January 2021

January 29, 2021
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Fifteen SF Bay Area food treasures will be inside this custom tablehopper tote bag to commemorate the hopper’s fifteenth anniversary!

Howdy, hopper readers! It’s Friday. We made it. (Some of us, just barely.) I’m so ready for happy hoppy hour.

In honor of tablehopper’s fifteenth anniversary next month (!!), I’m truly excited to launch the tablehopper thank you x 15 gift bag today! I hustled to get it all done in time for the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and it’s Black History Month! The bag contains fifteen items to celebrate and honor all these occasions—you can read about alllll the treats below! Some of these goodies are custom-made and exclusive to the gift bag, so enjoy! We’ll also be making another $10 donation per bag sold to SF New Deal.

The thank you x 15 gift bag is $225, with pick up at China Live, or delivery (in SF only) is $12. Sales end February 8th, or when it sells out. (The last bag sold out in 90 minutes, just a heads-up! But I also upped the quantity this time.) Pick up and delivery are available February 12th-14th. Email me any questions and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you for all your ongoing and steadfast support! It has been such a joy to curate another gift bag and work with all these amazing businesses and makers and restaurant industry friends. They all say THANK YOU! I say THANK YOU!

With so much gratitude,
~Marcia

January 27, 2021
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Stellar glamping bites at SuperStella Van! Succulent pieces of grilled Maine lobster that you dunk into a fermented chile broth, fondue-style. Yes, it was incredible. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, dear readers. I hope you’re keeping toasty during this cold and wet and windy AF weather. (My apartment is fuh-reeezing right now.) Yup, my column is a day late, partially due to an inability to focus and write—honestly, I have been so lethargic the past couple days. Mental malaise. Distracted. I have also been quite busy working on something exciting for you (more on that at the end of this intro!). Too much input, and it’s messing with my output. I decided I would just send this once it was done, I don’t care what day it is. And so, here we are. Hi!

I know most of us have whiplash from the abrupt announcement on Monday that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, and we have returned to the purple tier here in SF. I see my hairstylist friends praising the heavens (my roots do as well, ha), while many restaurateurs in San Francisco are scrambling to open outdoor dining once again this Thursday (or soon—the weather is pretty brutal for the next week), while East Bay and North Bay places are already reopening.

We have mostly returned to the former outdoor dining regulations (up to six per table, two households only—please respect it), but we still have a 10pm curfew in effect, so businesses will not be seating and serving as late as before. Then again, we’re all eating at grandma hours these dark winter days, am I right? Another change is that barriers between tables can no longer serve as an alternative to distancing tables six feet or more (I’m sure that messes up a number of Shared Spaces that have already been built).

After limping through the past two months with lackluster takeout numbers and no crucial holiday bump, outdoor dining offers a bit more of a glimmer of hope for survival (and it allows restaurants to hire some staff back) since our federal government continues to withhold any substantial relief or bailout for the industry, and state aid isn’t enough. If only we were further along in our vaccinations, and able to protect and fully prioritize our restaurant/foodservice workers. Did you see the news about the recent UCSF study that shares this chilling insight: “Cooks hold the most hazardous occupation among essential workers in the state, with 828 deaths?” You can read the top ten hazardous jobs in California, which the study recommends are prioritized for vaccines. We must protect our essential workers, who don’t have the luxury to work from home, they have immense fear of losing work if they get exposed or sick, and many can’t collect unemployment.

I checked in with a number of restaurant owners, and some are going to take their time reopening—and with the rainy weather over the next week, Bruce Hill of Zero Zero wants to see how things go (Bruce mentioned they may try having flexible days for their Shared Space—depending upon the weather conditions, they’d announce whether they are open or closed for outdoor dining on Instagram each day—and they will also try offering special dishes you can only get on-premise). The Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) announced Larkin Street will be open for outdoor dining and personal services starting this Thursday January 28th, SF’s first official day. El Buen Comer and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in Bernal/La Lengua will also open outdoor dining on Thursday, same goes for Palette Tea House (time to enjoy some dim sum!), while A16 will reopen this Friday. These are just a smattering of places I have seen announcements for. (Over in the East Bay, Daughter Thai Kitchen in Montclair is already open.) And then there’s The Vault Garden in SF, which had already planned celebration dinners for the first weekend in February before the stay-at-home order was lifted—partner Ryan Cole is always looking ahead. (They’re also launching Tits Up—A Drag Brunch with Bobby Friday & Friends Sat-Sun.) Others are waiting to get to February and will see how things are going, like Yuka Ioroi at Cassava. It’s such a rollercoaster. I’ll be posting updates on my @tablehopper Instagram Highlights when I can (but I can’t post every reopening, I will lose what’s left of my mind).

I know many of us are questioning the safety of returning to outdoor dining and gathering when we are just barely out of the ICU capacity woods, along with this pernicious California variant in our midst. My mind has been spinning over all the ramifications, positive and negative, of what reopening entails. I was grateful to be part of an impromptu forum on Clubhouse Monday night (thanks for having me, Maggie of 86Fund!) to talk through some of our shared thoughts and concerns.

While it’s important to want to support restaurants and show up for them, we need to do it in the right way, and that’s by heeding the guidelines and keeping each other safe (namely, keeping our mask on when we aren’t actively taking a bite or drink, and limiting the mix of households to two or less)—otherwise, we’re going to return to another rollback and lockdown, and further compromise the future of our restaurants. They can’t keep closing and reopening—they lose so much money with each fluctuation, and their poor staffs are greatly affected by each change. Yet again, it’s up to us.

I already noted comments on Instagram by people excited to get together for bottomless mimosa brunches with the gang, and that’s exactly the behavior that will turn Grant Avenue in North Beach back into Covid Alley, the Valencia Street party into Virus HQ, and the Marina into the Pandemic Playhouse. Please don’t. I certainly agree it’s better to sit outside with a pod-mate over a glass of wine or meal than inside someone’s apartment, but don’t make it a posse. I know, we all miss each other so much—I have barely seen anyone the past two months. Please keep each other and our beleaguered service industry as safe as possible. Sigh. (And I wonder why I’m tired?)

In sunnier news, this past weekend, I was beyond thrilled to have an epic sunshine Saturday up at William Tell House in Tomales for their seventh annual crab feed, which they turned into a socially distant tailgate! Genius. And for those of you who were jealous of my pictures, you’ll be happy to know they’re hosting another crab tailgate on Saturday February 13th, which is also a fundraiser for the Golden Gate Salmon Association! Get your ticket here!

I also had such a special private dining experience last week (on Inauguration night!) at chef Anthony Strong’s new SuperStella catering van! You gotta check out my pics of what is one of the coolest tables (and glamping dining experiences) in town. He’s such an incredible chef, and certainly one of our most innovative. Don’t miss it.

So, I’m happy to announce I’ve been busy putting together another tablehopper restaurant gift bag, this time to celebrate tablehopper’s 15th anniversary next month! That’s right, yours truly is having her quinceañera! (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?) It’s also the Lunar New Year, and Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month, so this bag is going to be full of many celebratory treasures, from Lunar New Year chocolates from Socola, to truffle XO sauce from Lily, to blue and red tortilla chips from La Palma (hopper colors!). I’m so fired up to share the entire lineup ready for you, stand by for an email hopefully tomorrow. The bag will be ready for pickup from China Live (or delivery) February 12th-14th, so you’ll have it in time for all the celebrations that weekend. It will be much better than a dozen red roses, let me tell you. Thanks again for all your support!

Now, since we’re stuck inside for the next couple days with this rain, order some takeout and here are some movies I’ve been enthralled with: “Small Axe” on Amazon (this anthology has the best films I saw last year, simply incredible), “White Tiger” on Netflix is really well done, and if you want a good laugh at the end of the night, “History of Swear Words” with Nicolas Cage on Netflix has had me guffawing, it’s light and fun! Just what we need.

More soon! Mwah!
Marcia Gagliardi

January 12, 2021
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Thanks to Club Feast, I was stress-eating in style on Friday night with my Krispy Krunchy Chicken order, oh yes I did. (Don’t forget some TRUFF hot sauce for the mac and cheese.) Pre-order and set up your Friday night to do it right! (Just be sure to warm up the chicken a little before you dig in.) Cannabis cocktail not pictured, but also highly recommended. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hi, friends. Happy 2021, whatever that means. (Are we there yet?) How are you? I know many of us are feeling exhausted, shocked, aghast, and angry, and others are numb and completely maxed out from the past week of news, which keeps unfolding every hour with new updates. It’s a lot. (Let me know if you need any low-dose cannabis suggestions to help unwind or sleep or just try to deal!)

I laugh when I think of my plans to take this past week off as a time to focus on a couple of my new business projects and plans. Ha! Yeah, that happened. I will try again. Who can even focus on one thing for more than a few minutes right now? (Except Bridgerton, I had no problem focusing on THAT. And all my remaining holiday treats, they have been getting a lot of attention, too.) I don’t even want to look at my screen time stats this past week—all Twitter, all the time. (Also, thanks to Twitter, I was in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend, and it had nothing to do with food!)

Just before the New Year, I was actually able to focus long enough to write an article: the annual bore, which I transformed into the more this year, with ten things I want to see more of in 2021. Thanks to all of you who wrote back with your comments and feedback.

Timing has been tricky this past month for posting the final season episode of On the Fly with Charles Chen of Basuku Cheesecakes, but between the closure of outdoor dining and holiday madness and an attempted coup, it seems like a moment finally arrived, and the episode is now live. I hope you enjoy taking a break to listen to our conversation—it’s a fascinating look into all the hustle and adjustments that go into launching a successful pop-up (SO MUCH WORK), and Charles has such an interesting background in the culinary world, one that spans Hakkasan, Tartine Manufactory, Stonemill Matcha, and Maum. Also, he’s launching a passionfruit version of the cheesecake soon—you’re going to want one.

I don’t know when we’re going to pick up the podcast again—I need to focus on paying the bills for now, so thanks for all your support for this storytelling venture (especially to producer extraordinaire Lola Yen, who I am going to miss working with!). We banged out 22 episodes! There are so many more people I’d like to speak with, and stories that need to be told, so we’ll see what happens next. In the meantime, I’m so grateful to the Mercury News and Bay Area Newsgroup for this recent inclusion in their piece, 9 best food, wine and spirits podcasts to listen to in 2021. Such a nice way to wrap up the season, awww. Oh, and seeing this 48 Hills piece honoring chef Joanna Karlinsky for all her efforts to feed the unhoused during the pandemic, this also made me so happy.

Speaking of seasons: holy crab, it’s finally CRAB SEASON! Boats are out, pots are in the water, and we should start seeing Dungeness crabs Thursday and Friday. At last, some good news. If you don’t have a regular local crab source, here are some quick ideas: I always love supporting “the girls” at Alioto-Lazio Fish Company on the Wharf; of course, you can call the guys at Swan Oyster Depot; there’s Sun Fat in the Mission; the new Billingsgate in Noe Valley (read more in today’s tablehopper); and there are online ordering options like Water2table Fish Company. Many small/quality grocery stores carry local Dungeness, too. And you can head up to William Tell House in Tomales this Saturday for a crab tailgate—it’s always a feast. Enjoy! I was lucky to get a few crabs from a friend with a recreational license back in November, here’s the annual recipe/dish I like to make. Get pickin’!

Now that the holiday feed bag has been taken off, I’m posting about some new dish discoveries on the Club Feast platform on @tablehopper on Instagram. They have kindly sponsored me to choose my Club Feast Pick of the Month, like last month’s fantastic Hummus Bodega falafel pita, so stand by for what’s gonna be this month’s feast! (The Krispy Krunchy Chicken dinner pictured above is definitely a finalist, heh heh.) Try Club Feast for your first time and get $20 off with code HOPPER20 (which also puts $20 in my pocket, so thanks in advance). You’ll find a variety of tasty lunch and dinner dishes to pre-order and have them delivered for less than $10! Thanks for checking it out, and thanks to Club Feast for their sponsorship.

Take care, friends. Keep on truckin’.
Marcia Gagliardi

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