5, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO
Attention cheeseheads. (And I don't mean Green Bay fans.)
We can enroll in a number of schools in our life: culinary school,
dental school, driving school (that's what you get for rolling
stop signs). Now, how about the dreamiest of them all, Cheese School!
Sara Vivenzio, a cheese buyer (and former cheese monger) for Cheese
Plus at 2001 Polk St. has opened ~THE
CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ just around the corner,
offering a variety of classes each month that are focused on particular
topics, from "Farmstead Cheesemaking" (yes, you get
to make your own in class) to "Cheeses of Italy" with
Judy Creighton. The monthly classes that originally started at Cheese
Plus were so popular that Vivenzio decided to open the school, offering
a whole range of classes, dedicating it to cheese education for
the curious, the enthusiast, and the pro. (Classes will average
around $60.) The space is in the former Oakville Grocery (that's
some good provenance), and will feature wine and cheese from Cheese
Plus, where Vivenzio is still the buyer. You can sign up at Cheese
Plus, or online. Check out the upcoming classes, like the Basic
Cheese Primer this Thursday the 7th, and the very unique ACS (American
Cheese Society) Winners showcased in the class on Friday (there
were 980 cheese entered in the competition!). There are also drop-in
nights where you can talk to a cheese pro and fellow Epoisses-obsessed
whilst nibbling on some pecorino pepato (for $25). 1555 Pacific
(2nd floor), between Polk and Larkin, 415-346-7530.
big changes are in store at ~HAWTHORNE
LANE~: after eleven years in the biz, it will be closing
at the end of the year, and reopening as TWO (or potentially some
other moniker), playing on the address of 22 Hawthorne Lane, and
this being the second incarnation of the restaurant, and a culinary
collaboration of two creative chefs. Owner David Gingrass has noted
how much tastes have changed over the past decade, including his
own, and has decided to do away with the formal dining atmosphere
and create a more casual environment, but with the same focus on
the well-prepared food made with quality ingredients that is a hallmark
of Hawthorne Lane. Gingrass says, "I started to feel like
I was running my dad's restaurant," and it wasn't
reflecting how he likes to eat out (and other people too). He wants
folks to feel comfortable swinging by for pasta on Monday night,
and doing away with the notion that it's a restaurant you'd
only go to for a birthday or anniversary.
Chef Bridget Batson will still be leading the kitchen, but Gingrass
will be putting more of his touch and culinary voice on the menu,
introducing his signature charcuterie items, house-made sausages,
and handcrafted breads (also available two-go, ha ha, clever clever).
Gingrass's vision is for food that is approachable and isn't
overwrought—the menu will feature small, ingredient-focused
appetizers, including traditional-style pizzas, a variety of pastas,
and entrées with grilled, roasted, and braised items. Gingrass
also mentioned desserts will become decidedly more rustic.
those who are curious about the menu changes, you can't beat
the upcoming "dinner in the kitchen" events; on Thursday
and Friday evenings during October and November, twelve people can
sit at their family table in the kitchen at Hawthorne Lane, and
Batson and Gingrass will prepare and serve dishes from the new menu.
Jeff Creamer, the beverage director, will be there to suggest wine
pairings from a newly assembled list of fifty-under-fifty. Guest
participation with plating and serving, sort of an extension of
their very successful cooking class format, will be optional. In
honor of their birth year, the menu for each "dinner in the
kitchen" will only cost $19.95 per person. At the end of dinner,
you'll have to answer a detailed questionnaire about the food,
and where you normally like to eat, so don't get too wasted.
If you'd like attend any of those "dinner in the kitchen"
evenings, contact Christianne Barrow at 415-777-5667 during regular
business hours, or email her at Christianne [at] hawthornelane [dot]
new menu, called TWO, will start being offered as a secondary menu
in the dining room in December. Gingrass also plans on closing for
a remodel after Christmas Eve for a couple weeks, extending into
January. The bar will become the focal point of the front room,
with seats that will go all the way around, plus expect some changes
in the dining room, with a private dining area being added. As if
all of this wasn't enough, TWO will also offer a box lunch
program that is ordered via their website and picked up "drive-through"
style in the courtyard. Sweet.
those who want to follow all the changes, Gingrass will be building
an HTML essay documenting the entire process of re-concepting an
established restaurant; it will be in development over the next
week or so, and then posted
online as soon as there's something to look at.
or so ago I reported on Patisserie Philippe opening in the Metro
Showplace Square, near the turnaround at 8th St. and Townsend. (It
looks like the beginning of October for that opening.) Showrooms
like Roche Bobois (just opened) and others, from home theater to
window treatment showrooms, will soon have some restaurants in the
mix. Just next door to the patisserie will be the ~HOLY
GRILL~, opening by the end of September, serving burgers,
fries, chicken, salads, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner (11am-9pm
daily). They also will offer beer and wine. This is a project from
Bay Foods, who also own Dos
Piñas Taqueria at 16th and Rhode Island. 659 Townsend
at 8th St.
eatery opening soon will be the ~SAFFRON LOUNGE~,
a tiny Mediterranean joint offering Mediterranean classics (expect
some dolmades and hummus). They will be open for lunch only to start.
685 Townsend St.
there's the slightly upscale ~GRAND PUH BAH~,
a Thai restaurant that will be open for lunch and dinner, with furnishings
from Thailand, white tablecloths, and a good wine list. The Grand
Puh Bah should be holding court by the end of the year. 88 Division
little tidbits: ~SOCIALE~
is celebrating their fifth anniversary—swing by from
now until the 9th for some old faves on their menu, and complimentary
the fire they experienced, ~PICCADILLY FISH & CHIPS~
has (somewhat) remodeled and is now open again. No big changes—just
a new counter and a few other details. 1348 Polk St.
to my calculations, ~MYTH CAFÉ~ should be
open for dinner and serving their new menu of affordable and tasty
bites tonight. Release the sliders. (But call and confirm first:
Cole of Edible San Francisco has launched a blog, ~EDIBLE
NATION~, the official blog for Edible Communities.
Check it out.
5, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO
Destination: Lake Tahoe
Tahoe is very near and dear to my heart. Not only did my parents
have their honeymoon there, but soon thereafter purchased a cabin
in Tahoma (smart move, 'rents, seriously), where I've been coming
since I was literally in diapers. It's truly a second home to me.
Some only come to the lake to ski and snowboard in the winter, while
others (like me) prefer the stunning summer months. While I can't
offer any housing suggestions since all I know is our cabin, I can
suggest some tasty places to eat while you're at the lake that are
760 N. Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City, CA 96145
opens 4:20pm (seriously)
Dinner Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm
face it: lakeside dining is often disappointing. Like San Francisco,
you usually are paying for your view, with food as a tragic and
overpriced afterthought. One place that totally broke that paradigm
for me is ~SOL Y LAGO~, a Tahoe City restaurant
from San Francisco's Johnny Alamilla, formerly of Alma in the Mission,
and Brian Reccow, who hails from Thirsty Bear. They moved up here,
partially to get more snowboarding in, and took over the former
Hacienda, offering what Alamilla has coined "Sierra Latino
Cuisine." The menu features an array of downright affordable
(and tasty) tapas, both hot and cold.
definitely fired up on the presentation of the quinoa gratin ($7),
a hearty dish with roasted tomatoes and cream, and melted queso
cotija on top—it arrives sizzling hot. However, I found the
accompanying crostini somewhat superfluous—all you need with
that dish is a fork. Toothsome empanadas ($8) had a mash of bright
green peas inside, with a flavorful carrot and cayenne pool of sauce
on the plate. Speaking of the plate, it arrived hot, which was nice
for the empanadas, but didn't do any service to the (rather undressed)
mixed greens on there as well. A favorite, the perfectly-cooked
coconut-glazed prawns ($11), came on a bed of Bloomsdale spinach
and really had some zing—meanwhile, the wild striped bass
ceviche ($9) was flat and under-seasoned—it needed some kick
that the mild green chilies weren't generating (stingy, those chilies).
Achiote chicken skewers ($7) were juicy and tender, although one
was doused with the honey and coriander mustard sauce, while the
other exhibited a lighter hand.
are also affordable (even a rib eye is only $22), but unfortunately
weren't quite as faboo as the commendable parade of tapas. The roasted
free-range chicken ($18) generously comes with two legs (two thighs
and drumsticks). The crackly crust was delicious and the chicken
was juicy, but overall the seasoning just wasn't really there. It
needed to be fully dialed; I'm not asking for ELEVEN, even eight
would be great. Chicky chick comes with baby onions and scrumptious
cornmeal dumplings with a hint of Parmesan that lounge around in
the fennel-scented broth. Pan-seared halibut ($19) arrived a touch
overdone, dang, which was a shame because the tricolore of sweet
corn, roasted tomato coulis, and pumpkin seed pesto all offered
a savory and bright counterpoint. This dish was close to rocking.
really nailed it—it was impossible to avoid finishing the
house-made tres leches cake ($6), and everyone should at least try
the chocolate and jalapeño gelato ($4), a special recipe
made in conjunction with Ciao Bella for the restaurant (Sol y Lago
is the only place where you could taste it). There's also a sundae
($6) topped with a cornmeal-cayenne crunch that should be packaged
and sold separately, it's that good.
you're craving a lake view, Sol y Lago has it, but once the sun
goes down, the alcove area offering the view is a bit nondescript
and plain. The main dining area is more stylish, with a long bar
that can fill up with cocktail seekers (mojito, anyone?) and those
craving a quick bite. Music was spot-on. Service was kind, but the
kitchen definitely had some timing issues, with long gaps between
various courses, and then suddenly a couple dishes would arrive
at once. Just kick back and enjoy a glass of South American wine,
like one of the affordable Malbecs, including a 2005 rosé
from Terza Volta ($5.50) that held up well to some of the tapas.
Overall, Sol y Lago offers some flavorful cuisine that isn't common,
and at a price that can't be beat. And whaddya know, there's that
few notes on lakeside dining: ~SUNNYSIDE RESORT~
(1850 West Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, 800-822-2754) on the west shore
is well known for its massive deck and classic American food. The
fortunate get to pull up in their boats and dock right there while
they have a drink and dinner. (Someday, it'll be me in my Chris
Craft, with "Contessa" written on the back.) I say sure,
come by for their famed zucchini sticks and a cocktail—but
if you must dine, then go for one of their hefty steaks
(they run about $24 for a 14 oz. rib eye, and $29.50 for a 12 oz.
NY Strip). If you have the moolah, supposedly the ~WEST
SHORE CAFE~ (5160 West Lake Blvd., Homewood, 530-525-5200)
is putting out some of the swankiest dining on the lake, but also
some of the most expensive. (Break out the AMEX.) Lastly, there's
a reason ~WOLFDALE'S~ (640 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe
City, 530-583-5700, www.wolfdales.com)
is a long-standing favorite—its cuisine is memorable and well
prepared, but be prepared to pay.
a tip: one of the most scenic places to hang out on the lake during
the day is at Sugar Pine Point Park (I literally pedal my bike there
every day), and it's especially a treat with a huge sandwich from
the deli inside the nearby ~PDQ MARKET~ (6890 West
Lake Blvd., Tahoma, 530-525-7411). Be forewarned, the sandwiches
are the size of footballs, so it's best to share or just order a
half (the jalapeño bread is tasty). I also found a hippie/face-painter/nature
store just outside of Tahoe City, ~NEW MOON NATURAL FOODS~
(505 West Lake Blvd. at Granlibakken Road, 530-583-7426) that not
only has good organic munchies and products (did you forget your
Tom's of Maine toothpaste?) but also has a fab ethnic deli inside,
the ~STONY RIDGE UNCOMMON KITCHEN~ (530-583-3663,
Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, www.uncommonkitchen.org)
serving an eclectic array of daily specials like teriyaki bowls,
sushi, fish tacos, and soups, with most items made with organic
ingredients and in biodegradable packaging. (Tahoe kids might recognize
the name from the Stony Ridge Café that used to be in Tahoma,
and was famous for its epic breakfasts—it's the same folks!)
Bistro & Lounge
10007 Bridge St.
Truckee, CA 96161
Dinner daily 5pm-10pm
Brunch Sat & Sun 11am-2:30pm
In-between menu daily 2:30pm-5pm
I found nearby Truckee to really have more of a burgeoning scene
than Tahoe City (if you can really call it a scene). For some reason
the restaurants felt more energized, and full. The restaurant that
was my hands-down favorite of this entire trip was ~MOODY'S
BISTRO & LOUNGE~ in the Truckee Hotel, serving up Cali-bistro
cuisine that would be a hit in San Francisco. Heck, anywhere. The
menu is a behemoth, bigger than many bistros in SF, and everything
sounds beyond appetizing, so get ready to feast.
and co-owner Mark Estee really values organic, local, and sustainable
ingredients—he name checks Niman Ranch in his crispy pancake
of pig's trotters ($10) served with a dollop of sauce gribiche and
a drizzle of aged balsamic, and the salad of Heidi Watanabe's heirloom
tomatoes ($12/$16 with cheese) was spectacular: four kinds of delectable
tomatoes (Pineapple, Brandywine, Orange Persimmon, and Cherokee),
served with three kinds of salt (Maldon, sel gris, and Hawaiian),
and creamy burrata cheese from Gioia Cheese Co. in So Cal (who also
supplies A16 and Cowgirl Creamery with that wicked creamy goodness).
star on the menu was the crispy and nicely browned sweetbreads ($10)
that are pressed, and served with a frisee salad topped with a local
egg, sunny side up, with some ciabatta on the side. The warm brown
butter, sherry vinegar, and whole grain mustard dressing made the
sweetbreads sing (or was it the jazz singer in the other room?).
I could have made a meal of this on its own. Damn. Serious luxury.
espied our neighbor enjoying a roasted tomato soup ($8) served en
croute—yes, pinch pinch, you are in Truckee. The pastas
stumbled a bit: the farro spaghetti with a four-meat sugo ($12/$22)
was overcooked, and the pan-seared potato gnocchi ($12/$22) were
pasty and doughy (my grandmother would have hollered), but the corn,
cream, chive, truffle butter, and pecorino sauce was a delight.
the can't-miss dish was Ernie's salmon ($27). Ernie is a firefighter
in Reno who heads over to Bodega Bay to fish, and brings the salmon
back with him. The night we dined, it was less than 24 hours old.
That's some fresh fish, baby. And the bed of summer vegetable risotto
only made is more delicious, along with a hint of truffle oil and
baby fennel relish on top. Stellar. Other dishes I wish I was feasting
on in SF include the big ass (yes, that's its name) Niman Ranch
pork porterhouse ($30), braised veal shank cannelloni ($24), and
they even serve onglet ($18/$28 with foie gras). There's also a
tasting menu. No, this is not your typical mountain dining. Yes,
I am coming back.
like the fresh berry tart ($8) with lemon curd and crisp shortbread
crust was the essence of summer, but so was the monster serving
of peach and lavender crisp ($8), with burgundy cherry gelato made
Latest Scoop" in Berkeley (there was also a delicious peach
champagne sorbet on the menu). Wines are well chosen, and plentiful—be
sure to engage the wine director if you can. Service was spot-on—our
server was quite knowledgeable about every dish, and very observant,
but nicely easygoing at the same time.
atmosphere is cozy—you enter through a deco-inspired lounge
with big booths and live jazz (often big names) playing Wed-Sat
(kicking in Wed-Thu at 8pm, and 9pm-midnight Fri-Sat)—the
acts are booked by co-owner JJ Morgan, who was the owners/booker/GM
at the Up & Down Club in SF for five years. The dining room
has marigold sponge-painted walls, vintage bistro and aperitif lithographs,
large mirrors, striped carpet, and butcher-paper topped tables.
Jazzy. Pass through to the back, and there's a patio with a seaside-inspired
awning of sunny yellow stripes and charming lights in the evening.
Excuse the lame pun, but I'm gonna say it anyway: Moody's seriously
hits the right note. Tweet!
10118 Donner Pass Rd.
Truckee, CA 96161
local's favorite in Truckee is ~DRAGONFLY~, a "Cal-Asian"
and fusion-inspired restaurant perched up on a second floor. While
you wrap your head around the globetrotting menu utilizing ingredients
from China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia,
order up some teasers, like curried flatbread with a kicky yogurt
dip ($4), rice balls in a sweet and sour and tamari dip, or some
intensely caramelized eggplant ($4) in a ginger, garlic, tamari,
and sesame sauce that you scoop up with wonton chips.
tried some lighter dishes to start, like the Indian-style sweet
corn soup ($7) with a papadum chip on top and a swirl of scallion
crème fraîche, and spring rolls wrapped in rice paper
($14), stuffed with smoked chicken, crab, mango, and vermicelli
noodles. (There's also a crispy version offered.) A nice break from
all those steakhouses in the area, no?
rotate each week, but this evening we had oven-roasted Maple Leaf
duck breast ($26), a generous portion, and downright succulent,
served with ginger mashed potatoes and grilled radicchio. The fusion
part kicked in further with a blackberry marmalade (studded with
fresh blackberries), sweet potato chips, and a pool of shao hsing
rice wine jus. There were definite layers of flavor and texture
in each bite.
was also a "Duet of the Sea" ($28), Alaskan halibut and
Loch Duart salmon that are roasted and served on a pinot-soaked
barrel stave (the stave comes from the Truckee River Winery). The
fish was juicy, tender, and perfectly prepared, and each came with
a glaze (hoisin-garlic and honey-soy), plus a white peach and ginger
chutney. Sides included more of the ginger mashed potatoes, and
grilled bok choy. Normally, I'd read all that on a menu and go WHOA,
but it really came together—chef/owner Billy McCullough likes
to play with sweet and salty. (He was formerly a sous under Douglas
Dale at Wolfdale's.) The presentations are also a little kooky—definitely
not your standard plating.
are tropical and refreshing, like chocolate banana-stuffed wontons
with coconut ice cream ($8) and the lemon mousse ($8) with layers
of farmer's market berries served in a martini glass. Plenty of
interesting wines to choose from (anyone who has J. sparkling wine
on their menu always bodes well in my book) and they offer a small
but comprehensive reserve list as well.
is friendly and efficient. The prime seats are on the spacious balcony
(the restaurant is on a second story, offering the only second-floor
patio dining in Truckee), so you can watch the alpenglow at sunset,
and the numerous heat lamps keep it cozy once the darkness descends.
The casual dining room has brick walls, with photos of exotic locales,
and other Eastern touches. It's definitely laid-back, and buzzing
with both locals and visitors who are enjoying a nice break from
the usual Cali cuisine you find in the Tahoe area.
just inked a deal to double the size of his restaurant, and has
plans to open a sushi bar in addition to expanding the existing
restaurant before the holidays. Expect some innovative maki, for
you happen to be in Truckee around breakfast or lunchtime, you simply
must visit the ~SQUEEZE IN~ (10060 Donner Pass Road,
Truckee, 530-587-9814, www.squeezein.com),
a favorite that's been going strong since 1974 for omelets named after
Truckee locals (62 kinds) or triple-decker sandwiches (35 kinds).
It's tiny, packed with quirky memorabilia and ephemera, and home of
the best-darned sandwich combos. A family fave is the Grilled Jumpin'
Joanna (pastrami, onion, tomato, Swiss) and the Bee Bee (tuna salad,
egg salad, olives, celery), both $8.50. Dig in.
The Village at Squaw Valley
1995 Squaw Valley Road, Suite 11
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
Bar: Daily until 2am
Valley is not only a warren for ski bunnies all winter—SF's
PlumpJack group has also opened second locations of both a Balboa
Cafe and PlumpJack Cafe in the ever-developing and upscale Olympic
Village. I can imagine the outdoor patio at ~BALBOA CAFE~
is THE spot after hitting the slopes, a melee of hotties drinking
hot toddies and Irish coffees, but things were definitely chill
during my summertime visit. I've heard the Farmer's Market Chef's
Table on Tuesdays is popular, with a family-style three-course dinner
held at a communal table in the back room, featuring items from
the Truckee Farmer's Market, hand-selected by Executive Chef Michael
menu definitely reflects Plapp's love of seasonal ingredients. Unfortunately,
the starters didn't position the ingredients in their best light—a
corn chowder ($7) arrived watery and flavorless, and the summer
beans in the composed bean and beet salad ($10) were tough and practically
inedible—they needed to hop into a hot tub and soften up.
I didn't feel like anyone was really tasting the food (except us).
The seared spinach and ricotta gnocchi ($13) were tender little
bites, and the ribbons of crisp Serrano ham were a crunchy salty
treat, but it was literally drowning in butter. A total oil slick,
along with rubbery slices of Grana Padano slightly melted on top
that would have been better presented in the cheese's intended form:
a nice grating. Get out the Microplane.
just when I was getting worried about having to write the place
off, the entrées really saved the day. Talk about the comeback
kid. Seared sea scallops ($27) were silky, and sporting a delightful
sear. Underneath was a bed of freshly husked and mashed corn in
a corn "pudding," with a mélange of mushrooms plus
chive oil. Decadent, and lovingly prepared. The Berkshire pork tenderloin
($28) was a hearty carving of meat, served with a well-seasoned
chipotle potato puree and wedges of chayote squash. The topping
of charred corn and tomatillo salsa gave it a groovy South of the
Border flair. The flavor patrol was back in the hizzy.
the beginning of the meal, the kitchen had sent out a taste of smoked
duck breast with spinach and hen of the woods mushrooms that really
should be made into an entrée—the addition of (preserved?)
lemon rind was a lovely surprise. I hope to see it added to the
had an unexpected number: the rustic rosemary semolina cake ($7)
actually reminded me of something I'd eat in Italy. The warm roasted
figs on the side were a pleasing addition, but should be de-stemmed
before being served.
course the wine list kicks ass—it's PlumpJack. Life is good
with a glass of 2004 Willakenzie Pinot ($10), or a 2004 Karly Zin
($8). With the scallops, the D'Arnberg 'The Hermit Crab' ($8) (a
blend of 63& Viognier and 37% Marsanne) really hit the mark,
fruity but not cloying.
space is classy, and has a pleasing historical feel—the well
appointed room almost has a boxcar feeling, with wainscoting, tables
flanking either side of the main aisle, and dusty putty walls. The
back room is dim and intimate, with a banquette upholstered with
a rustic patterned blanket, comfortable wood-backed chairs with
leather seating, and turn-of-the-century touches like a big carved
sideboard displaying a pewter water pitcher and platters. (Supposedly
the charming hand-painted leaves and trees on the curved ceiling
are going to be painted over, oh well.) Be sure to take a look at
the black and white photographs of the Poulsen family in the back
room—they're the clan that was instrumental in the development
of Squaw Valley.
after your lovely Tahoe trip, or on your way up, most folks know to
stop at ~IKEDA'S~
(13500 Lincoln Way, Auburn, 530-885-4243) in Auburn for their burgers
and shakes. Personally, I stop for their peaches. They are seriously
the bomb, every year. There are more than four kinds, so just ask
one of the folks working there which ones are rocking their world.
Their nuts are also delish—hello smokehouse almonds. Now, you're
got your berry shake and peaches and almonds, but you're not done
in Auburn just yet. At the Forest Hill exit, cross over to the other
side of the freeway and take the frontage road north for about a half
mile (near the Bowman exit) until you see ~MACHADO ORCHARDS~
(open seven days a week from 8am-6pm. Near the Bowman exit of I-80,
530-823-1393) on your left. It's a fruit stand, but the total treasure
here are their pies. The peach pie I had was just sublime—light
cinnamon-y crust and the sweetest peaches. Do it!