table of contents   This week's tablehopper: tactics for keepin' toasty.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the bookworm
another place for your nose
 

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Whaddya know, more rain. Perfect time for you to dig into some harira soup at Tajine (in fresh meat), warm up with a cocktail at Andalu (in the lush), or cuddle up in bed with a book (in the latest section to join tablehopper, the bookworm).

Cheers and ciao!
~Marcia
 

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO After five months or so at ~BAR TARTINE~, it ends up executive chef Andy Kitko has left—the classic explanation of "creative differences" was stated. Taking over the helm is Tracy McGillis (YAY, a female chef—can we please see more of these?) who hails from Incanto and Boulette's Larder. McGillis also brought along her sous chef from Incanto, Kimmy Walker. The menu is reportedly showcasing more rustic touches and incorporating that famous Tartine bread, like marrow and toast; I look forward to checking it out.

And just across the street, ~RANGE~ recently hired a new pastry chef, Michelle Polzine. She's worked all over town, but a few highlights are Delfina for a couple years, Bacar, and an internship at Chez Panisse.

One of the partners of downtown's ~BLUPOINTE RAW BAR~ has left, selling his share to the other two partners. I can't seem to get a call back, but according to their website they are making some changes, adding fusion tapas to the raw bar format and no longer serving lunch (just dinner). Will let you know if I hear from them.

Folks living in SoMa near the ballpark will be fired up on the impending sushi place that's being constructed: according to a sign, it's called ~NAMA SUSHI~, at 227 King St. It's still heavy with the dust and buzz-saws, but I'll keep you posted on when it looks like it's closer to opening.

Another sushi place slated to open will be in the old MarketPlace Café space at 2353 Lombard St. in the Marina (no name yet). The owner, Eiichi Mochizuki, also owns the sleek SHABUWAY in San Mateo and #2 in Mountain View. Although this location won't have shabu shabu—it's a much bigger place (100-120 seats) and will be more of a classic Japanese sushi restaurant, so expect lots of wood and bamboo. The sushi chef hails from Osaka, and will hopefully be serving up some toro by June 1.

One very proud opening is ~FRA'MANI~, Paul Bertolli's new salumi business. I had the pleasure of sampling some Fra'Mani salumi last week at a Commonwealth Club event called "Pig Heaven," and all I can say is I was in hog heaven. For now, you can buy two kinds of Fra'Mani's fresh Italian sausage (made with Niman pork, and they are reportedly rough-cut, juicy, and perfect for grilling) at the Cowgirl Creamery up in Point Reyes, who will be acting as a wholesale division, selling the product line to restaurant chefs. But it'll be three weeks or so until the salumi start to arrive. By May 1, expect to find the cured meats at Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building, and in good markets like Whole Foods, and on restaurant menus. My summer picnics just got a whole lot meatier.

Here's an update on the ~SALT HOUSE~ project, the latest from the gents at Town Hall, Doug Washington, and brother-chefs Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal, also of Postrio. Come June, this contemporary tavern will be a casual (and I imagine lively) destination for their trademark creative and flavorful food. They're currently working on a hamburger on a homemade pretzel bun with sea salt and black sesame seeds—let's see if it makes it to the menu. They're also considering adding putin/poutine to the menu, a French-Canadian dish of fries with a thin gravy and cheese (Doug should be pleased). And on the lighter side, there is also the intention to have some raw fish on the menu. All in all, it's going to be a cozy place: 65 seats in a former printing press with wood floors and brick walls, with Sheri Sheridan of Swallowtail assisting on the design. 545 Mission St. (between First and Second streets).

And now, a few closings. Looks like ~BAKU DE THAI~, on the cursed corner of 15th and Valencia and home of the impossibly cheap prix-fixe menu ($12.95) and impossibly long menu, has closed. Also heard ~PICCADILLY FISH & CHIPS~ (1348 Polk St.) has closed due to a fire. (Thanks to "The Finicky Lawyer" for the tip!) Looks like Old Chelsea further downstream at 932 Larkin St. will be picking up the overflow.

 

Tajine
552 Jones St.
Cross: Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

415-440-1718

11am-11pm Tue-Sun

Apps $3.50-$6.75
Entrées $6.95-$11.95
Dessert $2.75

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I try to make my life a study of hi-lo as much as possible. Nothing quite like doing a posh champagne tasting at the Ritz, followed up by a drink down the street at the Tunnel Top and then an emergency quesadilla. Or oysters at Zuni Café with the 'mos and then beers on the Zeitgeist patio with the dogs on a rare sunny Sunday. Hi-lo, baby. A few weeks back I had dinner at Cortez one night and La Folie on another, with a humble but delicious dinner at ~TAJINE~ sandwiched right in the middle. Tajine is actually right around the corner from Cortez, on Jones Street, but it's seriously another world. Man, Jones Street is like zombie headquarters. (Just so you know what you're getting into here.)

This Moroccan place is truly the picture of a hole-in-the-wall, and probably seats eleven people max. There's a little niche to the right that feels a touch cozier with some pillows, or there's a row of two-tops that flank the open kitchen. Chef Mohamed Ghaleb will probably grin at you when you walk in, silently congratulating you for making it past the nondescript and dingy exterior, and his pal might be helping out as host. The friendly Mohamed was previously behind the wheel of a cab and driving for a car service company, but is now fulfilling his dream, which is cooking up some killer couscous and kebabs. Lucky us.

First up, warm yourself up with the harira soup ($3.50), a flavorful lentil soup chock-full of spices. Hearty. Homey. Especially delish with the fresh sesame-studded bread (khobz) that arrives at the table (complimentary, because that's how they are).

We fully attacked the classic chicken bastilla ($6.75), layers of flaky phyllo dough stuffed with chicken, almonds, and egg, and then dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Ours arrived with a whimsical tic-tac-toe design on top. Everyone wins, because it's scrumptious. (There's also a vegetarian version offered.)

There are specials offered each night—we dug into a flavorful stew-like dish of white beans with chunks of Merguez sausage. Another dish we tried was the lamb couscous ($8.50), a savory blend of winter vegetables and fall-off-the-bone lamb on a bed of fluffy couscous. It's not spicy, but chock full of flavor. Actually, all the food is. Oh, and all the meats are Halal (which means permissible under Islamic law).

Speaking of what's permissible, there is no booze offered, but you can BYOB (no corkage). We brought some wine, or there's the liquor store next door. Tajine is also open for lunch, with an array of sandwiches like lamb, chicken, or kufta kebab, and of course, more of that Merguez sausage. All sandwiches come with fries and shalada (tomatoes, onion, and garlic sautéed in olive oil) for $6.95. Score.

For dessert, we ordered a pot of hot and sweet mint tea with our shpakia ($2.75), a sticky and sweet pastry soaked in honey with almond and sesame seeds. My favorite touch: our hands were sprinkled with rosewater before returning to the gritty outside.

So, the ambiance. What can I say, it's real. No frills, baby. The TV had a variety show on, so there was our music. Neighborhood couples happily dig into the tajines (there are two), pals of Mohamed swing by to say hi, and by the end of dinner, you'll be a pal too. It's a swell destination if you're in a "I don't feel like cooking/I'm feeling exploratory/I don't want to spend a lot of cash" mood. Dinner came to $32, with enough leftovers for lunch for two the next day. Since Tajine is cash only, we easily paid up our bill with two yuppie food stamps, done. Next, a Merguez sausage sandwich for lunch. I'll report back.

NOTE: I just found out Mohamed is closing Tajine for one week, doing a small remodel of the seating and the counter, and should be open again on Monday, April 3.

 

Andalu
3198 16th St
At Guerrero
415-621-2211

website

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This is definitely good news for you (fellow) boozehounds: ~ANDALU~ in the Mission has added a full bar. As if their wine list with something like 40 wines available by the glass wasn't enough. Well, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you want some Jack Daniels. Especially if you're me. Speaking of, Jack is one of their well pours, along with Svedka vodka, Bombay Sapphire, Bacardi, Bacardi Limon, and Herradura. (No scary vodkas with eagles on them here.) Their house cocktail list launches this week, and the kitchen will be staying open later on weekends, serving until 12:30am on Friday and Saturday. I'll see you at a Taco Tuesday, when you can now pair their addictive $1 ahi tuna tartare tacos with a house margarita. Dios mio.

 

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
415-391-9400

April 4
6:30pm-8:30pm
Principles of Food & Wine Pairing class
$55

Class held in:
Port Commission Hearing Room
2nd Floor

website

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Have you heard of the killer wine classes at the ~FERRY PLAZA WINE MERCHANT~? I totally want to check these out. Each month they offer a couple core classes (Wine Tasting Technique Deconstructed [$45] and Principles of Wine & Food Pairing [$55]) and in May they'll be starting some specialty classes.

These folks do not mess around: April 4 brings John Bauccio, a wine educator and chef (and a paisano, ciao!), for the Principles of Food & Wine Pairing class, and on April 19, Master Sommelier Brian Cronin will be teaching the Wine Tasting Technique class. Salud!

Frisson
244 Jackson St.
San Francisco, CA 94111

RSVP: 415-956-3004
website

April 6
7pm-9pm


MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO ~FRISSON~ has launched a series of "First Thursdays" events, featuring a new art installation on the first Thursday of every month. Number one brought champagne and cake, and number two in April is "COMICS and COFFEE with a KICK," featuring an art installation by Paul Madonna, writer and artist of "All Over Coffee" in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Frisson will be serving complimentary Irish coffee and biscotti in the lounge, and you can also order off of the small plates menu. Don't miss the foie gras PB&J, which is seared Sonoma foie gras with toasted brioche, house made spicy peanut butter, and quince marmalade. Outrageous.

MarketBar Restaurant
San Francisco Ferry Building

April 29
8:30am-11:30am

$40 per person
(includes prix fixe breakfast and a signed copy of the cookbook)
$25 without the cookbook


Reserve your spot


MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Save the date and reserve your spot for this one: in honor of the release of The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook, there will be a special fundraising breakfast for ~CUESA~ (Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture), sponsored by Chronicle Books.

The breakfast will be held at MarketBar Restaurant, and is a total steal for $40, which includes a signed copy of the cookbook ($22.95 retail value)—check out "the bookworm" for more about it. Otherwise, breakfast is $25 without the cookbook, but trust me, you want that book. The long line-up of breakfast treats includes a springtime frittata with nettles, artichokes, and green garlic; beef bacon from Marin Sun Farms; Acme Italian batard toast which you can smear with artisan jams; and strawberries with aged balsamic on Straus yogurt. (I would love that breakfast every day, but I would be huge.)

 

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook
By Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker

Paperback
ISBN: 0811844625
$22.95
288 pp

website

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So here's how to become a master at choosing and cooking seasonal ingredients, and it has nothing to do with wearing a floppy hat like Alice Waters. Part guidebook and part cookbook, the brand-new The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook by Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker is pretty darned clever: it's organized by season, with an explanation of how to choose, store, and prepare everything you'd find at the market, from nettles (ow) to salmon.

It has a ton of appealing recipes from talented chefs all over, and it's actually compact enough that you can throw it into your woven hemp shopping bag before you head out to the market. So when you discover green garlic is available, you can make sure you know what the hell you're doing when picking it out, and you can read the ingredients you'll need to make green garlic sformatini and fava bean salad that night. (Chianti optional.)

Slow Food Guide to San Francisco
and the Bay Area Restaurants, Markets, and Bars

By Sylvan Brackett, Wendy Downing, Sue Moore

Paperback
ISBN: 193149875X
$20.00
($16 on the site below)
335pp

website

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Lately I've been enjoying the Slow Food Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area Restaurants, Markets, and Bars. It covers everything from Latin American restaurants (all kinds of Mission haunts are included) to fancies like Campton Place, along with bakeries, markets, wine shops, etc. To repeat, the book doesn't just feature places that use organic or artisanal ingredients or support biodiversity and sustainability (those are demarcated with a little snail)—it's also full of people and places that keep regional culinary traditions alive, from pupusas to good barbecue to bahn mi. Eat up, but chew slowly.

Fork Me, Spoon Me
By Amy Reiley

Paperback
ISBN: 0977412008
$13.95
142pp

website

MARCH 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, this title totally made me laugh, and I can't believe no one has used it (or dared to) until now: Fork Me, Spoon Me: the sensual cookbook. It's like the Joy of Sex with your refrigerator, highlighting the ingredients with aphrodisiacal qualities. Author Amy Reiley has a Master of Gastronomy from France's Cordon Bleu, so she offers a wealth of sexy food info. Let's just say you'll be feeding your fella more mangos and almonds by the time you're done with the book. It has sassy illustrations of a vixen frolicking next to recipes like Green Goddess dressing or soft-poached egg on a saffron dressed salad, accompanied by some fun facts and stories. Makes a cute gift for a food-loving hussy in your life.