tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: spork from ork.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab

the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the matchmaker
let's get it on
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Meatpaper

 

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I successfully survived last week’s onslaught of fabulous living—the highlight was the ridiculously fantastic LCD Soundsystem show at Mezzanine, which gave me faith in how many cool, fun people live in this city and still know how to rock it, hard. The Golden Glass event on Saturday featured some swell swill—followed it up with an impromptu dinner at the gleaming new Farina on 18th Street. Like, wow, what a gorgeous gorgeous space. Nothing like it in the City, that’s for sure. Our dinner had some highs (supple mandilli al pesto, the almond semifreddo) and lows (chewy octopus salad)—but it’s the first week, to be expected. People are lovin’ the BYOB/no corkage until the liquor license kicks in.

This week holds Hot Chip at the Fillmore tonight (my boogie sessions continue—I consider it exercise), and on Wednesday, a trip across the Bay gasp (!) to Oliveto for the Oceanic Dinners (they go through Saturday). Can you say octopus soppressata, tramezzini of sand dabs, and triglie? I am soooo there.

Okay, this is one of those moments when I have to share a good laugh with you at my expense: let’s call this particular episode “Lost in Translation.” Remember those strawberries I was raving about last week from my family’s farmer friend? Well, whaddya know, the city slicker misunderstood farmer Dominic’s thick Italian accent—while I thought the name “chandelier” was such a groovy name for those candy-sweet strawberries, ends up they are called Chandlers. Ha! Thanks Janet and Tana for keeping me on track.

So I thought I’d put this out there: tablehopper is getting ready for version 2.0, and I need to find a CMS (Content Management System) guru out there. If you know someone talented yet affordable, please send them my way and I’ll pass along my RFP. Thanks for helping with the quest!

Catch ya on the flip side,

~Marcia (rhymes with pizzeria) subscribe


the chatterbox
MeatpaperJUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, before we dive in here, did you happen to see the article about the evils of the CCA in the most recent issue of the SF Weekly? No? You gotta read it—it’s pretty ugly to read about the crippling debt aspiring chefs are racking up by going to school there. Here’s a link.

Things are getting close for ~LAÏOLA~, the pet project from Joe Hargrave who partnered up with Andrew McCormack of Frisson, where Hargrave was formerly the GM (but is still involved in the restaurant). This new Spanish-inspired eatery will have some definite Cali flair, taking its inspiration from afar, but sourcing quality local ingredients as much as possible. Executive chef Mark Denham is putting together a menu that sounds downright delish and has a definite nose-to-tail sensibility: there will be all kinds of charcuterie and house-made sausage, like dry-cured chorizos, wild boar, fuet (a Catalan-style dry-cured pork sausage), lomito (a pork sausage that’s kind of like coppa), plus suckling pig, and whole roasted lamb from Don Watson of Napa Valley Lamb Company. Seafood will also be highlighted, like sand dabs, petrale a la plancha, and other local stars, like sardines. The plates will range from smaller to bigger, basically whatever is the right size to serve something at, and will take their cue from Spain’s sizing styles, from tapas to “raciones” (larger platefuls); expect 20 or so dishes in all. Denham has some serious chops—many will remember his savory cooking from 42 Degrees; he has cooked at a vast array of local spots, including Chez Panisse, Postrio, Manresa, and Elisabeth Daniel.

The 45-seat space will have a long 18-seat all-copper Spanish-style counter (it’s where you will find me parked with my hazards on) and will encourage a fun and casual vibe—starting with no uniforms for the wait staff. It’s a smaller space (it was formerly Pizza My Heart) and the design was a collaboration with Tim Murphy, who was the architect behind Frisson. The rustic look is more Old World than New World, with a stained concrete floor the color of a deep mahogany, with rich rosewood and copper hues.

The wine list has 100 bottles that are all from Spain, many from the south, except a white and red from Lodi. Most will cost between $20-$45, with a by-the-glass program that will actually be based on 250ml carafinas, which comes out to a glass and half (most will hover around $10, with one at $13). There will also be a house blend, part of the new Bodegas Laïola line—the first will be Borracho y Loco, a custom blend made with fruit from Sonoma. The boys are gunning for a grand opening to the public by early July. Dinner will start at 5pm nightly, staying open until 10:30pm, and until 11:30pm Fri–Sat. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

In the Lower Haight, ~BAGHDAD 1,001 NIGHTS~, an Iraqi restaurant, is opening August 1, just next door to Zuzu Petals. The owner of the building, Husain Nasir, has dreamed for the past 12 years of having his own place that would serve Iraqi-style Arabic cuisine, so he’s beyond excited. The chef is coming from Iraq, and will be preparing authentic dishes like biryani and one called snobar with lamb, pine nuts, and walnuts, plus okra with lamb and tomato sauce. Many dishes will come from the tandoori, including some naan breads. The two-level will have 49 seats. It’s meant to be spacious, comfy, and casual, with an exotic and colorful look. Dinner to start, with lunch later on. Beer and wine will be available. And expect some belly dancing shows. 682 Haight St. at Pierce.

More changes in the 94117: ~LE MÉTRO CAFÉ~ on Divisadero served their last Frenchie dinner on Sunday night, June 10. They are closing for a (hoped-for) two weeks, and when they reopen, according to my source, it will be called Kathmandu, serving small plates of Nepalese food for $10 and under, with plans to stay open late, until 1am. (Owner Roshan and his wife Sharadha are from Nepal.) I see some future confusion with the tiny family-run Kathmandu Café, just a few blocks away, on Fulton and Divis. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

Another dueling business arrangement on Divisadero will be happening when a ~yet-unnamed Texas-style BBQ joint~ opens on Divisadero at McAllister, just two blocks away from Lilly’s-Bar-B-Que (formerly known as Brother-In-Laws, AKA the pit that I can smell from my apartment when the wind is right). I have to say, my mouth began to water when I started hearing the line-up: slooooooow-smoked brisket, pork ribs, chicken, and links made by someone specially chosen for the task, so the casing will be less tough/more refined. There will be 20 seats, with a long banquette and tables—the space is being designed by Architects II (who also recently did Mexico DF—more on that in a sec). The project is from Regional Burrell and Al Bourges, friends who met playing racquetball some 20 years ago. Beer and wine will be served, and the plan is to be able to phone/fax in orders for take-out. Opening is slated for September. 853 Divisadero St. at McAllister.

I had a chance to catch up with ~EDDIE BLYDEN~, the former executive chef of The Alembic in the Haight, who just returned from some world travels, including an extensive trip to Sierra Leone (where his 90-year-old father lives and is from). Blyden has some exciting plans brewing for a new space in the Mission, at 18th St. and Treat. These details are VERY preliminary, but he is opening a restaurant/café with some serious global vibe, cooking personal food from the numerous places he’s traveled (expect some inspiration from Sierra Leone to figure prominently). The space will feel tropical and funky, with some fun details, like a terrace for Saturday night barbecues (here’s hoping!). He’s considering communal tables, and there’s a potential spot for a movie screen—and of course there will be plenty of music. It’s all taking shape for now, so expect a detailed update from me come August or so.

A temporary closure: the ~BIG 4 RESTAURANT~ in the Huntington Hotel is closing from July 2–August 1; they have to replace the aging and erratic freight elevator that transports practically everything up five floors from the street below, from linens to food and liquor. They also might try to get the bathrooms renovated to be more ADA-compliant as well during the closure. The Big 4 bar, however, will remain open, so you can still enjoy your cocktails with some piano on the side. 1075 California St. at Taylor, 415-771-1140.

Over in Noe Valley, ~BISTRO 1689~ has closed. The word is that it will turn into a casual Indian joint, but I haven’t been able to confirm this part of the news yet—will keep you posted. 1689 Church St. at 29th St.

Folks in Bernal are going to be pretty stoked with a new market and butcher shop opening in July called ~AVEDANO'S HOLLY PARK MARKET~. The project comes from Tia Harrison, the executive chef and partner in Sociale, along with Angela Wilson, of Divine Chai Tea company, and Melanie Eisman, who is part of the staff at Sociale. The space was historically the home of a butcher shop, since 1901. The most recent incarnation was as Cicero’s Meat Market; Harrison named it Avedano’s in honor of her Italian grandparents who emigrated from Asti. The market will have meat and fish, with a focus on organic, local, wild, and sustainable products. Harrison is also excited about showcasing the best of seasonal produce, offering access to some producers that normally only sell to chefs There will be a variety of take-out items for sale, like house-made sauces, fresh pastas, soups, and panini. They are also launching a line of quick and healthy baby food, like fresh purees and gourmet Spaghetti O’s, along with a totally decadent line of cookies (I got an “advance taste” of a couple—in a word, yum). In three months or so, expect to see some house-cured meats, too. Opening hours will be 11am–8pm, Tue–Sun. 235 Cortland Ave. at Bocana.

Opening this week:

~Mexico DF~, the new Mexico City-style restaurant in SoMa should be open by this Thursday! For a refresher on the project, check out my write-up from April here. Hello carnitas by the pound. 139 Steuart St. at Howard, 415-808-1048.

~DUCCA~ starts lunch tomorrow (for hotel guests only), June 13, and dinner on June 21. 50 Third St. at Market, adjacent to The Westin San Francisco Market Street, 415-977-0271.

Lastly, listen up winos, for the fifth year in a row, every bottle on every wine list at each of Lark Creek Restaurant Group's Bay Area restaurants (excluding Yankee Pier SFO) will be offered at half price for brunch, lunch, and dinner throughout the entire month of July—that’s more than 800 different labels in their all-American wine collection. Restaurants in the group include The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur; One Market Restaurant and LarkCreekSteak in San Francisco; Lark Creek Walnut Creek; Yankee Pier in Larkspur and at Santana Row in San Jose; and Parcel 104 at the Santa Clara Marriott (Friday and Saturday only). Drink up!

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

 
fresh meat

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Spork
1058 Valencia St.
Cross: 21st St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-643-5000
website

Tue-Thu 6pm–10pm
Fri-Sat 6pm–11pm

Apps $7$11
Entrées $14$19
Desserts $5$6

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO God is in the details. (I also think he’s hiding out in sublime peppery olive oil, Hog Island Kumamotos, Old World reds, the ankimo at Sebo, hot coppa, and the black magic cake my mother makes me for my birthday.) Anyway, before I get too lost playing the “what I want for my last meal on earth” game (and I love that game), it still shocks me when some folks open restaurants and didn’t seem to think very much about the details inherent in what they were creating. I mean, come on, you want people to visit your (hopefully) special restaurant, get turned on, talk about you, and come back again and again, but you opened before you even figured out your wine program. It’s like some folks are hoping for a restaurant god to come down from the sky (or pop out of a bottle of chartreuse) and help write their menu, launch their website, crunch some numbers, and train their staff. Boggles the mind.

Then you have a place like ~SPORK~, created by people who obviously thought a great deal about what they were doing. The concept is creative and the whole look and brand are tight, kind of the way Range struck me the first time I saw it—it was like, “Hey, some people with taste made some decisions!” And if you are going to open up a restaurant in a former KFC, like Spork did, you better have some vision. Like, X-ray vision, and maybe some “I can see the future like Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone” vision wouldn’t hurt either. It’s no coincidence that the talented Eric Heid of Martin Heid Design did both Spork and Range’s spaces—he’s also slated to do the new Slow Club in Dogpatch.

Spork’s style is kind of blue collar-hipster cafeteria-meets-modern industrial-prefab chic. I dug it. The 50-seat room is all open (so yes, there is definitely some room buzz), with banquettes and low-backed booths outfitted in a soothing dove grey, a row of four old-school fans whirring above the kitchen, a curving bar/diner counter outfitted with pegboard, fun two-tops along the window with Edison-esque bulbs on poles, and punches of color from the Herman Miller fiberglass orange and yellow stacking school chairs and the bold propaganda-feeling art on the walls (it was originally a vintage service station billboard that was cut down into pieces). Speaking of service stations, one thing I feel like someone forgot was the bathrooms—votive candle or not, I felt like I was suddenly on the I-5, taking a pit stop in Coalinga or something.

The room’s light is glowy, the music is eclectic cool (from Tricky to Beck to hip hop), and the servers are all cuties with outfits reminiscent of hot mechanics (the dudes) or cheeky flight attendants (the chicks)—and yay, our server was totally on her game.

The compact Cal-American menu is clever, with little nudges and winks, Lindy (hip) Hopping between comfort and au courant. Start with the tender dinner rolls and honey butter ($3) for an example of “retro is now.” Ditto on the supple gnocchi gratin ($8), which was like a grown-up mac 'n' cheese, rich with bacon and béchamel—it came with a spork, handy in scooping up the decadence.

I was told the plan is to have dishes rotate fairly frequently, so we were happy to play guinea pig to a couple new dishes, like hamachi with a dollop of yuzu sabayon ($11) that totally did a fun little prickle in your mouth once the wasabi sidled up to the citrus. We also played around with the goat cheese croquettes ($8) resting on thin slices of mango, with sprigs of watercress, and a few drops of sherry vinaigrette. The disparate texture-temperature game in this dish one divided our table: 2-liked it, 1-not so much.

There are just five mains to choose from, which included the mussels avec spork ($15). Unfortunately the provided spork didn’t prove to be very useful when eating this gutsy-flavored dish—one of those moments when the concept/cute name tried to trump common sense. I just wanted a fork and knife. The bread proved to be the best device to sop up the smoky Anchor Steam broth (it usually is). This dish was actually a little clunky to me—the carnitas pork was mostly in a big hunk, while I wanted to enjoy pieces of it with each bite of mussels. The cilantro also needed to be de-stemmed—otherwise it’s only as good as garnish.

I know some folks who are diggin’ the “between the sheets” ($16) dish, which reminded me of an upscale vegetarian Stroganoff, with mushrooms, truffle cream, and cheese. It was too much pasta for me—call me a purist, but I would have preferred regular noodles instead of the thick swaths of pasta sheets—I’ll save the sheets for beddy-bye later, thanks.

Now for another “re/constructed” dish: the much buzzed about in-side-out burger ($14) with “smashed fries” (they are cooked, then smashed and fried up crispy-like). You totally have to fork and knife this one, so no sporking here, although you’ll definitely be porking it. You get two juicy and perfectly cooked patties that sandwich a half of a grilled burger bun in the middle—there’s a dollop of caramelized onion and melted cheddar on top, and a thick slice of tomato and crisp butter lettuce underneath the tower of power. It’s beefy and big and messy and mighty delish, but as a chef once told me, you can’t be a restaurant known for your burger. (Well, unless your name has burger in it and that’s all you sell.) On the burger tip, the Lilliputian chocolate and sesame burgers that come with the check are also mighty cute.

Other items we didn’t try were a sea bass dish ($19) that looked rather refined, and then the homey turkey ($18) with mashed potatoes and gravy. See how the menu feels like a family with a few random stepsiblings, but it’s still a family? When executive chef and partner Bruce Binn originally told me about the concept, he called it “short order fine dining.” One minute you’ve got a sabayon, and the next you have smashed fries.

Binn hails from all kinds of SF faves, like Slow Club, Postrio, Citizen Cake, and most recently, Delfina. He also worked in NYC at Batali’s Lupa and David Bouley’s Upstairs. His background has bred some confidence about making pasta, so I’m sure a few kinds will continue to have their place on the menu.

Dessert included the pot brownie ($6)—duh, of course we were going to try it. It was pretty much what it said it was: a brownie in a petite-lidded pot, topped with vanilla gelato. We also had some exquisitely fresh strawberries ($6) with a hint of balsamic resting in a cloud of boozy mascarpone. NOW would have been a perfect moment for the spork!

The wine list is as edited as the menu: six whites, ten reds, with four by the glass each; the most expensive bottle tops out at $46, a Cali Zin from Neyers. The crisp Cristalino cava comes in individual splits, cute. Six bottled beers, including a Chimay Grande Reserve (750ml) are also available. Neighborhood denizens will appreciate the Ritual Roasters French press on offer, but my favorite coffee-related detail was the usage of old-school orange-lidded decaf coffee pots as water pitchers.

Spork feels like a natural addition to the neighborhood, nestling right in with its retro vibe and friendly price point, with enough quirk to keep people interested; it could easily become hipster HQ. I plan on returning and checking out what dishes get rotated in next—my ears are pricked. I wonder if some chicken will ever make a (rather poignant) appearance?

 
the sponsor

Meatpaper

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the lush

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Image from Nickie’s website

Nickie’s
466 Haight St.
Cross: Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94117

415-255-0300
website

Mon–Fri 4pm-2am
Sat–Sun noon–2am

(until 10pm for food)

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The former Nickie’s BBQ on Haight has gone through major changes: new ownership (Shay Lyons and Noel Morgan, their first project together), new sleek yet cozy look (yay, the nasty bathrooms are gone), and a new simplified name: ~NICKIE’S~. It just reopened last Monday, June 4, after being closed since September.

The concept is an easygoing resto-lounge, with an intimate neighborhood vibe. There is a smattering of padded Naugahyde banquettes with tables, and nice materials, like the bar made of mahogany. DJs will be playing nightly, with a mixed format of funk, soul, house, hip hop, and other beats—the music program will take more shape in the coming weeks. You can carve out a small space to boogie if the need to shake your tail feathers takes over.

Eats are affordable—most range from $7–$12, and include a fried fish basket with hand-cut fries, a trio of sliders (each one can be different, like cheddar-avocado, Swiss and mushroom, and/or blue cheese and bacon), and mac and cheese with ham and peas. The chef is Eric Adams, who has cooked at Moose’s, Fifth Floor, and Calzone’s—this is his first time running his own kitchen. It’s beer and wine only, so there are some reasonable wines and bubbles that range from $6–$12. The chilled glasses and a special glycol system for the draft beers means nice, cold beers, about 15 in all. There are also some premium soju cocktails.

image
Image from O'Neill's website

O'Neill's Irish Pub—Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point St.—H 104
Cross: Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

website

Daily 8am-2am

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Eoin O’Neill is one busy bloke—he’s gearing up to open his third ~O'NEILL'S IRISH PUB~, this time a 3,000-square-foot space in the Fairmont Heritage Place development at Ghirardelli Square. He’s keen on creating an authentic Irish pub with a good neighborhood vibe, serving traditional pub fare for lunch and dinner. O’Neill is considering offering breakfast service too, so if that ends up happening, now you know where to go for a good Irish breakfast. Traditional music is also in the works.

The look will be classic, with small tables, beer barrels, and my favorite element is the series of murals O’Neill is commissioning: one is going to picture JFK, Bono, Sinead O’ Connor, Enya, and himself having a pint (or an Irish coffee) together. Brill! Speaking of Irish coffees, look for a unique take on the SF classic at O’Neill’s—should be interesting considering the famous Buena Vista is just blocks away. Look for a grand opening in October.

 
the socialite

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Share Our Strength
Taste of the Nation
Thu., June 21, 2007

Acme Chophouse
26 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107

website

6pm hors d'oeuvres
7pm dinner

$250
buy tickets


JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I know some of you out there have some serious ducats, and this is one fab event to consider attending because 100% of all sales go to fighting hunger. Coming up is ~SHARE OUR STRENGTH'S TASTE OF THE NATION —SAN FRANCISCO~, hosted by Food Network’s Tyler Florence, honoring the indomitable industry pioneer, Chuck Williams.

There will be a reception and a delectable six-course dinner prepared by some seriously exciting chefs, including: 2007 James Beard Award winner Traci Des Jardins, 2007 Food + Wine Best New Chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Iron Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto, 2007 Chronicle Rising Star James Syhabout of PlumpJack Café, and many more, like Loretta Keller of COCO500 and Stuart Brioza of Rubicon. Bid on fantastic food and wine experiences in silent and live auctions while Chef Joey Altman's Back Burner Blues Band provides the music. Space is limited.

Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation raises millions of dollars to help the more than 12 million children who face hunger in their communities and around the country.

Please note there is also an event in Napa, on July 18.

 
the matchmaker

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO

Enrico's Sidewalk Cafe—an SF landmark restaurant/bar is now accepting resumes.

We are re-launching this 48-year-old institution with a commitment to quality food, an exceptional beverage program, impeccable service and live music daily. Our American bistro menu with French and Italian influences will be served throughout lunch and dinner daily, with brunch soon. The wine list favors domestic, French and Italian producers and other Mediterranean regions. Our cocktail program will continue to impress cocktail aficionados, with emphasis on historically relevant spirits and recipes.

The ideal employee has been employed by fine dining establishments in SF and is now seeking to apply those standards in a dynamic, casual setting. There are many opportunities for growth within all management positions. Interested candidates please forward your resumes by email only (no attachments, text must be in the body of email) to reza@enricossf.com.

Positions available:
Assistant Manager
Maitre' D
Host/Hostess
Bartender
Server
Busser
Barback
Line and Prep cooks

 
the starlet

JUNE 12, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO La Stone was at the St. Regis bar last week with a couple girlfriends. Reportedly looked amazing, why am I not surprised?

Krist Novoselic (the bass player from Nirvana) was spotted by a server at Bambuddha Lounge on Wednesday. The server was a huge Nirvana fan and recognized Krist despite the big beard he's currently rocking. Krist must have liked the food because he and his wife were back on Friday night for a second visit.