What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
September 5, 2014

The papaya salad at Chubby Noodle Marina. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Ugh. Why did we have to lose Joan Rivers? That woman was fearless! No one was too sacred for her to turn her ferocious laser of comedy on. A truly hilarious being whose comedy has had me in stitches for decades. She was inspiring, wildly inappropriate, and unfortunately, so irreplaceable.

Well, one thing that has me in a GREAT mood is this is my last tablehopper transmission until I get back from France. Get me away from this gross inbox that is like a fire hose, please, and à bientôt, desk! We’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday September 30th! Again, publicists and industry people, please don’t send any pitches on events happening over the next few weeks, we are going dark dark dark! (Can you tell I’m happy about this? You have no idea.)

You can follow along with my French adventures with my family on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. THERE WILL BE CROISSANTS.

Today’s issue has a few pieces of breaking news, my review of Chubby Noodle Marina, and a 707 scout from Heather Irwin for you. Speaking of the 707, I wrote this piece this week for 7x7.com on ways you can help support Napa right now. Primarily, that means going up there for a visit! They need some visitors, folks. So hopefully my piece on new and hot places and insider tips will inspire you to head on up!

The short workweek, always a thing a beauty. Since the weekend is here, you may want to check out my piece for the Bay Guardian on all the latest brunch options, because brunch and options are two great things together. Yup.

All right everyone, I am signing off—someone is trying to cram three weeks of writing deadlines into this weekend, and it’s not pretty.

See you at the end of the month! Bisous!
Marcia Gagliardi

September 3, 2014

The Countess of Carrak (with aquavit, beet juice, fennel bitters and pollen, egg white, lemon) at The Farmer & the Fox in St. Helena. (An amazing pairing with the cured salmon/beer bread.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.

How about that stunning three-day weekend? I hope you had a swell one. Me? I got the hell out of Dodge on Sunday and headed up to see friends who are now living in Yountville. We rode bikes, had Champagne on the porch, swam at the Yountville pool, and had a pretty fabulous evening at Cairdean Estate, just north of St. Helena. After trying some of their wines (you know some rosé was in our lineup), we sat down to a gastropubby dinner at the new The Farmer & the Fox, with chef Joseph Humphrey leading the kitchen. The space looks great, the cocktails were excellent, and I’ll be back for their smoked duck wings and popovers, trust. I’ll share more on tablehopper soon.

I had to get back to the city on Monday so I could properly celebrate my 20th anniversary of living in SF. I guess there aren’t many cities where it would feel right to celebrate something like that, but in SF, I think it’s a must. I had a blast meeting up with old and new friends throughout the night, taking a trip down memory lane to Club Deluxe, the Big 4, Tony Nik’s, and a slice of Golden Boy pizza may have made its way into the evening as well. Oh yeahhhhh.

So things are a little bonkers over here at Hopper HQ: I’m trying to get everything wrapped up since I’m heading to France on Tuesday September 9th (mon dieu!). I’m taking a family trip to Paris, Champagne, and the Loire Valley (we’ll be in Sancerre and Vouvray), so excited. It’s going to be a special one, that’s for damn sure. European Vacation, Part II!

So what this means is that today’s issue had to cover a LOT of news since we’re not running any more news issues after this Friday September 5th—we’ll be going dark until Tuesday September 30th. Dear publicists, restaurant owners, and bar folks, please hold back on any time-sensitive news, pitches, and more since I’ll be gone, merci beaucoup!

Okay folks, let’s dive in here since we have a lot to go over. We’ll see you Friday for one last little transmission.

Marcia Gagliardi

August 29, 2014

Hittin’ the Ha-Ra, sometime circa the mid-’90s. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

So, have you already peeled out for the long holiday weekend? Good for you. On most three-day weekends, we don’t really enjoy them so much over here because we’re working in preparation for our Tuesday deadline and post time. But this weekend, we’re doing things differently: we’re taking Monday off (that’s right, uh-huh!), and we’ll be showing up in your inboxes on Wednesday instead. Just FYI on the do-si-do.

Another reason I’m keen to take Monday off is I am going to be celebrating my 20th anniversary of living in San Francisco, holy cow. I’m going to be meeting up with some friends in various spots throughout the evening for some cheersing. It’s fun to brainstorm where to go: I’m thinking of the places I used to practically live in back in the ’90s, like Club Deluxe, the Orbit Room, the 500 Club, Tosca, Maxfield’s, and Dalva. Good times. I might need to hit up a place where I used to throw a happy hour (Knees Up) with some friends (Vertigo, I’m coming for ya!). Alas, Ginger’s Trois, the Red Room, the Redwood Room (the original!), Bruno’s (again, the original), the 7-11 Club, the Detour (so fun), the Cypress Club, and C. Bobby’s Owl Tree are long gone. My liver says hi, thanks for the memories.

Last night, I was enjoying a nightcap at ABV with some friends, and we ended up having a total trip down (fuzzy) memory lane—all of us were old-timers—cackling over clubbing shenanigans at places like the Top, 550 Barneveld, 177 Townsend, DV8 (Dr. Winkie!), and 26 Mix. The Caribbean Zone, what a trip. The Stud will always have my heart, while the EndUp, well, it has a good portion of my shame, ha-ha! Anyway. 20 years, man. San Francisco, I do love your golden handcuffs.

Since we’re all thinking about drinking now, here are a couple of clips for you: first, I wrote this piece for 7x7.com this week on four restaurants that give low-proof cocktails the high-end treatment, and I covered a bunch of pop-up restaurants to check out in my Tablehopping column for the Bay Guardian.

Today’s just a shorty column, the place I was going to review took a left at Albuquerque, and someone has a lot of work to do before heading out of town on Sunday. Have a great weekend, and if you drink anything this weekend, #drinknapa.

Marcia Gagliardi

August 26, 2014

My favorite time of day at Lake Tahoe: the late afternoon. True blue. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hi there. I just got back from the land of sky blue water—Lake Tahoe—late Sunday night, totally the inverse to the path of my Burner pals leaving the Bay and heading up to BRC (and what a bummer for anyone who got stuck in that long gate closure, oof). I’m glad I missed that freak rainstorm and hail up at the lake, but more than anything, I’m glad I missed that crazy-early Sunday morning quake, oh lawdy. I am hoping the universe has decided I have suffered through enough of them (Loma Prieta, losing my apartment in the Northridge quake, and, oh yes, let’s not forget Athens in 1999, which was not cute).

I am so so sorry for all the loss and damages so many people (and wineries) are experiencing in Napa and the surrounding area. It’s also so utterly and completely terrifying to experience a quake on that scale (I had PTSD after the Northridge quake for a while). But how amazing to not have a single casualty—so lucky we are. It’s time to get that quake survival kit together, no? I know we’re all looking at our shelves and what’s hanging above our beds right now.

In brighter news, what are your Labor Day weekend plans? (Check out the chatterbox on the tablehopper website for a few ideas.) I’m actually going to be heading up to Yountville on Sunday, so I’m hoping things stay VERY mellow up there. (Fingers and toes crossed.)

Before we dive into some catch-up news, I have a couple fun roundups for you: first, this piece on five new lobster rolls you can find in SF (and the 510), and I was also asked to take part in this Thrillist piece on the best chicken wings in the Bay. Mmmm, wings.

Okay everyone, take good care, enjoy the sun, and I’ll see you Friday.
Marcia Gagliardi

August 15, 2014

Ducky: the Peking duck spread at Great China. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

You saving room for tomorrow’s Street Food Festival, the last one on Folsom Street (sniff sniff)? The lineup of eats and treats is pretty mega. I’m currently looking over the map and targeting vendors selling soft foods, like noodles and New York cheesecake. Hope to see you there!

Speaking of soft foods, you thought I was joking about writing the Gourmet Guide to Eating (When You Can’t Eat), but that’s just what I did—it was this week’s post from me on 7x7.com. Might be a good one to file away for a rainy day (or when you make your next dental procedure appointment, ouch).

I also did a roundup for the Bay Guardian on three of the latest barbecue places to open, check it out.

Today is Ferragosto in Italy, which is almost like their national picnic and party day (it originally celebrated the end of harvest, and all the associated heavy labor). What I wouldn’t give to be picnicking in Calabria right now—my family there knows how to pack a picnic, let me tell you.

Although I am heading to Lake Tahoe next week for my annual chill-out, so we’ll be going dark next week, until Tuesday August 26th. Publicists and restaurant owners, please don’t pitch me on anything that is happening before 8/26 since I won’t be able to write about it, thank you!

One more thing to note: this afternoon at 4pm is the opening of Longitude in Oakland, the tropical and tiki bar we told you about from Suzanne Long. It should help you get into a weekend frame of mind easily.

Or then there’s always the rave cats.

Marcia Gagliardi

August 12, 2014

What’s hot in my world right now: orzo in chicken broth with marjoram, nutmeg, and Parmesan. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Man, the world is just gutted over the tragic Robin Williams news. It’s a tough one. We all grew up with him in some way or another, and since he’s a friendly local, he touched a lot of lives here. Everywhere, actually—he was not someone who could be contained.

It’s hard to reconcile how a man who gave the world so much laughter and joy and hilarious comedy has left us by his own hand. We ask ourselves, how could such a bright, searingly funny supernova suffer with so much darkness? But as it is with our sharpest comedians, and some of our most brilliant talents, there’s often a tone of shadow, a subtext of pain.

I lost someone so dear to me to suicide, a man who overflowed with talent (and was the funniest person I have known), so this incident dredges up a lot. But I am also heartened by the deeper discussion happening around depression that I’m seeing in the media, on Facebook, in texts, and on social media. We all know someone who suffers from depression, and demons, and substance abuse issues, so while nothing can bring Williams back, if we can help someone else who is grappling with the darkness, or at least have more understanding and empathy for them (and for ourselves), then we are able to let in a little beam of light onto this very bleak happening. Let’s all take good care of each other out there.

It feels clunky to segue here into some banal food news, but let’s shift gears, okay? I wanted to give you a heads-up about some local talent who will be on TV tonight at 10pm PST, on the Esquire network. We have chef Traci Des Jardins appearing on Knife Fight, and next week (August 19th) is Kyle Itani of Hopscotch in Oakland is appearing, and then we have Charles Phan and Anthony Strong of Locanda going head-to-head on August 26th. Nice SF showing, gang!

A bunch of you are Foursquare users, yes? Do you like their redesigned app? It’s full of tips about what to get at various places around town, and tablehopper is chiming in on what to eat and drink at restaurants in SF and the 510. Just follow tablehopper on Foursquare for more! I’ll be adding some more tips soon now that the app is up and running (and our city is blowing up with new openings).

Speaking of new openings, here’s my monthly post on 7x7.com on five new places to check out. Yes, I’m here to help you keep track of it all.

So, I’m on day 11 of my soft-food life after “the incident.” I basically traded in my evil Sonicare for an immersion blender. Who knew that blending chicken noodle soup would taste so good? Ordering ramen without noodles? Yeah, I’m that girl right now. I’m joking that I need to write a book, Fun with Polenta! But really, all I want is to be able to chew in time for the Street Food Festival this Saturday. Or I can just hang out at the Aperol Spritz Brunch and drink my breakfast. See you there!

Marcia Gagliardi

August 5, 2014

Zero Zero’s bite at Eat Drink SF: compressed melon and caciocavallo cheese skewer with nepitella, extra-virgin olive oil, and sea salt. Photo: Rebecca Hopkins.

A big congrats to everyone who pulled off this past weekend’s Eat Drink SF event. While the new location at Fort Mason was a bit of a schlep, there was so much more room to mill around and not feel such a crush of humanity. Nicely done! I managed to get in a few hours at the Friday night grand tasting tent, but unfortunately I cut my weekend extravaganza short with a really stupid self-inflicted wound. An excruciating one, actually. Let me just say it involved a multitasking woman who was rushing around her apartment, and managed to collide with the edge of a door frame while her Sonicare was going in the back of her mouth. Ahhhhhh! Yeah, I am way out of commission right now. I’d take last week’s injury of burned pizza mouth 10 times over this.

Since I can barely open my mouth (this, see, is a problem!), I’m basically subsisting on orzo in broth, fruit smoothies, chia pudding, soft scrambled eggs, and I just have to say I am LIVING for Instacart’s new delivery service from Bi-Rite Market: spoonfuls of their smoked whitefish salad and matcha ice cream for the win. I’m hoping to upgrade to a bite of burrata in a day or so, and I’m going to try the pie shake at Chile Pies & Ice Cream this afternoon. (I have a feeling this will be a highlight of my day.)

This could actually be a useful article I should write: The Gourmand’s Guide to Eating Well (When You Can’t Really Eat). So if anyone has any tips on good eats after they had oral surgery or an accident, I’m all ears. A friend told me he blended a burrito out of desperation for real food, you gotta love it. (And I’m taking arnica and Bromelain to help with swelling, I have a pal to thank for that tip.)

This past week I have been hearing plenty of self-inflicted wound stories when people were rushing, ranging from running into a stop sign while calling a cab and breaking their nose, to a friend answering a phone call while he had a Q-tip in his ear (ow ow ow). I feel (slightly) less idiotic with the shared stories, but let this be a cautionary tale: never leave the bathroom sink while brushing your teeth. Ever. Just don’t.

Since I wasn’t able to really document Eat Drink SF this weekend, I’m happy to be running a dear friend’s image for today’s intro instead—thanks for the documentation by proxy, Rebecca Hopkins! (The subject matter also seems to jive with my current condition, ha.) And an extra-special shout-out to Dana Eastland, my right-hand woman, for always massively helping me get this column up and out, but especially today.

Not sure if I’ll be in your inboxes on Friday or not, time will tell if I can deal. If not, have a fantastic time at Outside Lands, everybody!

Ciao and meow.
Marcia Gagliardi

August 1, 2014

The exterior of Château du Sureau. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Bonjour. The weekend is almost here, and a bunch of industry folks are preparing for a big weekend of Eat Drink SF festivities. Three days of the grand tasting pavilion start this evening (remember, use code TABLEHOPPER for 15 percent off!), and tomorrow morning I’ll be moderating a demo with Fabio Viviani, see you? There are also classes and demos too. I’ll see you on the track! Fortunately the roof of my mouth has almost returned—I totally scorched it on a crazy-hot piece of pizza Tuesday night. Seriously, ow ow ow. Food writer injuries are the worst, I tell ya.

A couple of months ago, you may remember I took a trip to Yosemite and stayed at a dreamlike location, Château du Sureau. I was finally able to carve out some quiet time to get this jetsetter piece written for you, which I can’t wait to share. It was such an exquisite experience. If you’re looking for a special anniversary spot, a honeymoon location, or you just want to get out of town and pay a visit to glorious Yosemite, here’s your destination. (You can view the entire photo album here.)

I have to admit, I had one of the funniest experiences on the drive back to San Francisco after our time in fairyland. I was pretty tired from all the driving, and when I saw a drive-thru espresso spot in Merced, I let out a little whoop. Mama needed some fuel. When my friend and I pulled up, it took awhile for someone to come to the window—I was praying it wasn’t actually closed—and then the window slides open and I am greeted by a heavily made-up young woman (with colored contacts) in a practically sheer bra and panties with ribbons on the sides. It’s something like 3pm on a Saturday. It takes a lot to make me speechless, but this was, bar none, one of the weirdest moments I’ve had in years. I ordered our coffee drinks while trying to act like everything is completely normal, and gave her a good tip because I suddenly felt like I was actually at a table in a strip club, and not an espresso drive-thru.

My friend and I pull away, both of us cracking up and trying to figure out what the hell just happened (“Hold up, was she a working girl busy with a customer when we pulled up?”) and that’s when I looked back and saw the sign: Double Shot Espresso, with an outline of boobs fitting into two teacups, plus a lipstick kiss. Oh yeah, and there’s pink trim on the building. Ahem. After my friend did a quick internet search, we learned how this new “pick-me-up” spot (near the high school no less) was scandalizing Merced (kind of like all those places in the Northwest, like Cup of Joe). Oh, and according to Double Shot’s Facebook page, our girl was Janine. Of all the places to stop for coffee, I’m so glad it was this one. I’m still laughing over it.

Seems like a good time to segue to my article this week on 7x7.com about high-low dishes, with humble ingredients getting the high-end treatment. Ha!

Have a great weekend. Meep meep.
Marcia Gagliardi

July 29, 2014

The ample aperitivo spread 54 Mint offered at Una Serata a Roma. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy amici. Hope you all had a swell weekend outside in the sunny weather. I definitely had fun on Friday, because boss of me said I should take the day off and hit the beach. (Love it when boss of me is cool like that.) I think last week’s tablehopper and Campari America event at 54 Mint, Una Serata a Roma, got some Italian siesta vibe into my veins.

Be sure to check out the beautiful photo recap on Dinners with Friends, and we just posted our own album on the tablehopper Facebook page. Thanks to everyone who came, and an extra-special grazie to Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch for supplying us with that amazing pork! (Please consider helping Mark out with his Kiva loan drive—it’s not a donation, it’s a loan, and I know he’d really appreciate any amount, even $5!)

You feeling a little drowsy? Yeah, it’s about that time in the afternoon when I need my second espresso. Here’s my post for 7x7.com on four new cafés to open around town (plus a cool tea spot too).

A huge congrats to our copyeditor extraordinaire, Jane Tunks Demel, who just gave birth to her baby boy last night, Eben Kent Demel (he clocked in at 9 pounds 2 ounces!). So if you find any typos in today’s (shorter) column, well, this is what happens when Jane isn’t here. Be kind.

Are you going to Eat Drink SF this weekend? I’ll definitely see you there (especially on Saturday morning, when I’ll be moderating Fabio Viviani’s demo).

Ciao ciao.
Marcia Gagliardi

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Chris L’Hommedieu, a San Francisco chef who was adored by many people in our local restaurant industry, and far beyond. He shuffled off this mortal coil last week after a long and arduous battle with cancer. Such a tragic loss. Deep condolences to his family and everyone who knew him—he will be missed greatly and his departure is mourned by so many.