tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: the new 18th street gang.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

thewhole9.com

 

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO After take-out mania (thanks for all the tips, readers—another installment is coming soon), I decided it was time to hit up the gourmet ghetto of 18th Street and report on a couple of the eateries that have recently opened on the block. This week's tablehopper also brings another installment of the wino since I think reading about my boozing escapades is hardly educational. I know I am breaking my "SF only" rule, but I had one of the best meals of my life at Cyrus in Healdsburg, and Scott Beattie rules, so he's this week's guest wino.

In case you want even more reading, you little bookworm you, I had a piece in last week's SF Bay Guardian about wintertime/holiday dining. One place I really should have put in there is Schroeder's which I accidentally happened upon for my first time last week. Have you ever been in there? Crazy beer hall tucked away on Front Street. Loved my enormous stein of pilsner while parked at the counter (can't vouch for the vittles, however), with deer heads, murals, and Christmas decorations above. O Tannenbaum in the hizzouse.

I think some of you hotmail users got dissed last week—a number of you complained you didn't receive last week's issue. Meow. What can I say? Hotmail blows.

And hey, a new section got added this week: the sponsor! Yes, it's a section that makes the tablehopper quite pleased, indeed. Support my sponsors and you support the 'hopper (it's better than sending me a jog bra!).

Lastly, this week kicks off another year of Menu for Hope—it's one menu you should definitely order from this holiday season.

Viva los vittles,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I wanted to clarify a couple things about the 2007 ~COZMO CARDS~ offer I mentioned last week—you actually get a deck of 50 cards (not 52, my bad), and two of those cards are joker cards that can each be redeemed for three restaurant cards of your choice. (You follow that? Sweet). Order your $30 deck here and don't forget to enter tablehopper for 10% off!

~JERRY MCGINNIS~, the former Executive Chef of supperclub, who also had a brief stint at Street, is now at Pescheria, Joseph Manzare's seafood restaurant in Noe Valley. McGinnis started in November, and has been busy fine-tuning the menu. Desserts are now being made in-house, and after the beginning of the New Year, Sunday brunch will kick in. (For the record, there's a nice heated patio in the back.) 1708 Church St. at 29th St., 415-647-3200.

Another chef switcheroo has happened at Joseph Mazare's SoMa restaurant, Zuppa. Chef Brent Johnson has been replaced by 33-year-old ~NICK DI ARENZO~; he hails from Philly, but has been cooking around SF for the past six years in the kitchens at Bacar and was a Sous at Moose's. He studied in Spain and also has an Italian upbringing that I am sure will be alive and kicking in the kitchen. Benvenuto. 564 4th St. at Brannan St., 415-777-5900.

Frascati has a new Executive Chef: Max DiMare has left, and taking his place is former Sous Chef ~MICHAEL PAWLIK~, who incidentally met Frascati's new-ish owner, Jon Rader, when he came to San Francisco for an externship at Scala's four years ago. Pawlik followed Rader when he took over Frascati and started as Sous Chef, and with DiMare's departure, was just promoted. Rader mentioned they will eventually need to fill the Sous Chef position, but are not aggressively seeking someone (i.e. feel free to drop a resume off, but it's no big hurry). 1901 Hyde St. at Green St., 415-928-1406.

The Orchard Garden Hotel, the first green hotel in California, will be the home of ~ROOTS RESTAURANT~ by the end of December (they are hoping to open by the middle of next week). The Executive Chef is Russell Rummer, who was most recently Chef de Cuisine at Acme Chophouse and prior to that was the Sous Chef at Absinthe. The contemporary American menu will feature Spanish and French touches, with organic ingredients whenever possible, and will include grass-fed beef, naturally raised meats, and sustainably caught seafood. A few items on the opening menu may include duck liver mousse with spiced quince, and day boat scallops with butternut squash puree and buffalo sprouts. ROOTS will also feature some organic and biodynamic wines and beers. The ground floor restaurant has 55 seats, with a bar that extends just off the lobby and will be open until midnight—the space is all done up with a modern and organic feel, with soft browns and greens. Lunch (11am-3pm) and dinner (5pm-10pm) will be served seven days a week. 466 Bush St. at Grant St.

Moving into an historic building on the corner of Mission and 25th, and it's not just any building but THE building—that big looming Victorian, you know the one, will be ~MISSION PIE~, a cozy little café and (eventually) a bakery. This community-minded café will collaborate with Pie Ranch (a non-profit farm near Año Nuevo that educates San Francisco high school students about food, and where food comes from), and with Nextcourse (a nutrition and culinary education nonprofit). The partners in Mission Pie, Karen Heisler and Joe Schuver (of Destination Bakery in Glen Park), plan on hiring some San Francisco youth from Pie Ranch programs to work in the café. The building houses Southern Exposure, which will be vacating the space in about a year, and that's when Mission Pie will put an on-premise bakery in place (plus sidewalk seating). For now, there will be 6-7 tables, and seasonal pies like apple, pumpkin, and nut that will be made by Destination Bakery until the on-site bakery is up and running, plus morning pastries and savory pies. This will also be the first café to brew coffee from Taylor Maid Farms, an organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee. Open later this month, 7am-9pm (later hours on the weekends), 2901 Mission St. at 25th St.

Opening in the Crash Nightclub space this January will be ~BITE~. The ground-floor restaurant will be open late for Crash-goers (party crashers?), plus clubbers stumbling out of Suite 181 and Boobie Skye. The chef is Tony Carracci, who has rocked it at Cha Cha Cha, the Cat Club, and Pound. The menu will have a southern/Cajun style with thoughtful touches including handmade condiments, like ketchup. The menu will have about 15 entrées, and expect to find some pizzas on the after-club menu (2am-4am). I spoke with owner Terrance Alan, who recommended folks come by and give 'em some feedback that first month so they can craft a menu people in the area will crave. Intended hours will be Wed-Sat 5pm-9pm, with a light supper served from 10pm-2am, and Fri-Sat will have an after-club menu from 2am-4am. 34 Mason St. at Turk St., 415-EXC-ITED.

Our gent Mohamed has closed my favorite dive on Jones, ~TAJINE~. He'll hopefully be reopening soon. He was considering the Lower Haight (darn, so close!), but is now hoping for a spot on the Polk Corridor. Will keep you posted when the Merguez are back in effect.

Sommelier ~MARK BRIGHT~ is leaving Michael Mina at the end of the year, and will be working with Ola Fendert at Oola as the wine director. Bright will continue to consult with Lingba in Potrero, as well as DOSA in the Mission (plus Circa in the Marina). Sidebar: I think he needs a new project that doesn't end in the letter "a."

Most of you know what a fan I am of Silks—well, now the place is becoming certifiably "top drawer" with the appointment of Master Sommelier ~RICHARD DEAN~ as wine director. Dean is one of 124 Master Sommeliers in the world, and was formerly at The Mark Hotel, a Mandarin Oriental property in New York where for ten years he managed the beverage program. He also has acted as a consultant, lecturer, wine columnist, and author. Welcome to the City, Richard. Yes, a glass of some bubbly would be lovely, why thank you.

Some new openings around town:
First is ~COUNTRY SKY~, a Hunan and Mandarin restaurant that also serves dim sum (it's even available in the evening). Country Sky moved into the former Newroz space, and has 30 seats. Beer and wine is offered, but they especially pride themselves on serving good tea. Open Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. 3321 Steiner St., between Chestnut and Lombard, 415-567-2888.

Over in the Inner Richmond ~NAMU~ just opened on December 1. The name means tree in Korean, and is a reference to the bar made from a recycled tree from Golden Gate Park, plus the grill using wood charcoal (and not just any charcoal, but Sumi). The menu is focused on California tapas with Japanese and Korean influences, like spicy pork ribs, okra, and mushroom dumplings (check out the menu on the site—it looks mighty tasty, and not very Californian, but whatever). The chef is Manuel Ek Chel, who was formerly at Ozumo (which is where I imagine he gained his love of Sumi charcoal). A beer and wine license hasn't kicked in yet, but it's coming. In an interesting twist, the space was designed by architect/designer Brent Kanbayashi (I was told he worked on the Oracle project?), who is family friends with owners (and brothers) Dennis and David Lee. Lunch Mon-Sat 11am-3pm, dinner Mon-Thu 6pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-11pm. 439 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-386-8332.

Opening this week:
I got to check out ~UMAMI~ this Saturday at a test dinner—talk about a transformation from the previous tenant, Yoshida-Ya. The Asian-swank two-level space will be open tonight, Tuesday, serving up small plates from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and more (Executive Chef Sam Josi is gonna rock it). Umami will serve dinner Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat the downstairs bar will stay open until 2am. (The full menu is available at the bar until 10:30pm). 2909 Webster St. at Union St., 415-346-3431.

~CIGAR BAR & GRILL~ will re-open this Wednesday or Thursday (the 13th or 14th) after a short closure. Reportedly their lunch offerings are pretty tasty, and the happy hour can be quite a scene.

The teasing continues: now it looks like this Thursday, December 14, is the latest date for ~BI-RITE CREAMERY~ to open. Ready, set, lick! 3692 18th Street at Dolores St., 415-626-5600.

 
fresh meat

Weird Fish

Weird Fish
2193 Mission St.
Cross: 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-863-4744

Open daily 9am-10pm
Fri-Sat 9am-midnight

Apps $4-$12
Entrées $6-$12
Sides $3-$5
Desserts $4

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Weird Fish is a little space, and I've only done a little visit, so expect a little update to this little write-up in the near future.

Walking into this tiny restaurant made me feel like I stumbled onto a set for an Urban Outfitters catalog shoot. Cute stylee décor, check. Mixed hipster clientele, check. Eclectic beats, checkity check. Oh, and wait staff in newsboy caps, check. Don't get me wrong, I have zero problem with hip, I encourage it wholeheartedly. (Yo, you there in the ironic t-shirt, pass me a PBR.) But let's just say ~WEIRD FISH~ is not the first spot I'd bring my (cute) mother for dinner, unless she was an anthropologist studying the Missionite species.

Mom would also not be happy with the line, nor are most people, which is what you can expect at local hotspots run by cool Mission denizens who know a pile of fellow Mission hipsters (to wit: one of the owners, Timothy Holt, has been the GM of Boogaloo's for 10-plus years, and the other owner, Peter Hood, is also behind St. Francis Fountain—you do the math). Once the sister café opens next door (Milk and Honey? Monkey See Monkey Do? Stand by.), at least there will be a place to hang out while waiting for your table (there aren't a lot of tables, but they are quite pretty with their glass tops over oxidized fleurs and the like).

The space is totally gastropub quaint, with robin's egg blue walls, dark wood wainscoting, a shelf with apothecary styling of sea-styled ephemera, a gorg pair of oval mirrors with crackled ivory frames, and a serious chandelier. (No one-eyed fishermen, however.) The vibe is casual, and cozy. And totally freaking loud. Like, holla. My favorite touch: the black bandanas for napkins. A vato-style nod to the 'hood? Yo, esse, it works.

Big props to the owners for taking a stand on utilizing local ingredients and sustainable seafood, and as they promised me before opening, they were gonna make the best damned fish and chips in town. They worked like hell on getting the recipe right, and I have to say the beer batter adheres perfectly to the nice juicy chunks of tilapia like a dream. Not greasy, not soggy, not too battery, just crispy enough. Piping hot. Salted just right. Hmmmm, by Jove, I think they did it.

My friend argued the merits of nice and greasy fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper after too many pints, and I can see the charms of that (if charm is the right word), but I like having a non-greasy and eco-friendly option around town. You can get two pieces ($8) or three ($11), and they come with a pile of pub-style thick-cut skin-on fries mixed in with sweet potato/yam fries. Hot, meaty salty fries, built for malt vinegar sprinkled on top. Get a glass of Anchor Steam (it's on tap) and you're set. Or just commit already and get a pitcher ($13). Hic.

Vegetarians can scarf on some fried tempeh (2 pc. $8/3 pc. $11) and there is the option of wheat-free soy batter as well. (I am not a vegetarian, far from it, so it's up to you veggie friends to fill me in on these.) There are a whole pile of options coming from the fryer, including yo-yos (fried dill pickles, who knew?), calamari, and reportedly the beer-battered green beans rule. Oh, and bonus, the oil from the fryer is converted to bio-diesel fuel, word.

Since it's crab season, I was all over the crab Louie salad ($12) like crabs on, oh, ew, never mind. A pile of fresh crab arrived (I've feasted on bigger piles around town, but it's still plenty) on a bed of fresh lettuce, plus some avocado, and hard-boiled egg. I liked the green olives mixed in too. Sadly, the tomatoes had no business being put in the classic wood salad bowl—totally out of season, hence nasty. There was another special app that featured some waaaay out of season ingredients: figs. The kitchen was nice and sent out the figs and goat cheese as a treat, so I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth, but I do think they need to pay closer attention to the seasonality of some of the ingredients they are using.

There's an appetizing line-up of sandwiches, from po' boys ($7) to crab rolls ($12) to grilled tilapia ($6), which I plan to check out for lunch one of these days. "Pete's Famous Tacos" (1 for $4/2 for $7) also have some fans—I found them a touch too soggy and sweet for my taste—and the chipotle was MIA. Vegetarians have a slew of options here (grilled yam and pepita tacos, there are a couple salads you can add tofu to, and ten sides are vegetarian), and even vegans will fare well. This place knows their neighborhood.

We ordered some carrot cake to go, and when we opened the container at home we discovered a pathetic little gummy wedge that needed to go the way of the tomatoes and the figs. But I heard the chef they'll be hiring for the new café next door will be helping out with desserts, so I will bank on it that this will get sorted.

Looking forward to trying the (daily) brunch—I recently mentioned the offerings in my column, but for the record: you can get eggs, hash browns that are made-to-order, shrimp and crab omelettes, buckwheat pancakes, French toast, and grits, like one dish called Little Al's Grits, with grilled shrimp, blackened catfish, mixed veggies, and corn tortillas. There are also a number of vegan offerings, like vegan pancakes, vegan sausage, and vegan bacon. Plus real coffee and espresso drinks from Mr. Espresso (he's totally the marrying kind). Now excuse me while I hop on my fixie and head over to my friend's art opening.

Regalito Rosticeria

Regalito Rosticeria
3481 18th St.
Cross: Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-503-0650
website

Tue-Fri 11am-10pm
Sat 9am-10pm
Sun 9am-8pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 9am-2pm

Apps $4-$12
Entrées $6-$12
Sides $3-$5
Desserts $4

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I wonder if ~REGALITO ROSICERIA~ is trying to win the sweetest branding award: the design of the site is totally puppy-style "awwww, so cute!," the menu is clean and pleasing to read, and even the exterior of the building is chipper. It all jives with the nice people working here too. The whole place makes me feel like I just took a big ole hit on the Prozac pipe, followed by a chaser of Zoloft.

All remnants of the former shady pupuseria are long gone—the new interior is more IKEA than grease-a-ria. It's kind of like a post-modern taqueria from someone who understands a pleasing paint palette. There's a long counter overlooking the kitchen (hello, single diners) and some tables for those who prefer their feet firmly planted on the ground. The music veered into a scary pop-land a couple times, and the lights are a touch bright, but it's mostly cheerful and clean, and there is even art on the walls. (Literally the complete opposite of the cave that was here before.)

Munch on some kicky pepitas ($2) (AKA pumpkin seeds for all you non-linguistic gringos) with chile and lime while looking over the menu. The specialty here is the 1/4 roast chicken, which is free-range (thank you) and comes with your choice of marinade (salt, pepper, lemon, or chile, garlic, lime) and a side of pinto beans and Mexican rice. The chile, garlic, and lime pollo was definitely juicy, but I found it lacking some salt and seasoning, so I hope they get that right—at least it wasn't dry. I hate that. The Mexican rice was some of the best I've had (fluffy, savory), and the pintos were big and tasty. I so want to come back for the Oaxacan mole ($12.50).

If you can handle some spice, go for the enchiladas rojas ($7.50). But because this place plays some authentic Mexican comida mind tricks on you, the red ones don't come with cheese or chicken, so order them with chicken if you expect to make a meal out of it. The enchiladas verdes ($8.50) come with chicken, but no cheese. Just pointing these things out so you don't end up busting out a sad clown face when you don't get some chicken in your enchilada. (That last part of the sentences sounds kind of naughty, ay caramba.) The thing that will totally make you cry is the heat of the red sauce—it packs a gangsta punch, thanks to the guajillo chiles they are using. Gonna make you sweat! (Everybody dance now.)

The menu offers grilled nopales ($6.50), which are probably one of the hardest things to prep, like, ever. Seriously a ball-busting dish to prepare—"Hey, anyone want to remove prickly spines off this big ole box o' cactus?" "Uh, no, gracias." So half of eating this dish is appreciating the labor that goes into it. Like pomegranate. (Times ten.) Nopales are also noteworthy for their incredibly snotty character—it's like a wicked cousin to okra.

A pal tried the black bean soup special ($6), which also had good heat and seasoning, but dang, the chochoyotes (masa dumplings) hiding in the bowl were like corn rocks. Unexpectedly, my favorite dish was the ejotes/green beans ($3.50). The beans were cooked perfectly, and had this acidic tang from some lime, plus some thin slices of sweet onion. You'll want an order for yourself. There's a guy in the kitchen who has some special touch for doing these beans that I couldn't get out of him. Magic beans. The papas con rajas/roasted new potatoes and poblano chile strips ($3.50) were also killer—needed a little salt, but with the crumbling of cheese on top were tasty nonetheless. Rad, those rajas.

Finished up with some commendable custardy flan ($5.95), and the sangria we had with dinner was also well made, with a rim of cinnamon and fresh chunks of fruit with no cloying sugary taste. I'm coming back for the pork leg, the mole, and those damned green beans. Hasta luego!

 
the sponsor

thewhole9.com

What to do when it's damp and chilly out and you're craving a cozy night in and some assurance that all is merry and bright in some part of this crazy world? Check out a tasty new website called thewhole9.com for a slew of tips and recipes on creating the perfect evening at home. Better yet, browse the People section and find a new culinary-inclined cohort or maybe someone to meet under the mistletoe. And if you feel a touch of Hemingway welling within you (or maybe Bridget Jones) you can log on and post reviews on bars, restaurants, and cafes for fellow members. After all, it is the season of giving.

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the wino

The Wino

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Scott Beattie, a third generation San Franciscan, began tending bar while studying toward his English degree at U.C. Berkeley. He's worked at such popular establishments as Perry's on Union Street, the Blue Light, and Postrio. From 2001-2005, Beattie manned the celebrated "Cellar Bar" at Pat Kuleto's Martini House in St. Helena. As the mixologist at Cyrus, Beattie stocks the bar with hand-crafted, small-production liquors, with special attention given to spirits born in the Bay Area, including single-malt Scotches, small-batch Bourbons and high-end tequilas, and marries them with local, seasonal, organic produce. His favorite drink is Guinness Draft.

Simple Winter Citrus Drinks
Wintertime brings us some amazing and unusual citrus fruit from both northern and southern California. Especially early in the season, around December, the acid levels in these fruits are on the higher side which makes them perfect for tasty cocktails. I'd like to present a little methodology for some simple, three-ingredient drinks that are essentially variations on the famous Brazilian caipirinha. These classic concoctions can be reinvigorated with the help of Meyer lemons, Key limes, Rangpur limes, and kumquats.

The skins of these fruits are laden with intense and aromatic oils. To get the oils incorporated into a libation you'll want to cut the fruit into eight pieces and then muddle the fruit down well in a mixing glass, thus juicing it and releasing the oils simultaneously.

Try to use fruit that is no larger than a common lime; Meyer lemons can get quite large, so find smaller ones with thin skins. Key limes might require a lime and a half, and kumquats might be about 4 'quats cut in half. Rangpur limes, which are the most difficult to find yet the most rewarding, are usually about the perfect size.

With a little experimentation, you might find a combination of two or three fruits that is particularly tasty to you, and is attractively multi-colored. In any case, add about a 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of simple syrup (50/50 dissolved superfine sugar and hot water) to the glass. Now it's time to pick your booze.

With each of these drinks you want to use about 2 oz. of liquor. If you want to taste just the pure fruit in your drink, feel free to used straight vodka. Trust me when I say this: save yourself the money and use Smirnoff. Use the more expensive stuff for straight martinis. You will only notice the difference in your bank account, and not on your palate.

However, using some of the fantastic, all natural, and local enhanced vodkas from Domaine Charbay and Hangar One could produce something really special. Great combinations that I've found are Charbay Meyer Lemon with Meyer lemon (duh!) and Hangar Kaffir Lime with Key lime. If you find the enhanced vodka flavor too intense, use 1 oz. enhanced vodka and 1 oz. straight vodka. (I do this with many of the drinks at Cyrus.)

Vodka will work fine, but I much prefer using rum or cachaça—there's much more flavor. Resist the urge to buy cheap, mass-produced rum. Splurge on rums like Oronoco, 10 Cane, and Charbay Cane Rum. All of these are light-colored rums that haven't been extensively aged in a barrel, nor been altered with caramel or molasses. Basically, you'll taste more of your fantastic fruit if you use these. Cachaça is a very close relative of rum coming from Brazil that will work quite well. After all, we're making variations on the caipirinha, aren't we?

To make the drink, add your liquor to the muddled fruit and simple syrup and then add as much ice as the size of the glass you're going to eventually serve your drink in. A "rocks" or "tumbler" glass is ideal. A "Collins" glass is way too big. Shake or stir your concoction well and then dump it into your glass. Now taste it. A great cocktail should have a happy balance between sweetness and acid. The nice thing about these drinks is that they can be easily adjusted to suit your taste. Add more simple syrup if you find it too tart, more juice or muddled fruit if it's too sweet for your taste. If you do adjust it, make sure to re-shake or re-stir it well so the ingredients mix properly.

I'm not going to give you any recipes because it's way too much fun to seek out exotic citrus—there are dozens more varieties to be had, many of which I've never even had the good fortune to have played around with, and it's fun to experiment at home. I've laid out for you the basic formula: muddled fruit, simple syrup, booze. You'll probably make some bad drinks. But you will definitely make some great ones too. Good luck.

 
the socialite

Dine About Town

Dine About Town

Jan. 1-Jan. 31, 2007
various locations

website

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Here's your annual way to rack up some charges on your VISA card (don't blame me). Starting on December 18, you can start making online restaurant reservations for San Francisco's sixth annual ~DINE ABOUT TOWN~, coming in January. More than one hundred San Francisco restaurants will offer three-course prix-fixe menus at $21.95 for lunch and/or $31.95 for dinner (taxes and gratuities not included, official terms and conditions are available on the site). This offer is available exclusively to guests paying with a valid Visa credit card. A la carte menus will be available as well. The "Dine About Town" section of the SFCVB site will list all of the participating "Dine About Town" restaurants, searchable by cuisine and location, and reservations can be made online through a partnership with OpenTable.com.

Here are a few restaurants that will be participating (yes, really good ones!): Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, aziza, bacar restaurant and wine salon, Bong Su Restaurant & Lounge, Cortez Restaurant & Bar, DESTINO, Foreign Cinema, Jack Falstaff, Rubicon, Scott Howard Restaurant, Universal Café… the list goes on.

 
the starlet

DECEMBER 12, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Boulevard has been hit with the high-profile chefs lately: Jacques Pepin was recently spotted dining in the restaurant. (No mention if poor Claudine was there for him to give a hard time.)