March 2020

March 25, 2020
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The extraordinarily delicious miso ramen I had delivered from Kirimachi. Read more about their ramen kits in my post on Instagram. Four servings for $40! #supportsmallbusiness Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, friends. How are you doing? I’m sure each of you has a different answer. Sending love and best wishes and I hope you’re getting support from your community. Now is the time to ask for any help—there are a lot of people offering time, support, services, money, food, resources, and even just listening (since we can’t hug right now). And if you have anything to give, it’s all so appreciated. Keep on looking out for each other.

I’ve been blown away with the outpouring of support from the restaurant community, with many individual businesses rallying and raising funds to feed healthcare workers right now, like Escape from New York Pizza, Le Marais, Square Pie Guys, Esposto’s, Andytown (you can buy coffee, pastries, wellness shots from Happy Moose, and Nana Joe’s granola bars for local hospitals and senior care facilities). Plus, if you’re a hospital worker, places like The Melt and Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley will feed you if you show your badge. Please click the links to learn how to support these businesses in their efforts!

Restaurants have been signing up for the SF Clinicians Meal Support Restaurant Program to feed hospital staff, and there are also resources like the newly launched Feed The Line, where people can donate to pay restaurants to make food for overworked healthcare professionals. It’s a win-win: 100 percent of proceeds go to local restaurants, and the food they prepare goes to doctors and nurses. Contribute or sign up! Same goes for Feed the Frontlines, which includes charities. I was also happy to read this article about authors Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon donating and privately raising money to feed healthcare workers with food from East Bay restaurants. Keep it up!

There are also many programs and generous restaurants doing all they can to feed the community. You can support Bistro SF in their affordable meal plan, Horn Barbecue is raising money to feed the community (they launched their first free meal today outside of their Oakland restaurant), Tacos El Patrón is offering food and grocery boxes to anyone in need, and sister companies Mixt and Split have pay-what-you-can and pay-it-forward meals.

Up in Sonoma, Single Thread is offering a daily menu for pickup, and working in partnership with @sonomafamilymeal and Corazon Healdsburg to produce 200 meals a day from their kitchen for local families in need. Order and contribute on their Tock page. Che Fico keeps chugging along with their awesome family meal, now feeding up to 250 people for free nightly (you can donate, or order a meal and pay for it in support of their efforts).

And if you’re a restaurant/bar/service industry worker experiencing hardship, here’s a list of many resources to help you.

I’ve been posting about all these programs on @tablehopper on Instagram in my Stories as I hear about them, and archiving them in my Highlights. Please follow along to keep up and support these businesses, as well as the restaurants fighting to stay open by offering takeout, delivery, and now cocktails.

I also want to point you to the many ideas in this James Beard Foundation newsletter on how you can help save restaurants. Speaking of, here’s a petition for you to sign called Save Restaurants, thank you.

And last but definitely not least, if there is any way you can please help La Cocina support their many businesses, it would help more people than you can imagine (starting with their families). First, here’s a list of all their restaurants that have pivoted to takeout/delivery, linking to their GoFundMe pages, gift certificates, and more. La Cocina has also established the La Cocina Emergency Relief Fund to provide much-needed and most immediate financial support to their entrepreneurs.

Launching Friday March 27th, is the La Cocina Community Food Box, with prepared foods from ten La Cocina restaurants in one box (each restaurant is providing an item that is about 2-4 servings). 100 percent of total sales go directly to the businesses. They’re planning for a twice-weekly pick-up. The first box has sold out (awesome!), but please subscribe to La Cocina for updates on the next sale (scroll to the bottom of the web page) and keep an eye on their shop. 

If you can find a moment to read this op-ed by José Andrés, you’ll be inspired and ready to support this man in any way you can.

And now, I have a request. I’m really running out of bandwidth over here, and some of you kindly offered to help me last week, which I really appreciate, so very much! (Huge thanks again to Sean Timberlake for proofreading my column today!)

I’m now looking for someone to help me write and launch a petition on behalf of the restaurant industry. If you have experience in this realm (marketing, PR, outreach, policy) and some spare time to help, I’d love to hear from you. I’m also going to need someone to help create some graphics. Thank you, angels!

Sending love and support and remote hugs. Be well, be kind, and try to rest well and get some good sleep. We need you healthy and strong—this is a marathon.

Love,
~Marcia

March 20, 2020
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I didn’t know it at the time, but my last meal out was an extra-special one at the counter of The Bump Bar by California Caviar. I so look forward to being able to see a server’s smiling face like this again. It’s definitely not the case right now. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello my friends. It’s so hard to be writing to you in such desperate, heart-breaking times. It’s mind-blowingly awful out there (so many boarded-up businesses, it’s really hard to see); there is so much loss and fear and sadness and struggle across the board, but I keep seeing such resilience, strength, spunk, community spirit, creativity, generosity, heart, and soul, and it counts for so much. It’s what will get us through.

I’ve been wanting to write to you all this week, but things keep changing by the hour. I just had to say “TIME!” and send this off. These posts will be updated on tablehopper.com as things happen, and I will try to write to you again real soon with more updates. Let’s just say I’m hearing about things that are in the works.

I’ve been posting a bunch of updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, so please follow along there for the latest.

I’m going to keep this intro short because I just need to hit send and take a break from this computer. And exploding inboxes.

You are all in my thoughts. I love you. Be safe. Stay home. Take care of each other. Look out for those who need our help the most. Check in on your service industry friends, they really need us to take care of them for a change.

With love,
~Marcia

March 12, 2020
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The amazing Szechuan poached fish (flounder) in flaming chili oil at Chili House. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hi. Sorry this is a couple days late, but to be honest, someone has been a little distracted lately. I also had to unexpectedly spend my Tuesday at the Fiat dealership waiting for my little brat of a car to get fixed (Fix It Again Tony, it’s the truth). Let’s just say it was not the most conducive environment for writing and editing and making calls with some pretty horrid music blaring in the showroom all day. I’m glad I was able to fix my mood with some quesabeeria—that would be my neologism for the three quesabirria tacos and a couple beers I tucked into at Harmonic Brewing on my way home (by the way, the La Santa Torta truck will be parked there again on Sunday 2pm-7pm).

So, how y’all doing? My gawdess, what crazy times. I know we’re all consuming the news voraciously, watching numerous coronavirus-related event cancellations and postponements flood into our inboxes (my B2B weed event in Palm Springs went up in smoke, and I’m currently saying a sad “arrivederci” to my trip to Italy in May for now—povera Italia, we’re thinking of you!). Off the Grid has canceled their Fort Mason and Lake Merritt gatherings for the next two weeks. I’m sorry to report one of our fab sponsors has decided to cancel their event at the end of the month: the California Artisan Cheese Festival. Thank you to everyone making the hard decisions right now and looking out for our health.

We’re mulling over a million questions, wondering what’s safe (“Should I go to my friend’s house for dinner this Saturday?” “Should I cook tonight, or just order delivery?” “Should I skip going to the movies?” “Do I hug my children?”). (For that last question, to be clear, the answer is “yes.”) We all have our own levels of risk assessment of potential exposure—some of my friends have become complete shut-ins, while I’m still dining out and (mostly) doing the things I normally do, from grabbing an espresso to grocery shopping. Just no parties and clubs for me right now, and I am so sorry about it—I’m thinking of all the promoters and entertainers and venues who are hurting right now, damn. Keep up on the latest recommendations from the SF Department of Health here.

But one thing is becoming absolutely clear: practically every business is being impacted by coronavirus, from your yoga studio to your tech job to your favorite bar, and our beloved restaurants are especially taking a hit right now. (They have already been struggling under so much adversity and a harsh business environment lately.)

All the canceled reservations, office catering gigs, events, and empty seats—it’s dire. I’m seeing restaurant friends report earnings are down 40 percent, 50 percent—some more (ugh), others less. Tacolicious shares their events are 80 percent down, delivery is 35 percent down, with dining room sales dropping. Many are already in a state of survival mode. Fortunately, there’s some help arising: according to the SF Business Times, “San Francisco will defer business taxes and licensing fees and launch a relief fund,” offering $10,000 grants to “up to 100 businesses who can show a loss of revenue due to the virus’ outbreak or compliance with the city’s emergency guidelines.” If you’re a small business, read this article.

My inbox is churning with newsletters from restaurants, bars, cafés, grocery stores, and cannabis dispensaries sharing their cleanliness standards, explaining what their ServSafe certification means, their new and added sanitation practices, their dedication to your health and wellness. I haven’t had someone point an instant-read thermometer at my forehead yet, but I’m ready.

Other changes are happening, like more restaurants offering delivery, and Lord Stanley is now offering take-out (they’re also doing Cassoulet Mondays, jus’ sayin’). Ideale in North Beach is even offering to deliver your order for free if you live within a half-mile of the restaurant. The Plumed Horse in Saratoga has eliminated half of their dining tables to allow for a minimum distance of 6 feet per table (36 tables down to 15) and all interactions with guests will be conducted by staff in gloves. (Most importantly, all sick staff will receive full shift pay—it’s such an important policy to make sure anyone who feels sick can stay home. Kudos to all the service industry businesses who already have this policy, or are adding it right now.)

And then you read someone tested positive for Covid-19 who was an employee of Brex’s South Park Café but didn’t exhibit signs of illness (or prepare food, to be clear); the owners decided to close the café for now, and all employees are being tested. I’m sorry for the infection and the scare; it’s the last thing we want to see happening—to anyone, anywhere—but I’ll just say it’s worth noting that of all the possible restaurants where this could have happened, this it where it went down. Yup, a café owned by a credit card startup (valued at $2.6 billion) in the heart of SF’s original media and tech and now VC neighborhood. And in New York, Danny Meyer shut down his restaurant The Modern for a deep clean after a diner tested positive for Covid-19: the executive director of the Port Authority. Eep. It can happen anywhere.

Which leads me to my next point: the amount of coronavirus-inspired xenophobia and/or racism afflicting our city’s (country’s!) Chinese neighborhoods and restaurants right now is distressing, which is coupled with a precipitous drop in tourism. So many Chinatown restaurants are empty. I’m happy to see local tour company Avital Tours rise to the occasion to provide a three-hour, self-guided, San Francisco Chinatown food tour to highlight Chinese cuisine and culture—take a look.

Yesterday, I changed my lunch meeting destination so we could go eat in a Chinese restaurant instead (Chili House on Clement for the win, forever and ever). It’s important to show up in any way you can. I’ve been thinking about hosting a tablehopper night in Chinatown, and getting a small group together to go dine in a few places, a true tablehopping night. I’m mulling over here. For now, I will stand by for updates from the SFDPH and give it a few weeks, since we really need to hold on any gatherings and events for now.

It’s so hard to determine what is actually safe, and of course we want to diminish our exposure to this virus, and inadvertently spreading it. There are so many unknowns. But I do know we need to keep an eye out for our local businesses and individuals who are suffering extreme and sudden hardships right now. Do you know anyone who works in the service industry? Check in on them. Do what you can do, tip as much as you can, ask your favorite businesses how you can help. Don’t want to go out right now? Here’s my idea: buy a gift card to use later!

Order some take-out. Even the much-maligned delivery—at this point, anything helps. (Here’s my Caviar code for $10 off your first two deliveries; here’s Postmates). If you are all about cooking right now, here’s a discount on grocery delivery from the awesome Good Eggs and Imperfect Foods.

I’m just so grateful I was able to host our raucous and over-the-top preview dinner at Lily for tablehopper’s 14th birthday with Champagne Henriot and Tsar Nicoulai caviar a couple weeks ago before it was recommended that events be postponed. We had such an amazing feast together. Chef Rob Lam absolutely crushed us with delicious, check out some pics here. Tsar Nicoulai Reserve caviar on crispy chicken skin, I’m just sayin’. And the cuvées we tasted? Faboosh. (The Henriot Brut Millésime 2008, so gorgeous.) But guess what? Lily has decided to postpone their March opening since it’s really not an ideal time to open a restaurant right now. I’ll keep you posted.

I was also happy to see so many of you at Oregon Wine Trail last Wednesday, what a quality event! So many discoveries, and they absolutely stuffed us with snacks. You can still show your OWT ticket at Local Kitchen in SoMa for a free glass of Oregon wine with the purchase of any main or pizza for the month of March! Stay healthy with chef Nora’s soto ayam (chicken noodle soup).

I’ve been on a bit of a taco tear (again), check out my Insta for some inspiration on where to go next (unless you feel sick—in that case, please stay the eff home). Stay strong and sanitize on! And listen to nonna. Always.

Best wishes, thinking of all of you. To your health.
Marcia Gagliardi

(This post has been updated for clarity.)

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