April 2015

April 28, 2015
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The beginning of the stunning pop-up meal with Bar Tartine and Ivan Ramen. Snacks! Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hi gang. I just finished quite the whirlwind culinary week, whoa. I was up in St. Helena for three days at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for the Worlds of Flavor conference, which drew a fascinating lineup of talent from all over the world, and since the theme was Asia and the Theater of World Menus, you know I was in heaven. I got to listen to and meet chefs and experts and authors from allllll over, like chefs Paul Qui from Austin, Rachel Yang from Joule, Shinobu Namae from L’Effervescence, Alvin Leung from Bo Innovation, the very thoughtful Chris Jaeckle from All’Onda, Ryan Clift from Singapore’s Tippling Club, 2am:dessertbar’s Janice Wong, Will Goldfarb of Room 4 Dessert, authors and writers like Fuchsia Dunlop and Francis Lam, and yeah, we ate ALL THE DISHES, from Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and more. It was pretty full-on.

A huge side benefit to all this talent in town means we scored a couple of special pop-ups, including last night’s pop-up at Bar Tartine with Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen (they crushed it, what a beautiful collaboration); oh, and I want to share this Nowness video about Ivan and his thoughts on ramen (they showed it at Worlds of Flavor). Tonight, I will be eating yakitori (and drinking their insane coffee shochu again) from chef Matt Abergel of Hong Kong’s Yardbird at Izakaya Rintaro. Score.

I was going to stay up in the 707 an extra night, but when you get the opportunity to take Jonathan Gold tablehopping to some of your favorite SF restaurants, you kind of change your plans. Yup. He was in town for a SF International Film Festival screening of City of Gold, a compelling and deep documentary by Laura Gabbert that is as much about him as it is about Los Angeles. It’s making the festival circuit right now and will be coming out in August, and you won’t want to miss it. During my afternoon jaunt with Jonathan, we were filmed hitting up a few local spots—I’ll be sharing the clip as soon as they finish editing it (and what it was like for me to meet him)! Yeah, it was a big day for the hopper.

Tonight is the opening of Trestle from the Stones Throw crew, which we’ll be covering in tablehopper next week after I have a chance to check it out in person. Also, if you don’t already have dinner plans tonight, please think about choosing a restaurant participating in Dining Out for Life, when many SF restaurants will contribute a portion of their sales to support the free local HIV prevention and care services of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Lastly, I know we are all feeling quite helpless watching the devastation in Nepal after that horrific earthquake. The best thing we can do right now is send money—every dollar counts. Here’s an article featuring seven vetted charities doing relief work, please take a look. Thank you.

With love,
Marcia Gagliardi

April 21, 2015
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From the one-and-only master of garnish, Scott Beattie (at Meals on Wheels). Huckleberry Gin Punch, with 209 gin infused with huckleberries, Pimm’s No. 1, lemon, cardamom, mirin, sake, rice wine vinegar, and bitters, garnished with chocolate mint and borage. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Is it weird I like this chilly and gray weather? Well, it’s handy for when I’m on deadline, because I don’t feel bad about being inside. Tomorrow I will be back on the road and heading into some Wine Country warmth since I am attending The Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor, an international conference with more than 60 chefs visiting from Asia, Europe, and all over the U.S.

This year’s theme is Asia and the Theater of World Menus, so we’ll be learning about rice, ramen, sake, shio koji, kimchi, curry, and a whole lot more. Cool! (There’s a live webcast in case you want to tune in to the general conference sessions.) It will be great to be in St. Helena, and since I am staying with friends in Yountville, I’m fired up to go eat at Ciccio (finally). I’ll also be staying over Friday evening for the grand tasting at the Calistoga Food & Wine event, see you there?

Today’s issue has two in-depth profiles of two exciting openings, Aatxe and Octavia (I visited Aatxe on their opening night on Friday and dined at Octavia on Saturday). Add them both to your hit list.

Sunday was the 28th annual Star Chefs & Vintners Gala benefiting Meals on Wheels, and as usual, it was over the top with the best local chefs, bartenders, and winemakers. I’m just editing my photos of the reception now, I’ll be sharing them as soon as I can. A huge round of thanks to gala chef chair Nancy Oakes and all the talented people who made it the special event it is. Am looking forward to hearing how much they raised this year! It’s always staggering. Go SF.

My Sunday only got more decadent with a special dinner at BDK Restaurant hosted by Ruinart, and chef de caves Frédéric Panaïotis. Spicy fried chicken and the exquisite 2002 Dom Ruinart rosé, let me tell you, that was the jam.

So, a couple more quick things. First, my fellow caffeine fiends, here’s my post on 7x7.com on four new cafés around town, have at it.

And I have a big favor to ask! It ends up the developers of my late-night dining app are no longer supporting it, and I’m having a hard time finding someone to transfer all the data into a new app format for me so I can update the damn thing. Anyone have any ideas? I don’t have a lot of dough to throw at this, but would love some support, ideas, or leads. THANK YOU!

I am taking Friday off since I will be in the 707, so have a great week!

Marcia Gagliardi

April 17, 2015
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Carlo Middione’s Calabrian-style lamb chops with anchovy and artichokes, at Luce. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Konnichiwa! So I have to tell you, I had another review lined up for today, but I was so fired up and excited by my dinner at Jiro SF (the guest chef sushi experience at Saison’s private chef counter) on Wednesday night that I put it aside and cranked this review out instead. When I got home late after my dinner, my mind was positively whirring, I was so inspired by it all that it was hard to fall asleep (a true sushi high). Since Jiro’s omakase sushi experience is only going to be with us until the end of May (for now), I wanted to tell you about it as soon as possible. I hope you enjoy it.

Last night was special for another reason: I was invited to attend a dinner in honor of Carlo Middione and his wife Lisa (of Vivande Porta Via fame) at Luce. It was a packed house, full of regulars and friends, some who traveled from quite far to be there. I attended with a fellow SF old-timer friend who has lived in the city as long as I have—but we met in Venice more than 24 years ago (our mutual friend used to work at Vivande).

There was a display of memorabilia from Carlo’s many years of cooking, and we were gifted one of his vintage cookbooks, which was waiting for us on our table (such a thoughtful gesture). Just when I was reminiscing about his eggplant sandwiches (one of my favorite snacks evah), a tray of them appeared, and his former right-hand man, Mark Fantino, promised to teach me how to make them (you can read a thoughtful homage to Carlo he wrote here).

The team at Luce did a stellar job preparing and serving Carlo’s recipes to that many people, from the stuffed squid to a trio of housemade tagliatelle to the Calabrian-style lamb chop with anchovies and baby artichoke hearts. The wine pairings were quite special, and I’m always happy to see some Southern Italian wines represented.

I had a chance to chat with Carlo, who said he is still working hard to get his sense of taste back, which sometimes turns on for a moment so what he’s tasting matches up in his mind of what the flavor should be. He said he has never appreciated the texture of food like he does now. He was looking great, beaming like a happy man with a roomful of friends and past regulars should.

I loved riding my bike home in the warm and still air, one of those idyllic San Francisco nights that living here for 20 years makes you appreciate all the more.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Marcia Gagliardi

April 14, 2015
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Chef Daniel Boulud plating at the Pardon My French lunch. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Why hello. Excuse me while I shake the caviar and Champagne out of my hair. No joke. Pebble Beach Food & Wine did not disappoint! It was great to return to the event after taking the last two years off.

Some highlights for me:

  • running into chef Jan Birnbaum—who is looking great—at the opening night reception on Thursday evening.

  • enjoying late-night sandwiches from Liza Shaw of Merigan Sub Shop and Justin Devillier (NOLA’s La Petite Grocery) at the after-party.

  • waking up on Friday morning to a tasting of eight Champagnes from family-owned Billecart-Salmon (it gave me a deeper and different perspective on the house—the freshness of their Champagnes is so notable, although it was also fun to taste the Brut Sous Bois, a richer style that is 100 percent oak fermented and aged for six months, which is not normally the case at Billecart).

  • watching Daniel Boulud and Dominique Crenn partner up for a fabulous lunch (“Pardon My French”) that featured an open kitchen that guests could watch while listening to French crooners in berets sing and we drank such delicious wines.

  • listening to Philip Tessier talk about the rigorous training and all the innovation that went into preparing for the Bocuse d’Or at a fascinating cooking demo—it significantly raised the appreciation for the U.S.’s first-time silver win this year, everyone in the room felt some pride at the end of the presentation.

  • experiencing Josh Ozersky’s Meatopia, which had chefs cooking with live fire on the beach (read The Dapper Diner’s interview with him for more behind-the-scenes details on the event). The weather was idyllic this past weekend, so it was a blast to hang out on the beach, get to know some visiting chefs more, and lose my mind over Zak Pelaccio’s spicy and grilled Monterey Bay spot prawns. (See, it wasn’t just steak.)

  • the tasting tent on Saturday featured the most insane display of caviar I have ever seen at an event (thank you, Black River Caviar, and I can’t believe I won a half tin of caviar to share later that day!).

  • Cosmopolitan Las Vegas always hosts the best Saturday afternoon party at the Inn at Spanish Bay by the fire pits. We had fun music, a raw oyster bar with the cute Morro Bay oyster guys, stone crab flown in from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami (!!), and caviar from California Caviar (guess who I was sitting next to), with magnums of Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Such perfect happy hour hedonism.

  • the finale event for me was the delicious Beauties and Their Beasts dinner, featuring Jenn Louis of Lincoln PDX/Sunshine Tavern (who blew my mind with her pasta dish—I can’t wait to read her upcoming cookbook, Pasta by Hand), Anita Lo of Annisa, Elizabeth Falkner, Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat, and Liza Shaw of Merigan. Go ladies!

  • I was also so fortunate to be able to stay in my friend’s aunt’s jaw-dropping Pebble Beach home that felt like a time capsule/flashback to 1961—Don and Betty Draper would have felt right at home.

Huge thanks to organizer David Bernahl and Coastal Luxury Management for throwing one of the swankiest food events—one that is a lot of fun, but also educational and inspiring. You also see so many chefs strengthening their ties, sommeliers bonding over bottles, and even us media folk getting to know each other more—it’s great community-building for all aspects of the industry.

I will include a link to my many photos from the event in our Friday issue—I want to be sure I have all the captions in!

In the meantime, here’s your monthly cheat sheet of five new places to check out!

This week, I am looking forward to this Vivande reunion dinner with Carlo Middione, and Sunday is the Meals on Wheels Star Chefs & Vintners Gala! Nope, it just doesn’t stop.

All righty then, let’s dive into today’s column.

Marcia Gagliardi

April 7, 2015
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Sampling the house-roasted espresso and house-baked goods at Hearth Coffee Roasters in the Castro. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

San Francisco, you look so pretty today. Someone had a nice bath. And my Fiat is thankful for nature’s carwash right now, which is handy, since I will be on the road on Thursday, driving down to Pebble Beach for the hedonistic Pebble Beach Food & Wine. I’m looking forward to checking out Josh Ozersky’s Meatopia, an amazing lunch with Daniel Boulud and Dominique Crenn, and of course there will be Champagne. So much talent will be in town, from all over the country and beyond. There are still some tickets remaining for various events, including the tasting tents, maybe I’ll see you in the mix? Cheers to that.

For those of you sticking around this weekend, don’t forget Sunday is Cochon 555.

Meanwhile, in the bummer news department, our city is losing yet another media outlet: The Bold Italic announced today they are ceasing operations, immediately. Oof. Commence another “Oh, shit” from all the freelancers they hired and paid (thank you)—48hills notes the site will stay up for a couple more months, so grab your clips and stories while you can. Best wishes to all the full-time staff, I hope you land some great gigs somewhere.

Yeah, it’s tough out there. Which is why I have a favor to ask of those of you who are gmail users. As you know, the tablehopper newsletter gets placed in your “promotions” folder, but a friend told me if you drag the newsletter into your primary inbox (and click “yes”), it’ll eventually show up there. Magic! It may take a few times, but thank you for playing along and helping re-up our visibility in your mailbox.

One more thing: we won’t be posting on Friday since yours truly will be out of town, so we’ll see you next week!

Thank you for all your support.
Marcia Gagliardi

April 3, 2015
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“With Wind” at the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibit. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy friends. Do you have your Easter plans lined up? Are you on Passover patrol? We have you covered with all kinds of options in our recent post.

I’m looking forward to some family time on Sunday, although this year I hear we won’t be doing capretto (baby goat). But I know someone who is: my dad’s friend Enzo—the owner of Locanda Positano and Gusto in San Carlos—posted a pic of the capretto dish they’re serving on Sunday, and it looks a lot like how our family prepares it (except no potato in ours). (Mamma mia not included.) And for further Pasqua inspiration, check out this torta pasqualina on Gianni.TV.

Today we have a catch-up post of some 707 news for you, and our bookworm from Pete Mulvihill ties in nicely with this fun fact: starting tomorrow, it’s Wild Food Week, which includes a foraging walk, special menu items featuring wild ingredients at Berkeley restaurants, and a preview meal of The Perennial here in SF, plus other events. Check it out.

I also wanted to do a little cultural reminder here: yesterday I went to the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibit, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s really a unique installation (the first art exhibit in Alcatraz), and it’s very moving. Such powerful commentary about freedom and justice. The show runs until April 26th, and Alcatraz Cruises still has some day and night passes left. If you can carve a few hours out of your schedule the next few weeks, do it.

A little pro tip for you in case you’re going to see Ai Weiwei: my chef pal Rob Lam is making an awesome French-Vietnamese dip sandwich with Snake River Farms beef that you dip into pho! It’s brilliant. You can find it at Butterfly, which is right next to the Alcatraz Cruises dock. (There’s also the Sammy’s Aloha stand, with their awesome loco moco, bao, and more.)

A couple more items for you: here’s my post on 7x7.com on four new pop-ups that have great-sounding menus, and just for fun, this Instagram feed is the funniest thing I have seen in awhile: @ChefJacquesLaMerde (ha-ha), making soigné tweezer food out of junk food, like Tostitos salsa con queso fluid gel, Doritos soil, and hay-baked Hot Pockets. I cry! It’s hilarious.

Have a great weekend everyone.
Marcia Gagliardi

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