What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
October 28, 2014
coit-ronhenggeler.jpg

How could I not run this fantastic photo of Coit Tower by my pal Ron Henggeler? Tonight’s the night.

Whoa, this past week has been en fuego (and I’m not just talking about our beloved Gigantes!). Was great to see a bunch of you at the incroyable Champagne Bureau tasting on Tuesday (you can see a few of my favorites here and here), which was followed by the always fun Wine & Spirits Top 100. Yeah, Tuesday was quite the double play. More winning: you can check out the finalists for the upcoming Good Food Awards, from cheese to charcuterie to beer. The final winners will be announced on January 8th, 2015.

A personal highlight for me last week was heading down to Mountain View on Friday to interview Jacques Pépin for a Google Fireside Chat—I think they’ll be posting a video of the interview soon, I’ll let you know!

While I (hopefully) have your attention, I wanted to be sure you saw this Indiegogo fundraiser for the San Francisco Bay Guardian—they want to print a final farewell issue, which they deserve to do after 48 years, and to preserve the online and print archives. Can you please contribute and spread the word? If the Bay Guardian has ever written up your business, promoted your event, or gotten you in the Best of the Bay, please, throw ‘em a few bucks. Or more—give ‘til it hurts. Wouldn’t you like to be able to access any press writeups you got? As a former writer for the paper, I would love to be able to access my previous clips and articles. It’s an important part of our city’s archive! Let’s work it out, please and thanks!

A big thing hitting the news right now is about a few San Francisco Bay Area restaurants (Bar Agricole, Trou Normand, Camino and Duende in Oakland, and Comal in Berkeley) that are doing away with tips, and moving to a more European-style service charge of 20 percent. If you have ever dined at Chez Panisse, you are already familiar with this model. Ditto Coi, which has been charging an 18 percent service fee for some time that is shared by the staff.

Many things are driving the momentum on this new revenue-sharing model, one that I am excited to see. It’s about making sure back-of-house employees can earn a better living (and in our time of the great line cook shortage, this is a huge and important issue). There are a lot of facts to understand (like the impact of an upcoming minimum wage increase, or how under the current law, cooks can’t be tipped)—any changes impact a lot of hardworking folks in the restaurant industry. It’s a complex issue, and is opening up some much-needed dialogue about and changes to our currently rather flawed tipping system.

I’m dismayed to hear and see so many comments from diners viewing these restaurant tipping changes/service charges as motivated by restaurateur greed. It’s the opposite. It’s about making a working environment that’s better for everyone, front and back of house. It’s about retaining good talent. It’s about making restaurant industry jobs better as a career choice—they’re not just jobs to take on an as-needed basis. Dining in the Bay Area is respected as a high art, so why not take proper care of the people who make it so?

I wanted to write more thoughts on this, but in light of the aftermath of a tech disaster I have been grappling with (see below), I am out of time. More soon. For now, please read this SFGate article and have a listen to this program that aired on KQED yesterday.

There are many ways to get a headache, but I think being locked out of your website’s back end due to a database snafu for more than 36 hours when you’re on deadline is a guaranteed migraine. Yeah, today’s tablehopper issue was a bit impacted—we couldn’t access our site until this morning. Our current motto: doing the best we can. As for the Giants, well, tonight is about being the best. DO IT!

Thanks, catch you on Friday!
Marcia Gagliardi

October 21, 2014
farolito-tacos.jpg

Gloriously messy late-night al pastor and chile verde tacos at El Farolito. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Excitement! Today is Game One of the World Series, and I love seeing the town all lit up and full of orange. And it’s not because it’s Halloween, holla! Coit Tower, you look amazing.

Meanwhile, excitement is seriously percolating in the restaurant world, since the 2015 Michelin Guide winners are announced today. You can check out who won how many “macarons” here. And there’s also the handy list of Bib Gourmand restaurants, the ones deemed “Inspectors’ Favorites for Good Value” (two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less; tax and gratuity not included).

This weekend, I had fun at the Grand National Rodeo on Friday night, followed by more beers at Pops and late-night tacos at El Farolito, the best. I was also busy celebrating my Uncle Tony’s 91st birthday. I mean, come on, how great is that? He is looking so good too. A few months in Italy will do that for someone.

This Friday, we won’t have a tablehopper issue because I’m going to be on the Google campus interviewing Jacques Pépin for a Fireside Google Chat! Trust, I am waaaaay excited to be talking to the man, the myth, the legend. You can submit questions for Jacques here (and I know you’re a smart bunch, so they’ll be good ones). You can tune in at 11am!

But for now, I am punching the clock early to head to the Champagne Bureau tasting today (not something I want to miss, evah), and then the Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top 100, woohoo! (Am thrilled it’s a stunning fall day, which means the Metreon terrace will be THE spot to be drinking this evening for those of us not glued in front of the TV.)

Vamanos Gigantes!
Marcia Gagliardi

October 17, 2014
lanebbia-nduja-pizza.jpg

A rockin’ off-the-menu pizza at La Nebbia, with ‘nduja, stracciatella, garlic confit, and tomato sauce. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Gigantes!!! What a team. After frowning and steaming and getting downright sad over the ignominious closure of the San Francisco Bay Guardian all week, last night’s pennant win was the kind of SF good news I needed. And here’s one more (small but important) piece of good news: the SFBG website is back up, so take some screenshots of your clips, awards, reviews, posts, and more while you can—who knows how long the archive will stay up. (And you can find the paper’s 2014 voter endorsements here.) Stay updated on missives from the SFBG team on their newly launched Facebook page, Guardian in Exile.

Tonight I’m fired up to head to the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace (haven’t been since I was a little girl), will be fun to see some cowboys. Yeehaw. If you’re a beer lover (and 4505 Meats fan), don’t forget, tonight is NotOberfest! And East Bay folks, if you were excited to head to the about-to-open gastropub, Growlers’ Arms, please note we have updated our post to have it reflect an opening date of Wednesday October 22nd.

The weekend, always a good time to go out and enjoy some coffee somewhere. Here’s my post for 7x7.com on five new cafés to check out.

Today, let’s take a look at Causwells, which has a burger I will travel across town for without hesitation, and Heather Irwin has some 707 scout updates for us. Also, don’t miss today’s starlet, it’s a fun one.

Cheers gang!
Marcia Gagliardi

October 14, 2014
thelab-almanac.jpg

An incredible course at The Lab: pumpkin soufflé (with a pumpkin gelato popsicle) and Almanac’s heirloom pumpkin barleywine. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Man, today had a tough start, with the news that San Francisco Media Company has abruptly pulled funding for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Which means tomorrow, Wednesday, is the last day the paper will be released—after 48 years of “printing the news and raising hell.” But the fat lady has not sung her last song for the progressive weekly—there’s still an opportunity and hope that someone could buy it (read that SFist link for more from my kick-ass publisher, Marke Bieschke). Time will tell on this one—for now, everyone in the SFBG office had to pack up their offices today, their emails were shut down, and the website only has a placeholder message up for now. Hard stuff. (At least they managed to retain control of their Twitter handle, so follow along for updates.)

The SFBG is an iconic part of our SF fabric, and I have so enjoyed contributing to it each week over the past year. If you had told me when I moved here 20 years ago that I was going to be writing a food column in the Bay Guardian, I wouldn’t have believed it! It’s a cruel twist that tomorrow is the release of the annual Best of the Bay issue (did you know the “best of” issue was a style that the SFBG started?!). It’s a damn good issue, and if you’re in it, you should be especially proud. Sadly the staff wasn’t able to get the online version of it posted in time before the curtain so cruelly dropped, but here’s the PDF of it! Here’s hoping for a phoenix chapter in the paper’s important tale.

The winds are gusting outside, a storm is trying to form, it feels appropriate. Hey Giants, make some good news for the city today, okay?

Before we dive into the news here, I’d like to point you to this important piece by Dominique Crenn about “female chefs.” Please give it a read, thanks.

See you Friday.
Marcia Gagliardi

October 10, 2014
ferryplaza-mussels.jpg

Fantastic lager-steamed mussels (and fries!) at Ferry Plaza Seafood’s new North Beach location. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Happy Friday, pals! Fleet Week has buzzed into town, bringing a bunch of hottie military men in uniform along with it (North Beach has been full of ‘em this week). I think I know where I’ll be having a drink this weekend. Also on tap: Saturday is FallFest, an alfresco shindig at Justin Herman Plaza, so you’ll see the Blue Angels flying around while chomping on bites and drinks from local restaurants (there are still tickets available, and code tablehopper gets you $10 off!).

Last night I attended a launch party for the brand-new and quarterly Gluten-Free Forever magazine—I’m happy to have contributed an article for the inaugural issue on the best gluten-free eats for visitors to SF! It’s beautifully produced, check it out.

Today I have a review of ABV for you, and we have some 707 Scout news too. I have a couple of 7x7 articles to point you to as well. One is a piece I did on the new ways you can find and experience home-cooked meals and dinner parties in people’s homes—some of the chefs are semi-pro, and it’s a fun way to meet new people. (There are also a couple of home-cooked or home-baked goods delivery services I mention!) And I just did my monthly post on five new places to check out, your cheat sheet on what’s new!

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for all the interest in my tablehopping dinner with Cover! I’m sorry the guest list (and waiting list) is all full, but don’t forget, you still get $25 off your first meal with Cover with code tablehopper! Check it out, there are some great restaurants you can try, both in SF and NYC.

Have fun out there. Oh yeah, and MALALA!
Marcia Gagliardi

October 7, 2014
IMG_0249.jpg

Mini lobstah rolls at the Hamel Family Wines Badger Grab party. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I hope you have been taking full advantage of this gorgeous weather, and even if you haven’t, I have been doing it for both of us, because I love you hard like that. Thursday night included margaritas and the awesome empanadas they make (and chicharrones de carne!) on the roof at El Techo de Lolinda—what a perfect night for a party.

After I posted my column on Friday (did you read my review about the tasty vittles at The Farmer and the Fox in St. Helena?), I scooted up to Sonoma (actually, I sat in traffic for two hours, semantics) for the party to celebrate the new Williams-Sonoma landmark location. What a gorg and balmy evening on their back terrace, with SPQR’s Matthew Accarrino and Flour + Water’s Thomas McNaughton cooking up a feast, and that Duskie Estes makes a killer bourbon ice cream. Thanks for the bubbles, Gloria Ferrer!

Saturday started with brunch with Sheana Davis at her welcoming shop right off the plaza, The Epicurean Connection. Her housemade burrata for brunch, yes! We headed to the new tasting facility and house for Patz & Hall, tasting through their single-vineyard designate chardonnays and pinot noirs, delightful. Next: the Hamel Family Wines party, which was over the top. Lobster rolls from Barbara Lynch and other East Coast-inspired vittles, and hello, rosé all day. Way to go, Sonoma, on the killer tasting rooms.

The weekend finished with dim sum with grandma, sis, and my cousin at Koi Palace (we wrecked so many dumplings) and Sunday evening was picture-perfect weather for the sold-out CUESA Sunday Supper. Such a beautiful evening, what a fabulous gathering! And now, this week needs to be all about the gym.

I have some exciting news about a tablehopper event this month, check it out! Today’s column is so huge, I can’t even handle it. Dana and I cranked this mofo out, we hope you enjoy it.

Toodles!
Marcia Gagliardi

October 3, 2014
farmer-bread.jpg

An array of breads and treats from Butterscots at Cairdean Estate. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hey there, how you doing with this stunning weather? I know, right? I am loving these warm nights. SF Indian summer, you never disappoint! I am actually going from the frying pan into the fire: I’m heading up to Sonoma this afternoon to check out the new Williams-Sonoma landmark store opening right off the plaza (our fab 707 Scout Heather Irwin writes about it in today’s column, read all about it) and to raise a glass to Chuck Williams for reaching his 99th birthday, just wow.

I will be staying the night so I can visit the new Patz & Hall tasting room tomorrow, and hit a fun New England-style party (a “badger grab”—I’ll report back on what the hell that is) at Hamel Family Wines—when I found out Barbara Lynch was going to be there with lobster rolls, I was like, yeah, I need to make that happen. Don’t want to be stupid in life.

Today we also have a review of my experience at The Farmer & the Fox (which is where you’ll find chef Joseph Humphrey these days) and Cairdean Estate, just north of downtown St. Helena. Maybe it’ll inspire you to head up for a getaway? If so, you’ll want to read my recent piece on St. Helena for the Bay Guardian before you go.

Okay, I need to pack my overnight back and hustle up to the 707 before the traffic goes from bad to worse. Have a swell weekend, yeehaw!

Marcia Gagliardi

September 30, 2014
IMG_8388.jpg

Now that’s what I call a soufflé. Late-night treat at Bistrot Paul Bert. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Why hello there! Did ya miss me? I think I only missed my bed and my espresso machine, to be honest—I definitely did not miss my desk. I had a fantastique family vacation in France for a couple of weeks, spent in Paris, Champagne, and the Loire Valley. We had Champagne every day, and croissants and cheese also got some heavy airplay (of course). We changed our nickname from the Griswolds to the Gésiers (gizzards), inspired by a particularly fabulous salad I had one evening, but we also got christened “The Bubbles Family,” which cracked me up to no end. It was a trip of a lifetime to be with my parents and sister in such a beautiful country. France rocks my world on so many levels, it was two weeks of beauty overload. Thanks to everyone who shared their tips and recommendations with me. Can’t wait to tell more about our trip soon…

Now that I’m back, today’s issue features a lot of catch-up on stories that broke while I was away. Look for some exciting stories in next week’s issue (including the opening of the new Marlowe, which is happening on Thursday October 2nd).

And just in case you missed these stories in the Bay Guardian while I was gone, here’s one on upcoming fall openings and another on recent brunches to join the scene. Oh, and I ran a recap of where to eat in Rio for last week’s Moveable Feast travel issue, check it.

Let’s dive in here, shall we? I look forward to seeing you out and about. Cheers!
Marcia Gagliardi