June 2013

June 18, 2013
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The famed Slanted Door spring rolls (at the Inman Family Wines dinner). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

So, are you ready for the megapacked tablehopper issue before I leave for Brazil this Friday? Oof, here it is. FYI, tablehopper will be going dark until July 9th, but I will be posting pics and updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while I am away! And with the current protests happening in Brazil, it’s definitely an interesting time to be headed there. (Don’t worry, mom!)

Last week was pretty stellar: not only did I have the honor of attending an exquisite dinner at Quince with Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the esteemed winemaker for Louis Roederer Champagne (yes, there was Cristal, don’t hate me—but it was the 2008 brut rosé that really caught my fancy), but on another evening, I was introduced to Kathleen Inman and Inman Family Wines from Russian River Valley over dinner at The Slanted Door. Her low-alcohol pinot noirs were very food-friendly (which is why you’ll find the 2008 Olivet Grange pinot noir at The Slanted Door—Inman was incidentally the first California wine to make it on Mark Ellenbogen’s list) and are very well priced; I loved hearing about the winery’s many eco-conscious practices, including a compost program that uses scraps from San Francisco restaurants. I need to head up to the winery for a visit soon (and also to get another glass of their very limited 2009 brut rosé nature).

This past weekend I laid low since I have a ton of writing to do before I head out, but I did get to check out a screener of Somm, the new documentary from Jason Wise that is coming out on Friday June 21st (you can catch it at Sundance Kabuki or watch it on iTunes!). It’s a look behind the scenes of the Court of Master Sommeliers, as you watch four hopefuls prepare and take the incredibly difficult Master Sommelier Exam (the first time cameras have ever been allowed). After watching the doc, you’ll see why there are less than 200 Master Somms in the world—the exam is insane. I also didn’t know that after the notorious 25-minute blind tasting of six wines, they only pass or fail you—they never tell you what the wines were. Can you imagine?

Another thing I can’t believe: Bix is turning 25 this Wednesday! That’s a whole lot of cocktails and caviar over the years, congrats! Another big one: Dottie’s True Blue Cafe turned 20 yesterday! Well done, gang.

Okay, so while I am so excited to be leaving for Brazil, I did have a little pang of sadness over missing the upcoming shows with Dita Von Teese, who is returning to SF for more va-va-voom and boom boom at the Fillmore to perform her full-length revue, Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray! I saw her the last time she was in town, do not miss it! Catch her June 26th-29th at the Fillmore, and you can get tipsy on her signature Cointreau cocktails.

Okay, it’s time for me to wrap things up. I’ll see you in a few weeks! Tchau!

Marcia Gagliardi

June 14, 2013
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Stunning: royal osetra caviar and brioche with flowers and hollandaise, paired with 2008 Louis Roederer brut rosé Champagne (at Quince). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Sometimes things have to be really hard or annoying or stressful or downright impossible before some grace can appear. Or in my case today, Grace. As many of you know, I am getting ready to head to Brazil next Friday. But if it were up to the Brazilian consulate, I wouldn’t be on that plane. You see, they are so backed up processing visas that the next available visa appointment isn’t until June 27th—a week into my trip—and it takes five business days on top of that to even get your visa. Dude.

Now, I wholeheartedly own a large part of the problem—I misunderstood when I was supposed to request my visa (I thought my flight had to be ticketed/final booked), so obviously I was getting to it far too late early this week. But let me tell you, if you have any ideas about heading to Brazil for World Cup or just for travel, give yourself at least a month to get that visa squared away. To put it all in perspective, if I were going to China—a notoriously tough visa—I’d get it same day (yup!) and only be out $30. My visa to Brazil? How about $160!? Oh, and the paperwork? Bureaucracy at its finest.

So there I am at the consulate this morning, trying to be at my calmest but most persuasive as I am pleading for a visa appointment, and I get a big, fat, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do.” No matter that I am supposed to fly out in a week. Just no. And just wow. I tried every possible angle, trust. You’d think they’d want people to visit the country, but it feels like the exact opposite. Despite my best efforts, out of sheer frustration and sadness watching my trip to Brazil crumble with this woman’s final “no,” I completely burst into tears and made a hasty exit to the ladies’ room. So embarrassing. Crying in public, that’s always so much fun.

Which is when I met Grace, aka my visa angel, who found me in the bathroom crying. She works for Bay Document Services and was there at the consulate expediting visas for her clients. With one phone call to her contact in New York, she was able to confirm she could expedite my visa through the NYC consulate (which reportedly operates much more quickly and with a lot less paperwork) and could actually get my passport back here in SF on Thursday before my Friday flight. Um, wow. Everything turned around, just like that. I was not going to Brazil, and then holy crap, I am going to Brazil! There really are angels, and the one who saved my lucky ass today is Grace.

I just met up with her again to hand off my documents and money and $200 service fee, and you can bet I brought a couple bottles of wine for her. I know, exchanging money and documents in a parking lot with people you met earlier in a bathroom can seem shady, but I think I’m a pretty good judge of character, and she is 100 percent legit. And who am I to question divine freaking intervention? Get me on that plane, damn it! So if you ever need to get some visa issues sorted, Grace at Bay Document Services has your back.

Since I have spent the past few nights with some wicked insomnia over this and from running around in bureaucracy land, I’m all tapped out for today. Beyond. But I do have a nice giveaway for you, and the fabulous Heather Irwin has some 707 scout news too.

Oh, and I actually have some non-tablehopper pieces for you to read: on 7x7.com, I share my monthly post of five new places to check out this month; on Citysearch, I posted some of my favorite places for sushi in San Francisco; and I also have my first column for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Tablehopping, all posted and ready for you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a drink. Actually, a drank. (I am going to be saving the caipirinhas until I get to Brazil.)

With infinite gratitude to the universe,

Marcia Gagliardi

June 11, 2013
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Yours truly sharing a laugh with one of the teams at the CHEFS Cook-off at SummerTini. Photo: Marcie Franich Photography.

Howdy. That was quite the heat wave last weekend, right? Riiiiiiiight. Fortunately I ventured south, and who knew The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay had its very own pocket of sunny weather along the coast? I know, of course it does. I’ll be doing a recap soon, but I will say it’s hard to beat the gorg view at the restaurant Navio (I love a good sunset while enjoying the raw seafood platter) and especially during the over-the-top Sunday brunch. Going for a walk along the Coastal Trail after all that feasting was almost gratuitous—I couldn’t believe the view and the pristine sand on the beach. Oh, California, I am always so in love with you.

I also know I was savoring all that luxury and my oh-so-charmed life extra deeply, because Friday evening was SummerTini, the annual fundraiser for ECS and the CHEFS program. I was the emcee for the CHEFS Cook-off, and let me tell you, it’s an amazing thing to see the current class of students cooking, plating, and serving their special bites for the evening, especially knowing they were all homeless just three months prior. It’s very moving. I’d like to thank every single restaurant and bar who showed up to make the event so special—the caliber of the food and drink this year was really notable (and it was great for many of the students to experience those dishes!). Thanks to everyone who donated product, gift certificates, your time, attendance, and more to the event and auction items. So much generosity. Every dollar earned makes such a difference. Kudos to all who planned the event, it was lovely.

So I am beginning my countdown to my Brazil departure (on June 21st!), unbelievable. But I’m glad I won’t be missing Father’s Day this coming Sunday. Gotta salute the man who gave me such a mouthful of a last name, mamma mia.

I’ll see you on Friday. In the meantime, here’s a bunch of exciting news for you this week. Like, a bunch—you’ll need to loosen that belt buckle a notch. Oh, and if you are a regular reader of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, look for a new column from me (“Tablehopping”) in the paper tomorrow!

Cheers!
Marcia Gagliardi

June 7, 2013
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The superlative crispy quail in Guilin chile sauce at Hakkasan. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

It’s Friday, and I can actually see out my window (thanks for the momentary retreat, Karl the Fog). I am hustling to get ready for tonight’s SummerTini event, which is where I will be this fair evening. (There are still some tickets available at the door, FYI.)

Since I have limited time (per usual), let’s just dive in here. The pleasant forecast inspired me to write up a review of Fusebox, a crazy-delicious spot in West Oakland that happens to have an outdoor patio (yay). Plus, we have a wino from Mathew Fitch, who is here to tell us all about his incroyable trip to Champagne. Prepare to suddenly start craving bubbles (or planning a trip to the region, which I can’t recommend highly enough). And we also have a 707 scout from Heather Irwin, which may also inspire some getaway desires.

Oh, and this week I have a couple of freelance pieces for you: on 7x7.com, I list five of San Francisco’s most underrated restaurants, and on Blackboard Eats, I contributed five items to their list of 10 must-try dishes in San Francisco right now. Check ‘em out.

Have a gorg weekend!

Marcia Gagliardi

June 4, 2013
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My idea of heaven: bubbles and the brioche/Parker House roll at the counter at Canteen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

So it’s June, which may bring some of the lousiest weather in SF, but it also means it’s Pride Month! Yup, it’s time to set it off, San Francisco. I can’t wait to ride my bike down Market Street and see all the flags—it always makes me love this city even more. I’m actually pretty bummed that I’ll be missing this year’s Pride weekend, but then all I have to do is remember the fact that I’m going to be in Brazil! Dude, I know. It will be my first time there—I’m going on a press trip to visit Brazil’s wine country, and I’m also planning to hang out in Rio on my own for a few days at the end of the trip. If you have any recommendations for me about Rio de Janeiro, I am all ears! (I’m starting with these awesome posts on Culinary Backstreets.) Obrigada.

So have you thought about buying your ticket for SummerTini this Friday evening? I certainly hope so. I am going to be emceeing a portion of the event, which is a very important annual fundraiser for the CHEFS program (Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Services). The food is going to be great, with tables featuring A16, Nopa, Absinthe, Perbacco, and Il Cane Rosso, plus cocktails from Comstock Saloon, Elixir, Hakkasan, and Rye.

The silent and live auction items feature some really stellar prizes, like a Santa Cruz travel adventure with dinner at Manresa, or an overnight stay at Meadowood with dinner. You can even bid on this sure-to-be-hot dining extravaganza item: win a special tasting menu with sommelier wine pairings (for two) at Atelier Crenn, Benu, Coi, Gary Danko, Fifth Floor, and Quince. Um, yeah. The event is at the Bently Reserve, I really hope you can make it.

Oh, and since we’re talking Manresa, I thought you’d want to check out this two-part interview with David Kinch about fine dining, tipping, service, supplements, and more. Fascinating stuff.

Lots going on this week, let’s hop to it! (There’s also a giveaway to a special dinner at M.Y. China in the chatterbox, look for it!)

Marcia Gagliardi

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