tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: dinner and a movie.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the wino
in vino veritas

the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Parties that Cook

 

APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I have to say, I am quite proud of myself for attending the Whiskies of the World event this weekend without being hung over the next day! Am I becoming more responsible? Or is my tolerance just incredible? Anyway, good thing I was feeling swell after brunch at XYZ on Sunday because I went to see Grindhouse, and man, with the Dario Argento-esque gore-fest times ten, I would hate to see it while feeling iffy. The film made my sides hurt from laughing—it’s just brilliant on so many levels. I laughed, I cried, it was better than “Cats.” Just wait until it unloads the “Machete” trailer. Go. See. It.

Last night I was one of the judges for the “Think Pink” Moet & Chandon Rosé cocktail mixing competition at Harry Denton's Starlight Room. Man, this town has some mighty talented bartenders, so it was tough to choose, but it was Todd Smith from Bourbon and Branch who won the competition with his “Pink Cream Soda.” Fellow cocktail lovers, just wait until you read about the upcoming San Francisco Cocktail Week in the chatterbox.

I am not going to comment on the profoundly sad event that happened in Virginia this week, except to say tax woes suddenly seem rather insignificant. Those poor, poor people.

Take care, be nice, and be well,

~Marcia subscribe


the chatterbox
Parties that CookAPRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO So, the waiting game is (almost) over. ~FIFTH FLOOR~ (it seems) has honed in on their new executive chef: but I am not allowed to say who it is just yet because the deal isn’t final. So let’s just run this as a blind item. All I can say is that he’s French! And renovations are in the cards. Hopefully I can spill the beans soon—but the ink isn’t dry yet, so it’s as good as a rumor for now. More soon!

Okay, this is some totally sweet news. ~WILLIAM WERNER~, the former pastry chef extraordinaire from the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (his pastry creations seriously blow my mind) has joined The Village Pub and Spruce as the executive pastry chef for both restaurants. Now yet another reason why I can’t wait for Spruce to open!

~MASA'S~ has hired a new executive pastry chef, Camal el Sherifi, to replace Keith Jeanminette, who left earlier this year after almost 14 years. El Sherifi is a graduate of the Fondation Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and was an assistant patissier at Valrhona L’Ecole Du Grand Chocolat before becoming patissier at the world-renowned and award-winning boutique, Pierre Hermé Patisserie. He was also the head pastry chef at Draeger’s, plus executive pastry chef for the Sheraton Hotel in Dubai, UAE, and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Masa’s is moving into its 25th year, so they must be pretty happy with the new hire. 648 Bush St. at Powell, 415-989-7154.

Another one who has made it through the long haul: ~EBISU~ in the Sunset is turning 25! That is something like 200 in restaurant years. So in honor of the occasion, starting in May, the restaurant will close for a month so it can have a much-needed facelift. Once it reopens, there will be more seating, a new tatami room, a new sushi bar, and a new kitchen. New new new! They will also be adding some new dishes once it reopens, and introducing online ordering at the end of May. As a clever interim solution, they will be moving Ebisu to Hotei, its sister restaurant right across the street during the construction. Also coming up, Ebisu, Hotei, and their SFO location will all begin using recycled, biodegradable containers and bags. Word. 1283 9th Ave. at Irving, 415-566-1770.

Another ~BURGER JOINT~ location will be opening: this one is just across from the ballpark on King Street. They are hoping for a July opening, and there will be about 70-75 indoor and outdoor seats available. 242 King St. between 3rd and 4th Streets.

~SEARS FINE FOOD~, home of the famous Swedish pancakes, has recently hired a new executive chef, Patricia Blecha, who is adding some upscale French-Cali cuisine to the formerly comfort food-oriented dinner menu, like Boeuf Bourguignon and lamp chops with Merguez sausage. She has cooked at Le Zinc in Noe Valley, and Forbes Island. 439 Powell St. at Sutter, 415-986-0700.

A report on upcoming openings (and closures):

~SPORK~ is opening today, Tuesday the 17. For a reminder on what this groovy spot is all about, click here for all the details. 1058 Valencia St. at Hill, between 21st and 22nd Streets, 415-643-5000.

Another cutie in the Mission that is set to open soon is ~BAR BAMBINO~, which will be ready to welcome the public with a full menu on April 26. Click here for the earlier write-up. 2931 16th St. between Mission and South Van Ness, 415-701-VINO.

Opening this Saturday, April 21, is ~JONES RESTAURANT~ in the former Marina Sports Bar & Grill space, a project from the One Industry Group. Gone is the sports bar vibe, and it’s going to be more of a lounge and an upscale American eatery serving classics with a twist. Prime steaks are the main feature, and other dishes include crab corndogs with homemade ketchup, Kurobuta pork chops with polenta and mustard greens, and there’s even a PB+J sammy made with homemade peanut butter, pinot noir grape jelly, organic Texas toast, and it comes with a shot of milk. (Make mine a double.) The young chef is 24-year-old Jamaal Taherzadeh who has worked under Kerry Simon.

23 wines will be available by the glass and some big-ticket wines will be available by the bottle as well. Drinks are on the higher end: $12 martinis and $10 craft cocktails made with quality ingredients and fresh fruit; personally, I need to try the Southern Peach since Peach is one of my nicknames, and yes, this drank has bourbon in it (Makers Mark Bourbon, Crème de Peche Liqueur, Peach Puree and OJ)! They have added a formal dining area, and a VIP area for large parties. The look is high-end meets roadhouse, with an array of Jack Daniels bottles above the bar (it sounds like I have already been there!), and chicken wire around the DJ booth. Sports will be broadcast on the TV screens when it’s a big game day, and they will also have Sinatra Sundays with Rat Pack tunes, and Cowboy Wednesdays, with country music and westerns. Hours are 4pm-2am, with happy hour 4pm-7pm; the kitchen will open around 5pm, and serve until midnight. Brunch will be coming soon. 2400 Lombard St. at Scott, 415-440-2000.

~VISIT~ has opened in the Lower Haight, serving Thai food for lunch noon-4pm and for dinner (until midnight). It has a pretty striking contemporary look, especially considering what most Thai places in the city look like. 518 Haight St. at Fillmore, 415-626-6262.

~CORTEZ'S~ reopening has now been pushed to May 1, but it’s looking pretty solid date-wise. 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

~JUNI TEPPAN AND SUSHI~, the teppanyaki space in the Lower Polk, has closed. 1217 Sutter St. at Polk.

Another closure to report, this one is in cocktail land (a great place to live!). After 11½ years of business, the ~RED ROOM~ will be closing in July. I used to get my big fishbowl martinis here in the mid-90s—I blurrily remember it fondly. You may remember the Commodore Hotel was recently purchased by the Academy of Art, and was transformed into dorms for its students. The Red Room’s lease is up, so they are opting to close—being a bar in a college dorm is not the best business model. (The Red Room’s closure does not affect the neighboring Canteen, which still has three years on its lease.) Thanks for all the boozy nights, Red Room! 827 Sutter St. at Leavenworth, 415-346-7666.

Now, this is my kind of week. Buckle up, people, for ~SAN FRANCISCO COCKTAIL WEEK~ (the site should be up soon). In celebration of World Cocktail Day (which is May 13), some of San Francisco’s top bartenders and mixologists, including Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe, H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir, and Duggan McDonnell of Cantina, have organized a weeklong celebration (May 14-21) of San Francisco’s cocktail scene that will culminate on Monday, May 21, at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar.

Beginning Monday, May 14, over 30 of the most popular bars, restaurants and lounges will participate in San Francisco Cocktail Week by featuring two limited-edition cocktails, one classic recipe and one original cocktail created by each location’s “Cocktail Champion” especially for the event. Participating bars and restaurants will include: Absinthe, Elixir, Cantina, Bourbon & Branch, Alembic, Range, Eastside West, Citizen Cake, NOPA, Slanted Door, Tres Agaves, Le Colonial, Presidio Social Club, and many others. On Monday, May 21, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar will host a celebratory evening combining both traditional and creative cocktails with an array of appetizers. Gary Regan will be guest bartending. Tickets will be $45 per person. The event is designed to benefit Tales of the Cocktail, an organization that celebrates the history of the cocktail in New Orleans and assists in the revitalization of the city’s hospitality industry. For tickets to the May 21 event, contact Vanessa Harris at vharris [at] absinthe [dot] com or call 415-551-1453.
 
Brunch alert: ~PRES A VI GLOBAL CUISINE AND WINE BAR~ has begun serving weekend brunch from 10am-2:30pm. They have that sweet 80-seat outdoor patio which will be gorg on a nice sunny morning. Some menu items will include an herbed goat cheese omelet, corned beef and Anaheim chili hash, Dungeness crab cakes Benedict (wow, that sounds light!), and French toast. One Letterman Drive, near the corner of Lombard and Lyon Streets, 415-409-3000.

Just in case some of you night owls planned to head to ~NOPA~ for a bite this week, they have closed for one week to honor their one-year anniversary, in addition to celebrate the marriage of owners Laurence Jossel and Allyson Woodman, which just happened on Sunday. (Congrats all.) NOPA reopens on Thursday the 19th.

And be sure to tune in to the Food Channel on Sunday at 9pm, because it’s local boy Cosentino (from Incanto) versus Batali on ~IRON CHEF AMERICA~. More details here.

Oh, and one last thing: I thought you’d like to know the spring issue of Edible San Francisco is out! Click here to see where you can pick one up!

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

 
the regular

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Foreign Cinema
2534 Mission Street
Cross: 21st St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-648-7600
website

Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 6pm-11pm
Sun 6pm-9pm

Brunch:
Sat 11am-2:30pm
Sun 11am-3:30pm
Café menu Sat-Sun 3:30pm-6pm

Apps $7-$13
Entrées $18-$28
Desserts $5.50-$7.50

 

Parties that Cook

APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Eggs for breakfast, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: fried and deglazed in balsamic ($10), poached with grilled duck breast and shiitakes ($12), whipped in a Champagne omelette with crème fraîche and Fontina ($12)… Sigh. Swoon. Bwok.

Brunch at ~FOREIGN CINEMA~ is a gorgeous thing, especially with a dozen of the restaurant’s Botticelli beauties (oysters on the half shell)—you can even get the rare Olympia here for $2 each. While a flute of the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé will put you back a yuppie food stamp ($20), one sip will tell you this ethereal combination is so worth it.

While you’re sitting there savoring your spicy salad of a Bloody Mary (they make a mighty fine one here), you can either be seated outside in the fresh air in the enclosed courtyard (good for the hang over), or inside the spacious industrial chic dining room that always feels comfortable and sexy, like your favorite pair of tight jeans. The light is flattering, even if you’re as sallow as a scientist and a touch green around the gills.

I am so grateful there are a few stylish brunch places like this that exist in the City, where you’re not standing outside with your latte and a bunch of hungry ruffians—where else would I bring my film industry pack o’ mos when they are up visiting from LA, or my stylee kitten-heeled Manhattanite fashionista pal? It’s the kind of brunch that fits like a pair of Manolos for groups (hello, bridal showers) or a date (I heart daytime dates). And you can come on Saturday OR Sunday. And, holla, you can make reservations.

Start with the fruit-filled “Pop Tarts,” and if I was giving up vegetarianism (this scenario is purely hypothetical, mind you) the slow-cooked brown sugar-smoked bacon would quite possibly be the first thing I would eat to welcome me back to meat.

Have you done brunch here? No? Well, I recommend you see what you can do about that.

So, back on dates: this place is one of my top ten romantic spots for dinner. The dim light is just right, the volume is nice, the fireplace is cozy. Purr. Walking through the long hallway off grungy Mission Street flickering with tea lights, it’s like going down the rabbit hole into some urbane hideaway, and the Mad Hatter is greeting you with a French 75.

As most folks know, the outdoor courtyard hosts nightly films that play on the back wall starting at dusk, ranging from Fellini to Breakfast at Tiffany’s (you can check the schedule here). I highly recommend starting at the back bar with a cocktail if you have time before your reservation.

The dinner menu is quintessential SF: Cal-Med seasonal and sustainable. Start with some warm olives ($4) while you debate who is getting what. Vegetables are often a highlight here—on a recent visit, tender asparagus was served with a gribiche vinaigrette (was that tarragon I detected?), crumbled boiled egg and breadcrumbs ($9), the essence of spring. Salads also sing, like mixed arugula with a well balanced rose petal vinaigrette, toasted pistachios, and crumbled ricotta salata ($10.50)—each bite was tangy and just right. I found the venison pate de maison ($9) a little too subtle—it definitely needed the Dijon and house-made pickles to perk it up.

Mains include a delightfully juicy pork chop ($25) that is brined with lavender, adding a slight hint of fragrance. Hand down, this chop was just too stellar for words. Scrump-tious. OINK! The Madras curry roast chicken ($19) at the table next to me smelled heavenly, but we were munching on the Frita ($23) instead, a pile of juicy fried fish, like snapper and cod and scallops, plus artichokes and fennel. I found the accompanying truffle mayo superfluous—all it needed was a little squeeze of the lemon it came with.

It’s refreshing to look at a dessert menu and actually have a hard time deciding. On two, mind you. The crisp cannoli are always a hit ($5.50)—I also like to order them after brunch with an espresso. The affogato ($6) is also good for post-brunch, to help defibrillate you from your food coma. The gateau au chocolate ($7.50) was served with coconut cream and amarena cherries, delivering on everything a chocolate dessert should be.

Since Foreign Cinema has been open since 1999, I imagine many folks have dined here at least once. It’s easy to forget how dreamy it is since it feels so familiar. Yes, the menu falters in a few spots or sometimes service can be a little off, but the experience as a whole is usually so fab it makes you grateful for the vision of chef-owners Gayle Pirie and John Clark. And wait, did I tell you about the brunch?

 
the lush

Parties that Cook

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the wino
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APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Don Davis of Uncorked Events has always had an eye for a good party. Whether having half his high school over for a night of cheap beer while the parents were out of town, renting out a mansion in Chicago during college, or gathering 1,500 people for a Moroccan-themed fundraiser in the city, Don has always thrived on bringing friends together to really enjoy life. His focus now lies with hosting public, private, and corporate wine-focused events throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

Wine: The New Book Club by Don Davis

While I do like to read, wine is my great passion. It’s like a book club; just replace each book with a bottle! The combination of wine, friends, and food is hard to beat. And the fact that wine helps to prevent heart disease is an added bonus!

While there are absolutely no rules for how to set up a wine group, I’ve made a few suggestions to get your creative juices (and hopefully fermented grape juices) flowing.

Starting a Wine Group
Begin with a manageable group of ten people or less. Don’t worry about the level of each person’s wine knowledge; the most important factor is making sure everyone really loves wine. The thrilling part of a wine group is tasting, learning, and sharing together regardless of “expertise.” Start with a meeting once every month or two—you can always increase the frequency later.

Developing a Theme
Keep it simple at first with the wines easy to find. “California Pinot Noir” or “Sauvignon Blanc under $20” are themes that come to mind. Having a country-specific night like “Australia” or “South Africa” is always a winner as well. Over time you’ll likely opt for more specific themes. For example, you could have a “Syrah World Tour” night and assign each person a specific country or region that produces syrah.

If you have a real bunch of wine geeks, you won’t be short of ideas. A few creative ones I’ve been a part of include: “California Cabernets 1990–1995” and “White Burgundy & Fried Chicken” (oh, what a night that was!).

There are endless potential themes, and coming up with them is one of the great pleasures of a wine group. Why not open a bottle and think about it?

Making the Night Successful
In an ideal world, you would have a separate glass for each wine, but this is impractical. If the host does not have enough glassware, ask guests to bring one or two. I recommend having two glasses per person (if possible) to enable side-by-side comparisons.

Make sure you have plenty of food on hand–not only will food enhance the experience, it also enables tasting more wines without getting too tipsy. It can be as simple as ordering pizzas or have each guest bring an appetizer. My personal favorite is to cook up a big feast. This works best if your group loves to cook and you rotate hosting (and dishwashing) duties.

Experiment with blind tastings, hiding the labels in brown bags. This really helps in detecting nuances and differences in the wines, while removing any preconceived notions you have. With that said, I find blind tastings tedious if you do them all the time, so mix it up!

Don’t worry about taking extensive notes—the most fun part about a wine group is enjoying each other’s company while sharing a passion. It is helpful, though if you have one scribe in the group that can email the list of wines tasted the next day. If you have a volunteer, creating a wine group blog is easier than ever.

Keys to Longevity
Have someone in charge of the schedule and emailing the group. Take turns selecting the theme. Consider rotating the location amongst the group. Take a trip to wine country together once a year. Splurge on a night of special wines every so often. And most importantly, just enjoy every last minute of toasting and tasting one of life’s greatest pleasures with your friends.

 
the lush

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443
443 Broadway
Cross: Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

415-788-0228
website


APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The former Velvet Lounge reopened this past weekend (April 14) as ~443~. George Somers, who owns Bert & Ernie’s in Redding, partnered up with a friend from college, plus a helicopter pilot, a fireman, and a pal who owns an apartment complex. Sounds like the beginning to a good joke, huh?

It took about six months to spiff the place up. Some of you locals will remember this was the famed Mabuhay Gardens (AKA the Fab Mab) back in the day (I remember seeing one show there when I was in high school before it closed: Flipper). All the big punk bands played there, from Dead Kennedys to Iggy Pop to Black Flag. Supposedly the Kinks even played there too. Was happy to hear the new owners are keen to get some live music going there again, but there will also be dancing too. The vintage building has brick walls and the main room has 1,500 square feet of dance space, with a stage and two bars. There is also a 2,000-square-foot enclosed VIP area available for private parties, and will be left open as a lounge space if no one books the room. There are some huge doors that can open to the street—but this depends on whether they get clearance to get some day parties going. Time will tell! 

 
the socialite

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A Taste of Tamales by the Bay
Sun., April 22, 2007

Fort Mason Center, Landmark Building A
Golden Gate Room
Buchanan at Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA

Noon-4pm

Adults: $75
Children under 12: $40

Purchase online
or call 415-695-9296


APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco's first annual tamale tasting, ~A TASTE OF TAMALES BY THE BAY~ will take place to benefit Benchmark Institute, a nonprofit organization that teaches advocates in nonprofits how to use the law to help low-income communities. Guests will sample tamales from some of the finest tamale makers in Northern California, including up-and-coming food artists supported by La Cocina Community Kitchen, Chef Mateo Granados and Maria Martinez, also known as the Tamale Queen.

A variety of tamale styles will be served, including Mexican, Yucatecan, Salvadoran, and Chilean. Guests can purchase their favorites at the event to serve at home. Ceja Vineyards will be on hand to share information on choosing wines to serve with tamales, with their wines available for purchase by the glass and bottle. Entertainment will include live music by The Whitewater Band, and demonstrations on making tamales as well as serving them. 

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Spring Breakfast by the Bay with Marion Nestle

Sat., May 5, 2007

Pier 1 ½
Two minutes north of the Ferry Building
Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA

415-291-3276 x 103
website

10am-noon

$60 per person
Buy tickets


APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Now this is a breakfast where you can actually get smart (and it’s not just because you’re eating healthy food that’s good for you): CUESA is hosting a Cinco de Mayo-inspired buffet breakfast featuring spring's harvest from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, ~SPRING BREAKFAST BY THE BAY WITH MARION NESTLE~. Chef Chris Borges of Taste Catering will prepare the meal that will include dishes like asparagus frittata with green garlic; poblano, avocado, and ricotta quesadillas with tomatillo salsa; chorizo chilaquiles with jalapeno jack cheese; and a number of other savory dishes, fruit, and Blue Bottle coffee.

Following the meal, Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat, will talk about food politics, sustainability and nutrition. She will discuss California food safety concerns and how these issues—and CUESA—are part of a national social movement centered on food.

Registration opens at 9:30am, breakfast is served at 10am. Dr. Nestle will be speaking at approximately 10:45am. 

 
the starlet

APRIL 17, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Now, I know this wasn’t at a restaurant, but whatever: Kathleen Turner was spotted at the prepared foods section at Whole Foods on California Street! She had a real dinner with a couple friends on Sunday at Venticello after a grueling opening week of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A tablehopper reader was dining at Plouf and saw Conan O'Brien (with entourage) scoping out the scene before he goes live next week. He also dined with Bob Saget and cohorts at Allegro at a late Saturday night dinner—the limo was polished outside while they were inside dining.