What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
April 17, 2015

Carlo Middione’s Calabrian-style lamb chops with anchovy and artichokes, at Luce. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Konnichiwa! So I have to tell you, I had another review lined up for today, but I was so fired up and excited by my dinner at Jiro SF (the guest chef sushi experience at Saison’s private chef counter) on Wednesday night that I put it aside and cranked this review out instead. When I got home late after my dinner, my mind was positively whirring, I was so inspired by it all that it was hard to fall asleep (a true sushi high). Since Jiro’s omakase sushi experience is only going to be with us until the end of May (for now), I wanted to tell you about it as soon as possible. I hope you enjoy it.

Last night was special for another reason: I was invited to attend a dinner in honor of Carlo Middione and his wife Lisa (of Vivande Porta Via fame) at Luce. It was a packed house, full of regulars and friends, some who traveled from quite far to be there. I attended with a fellow SF old-timer friend who has lived in the city as long as I have—but we met in Venice more than 24 years ago (our mutual friend used to work at Vivande).

There was a display of memorabilia from Carlo’s many years of cooking, and we were gifted one of his vintage cookbooks, which was waiting for us on our table (such a thoughtful gesture). Just when I was reminiscing about his eggplant sandwiches (one of my favorite snacks evah), a tray of them appeared, and his former right-hand man, Mark Fantino, promised to teach me how to make them (you can read a thoughtful homage to Carlo he wrote here).

The team at Luce did a stellar job preparing and serving Carlo’s recipes to that many people, from the stuffed squid to a trio of housemade tagliatelle to the Calabrian-style lamb chop with anchovies and baby artichoke hearts. The wine pairings were quite special, and I’m always happy to see some Southern Italian wines represented.

I had a chance to chat with Carlo, who said he is still working hard to get his sense of taste back, which sometimes turns on for a moment so what he’s tasting matches up in his mind of what the flavor should be. He said he has never appreciated the texture of food like he does now. He was looking great, beaming like a happy man with a roomful of friends and past regulars should.

I loved riding my bike home in the warm and still air, one of those idyllic San Francisco nights that living here for 20 years makes you appreciate all the more.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Marcia Gagliardi

April 14, 2015

Chef Daniel Boulud plating at the Pardon My French lunch. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Why hello. Excuse me while I shake the caviar and Champagne out of my hair. No joke. Pebble Beach Food & Wine did not disappoint! It was great to return to the event after taking the last two years off.

Some highlights for me:

  • running into chef Jan Birnbaum—who is looking great—at the opening night reception on Thursday evening.

  • enjoying late-night sandwiches from Liza Shaw of Merigan Sub Shop and Justin Devillier (NOLA’s La Petite Grocery) at the after-party.

  • waking up on Friday morning to a tasting of eight Champagnes from family-owned Billecart-Salmon (it gave me a deeper and different perspective on the house—the freshness of their Champagnes is so notable, although it was also fun to taste the Brut Sous Bois, a richer style that is 100 percent oak fermented and aged for six months, which is not normally the case at Billecart).

  • watching Daniel Boulud and Dominique Crenn partner up for a fabulous lunch (“Pardon My French”) that featured an open kitchen that guests could watch while listening to French crooners in berets sing and we drank such delicious wines.

  • listening to Philip Tessier talk about the rigorous training and all the innovation that went into preparing for the Bocuse d’Or at a fascinating cooking demo—it significantly raised the appreciation for the U.S.’s first-time silver win this year, everyone in the room felt some pride at the end of the presentation.

  • experiencing Josh Ozersky’s Meatopia, which had chefs cooking with live fire on the beach (read The Dapper Diner’s interview with him for more behind-the-scenes details on the event). The weather was idyllic this past weekend, so it was a blast to hang out on the beach, get to know some visiting chefs more, and lose my mind over Zak Pelaccio’s spicy and grilled Monterey Bay spot prawns. (See, it wasn’t just steak.)

  • the tasting tent on Saturday featured the most insane display of caviar I have ever seen at an event (thank you, Black River Caviar, and I can’t believe I won a half tin of caviar to share later that day!).

  • Cosmopolitan Las Vegas always hosts the best Saturday afternoon party at the Inn at Spanish Bay by the fire pits. We had fun music, a raw oyster bar with the cute Morro Bay oyster guys, stone crab flown in from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami (!!), and caviar from California Caviar (guess who I was sitting next to), with magnums of Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Such perfect happy hour hedonism.

  • the finale event for me was the delicious Beauties and Their Beasts dinner, featuring Jenn Louis of Lincoln PDX/Sunshine Tavern (who blew my mind with her pasta dish—I can’t wait to read her upcoming cookbook, Pasta by Hand), Anita Lo of Annisa, Elizabeth Falkner, Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat, and Liza Shaw of Merigan. Go ladies!

  • I was also so fortunate to be able to stay in my friend’s aunt’s jaw-dropping Pebble Beach home that felt like a time capsule/flashback to 1961—Don and Betty Draper would have felt right at home.

Huge thanks to organizer David Bernahl and Coastal Luxury Management for throwing one of the swankiest food events—one that is a lot of fun, but also educational and inspiring. You also see so many chefs strengthening their ties, sommeliers bonding over bottles, and even us media folk getting to know each other more—it’s great community-building for all aspects of the industry.

I will include a link to my many photos from the event in our Friday issue—I want to be sure I have all the captions in!

In the meantime, here’s your monthly cheat sheet of five new places to check out!

This week, I am looking forward to this Vivande reunion dinner with Carlo Middione, and Sunday is the Meals on Wheels Star Chefs & Vintners Gala! Nope, it just doesn’t stop.

All righty then, let’s dive into today’s column.

Marcia Gagliardi

April 7, 2015

Sampling the house-roasted espresso and house-baked goods at Hearth Coffee Roasters in the Castro. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

San Francisco, you look so pretty today. Someone had a nice bath. And my Fiat is thankful for nature’s carwash right now, which is handy, since I will be on the road on Thursday, driving down to Pebble Beach for the hedonistic Pebble Beach Food & Wine. I’m looking forward to checking out Josh Ozersky’s Meatopia, an amazing lunch with Daniel Boulud and Dominique Crenn, and of course there will be Champagne. So much talent will be in town, from all over the country and beyond. There are still some tickets remaining for various events, including the tasting tents, maybe I’ll see you in the mix? Cheers to that.

For those of you sticking around this weekend, don’t forget Sunday is Cochon 555.

Meanwhile, in the bummer news department, our city is losing yet another media outlet: The Bold Italic announced today they are ceasing operations, immediately. Oof. Commence another “Oh, shit” from all the freelancers they hired and paid (thank you)—48hills notes the site will stay up for a couple more months, so grab your clips and stories while you can. Best wishes to all the full-time staff, I hope you land some great gigs somewhere.

Yeah, it’s tough out there. Which is why I have a favor to ask of those of you who are gmail users. As you know, the tablehopper newsletter gets placed in your “promotions” folder, but a friend told me if you drag the newsletter into your primary inbox (and click “yes”), it’ll eventually show up there. Magic! It may take a few times, but thank you for playing along and helping re-up our visibility in your mailbox.

One more thing: we won’t be posting on Friday since yours truly will be out of town, so we’ll see you next week!

Thank you for all your support.
Marcia Gagliardi

April 3, 2015

“With Wind” at the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibit. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy friends. Do you have your Easter plans lined up? Are you on Passover patrol? We have you covered with all kinds of options in our recent post.

I’m looking forward to some family time on Sunday, although this year I hear we won’t be doing capretto (baby goat). But I know someone who is: my dad’s friend Enzo—the owner of Locanda Positano and Gusto in San Carlos—posted a pic of the capretto dish they’re serving on Sunday, and it looks a lot like how our family prepares it (except no potato in ours). (Mamma mia not included.) And for further Pasqua inspiration, check out this torta pasqualina on Gianni.TV.

Today we have a catch-up post of some 707 news for you, and our bookworm from Pete Mulvihill ties in nicely with this fun fact: starting tomorrow, it’s Wild Food Week, which includes a foraging walk, special menu items featuring wild ingredients at Berkeley restaurants, and a preview meal of The Perennial here in SF, plus other events. Check it out.

I also wanted to do a little cultural reminder here: yesterday I went to the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibit, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s really a unique installation (the first art exhibit in Alcatraz), and it’s very moving. Such powerful commentary about freedom and justice. The show runs until April 26th, and Alcatraz Cruises still has some day and night passes left. If you can carve a few hours out of your schedule the next few weeks, do it.

A little pro tip for you in case you’re going to see Ai Weiwei: my chef pal Rob Lam is making an awesome French-Vietnamese dip sandwich with Snake River Farms beef that you dip into pho! It’s brilliant. You can find it at Butterfly, which is right next to the Alcatraz Cruises dock. (There’s also the Sammy’s Aloha stand, with their awesome loco moco, bao, and more.)

A couple more items for you: here’s my post on 7x7.com on four new pop-ups that have great-sounding menus, and just for fun, this Instagram feed is the funniest thing I have seen in awhile: @ChefJacquesLaMerde (ha-ha), making soigné tweezer food out of junk food, like Tostitos salsa con queso fluid gel, Doritos soil, and hay-baked Hot Pockets. I cry! It’s hilarious.

Have a great weekend everyone.
Marcia Gagliardi

March 31, 2015

Gringas: al pastor tacos with cheese melted on flour tortillas from the incomparable Mister Taco in Cozumel. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hola chicos y chicas. Am back from Cozumel, where my sis and I ate all the tacos. Al pastor for the win, again and again and again. We are now hooked on sopa de lima (gonna make it real soon). Piña colada sundowners were a daily thing (so good with a banana whipped in there), and the turquoise water was beyond gorgeous. We cruised around the island in our Chevy rental beater (we called her “La Chevita”), and I actually read a non-food-related book. (It was called China Dolls and was about three Asian women’s experiences in pre- and post-World War II San Francisco. I dug all the historic details about Chinatown and their [fictional] experiences as performers at Charlie Low’s Forbidden City nightclub!) It was a real vacation, and I felt so lucky to have that time to chill out and do things like watch Tequila Sunrise (which our Spanish channel had inexplicably changed the title of into something ridiculous) in bed while drinking crap imported sparkling wine from Germany (it’s all we could find).

Just before I left town late Saturday night, yours truly hosted a big invite-only brunch event for 40 people at The Cavalier highlighting Food Should Taste Good chips (maybe you saw some of my pics on social media of the amazing falafel chip shakshuka-meets-chilaquiles?). Chef Jenn Puccio rocked a very tasty menu for us, you can read my event recap here.

More on brunch: I recently wrote this piece for Refinery 29 on 10 new brunch dishes you need in your life right now. (Have you had the everything croissant at Neighbor? Get on that.)

Baseball season is also here in two weeks, so let’s talk about hot dogs. Here are four new hot dogs you can get around town.

We have a lot of news to catch you up on here—Dana and I have been typing like madwomen for the past two days—so let’s get to it! See you on Friday.

Marcia Gagliardi

March 17, 2015

A springtime Sunday brunch with Veronica Klaus. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Top o’ the afternoon to you. Hopefully your livers have had enough of a break from Saturday until now to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all over again. Although truth be told, all these pics I’m seeing of Shamrock Shakes are just making me crave a matcha shake.

Today is the picture of gorgeous, but it doesn’t mean I am still totally excited to get the hell outta Dodge and head to Cozumel with my sister late Saturday night! It’s going to be a real vacation for a change—I’m planning on beach, tacos, snorkeling, books, tacos, cervezas, sun, tacos. Kind of excited for bad Wi-Fi. Like, really excited.

What this means is this is the last you’ll hear from us until we return in your inboxes on Tuesday March 31st. The fabulous Dana, our associate editor, who is as equally fatigued from getting this column out every week, is going to be heading up to Portland, getting her fill of Pok Pok wings and Le Pigeon. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks!

Publicists/restaurant owners, you know the drill: please don’t pitch us anything unless it’s happening in April, thanks!

In the meantime, here’s my monthly cheat sheet on 7x7.com of five new restaurants to open on the local front.

Before signing off, I also wanted to point your attention to a couple very worthy fundraisers that could use your help. First, Loco’l is just a few days away and $5,000 short on their Indiegogo, please take a look. And in today’s chatterbox, don’t miss our post on El Pípila, which is also in the final days of crowdfunding their Kiva Zip loan. Guadalupe only needs about $2,000 more (it’s a no-interest loan!) to help with equipment and first month’s rent. Thanks for keeping everyone’s dreams going, everyone!

I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, adiós!
Marcia Gagliardi

March 10, 2015

The belle of the ball: 1975 Dom Pérignon poured en magnum at GourmetFest 2015. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy, friends. Hope your weekend was marvy. It was pretty epic weather, that’s for damn sure. I had a 24-hour jaunt down to Carmel for GourmetFest 2015, and man, did that live up to its name. I have a full recap of the extravaganza in today’s chatterbox, and a photo album here.

Before heading out of town, I swung by Off the Grid for a preview tasting of their Friday evening event at Fort Mason, which is back in action. We could not have asked for better weather, seriously. Tablehopperette and I tasted piping hot momos from Bini’s Kitchen, some fantastic matcha cheesecake and tea drinks from T. Epiphany, Italian sausage and pepper buns from Happy Dumplings (fun), and fans of the 3-Sum Eats truck will be happy to know their truck is back with their fried chicken sandwiches. The new bar setup from Rye on the Road is as awesome as their drinks (Early Spring Julep for the win), and don’t forget you can pre- or post-party at The Interval as well.

Wanted to make a quick note here that hopper associate editor Dana Eastland is road trippin’ to Portland toward the end of the month, and she’d love to hear any recommendations you might have! Where to dine, where to wine, whatever you’ve got, in Portland or along Highway 1. Email her your recos here, and thank you!

Ciao ciao!
Marcia Gagliardi