What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
April 27, 2021
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The annual wisteria show in SF never ceases to delight. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy, gang. Or perhaps I should say, “High!” Some of you may have noticed I didn’t hop into your inboxes last week—boss of me decided to take last Tuesday off and celebrate 420 instead. Yeah, it’s a high holiday! I was invited to a private party at Sonoma Hills Farm in the Petaluma Gap, and it was a joy to be surrounded by the springtime green hills while dining on an incredible lunch prepared by Kim Alter (Nightbird) and her talented team. It was seriously the farm buffet of my dreams, with so many vegetable dishes, lamb chops and braised lamb, polenta from the farm, lamb liver tacos…and then, of course, a day smoking some of my favorite cannabis flower with some of the finest folks in the cannabiz. What a wonderful reunion. (I was not the only one on cloud nine.)

I’m also so excited that Chopped 420 came out on 4/20 on Discovery+—it’s the show I worked on earlier this year as a cannabis consultant! Watch two local chefs—Victor Aguilera of Arepas en Bici and Solomon Johnson of the Bussdown in Oakland—compete on this entirely new cannabis cooking show (you can read more about their participation in this SFGate piece).

Restaurant owners: the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant program will begin accepting applications Monday May 3rd (12pm ET). Make sure all your paperwork is ready! To prepare to apply, please visit restaurants.sba.gov this Friday April 30th after 9am ET to create your account. (Try to register on Friday and download the latest forms, and submit your application on Monday.) Visit saverestaurants.com for more, and here’s an update from the National Restaurant Association. Relief is finally on the way (for those who made it this far).

Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday May 9th, and there are a bunch of tasty options, from dining out to takeout feasts. I have a Mother’s Day highlight going on my Instagram feed (I will be updating it often), and here’s another idea: buy a ticket to take Mom up to Nick’s Cove for a special brunch celebrating their new cookbook, Table with a View! (Tickets include a cookbook.) Upcoming dates are May 23rd, June 27th, July 25th, and August 22nd.

So, I am about to embark on an absolutely huge project this week: I’m painting my apartment! As someone who lives in a studio, this is a logistical beast. Let’s just say I’ll be excited when this is all done, but for the next week, my life is about to get pretty chaotic. I’m going to be down the rabbit hole (or should I say deep in the paint can), so I am signing off! I have a bunch of catch-up news and updates for you in the meantime, please enjoy this week’s column.

Ciao for now!
Marcia Gagliardi

April 6, 2021
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Fully feeling uplifting, “we’re back, baby!” vibes during a recent meal at the new Californios. “Smising” so damn hard.

Hello hello! For those of you who celebrate Holi and Nowruz and Passover and Easter, I hope your recent celebrations have been sweet. This past Sunday’s Easter gathering with vaccinated (!!) family members was especially poignant (I was also looking forward to our family lasagna and roasted capretto and pastiera napoletana from Rulli all week!).

And last week’s sunny weather definitely put spring into my step (dinner on the outdoor patio at Prubechu was purr-fect, file that one on your to-do list!). We’re seeing a bunch of places come out of hibernation with the 50-percent indoor seating allowance, announcing their fully vaccinated staff (yes!), and everyone I know is trying to hire managers and cooks and servers. The hospitality industry is finally able to get off its knees and try standing—a bit shakily, but let’s be there to help steady their stride.

Personally, I felt a huge shift when I dined at Californios a couple weeks ago on their gorgeous new patio—it was such a special (and moving) experience, and definitely heralds a return to visionary and transportive dining, and elevated hospitality. I mean, the dessert course is a rainbow! I floated out of there with a huge smile on my face. You can read more in today’s preview piece.

SF Restaurant Week is returning for a spring run, starting this Friday April 9th through Sunday April 18th. Over 150 participating restaurants will be offering prix-fixe menus for lunch (two-plus courses set at $10, $15, or $25) and dinner (three-plus courses set at $25, $45, or $60). (The La Cocina Municipal Marketplace is now open and taking part, by the way!) AND we have a fun giveaway for you in today’s column: two dinners for two from participating restaurants China Live and Wayfare Tavern!

Next Monday April 12th, is a virtual presentation of the 12th annual TASTE AWARDS, and I am so honored to be named a Special Achievement Award Winner (for the Food Champion Award) for my work with tablehopper and the On the Fly podcast (we did it, Lola!). Meowza! You can tune in at 5:30pm on Facebook and the TASTE AWARDS website (you can set a reminder here). Watch it and see who wins for the most exciting and creative food, fashion, and lifestyle programs, videos, films, series, podcasts, and radio.

I have been on a documentary deep dive over here (those of you who follow me on Twitter have seen my updates). If you’d like some recos on some cool things to watch, I have thoroughly enjoyed The Glorias (an experimental biopic about Gloria Steinem); Everybody Street blew my mind watching street photographers in New York do their thang (nerves of steel, I swear); the recent Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones (this story is beyond tragic—that case needs to be reopened); and I loved watching Westwood about the iconic and punky designer, Vivienne Westwood. Film buffs can’t miss Hal, a portrait of visionary stoner-director Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Shampoo) and his fight to make art while the studios just wanted to make money (typical). (I’m also so proud of my friend who was a producer of this film!) Oh, and Audrey on Netflix ended up dissolving me into a complete puddle of tears at the end. What a lovely tribute to the iconic Audrey Hepburn. That woman had the sweetest heart of gold—if only more people in Hollywood dedicated themselves to charity like she did, using her fame for so much good.

I hope you have a swell week. Some quick ideas on how to make it so: order some food from the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace (like this stellar sandwich!), Cambodian chicken wings from Shlap Muan, Indonesian dishes from Kirimachi, and drive out for Vinny’s Gabagool at Long Bridge Pizza in Dogpatch for lunch! Who loves you?

Buon appetito!
Marcia Gagliardi

March 23, 2021
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Yup, another pic of Fortuna. Ha-ha! But seriously, nothing was as cute as Miss Von Chonk giving me a look to hurry up and finish this column so we can get back to mouse fishing. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, friends. I hope you have been hanging in there after a really rough week of news—the horrific violence has really been a lot to process. Sending love and solidarity and continued support to our beloved AAPI community. I will continue to post resources, fundraisers, and organizations to support on my social media accounts with ways to help and show up—feel free to tag me on anything that could use some boost. Please look out for each other and take good care.

Spring is here, and San Francisco has moved into the orange tier this Wednesday March 24th. Starting at 8am tomorrow, SF will allow indoor dining to resume at 50 percent capacity (not to exceed 200), and tables will be limited to six guests (from three households max). Also: bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries that don’t serve food can open for outdoor, seated table service. This post from the GGRA has additional guidelines; stand by for more from the City. We keep getting closer to me not needing to play I Miss My Bar.

Since the SkyStar Wheel is back in action in Golden Gate Park, I wanted to point you to this piece I wrote: Seven Neighborhood Spots Where You Can Grab a Tasty Bite Nearby. Whether you’re picking up a sandwich before your ride, or a glass of wine and a bite with your date after, I have some ideas for you.

Some bright news: the ad hoc Save The Cliff House Collection team managed to raise enough money to save a number of historic Cliff House pieces and memorabilia from being bought by private collectors at an auction a couple weeks ago, so the public can enjoy them in the future! Huzzah! Read more in this KQED piece.

A big “merci!” to the previous issue’s sponsor, Smiirl, who gave away three of their clever social media Counters to SF businesses. They want to celebrate the reopening of our favorite food businesses in the Bay Area by offering tablehopper followers a nice coupon code: use code TABLEHOPPER at smiirl.com to get 20 percent off your own Counter!

This week’s sponsor is something you can eat and share! Check out the Family Meal giveaway from Cassava, designed for you to invite a couple friends to enjoy a three-course meal with you, in person or virtually, with pairings! Tag your friends to enter to win the feast!

I also want to do a mention of the most charming, heartfelt film I just watched last week: The Truffle Hunters. Take a trip to the forests of Piemonte, where you will meet the most eccentric characters, and witness their unique relationships with their beloved hunting dogs. The cinematography and original music are so beautiful, and there are a number of things to meditate on while watching: man’s relationship to nature, greed, aging, and the magic of dogs and animal companions. It’s a wonderful escape into a rarely seen world. It opens March 26th at Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco and AMC Saratoga 14.

So you know that canna-culinary TV show I went to the desert to go work on for a week as a cannabis consultant? Well, the cat is outta the bag: the show is Chopped 420, debuting on Discovery Plus on 4/20! And there’s some Bay Area talent appearing on the show! Can’t wait to watch it. Maybe you’ll see me with my clipboard, LOL.

Can you believe it’s already the end of March? I’m starting to post some Passover and Easter options on my Instagram Highlights in case you’re looking for matzo and colomba di Pasqua and other holiday treats.

Hop hop.
Marcia Gagliardi