January 2012

January 31, 2012
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Baumé’s carrot terrine and turbot with “spirit of Vichy” foam. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

After two months of grinding away on this computer for more time than is even remotely healthy, I can see the strobe light at the end of the two-month work tunnel. Yup, I’ll be turning in my final guidebook copy on Thursday, cracking my knuckles, doing some warm-up stretches, and hitting the dancefloor HARD on Thursday night. Gotta shake off a lot of desk chair bad mojo, let me tell you. Total cabin fever.

At least I’ve been exiting my abode a few times a week for some incredible meals. Yes, restaurant research rocks. I can’t even begin to tell you how blown away I was with my experience at Baumé Restaurant last week in Palo Alto. So worth the trip. Very much looking forward to writing that one up for y’all.

I also met up with friends for arancini with scamorza and wild nettle pizza (with an egg on top, of course) at Ragazza, and swung by Butterfly for their Lunar New Year/Dungeness crab menu (which you only have a few more days to enjoy). I adored the crab and sea urchin hand rolls with yuzu kosho vinaigrette and toasted nori, and the salt and red chile crab with crab fried black rice.

Am looking forward to hitting the The Golden Glass this Saturday—there are still (surprisingly) tickets left for this fantastic event. I am gonna hit the Librandi table so fast, you have no idea. The lineup of food artisans and restaurants is also notable.

I expect this weekend is going to be a whole hell of a lot better than this last Saturday, when I was greeted with the unwelcome news that a retaining wall came down on my beloved Alfa Romeo, crunching the nose and hood. Nope, so not meow. Looks like someone is going to be in the shop for a while.

Before signing off, here’s today’s episode of You Gotta Eat This, in which I talk about secret menu items on KGO Radio.

Have a swell week, and we will return to our regular tablehopper programming (which includes reviews) next week! Thanks for bearing with me—these writing projects have been a bear (I could also make a joke about feeling like a bear in a cave, but I’ll stop.)

Marcia Gagliardi

January 24, 2012
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Warming up with Sapporo-style miso ramen at Kirimachi. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Nothing like a torrential rainstorm to keep you inside to finish a monster writing project. (Yeah, like I was going to be able to go anywhere this past weekend with my Sunday deadline anyway.) But no sooner is one guidebook out of the ring, and the other one gets tagged back in. I can’t wait for this month to end. My desk chair and I are not getting along like we used to. Le sigh.

Today’s tablehopper has plenty of options to help ya warm up, whether it’s a bowl of bun rieu or getting heated over some cocktails. Last week, my heat-seeking tactics included a bowl of ramen at Kirimachi (pictured), jook in Chinatown, and some chicken noodle soup I made at home. After watching an episode of Easy Chinese on the Cooking Channel, this recipe for Savory Sour Chicken Noodle Soup is gonna be what’s cooking next over here at Hopper HQ.

Okay, more food! Check out today’s episode of You Gotta Eat This (airing on KGO)—I cover three big, bodacious, behemoth sandwiches around town that are each less than $10. Have a listen here.

And now, it’s time for me to head back to the salt mines. Well, in my case, the Maldon sea salt mines.

Marcia Gagliardi

January 20, 2012
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Foie gras xiao long bao at Benu. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I know I am not alone in loving the reappearance of this rainy weather—the city is already smelling better, my car got a free wash, and my curly hair says YES! It’s also the best writing weather, because you don’t want to go outside (then again, you also don’t want to get out of your bed).

This past week, my dining recon for these two guidebooks brought me to the incomparable Benu (foie gras xiao long bao, I can now die peacefully and go to heaven), and Sons & Daughters (perfect for date number two or three), in addition to warming up over a bowl of ramen at Kirimachi, popping up in North Beach. Tonight, however, I think I have a date with a salad. And my keyboard. Again. (We’re getting married.)

The news keeps coming out of the 707 and right into the 707 Scout it goes—thanks to Deirdre Bourdet for the fab updates. I love heading up there this time of year, and my list of places to visit keeps growing.

Tonight, please don’t forget the benefit to help the victims of the Western Addition fire last month. And have fun kicking off the Lunar New Year on Monday! Excited for the Year of the Dragon: RAWR! (And excited for the fact that DeLise will be serving their Peking duck scones and some new treats, starting Tuesday!)

Marcia Gagliardi

January 17, 2012
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Tuna tartare with slow-cooked Jidori egg in dashi broth with sea urchin, buckwheat, and okra at Ame. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello there! Um, wow, who put this carnival ride into fifth gear? I can’t believe how much writing I’ve been doing the past three weeks. Total finger cramps over here. My brain is cramping, too. My calls to Calgon remain unanswered.

Was sorry to miss the Fancy Food Show and Good Food Awards (check out the 2012 winners here). Fortunately I was able to escape the keyboard for a little bit and jump into a recording studio last week. I’m happy to announce today was the launch of my first and brand-new weekly feature for KGO 810, called “You Gotta Eat This.” Every Tuesday, I will be focusing on wallet-friendly bites that are big on flavor, from wonton soups to killer sandwiches to Monday-night specials at nicer restaurants to dim sum. This week I highlight bar bites at three upscale restaurants around town: Jardinière, Parallel 37, and Twenty Five Lusk. Have a listen here—and since it’s only a minute and 30 seconds, it’s a quickie.

I was also happy to have my first article published in Condé Nast Traveler this month. Here’s the online version of the article, which focuses on the latest hotspots for cocktails on Valencia.

Okay, I need to keep slogging away on these guidebooks. Every minute counts these days. I’ll pop back up when I can! I’d like to believe the fugu-fin sake I had at Ame this weekend gave me superhuman strength! It certainly gave me a blast of umami. And the dish pictured? One of the best things I’ve eaten all month, wow.

Ciao ciao!

Marcia Gagliardi

January 10, 2012
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The playful (and totally delicious) shabu shabu presentation at Michael Mina. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

My life is seriously whack right now, veering from spending hours at my computer in fuzzy slippers (yes, it’s true) to throwing on a dress, my Dior lipstick, and emerging from my apartment once a day to go check out a restaurant for these guidebooks I’m scrambling to finish. This past weekend also had me feeling very 1%, with dinner at Zaré at Fly Trap on Friday, the new Parallel 37 on Saturday, and Michael Mina on Sunday—there was even a Denise Hale sighting in there. (I have to be careful I don’t get gout this month.) And I’ve been doing some incredible repurposing with my leftovers, let me tell you. Masami Ranch rib-eye tacos, oh yeah!

I took a break from the pile o’ 200-word reviews I’ve been writing to bring you this week’s column, complete with some very exciting pizza-related news, another 707 scout update, and a sweet sugar mama offer that will have you traveling around town in style.

I am taking this Friday off so I can stay focused on these deadlines—again, thank you for understanding.

See you next Tuesday!

Marcia Gagliardi

January 6, 2012
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This is how I’m rollin’ right now: rooibos tea service at AQ. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Greetings from Hopper HQ, which is currently doing double duty as a quarantine bubble. After being home sick for a week, I’m ready to hose this place down. Am still not sure what to do with myself—maybe a cattle dip would do the trick.

So after posting my annual rant on Tuesday, the bore, I can’t believe how entertaining my email inbox became. Seems there is a lot of frustration out there with everything from restaurants that make their own ketchup (but only provide diners a skimpy serving of it) to servers addressing a mixed table of men and women with “Hey, guys!” to a wonderful email from the inimitable Connie Green herself chiming in on my kvetch about faux-raging. Gold!

But wait, there’s more! (Of course.) Diners are fatigued of seeing “sustainable,” “locavore,” “gluten-free,” “homemade” (versus “housemade”), and, my personal favorite, “farm egg” on menus. No more tea-flavored desserts, charges for splitting/sharing and bread and butter, they decry. In addition to my rant about paninis, readers also chimed in on additional crimes against pluralization: raviolis and cannolis. And here’s a great language lesson for us all: “Also, along the same line as panino and panini—there are tamales (plural) and a tamal (single). Not tamale—no such word. Irritates me every time.” Thank you all for the awesome feedback—I’m already looking forward to next year.

As you may already know, I am busy cranking on a couple SF restaurant guidebooks this month, so I have zero time (or inspiration) to write up any restaurant reviews for tablehopper until these projects are finished, which will hopefully be in a couple weeks. Thanks for your patience with me this month. There are only so many restaurant reviews you can write in a day, let me tell you.

But in case you were thinking of heading up to wine country during these oddly sunny days, the fab Deirdre Bourdet has a couple very useful reports for us in the 707 Scout.

Have a great weekend (can this warm, dry weather be any creepier?). Salutations from the salt mines!

Marcia Gagliardi

January 3, 2012
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The fabulous mignardise cart at Masa’s, at the end of my last meal out in 2011. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Happy New Year, gang! Did you have a fabulous, celebratory weekend? I hope your holidays were grand. Mine had a bit too much work in ‘em, and I can’t believe this heinous cold I started the year with is still kicking my butt, but I am fired up for 2012. I just need to get through writing these two guidebooks this month—my workload is a bit (too) intense right now.

Those of you who have been reading tablehopper for a while know I have a little tradition at the start of each year: it’s when I run the bore, my annual rant of 10 things in our local dining scene I don’t want to see more of in the new year. I normally like to keep things positive in my column, but the bore is definitely an exception. I hope you have fun with it—you know I did.

I’m sure your voicemail and email inboxes are exploding today with everyone coming back to work (mine sure are), so let’s hop to it.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year—let’s rock it.

Marcia Gagliardi

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