March 6, 2007

The changes continue at ~BACAR~: after two years in the kitchen, Executive Chef Adam Timney is no longer there, and the new executive chef will be announced this Saturday the 10th when he/she begins. Supposedly not even the staff knows who the new chef is going to be—all will be revealed on Saturday? Timney, meanwhile, is going to enjoy the much-needed break and is taking off for his first trip to Italy for three whole weeks. He’ll be hitting Genoa (he has a friend who is a chef there), Firenze, Bologna, and will be learning about and eating plenty of salumi with some fellow meat phreeks. Buon viaggio, Adam.

The ever-buzzing ~ABSINTHE’S~ ten-year anniversary is coming up, and with it comes an impending change in the kitchen: they are currently seeking an executive chef to guide the restaurant into its next decade, to put a unique stamp on the menu and drive Absinthe’s culinary vision forward. Last fall, Eduardo “Eddie” Arriaga (Mandrake to his pals) was promoted to executive chef when Ross Browne left to go to Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, and will continue to be a guiding force and integral part of the restaurant. Arriaga has been with the restaurant since it opened, working his way up the ranks for the past nine years. For now things will remain status quo, and even with an impending new chef coming into the kitchen, the restaurant is committed to the classics remaining firmly entrenched on the menu. Stay tuned for news on the new someone.

Just around the corner, you’ll be seeing a new face: Thad Vogler has trucked over from the newly opened Presidio Social Club and is now overseeing the bar at ~JARDINIÈRE~ for at least the next three months. Jardinière is another one coming up on their ten-year anniversary, so they are making some tweaks and updates…

So, the Kimpton chef count is temporarily raised: the ~GRAND CAFÉ~ has brought on Mauro (Rob) Pando as the interim chef—he starts today. They are still conducting a national search for an executive chef, but Mauro will be holding it down in the meantime. He was recently at Bistro Don Giovanni, and was the executive chef of Red Star Tavern and Roast House in Portland.

After almost 14 years at Masa’s, ~PASTRY CHEF KEITH JEANMINETTE~ has left, and is now at the Marriott in SoMa on Fourth Street. He was looking for a new challenge and opportunity for growth, and the wider scope of dealing with everything from room service to banquets to special events was more of what he was looking for. He will be missed at Masa’s—hello, he was the man behind the dream mignardise cart! A new pastry chef should be announced soon...

More changes in haute dining land: at ~CAMPTON PLACE~, Michael Scaffidi has accepted the position as Wine Director/Sommelier, replacing Shana Dilworth who is off to London. He was most recently at The French Laundry, where he was responsible for the staff wine education, and previously at Bacara in Santa Barbara. His wife is Annie Clemons, who is the pastry chef at Cyrus.

After months of construction on the old Nouvelle Patisserie space in Cow Hollow, ~JOVINO~, a “Coffee House Wine Café,” has moved in and opened its doors. It’s a friendly space that’s open morning until night, and was designed to be a casual spot where people can hang outside of their apartment or home, or just swing by for a cuppa or a sando. Most will want to linger, with the big windows affording natural light, outdoor seating, high ceilings with wood beams, and there’s even a big 1900’s French Provincial communal farmhouse table. Yes, there’s also free WiFi, plus some magazines and newspapers for those who still read the printed word. For breakfast, you’ll find baked goods like muffins and scones, breakfast burritos, and granola, while lunch brings choices like a ham and Brie melt, a Sonoma chicken club, or an ahi salad. There will also be dishes like a cheese platter, a Mediterranean plate, and an egg white frittata with vegetables, plus a couple hot dishes for dinner. So about the name: the Jo, as in a cup of joe (hello Mr. Espresso), and the vino, well, c’mon—you can drink it on-site, or take a bottle home, too. The concept is from Ken Lowe of Ace Wasabi and Tokyo Go Go, but since Joanna Karlinsky did some consulting, don’t be surprised when you see Meetinghouse biscuits on the menu (with house-made Meyer lemon curd, delish). Daily 7:30am–10:30pm. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore St., 415-563-1853.

At last, there will hopefully be some decent pho and Vietnamese food in the Castro. (Don’t get me wrong, Will’s House on 14th is okay, but I don’t like being the only person in there.) ~ZADIN~ will be opening at the end of March in the former Malacca space on 18th Street (the name is a phonetic spelling of the Vietnamese word for family). First-time restaurant owners Truc Tran and Bao Phan are cousins and best friends—Tran’s family has a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, so Tran and Phan will be featuring a number of authentic family recipes. Those in the gluten-free community, take note: they are trying to make the menu as gluten-free as possible (healthy too). Dishes will include a variety of phos, ($9), salads ($9), and dinner items like noodle dishes, clay pot catfish, and lemongrass pork skewers ($8–$14), along with a number of rolls/goi cuon ($7). The folks at Swirl on Castro are helping with the wine list, and some Belgian beers and soju cocktails will also be offered. Open Tue-Sun, lunch 11am-3pm and dinner 5pm-10pm. 4039 18th St. (between Castro and Noe), 415-626-2260.

For those following the mysterious and sudden closing of ~YUM~ onMarket Street, here’s more fromPaul, one of the owners, on Chowhound.

Swung by the opening party of ~NUA~ in North Beach last night—cute space, vittles and wine look good, and it opens this Wednesday. It should be a welcome addition to the ‘hood, and there’s valet parking so don’t hesitate about driving across town to check it out.(Things next door with Soto Mare seem to be coming along too…)550 Green St. at Jasper Place (near Columbus), 415-433-4000.

Folks have been wondering what is up with ~SPRUCE~, the project from the Bacchus Management Group opening in the former 1930’s auto house in Presidio Heights. Yes, we’re all antsy. The opening is now slated for June. For reals. As a reminder, Mark Sullivan, the chef of the Village Pub in Woodside will be the chef at Spruce, and they are describing themselves as “a two-star Michelin restaurant dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt.” Sounds like someone I’d like to meet. It’s going to rock, with dishes like butter-poached lobster to a gourmet twist on the classic burger, plus a salumi-a-rama, and an international wine list that will make people purr. There’s even going to be a gourmet takeaway program, and a cozy lounge with a fireplace and wingback chairs—personally I think it will be too packed for people to play the provided backgammon and chess games, but it’s a nice idea.

After surviving the landslide in North Beach, ~HELMAND~ is going to remained closed for a couple more weeks—they hope to reopen soon. Fortunately, they did not have damage to the interior—just a lot of rubble around the building. I’ll let you know when the buffet is back up and open for biz. 430 Broadway at Kearny St., 415-362-0641.

An update on the Noe Valley Chef benefit dinner for the ~KIM FAMILY FUND~: 100 people attended, and over $20,000 was raised! Awesome. The KFF is a cash fund to be given to Kati Kim and her daughters. For those who couldn’t attend and would like more information or to make a donation via Pay Pal go to the KFF site.

After a long renovation, ~TART TO TART~ in the Sunset has reopened. 641 Irving St. at 7th Ave., 415-504-7068.

A tablehopper reader pointed out ~NARAI THAI~ is now closed in the Richmond—according to their outgoing message, they are in the process of looking for a new space. I’ll let you know when I hear where that is. A Japanese restaurant is taking its place. 2229 Clement St. at 23rd Ave.

Over in the Cannery, the ~OAKVILLE GROCERY~ closed on Feb 14th. The company was sold to new owners, including Leslie Rudd, who is the owner of Dean & Deluca, Press, and Rudd Vineyards.

Executive Chef ~TIM LUYM~ of Poleng Lounge is kicking off a new monthly cocktail pairing series, Industry Nights, at the Macy’s Cellar. This Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm, Luym (who was just nominated for the 2007 Rising Star Chef Award by the James Beard Foundation) and Bar Manager Brian Masterson will do a demo of pan-Asian cuisine paired with one of their unique tea-based cocktails. Events are held in the Macy’s Union Square Cellar. $10 admission includes the chef demo and recipe, a sample of the food and cocktail pairing, and a $10 Macy’s Gift Card. For tickets and more information, please visit this site.

Also, I finally got a pack of my ~COZMOCARDS~ for 2007—they’re a good deal to have for yourself, and I like to keep a few on hand as gifts for food phreek friends. All you have to do is spend $40 and when you present that restaurant's Cozmo Card you get $15 off your bill. The individual decks are $30 each, and tablehopper readers get 10% off! (You can also 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 Deep Sushi cards,for $65.) 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. There are definitely some fun/hip restaurants in there, like Tsunami, El Raigon, and Destino. Check it out.

Gota hot tip? You know I’d love it (and you). Just replyto this email!