October 2008

October 28, 2008

Well, after kicking last week’s stupid sore throat to the curb (thanks to all of you for your well wishes, that was super sweet), yours truly had quite the tablehopping week, starting with drinks on Wednesday at Pisco Lounge, then checking out Zinnia’s opening night (they were busy busy, and it was great to be able to taste Sean’s gnocchi again!), followed by a cocktail at Taverna Aventine—they did a nice job on the décor. Thursday was the Joy of Sake event—full of sake discoveries and tasty bites (Ame wins for their brilliant somen noodle “chute” and presentation), but someone else (who will remain nameless) totally loses for serving blue fin tuna, ahem. Truth be told, it was also quite the non-environmentally friendly event—there was a bunch of needless waste, with only containers for the Fiji water bottles to get sorted and recycled. After seeing how diligent the San Francisco Magazine FallFest party was with recycling, impressively so, I think large events around town need to take notice and follow suit, like, stat. Friday I enjoyed some alfresco dining at Nettie’s Crab Shack and then got my heinie home because Saturday was going to be a big day.

So, what was so big about Saturday? I was presenting a line-up of San Francisco bites to the fabulous Gayle King for a recording for the Oprah & Friends radio show at the O You! conference. Curious about what we ate? Listen in when the show airs tomorrow, Wednesday, on XM Radio at 8am, 2pm, and 8pm EST (so that’s 5am, 11am, and 5pm PST). You can tune in with the free XM Radio trial, just click on the Oprah & Friends Gayle King homepage. It was a little challenging because I wasn’t allowed to serve any hot food (the building’s union put the kibosh on a hot plate or toaster oven), but Ms. King still enjoyed grazing through the six courses of tastes I picked out for her, while we chatted about everything from burgers to boys. (Thanks a mil to everyone who helped me pull this off!)

There will also be some tablehopper tips on dining out posted on the Oprah.com homepage on Wednesday—I’ll send you the link next week! Or just hop on over there tomorrow and check it out!

Oh yeah, and everyone at the conference got a surprise visit from Oprah herself, who gave a very inspiring talk to the 4,000 ladies in attendance—it totally rocked. Now, where did the lovely duo of Oprah and Gayle eat after the O You! conference? Check out the starlet for the answer!

As promised, this week is my jetsetter write-up of my recent trip to Los Angeles—I barely scratched the surface of the town that’s known for them, but it just means I have to return soon, which I plan on doing, oh yesirree.

Okay, it’s another week, and another giveaway! This week I am going to style someone with a pair of tickets to the third annual Tastes of the City event on November 6th (check out the socialite for more). To enter to win, please forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (or more, you star!!), telling them why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, ha ha!), and CC or BCC luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com so I know you sent it (I promise not to use anyone’s email address). Deadline to enter is midnight on Sunday November 2nd.

Tonight I am off to the Milk premiere and gala (with a swell little pre-party at Swirl on Castro, bubbles in effect, you know it!), Wednesday and Thursday are random events and dinners and tastings around town, Friday is all about scary movies and popcorn, and then it’s my birthday this Saturday, so guess who is beyond thrilled to be able to see the YSL exhibit opening at the DeYoung!? Couldn’t score tickets to the seminar with Hamish Bowles (le sigh) but it will be a spiffy day nonetheless. That night I will be doing my annual Chinese banquet dinner with my pals, will let you know where we end up feasting.
Since my birthday is on the horizon, it always makes me reflect on the year that’s past. One thing I’d like to say is thanks to you, dear readers, for helping to support this venture and passion of mine. Yes, this column is a pile o’ work, and so I really value your enthusiasm—it keeps me truckin’. Thank you! (Yes, I am having an Oprah moment.)

Clink clink!

October 21, 2008

As many of you have probably gathered, I really love my life, and the people in it. Seriously,j’adore. And last week was no exception. For starters, it felt like a proper send-off to the warm weather I cherish so much (how I ended up in San Francisco for 14 years and counting can be very puzzling to me). After churning out the ’hopper on Tuesday, I scooted on up to the Kenwood Inn & Spa with a friend in tow for a special dinner and overnight stay. Gotta love that balmy wine country weather… I’ve wanted to stay at Kenwood for so long, and let me tell you, it lived up to my high hopes AND the pictures on the website (for a change)—what a dreamy oasis. The meal we had was paired with Hop Kiln wines, and was scrumptious and satisfying—like good “mamma” food, thanks to the charming chef, Renzo Veronese. (Only guests of the inn can eat there.) So it’s really no wonder the place just won the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award as a Top Resort–US Mainland. Once I get a Sonoma jetsetter together, I’ll be sure to share some pics and more details, but I just had to mention it right now because the place was so damned special.

Thursday evening, I left for my mini-trip to Los Angeles, and I guess all of my running around and all the air conditioning and coming home to a cold apartment landed me a sore throat when I woke up Monday morning—totally the pits. Fortunately, Thai Place II is around the corner, so a big bowl of their Thai Place noodle tom yum soup perked me up. If any of you are sick out there, and I know a few of you are, this dish is a piping hot, tasty, and tangy medley of prawns, ground chicken, fish balls, sliced fish cake, bean sprouts, lime juice, and peanuts—I tossed on a little rooster sauce, and am now royally sweating my cold off as I write this. A monster portion for $7.25, so it’s now officially on my list of upcoming cheap wintertime dishes to order in.

Oh yeah, how was my LA trip? Well, I had high hopes of busting out some highlights in a honking jetsetter piece this week, but I feel crappy so I am went to bed early instead. Blah! Next week will be the recap, but my three favorites: lunch at Pizzeria Mozza, the burger and fries at comme Ça, and my birria taco at Cactus Taqueria on Vine. I can’t wait to go back to LA—my list is as long as ever, and will be shared with y’all next week!

Besides, I have to heal up my vocal cords for this Saturday, because I get to chat with Gayle King of the Gayle King Show, and ply her with some of my favorite San Francisco bites at the sold-out O You! (O as in Oprah magazine) event. Yes, I am oh-so excited. Like, totally. Besides, my Italian nature practically demands I feed people, or at least make sure they’re eating delicious things. (Basically, the genesis for this e-column.) I’ll let you know what Gayle and I end up nibbling! You know some grilled cheese is in the picture.

Oh, and this week I am introducing a new section: the hardhat. Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month, we’ll be checking in on the build-out process of flour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering. Enjoy!

Lastly, there is a fun little giveaway in the lush that should appeal to you cocktailing types, so check it out!

Cheers, my dears,

October 14, 2008

I think I have recovered from my weekend of fests. To wit: what should have been called ChampagneFest on Thursday, WhiskyFest on Friday night, and then FallFest on Saturday. All great parties. Although people are beginning to say they see me everywhere. Uh, yeah, please refer to the name of my column. Anyway.

Thursday’s all-star line-up of choice champers was over a dinner at Fork at San Anselmo, hosted by the one and only Dr. Champagne—the 2002 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Brut Millesime definitely inspired a palate swoon-fest. I’ll let you know the next time Jerry Horn, AKA the doctor, hosts a bubbly dinner—you can thank me later.

And now, a few highlights from WhiskyFest, a glorious sea of brown: some “under the table” tastes from Willett, being able to taste Michter’s portfolio all at once, and of course I got lost in a sea of my preferred sippin’ brown at the Van Winkle table (it helps that I spent the evening focused on tasting bourbon and rye only). There’s also this company called C&C Shine, allowing you to age whisky to your own taste in your own barrel (you even get to pick the oak you want!). It’s now on my Christmas list. The USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) also had quite the line-up of local talent making swill-a-riffic cocktails at their table, AKA party central, like the Dogpatch from Greg Lindgren, and my favorite, Ramblin’ Rose by Jonny Raglin (Four Roses Bourbon, apricot brandy, dry vermouth, and pepper tincture—like, dude.) A late-night dinner at Town Hall corrected any fest-induced tipsiness.

And of course FallFest is always a great party—it’s hard to beat the outdoor location, especially with the Blue Angels screaming overhead. My favorite bite was from Nicolaus Balla of O Izakaya Lounge: his scrumptious pork belly and house-made kimchee dish. It’s what I will want more of this winter for sure.

Oh, and how can I forget the 2008 Food & Wine American Wine Awards that righteously kicked my week off on Tuesday night? Was fun to meet some folks behind the mag, and who can resist 2004 Harlan getting poured at the tasting table? For reals. Was also happy to sip Bella’s 2005 Lily Hill Estate zin and the 2005 Talley Vineyards Rosemary’s Vineyard pinot—you can read up all the American winners in the latest issue of Food & Wine.

And now, it’s time for the monthly “back to school” book giveaway from Chronicle Books. In honor of the fall season, I am giving away three copies of A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Siebert Pappas. Three lucky winners will score a copy of the book, plus a Chronicle tote bag. To enter to win, just forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend, telling them why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, ha ha!), and CC or BCC luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com so I know you sent it (I promise not to use anyone’s email address). Deadline to enter is midnight on Sunday September 19th. I’ll let you know next week if you are the proud owner of a book and tote. Good luck, pumpkin!

I am off to LA on Thursday, with lunches lined up so far at Pizzeria Mozza and BottleRock, and dinner at Palate in Glendale, can’t wait. Thanks to everyone for all the LA suggestions—will try to visit what I can!

Ciao chow!

October 7, 2008

Hey there, thanks to everyone who turned out for the Macy’s Cellar event last week! Will I see you at WhiskyFest this Friday? I definitely know four of you are going because you won tickets on tablehopper! A special thanks goes to Frank Melis of Golden Gate Cellars, who kindly offered up his own set of tickets (he couldn’t go) so I could give away four instead of two! (If you want to check out his groovy wine shop, wait until he returns to SF on 10/17!)

Speaking of wine, I have another video appearance on Wine Couch with Evan Goldstein—this one is about the food and wine at Perbacco, enjoy!

Oh, and I am getting ready to head to LA for a few days at the end of next week—anyone have some new can’t-miss bites and bars to tell me about? It’s been a while since I lived there, so of course I’ll be hitting Mozza, but also getting a Zankou fix! Can’t wait.

Tick tock, the giveaways don’t stop! This week I have some new book releases from Ten Speed Press to hand out. First, I have three copies of the fantastic A16 Food + Wine cookbook (you can read all about it here), and I also have three copies of the just-released Artisanal Cocktails book by Scott Beattie, the bar manager of the acclaimed Cyrus in Healdsburg. We’re talking 50 exceptional drink recipes—both pretty and tasty. Whether you win a copy of Scott’s book or not, you can visit him at a variety of Bay Area book signings, from October 13th at Flying Goat in Healdsburg to Cantina on November 3rd to Macy's Cellar in San Francisco on December 2nd (his appearances are all listed on his website).

To enter to win, just forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to two friends (or more, you star!), telling them why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column, and CC or BCC luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com so I know you sent it (I promise not to use anyone’s email address!). Deadline to enter is midnight on Sunday October 12th. I’ll let you know next week if you’re a winner, and you get your pick of the books. There are six chances to win!

Good luck!

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