September 23, 2008

To begin, here are the favorite sweet treats in San Francisco as voted by tablehopper readers (I didn’t correct most typos):

“My favorite SF sweet treat is the pan con chocolate at Laiola—any chocolate goodness topped with olive oil and sea salt is heaven to me!”

“Favorite Sweet Treat: Miette's cupcakes”

“Has to be Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs!”

“The Ultimate chocolate cake at Max's restaurant.”

“Ottimista, in Cow Hollow, has fresh ricotta doughnuts with nutmeg sugar and Godiva hot cocoa for dunking. These warm little balls of goodness, coated in a sweet and spicy mixture, dripping with hot chocolate, coupled with a lovely Brachetto (Ottimista IS a wine bar after all!) are the perfect way to make my troubles disappear.”

“Either Beard Papa (discovered via tablehopper, natch!) or Grasshopper Pie ice cream at Mitchell's. A whole pint just for myself, plus I lick the paper necessary for a properly hand-packed transportation device.”

“Favorite SF Dessert...has to be the chocolate filled beignets with chocolate sauce and house made coffee soda at 1300 Fillmore. I might just have to go right now. Hellz yeah.”

“I have a major sweet tooth, but one of my many sweet treats is Strawberry Balsamic ice cream at Bi-Rite.”

“How could there possibly be any other treat to consider than Delfina's Panna Cotta? It transcends all images we have ever held of Panna Cotta. I lived in Italy and I feel like I never had Panna Cotta before. Craig clearly sold his soul to the Satan of Panna Cotta and was given this recipe to lure us into silky, creamy (yet surprisingly light and citrusy) decadence and get fat.”

“Nutella Crepes at Frjtz (on Hayes)!”

“Yes it's true I love Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes with vanilla at Ghirardelli Square. My daughter just started working in the city and she goes to the Ferry Building for gelato weekly.”

“My favorite sweet treat for this season is roasted figs, in a rose syrup, with hazelnut praline & creme fraiche.”

“Â ...is the Kettle Corn at the new Century Theaters in Downtown SF... it's actually fresh, crunchy, addictively sweet & salty... I don't eat regular popcorn but this I'll go out of my way to buy even when I'm watching a movie across the street at the Metreon!”

“My favorite SF sweet treat is the Ghirardelli Earthquake Sundae because I eat it with friends. (And then take a picture of the empty dish in front of one person at a time, like each of them was a total pig and ate the whole thing herself.)”

“Is there any better sweet treat than a Beard Papa cream puff???”

“It's a tough one, but maybe this one wins because it's always so hard to get. The egg tarts (dan taht) from Golden Gate Bakery. Mmm.”

“No treat can beat the simple and enduring pleasure of a vanilla malted shake @ Sparky's diner- so long as it is after 3 am (at least)- any morning of the week!”

“I love Pralus Chocolate from France and I believe I can buy at the chocolate shop on Market Street.”

“Sopapillas with honey butter at NOPA, of course I have to share them with my boyfriend. Wait - let's be real - make that I have to eat fast to get even 2 out of the 5 in an order.....cuz my boyfriend likes them even more!”

“My wife’s and my favorite dessert is Pasta Gina's cannoli. They are made FRESH every day and every bite till the last crumb excites me. Pasta Gina is located in Noe Valley. Their Cannoli is filled with an amazing filling and is surrounded by sprinkles of dark chocolate chips.”

“The banana caramel cupcakes with cream cheese frosting at Kara's Cupcakes. Desserts were limited after my heart surgery and this was my first sweet after leaving the hospital. Needless to say, it was unbelievable.”

“Chocolate budino tart at A16!”

“The almond croissant at La Boulange.”

“One of my favorite sweet treats in San Francisco is the Tiramisu at Ideale in North Beach.”

“It is a toss up between the chocolate mousse buche de Noel cake--only at Christmas--from La Boulange on Pine Street [or] the milk chocolate peanut butter cup from Cocabella Chocolates.”

“I absolutely fawn over the gingerbread cupcakes from Miette and Tortoise sundae at Fog City [Diner]....”

“My favorite treat to eat in SF would have to be the persimmon pudding souffle at Rose Pistola.”

“It's the Claudio Corallo Chocolate soft 70% com nibs dee cacau (at Fog City News) ... close my eyes, chocolate on tongue, and I am transported.”

“My favorite sweet treat in SF has to be salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite.”

“My favorite sweet treat in SF is actually pretty simple - Mitchell's Peanut Butter Indulgence Ice Cream. I can't think of anything that goes better together than Peanut Butter and Chocolate, except maybe Peanut Butter and Jelly! Anyways - Mitchell's brings the two together better than anyone else. Yum Yum.”

“Chocolate Chunk Almond cookie, warm out of the oven at Specialties on my lunch break...”

“My favorite sweet treat to eat in San Francisco is an It's It. I like the original vanilla or the mint chip one. However, I've noticed that the cookie is a lot smaller these days. Still delicious, still a deal, still local. I also like the xox truffles on Columbus.”

“My favorite sweet treat in SF is the Passion Love cupcake from Citizen cake. Yum!!!”

“For all my upscale foodie tastes, my favorite is still the It's-It. Just like when I was five. The runner up, however, is Mitchell's peach ice cream.”

“My favorite sweet treat in SF is homemade sorbet from any of the incredible fruit found at the farmer's markets around here. Of course it’s even better with a bite of delicious chocolate.”

Thanks to everyone who wrote in for the contest! And now I’m sure a slew of tablehopper subscribers are out prowling the streets for cream puffs and chocolate and It’s-Its, suddenly dealing with a wicked sweet tooth at 3pm on a Tuesday.

To the news… Man, a cyclone sure touched down at ~BACAR~ all of a sudden. Tuesday night a tablehopper reader wrote in to tell me GM/wine director Mickey Clevenger had left, and the next thing I knew, I heard executive chef Robbie Lewis had left as well. bacar says it’s amicable and a mutual decision, but with such an en masse departure, one has got to wonder. Well, I am. So, Robbie is off to “pursue other opportunities” and is being replaced by his chef de cuisine, Morgan Meuller, who has been working under Robbie for a year at bacar, and previously at Jardinière. He has been the one implementing the in-house charcuterie program, and plans to keep the menu focused on Northern California cuisine with Mediterranean influences.

Executive pastry chef Cheryl Burr is also leaving to open her own wholesale bakery business, Pinkie's Bakery. She implemented the bread program while at bacar, and will sell her homemade breads to the restaurant plus some other locations, and come November will be operating a booth at a couple of farmers’ markets in the Bay Area. She’ll be selling nostalgic American goodies like whoopie pies, cupcakes, brownies, and pecan, pumpkin, and apple pies for the holidays. Burr will be replaced at bacar by the ex-pastry chef of Citizen Cake, Yuko Fujii.

Haley Guild (head sommelier) will step in for Clevenger, and will lead the wine program as well as their quarterly Sommelier Supper events. As the dust settles, I’ll keep you posted on any further changes… 448 Brannan St. at 4th St., 415-593-4100.

Last night, Pacific Heights got to celebrate the opening of the latest jewel in their culinary crown: the second location of ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~. The space is two times as big as the original, and the Stolls used the same architect as the original, so there will be some stylistic similarities. The expanded menu will include a bunch of antipasti, a couple rotating entrées, with a baked pasta dish each day, chicken under a brick, and the meatballs will also be a permanent fixture. A fish of the day will be added soon, too. For dessert, the gelato machine will be running full tilt, with six flavors a day (the machine will be spinning each morning with the flavors to be served that day). This will also be the first place where I’ve seen the Italian treat of gelato in brioche for dessert (it’s like an Italian ice cream sandwich). Or you can enjoy an affogato, made with an espresso off their refurbished and gleaming Faema E61 machine—Craig Stoll said of it, “I’ve been drinking so much espresso, it’s just unbelievable off this machine.” Yes, it is. Good luck getting some sleep, Craig!

The pizzeria will also have what I think is a cool growing trend in the city: wine on tap. The red is a custom sangiovese and montepulciano blend from Unti (one of my fave wineries), and the white is a tocai friulano from Palmina. There will also be beer on tap. Only dinner will be served this week, and lunch service will begin on Saturday. My pal (and cooking teacher from Tante Marie), Jodi Liano, had this sneak peek on her blog. Hours will then be 11:30am–10pm, and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. 2406 California St. at Fillmore, 415-440-1189.

More on the pizza front: Maktub’s Jocelyn Bulow and his biz partner Marc Henri Sempere have a new project underway, actually two: both a ~PIZZERIA AND OSTERIA~ will be moving into the current Couleur Café space out at the base of Potrero Hill, almost near Showplace Square. It ends up Couleur Café has two kitchens, so come November 15th, the restaurant will close, and when it reopens January 15th, there will be two restaurants. Voila! The patio will also be tented, so it can be toasty on cool days (usually the case in SF), but the roof will be open in the warmer season. John Michaud of Find in Hayes Valley is designing both the spaces (he did Chez Papa Resto as well).

The osteria will have 25 seats inside and 25 outside, with a mozzarella bar, serving three–four kinds, from bufala to fior di latte (and here I was, all jealous of Obikà in New York, and Mozza in Los Angeles). You’ll be able to eat the mozzarella in six–seven different seasonal executions, like in an insalata caprese. There will be an antipasto bar, with a variety of vegetable dishes, cheeses, salumi, plus seafood, meat, and pasta dishes. I also begged for Couleur Café’s delicious rotisserie chicken to remain!

The pizzeria will have about 20 seats inside, with 25 outside. About five–six classic pizzas will be available, with another five or six specialty pizzas driven by seasonal offerings. The crust will be more of a Niçoise style, which is a bit thicker than the Neapolitan crust we’re used to eating here in SF, but not as thick as a typical American pizza crust. There will also be two–three salads, and antipasti. Bulow is leaving for Nice on October 10th for a two-week trip, where he’ll be meeting with pizzaiolos. Since there is a bunch of parking in this part of town (a rarity), take-out will be a big part of the business. More will be revealed in coming months, including the chef hires, and the restaurant names. 300 De Haro St. at 16th St., 415-255-1021.

More on pizza planet: I had a chance to catch up with the Joie de Vivre folks on their upcoming projects; one is ~GOOD PIZZA~, opening October 3rd in the former SOMA Pizza space in the Hotel Britton (currently under renovation—it’s relaunching as Good Hotel, hence the pizzeria’s name). It will be a fast/casual restaurant featuring thin-crust pizzas using local artisan products. 112 7th St. at Mission.

And here’s a timing update on the other JDV project, ~MIDI~, that has Michelle Mah as the executive chef. The restaurant has hit some delays because they are extending the second floor in the Galleria Park Hotel—it should open first week in January. 185 Sutter St. at Kearny.

Another delayed project: ~GITANE~ has hit additional snags, and is now looking at the last week of October or first week of November. 6 Claude Ln. at Bush.

More construction updates: ~NOPALITO~, NOPA restaurant’s upcoming fast-casual Mexican joint in Broderick Place just got all their permits lined up, and construction begins September 29th. Laurence Jossel, the chef and co-owner of NOPA, said it will be about two months out. 306 Broderick St. at Oak.

Also in the ’hood, I was bummed to learn my favorite crazy (as in crazy talented) Russian pastry chef, Boris Portnoy, has parted ways with ~CANDYBAR~. Which means the brioche-meets-custard French toast goes with him. The place may be San Francisco’s first dessert lounge, but it will now be on its third chef—stand by for what’s next. 1335 Fulton St. at Divisadero, 415-673-7078.

Over in Cow Hollow, ~EASTSIDE WEST~ opens this Wednesday. 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich, 415-885-4000.

~LA MAR~ is approaching its opening date of Monday September 29th. To recap, this is Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio’s first restaurant to open in the U.S. of A. Peruvian-born chef José Luis de Cossío, who was the opening chef at the original La Mar in Lima, will serve as the San Francisco restaurant’s chef de cuisine. They’re been doing a friends and family/soft opening for the past few weeks, and I had a chance to try some dishes over dinner last week: the lengthy menu is full of some things I’ve never tasted before, like the scrumptious potato-based causas, and the kitchen has quite the deft hand with the super-fresh seafood—especially in the ceviches (there are over a dozen).

And don’t forget Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji has crafted the global wine list, highlighting Spanish and California wines as well as Argentinean, Chilean, and a handful of wines from Brazil and Uruguay. Many are well priced, and there will be 25 wines by the glass. The space is simply designed—not sure how much more is going to be added, but it’s a big ‘un: there’s an 80-seat waterside patio, an 88-seat dining room, the Pisco Bar, a 27-seat cebiche bar and 38-seat lounge, and an 18-seat private dining room. Looking forward to seeing it continue to take shape. Open daily for lunch 11:30am–2:30pm, dinner Sun–Wed 5:30pm–10pm, Thu–Sat until 10:30pm, Pisco Bar menu 2:30pm–5:30pm daily. Pier 1½, The Embarcadero at Washington St., 415-397-8880.

The San Francisco Business Times did a piece on all the restaurant developments happening in Jackson Square and the area flanking it. One tidbit was about what is potentially going into the Les Amis space: “Matt Wexler, formerly a general manager of Levende, is in escrow on Les Amis, which could become a restaurant called ~WEXLER’S~. The building that housed the 7,500-square-foot MacArthur Park for some 35 years is in escrow and is expected to close next month, which could open the door for another restaurant there. Carol Gilbert of CGI said there has been lots of interest in the Rubicon space in the few days she has held the listing.” Matt Wexler said he’d have more details about the project to share with me later. 568 Sacramento St. at Montgomery.

The article also mentioned ~AVENTINE~, which has now been renamed to Taverna Aventine. Still looking at an October opening… And it will be another place on the pisco train: the menu will include pisco punch, and a pisco cola cocktail. 582 Washington St. at Montgomery, 415-981-1500.

The burger trendlet continues, with Hubert Keller and partner James Beauparlant’s ~BURGER BAR~ finally finding its San Francisco location: the sixth floor of Macy’s Union Square (the Cheesecake Factory is on the eighth floor). It’s due to open in the first half of 2009. The restaurant will hand grind its own meat, and will offer a variety of burgers including three dessert burgers (chocolate, peanut butter and jelly, and cheesecake), plus salads, and a variety of fries.

And now, let’s see what Craigslist has to toss into the rumor mill. First, the ~LONG BAR & BISTRO~ in Pac Heights is looking for an executive chef, and it seems ~RESTAURANT PAUL K~ will be launching weekend brunch as soon as they find a brunch line cook, with the hope of launching before the end of the month.

An update on ~TAVERN ON THE GREEN SAN FRANCISCO~: Cass Calder Smith/CCS Architecture will be designing the restaurant located in the Metreon, and it’s slated to open in late 2009.

Some more details rolled in about the ~ACADEMY CAFÉ~: Alicia Jenish is the executive chef, and her background includes a stint as chef de cuisine at Le Petit Robert, a sous at LarkCreekSteak, and running the kitchen at Out the Door at the Westfield (she was also the first and only female butcher at Café Rouge in Berkeley, under the tutelage of Marsha Mc Bride). A peek at the varied menu at the Academy Café includes chicken or beef pho; panini, like a delicious-sounding Saigon roast pork sandwich; tacos; pastas; a variety of salads; and larger plates, like Lebanese lentil and pumpkin stew, and Moroccan lamb tajine with dates and turnips. 55 Music Concourse Drive, 415-876-6124.
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A small change to note: I had mentioned ~LILAH BELLE’S~ upcoming grand opening festivities, and due to construction delays, it’s been moved to October 4th, from 11am–3pm, with $5 entrees from 12am–2pm. Giveaways will include: free beverages and food, T-shirts, water bottles, and giveaways to local gyms and Pilates studios. 3801 18th St. at Church, 415-255-9473.

Crazy for mole? I sure am. Learn all about it this Wednesday September 24th at ~THE MAGIC OF MOLE UNCOVERED, LESSONS WITH IRMA CALDERON~ at La Cocina. Chef Irma Calderon of Pastores uncovers the secrets of one of Mexico's most famous and versatile sauces, including regional variations on the theme of deliciousness. You'll prepare your own spice blend, enjoy a full meal from the chef of Pastores, and try your hand at preparing horchata too! $100. For tickets, click here or call Caleb Zigas at 415-824-2729 ext. 303. La Cocina, 2948 Folsom St. at 25th St.

Up in Mill Valley, this Wednesday night (the 24th) there’s a ~BENEFIT FOR THE LAUNCH OF CORSTONE~, a charity to help foster emotional resilience in children, families and communities. Ryan Scott, Top Chef contestant and Mission Beach Café’s executive chef, will host the event. The event will challenge two local chefs to prepare the most surprising, mouthwatering meals. tablehopper readers pay only $55, otherwise the event is $75, and it’s tax deductible. 7pm–9:30pm. For more info, click here. 142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley.

This Thursday September 25th is the ~FIRST ANNUAL DISH EVENT~ to benefit Project Open Hand. DISH will be a sampling of 15 restaurants (Soluna, Roots, Papalote, New Delhi, LarkCreekSteak, Zazil Mexican Cuisine, Straits, Buena Vista Café, Modern Thai, Frisee, Live Sushi, Clementine, among others) along with wine and spirits tastings. $50 per ticket. Buy tickets here. 6pm–9pm. Westfield Center, Under The Dome, 865 Market St. at 5th St.Â

You game for getting up early Sunday morning to get up close and personal with food and farmers? There is still some room on the ~THREE WISE FARMERS TOUR~, happening this coming Sunday, September 28th. This all-day farm tour will highlight the adaptations and innovations of three organic farmers: Greg Massa and Raquel Krach of Massa Organics, and Carl Rosato of Woodleaf Farm. At Massa, you'll see rice growing in the field and, if you’re lucky, a harvest in progress. At Woodleaf, you'll hear about Rosato's choice to plant vegetables after losing a year's worth of stone fruit in a freeze. Come learn from three wise farmers! The tour costs $35 and includes lunch and a light dinner made from farmers' market foods. Get more information about this cool day trip and you can buy tickets here. These folks are real leaders in making our food system more sustainable and you definitely won’t be sorry you went.

Hey folks in the East Bay, on Sunday September 28th, Market Hall merchants take over the “street,” College Avenue, for the annual ~PICNIC IN THE STREET~. There will be activities for the kiddies, the popular cookbook exchange (bring a used cookbook and exchange it—remaining books will go the Rockridge Public Library), tastings, and the Chefs’ Stage, with several cookbook authors and chefs who will participate, discuss, and sign their books: Joey Altman: Without Reservations, How to Make Bold, Creative Flavorful Food at Home; Janet Fletcher: Fresh from the Farmers Market—10th Anniversary Edition; Ray Lampe, AKA Dr. BBQ: NFL Gameday Cookbook, 150 Recipes to Feed the Hungriest Fan, From Preseason to the Super Bowl; Alice Medrich: Pure Dessert, true flavors, inspiring ingredients, and simple recipes; Carlo Middione: Pasta and Panini; and Steve Sando: Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo. North Oakland’s Rockridge Market Hall, along College Avenue between Shafter and Ocean View, 11am–6pm.

~LA CICCIA'S~ staff is hosting a piggy dinner next Monday September 29th. The menu includes ingaungiu de terra (salumi and pickled vegetables), malloreddus a sa campidanesa (Sardinian semolina gnocchetti served with pork meat sugo), procededdu arrustiu (roasted suckling pig served with Sardinian style roasted vegetables), and trutta de arrescottu (Sardinian ricotta cheesecake). Plus vermentino and cannonau di Sardegna to drink. Cin cin! The dinner is $75 for the food and wine, plus tax and gratuity. Call to make reservations. 291 30th St. at Church, 415-550-8114.

Tuesday September 30th is Balboa Café’s ~BURGER FOR A PINT~ blood drive, where they will be dishing out FREE burgers to anyone who donates blood that day—the Blood Center of the Pacific’s bloodmobile will be parked out front. Each summer, blood banks deal with a drastic change in the blood supply around the country, as travel takes people away from school and work, where they often participate in blood drives. To donate blood, one must be healthy, at least 17 years old, and weigh 110 pounds or more. To make an appointment online, visit bloodheroes.com and enter password: PlumpJack. Walk-in donors will also be accepted. 2pm–6pm. 3199 Fillmore St. at Greenwich, 415 921-3944 .

Wanted to point out this cool (and incredibly challenging) thing a group of Bay Area food bloggers are doing: the ~SAN FRANCISCO FOOD BANK’S HUNGER CHALLENGE~, which means figuring out how to eat for just $1 per meal this week. That’s right, only $21 total for every morsel that enters their mouth this week. Why? Twenty-one bucks is the average amount a food stamp recipient gets to spend. The bloggers are: Amy Sherman, of Cooking with Amy; Genie, of The Inadvertent Gardener; Faith Kramer, of Blog Appetit; Vanessa Barrington; Lisa Barnes, who contributes to Organic To Be; and Gayle Keck of BeenThereAteThat. More info is available at hungerchallenge.blogspot.com.

~EAT LOCAL MONTH~ returns, running October 1st—31st. San Francisco restaurants, markets, and special events will promote locally sourced products, hoping to foster a more sustainable local food economy by driving consumers to supporting businesses. It will highlight edibles produced within 150 miles of San Francisco. If you’re a restaurant and want to take part, you’ll need to offer a daily “Eat Local” special throughout October (made with 100% local ingredients) and sign up to have your website linked on a special Eat Local Month page on Open Table. (It’s $75 for businesses to participate, and they receive a yearlong listing.) Interested in learning about the participants (or participating)? Visit www.eatlocalsf.org, where you will find signup forms and complete listings (including special free tasting parties at 18 Reasons, and more).

This weekend my family celebrated my darling mother’s 60th birthday at the Village Pub in Woodside, and we got to enjoy some of the killer produce from the restaurant’s private farm in Woodside, SMIP Ranch. Stunning heirloom tomatoes. So how apropos, sister restaurant ~SPRUCE~ just launched a new (and light) three-course lunch highlighting local and sustainable produce from the ranch. This month, lunch begins with heirloom tomatoes in a panzanella salad, followed by shelling beans and freshly grilled local calamari, and finishes with a raspberry tart served with fromage blanc sherbet. They have also added several lighter-fare luncheon salads to the menu, including a grilled albacore salad Niçoise, a warm duck confit and plum salad, and a shaved summer vegetable salad with roasted local halibut. Spruce serves lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce.

And here’s one more thing for those who eat their veggies: Saturday and Sunday October 4th and 5th is the ninth annual ~WORLD VEG FESTIVAL WEEKEND 2008~, presented by The San Francisco Vegetarian Society (SFVS) and In Defense of Animals. This two-day event features informative talks by movers and shakers of the vegetarian movement (John Robbins, Howard Lyman, Dr. Milton Mills, etc.); cooking demos (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Cherie Soria, Meredith McCarty, etc.), international vegan food to sample or buy; a Children’s Corner play area; and live world entertainment. "You do not have to be a vegetarian to come", says Dixie Mahy, president of the SFVS, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. "We want everyone to come and try our delicious food, learn about vegetarianism, and have a good time." 10am–6pm. Free /$6 suggested donation; $25 for catered organic vegan dinner on Sat. San Francisco County Fair Building, Lincoln and 9th Ave. entrance to Golden Gate Park, 415-273-5481.