December 2010

December 31, 2010
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The Make-Out Room (where it’s always New Year’s Eve-meets-the prom).

Why hello there. You polishing your silver, your Champagne flutes, and hopefully your dancing shoes? The city is gearing up for what is always the worst night to get a cab, ever. And it’s going to be a cold and rainy one—can’t wait to be out on the town in my dress and heels. But the show must go on!

I’ve already had such an action-packed week, I think I just need to keep my ride in fifth gear. Wednesday I had some dear friends in town from LA, and our night turned into a flashback of my 20s: we had a grand meal at Bix, cocktails at the newly renovated House of Shields (gorg), and then out for carousing until last call at the Make-Out Room. It was all very San Francisco, circa 1995. We were also consuming alcohol like we were back in our 20s, whoops. Fortunately my recovery lunch at Plow got me back in action. (I know, way to pop a flat two nights before New Year’s Eve.)

Last night was a cozy dinner at Range with friends in town from Paris. We cleaned our plates, which included standouts like their incredible clams (what a broth), goat cheese and sorrel-stuffed pasta, and some insane beef daube (my Parisian friends were thrilled). Our parade of desserts rocked (like the incroyable butterscoth pudding and bittersweet chocolate and nocino soufflé).

So, this little New Year’s Eve issue has my annual rant, “the bore,” which is a list of what I don’t want to see anymore (and is the one time in the year when I decide to give my usual positive slant a swift elbow to the ribs and let the snark reign). Yeah, it’s kinda fun to write (so I hope no one gets their feelings hurt). And in case you’re wondering about why pizza and street food aren’t on there, let me point you to previous bores.

I also have a fab guest wino this week, with the kind of resolution I’d find easy to keep (losing 15 pounds is so commonplace). Make yours fun, like vowing to cook for your friends at home once a month (I liked that one from a couple years ago). Or vow to become an expert on Champagne. Starting tonight.

Here’s wishing you a joyous start to the New Year. No DUIs, no barfing, no fighting, no biting. Many thanks for making my 2010 such a memorable one, but now it’s time to kick it in the ass. Play it off, keyboard cat! (And here’s where to go on New Year’s Day in case your night bites back.)

Cin cin! Baci! Buon Anno!!

Marcia Gagliardi

December 28, 2010
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Baccalà: it’s not Christmas Eve without it.

I decided to take it a little easier this week and only try to stay up until 11pm writing this thing instead of my usual 2am or 3am on Monday night. Besides, I am still recovering from our family’s three-day holiday marathon (read: feeling very lethargic). (“Look, I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.”)

Our Christmas Eve dinner was one of the best yet—although leave it to us to have the Feast of the Seven Fishes balloon to 13 dishes. I now feel equipped to write my second book, 101 Ways to Prepare Baccalà (that is a JOKE, people). And is there anything better than prime rib and horseradish cream on Christmas? If there is, I haven’t found it.

Quick reminder about my book: just in case Santa didn’t hook you up with a copy this holiday, you can buy one for yourself (plus two more for pals) and be entered in a drawing to win dinner with me in January! The deadline to make your purchase of three books and be entered in the drawing is this Friday December 31st. Let’s hit the town!

Yup, New Year’s Eve is almost here. For those of you trying to decide what to do with your damned self, I’ve added even more dinners to my round-up of New Year’s Eve dining options, and of course there’s the big SOS/Standing on Stardust party at the Burritt Room for those looking for drinks and disco dancing. Oh yes, and I’ve also added more to the list of (hangover) dining options on New Year’s Day because, yes, I really care.

I’ll be back in your inbox on Friday with a short missive before we all launch into 2011.

Pop!

Marcia Gagliardi

December 21, 2010
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Our cat Merna on last year’s tree-decorating day. (So over it.)

Yup, I survived my epic holiday par-tay weekend, although I’m not so sure about my waistline (it doesn’t help matters to think of egg nog as a “Christmas smoothie”). And things are only about to get crazier in the caloric department: it’s my father’s 70th birthday this Thursday (guess who will be eating Fatted Calf porchetta and a surprise from Schubert’s Bakery that night?), Friday is our huge Southern Italian fish fest (seven fishes? More like 10!), and then on Christmas, we’ll start the day with my dad’s homemade (and spicy) Italian sausage, slow-basted eggs, and my mother’s delicious holiday bread (with the possible inclusion of panettone as well). Mamma mia.

The holiday feed bag is brutal, and all this rainy weather is not helping with my daily outdoor exercise. I think some of you will be happy to see the upcoming cleanse options in January in the health nut. And then there are others who will be happy to see the New Year’s Day hangover dining options in the socialite. (And perhaps a few of you will cross over in both of those categories—hey, it’s all about balance.)

Oh, and there’s a cool upcoming wine event I’m doing in January with Jordan Mackay in the lush—would be a nice gift for any winos in your life (hey, I know my audience)! Plus this week’s issue has a special last-minute holiday bookworm by Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books. Speaking of books, if you still need stocking stuffers or hostess gifts, I’ll be in town the next couple days and happy to sell and sign the tablehopper guidebook for you (although we’d have to make arrangements for you to pick ‘em up—you can’t pay me enough to go to the post office right now, oh hell no).

Okay, so not to act like a retired woman of 72 with an obsession for cats and Cathy cartoons, but I cannot resist sharing these three holiday videos. First up, the three live cams of the Macy’s SPCA Holiday Windows has been yielding some cute moments watching the kittehs and puppies play (and snooze). Secondly, how the heck did I ever miss this amazing compilation of animals singing “Deck the Halls” last year? And here’s this year’s, “Jingle Bells.” Seriously adorable, funny, and clever.

I am taking this Friday off, but will be back in your inbox next Tuesday. In the meantime, here’s wishing all of you a warm, merry, and bright holiday. And for those of you who celebrate Christmas, Buon Natale!

Sending Season’s Greetings (sassy, boozy ones!),

Marcia Gagliardi

December 17, 2010
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The uni and cauliflower pizza at Cotogna.

Time to flip on those afterburners. Do I really have three parties I’m going to on Sunday? The calendar says, “Yes, Marcia, you sure as hell do.” And one on Saturday. And one tonight. I also managed to sneak in one a swell holiday lunch at Cotogna yesterday—two words for you, friends: uni pizza. Oh yeah, and a little bubbling crock of housemade ricotta topped with wild mushrooms that you slather onto crostini is gonna throw you into a dungeon and make you its personal slave (bring out the gimp!). I look forward to writing it up soon.

So there’s something I am personally celebrating today: Marcilary Liberation Day, the day when my creative partner Hilary and I (hence Marcilary) were laid off from our ad agency jobs, 10 years ago! Good times (well, not at that particular moment). So yeah, today I’m gonna raise a glass to being boss of me for a decade, and I can say I am so very grateful I got laid off, otherwise I may have failed to discover the joy I have with my current profession. When people say to me, “You have the best job ever,” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why I made it.”

And so I thank you, my fabulous readers, for all your support and keeping me truckin’. And for today’s review, I’m including Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, a lively place that’s built for celebrations and holiday cheer.

Lastly, here’s a quick reminder about my “buy three of my books before December 31st and get entered in a drawing to have dinner with me in January” special offer! We have added priority shipping as an option for those of you who want to insure the tablehopper book makes it into someone’s stocking this holiday season!

Cin cin!

Marcia Gagliardi

December 14, 2010
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“Who, me? I didn’t burn down the tree! I only look evil.”

Yay, my Fodor’s deadline is ALL DONE, so now I am free to get into the full holiday swing. Someone is ready to par-tay! This week, I wrote up my ‘Hopper Holiday Gift Guide—and at the top of that list is, of course, my book! I just launched a tablehopper online store, so you can now get signed copies directly through yours truly.

Since I’m all excited about having my very own store, I wanted to let you know about a special giveaway I’m running from now through December 31st—anyone who buys three or more copies of my book from me will be automatically entered in a drawing to have dinner on the town with me in January! Fun, right? Dinner will be just you and me, however—no extra guests. Please note I’m choosing where we’re going—and I might even tell you what to order, ha ha (and you’ll like it!).

So, tonight is definitely going to be a fun one: I’m dining with the winner of my La Cocina auction item, A Night on the Town with the Tablehopper. The ladies of Carried Away will be whisking us around in luxury transportation, starting with drinks and appetizers at Thermidor, entrées at Prospect, dessert at COI, and then a nightcap at Comstock Saloon. It’s gonna be a blast—especially having a designated driver who packs “emergency Champagne” on board!

And in this week’s socialite, you’ll see my suggestions for New Year’s Eve dining—and a party!

On a more serious note, since we are getting into the season of parties and drinking (this week especially), I wanted to remind all of us to be careful and conscientious about not driving drunk, and instead to take cabs and designate drivers. I got a note from a dear family friend who lost his father to a drunk driver when he was only four days old, and it really gave me pause. So I wanted to forward this link to you that he sent to me. It’s an Australian public service message about driving under the influence, and please know, it is graphic. It’s very hard to watch. But it’s also so very powerful, and is the closest thing I’ve seen to showing people what happens in an accident—and it’ll really make you think twice about grabbing your keys after grabbing that second or third drink. Please consider taking a moment, and a deep breath, and watch.

Wishing you a safe and sweet holiday season.

XO

Marcia Gagliardi

December 10, 2010
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One of my favorites at the Champagne tasting. Such a beaut.

Nothing quite like running stairs on a drizzly morning, with your head still fuzzy from a night of drinking bubbles. (Yeah, my life is a vicious cycle of pleasure and then punishment.)

And on the theme of pleasure, I have quite the doozy of a writeup for you today. I had a five-hour meal at Acquerello and lived to tell about it, so buckle up. Actually, get into your comfortable pants or muumuu for this one. And in case you are inspired to head over there for the white truffle dishes I mention, good news: Giancarlo Paterlini assures me they’ll have them for the next couple of weeks, and quite possibly on their New Year’s Eve menu. What a year for truffles, I swear.

This evening I’m heading over to the Mission for the La Cocina second annual holiday gift fair! It’s from 4pm-9pm, and there will be all kinds of locally made gifts, drinks, and a raffle. You’ll be able to pick up a variety of goods, from Clairesquares to alfajores from Sabores del Sur—and yours truly will also be there, signing and selling my book! Come on by, yo! Admission is free and open to the public. Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission St. (near the 24th & Mission BART).

Happy Friday, folks.

Marcia Gagliardi

December 7, 2010
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Dungeness crab cocktail and martinis at Tadich Grill.

Hey—how you doin’? Keeping warm and well-fed, with maybe a little sauce thrown on top? I am definitely going to be enjoying some sauce this Thursday at Arlequin’s annual Champagne tasting. As far as being well-fed, I guess the proof is in the pudding (and the giblet gravy): Grub Street asked me to keep a week-long diary about everything I ate, starting on Thanksgiving. Yeah, it’s a doozy—what did you expect, salads?

Hey, so whatcha doing on Friday? You should come by La Cocina’s Second Annual Gift Fair! It’s from 4pm-9pm at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. There will be all kinds of excellent and edible gifts. And I’ll be there signing and selling books—perfect for any food lovin’ friends and family.

In closing, I wanted to share two fab videos I have really enjoyed this week: one is about Guy Savoy in Paris, and the other is a wonderful homage to Thomas Keller from Grant Achatz and the Alinea team. (I give you permission to take some time and watch them both, heh.)

Warm wishes,

Marcia Gagliardi

December 3, 2010
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The South Side at Comstock Saloon.

Oh, hello rainy weekend. I’m going to consider it a productivity booster. But right now, here’s your little afternoon tablehopper break, which will not be contributing to your productivity. To your waistline, yes. To your BAC level, quite—especially with this week’s piece of fresh meat review of Comstock Saloon. Consider it your warm up and excitement-builder for Sunday’s Repeal Day festivities—the Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail and the new Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts are going to be hosting quite the event, starting at 6pm.

And as you’re doing your holiday shopping, this week’s bookworm review of The Essential New York Times Cookbook just may inspire you to pick it up for the cooks in your lives. (It also can help insure some good meals in your future.)

Cheers to the weekend,

Marcia Gagliardi

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