tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper:
the boozer of Oz.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the jetsetter
get outta dodge
the wino
in vino veritas

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

 

MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO As you’re reading this, I am actually on my way back from Palm Springs, probably asleep and drooling in the car after a weekend of mayhem and now in a food coma from scarfing down a Double-Double at In-N-Out. Knowing me, I have lost my voice, I am hungover, I have suntanned shoulders but my nose is pink, and have been talking ad infinitum about how amazing the LCD Soundsystem and The Cornelius Group sets at Coachella were. Since I am writing this the Wednesday prior, this entire scenario is all a projection, but if I know myself at all, it’s a likely portrait.

It feels like eons ago when I was tearing things up in Australia in February with my sis and pal (their aliases are Ranger Rick and Chocolate Mousse—fair dinkum). Here is the first of my recaps about the trip. Although I far preferred Melbourne for its hip culture, peeps, dining, and dranks (more on that de-groovy city soon), I am writing up Sydney first because I have a guest wino (Franck Moreau) from est in Sydney who turned his piece in on time! Sweet as.

Until next week,

~Marcia subscribe


the chatterbox
MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Although I am not doing a full tablehopper this week, I had to at least give you some news about a few projects…

I think the new bougie mantra in the city is, “A certified humane organic free-range chicken in every pot, and a new wine bar in every neighborhood!” Coming to the Lower Haight by October or so will be ~UVA~, a project from Boris Nemchenok, who worked three years under Mario Batali at Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria in NYC as a sommelier and manager, and Ben Hetzel, a Johnson and Wales grad who has been at the SF Ritz since 2000 as a cook, captain, and cheese buyer, and who is incidentally married to Camber Lay, barmixtress extraordinaire at Range (she will actually be helping out by concocting some sparkling wine cocktails for the drinks menu). A variety of enoteca antipasti will be on offer, with many under $10 and served family style, like a variety of fish and vegetable dishes, 12-15 cheeses, salumi (they hope to be making them in-house down the line but for now many will come from Salumi, the Batali family outpost and Meat Mecca in Seattle), panini, bruschettas, tramezzini, piadine, and a tight dessert list.

The space is the old Horseshoe Coffeehouse—there was some fire damage, so the place has been totally gutted. At last, they have finally been able to start construction. There are two dining rooms, totaling 49 seats, including a 10-seat bar. The look will be rustic and clean, with lots of wood and a marble-topped bar. It will open Monday–Friday at 5pm, and since it’s a young neighborhood, they are hoping to stay open late, like 1am. But for now the closing hours are looking like 11pm or midnight (no thanks to the cranky neighbor who is raising a fuss). Brunch will be served on Saturday and Sunday starting at 11am all day, plus there will be a happy hour during the week (from 5pm–6:30pm) and on the weekends, too. Group dining will be encouraged, and there will eventually be some wine classes on Sundays. About that wine: the wine list is all-Italian, with 75-85 to start, and they hope to go up to 200. 20-25 wines will be served by the quartino in an 8 oz. decanter, or you can do 3 oz. tastings. Jim Kennedy from Sociale, an investor/partner, will be consulting and sourcing some wines unique to California, if not the U.S. Cin cin. 568 Haight St. at Fillmore.

Over in Cow Hollow, Home on Union Street will be morphing into ~PALMETTO~ in June—it will close the day after the Union Street Fair (on June 3) for a week or so, with plans to reopen by June 12. Executive Chef Andy Kitko, formerly of Gary Danko, the opening chef of Bar Tartine, and most recently a sous at Aqua, has been brought on to transform the menu of regional American comfort food into one that’s based around international comfort food. His fine dining background will integrate fab flavors and techniques but he’ll be keeping any fussiness at bay. Right now Kitko is integrating new dishes as specials (just last week he had a warm fava bean salad with pecorino, pea shoots, and romaine hearts on there) and is excited to add more as the kitchen gets up to speed. There will also be a bar menu added, encouraging people to just swing by for a drink and bites if they are up for some low-impact dining. Cass Calder Smith is overseeing the redesign, and will brighten the space up and and make it feel more energetic, with new carpets, paint, a new bar, lighting, and other touches. The hours will be the same, and the buzzing weekend brunch isn’t going anywhere. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-931-5006

I mentioned a couple weeks ago the Juni space closed on Sutter—moving into it will be ~SUDACHI~, a loungey joint that will be serving sushi and Mediterranean-Asian fusion tapas, with live jazz late into the evening. (Sudachi is a Japanese type of citrus, more like a Kaffir lime than, say, yuzu.) There will be a full sushi bar with sashimi specialties, a raw bar, plus family-style shared plates, many with a vegetarian focus. I took a look at the preliminary menu, and some dishes definitely have an inventive spin, like organic homemade tofu fries served with garlic, momiji oroshi (grated daikon seasoned with chili paste), and white truffle oil; and a carpaccio trio of Kona kampachi (young yellowtail) with pistachio oil, and ruby red zest, plus Hokkaido hotategai (scallops) with heirloom tomatoes, shiso oil, and black sea salt, and then Kobe beef with fresh ground wasabi, young ginger, sudachi vinaigrette, and micro red shiso. The owner is Ming Hwang, who recently opened Shiso in Sonoma, and has also opened places in Texas, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. He also has worked at Tokyo Go Go as a sushi chef and GM. The beverage program will be highlighting quality sojus and wines, with some medium to high-end sakes served as well. The designer is Oblio Jenkins, who was behind the moody atmosphere of the Oola space in SOMA; the teppan setup will be yanked, and in its place will be a 12-seat cocktail lounge in the front with a custom bar, and a custom sushi bar is going in as well. The intention is to employ as many green build-out practices as possible—for example, the bar is made from sustainable walnut from Pt. Reyes. There will be panels of fabric hanging from the ceiling, and mobiles that will change with the season, plus three or four tatami tables and a private tatami room. The front is designed to be more casual and social, with the back of the 3,400-sq.-foot space offering a more intimate vibe. Hwang has a community focus, and will be rotating local art every three months. Dinner only will be served, with the lounge vibe kicking in at 10pm and serving a late-night menu until 1am. The plan is to launch the jazz program in July, with live jazz Wed–Sat. The restaurant will have a soft opening in early June, and be open nightly. 1217 Sutter St. at Polk, 415-623-8625.

Coffee fanatics: guess what? Mr. Espresso is launching their new coffee bar concept in SF, appropriately named ~COFFEE BAR~. This first coffee venue will be moving into the former Arc Café space, which is now closed. The plan is to open by August, if not sooner, with other locations to follow. The project is from Jason Paul and Luigi DiRuocco, who have been friends since they were little. A really skilled staff will be going in, with trained baristas who know what a quality coffee is, from ristrettos to a proper drip coffee. There will also be beer and wine, plus a kitchen turning out small plates for lunch and in the evening. Overseeing the kitchen is Rob Pevitts, a CCA grad, and Michael Richardson from Axis Café will be acting as the GM. The outdoor area is going to be majorly overhauled, and the indoor will be more inviting, and will include a tasting room where Luigi’s father will be leading some seminars. Coffee Bar will be open all day. More to come as details emerge. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa.

~ANDALU~ is launching “Art-First Monday,” a free monthly art gathering from 9pm–midnight, celebrating the work of local artists. The first event will be on Monday, May 7th, celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Precita Eyes Muralists. Going forward, Andalu will host a monthly rotating installation of San Francisco-based artists, co-curated by Suaro Cevantes and Robert Melton, and underwritten by Andalu’s owner, Calvin Schneiter. “Art-First Monday” is the result of a collaborative vision between all three men to have greater support locally for the arts and artists. For the launch, Cervantes and Melton have created a show of work by San Francisco muralists Luis Cervantes and Susan Kelk Cervantes, and will be unveiling the newest mural above Andalu’s bar. 3198 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-621-2211.

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

 
the jetsetter

MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO It’s funny, everyone usually says Sydney is the can’t-miss city in Australia, and while I found it beautiful, fun, charming, and unique, I didn’t feel like I’d want to live there. It reminded me of a gourmet and slightly more scenic San Diego. VERY privileged city—you gotta have some cash. Rather homogenous too. Didn’t click with as many people as I did in funkified Melbourne. Melbourne, heck, I would pack my bags tomorrow (and it’s not just because of the hottie Greeks running around there).

“Don’t want to live there” caveat aside, I definitely made some fab discoveries in Sydney, and there were a number of places I’d be thrilled to return to again. (And thanks to all the great folks who made recommendations for me! Good on ya, mates!) Note: all prices below are Australian. While everything was still massively expensive, the exchange did help lower the prices a little. Not enough, but oh well.

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Fish Face
132 Darlinghurst Rd.
Darlinghurst
9332 4803

 

Since there are all kinds of unknown-to-me types of seafood in Oz, I wanted to get my fill of barramundi, Moreton Bay bugs, yabbies, and the like. ~FISH FACE~ in Darlinghurst was a total hit, and a swell spot to tuck into some fresh Aussie seafood, from Euro-style preparations to sushi. Since it’s rather popular with the locals we had to wait a bit for a table, so we swung by the neighboring ~DARLO BAR~ for a drink (how convenient) in the Royal Sovereign Hotel. Total 60’s kitsch, with groovy lights, low-slung tables, a padded bar, and a pool table in the back. Very “San Francisco garage sale” kind of vibe.

Back to Fish Face: dug the modern and clean look of this boisterous little place. The tiny kitchen works at a furious pace—just slammed. There’s a counter and sushi bar, plus some tall tables and the de rigueur outdoor seating (Sydney’s outdoor life was downright enviable). I loved that the menu didn’t have any meat or vegetables, just fish. Was rather impressed with the whole meal, from the spanner crab linguine with shaved fennel, tomato, and lemon balm ($18.90) to the crispy skin kingfish with Sicilian caponata ($29.90). I personally couldn’t resist the crispy fish and chips made with flathead ($25.90)—almost every other table had a cone of chips on it.

Also convenient is there’s a bottle shop just next door—Aussies are way into BYO and charge about a third of what U.S. restaurants charge for BYOB. I’m all for supporting restaurants’ wine programs, but the easygoing BYO policy provides a fun way to try more wines while you’re there. Since Fish Face only charges $6.50 AUS for BYO, we were all over it.

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Bills
433 Liverpool St.
Darlinghurst
9360 9631

One thing that really rocked me hard is Aussies really get breakfast. Or, I should actually say brekkie. (They love to shorten things: e.g. sunglasses are sunnies.) A trip to Sydney is not complete without the famous scrambled eggs ($12.80) at ~BILLS~. Yeah, I know, they’re just eggs. But they are so not. These cream-laden and silken organic fluffs were total egg perfection. Our server told me they even have a special automatic whisk that keeps the eggs moving in the pan slowly while they cook on the lowest heat. I want one.

It’s common to get some oven-roasted tomatoes ($3.80) with your eggs—since I was there in summer, I was lovin’ the tomatoes. Oh, and they don’t cook bacon like we do—if you like it crispy, you gotta ask for it extra-crispy ($4.50). The ricotta hotcakes were also pretty fab, but it’s all about the eggs. The logo on their biz card even has an egg motif on it. There are three locations, but this original location was on pointe, with a clean spare look: industrial fans, wood floors, a sprawling communal table with magazines on it, handwritten specials on a blackboard, natural light, and a friendly staff. Word was they were renovating it in March, so I have no idea what it looks like now. Quite cool, I would wager.

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Forbes & Burton
252 Forbes St.
Darlinghurst
9356 8788

The breakfast that turned me on my ear was at ~FORBES & BURTON~. It was so scrumptious I hit it again for lunch (separate days, mind you). The breakfast was just sick: some of the most perfect poached eggs on top of potato cakes with oak-smoked salmon and a “pash” (kiss) of onion jam ($16). Totally illegal. Oh, and the croque madame ($13) with double-smoked leg ham, Gruyère, chive mascarpone, and a fried egg on top made we want to cry. Ditto on the BLT ($8). Oh man, these people do one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had. It sounded so good we had to upgrade it to a BLTA ($9.50). The space was a cool corner spot, with thick stone walls, some 70’s hot pink mirrored panels, smooth Sunday soul music playing, big windows, modern chairs, and a total neighborhood vibe. The staff was fun and funky and totally felt like they were Burners. The women’s bathroom had a pink sink and toilet, with naughty limericks on the wall (the limericks were in the men’s too). Sassy. They also serve dinner, I trust it’s sublime.

Aqua Dining
North Sydney Olympic Pool
Paul and Northcliff Streets
Milson’s Point
9964 9998

Since we’re on lunch, I had one of my most scenic lunches, ever, at ~AQUA DINING~. I think it should be everyone’s first lunch destination upon arrival in Sydney. Aqua dining is positioned directly above the North Sydney Olympic Pool and is smack dab next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with views of the Opera House too. So while you’re sipping your flute of Jansz bubbles from Piper Valley ($15) you get to check out some pretty nice physiques down below doing their thing. Butterflying hunks, you get the drift—I suddenly understood why the view was described as breathtaking. We dined alfresco, but admired the slick and moderne dining room, with a Calvin Klein kind of palette, and it’s totally glass-walled so the view is unobstructed. The staff, outfitted in light blue shirts and black aprons, is friendly, easygoing, and knowledgeable.

Executive Chef Jeff Turnbull’s contemporary Aussie menu was full of luxurious touches—we started with a bug salad ($29) paired with tangy segments of blood orange, and Parmesan-crusted lamb’s brains ($27) on a caponata-esque bed of tomato, shallot, capers, pine nuts, and mushrooms (I know, a light lunch). We also started knocking back a bottle of 2004 Kooyong Chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula, fab. My friend’s main, the ridiculously stuffed crab omelette ($39) really took the cake—it was a three or four egg omelette, with dollops of cream, pesto, and tomato on the side. Portions were rather hefty—my snapper ($38) was dinner-portion size, so at least you’re not paying $30 for three bites of fish. Great wine pairings by the staff, which adds to why it’s a nice place to celebrate. Celebrate what? Heck, just celebrate having lunch outside in a dreamy place.

Hugo’s Bar Pizza
33 Bayswater Rd.
Kings Cross
9357 4411

Lots of folks were raving about ~HUGO'S BAR PIZZA~. Oh lordy, what a scene. It was like being in LA—lots of leggy model types, a supercilious hostess, dark and clubby lighting (so dark I couldn’t even get a pic of our pizza), and don’t get me started on our feckless server. But we were on a pork belly pizza mission—once I heard about it, we had to hunt it down—there was no turning back. The pizza did not disappoint: the pork belly was slow-roasted, and served with sweet and sour onions and ribbons of radicchio ($24). We also dug the chilli (it’s how they spell it over there) prawn pizza with tomato, capsicum, and salsa verde ($24). The thin wood-fired crust had nothing on our local stars, but I will say the 13 different types of pizzas all sounded delish, inventive, and there didn’t appear to be a dog in the bunch. There was even roasted lamb with potato, anchovies, and parsley with buffalo mozzarella. Too bad about everything besides the pizza.

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Burger Bar
Burger Bar
118 Devonshire St.
Surry Hills
9690 0465

Sometimes you just want a good burger, and man, did we find one at ~BURGER BAR~ on Devonshire in Surry Hills (no, it’s not part Hubert Keller’s burgeoning Burger Bar empire). I wish all buns were like theirs: fluffy, fresh, homemade tasting. Nice hand-formed patty cooked a perfect medium rare. Beautiful, this burger. I miss you.

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Jimmy Liks
186-188 Victoria St.
Potts Point
8354 1400

We had to do at least one “fusiony” Aussie experience since that continues to be a big culinary theme over there. Huh. We hit up the hip ~JIMMY LIKS~ for an early dinner before catching a performance at the Opera House. I liked the long shotgun room with what was practically one big communal table (each table had room for eight or so), and then there was a completely different side housing the bar area. The modern Thai food here was fresh, tasty, and balanced—a few dishes were a little heavy with the garlic or the ginger, but I do wish we had more food like this here in SF. Great staff too. We scarfed down the fried salt and pepper cuttlefish ($18/$28), and the grilled baby octopus ($29) had a nice caramelization, which made the accompanying salad of pineapple, lemongrass, and mint an inspired combo. A few other dishes we ordered were all quite salad-y, just right for the warm Sydney summer nights.

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Jackies
122 Oxford St.
Paddington
9380 9818

One place we hung out a lot at was ~JACKIES CAFÉ~ in Paddington (or Paddo, as the locals say), smack dab in the middle of a ‘hood full of cute boutiques and art galleries. (My friend worked here.) I gotta say it: for a country that loves espresso so much, I sure had a lot of lousy coffees. Lukewarm cappuccinos in the morning, watery espressos in the afternoon, ick. Not here. Jackie Milijash does not mess around. I especially loved my iced latte one hot arvo (afternoon), with its napkin that looked like a jaunty scarf! Jackies has a lovely little outdoor patio where you can watch the ladies who lunch, with a Champagne bucket and stroller parked alongside their tables, or you can read magazines in the sunken downstairs section (I noticed a number of places offer free glossy magazines for their guests to read). The menu is eclectic, with breakfast dishes like ricotta pancakes, or grilled sandwiches and pastas at lunch, plus a sushi bar with fab hand rolls (she also has a sushi place in Bondi Beach). And just to meet Jackie, you gotta go. She is a piece of work, in the best way possible. I loved her husky voice and crazy speech cadence so much I want her to call me once a month and just leave me a message saying, “”Daaaaaaaaarling, hi! It’s Jacks!”

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Fratelli Paradiso
Fratelli Paradiso
12-16 Challis Avenue
Potts Point
9357 1744

Back to coffee: we luckily got steered to ~FRATELLI PARADISO~ after I complained to a local about all the lousy coffee I was having. She brought us to this super-slick Italian café that reminded me of Milano. Spare arty look, with simply ridiculously good pastry. Focaccias too. Coffee verdict: pretty darned good.

So since we’re all hopped up on coffee, let’s recap some fun Aussie barista nomenclature I learned:

Short black=espresso shot
Long black=two shots
Flat white=with milk, no foam
You order your milk either skinny or fat.
They serve lattes in bistro glasses (never pints like they do here).

North Bondi Italian Food
118-120 Ramsgate Ave.
Bondi Beach
9300 4400

Of course we had to hit Bondi Beach during our stay. What a gorgeous beach—nearby Bronte was where we hung out, actually. Didn’t get to eat at the famed ~ICEBERGS~ because as luck would have it, we were there on Valentine’s Day. Everything was booked, so we just ate at a simple pizza place along the water. (We came up with some fun singles-themed songs for the night: Cars: Drive, or De La Soul: Me, Myself, and I.) Okay, enough of the lame Valentine’s Day. What was more my speed was the sister restaurant, ~NORTH BONDI ITALIAN FOOD~. What a fab space and dreamy-looking menu, full of salumi, offal, seafood, yum. Hot identity/look too—(check out the site for a peek). We only swung by for some post-beach beers. Oh well, another time.

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Bondi's Brown Sugar
106 Curlewis St.
Bondi Beach
9130 1566

We did have a smashing hangover breakfast at ~BONDI'S BROWN SUGAR~ just off the main drag, with a chill seaside vibe. Really moderate prices (for a change) and a decent coffee to boot. Sold. Seems they serve lunch and dinner too.

Victoria Room
Level 1-235 Victoria St.
Darlinghurst
9357 4488

Had some dranks at the ~VICTORIA ROOM~, an eclectic and sultry space chock-full of Victoriana, like brocade wallpaper, vintage settees and armchairs, low tables, and a lazy, loungey vibe. The place is quite huge, especially with the tall ceilings. There’s also a restaurant—I was curious about the high tea weekend afternoons, sounds fun.

 

Lotus Bar
22 Challis Ave.
Potts Point
9326 9000
To top it all off, I had one of the best cocktail experiences of my life at ~LOTUS BAR~ in Potts Point. Tucked in the back of the restaurant is an intimate lounge, with glam wallpaper, mirrored tables, and an insider vibe. You can peruse the thoughtful list, but even more fun is to work with the snappy mixologists and divine your drink. This particular night, Michael was our cocktail dowsing rod (although we were drooling over Ollie like a bunch of schoolgirls), who concocted four very divergent drinks for our group, each cocktail totally apropos for our different personalities. It was like having your tarot cards read. Funny, I ended up with a bourbon cherry cocktail, a frothy little number with some Maker’s, Amaretto, crushed cherry and I can’t remember what else, but I would drink if by the gallon, daily, if I could. My friend had the “Courtesan,” with purple basil, vanilla, lime, and Muscovado sugar, shaken with hibiscus tonic and Glenfiddich Solera Reserve. Like, whoa. Yo. Sure, all four drinks came to $70 AUS, but it’s a small price for the swell memory of a drink I am going to pine after.

Here are some other places I hoped to hit, either from recommendations, or discoveries while I was there but didn’t get to try:

~TOKO~ is a new izakaya that just opened up in Surry Hills. Groovy ambiance and cool crowd at the bar and wood communal tables.
 
Didn’t have the ducats to shell out for ~est~ (Australia cleaned me OUT) but it’s supposed to be pretty top drawer. You can grab drinks downstairs—since it’s smack-dab in the CBD (Central Business District) it can get pretty swamped with a randy post-work crowd.

~NOVE CUCINA~, the sister to ~OTTO~ just next door, looked slick, and it’s right on the water—and hey, it’s in Woolloomooloo! Say it! Woolloomooloo! Love it.

Didn’t get a chance to hit ~BENTLEY RESTAURANT AND BAR~, but it’s supposed to be pretty hot. One of my few regrets of the trip!

Wanted to go do some Aussie Outback-style feasting at ~DEEP BLUE BISTRO~, a beachside joint in Coogee (supposedly all kinds of kangaroo preparations on the menu).

~SOBO~ in Bondi looked pretty hip and I heard the eats are good—another one we couldn’t get into on V-Day.

~SEAN'S PANORAMA~ is a Bondi institution—the bread there is supposed to be pretty fantastic. Dang, how did I miss this? I did. Oh well.

A few more tips:

Pick up a LUXE Sydney Guide before you leave, or at a bookshop when you get there—really helpful, full of snazzy and sassy info and tips on what’s hot.

I also like the your Restaurants site, with small overviews and Yelp-like user comments.

Food lingo notes: tasty cheese is cheddar, capsicum is bell pepper, and if you’re really drunk, you’re “shattered” (hey, these are useful terms to know!). You’ll find pumpkin and beetroot (beets) on everything, ditto on rocket (arugula). And don’t let anyone get away with calling you a SEPPO (Septic Tank, rhyming with Yank).

 
the wino
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MAY 1, 2007 | The Margaret River From Surfing to Semillon–Why This Wine Region Has It All

By Franck Moreau, Head Sommelier, Est., Sydney

With more than 120 wine producers and around 80 winegrowers, Margaret River represents just 3% of Australian wine production.

So what makes the Margaret River such a popular destination for wine lovers and foodies alike?

Throughout my working career to date, I've had the opportunity to work at several Michelin-starred restaurants, both in my country of birth (France) as well as in the U.K., at establishments including La Tour d’Argent in Paris, Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, and Marcus Wareing at the Savoy Grill in London. Since September 2005, I've been based in Sydney, and now work for The Merivale Group, as Group Sommelier for a range of different restaurants, bars, and nightclubs including Establishment, Hemmesphere, Lotus, and the three-hatted Est. Restaurant.

Yet it is only in recent years that I have become acquainted with the truly exciting and high quality range of wines being produced in the Margaret River in Australia. Whether you prefer your Shiraz to Tempranillo or Sauvignon Blanc to Chenin Blanc, you'll find it in the Margaret River, along with several bronzed Aussies and a range of terrific surf beaches, boutique hotels, and restaurants to boot!

Most of the vineyards located in the Margaret River are situated between three–seven kilometres from the coast, at an elevation between sea level and 200m. This offers the perfect condition for growing grapes; the region is best characterised by mild to wet winters and summers which are warm to hot and dry. Margaret River’s coastal location also contributes to cooler evening temperatures.

The first significant planting of vines took place in 1967. Cape Mentelle was created by David and Mark Honnen, who were also one of the first producers to develop and implement the famous classic blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (otherwise known as the classic Bordeaux white blend). Now this blend is one of the benchmarks of this region and enjoys a growing popularity worldwide. After spending some years in California, David and Mark returned to Australia, bringing with them the technique to produce some terrific Zinfandel. They are also the people who created Cloudy Bay in New Zealand.

Of course, a visit to the Margaret River would not be complete without a trip to Vasse Felix. Started in 1967, this vineyard is producing some truly fantastic good value wines, not to mention their Premium Heytesbury labels, which taste even better washed down with a serve of freshly pan-fried marron as you watch the sun set over Surfers Point Beach.

Chardonnay is another grape variety produced in the Margaret River, and Leeuwin Estate winery may be the most synonymous with its prestige “Art Series” labels. These are beautiful, well-structured wines, with some buttery and toasty characters, and age very well. Talking about Chardonnay, Dr. Michael Peterkin from Pierro Winery is also producing some outstanding wines and are well worth a visit.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most prestigious red grape variety, and several wineries in the Margaret River are producing some of the world's best varieties, including Cullen or Moss Wood. These wines are quite full bodied and express some great flavours. Their tannins are always finer and more elegant than many other red wines originating from Australia.

To all avid travellers considering a stop in the Margaret River as part of your Antipodean voyage Down Under: this region is so terrific because it represents all which is essential to the Aussie “way of life.” It represents and offers a wine industry that is respectful of tradition but not afraid to challenge it through new techniques and blends, a natural environment that is truly stunning, and a burgeoning restaurant industry with accessibility to incredibly fresh produce and exciting new ideas.

Or, if you can't make it over the 9,000 miles to Australia, consider a bottle of Margaret River wine on your next visit to the liquor store. You won't be disappointed.

 
the lush

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Cantina
580 Sutter St.
Cross: Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

415-398-0195
website


MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Last year I reported on the funk-a-riffic ~CANTINA~ opening in the former Johnny Wok’s space on Polk Street. Well, after permit issues and typical bureaucratic delays, partners Duggan McDonnell and his wife Kristina, along with friends Aaron Prentice and Christene Larsen, decided to steer the ship to a new location, the former Lucid Gallery near Union Square (just next door to the Hotel Rex). The space is currently being completely transformed, including the installation of brightly colored walls of tropical sky blue and evening green accented with rusted cork, plus wallpaper and some funky vegetation. Think rustic salon on the bordello tip. The space is being designed and furnished by Shawn Ball—I personally can’t wait for the longhair cowhide chairs to come in from Texas. Yee haw.

The concept is a Latin art bar, and get ready for some sick talent behind the bar. All four partners have some serious wine and beverage experience, and Christine is actually going for her Masters of Wine right now, so it seems Cantina just might be the first bar in SF with a sommelier. I said this in the previous posting about Cantina, but to repeat: they will be putting together some totally fab and fresh wine-based drinks, like the Alsatian Daiquiri (La Favorite cane rum, Trimbach Gewürztraminer, lime, peach bitters, turbinado nectar), the Five-Spice Margarita (Don Eduardo Reposado Tequila, Qi white tea liqueur, lemon, lime, five-spice-infused agave nectar) and the Duende (Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal, Benedictine, Badia di Morrona Vin Santo, served up in a classic cocktail presentation). Here's the best part: these dranks will be available in pitchers. Yeah, hello. There will also be a bunch of wines available by the glass, and well-priced numbers by the bottle too.

Cantina will be quietly opening in the coming weeks—just watch for a light on.
 
the socialite

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Gundlach Bundschu dinner
Wed., May 2, 2007

Levende Lounge
1710 Mission St.
Cross: Duboce St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

website

Reservations:
415-864-5585

7pm

$69 per person
not including tax and gratuity


MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Those of you looking for something cool to do tomorrow, Gundlach Bundschu is hosting a special five-course ~VINTNER'S DINNER WITH JEFF BUNDSCHU~ at Levende Lounge. You can check out the menu here (it's a pdf). Space is limited to the first 50 guests.

 
the starlet

MAY 1, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I know some people who will appreciate this: Peter Berlin was seen dining at 2223 (he was a famous skin flick star, activist, actor, and artist in the 70s and 80s). Reportedly a big tipper too. Heh.

Natalie Portman and an entourage of six were at Salt House Wednesday night. No other details, except she's reportedly very tiny and really is that gorgeous.

Serious star wattage continues, this time in the Gourmet Ghetto: Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson were spotted getting cones from Bi Rite Creamery Saturday night. They also had an early Sunday dinner at Delfina, “sitting unpretentiously at the counter space near the front door.” They were also seen having breakfast/brunch in the restaurant at Sports Club/LA at the Four Seasons. Another tablehopper reader reports, “She was wearing a backless top (a little much for breakfast?) and crop pants... he: blue slippers (possibly from their hotel room upstairs).”

And on the completely other side of things, the Dalai Lama dined at LarkCreekSteak on Friday night for dinner. Reportedly, “He was there with a group of 15 other people and was most gracious, shook the managers' hands and had a great time. He was in town teaching a seminar in San Francisco on April 27 & 28 at the Civic Center.” One tablehopper reader surmises, “I bet Kate [Hudson] had front row seats. After all, her momma's book is Tibet-ly titled A Lotus Grows in the Mud.