial dishes, all inspired by flavors from the coasts of the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey) and the Persian flavors of Hoss Zare’s Iranian upbringing. A few potential dishes may include pistachio meatballs with harissa-spiced honey-pomegranate glaze; warm salad of grilled baby octopus and calamari, frisee, borlotti beans and roasted shallots in a lemon-pulp vinaigrette; saffron and yogurt-marinated Alaskan black cod with herb couscous and chorizo tzatziki; and braised single-bone short ribs (read: meaty) with bone marrow and saffron-baked fennel.

Here are items from Churchill’s dessert menu: "Greek yogurt & honey": Fage panna cotta served with white truffle honey, clover honey tuile, and red flame grapes; goat cheese cheesecake with fresh figs, lavender blossom syrup, and toasted pistachios; and "rocky road" dark chocolate torte topped with homemade Tahitian vanilla marshmallow, chocolate ice cream, curried candied peanuts, and soy salted caramel. The all-day menu will be available from 11:30am–midnight, with about five salads, 15 appetizers, ten entrées, and five sides total. There will also be not one but two ten-top communal tables. 606 Folsom St. at 2nd St., 415-243-0580.

Jessica Battilana of 7x7 Bits + Bites unintentionally helped me do my work (thanks girl!) and has an update on ~LIMÓN~, which remains closed after the fire upstairs, plus news about a new restaurant from chef-owner Martin Castillo. From her posting: “Turns out that he’s just waiting for the insurance money to come through, after which time he plans to fully remodel Limón, creating, in his words, ‘a brand new restaurant’ which will more of an emphasis on ceviche and lounging. But even more exciting is what he’s been doing while waiting for that insurance money to come through—opening another restaurant! Two weeks ago he quietly took over the Pollo Rico space on the corner of 21st and South Van Ness (also known as one block from my house). I noticed a bit of construction there over the weekend but didn’t think much of it. But Martin tells me they are putting in new windows, floors, and bathrooms and that he plans to open his Peruvian-style rotisserie and small plates restaurant, quietly, by Wednesday of next week—named, simply, Limón Rotisserie. There will be a ceviche bar here, too, and he’s working now on getting his beer and wine license, with plans to serve sangria. They’ll also be doing take-out…” Limón, 524 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-252-0918.

Over in Bernal Heights, Eater broke the story that after ten years of business, owner Judy Hedin is selling ~MOKI'S SUSHI AND PACIFIC GRILL~ to Jason Kwon and Ziah Lee of Sozo Sushi in Pleasanton. According to a pic of the letter in the window, the name, staff, and menu will all remain the same—just the ownership is changing. And Judy is off to France. 615 Cortland Ave. at Moultrie, 415-970-9336.

And here’s another week of even more Boulange empire news, although it involves the closure of ~LE PETIT ROBERT~, after something like six years of business. I spoke with Thomas Lefort of Bay Bread, and the restaurant, one of Bay Bread’s last, will be closing on July 31st; this trend is a continuation of Bay Bread unloading their table service restaurants (Platanos, Cortez). The renovation will take a couple months, reopening in October as a larger La Boulange de Polk, which is just next door. The kitchen will be modified, and a counter area will be installed. I put in a request for the croque madame to remain, we shall see. 2300 Polk St. at Green.

Quick update on the ~WASHBAG~: I spoke with new owner Susan Tiernan, and a late September opening is the plan. Besides the new flooring and paint job, everything about the interior will be the same, and exactly in the same place—including Michael McCourt behind the stick. They are still looking for the right chef to execute the same menu, so I’ll let you know once that’s final. 1707 Powell St. at Columbus.

~LAIOLA~ is celebrating its one-year anniversary: swing by next Monday July 28th from 5pm–7pm for complimentary cava and some nibbles. Starting next week, Mondays will also mean no corkage at Laïola from here on out (they are reenacting their first two weeks when they were operating without a liquor license). So all you industry folks with a bottle of something special, now you know where to go on your night off. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

And now, congrats to the semifinalist teams who will be competing in Orlando in September to represent the USA in the ~BOCUSE D'OR~ (AKA culinary Olympics) in Lyon in January. The winning team in Orlando will be off to train for three months at the French Laundry cooking facility with Thomas Keller and Roland Henin, the USA team coach. Here are the semifinalists:

Richard Rosendale of Rosendales in Ohio; and USA Culinary Olympic team captain
Tim Hollingsworth, sous chef at French Laundry
Rogers Powell, instructor at French Culinary Institute
Michael Rotondo, chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter’s
Kevin Sbraga, culinary director of Garces Restaurant Group
Percy Whatley, (yay Percy!!!) Delaware North Parks executive chef, Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite
And yes, Hung Huynh, former sous chef of Guy Savoy, and the winner of Top Chef season three
Damon Wise, corporate chef at Craft, withdrew his name and is being replaced by John Rellah Jr., executive chef at Hamilton Farm, Gladstone, New Jersey

~OUT THE DOOR~ has reopened at the Westfield Centre after that nasty flooding; there is more seating, some changes to the menu (some Yelpers are NOT happy), and the wine bar should be opening soon. Westfield San Francisco Centre, 865 Market St., 415-541-9913.

As an addendum to my write-up last week of ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~: some new brunch dishes are being launched this weekend. Items include buttermilk drop biscuits with mushroom pan gravy ($9.50); bubble and squeak with jalapeño gravy and poached eggs ($12); soft grits with homemade sausage, tomato sauce piquant, and poached eggs ($12); Dungeness crab cake Benedict with chive hollandaise ($17); and New York steak and poached eggs with potato hash and pico de gallo ($19). The menu also includes oysters ($2.50 each), soups, and salads, and some $10 hangover drinks, like a bloody Mary. Sat–Sun 11am–2:30pm. 369 Embarcadero at Folsom, 415-369-9955.

I just had to bring attention to this tidbit on the line cook. blog: ~NOPA~ hit their all-time record of 530 covers in one service. Dude.

I got a phone call from Higher Ground Coffee House owner Monhal Jweinat about his Glen Park family-style Italian place that he’s opening in the old Bird & Beckett bookstore location: the name will be ~MANZONI~, and he’s hoping to open in September or October. 2790 Diamond St. at Chenery.

Over in the East Bay, a new series of ~ARTISAN PALATE TASTING EVENTS~ will be hosted at Paulding & Co., A Creative Kitchen. Events include Artisan Cheese Wine And Spirihttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifts on Thursday July 31st, an introduction to cheese, wine, and spirits pairing principles through the aromas and flavors of regionally produced beverages and foods, $70/person, 6:30pm–9pm. And Friday August 15th is California Artisan Cheese ($65/person). Class size is limited—register online at www.pauldingandco.com. A Creative Kitchen, 1410 D 62nd St., Emeryville.

Found this little clarification posting on entitled ~“FACTS ABOUT KAYGETSU”~ by the restaurant owner, which I thought would be a little useful:

“As a restaurant owner, I read Chowhound time to time to see what’s new and what people are interested in. I’ve noticed that there are few posts about our restaurant recently. I usually keep silent when there are few minor misstatements about our restaurant. Since I’m a co-owner of Kaygetsu, as I understand the posting etiquette, I am not allowed to comment on any reviews or refute on our food quality. However, I noticed that there seems to be some misunderstanding going on; and I thought this time I need to straighten out some facts which I am allowed to do. So, here goes…..

“1) We never had “the chef” who was in charge of all kitchen operations. Katsuhiro Yamasaki and Shinichi Aoki had been working for us since we had Toshi’s Sushiya on El Camino. They were working as sushi chefs back then. Since both of them had experience in Kaiseki, we decided to open Kaygetsu in 2004 and sold Toshi’s. They were equally responsible for kaiseki menu – each was responsible for half of the menu items. Katsuhiro had left and opened his own restaurant as most of you know already. I sent out an e-mail in February to our customers to let them know of what’s happening rather than keeping silent about it. It’s unfortunate that it seems that e-mail created some misunderstanding that “the chef” has left. Shinichi, one of the two kaiseki chefs, is still with us; and he, in fact, oversees the whole kitchen operation since mid-February
“2) Our sushi chef and co-owner, Toshi, is still preparing sushi and sashimi as always has been. I hope this clarifies some misunderstanding. Thank you very much.” 325 Sharon Park Dr., Menlo Park, 650-234-1084.