December 2009

December 29, 2009

Wild/foraged chanterelles.

Weird, it really is the end of a decade… Can’t believe it’s been ten years since we were all freaking out over whether our computers were going to blow up on the Millennium. Meanwhile, the only thing blowing up right now is our collective post-holiday waistlines, mamma mia. Too. Many. Cookies. And will someone please get the goddamned eggnog out of my fridge? Oh wait, I am planning to use it for New Year’s Day waffles, don’t even think of touching it! And then there’s tonight’s tablehopper supper—fortunately pho doesn’t have cream in it. (Speaking of, we might have a couple spots that openedjust click here for your last-minute tickets and the password is bourbon.)

Oh man, did I have a lovely Christmas with the family. We feasted for three days straight, primarily on the ridiculous bounty of wild chanterelles my dad foraged for with his buddy in Santa Cruz (yes, they were remarkable). And of course a ton of baccala and calamari in too many incarnations to count, plus pasta three ways, stuffed clams, there was a pork crown roast in there, a pineapple upside down cake, my great-grandma’s cinnamon rolls, homemade sausage and fried eggs, jeez, all kinds of evil things (my dad’s birthday always kicks off the feeding frenzy on the 23rd).

Fortunately I am hopping on a plane this coming Monday and off to India before I put this gorgeous new Global cheese knife that my parents gave me to use. Right, like India is going to be a low-calorie excursion. Then again, I am hoping “Delhi Belly” does not strike—really not into losing weight through the parasite plan. My love of street food is going to push my luck, that’s for sure.

I’ll have a couple pre-loaded columns automatically go out for you the next two weeks, but am going dark on January 19th and 26th, back in action February 2nd. If you want to keep up with some of my shenanigans in India, I plan to Twitter some pics and 140-character impressions while I’m away.

However, I will be completely off the grid as far as email and voicemail are concerned—I need a break. So if you can please refrain from emailing me until I return, I’d really really appreciate it. I HATE coming home to an inbox with 2,000 unread messages. Glug. (Publicists, pretty please don’t send me any January event press releases since I won’t be able to mention anything until February, schwanks.)

Thanks for all of your kind and oh-so-appreciated support this past year. Hey, it takes a village. I am wishing all of you a healthy, happy, successful, and supremely kick-ass 2010. With whipped cream on top.


Marcia Gagliardi

December 22, 2009

Holiday cocktailing at Jardinière.

Why ho ho ho hello there. How you doing? Enjoying the holiday season? Getting your fill of latkes, egg nog, and sugar cookies? Speaking of sweet treats, I gotta hand it to my father, who manages to get me into the holiday spirit with just one bite. Every year he fires up the fryer and makes traditional Calabrese treats, like honey-soaked turdilli and his cuddureddi (fried ring-shaped savory donuts), and little puffs stuffed with anchovy (hated them as a kid, and now he has to fight me for them). Was delighted to see this post from Rosetta Costantino about the desserts her Calabrese family makes for the holidays. And of course I am counting the hours to our annual fish feast (La Vigilia) at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Tony’s house on Christmas Eve. Seven fishes? Hmmm, I think we have more than that. And something like 30 guests. It’s outta hand on all fronts. And for dessert? Aunt Mary is famous for her ribbon-like scalille, which is about all I can stomach after the seafood onslaught.

Since seafood is the theme of my week, it felt only appropriate to post a review of ~BAR CRUDO~ in the regular.

Still stumped on what to get for the foodie folks in your life this holiday? One of the best things you could do is buy a friend or family member tickets to the annual Menu for Hope fundraiser, full of wonderful donated culinary prizes from food bloggers and businesses around the world. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual ticket to bid on an item of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the tickets are drawn and the results are announced on Chez Pim on Monday January 18th. So not only do you donate to an amazing cause (the UN World Food Programme), but you might even win a loved one (or yourself!) a fantastic prize or two—depends on how lucky you are, and perhaps how many tickets you bid against a prize. Have a friend in Europe, or a family member on the East Coast? There are some specific regional prizes you can bid on as well. Check it out—it’s an altruistic alternative to just buying “stuff.”

The biggest thing I’m excited about is where I’m going to be in the New Year. My sis and I are heading to South India the first week of January for some vacation, and I’ll be away for three glorious weeks! We’re going to Mumbai, the beaches of Goa, the backwaters of Kerala, and then I fly home (sniff sniff) from Bengaluru. Truly can’t wait to visit that spectacular country. Anyway, I’ll have a few “hoppers in the hopper” before I leave, so you’ll still get some mail for the next few weeks. But there will be a couple weeks when I’m going dark. Anyway, more on that next week.

Lastly, wow, a lot of you wanted to come to the tablehopper Pot de Pho and Pine Ridge supper (aka Pho La La La La)! I got so many responses that we actually are taking over the entire restaurant. Woo hoo, go team. It’s going to be quite a night, packed full of tablehopper readers! As of this morning, the number of RSVPs made it a sell-out, but a few spots have just opened up. Simply email me to nab the open seats or be placed on the waiting list; I can provide you with the password to buy tickets as seats become available.

Oh, and in the “spirit” of this week’s title, I have to recommend swinging by ~JARDINIÈRE~ for a cocktail glass or two of bartender Brian MacGregor’s holiday magic, including the “chilled holiday cider” with Sazerac rye, J. Witty chamomile liqueur, apple juice, lemon, and Angostura bitters. (There’s a reason why the picture is a little crooked.)

Happy Holidays! Buon Natale! Warmest Wishes!

Marcia Gagliardi

December 15, 2009
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Fried chicken sandwich from Naked Lunch.

Right on, is what I say. I haven’t quite made it to the clubhouse turn, but I’m definitely feeling more on the normal side of things. Kinda perky. Can’t drive yet, but I had my first outing over the weekend, and my target was a brunch of sweet potato waffles with sweet potato syrup and fried chicken thighs at Gussie’s. Yup, a food coma quickly ensued.

I gotta say, I have been eating pretty darned well at home, too well, thanks to the amazing kindness of friends who came by this past week bearing edibles like Humphry Slocombe ice cream, Little Star deep dish pizza, sandwiches from Naked Lunch (although it’s the decadent celery root soup I’m still thinking about), and baked treats from Sandbox Bakery (looooved the curry challah!). I am the first to admit how spoiled I am. But I also spoiled myself with some baked ziti from Fine Foods at Home, hubba. I just have to make sure I don’t turn into Jabba the Hutt while I’m kickin’ it at home. My bike is wondering what the hell happened to me.

Since my book and surgery are now out of the way, I’m in the mood for a get-together. Here’s a save the date announcement for y’all: I’m going to be hosting a casual tablehopper supper during the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve for those of us still hanging around in the city. On Tuesday December the 29th, to be exact (most likely at 6:30pm). It’s going to be a delicious and affordable Vietnamese feast at ~POT DE PHO~, with lovely wines poured by Pine Ridge. (Take a peek at my past review for some drool-worthy pics and descriptions of the food.)

My friend named the supper “Pho La La La La”—and to that, I say ha ha ha ha ha! Chef Khai Duong is going to teach us about the different regional styles of pho, and the detailed process he uses to make his, plus he’ll show us the correct way to eat it. There will also be a melee of tasty things to try off his menu (he looooves to feed people, that’s all I’m saying). I also can’t wait to taste Pine Ridge’s chenin blanc-viognier with the food.

The menu will be finalized later this week, plus the price (am trying to keep it under $50, with tax and tip included). If you know you want a spot, just email me back and I’ll hold however many places you need. I’ll be posting the event info this week on my site (in the socialite) so you check back later. I’ll also be mentioning it on Twitter when the details are confirmed, and of course everything will be mentioned in next week’s column. Would be great to see you before the end of the year, and raise a glass to the great year that’s coming. Yes indeedy.

Keep warm and dry out there, and make time to enjoy some holiday cheer.


Marcia Gagliardi

December 8, 2009


Yo yo yo (or should that be ho ho ho?). Thanks to everyone for the nice notes about the new tablehopper newsletter format and website—so glad you dig it. Things will continue to be tweaked and fine-tuned and super-charged in coming weeks, but I’m pleased you liked the first look! And to clarify for some of you who were confused: the “new house” was a metaphor for my new site—I’m not leaving my beloved and rent-controlled apartment in this economy, are you kidding me? Hells no. Just look at that view.

And many grazie to all of you for the thoughtful messages and well wishes for my recovery—my surgery went really well last Monday (and no, I wasn’t having my stomach stapled, although I do have a less-than-charming incision currently healing up, ow). I’m now nestled back in my apartment in SF after being at my parents’ home for most of last week, and am slowly getting back to my regular life. Let me tell you, the three-meals-a-day-cooked-by-mom meal plan was mighty fine indeed. Plus visits with the cats. And a daily cappuccino from my dad the barista. My parents rock. Now my poor sister is my heavy package and grocery delivery slave until I can carry things over 10 pounds.

Today I have a petite hopper for you. Frankly, I am still pretty darned tired and sore, and staying up until my usual 3am writing this thing is just not happening. But I did want to get some restaurant news and events on your radar, a roundup of holiday gift ideas to you, and there’s a holiday-oriented bookworm for you, too.

Keep cozy out there (I’m in bed so I am definitely toasty), and I’ll catch you next week.

Marcia Gagliardi

December 1, 2009

Hey gang, sorry I disappeared last week—I literally bit off more than I could chew. (And no, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving.) After 188 newsletters, and close to four years of saluting your inbox every Tuesday afternoon (well, almost, heh), it was time for tablehopper to move into a new house! Nope, the studio apartment just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I’m pretty darned excited with the new digs, but what the HELL was I thinking trying to finish a book and launch a website within one week of each other? I know, my projects are trying to bury me. Eep.

So, like a brand-new house, I haven’t finished unpacking all the boxes, and I will probably move a couch here and be adding pictures there. And there will definitely be a few cranky links, weird formatting, or other little oddities. I also didn’t have my usual workflow or proofreading for this week’s issue, so if you catch some errors, you go, eagle eye. Thanks for bearing with me during the move-in! The goal was to update the newsletter’s style, and make the website content more navigable, update-able, and current, so I hope you like it. Have fun checking it out. Many grazie to Noise 13 for the faboo design, and Beau Smith of Strangecode Internet Consultancy for making this beast happen. Talk about a dream team.

The idea of getting back to my “normal” life is certainly enticing, but I have one more hurdle to cross. Not to divulge all the personal details of my life, but I figured I should let you in on this one since I’m going to be MIA for a little bit more. Since you’re reading this on a Tuesday, yesterday I had some surgery I’ve been putting off (needed to get my book wrapped up first!), so I’ll be off-radar as I’m healing up at at the hospital and then my parents’ house in San Mateo over the next week. (So weird to launch a new site when you’re not around, right? Oh, the wonders of the internet.) I should be able to come back to my apartment in SF soon, but not sure how mobile I’ll be over the next few weeks (TBD on that part). Yup, the tablehopper has to pull it on over—I’m on house arrest.

I did have a nice field trip before my lockdown: the annual luncheon at McEvoy Ranch in the olive groves—such a lovely shared experience, a party that totally warms my heart each year. And I am happily pouring olio nuovo on everything I can right now. You too can pick some up at their open house party this Sunday the 6th from 11am—5pm; check their site for info and RSVPing.

Thanks for all your support these past 188 issues, and I’ll have another issue for you next week, oh you know it.

Peace, love, and painkillers,

Marcia Gagliardi

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