tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: two for the road.

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

the sponsor
this round is on me

Sign Language



 

MARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Well, it’s not every day you wake up and find yourself mentioned in an article “above the fold” on the front page of the Sunday Chronicle. Dag, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the quote they decided to use, and especially since it was taken a bit out of context. I’m not the first person this has ever happened to, I know. Sam over at Becks & Posh isn’t too stoked with her quote either. In sum: sound bites can bite. CHOW tossed the piece into “The Grinder”, literally.

The writers missed the day boat by not mentioning the importance of the intimate communities that have formed in these “online food societies” amongst the bloggers (both the pro and non-media bloggers), Yelpers, Tribe-ers, Chowhounds, and tablehoppers. Not many people depend solely upon one source for information about where to eat these days, and tend to like to balance the credentials of the pros against the “real world thoughts” and impressions of other kinds of posters. I slog through a slew of media outlets, from print to online. Some I give more credence to than others, but I take it all with a grain of (Maldon) salt, and I think most others do too.

The piece painted a mostly negative portrait of what I find to be an interesting and often inspiring group of people who write about their dining experiences in this city, professional or not, qualified or not, first impressions or third impressions, glowing or critical. There’s room for everyone.

I’d like to welcome all the new folks who subscribed to tablehopper in spite of the fact I sounded like a total brat in the piece—welcome aboard.

And now, let’s get crack-a-lackin’.

~Marcia subscribe


the chatterbox
Sign LanguageMARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO After realizing the lease was most likely not going to be renewed in a couple years’ time, Bay Bread decided to pull out of ~PLATANOS~ in the Mission, and an amicable deal was struck. (It really wasn’t a core business for them.) The restaurant closed on Sunday the 18th. The landlord is taking over—reportedly he has turned down other offers since his sons are interested in the space and want to do their own project there. More to come… 598 Guerrero St., at 18th St., 415-252-9281.

In other Bay Bread news, ~CORTEZ~ is on track to reopen soon. It passed inspection, the concrete has been poured, and now the remodeling, painting, and new flooring is all underway. Target date to reopen is April 23. Good news—a few people in the kitchen and front of house will be returning. They also have a new GM, Peter Riswold, who was formerly at the Huntington and Belden Taverna. He’s worked at some big restaurants in Hawaii, and has something like 25-30 years of experience. Hotel Adagio, 550 Geary St., at Jones St., 415-292-6360.

Okay, an important piece of NOPA news. And it’s not about the wildly popular restaurant, but the newly coined neighborhood in the 94117. Lisa Zahner, the Divisadero Corridor Manager for the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, is trying to get the ~DMV to open their parking lot~ for nights and weekend parking. Yes, brilliant, like it was in the old days. So those of you coming to the ‘hood to see shows at the Independent or eat at NOPA or Little Star can actually have a parking place, and not take up precious few spots that prevent friends from coming over to my place for cocktails. If you visit or live in this neighborhood, please fill in this brief survey and may parking karma be yours, and mine.

Since we’re kickin’ it in the Divis Corridor: ~CAFÉ ABIR~ is going through a major renovation: the café was closed about a week ago and there is just a coffee kiosk for now. The owners, the Dajani Group, are updating the space, changing the layout to allow more room for their expanding whole bean selection, and are adding a specialty wine and sake shop with a small wine bar/counter where you can taste before you buy. The café’s menu is also being expanded, with pastas, rotisserie chicken, and gourmet panini being added. The same number of seats will remain, and the magazine stand will also stay. They hope to reopen the whole space at the end of May. 1300 Fulton St., at Divisadero St, 415-567-6503.

North Beach residents make have noticed the major renovation ~BANGKOK GARDEN~ recently underwent—pretty impressive for only two weeks’ time. The cozy/classy atmosphere is now hip and contemporary with imported furnishings from Thailand. Woods abound, like cherry wood on the floor, plus golden teak, and wallpapers with gold leaf. There will be differences between lunch and dinner service, with table runners brought out for dinner, and white plates to highlight the colors of the Thai spices. A few more details are getting finalized, like new menu and wine list covers, and some drinks are in development. 1398 Grant Ave., at Green St., 415-981-8008.

And just around the corner, North Beach will soon have its own hotspot for wine and bites, ~DELL' UVA~, in the former Café Verde space. The project comes from Jason Marcucci (an SF native who has cooked at Eastside West and the former Neo, and packs an MBA from USF) and Juri McCorkle, whose background includes culinary school in LA, a year at the culinary institute in Italy, working on a couple vineyards, and catering. They both have a vision for a comfortable and casual place where you can try quality wines for about $6 a glass (all one price—there will be no hunting up and down the list for the price you want), along with some inexpensive tapas, like stuffed sweet peppers and crispy-crust pizzas for only $3-$8. There will be other finger foods, like charcuterie, cheeses, and other antipasti as well. The list will be global-eclectic, spanning from Greece to Australia to even Hawaii, with 30 by the glass, and 20 or so by the bottle. Wine will also be available for off-premise purchase. There will be room for 30-40 inside, with 16 seats outside. They are trying to be as sustainable as possible with the build-out, using recycled wood, and cork floors. There will be some groovy Moroccan lighting and a mahogany bar. Anticipated hours will be 4pm-midnight Wed-Sun, and they plan to host private events and wine tastings Mon-Tue. They are aiming for an early May opening. 565 Grant St., between Grant and Columbus, 415-393-9930.

So down in the Mission, next door to Roosevelt Tamale Parlor is what was supposed to be ~CHURROS Y CHOCOLATE~. That project is now on hold and what has moved in there instead is La Torta Gorda, which had lost its home next door to Casa Sanchez a while back. Armando the torta master is partners with Isaac Mejia in the project, and is overseeing the restaurant. He opens way early in the morning (like 6am for all those hungry BFI guys) and closes early in the evening. Soon, the intention is to fire up the churro machine and serve ‘em with coffee and chocolate later into the night and on the weekends, like it was originally planned. But for now, it’s just tortas to go. 817 24th St., between Bryant St. and York St.

Next door at ~ROOSEVELT'S~, Mejia is tweaking the Mission District Mexican menu, changing it to include more of the dishes on the menu of his restaurant in San Bruno, Don Pico’s. There will be more innovative seafood dishes added, and ceviches. Mejia is bringing one of his cooks up from Don Pico’s to get things in place. 2817 24th St., between Bryant St. and York St., 415-824-2600.

It’s official: ~ROBBIE LEWIS~ has taken the helm at bacar. Some impending changes include closing the exhibition kitchen, and you know he’s going to be getting all soigné with the menu—one dish being discussed is venison slow-poached in duck fat (mmmm, duck fat) and a chef’s tasting menu will be available. 448 Brannan St., at 4th St., 415-904-4100.

Aqua’s restaurant manager, ~TYLER WINTERHOLLER~, has departed, and is starting up at Bruce Hill’s Restaurant Picco in Larkspur. Winterholler was the GM at C&L Steakhouse, and when it closed they integrated him into Aqua. He starts April 1.

Over in Ghirardelli Square, ~CELLAR 360~ from Healdsburg will be a new tenant, occupying over 6,000 square-feet of retail space where customers can purchase wine and accessories, or taste wine alongside dishes designed to pair with them. Wines will hail from many regions, including California's Napa and Sonoma AVAs, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy. There will also be some wine education and tastings hosted by wine educators from COPIA. Outdoor seating is in effect as well. Slated to open in late summer of 2007.

And after what has seemed like forever, ~PATISSERIE PHILIPPE ~ has finally opened up, as of yesterday. On the menu: breakfast treats and brioches, and lunch brings baguette or focaccia sandwiches and grilled panini, salads, and quiches. And of course there are plenty of sweet treats for any time of the day, like tarts, cookies, and teacakes. Open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm. 655 Townsend St., between 7th St. and 8th St., 415-558-8016.

Got a hot tip? You know I’d love it (and you). Just reply to this email!

 
fresh meat

TWO

TWO
22 Hawthorne St.  
Cross: Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-777-9779
website

Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
Sat-Sun 5:30pm-10pm

Apps $7-11
Pizza/pastas $8-$18
Entrées $16-$36

Desserts $5-$7.50

MARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Some restaurants have pulled some serious Cher-facelift magic the past couple years, from the classic case study of Bizou into COCO500, Cozmo’s into CIRCA, and now Hawthorne Lane into ~TWO~. (Sidebar: what’s with the all caps on all three names? I see a trend.)

The twist is that facelifts are supposed to make you tighter, but TWO’s was all about gettin’ looser. Hawthorne Lane was most definitely a special occasion restaurant, a no-brainer for when your parents were in town or it was someone’s 50th birthday. It was an important part of the city’s culinary landscape, but as owner David Gingrass put it, “I felt like I was running my dad’s restaurant.”

Well, the imaginary dad has left for the retirement community—and after a magical two weeks of closure, you’re now hanging out in his stoner surfer son’s clubhouse. Dude. There are certainly plenty more young things hanging around the restaurant, starting with a primarily female crew of fun and funky servers. Amongst the clientele, $200 jeans are de rigueur—say buh-bye to the Armani suit. I’m curious if the hours will start running later—with so much happening in SoMa, I’m surprised at the 10pm close time. The vibe feels more late night to me.

The former large booths upholstered in climbing vines are now contemporary leather chairs and high-backed banquettes; the white tablecloths have funk-ified into tabletops the color of French’s mustard; the walls sport wood paneling; and the bar is now poured concrete and copper, and twice the size. The kooky coconut light fixtures remind me of hula skirts made of leather—perhaps something else if I smoked out.

On my first visit, I was like, whoa, it’s only all in the front room? The back room remains as is for now (you can take a peek if you want to see the “before” pictures) and is used for private functions. The second room should be all updated by the end of April, and the private dining rooms by June or so. The TWO side is now moodier and clubbier, with dim lighting and spunkier music. Although the sound system needs some help—there are some dead corners in the room. I wanted a touch more of a musical presence, actually. This would be the opportunity to do something really cool with the programming.

Loved the small hits of color, like the orange pepper grinder, the poppy check holder, and the punchy wallpaper in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms (no, I didn’t sneak into the men’s, but someone took a pic for me).

The menu: it’s edict-long. (Like this write-up.) Executive Chef Bridget Batson and Gingrass conspired on a menu that’s chock-full of comfort favorites. It’s the kind of place you could bring a picky friend and they’d find plenty to eat. But, this is not the place where I’d bring a picky gourmand, because the dishes are more about approachability than perfection. But still tasty—almost like when a friend who’s a really good cook is having you over for dinner. Easy eats for any night of the week, really. As a food writer friend put it, it’s like “haute stoner food.” So surfer son says have a toke, unwind, and ride the menu, bra’.

You’ll only spend a reasonable amount—one night a friend and I fully feasted, with a cocktail, a glass of wine, and a dessert wine each, and the total was just over $100. It would be a good spot to take over the communal table with a group of friends, which is flanked by wingback chairs at each end, and an antler chandelier overhead. Oh, and the popular happy hour with $2 bar bites and drink specials parties on (Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm).

Starters include a hearts of romaine salad ($9) with a soft-boiled egg that comes a tad heavy with the lemon-anchovy dressing, but it’s in that “good-overdressed” kind of way. Points to the house for splitting it on separate plates. The hot Spanish-style onion soup ($7) unfortunately overcooked the egg and made it tough, so the flavors didn’t fully meld.

For the meatses partses lovers out there (holla!), there’s a duo of marrowbones ($11) with crisp croutons and a spicy tomato sauce that’s worthy of some pasta. I was all over the warm and supple house-made headcheese ($8) with a vinegary slaw of sweet onions and herbs to pause the music at the fatty animal party.

I tried the pizzas over a couple visits: while the black olive, goat cheese, and prosciutto ($14) left me craving more olives and some hot oil to drizzle on top (must be the Calabrese in me), the duck confit pizza with caramelized onions, Crescenza cheese and fried sage ($13) hit flavor perfection. Salty, sweet, savory, creamy: scrumptious. It only needed about one more minute in (a hotter?) oven—the dough could be a hair crisper and the cheese more blistered.

The pastas are all hearty and come in two (heh) sizes, like the unique and savory execution of spaghettini with sea urchin (!), brown garlic, parsley, and chili ($10/$18—the spendier of the bunch). The breadcrumbs tossed with the pasta could have been toastier, but I dug all the flavors—almost like a luxe version of clams and linguine. But the farfalle with cauliflower ($7/$13) had so much garlic I could have killed Lestat with one (petite) burp.

The bacon and egg raviolo ($9) is one of those dishes that is a marvel of kitchen ingenuity. It’s one big raviolo, with spinach and bacon inside, plus an egg whose yolk runs out when you cut it open. Oh, and the whole thing has a massive spoonful of browned butter on top. Like, hold me. But both times the pasta around the edge wasn’t very supple—but I see how it has to be hearty enough to hold it all. I can also see how you don’t want to overcook the raviolo because of the egg.

Mains are hearty and incredibly affordable, from rich braised lamb cheeks ($16) with a creamy and cheesy polenta or potato garlic puree; or a pan-fried pork schnitzel ($18), or half a roasted duck on the bone ($17). Hawthorne Lane always had a way with duck, so why stop now? Only the Prime NY strip steak clocks in at $36. A few dishes don’t have much in the way of sides, but there are plenty of to choose from, like caramelized broccoli ($5) and potato skins with bacon and crème fraîche ($4). Yo, Spicoli, pass the pipe. Let’s party!

Desserts offer American classics like a Sprecher’s root bear float, doughnut holes, and my personal fave, the banana cream pie brûlée with banana caramel ice cream (all $7.50). The mini ice-cream sandwiches were like the three bears: two had cookies that were a little doughy, while the brownie with mint version was just right, like a perfect little It’s It.

Service has small missteps, like forgetting to replace silverware, or sometimes timing can feel a little brisk, but considering everything going on, it’s pretty tight. Busboys are total hawk eyes—as soon as you’re done, your empty plate is outta there. Fun to dine at the bar—and you get a wooden woven placemat. I almost wanted one at the table, actually. The cute oval plates are challenging to balance your knife against the edge, and while eating the complimentary warm biscuits and kicky cracker bread, there’s nowhere to really put your uneaten pieces except on the serving plate, or directly on the table. Maybe bread plates will help all this.

The cocktails are a bit zany, like The First Punch ($11)—muddled cherry tomato and lime shaken with house-infused pepper-cucumber vodka and a touch (too much) of Sambuca, or cilantro and ginger martinis, or drinks with vodka AND gin in them. Lots of infused boozes. Definitely original—the kinds of drinks you will form an opinion about.

The wine list is super-approachable. The Fifty Under Fifty has some faves on there, and the wines by the glass also have some fab choices for every palate. (I ordered the juicy ’05 Skylark Red Belly Syrah both times—purr. Kitties like birds! John Lancaster, the wine director of Boulevard, is behind this winner of a wine.)

And finally, a fun fact is the by-lottery “dinner in the kitchen” concept where you can join other diners and try out new dishes for $20.07. The Saturday cooking classes to are also back. I attended a lobster boil last year and had a blast. It’s coming up July 14th. The lunch “TWO-go” program should also be starting around mid-April, with $12 three-course boxed lunches (with a choice of salad, sandwich, and dessert). And with that, aloha, Mister Hand.

 
the wino

the sponsor

Using Polaroids of words that he snaps around town, local artist/gadfly, Darwin Bell, creates statements that are irrelevant, one-of-a-kind pieces of art that tickle the funny bone while sparking the imagination.
 
SF Weekly's "Polaroid Artist of the Year," Bell has shown to great success in galleries and boutiques throughout the city. His creations make witty additions to any home (perfect for the kitchen) and even better gifts!
 
To see his complete catalogue of "Sign Language" works and where he is currently showing, please visit his website.

To purchase pieces from the online gallery, add yourself to the mailing list, or arrange to have your favorite twist of phrase become a piece of Sign Language, just click on Darwin's email link in the "Contact" section.

 

 
the socialite

Delfina

Delfina
3621 18th St.
Cross: Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-552-4055
website

MARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Yeah, I was brought up Catholic (until I decided I was done with it all), but I am totally going to ~PASSOVER DINNERS AT DELFINA~. I gotta see what I missed out on. (Although I did eat my share of risi e bisi while living in Venezia.) More from Delfina:

Please join us during the week of Passover to enjoy some special dishes inspired by Passover, spring and a melding of our very own traditions.  This is not a seder, but a weeklong, a la carte menu celebration of the holiday, featuring special seasonal dishes that will change throughout the week. 

Menus may include: Watson Farms abbacchio with egg and lemon sauce; Brisket in one of a few different ways; Carciofi alla Giudea; Poached Bass with gelatina and walnut sauce; Veal tongue dolce-forte; Risi bisi (if there are peas); Rigatoncini with luginega meatballs; artichokes and green olives and an edible seder plate (you'll see).  We'll have matzoh ball soup every night (with walnuts in the middle—Stoll family recipe) and many of our usual dishes, the steak, spaghetti, etc.

Keep in mind that it's not kosher and we make no claims as to authenticity—only to deliciousness and fun. Hope to see you there! 

CAVateria

CAVateria

Sat., March 31, 2007
(+ last Saturdays)

CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen
1666 Market St.
Cross: Gough St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

415-437-1770
website

1pm-4pm

Free to attend
$5-30 for tastings



MARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The winos at CAV are whipping up something new and fun. This from CAV:

What is CAVateria? Glad you asked. Starting this month we are going to open our doors on the last Saturday of the month (each month) for afternoon wine tasting and retail purchases of wine and some of our house-made gourmet food products. We’ll also have blind tastings from 2pm–3pm that will be open to all adventurous palates. This is a great way to shed preconceptions and expand your wine horizons. A region or winery will be featured every month and to kick things off we’re going to spotlight one of Tuscany’s most revered producers, and one of my personal favorites, the wines from Fattoria di Felsina. There will be a few others wines available for tasting and purchase as well. For more information please email info [at] cavwinebar [dot] com or call.

The inaugural CAVateria retail experience will include:

  • Brown bag blind tasting led by Busch from 1-2 p.m. ($7/person)
  • A tasting of wines from Fattoria Felsina, one of Busch’s favorite Tuscan producers ($30/tasting of all six wines)
    Chardonnay, Isistri, 2004 ($25 retail)
    Chianti Classico Riserva, 1995 ($46 retail)
    Chianti Classico Cru Rancia, 2001 ($40 retail)
    Chianti Classico Cru Rancia, 1995 ($57 retail)
    Maestro Rare Cabernet Sauvignon, 1996 ($60 retail)
    Fontalloro, 1994 ($60 retail)
  • Wine-friendly snacks from Chef Christine Mullen for sampling and retail

In coming months, CAVateria’s tastings will feature unique wine regions, and an expanded selection of house-made to-go items from Chef Mullen. All of the featured wines, as well as the restaurant’s regular wine list, will be available for retail sale. Customers will receive a 10% discount on the featured wines at CAVateria.

 
the starlet

MARCH 27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Top Chef contestant alert: Tiffani Faison was seen in SoMa (described by the tablehopper reader as “the little red-haired, back-stabbing, cutthroat, competitive ... from the first season”). Ouch!

Eva Longoria, all five feet of her, was spotted having lunch with her basketball beau, Tony Parker at Postrio yesterday.