What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
February 23, 2021

I decided to celebrate tablehopper’s fifteenth on Sunday with some omakase from Sasa in Japantown, one of my favorite SF sushi deals. (There were bubbles, of course.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy, gang! Happy sunny day to you—it’s a perfect evening to go eat and drink outdoors (Z&Y has their Shared Space open again, here’s what to order), or grab some delicious takeout (like ma po pizza from Sunset Squares, Latin American-Caribbean goodness from Chao Pescao, and if you’re near the South Bay, check out Aurum!). I know there are thousands of local businesses who would love to feed you.

This past month has been a whirlwind, whooooosh! As many of you know, February is tablehopper’s fifteenth anniversary (I sent my first newsletter out on February 21st, 2006)! I was completely blown away by this thoughtful and extensive piece by SFGATE about tablehopper—thanks to all of you who texted, emailed, and DM’ed about it, and shared it! So grateful to Dianne de Guzman for taking the time to write this profile—it’s a powerful thing to feel seen by a fellow journalist, especially someone on the same beat. Mwah!

I am also so grateful to all of you who purchased the latest tablehopper thank you x 15 gift bag—you helped support fifteen local businesses, and we’re making another donation to SF New Deal! You rock! It ends up I printed some extra tablehopper 15 tote bags, stand by for those to go live in my tablehopper shop this week. They’re perfect for schlepping your takeout home, LOL. Thanks again to studio1500 for the fun design!

I can’t believe I was hired for a last-minute gig working on a cannabis and culinary show in the desert (can it be any more custom-made for me?) the exact same week my gift bag was going to be assembled and distributed, but thanks to my posse of angels (you know who you are!), it all got done. Whew. When it rains, it pours. Mille grazie to all of you, especially to China Live for being such a great pick-up point. I was so happy I took a few days for myself to decompress and float in the warm saltwater pool at the charming Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs when it was all done. I could have stayed there for weeks! Caftan life.

Since you’re such a big part of my anniversary, you deserve a treat, too! Check out today’s awesome giveaway from Mark ‘n Mike’s at One Market Restaurant! Calling all big fressers!

And one more item of note: March is Women’s History Month, and on International Women’s Day (Monday March 8th), there is going to be a Dine Together & Let’s Talk event from Let’s Talk Womxn (this is happening across twelve cities and 350 womxn restaurateurs to lift each other up amidst this crisis). Enjoy a four-course tasting menu and candid conversation with May German of alaMar Kitchen, Jen Biesty of Shakewell, Heena Patel of Besharam, and Romney Steele of The Cook and Her Farmer.

I have been invited as a moderator, so I hope you can join us! The Zoom conversation is from 7pm-8pm, and you can pre-order the two-person menu for $100 (fees, taxes, and cocktails are available for an additional charge). Diners will have a choice between a vegetarian or omnivore menu. Pick-up is at alaMar, 100 Grand Ave., Oakland. (Maybe SF folks can band together for a pick-up—we can hire my awesome bag delivery driver. Hit me up if you’re interested—just hit reply—and I will try to work something out.) Deadline to order is March 4th, Zoom link will be sent by March 6th. Thanks for joining us and spreading the word!

Lastly, if you work in the restaurant industry, you should know Walgreens is now accepting vaccine appointments in SF for Tier 1B! Make that appointment, sweeties!

Enjoy the sun, thanks for being here.


February 7, 2021

THANK YOU! Custom graphic by studio1500 for the commemorative tablehopper tote bag!

High, everyone. Happy Sunday! I know some of you are deep into your adult beverages and piles of wings for the Super Bowl. Get it! Others are out enjoying the sunny day. I’m currently in Palm Springs for a last-minute gig, working on a cannabis and culinary show. I know, how perfect for me, right? It’s so great to be back in the desert. And yes, I am in a caftan right now.

I wanted to check in and give a last call for the tablehopper thank you x 15 gift bag! Sales end Monday (tomorrow) at 3pm, so you have 24 hours left to order the bag o’ mega goodies!

Are you still wondering what to get your sweetie for Valentine’s Day? Skip the roses, here’s your answer! It’s also great to share with your Galentine. Or your bestie who loves to cook and feast with you. Or maybe you want to have one delivered to a friend who could use a little pick-me-up? Or an employee who is just rocking it right now?

I’ll be frank: sales for this gift bag haven’t hit the numbers I hoped for, which means our food makers and restaurants featured in the bag aren’t getting the level of financial support I originally projected for them. (Thanks to all of you who bought one already!) I’m not here to guilt you into buying one, and trust, I know how tight finances are right now for many of us. But, if you were on the fence about getting one, let this be a gentle nudge from me, whispering “Go for it!” in your ear. Or maybe you can forward this to a friend who would love it? Any posts on social media are so appreciated! Many thanks!

You can read all about the fifteen awesome items in the bag here, from the exclusive truffle XO sauce from Lily to a lovely etched water glass from Chez Panisse to Lunar New Year chocolates from Socola Chocolatier to Porcini Peperoncino A’Cruncha from Side Hustle Condiments. It’s a bounty of fabulous treats! And each gift bag purchase includes a $10 donation to SF New Deal, a remarkable organization that has been helping restaurants feed our communities in need during the pandemic.

Big xie-xie once again to China Live for being our bag pick-up point Fri-Sun (or you can get the bag delivered in SF!), and if you order $50 or more in food and cocktails online from China Live to pick up at the same time (or for delivery!), you’ll receive a free chili bean sauce with code tablehopper (this offer is available to anyone purchasing a tablehopper gift bag, for pick up or delivery, Feb 12th-14th!). That magic sauce was in the previous hopper holiday gift bag, and has become a favorite of many who have tried it. (People keep sending me pictures and dish updates, I love it!)

Just FYI: the next tablehopper issue will be Tuesday February 23rd.

Big thanks for all your support for my quinceañera and gift bag! Cheers and XO to you!

January 29, 2021

Fifteen SF Bay Area food treasures will be inside this custom tablehopper tote bag to commemorate the hopper’s fifteenth anniversary!

Howdy, hopper readers! It’s Friday. We made it. (Some of us, just barely.) I’m so ready for happy hoppy hour.

In honor of tablehopper’s fifteenth anniversary next month (!!), I’m truly excited to launch the tablehopper thank you x 15 gift bag today! I hustled to get it all done in time for the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and it’s Black History Month! The bag contains fifteen items to celebrate and honor all these occasions—you can read about alllll the treats below! Some of these goodies are custom-made and exclusive to the gift bag, so enjoy! We’ll also be making another $10 donation per bag sold to SF New Deal.

The thank you x 15 gift bag is $225, with pick up at China Live, or delivery (in SF only) is $12. Sales end February 8th, or when it sells out. (The last bag sold out in 90 minutes, just a heads-up! But I also upped the quantity this time.) Pick up and delivery are available February 12th-14th. Email me any questions and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you for all your ongoing and steadfast support! It has been such a joy to curate another gift bag and work with all these amazing businesses and makers and restaurant industry friends. They all say THANK YOU! I say THANK YOU!

With so much gratitude,

January 27, 2021

Stellar glamping bites at SuperStella Van! Succulent pieces of grilled Maine lobster that you dunk into a fermented chile broth, fondue-style. Yes, it was incredible. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, dear readers. I hope you’re keeping toasty during this cold and wet and windy AF weather. (My apartment is fuh-reeezing right now.) Yup, my column is a day late, partially due to an inability to focus and write—honestly, I have been so lethargic the past couple days. Mental malaise. Distracted. I have also been quite busy working on something exciting for you (more on that at the end of this intro!). Too much input, and it’s messing with my output. I decided I would just send this once it was done, I don’t care what day it is. And so, here we are. Hi!

I know most of us have whiplash from the abrupt announcement on Monday that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, and we have returned to the purple tier here in SF. I see my hairstylist friends praising the heavens (my roots do as well, ha), while many restaurateurs in San Francisco are scrambling to open outdoor dining once again this Thursday (or soon—the weather is pretty brutal for the next week), while East Bay and North Bay places are already reopening.

We have mostly returned to the former outdoor dining regulations (up to six per table, two households only—please respect it), but we still have a 10pm curfew in effect, so businesses will not be seating and serving as late as before. Then again, we’re all eating at grandma hours these dark winter days, am I right? Another change is that barriers between tables can no longer serve as an alternative to distancing tables six feet or more (I’m sure that messes up a number of Shared Spaces that have already been built).

After limping through the past two months with lackluster takeout numbers and no crucial holiday bump, outdoor dining offers a bit more of a glimmer of hope for survival (and it allows restaurants to hire some staff back) since our federal government continues to withhold any substantial relief or bailout for the industry, and state aid isn’t enough. If only we were further along in our vaccinations, and able to protect and fully prioritize our restaurant/foodservice workers. Did you see the news about the recent UCSF study that shares this chilling insight: “Cooks hold the most hazardous occupation among essential workers in the state, with 828 deaths?” You can read the top ten hazardous jobs in California, which the study recommends are prioritized for vaccines. We must protect our essential workers, who don’t have the luxury to work from home, they have immense fear of losing work if they get exposed or sick, and many can’t collect unemployment.

I checked in with a number of restaurant owners, and some are going to take their time reopening—and with the rainy weather over the next week, Bruce Hill of Zero Zero wants to see how things go (Bruce mentioned they may try having flexible days for their Shared Space—depending upon the weather conditions, they’d announce whether they are open or closed for outdoor dining on Instagram each day—and they will also try offering special dishes you can only get on-premise). The Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) announced Larkin Street will be open for outdoor dining and personal services starting this Thursday January 28th, SF’s first official day. El Buen Comer and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in Bernal/La Lengua will also open outdoor dining on Thursday, same goes for Palette Tea House (time to enjoy some dim sum!), while A16 will reopen this Friday. These are just a smattering of places I have seen announcements for. (Over in the East Bay, Daughter Thai Kitchen in Montclair is already open.) And then there’s The Vault Garden in SF, which had already planned celebration dinners for the first weekend in February before the stay-at-home order was lifted—partner Ryan Cole is always looking ahead. (They’re also launching Tits Up—A Drag Brunch with Bobby Friday & Friends Sat-Sun.) Others are waiting to get to February and will see how things are going, like Yuka Ioroi at Cassava. It’s such a rollercoaster. I’ll be posting updates on my @tablehopper Instagram Highlights when I can (but I can’t post every reopening, I will lose what’s left of my mind).

I know many of us are questioning the safety of returning to outdoor dining and gathering when we are just barely out of the ICU capacity woods, along with this pernicious California variant in our midst. My mind has been spinning over all the ramifications, positive and negative, of what reopening entails. I was grateful to be part of an impromptu forum on Clubhouse Monday night (thanks for having me, Maggie of 86Fund!) to talk through some of our shared thoughts and concerns.

While it’s important to want to support restaurants and show up for them, we need to do it in the right way, and that’s by heeding the guidelines and keeping each other safe (namely, keeping our mask on when we aren’t actively taking a bite or drink, and limiting the mix of households to two or less)—otherwise, we’re going to return to another rollback and lockdown, and further compromise the future of our restaurants. They can’t keep closing and reopening—they lose so much money with each fluctuation, and their poor staffs are greatly affected by each change. Yet again, it’s up to us.

I already noted comments on Instagram by people excited to get together for bottomless mimosa brunches with the gang, and that’s exactly the behavior that will turn Grant Avenue in North Beach back into Covid Alley, the Valencia Street party into Virus HQ, and the Marina into the Pandemic Playhouse. Please don’t. I certainly agree it’s better to sit outside with a pod-mate over a glass of wine or meal than inside someone’s apartment, but don’t make it a posse. I know, we all miss each other so much—I have barely seen anyone the past two months. Please keep each other and our beleaguered service industry as safe as possible. Sigh. (And I wonder why I’m tired?)

In sunnier news, this past weekend, I was beyond thrilled to have an epic sunshine Saturday up at William Tell House in Tomales for their seventh annual crab feed, which they turned into a socially distant tailgate! Genius. And for those of you who were jealous of my pictures, you’ll be happy to know they’re hosting another crab tailgate on Saturday February 13th, which is also a fundraiser for the Golden Gate Salmon Association! Get your ticket here!

I also had such a special private dining experience last week (on Inauguration night!) at chef Anthony Strong’s new SuperStella catering van! You gotta check out my pics of what is one of the coolest tables (and glamping dining experiences) in town. He’s such an incredible chef, and certainly one of our most innovative. Don’t miss it.

So, I’m happy to announce I’ve been busy putting together another tablehopper restaurant gift bag, this time to celebrate tablehopper’s 15th anniversary next month! That’s right, yours truly is having her quinceañera! (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?) It’s also the Lunar New Year, and Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month, so this bag is going to be full of many celebratory treasures, from Lunar New Year chocolates from Socola, to truffle XO sauce from Lily, to blue and red tortilla chips from La Palma (hopper colors!). I’m so fired up to share the entire lineup ready for you, stand by for an email hopefully tomorrow. The bag will be ready for pickup from China Live (or delivery) February 12th-14th, so you’ll have it in time for all the celebrations that weekend. It will be much better than a dozen red roses, let me tell you. Thanks again for all your support!

Now, since we’re stuck inside for the next couple days with this rain, order some takeout and here are some movies I’ve been enthralled with: “Small Axe” on Amazon (this anthology has the best films I saw last year, simply incredible), “White Tiger” on Netflix is really well done, and if you want a good laugh at the end of the night, “History of Swear Words” with Nicolas Cage on Netflix has had me guffawing, it’s light and fun! Just what we need.

More soon! Mwah!
Marcia Gagliardi