September 3, 2014

September 3, 2014
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Mark Bright in front of his new baby. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bar (and groovy stools) at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.

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The main seating area at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.

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You’ll assuredly get a fresh pour at Les Clos. Photo courtesy of Les Clos.

Last Friday, I enjoyed a quick sneak peek of ~BRIGHT’S LES CLOS~, a wine bar, an all-day café, retail wine shop, and much more, hopefully opening around September 15th-20th, ABC permit pending. Mark Bright is well known internationally, whether you are drinking off his award-winning wine list at Saison (where he is a partner) or at the neighborhood-friendly Vinyl (he opened it with Kristopher Esqueda, the other half of their consulting partnership as Markris Wine Group), or you know him via his wine fund and brokerage, Bright Wine Fund, or you’re a client of his Cellar Master cellaring and wine management company. He’s a powerhouse of activity, connections, and deep knowledge, and it’s amazing to see how far he has come since he burst onto our local wine scene in 2004, when Rajat Parr hired him as the sommelier for Restaurant Michael Mina. Fortunately Saison is just a hop and a skip down Townsend to Les Clos, so Mark will be able to easily bounce between the two. (Well, when he’s in the country.)

Anyone who knows Mark knows how much he loves and lives for Burgundy, so it will be figuring prominently on the primarily French list (and the shelves) at Les Clos, from bottles from the ’70s to some selections you can’t find elsewhere. But you’ll also find frappato from COS (Sicily) and chardonnay from Kistler (Sonoma Coast), all available in 3-, 6- and 10-ounce pours—there will be 40 selections by the glass in all. You can order off the menu, try out a creative flight (served blind, and geared for those studying for their MS exam), or take a deep dive into the InVine list on the iPad, which will also feature some fabulous wines from Chablis, the Rhone, the Loire, and oui, Champagne. There are also five beers on tap, plus sherries, vermouths, and sake by the glass.

The GM, head sommelier, and a partner in Les Clos is Cara Patricia Higgins, who was the lead sommelier at Hakkasan. She has been running the operations of Bright Wine Fund and acting as cellar master of Saison.

Now, a big announcement about the project is that pastry chef Shawn Gawle, who has been at Saison since it was on Folsom Street, has left the restaurant and is going to be the chef of Les Clos. Some folks may not be aware his background covers both savory and sweet experiences, and lucky for us, his résumé includes L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York, so expect some amazing potatoes in SF soon. Heh. But we’ll also be enjoying some exquisite canelés, so we all win on that too.

His preview menu includes simpler dishes like oysters two different ways, charcuterie, cheese, and three different types of caviar (which they are basically breaking even on, so enjoy it), but the rest of the lunch and dinner menu features many of the classic and rustic French dishes you want ($12-$28), including frisée aux lardons, tête de cochon with gribiche and fried capers, bone marrow, moules à la provençale, roasted sweetbreads, and Parisienne gnocchi gratinée with Comté. It just makes you want to drink exquisite wine, right? What’s amazing is they aren’t even working with a full kitchen.

There will also be a fab breakfast every day, something lacking in the neighborhood (Mark lives almost across the street, so he knows), plus takeaway lunches and dinners you can heat up later. Also look for some special Humphry Slocombe flavors and sundaes, and items from Le Marais Bakery. While the place is meant to be welcoming, of course the dishes and presentations will be quality, from Heath plates to universal stem glasses by Gabriel-Glas. There’s a gorg orange La Marzocco espresso machine, with orange Le Creuset cups to match, and the coffee is from Sightglass.

The 1,200-square-foot space has two different live edge cedar bars—the farther one will be used for special education sessions and tastings—and the flat-screen TVs will show maps of Burgundy, but you might see some wine events and auctions on there too. The bar chairs look like a variation on the classic Eames lounge chair and are incredibly comfortable.

The main room has about 10 Parisian-style tables, and there’s a loungy area in the back with couches and tufted chairs, which is sure to become “sommelier corner.” You’ll see some fun lithos of the famous Willi’s Wine Bar (Mark says he came up with the name for Les Clos while he was there and drinking some Raveneau) and vintage maps, and there’s a lot of retail space in the back. On your way to a party and need a bottle chilled down asap? Boom, there’s a Wine Well Chiller. Want to show up with some caviar too? You can purchase that too (just don’t forget to call me, mmmkay?).

Whether you want to come by for a late breakfast, an afternoon glass of wine and a snack, or do it up for dinner, the all-day format will have you covered. Hours are looking like Mon-Fri 8am-12am, Sat-Sun 10am-12am. Follow along on Twitter for updates on the official opening date. 234 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-795-1422.

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Screens upon screens at The San Francisco Athletic Club. Yelp photo by Janet Z.

Football season is upon us, which means many of your favorite bars have special hours and food options to keep you cheering all Sunday long.

First up, ~ROCK BAR~ will not only be opening at 10am every Sunday starting September 7th, but they’ll also be offering delivery of brunch dishes from sister restaurant Front Porch until 2:30pm. Perhaps shrimp and grits is just the thing to get you through the morning, or maybe chicken and waffles is more your style. Either way, both go great with a Bloody Mary and some good ole American football. Some days, they just might fire up the grill in the afternoon too. 80 29th St. at Tiffany, 415-550-6664.

Downtown, ~BARTLETT HALL~ is opening at 9:30am every Saturday and Sunday for NFL and college football games. In addition to drinks from the bar, they’ve got a special brunch menu for game days, with chicken wings with fermented pepper sauce, kimchi, and bacon aioli; the Maverick burger; and lamb and potato hash with roasted garlic, spinach, pickled plum, and eggs. The brunch menu is available from 9:30am-2:30pm. 242 O’Farrell St. at Powell, 415-433-4332.

Starting Saturday September 13th, ~LA URBANA~ will be open all day for brunch and football in El Garaje, starting at 11am on Saturdays and 10am on Sundays. Sangria, cold beer, and tacos will all be on offer. Sat 11am-4pm, Sun 10am-4pm. (Also worth noting: starting September 16th, El Garaje will be hosting Taco Tuesdays all night, with street tacos for $1.75, or get two tacos and a shot of mezcal for $7. Heat seekers will want to request chef Julio’s new muy caliente salsa.)

~THE SAN FRANCISCO ATHLETIC CLUB~ is also open for every NFL game—you can check their schedule right here. Games will be shown on their huge television screens, and you can reserve a booth for large groups in advance, if you’re so inclined. During games, there will be drink specials, as well. 1750 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-923-8989.

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The latest drinks at Loló. Photo: Wes Rowe.

~LOLÓ~ has a new cocktail menu, inspired by the Lotería card game. The drinks are all named after the graphics in the game, including Las Jaras (the arrows) with gin, rosemary-infused whiskey, St. Germain, and lemon, and El Diablito (little devil) with Wahaka mezcal, Ancho Reyes, Aperol, lime, and grapefruit soda. Check out the colorful menu here.

Some liquor license activity tipped us off to some changes at Tenderloin dive bar ~HARRINGTON’S HARRY PUB~ (not to be confused with Harrington’s in the Financial District). Turns out it’s being purchased by the team behind Irish Bank. Peter Friel, one of the owners, reports that they won’t be making any major changes to the bar. They want to keep it an Irish bar, just with a few improvements to the cleanliness and the food. They haven’t taken possession of it quite yet, but once they do, more of the details will be worked out. 460 Larkin St. at Turk, 415-775-1150.

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The Trappist, ready for your sour and bitter needs. Photo from Facebook.

Fans of sour and bitter beers will be excited to check out Sour/Bitter Fest at ~THE TRAPPIST~ in Oakland. On Saturday September 6th, they’ll be taking over the parking lot with 16 beers from eight different breweries (everyone is bringing one sour and one bitter brew) and bites to pair. Participating breweries include Sante Adairius, Craftsman, Tahoe Mountain, and Rare Barrel. Restaurants including the Trappist (of course), Miss Ollie’s, Ramen Shop, and Perdition Smokehouse will be serving bites, some made with beer. The event goes from 2pm-5pm and tickets are $62 per person, including all beer and food samples, as well as a special glass commemorating the event. 460 8th St. at Broadway, Oakland, 415-238-8900.

While we’re on the topic of beer, don’t forget that Oktoberfest is approaching fast. ~MONK’S KETTLE~ is celebrating with a selection of gravity firkins from Germany, starting Saturday September 20th. Don’t forget, they’ll be closed until then, getting their new outdoor patio ready.

~SCHROEDER’S~ will be kicking off their fest on Friday September 19th from 3pm-8pm with an outdoor beer garden on Front Street. There will be special beers, along with live music from the Schwabenland German Band. The following weekends, you can also find live music inside the restaurant, along with special menu items like Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle, and pretzels. Music will be on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm-9pm until October 5th. 240 Front St. at Sacramento, 415-421-4778.

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Get serious about mezcal on Sunday September 14th at the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle at Public Works from 3pm-7pm. The event includes tastings of the spirit, from both small and large producers, along with cocktails and bites from local restaurants like La Urbana, Loló, and Sabrosa. Oh yeah, and Don Bugito will be in the house!

There will be opportunities to talk with mezcal experts and producers, along with guided tastings and some new arrivals from Mexico. Some of the speakers include Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera (he’s known at the Indiana Jones of mezcal, apparently), Graciela Angeles Carreño of Real Minero, and Cecilia Murrieta of La Niña del Mezcal. It’s all being put on by Mezcalistas and Agave Tip. Tickets are $60 per person for general admission and $100 for VIP, which gets you in early and gives you access to a special VIP area with cocktails and food. Public Works, 161 Erie St. at Mission.