November 13, 2007

Could this be the moment many city dwellers have been waiting for? Word on the street is the ~NOPA~ crew will be opening a Spanish restaurant in the Mission on Harrison Street, not far from El Metate and Blowfish is what I heard. I can’t get any confirmation or details from the NOPA folks at the moment, so look for more exciting info in the coming weeks. Yay, is New York’s fabulous Spanish restaurant trend finally making its way west? ¡Adelante!

Since we’re on Spain… some folks are grappling with the rise of popular local restaurants with a no reservations policy (“What if I’m on a Friday night date and don’t want to wait for two hours?”)… Well, starting this Friday, ~LAIOLA~ has decided to offer partial reservations on OpenTable. Some seats will be left open for walk-ins, and of course, there are seats at the bar, my favorite seat in the house. Speaking of Laiola, as of last Thursday, ~CAMBER LAY~ is no longer managing the bar there. Will keep you posted where she lands next. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

While we’re boozin’ a little, there are things happenin’ in SOMA: first there is 83 Proof in this week’s “the lush,” and the former dive, the Eagle Drift In, is morphing into the ~LAVA GRILL AND LOUNGE~. The space has been under construction for the last four months, and will open as a lounge and will then launch an American fusion food concept in the beginning months of 2008. The 49-seat space has a light-up bar, hardwood floors, and a chrome front. Look for an opening around November 26. 527 Bryant St. between 3rd and 4th, 415-777-1333.

~KAPE~, the cute little Filipino café on 16th Street, is now closed and papered over. Looks like something is going in, does anyone who lives in the ‘hood know what the new business will be? 3463 16th St. between Dehon and Sharon.

Not far away, ~URBAN BREAD~ in the Castro is open, serving breads from Raymond’s Bakery, Panorama, and sweets and breakfast pastries from Raison d’ Etre. There are also coffee drinks, and free WiFi. 3901 18th St. at Sanchez, 415-552-8378.

~HORIZON~ is opening tonight. The website is now full of pics and includes the menu, which has the burger breakdown, and there are four kinds of fries (fat, skinny, truffle Parmesan, or zucchini). 498 Broadway St. at Kearny, 415-576-1118.

Also in North Beach, if Friday’s inspection goes according to plan, ~LA TRAPPE~ should be having its grand opening on Saturday the 17th, starting at 6pm. In homage to the former tenant, Buca Giovanni, there will be some rabbit on the menu, a rabbit stew with prunes and Affligem Dubbel (a Belgian beer) sauce. There will also be steak frites, using meat from Marin Sun Farms, and ten beers on tap (eventually there will be 15, then a hoped-for 20, as things proceed). Breakfast is when the famed waffles with pearl sugar will appear, and there will be lunch too—look for those hours to be added later on. Initial hours will be 5pm–midnight. 800 Greenwich St. at Mason, 415-440-TRAP.

Got a chance to catch up with Chris Hastings, the owner of ~LOOKOUT~ (which I mentioned last week—it’s the bar that opened in the former Metro), and he gave me some details on the pizzeria component. There are two kinds available, thin and deep dish, and guess who consulted and helped develop the recipes? Yes, the talented Sharon Ardiana, behind local fave Gialina. The thin crust pizzas are available in two sizes, while the deep dish comes in one; there are 6–8 kinds available, like a four-cheese version, pesto and chicken, vegetarian, and other classic combos. The pizzas are coming out of a two-deck gas oven with ceramic tiles. Pizza (for now) is served 5pm–11pm during the week, and until midnight Fri–Sat. The kitchen also cranks out some classic American bar fare, like burgers, nachos, chicken wings, and the like. As for the bar, look for an industry night on Tuesday nights, with happy hour pricing all night. 3600 16th St. at Market, 415-431-3111.

I know, anyone who lives in the Castro is always left to wonder what is up with the ~PATIO CAFE~, with its 24-hour glowing red neon sign in spite of the fact it’s been closed for over six years. Here’s a bit of an update: Hasz Construction, which was behind the construction of some local biggies, like bacar, Tres Agaves, and Supperclub, is currently working on this project and projecting the space should be ready to open in April or May 2008. What remains to be seen is who the operator will be—owner Les Natali has considered a few options, but no one is final yet. Stand by to hear who will finally bring brunch back to that huge space. 531 Castro St. at 18th.

A couple updates in ~RESTAURANT SCAM LAND~ (not a pretty place): first, did you catch this piece on the Home Menu Restaurant owner, who was charging customer credit cards months after the joint closed? Bad man. Busted.

Then I got this note from Joan Simon of Full Plate Restaurant Consulting and owner of the convention concierge service Reservations Tonight, who alerted me to a new scam targeting restaurants (she books lots of group dinners). It’s kind of like the classic Nigerian B.S. (“My father left me a million dollars in a super secret bank account and only you can help me.”) but with a culinary twist. I don’t think many people would fall for this, but then again, you never know:

I am Dr Murrieen Greenhill of university of public health and epidemiology birmingham uk.We have a program in your country and I want to book dinner for my members in your Restaurant.Please ,kindly provide dinner for 8guest from the 4th of Jan.to the 12th of Jan 2008 and forward a comprehensive bill for the period so that a credit card will be issued to you for the booking.
Thanks and God bless you.
Dr Greenhill

And another:
Hello,
I am Engr George Ammany,the director of Staff welfare Independent petroleum UK. I want to book dinner for my group of workers arriving from London. They will all come for dinner in your place as from Nov 28th, 29th and 30th, 2007 by 7:00pm each day. They are 15 in number. Get back with your response if there is availability in your restaurant.
Kind Regards,

If you write back and say you can help but need more details (Simon knew they were fakes but was curious to see what the response would be), they then give a story about giving you a credit card in advance, but you will need to charge an amount and then pay their transportation person, because they want it all to go through a single source or some hokey reason that makes no sense if they were valid. You follow that? Like this:
Thanks for your reply and assistance so far and we will book for the dining room at your resturants I will make a payment of 2,000.00 euros to you in advance, this is because we are not sure of what the guests might like to eat and drink as such will cover the cost of their meals, and their transportation arrangement to your place. Moreover, we were able to make an arrangement with a pre-paid car hiring agent who will supply the guests with vehicles and drivers that will be used by the guests to and fro your place. So inorder not to share the credit card information with a third party, I have decided that only one person will have to handle the credit card information.
Moreso, the prepaid agent is not yet a credit card merchant therefore cannot charge credit cards. On my own side, i would have sent him his money direct. So once you are in receipt of my credit card details,you are required to charge 10,000.00 euros in your account then deduct 2,000.00 euros as initial deposit and transfer 8,000.00 euros to the prepaid car hire agent , whose information I will forward to you once this is confirmed.

Confirm this message and provide me with your (1) YOUR FULL NAME (2) FULL ADDRESS (3) PHONE NUMBERS for office record.
All checks and balances shall be done with the group leader on the final day of their dinner.
Get back to me imediately.
Kind Regards,
Engr.George Ammany

I know, like, huh? Simon has received two emails of this nature, ostensibly from England, and they also refer to "youhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifr restaurant" but not by name, and they have a high-flying title or affiliation but the email address is generic (e.g. yahoo.co.uk, gmail, etc). And my personal favorite, let’s not forget all the bad grammar and punctuation and weirdo names. Oh yeah, and the God bless yous—those always kill me. Anyway, this was partially for amusement, but also JUST in case someone out there receives an email query like this and believes it might be legit. Looks like of getting hit up too.

Now for something sweet: has a new executive pastry chef, John McKee. Executive chef Gregory Short says, vis-Ã -vis the press release, "Chef McKee was the chef-instructor who trained our assistant pastry chefs Cassandra Strus and Michael Talabatai (during their studies at California Culinary Academy), who have been doing exceptional work while we have been seeking a new Executive Pastry Chef. It should come as no surprise that with great talent already in place, with the opportunity, we hired Chef McKee to join and lead Masa's into our 25th Anniversary." McKee, a Bay Area native, has been making pastries and desserts for over 30 years, working at the St. Francis Hotel, Hyatt Hotels in Michigan and San Francisco, and for 15 years he was part owner of Le Seine Bakery on Chestnut Street. He has also been a Master Instructor at the California Culinary Academy for the past three years. 648 Bush St. at Powell, 415-989-7154.

Last Thursday, ~PERBACCO~ restaurant raised $10,000 dollars at their one-year anniversary/tartufi bianchi dinner, with proceeds all going directly into their pockets. Kidding, the proceeds benefit the swell Meals on Wheels.

Now, I don’t quite have the ducats to be donating by drinking barolos, but I can ~DONATE RICE~ through my vocabulary. Huh? Yes, play this addictive multiple choice vocabulary game, and with each word you get right, the site will donate rice to the UN World Food Program. Have fun. I couldn’t stop.

More on truffles… ~FARINA~ is getting some tartufi bianchi in from Alba next week, and starting November 19, will be offering special dishes on the menu, some that hail from Medieval or really obscure recipes. I spoke with chef Paolo Laboa (one advantage to speaking Italian!), and he mentioned a few starters that may show up could include fonduta con fontina della Valtellina al tartufo (this is an old recipe—cheese fondue with Fontina and truffle), and uova al tegamino con tartufo (a classic: fried eggs with truffle), while some pastas might be tagliarini ai venti rossi mantecati al burro con tartufo (tagliarini made from 20 egg yolks, with butter, hello, and truffle) or raviolini di vitello al barolo con tartufo (another older dish, little ravioli made with veal, barolo, and truffle); mains like duck, veal, and boar with truffle might be rotated in. I am so curious about the desserts, like his gelato made from gorgonzola dolce, served with truffle and honey. Gotta try that. There’s also a beignet-like dish (“bignoline”), filled with walnut and truffle cream. Depending on the season, which is a tough one this year, the truffle dishes may be on the menu for the next two weeks or so. 3560 18th St. at Dearborn, 415-565-0360.

Now that Michael Lamina, the new executive chef at ~CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN~ is in place, they have launched a Saturday night tasting menu, a four-course menu highlighting what’s in season, and some of Michael’s future menu ideas. Last weekend the menu featured rabbit AND venison, but could very well be more vegetable-focused next week. Or not. The menu has been $50 the past two weeks, including an amuse, and dessert, so it’s actually coming out to a bit more than four courses. There are also wine pairings available, which have ranged from $35–45 (depends on what is being poured, natch). Oh, and you can’t miss CAV’s bright new red sign on Market. 1666 Market St. at Gough, 415-437-1770.

And then on Sunday, ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA~ is celebrating their second anniversary, with live jazz, a glass of complimentary prosecco, snacks from the kitchen, and special birthday cupcakes from That Takes the Cake on Union Street, the latest addition to the city’s cupcake scene. 5pm–7pm. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

Last week Pete from Green Apple mentioned ~ALICE WATERS'~ new book, The Art of Simple Food, in the bookworm. A reader wrote in to mention Waters has two book signings coming up in December at Cost Plus World Market stores for those who want an inscribed copy. She will be at the Cost Plus store in Marin on Saturday, December 1, 11am–1pm; and the San Francisco store on Sunday, December 2, 2pm–4pm.

Oh, and not like it hasn’t been posted on every food blog, site, and discussion board in town, but just in case you haven’t seen it, the Chronicle’s article yesterday about the grim financial reality of working in San Francisco kitchens is a must-read, and it’s not just because it contains the word “bifurcating.” Ditto on all the comments—there are a bunch to read.