tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: eat like a bird.

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


 

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Man, or should I say hombre, Mexico totally spoiled me on too many levels: friends, fun, sun (yeah, yeah, hate me all you want, I can take it). On the food front, all I can say is nothing can top the crunch and deep flavor of the al pastor tacos (oh, and one quesadilla) I munched at a street vendor in Puerto Vallarta, and a breakfast of chilaquiles from this tiny kitchen run by five women that was nestled in a small neighborhood market. And lest I forget, the sublime mole from the private chef from Oaxaca my friends hired to cook at their wedding. These are three things I know I won't even be able to find reasonable facsimiles of here in SF, especially the mole. Oh yeah, and the warm sun and cheap cabs.

But instead, let's focus on what we do have here—it's not too shabby.

Hasta luego,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Lovebirds take note: after almost five years of business (Valentine's Day would have been the five-year anniversary), ~L'AMOUR DANS LE FOUR~ is now closed: the building the restaurant was located in was sold and is becoming a real estate office. Partners Laurent Bornier, Adrienne Fair, and her husband, Blaise Bourdais, are sad about the closure, and are currently seeking another location. The last dinner was served on New Year's Eve, but they will be catering a Valentine's Day dinner at the Glas Kat from 7pm-9pm. That night is Bondage-a-Go-Go, so any of you latex lovers out there might want to consider this dinner option, called "Menage a Trois"—for more info and reservations, call the restaurant's old number (415-775-2134).

A couple switcheroos in pastry chef land: Ted Nugent from ~PERBACCO~ scooted over to ~SCALA'S~ last week; he has already added hazelnut panna cotta with oranges and honey to the menu, along with salted caramel gelato, and warm gingerbread with pears and sabayon. At Perbacco, Staffan Terje will be handling the desserts for now—the position might not be filled. And after three weeks at ~AZIZA~, things weren't working out for both sides, so Shuna Fish Lydon is swimming elsewhere, destination unknown.

Sommelier Shana Dilworth is leaving ~CAMPTON PLACE~ in mid February. She will take a month to prepare for the MS exam in the middle of March, and is then relocating to Europe. Good luck to her, her warmth and style will be missed!

Out in the Richmond, the owner of ~BISTRO CLEMENT~ has sold the business. It will most likely be open until the end of January. The new owner will be reopening the business soon thereafter as the ~BEEHIVE CAFÉ~; more on this as details emerge. 127 Clement St. at 3rd Ave.

Quick update on ~FARINA~ in the Mission (the Liguarian restaurant and focaccia bakery moving into the old Anna's Danish Cookies spot on 18th Street): it's looking like March for the opening. Stand by…

Noticed a new café in the Mission that is opening this Friday: ~KAPÉ~ (which is Tagalog/Filipino for "café"). The space has an eclectic colonial look, with brightly colored armchairs that look quite comfy, warm wood floors, a trio of black glass chandeliers above the counter, marble tables, and other cozy touches like plants and woven baskets. They will start serving coffee from Mr. Espresso and special Chinese teas (like the blooming flower ones), plus French pastries from Patisserie Philippe (which still has not opened). Once permits go through, they will also be making soups, salads, and sandos. Wi-Fi will be offered, and folks are sure to linger in this well-lit corner space. 6am-9:30pm daily. 16th Street at Dehon (between Church and Sanchez).

The folks at ~CAFÉ MARITIME~ have a few groovy deals in store: first up, for you boozehounds, there's a happy hour as "real as a $2 bill." Every night, from 5:30pm-7pm, you get $2 off on all drinks, every night of the week. So when you order a beer, a glass of wine, or even a Man Overboard (one of their signature cocktails), your drink will be served on a $2 bill "coaster." I wish more bars did this—I'd almost be rich. There are also some $5 bar apps that will be available, like fish tacos, plus $1 oysters (holla!).

And for you prime rib lovers (that includes me, hell yes), starting today is Prime Rib Tuesdays. For $24.95, you get your choice of house-made clam chowder or their "BLT" wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, shrimp, and bacon, plus some juicy prime rib, twice-baked potato, and creamed spinach. Mmmmm, prime rib. And if you feel like being a little more old school, you can order a $5 martini (vodka or gin) to go with the original comfort meal. 2417 Lombard St. at Scott St., 415-885-2530.

Just a few doors down in the Edward II Bed and Breakfast is ~BLOOMERS~, a small pub/café on the ground floor of the hotel that recently started serving up some rather legit English pub fare. The menu includes a variety of pasties, from Cornish to curried meat or vegetable, plus bangers and mash, and shepherd's pie, which are served with real Heinz baked beans or Batchelors Mushy Peas and mashed potatoes with Bisto Gravy (skip the side salad served with bottled dressing). There's also Cadbury's flake chocolate with vanilla ice cream for dessert. But the real standouts are the Indian specialties, like the feisty meat or veggie samosas with a refreshing raita, and the keema curry, served with some authentic heat and seasoning (the friendly owner, Jai Das, and his wife, the chef, have roots in the Gujarat region, in the south of India). The ambiance is definitely a little lacking (bright inquisition-like lights, standard issue yellow poly-blend tablecloths, weird photos of the owner with girls in bikinis, not many fellow diners), but if you're in the 'hood and you get a hankering for a pastie and a pint, they are open Tue-Sat from 11am-9pm. 3155 Scott St. at Lombard St., 415-922-3000.

A few openings to report: first, breaking all restaurant renovation speed records, is ~TWO~ (22 Hawthorne St., 415-777-9779) the restaurant formerly known as Hawthorne Lane, which is opening this Thursday. Expect a palette of earth tones with some groovy retro design elements, and a new eclectic soundtrack to boot. In the front room, a copper-clad center bar with a concrete top will be encircled with full-backed leather barstools, along with lights hanging overhead that are made of coconut. The dining room will feature tall banquettes along the perimeter, and there will also be a communal table made of solid acacia wood that will seat 14 at its long benches and two wingback chairs on the ends. At the communal table, guests can enjoy a prix-fixe two-course menu along with a terzo of wine (about 1 1/2 glasses) for $25. (The menu changes daily, and the table is available first-come, first-served.)

You can take a peek at a PDF of TWO's appetizing new menu of affordable, casual, and seasonal dishes here (wait until you try the bacon and egg raviolo with spinach and brown butter, it's illegally good). There will also be some tasty yet affordable wines available through their unique "en-vrac" wine program, presenting several house wines (two red, two white) tapped from the barrels. Custom-blended for TWO by winemaker Jim Neal of Jim Neal Wine Company, the wine en vrac, meaning "in bulk," will allow guests to enjoy perfect barrel-aged wine at approximately half the usual cost of house wine. Cheers!

~MISSION PIE~ (2901 Mission St. at 25th St.) is open and ready to greet you with coffee and treats, and ~HAYES AND KEBAB~ (406 Hayes St. at Gough St., 415-861-2977) has fired up the spits and is ready to ply you with gyros and falafel and moussaka, and oh yeah, kebabs.

 
fresh meat

LarkCreekSteak

LarkCreekSteak

Westfield Centre
845 Market St.
4th floor/Suite 402
Cross: 5th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-593-4100
website

Lunch
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm
Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm

Dinner
Sun-Thu 5pm-9pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm

Apps $9-$19
Entrées $19-$43
Desserts $5

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The mall isn't usually on the top of my preferred dining destinations list, nor am I a fan of chain restaurants, but the meal I recently had at ~LARKCREEKSTEAK~ definitely made me reconsider my "rules" (and I really don't have many dining rules, except no fast food, which is soundly broken about once a year when I hit the drive-through, guiltily ordering up an Egg McMuffin and hash browns—blame it on the hangover).

So here we are, on the fourth floor of the Westfield Centre (don't you dare call it Center), about to enter Mister Bradley Ogden's and Mister Michael Dellar's latest venture, and I'll be damned if my nose didn't quiver. The smell of smoke and char and grill and meat was wafting through the intimate dining room, and it awakened a very visceral part of me, the one that suddenly wanted some MEAT. NOW. I felt like I was about to bust out a Teen Wolf transformation right there in the booth.

Fortunately, this place doesn't make you wait for long for some meat: after a small shot of a nonalcoholic palate cleanser (one night it was pomegranate with apple cider soda), some warm biscuits arrive at the table, with a spread of pecan butter, maple syrup, and andouille sausage. Yeah, you heard right: meat butter. I would not protest if this becomes a nationwide trend. Meat butter: it's what's for breakfast.

When you hear "mall" and "steakhouse," you wouldn't exactly expect to find an appetizer like Dungeness crab salad and cauliflower panna cotta ($12) on the menu, would you? It was a delicate layered dish, with a minute and precise dice of Fuji apple, with madras curry, chunks of crab, and a bright carrot emulsion made with crème fraîche on top. Welcome to steakhouse 2007, baby. While this isn't exactly Craftsteak or CUT, it's certainly not like our other old school carnivorous outposts around town, either. (Ruth's Chris anyone? Didn't think so.)

Splurges include the carpaccio of marbled Wagyu ribeye from Masami Farms ($17) that almost looked like salame Toscana with its luscious fattiness, offset with the tangy bite of caper berries, cool hearts of palm, peppery radish and micro arugula, and shards of rich Parmigiano. A touch too much salt on the meat, but otherwise a well-balanced starter.

Celebrate your non-Chicago residency with the foie gras ($19), served with thick sear marks (and flavor) from the wood grill and a dusting of salt flakes, plus a petite round of fruit bread pudding and a perfect poached pear that rivaled some of the poached pears I have tasted in haute restaurants—not a hint of mealiness, and the picture of the season. In fact, many dishes here highlight what's in season—it's like a modern Cal-French steakhouse.

At this point, I was like, whoa, my pinky is raising a little. The food here is seriously elegant and packing a pedigree: gastriques, mirepoix, emulsions… The gentleman behind all these classy touches and details is Chef Jeremy Bearman, who was formerly the Executive Sous Chef at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Vegas, and Executive Sous Chef at Daniel Boulud's db Bistro Moderne in New York. Yup, Bearman has chops, and he knows what to do with them, too. A chef of his caliber can't be satisfied with a menu solely of steaks and chops—so be sure to dabble around in the apps for a taste of Bearman's flair and talent.

You'll also find some Ogden classics on the menu, like a Caesar salad, and a Yankee pot roast in the $29 prix-fixe dinner. One dish that didn't measure up was the basket of fried Ipswich clams ($15)—they arrived over-breaded and lukewarm. I also have an issue with doilies on a plate, which was what the basket of oysters was resting on. Doilies should be outlawed, unless you are using one to make a Valentine.

There is also a pan-roasted sweetbread ($15) that might give some folks pause—you read it correctly, you get one big sweetbread. It was a spotlessly clean one, mind you, and quite a refined dish, with accompanying players of roasted endive, parsnip puree, and grapefruit segments that all had their part in the performance. But unless you've been eating in a bouchon recently, you may find the big ole sweetbread is definitely unabashed in its presence, unlike other places around town that tend to serve them at a more diminutive size.

Another honking presentation was the pork chop ($25)—what arrives is a Fred Flintstone-sized bone-in chop. Like, wham, there it is. Wiillllma! Granted, this hulking piece of meat is an Eden Farms Berkshire chop that has been slow-roasted for three hours, but whew, it cuts a serious form. Like, dude, you been working out lately?

Our server mentioned some folks are put off by how pink it is, thinking it's underdone, not knowing that pork doesn't have to be lifeless and grey to be done. Think pink, people. It's totally delicious, with a jasmine rice, pecan, and dried cranberry pilaf underneath, and a drizzling of whole-grain mustard that completes the porky portrait. (This is the pork that shows up in the Cubano sandwiches at lunch.)

So, where's the beef? Oh, it's here, let me assure you. The menu features prime across the board, from New York strip (9 oz. $26/14 oz. $36) to bone-in ribeye (16 oz. $35/dry aged 16 oz. $42) to a 28 oz. porterhouse for two ($39). All sorts of purveyors were sourced for each cut of meat—the best purveyor for each cut would win, so what you're getting is straight-up beef perfection that is then grilled masterfully over fruitwood and charcoal embers.

I tried the bone-in ribeye, and the smoke on it was subtle, savory, on pointe. The steak was ridiculously juicy and tender, and fully delivered on the promise of the meaty fragrance when I first walked in. I think I have found my perfect steak in SF. It's moments like these that really remind me why I eat meat, and crave meat. The side of grilled chicory and red onion was a nice touch that reminded me of a good spinach salad made with bacon drippings—I didn't even consider the complimentary side sauces, like the signature sauce, béarnaise, garlic butter, horseradish, Maytag blue cheese butter… talk about gilding the lily.

Since the steaks and chops are served a la carte, of course there are a ton of sides, like beer-braised Brussels sprouts, creamed spinach, mascarpone polenta, and six other options from which you can choose two, for $7. The sprouts and spinach didn't particularly send me—I'd rather save my calories and precious space for the starters instead. (Like I’m really counting calories, har.)

In case you haven't gathered this already, the menu is pretty huge: there are also salads, soups, seafood, poultry, and oh yeah, let's not forget the dessert cart. Yeah, there's a big ole cart piled high with treats that looks like something out of Willy Wonka. And Pastry Chef Chona Piumarta is out to get you.

The chocolate hazelnut napoleon is four layers of pure evil, including a crispy bottom layer that put me over the edge, made with salt, praline paste, dark and bittersweet chocolate, and yes, crunched Rice Krispies. Other unexpected elements include sprinklings of candied carrot with the scrumptious carrot-pineapple cake, and the Meyer lemon cheesecake comes with spiced pistachios.

I haven't had desserts with these kinds of touches in a while, and all of them are well composed—it's about the balance of all the flavors converging together, from the salty layer with the chocolate, to the acidity of the lemon with the cheesecake. And all of them are only $5 (a nice respite after what you just coughed up for that steak, even after opting for the smaller 9 oz. size).

The wine list is all-American, with a number of good choices by the glass that won't break the bank, and others worth spending a little more on. Service can appear a little scattered or disjointed at some moments (getting a glass of wine may prove to be a lengthy process), but it was also friendly and knowledgeable.

The main room is actually quite small, with only room for 68 under the wood-beamed ceiling that gives it a barn-like quality, along with the pastoral artwork featuring hay bales that appear Thiebaud-like (if he wasn't so obsessed with cakes) and a playful room divider of flowers and grass made of glass and steel. There is also a spacious private room that just opened, the Larkspur Room, which can seat 36.

The crowd is casual, made up of a hodgepodge of power shoppers, families, couples out on a date, and post-work types unwinding in the bar area. Personally, I think the ringside seats at the (amazingly quiet) exhibition kitchen are the way to go—you could pick up some top-notch grill tips, and lord knows this is the place to do so.

 
the socialite

North Berkeley Wine
Photo courtesy of North Berkeley Wine

North Berkeley Wine Tasting
Wed., Jan. 10, 2007

W Hotel
181 3rd St.
Cross: Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

Reservations required
800-266-6585

6pm-9pm

$125 per person

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Winos, here's a playpen for you: ~NORTH BERKELEY WINE~ is hosting an exclusive wine tasting at the W Hotel. They import from France, Italy and South America from small production winemakers, artisans really, who generally own their vineyards, hand harvest and create handcrafted, quality wines. Six of their top producers are making the trip for this event and will be available for questions, discussion, and tasting with over forty wines presented, from affordable table wine to Grand Cru Pinot Noir to top-end Châteauneuf-du-Pape to pre-release Barolo, among others. The tasting will be catered by XYZ restaurant.

Present at the event will be:
• Frederic Magnien, Morey-St.-Denis: Magnien is undoubtedly one of the top winemakers in Burgundy today. The fifth generation of a long line of Burgundy vignerons, Magnien not only makes wine under his own label, but also is the winemaker for his father's domaine, Michel Magnien.

• Jean-Laurent and Jean-Dominique Vacheron, Sancerre: A dynamic team from Sancerre, these two cousins craft some of the finest, terroir-driven, organically produced Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in the Loire Valley.

• Sylvie Vacheron and Bruno Gaspard, Châteauneuf-du-Pape: A leading domaine in the southern Rhône, Domaine du Caillou crafts noble Châteauneuf wines and outstanding Côtes du Rhône cuvées that are consistently praised every vintage by the wine press.

• Marco Parusso, Piedmont: An uncompromising artist, Parusso is a terroir specialist—his many holdings in Piedmont are some of the finest vineyards around. World-class Barolo, classic, vibrant Barbera, terroir-driven Nebbiolo—there is nothing that Parusso can't do.

• Andrea Crocenzi, Le Marche: Proprietor/grower Andrea Crocenzi has pushed winemaking to new heights at this Italian winery that overlooks the Adriatic, with lower yields and more natural vinification. You'll be dazzled by his juicy Montepulciano and his zesty Verdicchio cuvées.

• Sergio Reyes, Chile: From one of the premier organic/biodynamic estates in Chile today, Reyes is an expert in natural winemaking processes and represents a new wave of artisans dedicated to crafting quality, terroir-driven Chilean wines.

Slow Food logo

Slow Food on Film
Sat., Jan. 13, 2007

California College of the Arts
San Francisco Campus
450 Irwin Street
San Francisco

6pm screening & panel
8:15pm wine reception

Tickets through Brown Paper Tickets

Slow Food SF site

$10 for Slow Food members
$15 non-members

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO ~SLOW FOOD ON FILM SAN FRANCISCO~, joined by Berkeley filmmakers Emiko Omori and Jed Riffe, present the documentary, "Ripe for Change." This fascinating film explores the intersection of food and politics in California over the last 30 years. It illuminates the complex forces struggling for control of the future of California's agriculture, and provides provocative commentary by a wide array of eloquent farmers, prominent chefs, and noted authors and scientists. We will begin to look for answers to questions like, what are the hidden costs of "inexpensive" food? And, how do we create sustainable agricultural practices?

 
the starlet

JANUARY 9, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Chris Isaak was spotted last week at Foreign Cinema.

And this is in the "why not" category: Andy Garcia was spotted at Destino a couple MONTHS ago. Yeah, that's seriously old news. But it's how we roll here in SF.