tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: what's new, Mister Magoo?

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please


 

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Have fun blowing your holiday bonus on an expensive New Year’s dinner and night out? Just think of it as doing your part for the local economy. So in honor of the New Year, I gotta jump on that “top ten list” bandwagon and offer my own little list. After some thinking, I decided to write on what I DON’T want to see more of in 2007. Let’s do it.

1. No more variations on tuna tartare. Basta, please.

2. Enough with the silly amuse bouches. Unless you’re busting out something special or exquisite, say, with caviar. Otherwise, I am no longer amused.

3. Will the tyranny of crème brûlée flavored with [insert trendy ingredient here, from tea to yuzu] ever stop? And the mini trios of them, lord help me. Oh, and let’s not forget bread pudding. It’s become the new flourless chocolate cake.

4. Pinot Noir. Yes, it’s a lovely varietal that pairs wonderfully with food, but I say be a contrarian and start ordering Merlot like a maniac.

5. Bottle service. ‘Nuff said.

6. While we’re on booze, will everyone lay off the Fernet abuse already? Try something new, like Averna, or even Amaro Montenegro.

7. Truffle oil. Don’t even get me started.

8. Kobe beef. Unless that steak tartare or 6 oz. filet is $150 and it’s really from Kobe, it’s just Wagyu, or Kobe-style beef, not the real deal. I wish diners and servers would stop talking about it like it’s true Kobe beef, because that Prada bag is fake, baby.

9. Braised short ribs. They’re almost like truffle oil in this town i.e. everywhere.

10. Hamachi crudos. Lemme guess, with yuzu, or a special salt?

Not to start the New Year all cranky or anything—I’m quite excited with all the new openings and the vibrant local restaurant and bar scene we have again. In the meantime, I am getting ready to head off to Mexico tomorrow (yes, I’d hate me too) and have some packing to do, so excuse the brevity of this week’s ‘hopper—I put her on a Slim-Fast program this week.

Oh, and if you want a little more reading, I actually had a couple pieces in this month’s issue of San Francisco magazine. About cocktails. Surprising, I know.

Onward, upward—let’s rock.
~Marcia

the chatterbox

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO So some of you know I truck around the city on my bike unless it’s raining or I’m in heels (that’s when the red Italian with four wheels comes into play). So I was more than thrilled to discover Divisadero will soon have its own bike shop-meets-café this year, ~MOJO BICYCLE CAFÉ~. The Tang-colored building on Divis was everything from a TV repair shop to a beauty parlor over the years, but is being completely gutted to make room for this totally cool concept from Remy Nelson and John McDonnell. Mojo will start serving coffee early in the morning, and plans on having some tasty pastries to offer as well. In the back you’ll find a bike shop, and at last, a cool place to repair your bike that isn’t in the Mission. So if you pop a flat or just get thirsty for a drank while pedaling “The Wiggle,” you’ll soon have a nearby spot to chill. They will also have a well-crafted beer and wine list, plus some daily specials, from sandwiches to stews. The shop is slated to open by February, and the café portion will be soon thereafter. 639-A Divisadero St. between Hayes and Grove, 415-440-2338.

~PAUL EINBUND~, formerly the sommelier at bacar, was originally going to embark on a project of his own, but since that fell through, you’ll find him at COI, where he is now a partner. He started mid-December, and is busy boosting the wine list to “awesome” status, and getting the service really tight. (Einbund is also a big fan of Madeira—look for a growing collection there.) They are also aiming to pump the lounge business, which I personally think is one of the best deals in the city.

Just to put a rumor to rest that keeps popping into my inbox: Dennis Leary is not leaving or closing ~CANTEEN~ anytime soon. The only change is Canteen has closed for breakfast during the week, and Leary is taking a couple days off this first week of January. But as the man himself said, “That's about the only time my restaurant will be dark for the next three years” (which is how long the option is on his lease).

A couple more things to put to bed: for the record, I tend not to write about things until the deal is done. So that wine and panino shop some of you thought ~A16~ was going to open on Chestnut? The deal didn’t work out, so for now we’ll need to sit tight until they find a new location on that project. As for Calvin Schneiter selling ~ANDALU~, well, unfortunately that deal didn’t pan out either. He said he has mixed emotions about it—it’s been five years since he opened Andalu, so while he was excited to take a break from the restaurant, now that his baby is remaining to be his, he’s geared up to make some tweaks and fine-tunings.

Some of you Lower Haight denizens have probably been wondering what’s up with ~THE GRIND~. After ten years of business, the owner decided a remodel was in order. Shiny new kitchen, new counter, new chairs, floors, paint job, the works. Here’s the funny thing: I never knew this place has such an extensive menu! Tons of sandwiches, salads, and even breakfast! And I thought it was just a coffee shop. It’s set to reopen on January 8. 783 Haight St. at Scott St., 415-864-0955.

Sausage alert: ~UNDERDOG~ has opened in the Inner Sunset. This organic sausage joint also has a bunch of vegan and vegetarian options, with organic condiments, buns, the whole nine yards. Plus tater tots. And salads. Oh, and bonus points: the utensils and packaging are biodegradable. 1634 Irving St. at 17th Ave., 415-665-8881.

The French have been busy this December: ~LA TERRASSE~ opened in the Presidio (215 Lincoln Blvd. at Graham St., 415-922-DINE) and ~AMELIE~, the wine bar on Polk St. has also opened (1754 Polk St. at Washington St., 415-292-6916). ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ has also opened for dinner—they will expand to all-day dining in February. Oh, and bonus—you’ll find Thad Vogler acting as Colonel Drink over there (yes, that’s his title), and Zoi Antonitsas (of Bovolo in Healdsburg, and the former Bizou) as Commanding General de Cuisine. Ten hup! Presidio’s Lombard Gate at Lyon St., Building 563, Ruger St., 415-885-1888.

 
the regular

My Tofu House

My Tofu House
4627 Geary Blvd.
Cross: 10th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118

415-750-1818

Sun-Fri 11am-10pm
Sat 5pm-10pm

Entrées $8.76-$15.21

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Man, this week was freaking cold. My icebox, excuse me, my Edwardian apartment was chilling me to the marrow. I can’t believe I actually had to go to bed with socks on. Wooly ones. I could do double duty and turn this place into a meat locker, seriously. “Oh, hey, mister cable man. Yeah, just move that side of beef aside and you’ll find the cable box. See, right there. Yeah, sorry about the smell.”

It’s in times like these when a space heater, mittens, earmuffs, and a scarf (you’re indoors, mind you) just don’t cut it, and you have to turn to some serious spice to warm yourself up (hey, you can’t drink hot toddies all day, but you certainly can try). Hello Korean food. There is always the option to hit one of the Korean barbeque places and leave smelling like a campfire girl, but ~MY TOFU HOUSE~ is entirely another animal.

The place itself is actually quite chilly—bright lights, uncomfortable seats, and kind of drafty. There’s also a back room that is literally Siberia—on the ambiance scale, I’ve seen waiting rooms at SF General with more personality. And joy, whaddya know, a long line of people too! (I know, I am really selling you on this space, huh!) But the tables turn quickly so the line moves along; watch everyone’s dining techniques while you’re waiting, because dinner will require some interaction. (Stand by for more.) The place is also packed with Koreans, from families to young hipsters to middle-aged guys having dinner together. That’s about all the stamp of legitimacy I need.

The primary dish to order here is the soon dubu, the soft tofu soup ($8.76—and what is up with that weirdo pricing?). The name “My Tofu House” is deceiving because it makes you think you’ll be seeing a bunch of vegetarian dishes, but in actuality, no sir. Four of the five soups have meat in them, like beef or pork and mushrooms; we tried the seafood version, with clams, shrimp, and oysters.

It comes out in this little stone bowl, boiling furiously like a witch’s cauldron (hold the eye of newt, thanks). One can’t help but wonder how many accidental soup-in-the-lap incidents have occurred over the years. Let’s just say your nether regions would end up approximating a botched gender reassignment surgery—the soup is wicked hot. Anyway. You end up getting a separate bowl with an egg in it—as soon as your soup arrives, crack the egg into your bubbling little bowl and mix it in. The soup comes in not spicy, mild, medium, or spicy—medium hit the perfect note for me.

While your soup cools its jets, have fun sampling the pan chan, the small dishes of appetizing bites like cucumber, a small fried fish, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, kimchee, and tasty little sweet-salty fish—they were total fish candy. Munch munch. Don’t be afraid—they were delish. If you end up demolishing some of the dishes, a server will ask you if you’d like more… totally gracious touch. Everyone working here was quite nice, in fact. They seemed happy to answer questions for the novices, so have no fear.

Another complimentary item that comes out with your order is a stone bowl with rice, plus some peas in there too—your server will scoop it into a smaller bowl for you, and the rice that remains in the stone bowl gets quite crispy. Then a server will come back and pour water into the stone bowl and put the lid on. Within moments the mini hot tub starts churning (pass the Courvoisier), and once it’s done, you have a kind of smoky rice soup. Not for everyone, but definitely a funky little ritual.

The stone bowl makes another appearance with the bibimbop/bibimbap ($12.22, again, weirdo pricing scheme). The texture and flavors of this dish just rule: rice, nori, pickled vegetables, spinach, bean sprouts, beef (or you can order it with seafood, or mushrooms, or just tofu) and again, a raw egg that you mix in with the rice-a-rama. Fire-eaters can add hot sauce to the mix too. The stoneware bowl is so hot it crisps everything up and keeps it nice and toasty. Scoop some out and place it on top of your bowl of white rice (I’ve also seen people scoop tofu out of their soup and place it on top of their rice).

Oh yeah, the soup. It’s probably cooled down by now. Take a sip. Mmmm, hot and good and slightly fishy. (Don’t touch that bowl, however. Just don’t.) The tofu is tender and silky, and hey, there are some little morsels of the egg you cracked in, tasty. We found the prawns end up getting totally overcooked by the time the soup cools, so take them out and put them on your rice to save them from a death-by-boiling fate if you plan on eating them.

Two bowls of soup and one order of the bibimbap was more than plenty for two people—we got out of there with tip for $40, and totally stuffed. Other popular dishes are the kalbi (short ribs, $15.21) or the bulgogi (sliced rib eye, $13.37)—both come out on sizzling platters and smell heavenly. There’s not much else on the menu. There really doesn’t need to be. Oh, except beer. I really wanted a beer. No beer. You’ll have to content yourself with tea or a soda. And for dessert, you get a slice of melon gum. Pay up, pop the complimentary gum into your mouth, and you’re officially armed and toasty enough to head back out into the foggy SF night. Take no prisoners.

 
the wino

Peter Greerty

 

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Family Style Wine Pairing by Peter Greerty

Peter Greerty was raised in the heart of the Napa Valley in St. Helena, California. His restaurant career has led him to such places as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville, and the Ritz-Carlton Boston, where he was the Director of Wine & Spirits for the hotel. He currently is the sommelier of Bong Su, a new Vietnamese restaurant in SoMa. Bong Su was recently named one of the twenty “Best New Restaurants” by John Mariani of “Esquire” magazine, and the restaurant also just received the Wine Enthusiast Grand Wine List Award.

Family-style dining is about sharing the company of family and friends while sitting around the table eating dishes that are comforting. Bottles of wine are poured freely without care or reason. It’s about the conversation, not perfect food and wine pairings for each course; for the average diner, these are often minor details of little concern or consequence.

However, over the past several years, restaurants have started to downplay the emphasis on design and the white tablecloth. Concepts are more focused on what are the changing desires of today’s diner, with an emphasis on regional cuisine, seen in both the menu and the wine list.

Restaurateurs have designed menus and wine lists to complement each other. An Alsatian Pinot Gris will be placed on a wine list because you can drink it with a cod brandade and a fresh melon salad, while a Mendoza Malbec can go with roasted sea bass with fennel and a rotisserie rosemary leg of lamb.

Anybody who tells you the rule is white wine with fish and red wine with meat should be publicly flogged (only verbally, of course!). While I don’t purposely pair white wine with a grilled steak to prove some senseless point, I do, quite often, pair fish with red wine depending on the preparation of the fish. And there are definitely wines that can bridge the gap between fish and meat.

Bridging the gap of dishes with a common wine is not as mainstream as we may think—we just need to think outside of the box. A table with Vietnamese crab and garlic noodles and aromatic spiced Kobe beef pho can be bridged by a Russian River Pinot Noir with its bright red cherries and delicate allspice aromas and flavors. A dish of Andalusian shrimp with sherry and another of braised oxtail with piquillo peppers can be complemented by a Sicilian Nero d’Avola, loaded with spicy roasted tomato aromas and ripe plum flavors. And let’s not forget how amazingly a nice dry brut Champagne can tie together a fresh Dungeness crab salad with celery and tarragon, accompanied by a classic steak tartar with red onions, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

There are, of course, the more common and well-known pairings: for example, Alsatian and German Rieslings pair well with Asian cuisine. Napa Valley Cabernet and Zinfandels pair well with grilled meats and vegetables, and Burgundian Pinot Noirs pair well with most mushroom dishes.

There are many criteria for judging which wines will work well for multiple pairings. For me, the best wines for food pairings are always wines with good balance and structure. The wine should hit you in the front palate, the mid palate and on the finish. The finish should be long, and the wine should be better 20 minutes after it has been opened. There should also be a good amount of acidity to bring out the flavors of the dish you are eating. A good food wine should never have so much of one component that it overpowers the dish. And finally, a good food wine should complement the food you’re eating—they should play nice, and bring out the best in each other.

As a restaurateur once told me in Beaune, “Always choose your wine before your food.” I don’t stick to this rule necessarily, but it does work pretty well.

Happy eating and drinking!

 
the socialite

ZAP Festival

ZAP Festival
January 24-27, 2007
Various locations
San Francisco, CA

Tickets:
call 530-274-4900
or website

 

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, so I went to the ~ANNUAL ZINFANDEL ADVOCATES & PRODUCERS TASTING~ a couple years back, and it was quite a sight to behold, let me tell you. Upon arrival you are armed with a baguette and a wine glass and sent off to do battle with table after table of zinfandel producers. A mind-boggling number of producers are there, like, more than 250 wineries. By the end of the event, you have loads of people with purple teeth grinning at you, and let’s not forget the gaggles of cougars wobbling precariously in their pointy boots. Baguettes are jauntily poking of back pockets or purses, some folks gnawing on them animalistically instead of ripping off a piece (true, it’s almost impossible to do so with a glass of zin in your hand). It’s seriously a scene. Can’t wait to witness more mayhem this year.

There are other events as well, so here’s the full line-up:

January 24: Flights: A Showcase of California Zinfandels, 2pm–4pm, an afternoon of panel discussions and tastings-seminars led by Zinfandel winemakers and experts which concludes with Terroir & Zin, a walk around tasting reception from 4:30pm–6pm, showcasing 37 Zinfandels from many growing regions of California. Students from the City College of San Francisco Culinary Arts & Hospitality Program have designed hors d’oeuvres which will accompany the seminars as well as the walk-around reception. City College of San Francisco, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Studies Program, Ocean Avenue Campus (50 Phelan Avenue, San Francisco, 94112, 415/239-3000); tickets are $95 for ZAP members and $125 for non-members. Tickets must be purchased in advance; none will be available at the door.

There will be two seminars; they will run concurrently and both can be attended. Zinfandel: Defining Quality will be moderated by Laurie Daniel, wine columnist for The San Jose Mercury News. Panelists are winemaker Paul Draper (Ridge Vineyards), known as a pioneer in the production of long-lived, complex Zinfandels; winemaker Jerry Seps (Storybook Mountain Vineyards), known for the intensity and longevity of his Zinfandels and winemaker Bill Easton (Easton Wines), respected for the power and finesse of his Zinfandels.

Flavors of Zinfandel: Tasting Outside the Box will be moderated by Barbara Haimes, Wine Buyer, Cafe Rouge and Wine Instructor, City College Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management. Panelists will be winemaker Joel Peterson (Ravenswood) and Master Chef Tony Lawrence (Chef For You, Philadelphia).

January 25: Good Eats & Zinfandel at Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco (Marina Blvd. at Buchanan, 94123, 415/441-3400), a lively walk-around food and wine tasting which pairs Zinfandel wineries with restaurants, 6pm–9pm. Tickets are $80 for ZAP members and $105 for non-members. Tickets must be purchased in advance; none will be available at the door. [I will tell you, there are a ton of restaurants and wineries participating—check out the site for the line-up.]

January 26: Evening with the Winemakers Benefit Auction and Dinner at The Fairmont Hotel (950 Mason Street between California & Mason, 94108, 415/772- 5000). A reception with Zinfandel wineries, including a taste of the 2005 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel (made by Bill Knuttel of Dry Creek Vineyard), on to an auction and then dinner. Tickets are $200 for ZAP members and $250 for non-members. Tickets must be purchased in advance; none will be available at the door. For more information on the unusual silent and live auction lots, please go to http://www.zinfandel.org/festival/default.asp?cid=1&n1=14&n2=0

January 27: The 16th Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Tasting at the Festival and Herbst Pavilions at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco from 2pm–5pm. Tickets are $45 for ZAP members, $55 for non-members and a limited number of tickets will be available for purchase at the door at $65. (There will be a separate trade tasting from 10am-1pm.) The 16th Annual Tasting will welcome more than 250 Zinfandel wineries. Wines to be tasted will be primarily the 2004 vintage as well as 2005 barrel samples. The Tasting is the only place where Zin aficionados can purchase the Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel; in 2007 the 2004 vintage will be available (made by Kent Rosenblum of Rosenblum Cellars). Each attendee receives a commemorative wineglass (to use and keep) as well as a baguette upon entering. Logo’d merchandise and mixed cases of Zinfandels are available for purchase as well. Water, coffee, cheeses, breads and fruits are available throughout the two pavilions. Parking is limited; ZAP recommends public transportation. New this year: Ft. Mason is charging $8 for parking. There will be a complimentary shuttle to the parking lot at Marina Middle School, Bay & Webster (a $10 charge there supports the school).

 
the starlet

JANUARY 02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Gotta love this: Bob Saget was spotted at Umami. Was it during a full house?

Nemesis, the gay twins pop/rock duo, was at Asia de Cuba.