June 10, 2008

I love me some big news. Things have been kind of quiet about the upcoming 240-seat ~URBAN TAVERN~ project at the San Francisco Hilton on O'Farrell Street. Donna Scala was helping to conceptualize and develop the high-end gastropub for the hotel—I heard a rumor that she was not going to be involved with the project once it launched, and it ends up Laurent Manrique is now going to be the chef! No confirmed details to release yet about the actual launch date (although one source told me July), the concept (I've heard Northern Italian/Southern Mediterranean), etc., so stand by… 333 O'Farrell St. at Mason.

More big news: I hear the Tiernans who own Tiernan's down near the Wharf, not the PlumpJack Group, are buying the ~WASHBAG~. No one has been able to confirm this for sure (I got "No comment!" last week, and this week my message went unanswered), but my source made it sound pretty darned definite.

There's a new executive chef at ~SEASONS AT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL~: Jeremy Emmerson left for a private cheffing gig to allow more time to be with his family. The new executive chef is Mark Richardson, who has been with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in culinary positions for the past ten years (most recently as executive sous chef at Four Seasons Hotel Boston). Richardson likes to experiment with new molecular gastronomy techniques in his kitchen, so expect a little bit of flair to appear on the menu (sounds like Jing Tio just scored another regular at Le Sanctuaire). 757 Market St. at Grant, 415-633-3838.

Another chef switcheroo: ~PALENCIA RESTAURANT~, the Filipino spot in the Castro, has a new executive chef: 25-year-old Drey Roxas, who was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. He received his culinary degree from CCA in 2003, then worked at Shangri-La Hotel in Manila. He has redesigned the menu, incorporating bright flavors and dishes to balance the often-heavier fare, like kilawin, a ceviche-like dish using red snapper that is "cooked" in a sugar cane vinegar as opposed to traditional citrus. There's also a hearts of palm salad, with carrot, Filipino spinach, and a light tamarind sauce. In case you want to check it out, the restaurant will be celebrating the Philippines Independence Day with a four-course prix-fixe menu for $35 per person on June 12th (the official date) and June 13th. 3870 17th between Noe and Sanchez, 415-522-1888.

I'd like to give a big congrats to Craig Stoll, the chef and co-owner of Delfina, who won Best Chef: Pacific (in California and Hawaii) at the ~JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARDS~ on Sunday. The Mission continued to dominate, with Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the owners of Tartine Bakery, winning Outstanding Pastry Chef award, a national award. Meow. Up in St. Helena, Hiro Sone and his wife, Lissa Doumani, took home the award for the nation's best restaurant service for Terra (they also own Ame here in the City). Congrats to all the nominees—you're all winners in many, many peoples' eyes. And a very special shout-out to Grant Achatz, who not only beat cancer, tongue cancer at that, but won the Outstanding Chef Award (I highly recommend reading the riveting article from back in May in the New Yorker about his battle with cancer.) You can check out the list of all the nominees and winners here.

It's going to be another big weekend, this time in Aspen since it's the 26th annual ~FOOD & WINE CLASSIC~. I can only imagine how swell the exclusive tasting dinner prepared by the 2008 F&W Best New Chefs is going to be, which includes Jeremy Fox of Ubuntu, Koren Grieveson of my favorite Avec in Chicago, and Michael Psilakis of Anthos in New York. I soooooo wish I was going—next year, perhaps…

~MERCURY LOUNGE~ on Lombard has closed, and is actually going to be moving to a bigger location, in the SoMa area. I will be able to release more on the location once I get the go-ahead, stand by.

Here's a small service announcement for you: ~SUSHI KOO~ in the Sunset is temporarily closed from yesterday, June 9th, until Tuesday June 17th—the restaurant will be back open on Wedndesday June 18th, so you can get your "Spoonful of Happiness" back on. 408 Irving St. at 5th St., 415-731-7077.

Meanwhile, it seems the Inner Sunset's ~WUNDER BREWING CO.~ (formerly Eldo's) is closed; here's more from Eater. The "closed for renovations" notice and the disconnected phone don't totally jive. 1326 Ninth Ave. at Irving.

As for the Inner Richmond: I planned to mention this on Thursday during my segment on View from the Bay (this is a big blatant hint about one of the restaurants I'll be mentioning): Namu is going to be opening a deli, ~HAPPY BELLY FOODS~, a few blocks down from the restaurant—the space in which they are opening the deli is actually where they store their Happy Belly carts that serve food in Golden Gate Park. Look for signature sandwiches, plus pre-marinated meats (hello, kalbi skirt steak), house-made kimchee, and sauces. September is the hoped-for opening date. Balboa and 3rd St.

I seemed to miss the opening of this café, but a reader wanted to point out ~MUISCA COLOMBIAN FUSION AND CAFÉ~ is serving up good coffee and Colombian fare, like arepas, in the Mission. Yelpers seem to dig it. 564 South Van Ness Ave. at 17th St., 415-834-5804.

No, I don't particularly feel like thinking about the holidays either, but I wanted to let you know the Food Network is casting for the popular ~DEAR FOOD NETWORK~ specials set to air this holiday season. Four all-new, one-hour programs will feature Food Network fans as they get the chance to have their cooking questions answered face-to-face by their star of choice, answering viewers' questions about turkey troubles, dessert disasters, cooking for large family gatherings, and the like. To be considered for Dear Food Network, viewers must upload a unique and entertaining three-minute video to www.foodnetwork.com/dearfn by Monday July 14th, sharing their story and explaining why they want a chance to have their cooking problems solved by their favorite Food Network star. Entrants must include their age, location, and a humorous testimonial by a family member or friend. The best videos will be aired on the program, and some fans will even be flown to the set to be in the audience while their dilemma is answered on-air. For additional info, email foodnetworkseries@gmail.com.

I had a good time emceeing at the ~MACY'S UNION SQUARE CELLAR~ event last week: the good-enough-to-eat programming continues this Wednesday June 11th at 6pm, when they highlight Out of the Kitchen (perhaps you've seen this new quarterly magazine advertised on tablehopper?) and mushrooms! Each season, OITK's editor-in-chief (and executive chef and owner of Maverick, Scott Youkilis, will bring one of the stories straight to your taste buds with a live cooking demo in The Cellar. This month he is hosting a true expert and connoisseur: Connie Green, a well-known local forager of wild mushrooms, who supplies them to many of the Bay Area's finest restaurants. You'll be treated to a taste of hard-to-find morels (yes, MORELS, people!) prepared by Scott and paired with a glass of wine chosen by Maverick's wine director and co-owner Mike Pierce. Free! 170 O'Farrell St. at Stockton.

The fun-with-food continues next week with ~GRACEANN WALDEN~, who will take guests on a culinary tour of San Francisco during this four-part series, while never leaving The Cellar! She'll be visiting with various local chefs, while guests get a taste of featured recipes, plus a glass of wine, compliments of the Jug Shop. The line-up is on Wednesdays at 6pm.

6/18: Nob Hill with Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls of The Big 4
7/16: The New North Beach with chef J.J. Castaneda of Joe DiMaggio's Chophouse
8/13: The Fillmore District Old and New with chef David Lawrence of 1300 Fillmore
9/17: Traditional North Beach with chef Valentino Luchin of Rose Pistola

More demos: The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is continuing its popular cooking program, ~EASY MARKET MEALS~. These free cooking demonstrations, which take place on the first and third Tuesday of each month from June through September, focus on one or two seasonal ingredients in the farmers' market and offer simple ways for home cooks to prepare them. This year, three of the guest chefs will demonstrate family-friendly meals, emphasizing quick, nutritious dishes that will please the developing palates of the under-eight set. Easy Market Meals takes place in CUESA's Dacor teaching kitchen, located in the North Arcade in front of the Ferry Building. Attendees will learn from professional chefs and accomplished home cooks, sample the featured dishes, and leave with a recipe to recreate these seasonal meals at home. The rotating demos begin at 12pm, 12:30pm, and 1pm. Here's the schedule of guest chefs for 2008:

6/17: Amy Andrews, Amy's Food Room (family-friendly focus)
7/1: Stephanie Rosenbaum, Food Writer
7/15: Annie Somerville, Greens Restaurant
8/5: Georgeanne Brennan, Cookbook Author & Food Writer
8/19: Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef (family-friendly focus)
9/2: Shanti Wilson, former CUESA Market Chef & Culinary Consultant (family-friendly focus)
9/16: Leslie and Andrew Swallow, Mixt Greens

One of my most memorably delicious meals was when chef ~RICHARD REDDINGTON~ was an interim co-chef at Masa's back in 2004—perhaps it was all the more delicious because I knew it was a not-to-last situation. Anyway, chef Reddington of Redd in Napa Valley will be guest co-chef with Masa's executive chef Gregory Short for an evening celebrating Masa's 25th Anniversary, on Saturday June 21st. There will be a special tasting menu, with the first seating at 5:30pm and the second at 8:30pm. The cost of the dinner will be $195 per person, with wine pairings offered by Master Sommelier Alan Murray. 648 Bush St. at Powell, 415-989-7154.

This coming Saturday June 14th, Theatre of Yugen is hosting a Slow Food movement "secret supper" as a company fundraiser. A five-course vegetarian meal will be prepared by chef ~LEIF HEDENDAL~. The Yugen Orchestra will provide music, plus a souped-up noh dance and a performance of their latest Kyogen comedy, Religious Dispute, will also be part of the evening's entertainment. You can read Leif's summer-riffic menu here. 6pm, $60 per plate (very limited seating) and by reservation only. Order tickets online or call 415-621-0507. a.Muse art gallery, 614 Alabama St. at 18th St.

Up in Mill Valley, ~ORA~ has closed as of May 14th, and owner Shahram Bijan will be reopening the restaurant in a bigger space in San Francisco's Union Square, a few blocks away from First Crush, his wine bar. No word on where exactly that space is—the lease is still being negotiated, but there will be the inclusion of more California-style dishes, and a full bar. He will also be busy opening the second (and bigger) location of Toast up in Novato this summer, in a new space from architect Stanley Saitowitz (who did Conduit).