tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: say hello to Scott Howard.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals

the starlet
no photos please


 

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Hiya! So last Friday I hit the Red Tie Gala at Neiman Marcus, and I seriously couldn't believe how many fab chefs were there on a Friday night: Traci des Jardins, Joel Huff from Silks, Loretta Keller from COCO500, the list went on. I think my favorite part was either picking up a glass of "Prada Champagne" or heading over to Chanel for a cocktail. Actually, no, tasting fresh-shaved truffles courtesy of Cal Stamenov at Marinus in Carmel was actually the high point. Swell party. You gotta go next year.

And FYI, I swung by Nicky's Pizzeria Rustica last night to try his new thin crust pizza—I gotta hand it to Nick, it's pretty darned tasty considering he's only got a gas oven to work with. His homemade sausage is seriously the bomb. I am so loving my lunch leftovers today.

And hey, yo, you're all going to vote today, right? It's just too darned important. Do it.

May the force be with you,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO In North Beach there's a cool new restaurant opening called ~NUA RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR~; it's moving into the former New Pisa space, Dante Benedetti's old restaurant, right next to Gino & Carlo's. The menu will be primarily Mediterranean (dancing between dishes from Spain, France, and Italy) with some California attention to local, sustainable, and organic ingredients. (The chef is still being finalized at the moment, so no name to share just yet.) The menu is designed to be flexible, from a full meal to just a small bite for those looking for something to eat with one of the 30 wines available by the glass (there will be over 300 wines offered—wait until you see the custom racking system). The name is Irish for "new," which ties in to the dining style owner David White is keen on bringing to life: think bigger tables, fair prices, and more time for people to linger over their food. How novel! White is also happy to be a part of the new wave of cool businesses opening in North Beach; think: more Slow Food, less scallywag.

White has many years under his belt as a server around town, and four solid years of wine experience (he set up the wine program at Chez Papa in Potrero Hill, and was the wine director for a year at the former La Suite). Nua will have 49 seats, with ten at the walnut bar, and ten more or so outside—the building gets nice sun exposure all day, but the outdoor area will still have heaters and an awning. The look is clean, elegant, and natural/organic, with banquette seating offering punches of color, cool cylindrical lamps suspended from the ceiling, and numerous woods will be utilized: the tables are made of Bolivian hardwood inlaid with a stripe of zebra wood, and the floors are dark oak. Here's a total bonus: there will be valet parking offered. Just think, no North Beach parking nightmares, or garages charging you $6 every 20 minutes. Dinner will be served six nights a week, and eventually lunch too. Nua should be open by the beginning of December. 550 Green St. at Jasper Place (near Columbus), 415-433-4000.

Just next door, a raw bar will be moving into the other half of the former New Pisa space. Things are still firming up, so I was asked to not go into details just yet—all I can say is more on this soon!

And here's a switcheroo happening a few doors down: the (tragically named, seriously) ~FRISCO FISH & CHIPS~ has closed, and the deal isn't quite final yet on who's going in—I'll keep you posted. See, this is what happens when you call it Frisco. 532 Green St. at Grant St.

At long last, the ~FALLETTI'S~ complex is opening today! It's literally blocks away from my apartment, so I'm thrilled about having quality meat and delicious DeLessio cupcakes so close-by. The Peet's Coffee & Tea has already been open for a bit and jacking up the neighborhood on quality caffeine. Welcome back to the neighborhood, Falletti's! 308 Broderick St. at Fell St.

Saw this posting on Chowhound about a new Thai restaurant that moved into the old Kelly's Burgers space on 16th Street in the Mission, called ~RASHA~. Sounds like they plan to stay open late, until 3am. Always a bonus in my book. 3141 16th. St. at Albion St.

And just a couple blocks away, the belly-dancing headquarters, ~AMIRA~ on Valencia, has closed. I'll let you know what's going in there soon! 590 Valencia St.

Opening in Noe Valley in 2007 will be ~OLALLIE~, the first of three new restaurants in the neighborhood since the 20-year moratorium on new restaurants over there. Since the space was formerly a computer store, it's a significant build-out, and probably won't be opening until next spring or so. The chef/owner is Brett Emerson, who some may know by his blog, In Praise of Sardines. He's a CCA grad, and has worked locally at places like Lulu, Greens, Bizou, L'Amie Dona (in Palo Alto), Eccolo, Zax, and has been a private chef for the past couple years. The space is being designed by envelope Architecture+Design, who also designed CAV, Delfina, and Pizzeria Delfina next door. The space is intended to be eco-friendly, using materials like reclaimed woods. The restaurant will have about 40 seats inside, and a back patio, which is where Emerson and his wife found the wild blackberries that inspired the restaurant's name. (The couple will also be living upstairs—I like that, it's kind of old-school European.) Emerson is a strong proponent for market-fresh ingredients, and the free-form menu will be inspired by places like Spain, Morocco, and other North African countries. He's also hoping to secure a liquor license—cheers on that. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St.

A couple chef change-ups around town: first, over at ~ANZU~, the restaurant in the Hotel Nikko, Barney Brown will be heading up the kitchen as Executive Sous Chef (although his role is actually more like Chef de Cuisine). For the past year, Brown was the Culinary Director of the Straits Group, including Straits, Sino (in the South Bay), and Spanish Fly (in the former Straits location), in addition to E&O Trading Company, and was the opening Executive Chef for Betelnut. This is Brown's last week with the Straits Group, and he starts with ANZU next Monday. He's excited about having free-reign at ANZU, and will be crafting a Euro-Japanese menu. Taking Brown's place will be Stephen Romeo, a longtime friend of Chris Yeo (the chef/owner of the Straits Group), who has 25 years in the industry, and most recently comes from Como's in the MonteLago Village in Vegas.

~MEDICINE~ has promoted Bryan Waites to Executive Chef/GM of the restaurant. He is sharing the Executive Chef designation with Ryuta Sakamoto, who opened the restaurant but has returned to Kyoto to work at his family's 16-seat kaiseki restaurant. Sakamoto will be traveling to San Francisco a couple times a year, and is communicating frequently with Waites on the menu. So here's the thing that's crazy about Waites's background: his career started at twelve, going to private school part-time and working in a classic French kitchen something like 40 hours a week. I know, and it goes on: by his teens, he was making charcuterie for one of his summer jobs. The topper: he opened a restaurant at age seventeen. Well then. I gotta meet this guy.

~SALT HOUSE~ opened for lunch service yesterday, serving up goodies like pastrami ribs (uh, yeah), their house-ground burger, a soup and sandwich combo, and their scrumptious boudin blanc (it's killer). Lunch is served Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2pm. 545 Mission St. at 2nd St., 415-543-8900.

 
the regular

Scott Howard image

Scott Howard
500 Jackson St.
Cross: Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

415-956-7040
website

Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm

Apps $8-$12
Entrées $21-$26
Desserts $8-$9

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO There is strange mojo around restaurants—sometimes things can't be totally explained. Like why do people continue to line up for an hour to eat at places that you can’t pay me to dine at? (e.g. Nan King, Puerto Alegre. Unless you're 22 and just don’t know better, why would anyone persist to eat in those joints, let alone line up for them?) And then you have total gems, like ~SCOTT HOWARD~, that just don't seem to get all the traction they should. Because I'll tell ya, this man can cook.

A protégé of Norman van Aken, and sporting a sweet North Carolina disposition, Scott Howard is a hella nice guy, and one hell of a chef. He recently re-jiggered the menu (larger portions, smaller price points) so if you haven't been recently, I'd strongly recommend a re-visit; compared to a lot of the food out there, this place is now quite a steal. Especially when you consider the quality of the ingredients he uses—he's truly a connoisseur. I know, I know, it was a little pricey and precious when it opened, but that's all changed, so think about it. They're also running a killer special in honor of the restaurant's one-year anniversary, and it will be available until the end of 2006: a $31 prix-fixe menu is offered Mon-Sat from 5:30pm-6:30pm. Okay, I have finished my little speech.

I used to hang out at this bar a fair amount when it used to be Cypress Club (back in tha' day)—it was when I was working in advertising (yes, the dark years), and martinis were still novel to me (I hadn't quite gotten into bourbon yet). The bartender used to call me Mary Pickford—he thought I looked like her, but maybe he was drunk too. After a couple cocktails, the whole room felt like one big womb—no hard edges anywhere, there were the big globular lights and fixtures… it was a trip. There are still a few hints of the original décor in the restrooms, and the handle on the front door. Then it closed and morphed into 500 Jackson, a seafood restaurant that I never quite made it to (times were tight by then).

When the restaurant became Scott Howard, the spacious room was touched up and modernized, and is now somewhat sparse: lots of wood, like gleaming wood floors, and wood tables sans tablecloths (although they do have the controversial woven placemats everyone comments on. Love them? Hate them? Discuss.). There are a couple massive floral displays and a large chandelier that add some visual interest. To be honest, it's the food that will really command your attention; the room, not as much.

There are booths on the upper level that flank large windows that look out onto the street; these seats are also a little detached from the room, and therefore quieter. And perhaps a little lonely. (Feel free to play footsie.) Otherwise, the sunken dining room area is where the majority of the tables are placed, so there's a bit more buzz. You can check out your fellow diners, who seem to be quite the hodgepodge group, from classy older conservative types, to savvy young urbanite couples, to businessmen tucking into a quality meal.

So let's get to said meal, shall we? There's a raw/smoked/cured section, with dishes like a spicy tuna tartare ($10), spiked with sriracha mayonnaise and sesame oil, or a buttery slab of hamachi ($10) served with delicately pickled cucumber and a quenelle of avocado puree, or smoked trout ($8), a decadent and slightly messy (but worth it) affair that comes with truffled egg salad on crostini. I came in for drinks one evening and enjoyed a couple of these dishes in the bar area—it's a good-looking place to meet up after work. Cocktails are pretty damned tasty. Sazeracs in effect.

You simply cannot miss the trademark carrot soup ($8), a signature from Howard's days at Fork in San Anselmo, which features a dollop of chervil sabayon and a drizzle of black truffle oil. My dining partner noted a weird Pavlovian response about wanting to chew the soup. We were both making funny chewy faces while savoring it—the soup features such intense carrot flavor you actually feel like biting it. Howard confirmed that it takes three pounds of carrots to make one bowl of soup. Just think of the vitamins.

Pork belly ($10) fans really shouldn't pass up Howard's version, which is brined and then cooked sous vide for 50 hours, and seared to order. I know, like, whoa. Buttah, baby. It comes with a cider vinegar glaze that truly smacks of his North Carolina roots, so it's like hi-lo bar-b-que, and even comes with a side of sweet corn.

The Cal-French decadence continues, with dishes like veal sweetbreads ($12) that make you grateful they only come in a starter size. The pillow of smooth Yukon Gold potato puree and the sprinkling of smoked bacon on top just cinch you tighter into total submission. Yeah, this dish is a total culinary dominatrix, dressed up in truffled Madeira jus who makes you say, "Yes, thank you Mistress, thank you!"

The domme also has a partner in the dungeon, the veal cheeks ($10). The description is a touch deceiving—it says it's served with celery, but what arrives is actually a delightful little celery salad made from the leaves, flecked with (mild) Serrano chile and thinly sliced shallot that works as a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the cheeks. (Salve for the lashings?)

One dish that really didn't do it for me was the black cod ($22) resting on some heavily buttered abalone mushrooms. The caramelized endive brought some bitterness I didn't care for (and for the record, I'm down with bitter—I so heart rapini!). Around the plate was a circle of orange and honey jus, plus a sprinkling of sultanas and caper berries. Just way too much going on here for me, like I was at a Last Call sale at Neiman's or something.

Duck fans will enjoy this execution ($24), made with Liberty Farms duck breast. It comes with roasted figs, whole black-eyed peas, and Serrano ham jus that simultaneously deepens yet magnifies the savoriness of this dish. Howard really knows his way around jus, emulsions, and sauces—he could seriously teach a class on them.

The mack daddy of all the meats has got to be the short ribs ($21), and a large part of it is its back-up: the accompanying side dish of orzo mac 'n' cheese. Be careful, because it will totally make you its slave and get you right back into the dungeon with the veal cheeks and the sweetbreads. Wickedly delicious.

As you may have gathered, this is not exactly light food, despite the Californian touches here and there. Howard's food packs flavors that are deep, gutsy, and balanced. It's also a long menu—I really can't believe the number of choices, although I will say vegetarians will have to be a little creative in finding things to eat. Hey, that orzo mac 'n' cheese will be a good start, I can say that much.

The cheese service (a choice of three for $12) is thoughtful and features an array of accompaniments, like toasted almonds, truffled honey, and apricot confiture. Unfortunately, dessert didn't totally send me. Some folks adore the butterscotch pudding ($8), but I found the serving a bit massive and too much of one note—plus it was served too cold. We also wondered if it was a bit constarchy—a friend told me butterscotch is supposed to be a bit grainy… I dunno, my spoon just wasn't really wedded to it. The apricot soufflé ($9) comes with a lavender custard center that just struck me as soupy, and a touch heavy on the perfume side of things. Perhaps I should have tried the doughnuts instead. Anyway, dessert didn't hold up to dinner in my opinion (it’s a tough act to follow)—but judge for yourself.

Carl Francis, who was formerly a sommelier and the beverage manager over at Town Hall, is now here at Scott Howard as a bar manager, sommelier, and working with wine buyer Corey Hamilton on the list. (Look for a piece from him in "the wino" soon.) He put together some perfect pairings for us one evening, and even put some sake and Manzanillo sherry into the mix (nice).

Those looking for a place to host a group dinner should consider the spacious private dining room here—it'll be a meal that will impress. Otherwise, the restaurant is a prime spot to take your parents, anyone with a good palate, business associates, a date, or is an ideal spot for when you're doing something in North Beach and want a nice place to eat. You're totally gonna end up in some shackles, mark my words.

 
the starlet

supperclub image
photo: www.cvdigital.com

Aphrodisiac Week
Tue Nov. 7-Sun. Nov. 12

supperclubSF
657 Harrison St.
Cross: 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

415-348-0900
website

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Starting today, November 7, Executive Chef Jon Stevens at supperclub is kicking off ~APHRODISIAC WEEK~ through Sunday, November 12. He is concocting a special five-course menu that is designed to awaken and excite. Well, meow.

First Ferry Building Fungus Festival

First Ferry Building Fungus Festival
Sat. Nov. 25–Sun. Nov. 26

Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco

website

begins at 10am

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Get ready to have some fungus among us: the ~FIRST FERRY BUILDING FUNGUS FESTIVAL~ is coming up, from Saturday, November 25–Sunday, November 26.

The Ferry Building Marketplace, Far West Fungi and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market celebrate culinary mushrooms with a range of free events, including Mushroom Growing Tables, Meet the Mushroom Farmer Talk with John Garrone of Far West Fungi, Mushroom Cooking Demo with Chef Bryan Waites of Medicine Restaurant, Music, Mushroom Displays and Children's Coloring Table. Through the weekend Marketplace merchants will be offering an abundance of special fare, tastings, and demonstrations. The weekend event will benefit the San Francisco Mycological Society. Here is a sampling of some of the special items prepared for the weekend:

Acme Bread: Duxelle & Fromage Blanc Sandwich on Rustic Sweet Baguette; Delica rf1: Mushroom Salad; Frog Hollow Farm: Mushroom & Leek Turnovers; Hog Island Oyster Co.: Baked Oysters with Chanterelles; Prather Ranch Meat Co.: Shiitake & Pork Sausage; Scharffenberger Chocolate Maker: White Chocolate Mushrooms; and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar: Truffled Tiger Eye Caviar.

 
the starlet

NOVEMBER 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Talk about food rock star sightings: José Andrés and Ferran Adrià waltzed into Boulevard for an SF-power meal before heading over to a party at Slanted Door celebrating the Taste of Spain event in Napa this weekend. Seeing those two walk into your restaurant is enough to give most chefs heart failure, but Ravi Kapur and his team were honored to cook for them, and I am sure they totally rocked it.

Mick Jagger ate at Luella a few nights ago—must be one of his new favorites in SF, because this was his second visit. Ends up he's a fan of the chicken al mattone (under a brick).