August 2009

August 28, 2009

Let me tell you, it's very strange to be writing tablehopper on a Thursday evening. What the heck, I just sent my last column out on Tuesday! But, my trusty designer is off to the playa for a week, so I had to get this hammered out quick and put in the hopper, so to speak. I know, some HUGE news will come out on Monday, and I'll be unable to announce it. Ah well. At least I'll be working on my tan.

Besides, the past couple days I have been more entertained with watching cheeky chipmunks, catching up on my stack of Vanity Fair issues, cooking (the farmers' market in Tahoe City was awesome, check out the goods!) and swimming; so I'm just running a mini edition this week. Trying to have some semblance of a vacation, and truth be told, it's been challenging. Next time, I leave the %$#% computer and phone and deadlines far, far away.

Then again, all I have to do is think of all the chefs and cooks and restaurant owners who haven't had a freaking vacation in foh-evah, and my few hours of beach time each day are precious indeed.

So with that, ciao from Lake Tahoe,

~ Marcia

August 25, 2009

Sometimes I just have to pinch myself, hard. I have been to three of the most magnificent California settings, and all in one week. (I guess the universe was helping to balance the ridiculous pain I was in last week from my %$#& toe injury. Much better now, thank you.)

The trifecta of gorgeous started with a turbo trip up to Healdsburg to dine at the Madrona Manor, what a stunner. The Victorian manor is such a special place: dining on the back verandah is something out of dreamy movie, and the gardens were spectacular (the talented gardener, Geno Ceccato, even has his name on the menu!). Chef Jesse Mallgren is doing such delicious and innovative cuisine—we'd be lucky to have his tasting menus in San Francisco. Plus tableside coffee, cheese, and ice cream service? Yes please.

Oh yeah, and the magical meal was followed the next day by some of the best damned pizzas I've had in California at Diavola Pizzeria in Geyserville—Dino Bugica is one hell of a pizzaiolo. (I'll be posting an update to my Healdsburg jetsetter pieces on both of these places shortly.)

Saturday I drove up to Lake Tahoe, thoroughly enjoying the trip up Highway 50. Year in, year out, the wonder of this sapphire of a lake never ceases to blow my mind. True mountain majesty. And I might add there is nothing like cruising the windy road near Emerald Bay at sunset in an Alfa with the top down and radio bumpin', I gotta confess. We were both purring. Well, until the lagging Prius driver held us up (sorry, they are the new worst drivers on the road—come on, you can at least drive the speed limit!)

After having to sequester myself for a day of book editing (no easy feat up here!), I let myself off the chain Sunday evening and scooted over to the Sierra Valley for a Dinner in the Barn event with Sierra Valley Farms and Moody's Bistro of Truckee. It was such a memorable experience that I had to write it up for you, stat. Check it out in fresh meat.

Yup, I am one lucky, lucky woman. And I'm also a tired one—when I haven't been on the road this past week, I've been parked at my computer way too much. Deadlines, deadlines. Blergh. And FYI, next week's transmission is going to be a shorty—I have to write it in advance since my lovely designer will be off to Burning Man (safe travels to all of you headin' out to the playa!). And besides, the beach at Sugar Pine Point is calling me, "Oh yooooooooo hooooooooo! You there, at the computer! Time to get outside and jump in the lake!"

In summer I trust,
~ Marcia

August 18, 2009

Hello people. Were you wondering where your hopper was? Remember, it was gonna be a little late today? Anyway, your Tuesday afternoon time-waster is here! It's just as well that my fab designer and I had to start late today, because it gave me time to go to the podiatrist this morning to survey the weekend's dancefloor damage to my big toe. Let's just say electrician in big boots: 1, food writer in high heels: 0. Damn, there goes my new running regimen for the next few weeks—looks like riding my bike (in flip-flops) is gonna be my only option. Pfffft!

So I totally thought I was going to be a lady of leisure last week (ha, when does that happen?), but I didn't get as much of a break as I thought I would—I had to get crackin' on my book edits! Zippy turnaround. Eep. I was lashed back to my laptop.

I did, however, savor a 24-hour break in sunny Santa Cruz—and I can't wait to tell you all about my meal at the Cellar Door Café at Bonny Doon (soon!), which is mercifully close to downtown Santa Cruz, so it has been spared by that hideous fire. If you happen to be anywhere near Santa Cruz, head on over and park yourself at the (so talented) kitchen's counter; thank me later for turning you on to this gem cranking out farm-fresh food that was pure pleasure. Smoked chevre, bring it on. (Photo: whole fried rock cod over summer ratatouille.)

I am turning my book edits in this Thursday, and then I'm off leash again and heading up to Healdsburg for dinner and an overnighter at the Madrona Manor (can't wait), back in SF for a quick re-packing, and then off to Lake Tahoe for my annual getaway, returning in early September in time for my book's photo shoot! Exciting. No Burning Man for me this year—it was just going to be too much. And besides, I have way too many magazines and episodes of Mad Men and daydreaming to catch up on.

Also excited to hustle up to Tahoe in time to attend one of the second annual barn dinners with Moody's Bistro & Lounge, one of my favorite spots to eat at in the Sierras (chef-owner Mark Estee rocks—and he hooks me up with the best damned tomatoes). A four-course meal will be prepared and served this Friday through Sunday at the certified-organic Sierra Valley Farms, featuring just-picked produce in a historic 1936 barn. (If you're interested, the farm tour starts at 4pm, dinner is at 5pm, and it's $100—call Moody's at 530-587-8688 for more.) It's gonna be fantastic.

Thanks to everyone who entered the ticket giveaway for the passes to Papillon VIII! I loved all your answers (especially the one that suggested that Alvin's tattoo says: "I like General Tso's chicken."). Hilarious. The correct answer was: demon chef! The lucky winner is Stuart Zimmerman, who will be enjoying an evening of exquisite bites from the Demon Chef himself, Alvin Leung, plus music and more at Robert Mondavi Winery on September 8th. (Remember, tablehopper readers still have access to purchase VIP and Grand Tasting Passes to this otherwise invite-only and exclusive event; just be sure to mention tablehopper when ordering.)

This week we have a bookworm from Pete Mulvihill. And since I've got way too much on my plate, I'm bowing out of a review; but there's lots going on in this week's column, including some cool news in the lush, check it out.

Work hard, play hard, have fun doing both.

~ Marcia

August 11, 2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Talk about a tour de force. I feel like I just got out of the Trang—well, an urban and epicurean one. I was deep in the culinary and cocktail jungle, four days filled with the rapid fire of bites of food from some of the City's finest chefs, the rat-a-tat of sips of wine, and a veritable bombing of cocktails. (Good thing I love the smell of napalm in the morning.) In fact, they were excellent cocktails—every day they kept verging on stealing the (USO) show. Although I did a terrible job documenting them—and a commendable job of drinking them.

Oh yeah, and to further the jungle vibe, the tent was its own hair-curling and sweat-inducing humid microclimate—at least my hair liked it. I set up a flickr photo album so you can see some highlights (of the event, not my hair, hello). The line-up includes pics from the Rising Star Chefs event Thursday night, Friday night I was at the Out of the Fog Event at Orson (but oops, I left my camera in my car), I also hit up Saturday's Grand Tasting and the Urban BBQ (plus moderated a panel, and was a guest on another), and wrapped it all up with Sunday's Grand Tasting and the "View from the Top" afternoon session.

Big props to event organizers Dominic Phillips Event Marketing and Andrew Freeman & Co., plus the GGRA and VISA for making it all happen. For a first-year effort, I was really impressed, and I know I'm not alone. Of course there are tweaks and things to be adjusted, but overall it was pretty darned cool to be in the middle of Union Square and eating bites and drinking cocktails and wine from some of the most talented people in the country. It was also nice to see everyone hanging out and working together and trying each other's food and drinks.

That tour of duty may be all done, but really, there's no rest for the wicked, because I already have my next assignment: my Alfa is washed and shiny, all primed and ready for my drive down to Los Gatos to check out Dio Deka (hello halloumi), and then off to Santa Cruz for an overnighter, and a visit to the Cellar Door Café at Bonny Doon. With lots and lots of exercise in between. And some sunbathing. And manuscript editing.

Oh, and since some of you set your Tuesday clock or coffee break to tablehopper coming out at 3pm, next week's issue is going to be arriving a bit later in the day, FYI.

Lock and load.


August 4, 2009

Ahhhh, it's good to be back. I had no idea how much that ever-looming book deadline was going to be constantly weighing on my mind—it was like a guilty conscience. And what a treat to make it to the finish line, turn that mother trucker in, and then find out I was a nominee for the 7x7 Hot 20 Under 40: Reader's Choice! Woot! Dear readers, can you please vote for me? It's totally painless: all you have to do is enter the number four to vote for me and that's it! No email address to enter, no pesky questions about your income, nada. Deadline to enter is this Friday! Thank you thank you for your vote! Let's rock it.

Last Thursday I had fun playin' hooky and rode bikes with my sis to the Thursday Farmers' Market street food stands at the Ferry Building—what a scene! And what tasty vittles, from the Namu Korean tacos made with kalbi and kimchee to a Tacolicious fish taco with some spicy-as-hell salsa (A.K.A. Chino Loco) to the 4505 Zilla dog (with money sauce, baby!). I recommend going with a wingman so you can share more bites that way. And have a Blue Bottle New Orleans iced coffee to snap you out of your food coma at the end.

Friday: road trip! Left town at noon and headed over to Fresno for some peach pickin' early Saturday morning at Masumoto Family Farm. Awwww, our adopted tree was a rock star—can't believe how much fruit was on it. My apartment smells like peach heaven right now—I am calling it the Peach Palace. Currently eating three of those bad boys a day (how many is too many?), and besides playing "peach Santa" for family and friends, over the next 24 hours I am making jam, vin de peche with the leaves, and found this recipe for brandied peaches (thanks Michael!). Feelin' peachy keen. (Photo by Mathew Sumner.)

This week is looking dandy: going to Great China Restaurant in Berkeley for Peking duck and double skin (will report on that dish later); the Manhattan Project launches (am getting together with some of my cocktailing peeps to determine how we individually prefer our Manhattans—will report on that too!); and of course this week is the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. event! Saturday is a big day for me since I'll be both moderating the Culinary Matriarchs panel on Saturday morning and I'll be on a panel about food reviewing Saturday afternoon. Plus there are tastings, demos, urban BBQs, heck, all kinds of things going on. See ya there? If you want last-minute tickets, click here and enter "tablehopper09" for a discount!

Oh, and I've returned with a fresh meat review this week, can you believe it?! Be sure to check out the sugar mama for one hell of an exclusive and splashy event coming up (and ticket giveaway!) because hey, you're worth it.

And get out the vote, mmmmmkay? Gracias, amigos.

Palabra a tu madre.

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