February 2011

February 25, 2011
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Beets roasted on hay with fresh cheese, wild sprouts, and flowers (from Coi).

Damn, people! I can’t thank you enough for the incredible outpouring of enthusiasm and support for Deep Dishing this week. It means a lot, truly. It has been so much fun checking out the comments, watching the top dishes and places rise on the home page, and I’ve already learned some great tips in the Tip Please! forum (like in this one on croissants, and just in time for the weekend, there’s a discussion about brunch spots). Huge thanks from me and the Phile team—please keep it comin’!

Had a swell time at the Meatpaper Food & Thought party last night at SFMOMA—the beautiful dish you see pictured here was from Evan Rich of Coi. And any wine lover really needs to check out the How Wine Became Modern exhibit. Architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro created one hell of a sexy installation.

The weather is about to go haywire (here’s my current favorite weather tracker), so I thought you’d like a cozy restaurant where you could warm up. Check out my review of Eiji in the regular today. And please, for God’s sake, follow the rules.

Have a toasty weekend!

Marcia Gagliardi

February 22, 2011
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Celebrating early last week: hopper at the HOPR (House of Prime Rib).

Well, I thought I was old ironsides. It takes a lot to knock me down, but something I ate over the weekend definitely laid me out. Ahhh, food poisoning. It was like my last day in India all over again. Well, I needed to lose some weight anyway.

Fortunately I am back in action, because tonight I am celebrating tablehopper’s fifth anniversary! I looked up the traditional fifth wedding anniversary gift (because lord knows, I’m pretty damned wedded to this thing, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer), and how appropriate: for traditional anniversaries, it’s wood, and for modern anniversaries, it’s silverware. Sounds about right since I’ll be dining on a wood table tonight, silverware in hand with my dear friend at a Tartine Afterhours supper (with a good bottle of Champagne in tow, oh you know it).

So, you ready for my big news? No, it’s not on the scale of Oprah’s secret sister, although the actual news isn’t that far off topic: tablehopper has a new sister site, Deep Dishing! It’s a new kind of forum about Bay Area restaurants: a positive one, focusing on the best dishes, drinks, and hot tips! The Deep Dishing community and site will guide you to what to order and what’s delicious the next time you’re heading out (especially useful if it’s your first time somewhere, or you’re just looking for inspiration). If there was something you didn’t like, well, on Deep Dishing, you don’t talk about it—it’s only about what’s good.

I’ve been working on the site for months with the fantastic folks at Phile, a service that lets anyone create a website to share information about the things they love in an organized way. (And a big shout out to Noise 13 for designing another fab site for me!)

We’ve had a incredible group of beta testers the past three weeks, who have inputted a bunch of fab places, pics, and tips—but there’s oh so much more to include! You can vote and comment on dishes—which is an important function of the site—and there’s also a Tip Please! forum where you can ask questions, and help solve the dilemmas of your fellow diners.

I’m so excited about the launch of Deep Dishing, which will be a friendly place for the tablehopper community to share and quickly find details about what’s good in restaurants in the Bay Area (and beyond). We’re starting locally (Bay Area and wine country), but the site’s locations will expand soon. And some functionality and cool features will be coming, too—just you wait. Be sure to follow Deep Dishing on Twitter to keep up on special highlights and news.

And that’s not all, folks. I am also very fired up to announce I am adding a monthly wine country news and events section called 707 Scout. It will be written by my sister in sass, Deirdre Bourdet, who additionally writes for WineCountry.com and her own blog, Hedonism Ink (here she is on Twitter). She graduated from the Cordon Bleu’s culinary program in Paris, and worked for a time at Zagat Survey in New York City researching restaurants, hotels, and bars around the world. After a stint practicing big-firm law in San Francisco, she moved to Napa to focus on the good life. Cheers to that, and I am thrilled to have her on board.

Lastly, since we’re on congrats, all the best to the James Beard Foundation Awards restaurant and chef semifinalists. The finalists will be announced March 21st. Not sure if I’ll be heading out there again in May for the Awards—I sure had fun as a correspondent last year!

Okay, I’m hopping over to Deep Dishing to add more content and vote on dishes. See you there!

Marcia Gagliardi

February 15, 2011
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The delicious miso tonkotsu ramen at Chotto.

Hello, rain. I have to admit, I don’t mind it too much—I was able to enjoy my bowl of Mission Chinese Food’s Westlake rice porridge all the more for breakfast this morning (and I polished the rest of it off for lunch). And here’s one more bowl of goodness to add to your list: the ramen at Chotto in the Marina. The rich and potent broth is made from a combination of pork and chicken bones, and you can choose from two kinds (go with the kara-miso/spicy version if you like heat). And it’s totally fulfilling for $9.50 (and under!).

My favorite meal of last week, however, was at my grandma’s house, with our family gathering to celebrate grandma’s birthday. My dad and I were in charge of making his famed mushroom risotto (his risotto really is the best, and he’s totally ruined me—I never order it when I’m dining out), and my mother made a delicious veal ragout. The finale was a big St. Honoré cake from Dianda’s in San Mateo, a family favorite. And of course there was lots of Champagne; while holding Kai—my brand-new, first cousin once removed—he was happily reaching for my glass. Welcome to the family, kid.

There’s even more imbibing on the horizon: this Wednesday is all about the Italians at Tre Bicchieri, and I’m going to a friend’s Scotch tasting on Saturday (red alert).

I’m also going to be raising a glass of something good next Monday while I’m writing my column, because tablehopper turns five on Monday the 21st. I know, kuh-razy! That’s a lot of lost Monday nights on deadline. Anyway. Look for a couple announcements next Tuesday (and yeah, one of them is pretty big).

Stay dry out there.

Marcia Gagliardi

February 11, 2011
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The foie gras torchon plate at Prospect.

The sun is shining, New Yorkers hate us right now, and it’s Friday. Le woot. I’m looking forward to tonight’s Around the World in 80 Sips event—I’m going to pretend it’s my happy hour. As for the rest of the weekend, my family is getting together for my dear grandma’s birthday tomorrow—it’s going to be a blast. Lots of bubbles for sure (she’s the reason my family drinks as much bubbly as we do). Sunday, however, is work work work. Deadlines, schmedeadlines.

This week’s dining has been all over the map: caught up with some friends at Summit on Tuesday night (such beautiful salads and desserts, but it’s like an adult night school in there, with a sea of Mac computers); Wednesday was a tour de force meal at Prospect (one of the best foie gras torchon plates I’ve ever had—can you say cocoa nibs?); and last night a friend and I went to San Dong House on Geary for hand-pulled noodles and dumplings (looking forward to eating my leftover drunken chicken for lunch, hic). Fortunately there has been a lot of boot camp and bike riding this week, oy.

As someone who is out about six nights a week, you can imagine: I meet a lot of people. And some of them are very, very kind. Today’s review is of a friendly little Turkish place up in Potrero Hill, Pera. Some Turkish pals have told me they love how authentic it is (reportedly the charming Yigit Pura of Taste Catering is a fan), and the restaurant recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. It’s a great deal, and offers a nice break from complicated food (sometimes I really crave some simpler Mediterranean flavors and presentations).

Here’s wishing you a sweet Valentine’s Day on Monday—and whether Cupid has put someone to love in your life, or not, hey, I love ya!

Mwah!

Marcia Gagliardi

February 8, 2011
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Barbacoa (lamb) taco from El Huarache Loco.

Three things that are making me happy this past (and upcoming) week:

  • not seeing rainy clouds in the forecast for another week.
  • taking Sunday completely off, spending it at the Alemany flea market (which included the bonus of being able to eat kickass tacos—with made-to-order tortillas—from El Huarache Loco), reading my magazine in Golden Gate Park, and seeing the 50th anniversary print of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the Castro Theatre.
  • learning that Carlo Espinas is the guest chef at Pal’s Takeaway this Wednesday (he’s making a roasted pork belly sandwich on Acme green onion slab with smoked oyster dressing, peppercress, radishes, and Meyer lemon-spring garlic mayo).

And here’s something I hope will make you happy: I’m going to be giving away a pair of tickets to the Sunday Marketplace at the Artisan Cheese Festival, which is Sunday March 27th. How can you win the pair of tickets? You need to “like” the tablehopper Facebook page by Sunday February 13th, and I’ll randomly pick a winner next week! Best of luck, oh-so-likable darlings.

Today’s issue has a lot of North Bay happenings (including the opening of Plate Shop tonight), and I hope you enjoy this exclusive first look at Bluestem Brasserie in the hardhat—it’s going to be a looker.

See ya on Friday. Mwah.

Marcia Gagliardi

February 4, 2011
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Tomato-braised beef, kale, crescenza, farm egg pizza at Pizzetta 211. Pure. Evil.

With each subsequent sunny day we’re having (sorrrrrry East Coast!), spring fever is percolating citywide. Our city’s pretty ornamental flowering plum trees are currently full and dripping with sweet pink blossoms—which ties in nicely thematically with this week’s fresh meat review of Plum. A lot has been written recently about this welcome addition to the culinary scene (especially this week, oy)—and with good reason, there’s a lot to like.

Oh, and for those who don’t read the review to the end, there’s a new five-course tasting menu launching this evening at the counter (only) at Plum. It’s $59, with wine pairings for $30. It’s designed to be extra-handcrafted and personal, with chef Charlie Parker serving you directly.

And with this week’s writeup, that concludes my run of 510 reviews for a little bit—back to the 415 city limits! There is a lot going on this weekend, from underground markets to pastrami sandwich debuts this Saturday, and then, of course, Sunday is all about beer, barbecue, and football. I think I’ll be at the museum, out shopping, and getting a pedicure. Ya know, doin’ lady stuff.

Wishing you a swell and springy weekend.

Marcia Gagliardi

February 1, 2011
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SPQR’s romanesco-cauliflower agnolotti, Asiago fonduta, cipolline in agrodolce, and wild sorrel.

Big week this week: Gung Hay Fat Choy! I am so ready to head to some Chinatown shops and score some treats—along with a visit to DeLise for their Peking duck scones. I guess my family was prepping a few days early for the lunar Year of the Rabbit, because I spent Sunday learning how to make cavatelli from my dad, and we made a hold-the-phone-while-I-have-another-helping rabbit ragu made from such delicious rabbits from Devil’s Gulch. Sorry, no recipe! My dad was working from memory of how his mother used to make it. Suffice it to say, our Sunday supper rocked the casa.

It was quite the pasta weekend, because Saturday night I dined at SPQR and tried their new five-course pasta tasting menu. Yeah, embrace the carbs, bambino. It’s $46, and includes a course of these brilliant romanesco-cauliflower agnolotti (pictured), with Asiago fonduta, cipolline in agrodolce (sweet and sour small Italian onions), and beautiful wild sorrel blossoms. Also on the menu: silky tagliatelle, and sophisticated potato gnocchi stuffed with testa di maiale (pig’s head). (A few dishes needed a tiny bit of tweaking, but they’re almost in the pocket.) And don’t miss a bowl of the candied violet ice cream from Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous for dessert.

This Saturday the 5th, I’m going to try to make it to Wise Sons Delicatessen at Off the Grid/McCoppin Hub at Jackie’s Cafe (105 Valencia St.), when they are debuting their very own pastrami and corned beef sandwiches on housemade rye from 11am-2pm. There is also the Wine and Wishes tasting and dinner event on Saturday evening, FYI. And it’s Pisco Sour Day!

Oh, and I wanted to share this informative article about sustainable seafood in restaurants in San Francisco magazine that was getting referred to all over Twitter last week in case you missed it. It’s a must-read article, so please check it out.

Well, I am jumping from this frying pan into a raging fire of deadlines, so I gotta go. Ciao!

Marcia Gagliardi

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