tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: social animal.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the wino
in vino veritas

the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the bookworm
another place for your nose
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Kept Couture

 

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I am sure plenty of you out there are happy Easter finally got here so you could start eating sugar or bread or drinking again. (I wasn’t brought up to be a quitter, so I just stayed my course during that whole Lent thing.) What I was happy about was Easter means two things in our house: lasagne, and kid (the baby goat kind). Yes, Sunday night’s dinner was the ne plus ultra of delicious. Although my first Passover dinner (at Delfina last week) was also rather tasty.

I also enjoyed hearing about people in their 20s and 30s still partaking in Easter egg hunts (in public places, no less), and mothers making Easter baskets and hiding eggs. Some things never change. It’s enough to make me say, “Thank you Easter bunny, bwok bwok!”

I am also re-firing up my bookworm section since I have tons of great books I’ve been trying to find the time to read. This week includes a couple, more to come…

~Marcia subscribe


the chatterbox
Kept CoutureAPRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO A tablehopper reader was asking me about ~LOTTA'S BAKERY~ on Polk Street, and we gotta love the Culinary Muse for posting the details not two days later and setting me up with the contact, meow. G. Earl Darny is opening this full-service bakery on April 17 that is going to serve an array of treats, from breakfast pastries to bread, cookies, cakes, pies, and even some candy down the road, all baked and made on-site. The bright and cheerful space will feature striped walls of pale yellow and pink, and lots of wood, just like an old-fashioned candy store. It was formerly the space for Cookies By Design, and before that it was Holcombe’s Bakery back in the day—right across the street from Miller’s East Coast West Delicatessen. There will be a few tables where you can have coffee or tea, but it’s mostly geared for take-home treats. Darny has quite the pastry history, including working at Stars and its Starbake bakery, plus working with Wendy Brucker at the Shattuck Hotel and Jennifer Millar from Sweet Adeline Bakeshop in Berkeley, in addition to projects with Emily Luchetti (including helping to open Farallon and work with her on her cookbook, Four Star Desserts), and was the executive pastry chef at Bay Wolf and contributed to The Bay Wolf Cookbook. He knows his sweet treats. Oh, and about that name, in case you are wondering who Lotta is: it’s actually from Darny’s drag name, Lotta Lust, who seems to come out only on Halloween. Go girl. Open 7am-5pm Tue-Sun. 1720 Polk St. between Washington and Clay, 415-359-9039.

Update on Kuleto’s big waterfront projects: both ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~ and ~WATERBAR~ are full-tilt, and they are gunning to open in October. Those of you looking for a new gig, they are recruiting for all key management positions: GM, managers, wine directors, bar managers, private dining, sous and pastry chefs. Get it.

Some changes in GM land: ~CHRISTIAN ADAMS~ is now the GM of Ruggero Gadaldi’s Pesce, taking over from when Reza Esmali left in the beginning of the year, and then Gabriel Freiberg was holding it down (Freiberg was mostly at Last Supper Club in the Mission). Adams is hoping to make the wine list all Italian but will otherwise be keeping things status quo (why change a good thing?), with just some small tweaks here and there.

So a big up to ~SEAN O’BRIEN at MYTH~ restaurant—ends up he was voted one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in America. Nope, not much competition there, LOL. The ten winners will be featured in the July issue, and in the meantime, you can see the other winners here. O’Brien will also travel to Colorado in June for the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, where he will prepare an exclusive tasting dinner with the other winners. I wanna go!

Just a reminder that SF restaurant owners will be gathering at ~SALT HOUSE~ tomorrow, Wednesday April 10, to talk about next steps with the latest hot industry issues, including mandatory healthcare, enacting a tip credit, potentially closing for a day in protest, and other topics. All restaurant owners are encouraged to come. The meeting begins at 3pm. Salt House, 545 Mission St. at First, 415-543-8900.

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

 
fresh meat

Presidio Social Club

Presidio Social Club
563 Ruger St.
Building 563
Near Lombard Gate
San Francisco, CA 94129

415-885-1888
website

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

Apps $5-$11
Entrées $16-$28
Desserts $4-$7

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I am a rather nostalgic person, with a particular soft spot for most objets from the ’20s-’40s; a little kid once said I was like an old lady with my collection of handbags, scarves, and Bakelite bracelets. Thanks kid—you now get nothing in my will. (Ha ha! Although he was totally right.)

Suffice to say, my inner old lady was eagerly awaiting the opening of ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ in historic Army barracks, one of only four remaining structures in the Army’s East Cantonment, which at one time even housed the Buffalo Soldiers. (For you fellow history buffs, there’s an old pic of the site here.)

I was pleased to see how restaurateurs Ray Tang and Shawn Kearney-Tang took the historical provenance seriously but still had fun with it, creating a retro Americana outpost full of vintage touches that never feel heavy handed. (No Johnny Rockets experience here.) The cherry red vintage drum set by the door is about as cheerful as the ladies at the host stand, but it was the long and gleaming marble bar that really vectored me in, with shining stainless steel cases behind the bar that are my kind of medicine cabinets. Hallelujah, there are lots of them. (Bottles, and cabinets.)

The bar gets pretty packed with folks swilling a good number of classics (French 75s, Sidecars, and the now-ubiquitous Aviation) plus some nouveau numbers (gimlet with mezcal, the Gunpowder cocktail with cayenne)—there are 16 or so cocktails total. Most clock in at about $7 (but don’t expect fishbowl-sized martini glasses here—these are more old-school in size, as in petite). You can also get the house margarita for only $5.

The vibe is boisterous, fueled by margie- and meat-fueled lads at the tree-trunk communal table, or the tables of fillies drinking pinot noir, and the open layout encourages plenty of checking each other out. Banquettes are the color of a good ristretto, and the lighting is just the right level of dim. (Designer Olle Lundberg also did the Slanted Door.) There are tall palms and ferny plants (no, I am not much of a horticulturist) and lazily spinning overhead fans—the clapboard building and its interior look make it feel very USO-meets-Dirty Dancing. It will be gorgeous during lunchtime with all the light streaming in from the wall of windows.

The all-American menu looks like it was transported from San Francisco circa 1941, and the prices, while not offering abalone for $2 and Celery Victor for 40¢, are downright affordable. I couldn’t resist the Cannibal Sandwich ($9), slices of carpaccio-esque beef topped with sweet Maui onion, capers, chives, and hard boiled egg—like a deconstructed steak tartare draped on marbled rye bread. Delish.

My inner (New Yorker) old lady couldn’t pass up the Deli-Style Chopped Liver ($5), a hearty scoop of thick and creamy livery goodness studded with hard-boiled egg and served with rye bread (duh), plus a pile of cornichons that just weren’t quite snappy enough. (Tang found his inspiration for this recipe from the Second Ave Deli in New York, which was an East Village institution.)

Folks seem to be enamored with the Gruyere Cheese Toasts ($8), which is basically a grilled cheese sandwich cut into four little triangles (yes, fancy style) with a side of tomato soup for dunking; I asked why it was called fondue tomato dip on the menu and it ends up it has loads of butter in it—sometimes ignorance is bliss. So all in all, it’s like a gourmet take on a soup and sandwich special.

The meat-heavy menu has some classics on there, like Grilled Calf’s Liver ($15) and Range Veal Paillard ($18)—I opted for the Roasted Sonoma Chicken ($16) which had nice flavor of garlic and herbs, and you get an entire half a chicken, but the breast arrived far too dry. Brine that puppy, perhaps? The Club Flat Iron Steak ($19) sat under a (yikes, too plentiful) scoop of peppercorn butter, and while ordered medium rare showed up pretty darned rare. I dig rare, so I was cool with it, but some folks would have had to send it back.

There are a couple fish dishes as well, but I didn’t see anything overtly vegetarian, except the salads, sides, or mac & cheese. I’m sure you veggies could ask the kitchen to whip something up. Mains come with a choice of sides, like (yay!) tender horseradish spaeztle, spinach, or my inner (English) old lady’s personal fave were the delicious mushy peas with mint.

I had to investigate the Kobe Beer Rib Sloppy Joe ($15), which is made with the rib meat between the back ribs—props for the clever use of the scraps. But not qualifying it as “American Kobe” was a small peeve. I have a feeling this dish will leave folks divided. It’s darned rich, to be expected, and the sweet sauce infused with clove, cinnamon, and other spices might be too fragrant for some, while others will simply love its sloppy meaty Manwich-ness.

It’s all homey fare, and designed to be approachable and satisfying. While nothing made me do total back flips, in the end, it’s not really that style of food, in part because it’s so familiar. As for the kinks, I imagine it’s only going to get better as they hit their stride.

I will say dessert got me totally fired up. The baked-to order Chocolate Cupcakes (all desserts $7) with the crunchy croccante topping were très charmant, and the lemon meringue special with layers of curd and cake and cream was lemony bliss—no wonder it sells out. The Banana Cream Pie is more like a little tart instead of a big ole wedge of pie, with custard and cubes of banana covered in a fluffy hat of cream and a couple curls of hazelnut chocolate. One forkful and the whole things falls down, but it all ends up tasting delicious in your mouth. There are also $4 sides, like Chocolate Pudding, or Vanilla Parfait too.

I didn’t expect to see so many European choices on the tight wine list, with about one choice for each varietal (except the biggies like chard, pinot and zin, which each had a couple wineries to choose from). The price range has something for everyone, including five whites and five reds available in a glass or half carafe size, plus there is a house white (chard) and red (cab).

Servers trot around in aprons that reminded me of striped railroad hats or coveralls, plus they sport a red tie and white shirt. Snappy. While friendly and fun, many don’t quite have it all together yet—again, in time I believe it will be a tighter ship. While you are waiting for your dessert menu to arrive, or your bill, you can admire a number of thoughtful details, like the cute carafes, and the red and white tea towels instead of napkins. Or the purse hooks by the sinks in the ladies room (why thank you), the red and white floral dessert plates the Tangs actually kept from their first restaurant, groovy coasters, even the vintage postcard that arrives in the red embossed check holder at the end all point to a larger vision and foresight that I am confident knows where everything ought to be.

Coming attractions: weeknight suppers with dishes like brisket and suckling pig, lunch, and dining on the large outdoor patio in the back (plus clambakes and barbecues out there). Oh, and happy hour. A bonus that’s in effect now is the ample free parking. Score. There is also a spacious private room for parties. I also heard of some folks doing total buyouts of the restaurant, which would make for one heck of a party space (if you’re loaded like that).

 
the lush

Kept Couture

After five-plus years in business, Kept Couture is sorry to announce it will be closing its doors this summer. Everything is now marked down below wholesale prices, which makes it easy to stock up on fab gifts for friends (and yourself). Most Travel and Fitness Bags are now as low as $12 and Silk Bags are only $18-$28. We've created a Vintage Bargains section (normally only reserved for sample sales) that includes bits and pieces from our old leather collections, T-shirts, and other goodies. Plus our lovely Bath & Body products are less than $10 each.

Kept's darling bags have been featured in InStyle, The New York Times, The Today Show, Lucky, People and US Weekly. It's the kind of gift that all girls love to receive.

Very limited supplies remain, my darlings, so now's your last chance to stock up!

 
the wino

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Alex Fox works as the Wine Director for Myth Restaurant in San Francisco. As unlikely as it may sound from the piece below, he plans on sitting for the Master of Wine degree in 2009.

Alex Fox on the Master Sommelier Exam

A few weeks back, wine professionals of all stripes descended upon San Francisco to sit for one of the most prestigious wine accreditations in the world, the Master Sommelier exam. The title of Master Sommelier, offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, along with the Master of Wine degree offered by the Institute of Masters of Wine, are the highest peaks reachable in the wine world. Each involves several levels of testing that get exponentially more difficult until finally, after years of study, you achieve the right to torture yourself through several days of intense testing to see if you can join the rarified air of the privileged few who pass the highest level.

God forbid, during the blind tasting section of the exam, you make a left turn at Albuquerque, and due to the homogenous nature of most wines these days, fail that section. Then it is back to the drawing board. See you next year.

Or, maybe during the service section of the exam, while trying to add some levity to a tense situation, you recommend a cool, crisp Pabst Blue Ribbon to go along with those dozen oysters and you fail that section too. Off with your head. If I sound somewhat cynical, well, then good, it is intentional.

Institutions dedicated to promoting general standards and the continual pursuit of greater levels of knowledge in a given profession are a good thing. The problem, highlighted by the poor dejected souls who dined at Myth fresh off of learning they had failed one or more sections of the exam, demonstrates the danger of putting too much weight on a title, a point score, or the opinion of someone else to determine one’s own worth.

These four talented young wine professionals are employed at several of the most prestigious restaurants in the country. They have reached their current positions through hard work and a daily demonstration of the requisite skills needed to successfully execute their jobs. So, why do they need a degree to reinforce what they are already doing?

The answer is they don’t. In fact, haven’t we lost sight of what, in my opinion should be the raison d’etre for embarking on a course of study for either of these titles, the process itself, and the subsequent enhancement of skills, to be able to better serve the consumer? (Wow, that was a mouthful.) Sure, we should throw career enhancement in there as well. But, what seems to happen instead is the pursuit of a degree to be able to enter a semi merit-based selective club that excludes most people. Ultimately there isn’t much value in that.

The world of surfing offers a useful example. Surfing has become a big dollar sport with competitions being used by surfers as the best way to snag lucrative endorsement contracts. There is a point system at each of these contests that eventually leads to one surfer being crowned the top surfer of the year. It promotes what is referred to as contest surfing and many surfers have become quite wealthy surfing to win tournaments.

A few years back a surfer named Tom Curren hit the scene and won several world titles. He learned the contest rules and surfed in the particular contests needed to rack up points. However, within the rules, he still surfed each wave with the pure intentions of furthering his personal connection with the energy of the ocean and each particular wave. In surfing lingo he is considered a soul surfer. Surfing is his passion and the contests offered a platform and the means for him to grow as a surfer.

We can learn a lot from the example of Tom Curren. If pursuing the title of Master of Wine or Master Sommelier enhances your passion for wine and furthers your personal wine growth, then go for it. Just remember, the value is in the journey rather than the destination. 

 
the socialite

Dining Out for Life

Dining Out for Life
Thu., April 26, 2007

Various locations
San Francisco, CA

website


APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The annual ~DINING OUT FOR LIFE~ event is coming up, and I have a couple friends hosting dinners at restaurants around the city. My friend William is hosting at Indigo, which is offering the “Ultimate Wine Dinner” for $49 served from 8pm to close, which is a prix-fixe dinner (choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert) and all the wine you can drink from a selection of eight wines. (There is also an early bird prix-fixe menu from 5pm-7pm for $29.95.) You can make a reservation by calling 415-673-9353 or use this Open Table link, 687 McAllister Street at Gough.

Sam at Becks & Posh is also is also hosting dinner at ACME Chophouse. There are 75 participating restaurants in all, some doing lunch and/or dinner. Wherever you go, check out the raffle envelopes at the restaurant. If you enclose your own donation to STOP AIDS, in addition to the part of your bill the restaurant will donate, you’ll be entered in a raffle with some great prizes, like airline tickets, hotel stays, and restaurant gift certificates. You get one raffle entry for each $5.00 donated. 

Meals on Wheels

Star Chefs and Vintners Gala by Meals on Wheels
Sun., May 20, 2007

Fort Mason
Festival Pavilion
San Francisco, CA

415-920-1111
ext. 221

website

5pm reception

$350 per person*
($300 is tax deductible)


APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Get your tickets now, friends, for one of the hottest events of the year: the ~MEALS ON WHEELS of SAN FRANCISCO'S 20th ANNUAL STAR CHEFS & VINTNERS GALA~. The line up is a serious who’s who of local chefs. Here’s more from them:

Over 50 of Northern California’s most illustrious chefs come together for this one-night-only epicurean extravaganza, to support Meals On Wheels of San Francisco. Boulevard’s Nancy Oakes returns as Gala Chef Chair of the event, who along with her A-list colleagues will prepare the feast, which is sure to be a food lover’s dream. Participating chefs include (in alphabetical order): Nate Appleman (A16), Bridget Batson & David Gingrass (Two), Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere), Greg Dunmore (Ame), Todd Humphries (Martini House), Laurence Jossel (NOPA), Sean O’Brien (Myth), Daniel Patterson (Coi), Richard Reddington (Redd), Judy Rodgers & Gilbert Pilgram (Zuni Café), Ron Siegel (The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton), Hiro Sone & Lissa Doumani (Terra), Cal Stamenov (Marinus), and Staffan Terje (Perbacco).

“The Star Chefs and Vintners Gala is the most important fundraising tool we have,’” said Dean Morehous, President of the Board of Directors of Meals On Wheels of San Francisco. “This event alone enables us to provide over 178,000 meals to the more than 1,800 seniors that rely on our services every year.”

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a lavish hors d’oeuvre and wine reception, featuring delicious appetizers from 20 chefs, several of whom will be preparing their specialty dishes presentation-style. The main event is a sumptuous three-course meal, with each course prepared by one of 24 different chefs. The grand finale is a decadent dessert reception, with cordials and dancing. Many of California’s leading wine producers will also take part in the Gala, providing wine pairings for each of the specially prepared dishes.

During both a live and silent auction, guests will have the opportunity to bid on a number of once-in-a-lifetime items, including trips to Italy and France, a 10-day Viking Life Culinary Tour of Tuscany and Umbria, a “Wine Connoisseur” package featuring a dozen bottles of “unobtainable” wines, and private dinners and cooking classes with celebrity chefs. 

 
the socialite

Farallon

Perfect Pairings
by Evan Goldstein

Hardback
ISBN: 0520-243773
$29.95

328 pages

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Being a total eater and drinker, it was only a matter of time until I dropped my fork and put down my wineglass to pick up Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food. Author and pal Evan Goldstein partnered up with his mom, the fab Joyce Goldstein, on this enjoyable (and approachable) book that offers an overview about pairing wine, and then talks about 12 individual varietals in depth, and how to pair food with them. There are 58 recipes that are designed to showcase a number of varietals, and vice versa. I also like how it highlights what doesn’t work well (like no sangiovese with really spicy food). I’ve been trying to read a chapter a night. I should be cooking a recipe and drinking a bottle a night too, but I wouldn’t get much reading done, would I?

 

Insatiable

Insatiable—Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess
by Gael Greene

Hardback
ISBN-10: 0446576999
$25.95

Link to paperback

384 pages

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, last summer while I was on the beach in Lake Tahoe devouring Gael Greene’s Insatiable—Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, I was trying not to be totally jealous of this woman’s remarkable story as the burgeoning food critic at New York magazine in the 1970s. This tell-all novel was a rollicking good ride through some of the most seminal restaurants in recent culinary history.
Plus she was one hell of a frisky lady, bedding her share of chefs and stars (uh, yes, Elvis) and going out dancing in the discos until all hours trying to burn off her nouvelle cuisine feasts. My kind of chick. She got to hang with the best of them, from Julia to James Beard to Jean Troisgros, from Balthazar to Le Bernardin. This book is a full-tilt feast, and poses some wonderful arguments in the perennial which is better?/food vs. s*x argument.

 

 
the starlet

APRIL 10, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Dude, Dave Chappelle was all over town. He dined at the Straits Restaurant in the Westfield Centre with his wife and other family members (believed to be his two sons and brother). Since he is a pescatarian, they checked out the Vegetable Samosas, Roti Prata, Seafood Green Curry, and Wok-fired Mussels. The staff said he was very friendly and courteous. He was also spotted in the Marina and bought some mini cupcakes for his kids at The Chestnut Bakery.