tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: yes, your majesty.

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

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

 

JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Yo, color me stoked! Big thanks to the editors at the San Francisco Bay Guardian for voting tablehopper “Best Fresh Scuttlebutt” in the Best of the Bay 2007 lineup. And bonus, they spelled my name right AND didn’t call tablehopper a blog. Looking forward to the party on Friday, and hanging my award here at headquarters.

You know, some folks ask me how I manage to crank out such a long column each week, and I have to confess, it’s more often than not thanks to my crack dealer Jimmy on 16th and Mission. Seriously good product. Uh, kidding.

Actually, this week’s installment was given some extra gas because I have been totally rocking out to local band Von Iva’s rowdy, sassy, disco-electro-dance punky inflected new album (“Our Own Island”) that just showed up in my mailbox this week. That was some good mail. And yes, that was a major plug, but I am digging the album a lot, so there you have it. (It comes out August 7.)

I made it home from Lake Tahoe (AKA heaven) on Friday in time for the Daft Punk show at the Greek (OMG, what a disco-space-tastic show, one of the best stage sets ever) and, like, whoa, I’ve been in the same city for four days. It actually feels good.

Over and out,

~Marcia “the second g is silent”
Gagliardi
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the chatterbox
JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO One of the most hotly anticipated restaurant openings of the year is finally happening: this Thursday, August 2, ~SPRUCE~ will be opening its doors to the rabid dining public. Let’s watch it blow up on OpenTable! The project was beleaguered with numerous delays (oh, we love historical buildings!), but the former auto barn that dates back to the 1930s is quite the stunner, thanks to Williams-Sonoma Home designer Stephen Brady. Elements include reclaimed limestone from the floors of a French church; a library with saddle leather chairs and newspapers, games, and antique cookbooks; a bar with a white Carrara marble top; ebony-stained oak floors and chocolate mohair walls; and a 70-seat dining area under cathedral ceilings with steel trusses that crisscross under the original glass-and-steel skylight. Executive chef Mark Sullivan’s menu will continue the strong seasonal approach he honed at The Village Pub in Woodside—heck, they have their own private farm, SMIP Ranch, and we’re not talking some tiny little backyard plot. According to the menu items listed in the press release, I’m seeing a Cal-Med vibe, with ingredients like farro garganelli, sweet pepper-and-eggplant ragout, and leek and fennel soup poured tableside over creamy salt cod dumplings. 

Andrew Green’s 1,000-bottle global wine list will have seventy of them available by the glass, with more than 100 German rieslings to accompany the house-made charcuterie. There will also be a café, with gourmet takeaway items like artisan pastries, fresh-pressed panini, cheese, and charcuterie by the pound. Spruce’s hours are Mon–Fri, 11:30am–11pm, Sat–Sun 5pm–11pm. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-931-5100.

One more note about Spruce: it seems the wickedly talented pastry chef ~WILLIAM WERNER~, who left the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay earlier this year to join the Bacchus Management Group (who oversees Spruce, The Village Pub in Woodside, and four Pizza Antica locations), will be opening Spruce but will soon be heading off elsewhere. It could be in a month, it could be six months—Werner is at a juncture in his career when he is looking at all his options and considering something major, like potentially going to Japan. For now, it’s all TBD. Tim Stannard of Bacchus says, “I wish we could keep him for the next 25 years!” Yeah, you and me both, Tim. Werner has put together a reportedly incredible list of desserts and is training some talented folks—get ready for wow-ness.

And here’s a quick update on Bacchus Management Group’s brasserie project slated to go into the former Prego space on Union by late fall/early winter (October is being discussed for now). It will be called ~BRASSERIE VACHE~, a clever homage to the Cow Hollow neighborhood (and what I am sure is going to be a tasty steak frites). More details coming soon—they are really focused on getting Spruce launched.

Is ~MANRESA~ poaching all our SF talent or what? (Hell, who wouldn’t want to work for David Kinch?) First James Syhabout left PlumpJack Cafe and trucked on down to Los Gatos, and now it’s Kendra Baker, who has been the pastry chef at Bar Tartine since it opened in 2005. She will begin August 3 in her new position. Who’s next, Camber Lay? Well, we’re safe for now: Manresa doesn’t have a full bar.

Seems lots of restaurants are freshening up these days: one is ~JARDINIÈRE~, which is closing on Sunday, August 19 and will reopen to the public on Thursday, September 13, after celebrating its 10th anniversary in business on the 12th. The main changes include converting part of the downstairs dining room (to the left of the bar as you walk in) into a lounge area, with low tables and new banquette seating. Jardinière will also unveil its new lounge menu where people can stop in for a drink and a bite to eat without a reservation—great for symphony-goers, and hungry shoppers. Some new additions will include Liberty Farms duck meatballs with Mission figs and Lucques olives; pork belly sliders with romesco and candied onions; and fried olives. Meowza. They are also adding a sommelier station upstairs, replacing the piano, and thereby allowing the sommeliers to offer a more elegant tableside wine service. There’s also going to be a new sound system with different "zones" so the downstairs bar area will have fun/hip lounge music, while the upstairs will have more of a classic jazz vibe. All the upholstery, carpeting, window treatments, and bar stools will be replaced and take on a lighter and more contemporary look, such as sheer Champagne-colored curtains and shimmery paint on the walls, with seating and banquettes in shades of a smoky gray/brown and olive. 300 Grove St. at Franklin, 415-861-5555.

Another Hayes Valley restaurant about to undergo a facelift is ~CITIZEN CAKE~, which is closing on August 13 to expand the dining room and bar area. The hoped-for reopening is slated for September 1. Go construction workers, go! 399 Grove St. at Gough, 415-861-2228.

~LUNA PARK~ will have a design refresh in mid-August, and will include new paint, tables, pews (seating), and upholstery. Nothing too major—the changes will actually be done at night after service. Look for some new menu and cocktail items in the next few months. 694 Valencia St. at 18th, 415-553-8584.

Attention fellow NOPA residents: after months of construction, it looks like ~CAFÉ ABIR~ should be reopening by August 14 or so. Like I mentioned before, new additions will include a wine and sake selection for tasting, and retail purchase. 1300 Fulton St. at Divisadero, 415-567-6503.

While dining out, all kinds of things can roll up to your table, from a cheese cart to a Champagne and caviar cart (a personal fave) to a mignardise cart to a swell steak tartare cart (all aboard!). Well, leave it to San Francisco, and the sick mind of Bruce Hill over at ~BIX~ to come up with the organic heirloom tomato cart. Primo tomatoes are served with formaggio de Ferrante mozzarella and finished tableside with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic, basil, sea salt, and fresh pepper. To partake in the tomato feast will put ya back $9.75 per plate. The tomato cart should be wheeling around the restaurant until Halloween. 56 Gold St. at Pacific, 415-433-6300.

~SEASONS~ at the Four Seasons has a new restaurant manager, Sebastien Duclos, a native of France. Duclos has over nine years of experience spanning New York City, France, England, Canada, and Switzerland. I spotted a Relais & Châteaux property in his resume—top drawer, baby. 757 Market St. at Grant, 415-633-3838.

Looks like you non-Mission dwellers now have another spot to find homemade salted caramel ice cream: the pastry chef at ~EOS~, Lori Baker (yes, her real last name), is not only making some delish flavors for guests, but they are selling to-go pints of the stuff for $7. The seasonal sorbets at EOS have always been popular, but Baker, who hails from Home in the Castro, started to ramp things up with awesome ice cream flavors, like roasted banana, mango macadamia nut brittle, Vietnamese coffee, Thai peanut, and peanut butter red miso. The milk they use is hormone-free milk from Clover. I am so ready to head over for their current Arctic Star peach sorbet. 901 Cole St. at Carl, 415-566-3063.

Speaking of peaches, executive chef Stuart Brioza and pastry chef Nicole Krasinski of Rubicon have something pretty peachy coming up. They have been working with David 'Mas' Masumoto for three summers now, picking peaches from the Elberta peach tree that they've adopted on his farm. This year, they will be running a five-course ~“GIVE PEACH A CHANCE"~ tasting menu, featuring peaches from their tree (along with other Masumoto peaches). The special menu will run from Thursday, August 2 through Saturday, August 11—it’s available to anyone who dines at Rubicon, all you have to do is make a reservation. There will also be a special wine pairing with the menu (including a fresh peach Bellini, of course). In addition, Mas Masumoto will be at Rubicon for a special peach dinner on Tuesday, August 7. That night he will work the room, discussing peaches, organic peach farming and all things peachy with anyone who orders the tasting menu. He will also be signing copies of his books, which will be available for sale. The menu is $78.00 for five courses. 558 Sacramento St., between Sansome and Montgomery, 415-434-4100.

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

 
fresh meat

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Cafe Majestic
1500 Sutter St
Cross: Gough St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

415-441-1100
website

Tue-Sat 5:30pm–10pm
Breakfast daily 6:30am–11am
Sun brunch 11:30am–2pm

Apps $7–$17
Entrées $17–$29
Desserts $7–$12

 

JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO ~CAFE MAJESTIC~ has been getting a ton of buzz lately—the publicist has been doing her job for sure, but it’s also because there is some talent simmering in the kitchen: Ian Begg. He’s worked under Todd Humphries at the Wine Spectator Restaurant at Greystone in Napa, plus at Casa Orinda, Hawthorne Lane (recently re-christened TWO), and the now-closed Vignette. in the Orchard Hotel, where he worked with Café Majestic’s affable GM, Ryan Maxey, who is also making his mark here.

The restaurant is tucked inside the historic Hotel Majestic, a 1902 building that is San Francisco’s oldest continually operating hotel, for those of you who geek out on factoids like I do. The hotel is reportedly haunted by a ghost who hangs out on the fourth floor. (Not sure if there’s a discount if you stay on that floor.) The restaurant (and its kitchen) just finished a major renovation—try four years of closure, clocking in at a cost of one mil.

It’s a little confusing as you try to make your way to the restaurant because there isn’t much of a host stand—you just suddenly arrive in the bar. Cocktailians around town used to know about the Butterfly Bar, not because there is a hidden correlation between a love of drinks and butterflies, but because it’s where former bartender Tim Stookey was gaining a fan club for his fab drinks (you will now find him rocking it at Presidio Social Club).

The dining room is downright breathtaking, an oasis of class. It’s like a creamy wedding cake, sporting a fun mix of refinement and glam: there are elegant curving chairs and sweeping booths that are heavily upholstered with button-tufted backs, while a pair of large high-gloss white porcelain greyhounds keep watch over the room, and lollipop topiaries keep the tone light. The prettily lit room is infused with elements from the 20s, like a gorg mirror with gold sun-like spikes and vintage line drawings on the walls (don’t miss the Paul Iribe lithos in the bathroom). I might be wrong, but I feel like the decorator, who hails from Kansas City, is one swell swishy homo. I salute him—he totally swanked the room right.

Attention all you well-heeled brides-to-be looking for a place to buy out for a reception dinner—this joint is it.

When I dined here back in May, it was totally, utterly empty. Crickets. There were only two other tables having dinner. Which felt crazy. Like, how could this gorgeous room be so vacant? Was the ghost freaking people out? Was there a SARS alert I missed? Are you my mommy?

Well, now that the restaurant got the three thumbs up from Michael Bauer, I imagine business has picked up nicely. The setting is ideal for a romantic dinner (or perhaps dinner with a great aunt who is hard of hearing—she will appreciate the quiet calm). One bump in the romance/perfect for hard-of-hearing great aunt factor is the noise from the bar can carry too much into the dining room.

Begg’s Cal-French cooking is elegant and flavorful, and for someone who is all of 25 years old, he definitely has some innovative flair, but happily knows just how far to push it. We went deep into the cream of mushroom soup ($10) that was luxuriously full of morels, hen-of-the-woods, and trumpet mushrooms, proudly served in a house of puff pastry. It’s also quite massive, so put that spoon down at some point if you plan on making it through your main. Put it down. Stop. Put. It. Down!

The beef tartare ($12), made with Creekstone Farms flank steak and topped with a quail egg, offered a nice spin off from the usual ingredients, with hints of shiso, pickled mushrooms, and smoked chili and basil oils. The fragile waffle chips couldn’t quite hold up to the tartare, but still added a good salty crunch.

We also test-drove the fried grit cake ($19) for you vegetarians out there. While this dish desperately needs a new name (although nothing needs a new name more than this joint), it was savory and satisfying, permeated with Parmigiano, and topped with favas, mushrooms, and a tasty hint of Marsala in the sauce. One foul: the fiddlehead ferns were too crispy, but the crisp of the cake was right on.

Mains included four seafood and four meat choices—we tried the grilled rare Hawaiian ono ($28), a hearty portion of slices piled atop a pool of sea urchin cream (made from the roe), plus sautéed pea shoots, green garlic, and a hit of chili oil that managed to not overwhelm the dish.

The grilled veal chop ($29) was a man-size chop that would be right at home at the Renaissance Faire. This dish was less successful—the meat was overcooked and under-seasoned, and the sweetbreads were too heavily coated. However, we totally loved the buttery purple potatoes and cabernet sauce. Begg is totally a sauce man—in fact, all the sauces we tried were quite commendable.

The intermezzo of thyme and pineapple sorbet was a fun burst of flavor—oh, and the chef sends out an amuse at the beginning of the meal, too. The sorbet inspired us to try the coconut sorbet ($7) for dessert—it was more creamy than icy, and blended dreamily with the passion fruit “soup” and dots of basil oil. Also tried the über-minty chocolate boca negra ($8), a Napoleonic tower of a crunchy and brownie-ish cake, with a steeped-mint gelato and hazelnut anglaise—it was a bit much, but commendable for a chef doing his own desserts.

A note on the wine list: it’s mostly pricey. The least expensive bottle of bubbles is a $39 prosecco (a Bisol Prosecco Crede Spumante Brut, Veneto, NV), and the majority of the reds are $45 and up, so don’t expect to get away with a bottle for much less. GM Ryan Maxey does make good suggestions, so be sure to engage him if you like talking vino.

Since I was happy with dinner and fell so hard for the room, I was rapidly envisioning it as my new super-swank brunch HQ. Not so fast. Unfortunately, the smoked salmon ($12) with potato flatbread came with overcooked poached eggs, and the wild mushroom omelet ($11) was overwhelmed with a sea of melted Brie—too rich, even for me. I also had one of the worst cappuccinos in recent memory, but fortunately they noticed I wasn’t drinking it and promptly did a re-do.

I do hope things get straightened out, because most of the brunch items are only $11–$12, a total steal considering the elegance of the setting. Service was also a little shaky: our brunch server, while very sweet, was as green as a Pippin apple. All in all, the brunch experience was kind of like waking up with your one-night stand who was much hotter the night before. But to continue the analogy, based on the (mostly) impressive dinner experience, I’d still give the guy my number. Maybe even with a little lipstick kiss.

 
the wino
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JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Jeff Creamer on Chilean Wines

Jeff Creamer is wine director at TWO. He learned the trade working under Master Sommelier Larry Stone at Rubicon before becoming the wine director at Hawthorne Lane. This year Creamer helped owner David Gingrass guide that restaurant’s metamorphosis into TWO, reshaping the wine cellar into an eclectic collection of artisan wines and hard-to-find gems.

One of the most exciting things about being a sommelier is the never-ending search for great new wines. The wine world has undergone a tremendous revolution in the past twenty years, and every season sees an exciting new release. New discoveries come in many flavors, and while it’s always fun to taste world-class wines, my greatest pleasure comes from finding a great wine at a great value.
           
One of the countries that most embodies the ongoing wine revolution is Chile. For many years the wine industry of Chile was focused on large-production, bargain-priced wine designed to compete for space on the grocery shelves of Europe. The industry was modeled after Bordeaux, with huge estates producing huge quantities of wine from traditional Bordeaux grapes. There was no national identity, no attempt to make wines that were uniquely Chilean.

Over the last several years this situation has changed. A small group of artisan winemakers has begun to produce modern wines of high quality and distinct character. Fortunately for the wine lover, these wines are still available at the kind of affordable prices that made Chilean wines famous years ago, and are widely available in the Bay Area.

A particular Chilean specialty is Carmenere, a grape that was once planted in Bordeaux but is now unique to Chile. Some of the best producers have made a special effort to make world-class wines from this grape, and the results have been phenomenal. Look for De Martino and Apaltagua in particular.

A hallmark of the new Chile is the diversity of its vineyards, grape varieties, and producers. Kingston Family Vineyards specializes in Pinot Noir and Syrah in the cool climate of Casablanca Valley. They have employed Byron Kosuge from Saintsbury to make one of the first Chilean Pinots to stand up to New Zealand, Oregon, and California. In the warmer Maipo valley, Alvaro Espinoza makes fewer than 500 cases a year of his fantastic blends, Antiyal and Kuyen. And in the warmer still Colchagua valley, Vina Maquis makes intense, full-bodied wines that rival Argentina for intensity. And the list goes on.

The thing that these producers have in common is that they all sold their grapes to the large houses for many years, and have recently awoken to the possibilities of making their own wines. As other growers see the results, it is doubtless that the world will see more and more of these distinctive gems.
             
I said before that Chilean wines have a strong presence in the Bay Area, and indeed there are several options if you are inclined to try something new. Look for these wines at K&L Wine Merchants, PlumpJack Wines, the Ferry Building Wine Merchant, and the Jug Shop. I have no doubt you will find them as refreshing and exciting as I do.

 
the lush

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Temple
540 Howard St.
Cross: 1st St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

website



JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The saga of ~TEMPLE~ was more like something out of “Tales from the Crypt,” but let’s hear if for persistence! It’s alive! In early 2006, we all heard about this multi-level mega-club and restaurant from Paul Hemming that was taking over Dr. Winkie’s legendary Club DV8 (and later Mercury) location. After lots of legal research and resolving the dispute over the back lot that is owned by CalTrans (it was crucial for the sizable club to have an exit with access to the lot—otherwise they would be stuck with a 49-person occupancy), Temple can finally proceed.

For now, the downstairs “Destiny Lounge” and “Catacombs” dance area are open Friday and Saturday nights (check the site for the DJ line-up). The restaurant, Prana, will open during the grand opening on September 8. Jamie Lauren, currently the executive chef of Absinthe, was originally slated to be the executive chef, but when the project was massively delayed, she had to skedaddle. The new chef is Jim Jardine, who was with Joie de Vivre Hospitality for the past three years, including some time at Café Andree and consulting for JDV in Los Angeles.

The Pan-Asian and Indian menu will have a variety of shared plates, from large to small, and will be casual in style. Sample dishes include Peruvian potato samosas with  cumin-yogurt pastry and cilantro-mint chutney ($10); a Peking duck salad, with shaved jicama, smoked cashews, and citrus vinaigrette ($10); and a grilled sweet and sour pork chop, with shaved Jerusalem artichoke and herb salad ($18). Dinner will be served Tue–Sat from 6pm–10pm, and then the restaurant will transform into more of a nightclub vibe, with visuals, dancers, and DJs who will be playing from the newly installed booth and stage. Oh, and there’s a state-of-the-art Martin Audio sound system. Tables will clear around 10pm, but some will remain along the perimeter for bottle service, and a bar apps menu will be available for the later hours.

The overall look is lots of white, from the marble floors to the leather banquettes, tons of plants, and antiquities (many gilded) placed throughout. Adjacent to the restaurant/club space is the former Mercury Bar, which is being transformed into a lounge for the restaurant, and there is also a mezzanine that overlooks the restaurant space.

Club-land veteran Pete Glikshtern, former owner of Club Six and Mighty (and let’s not forget the good ole days at Liquid!), is the GM of the club, while Alison Harper is the Food and Beverage Manager for Prana and the club.

A completely new-to-me innovation will be a “drinks ATM” for members during the nightclub hours—you will be able to order your drinks from a touch-screen menu, get a number, and then pick up your drinks at a service line.

 
the socialite

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A Tour of Italy
Tue., August 21, 2007

Seasons
757 Market St.
Cross: Grant St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-633-3838
website

6:30pm

$95 per person

JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Seasons Steak & Seafood at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco presents the second in a series of quarterly wine pairing dinners with ~A TOUR OF ITALY~.The evening begins with Zardetto Prosecco and passed canapés while Master Sommelier Peter Neptune, one of only 73 individuals in the U.S. to hold the wine industry’s most prestigious title, briefly discusses Italian varietals and the evening’s featured labels.

Following the presentation, guests will enjoy a five-course dinner from executive chef Jeremy Emmerson and Chef Amy Engberts expertly paired with Italian wines. Menu highlights include a Seasons’ signature “surf n’ turf” pairing of lobster risotto with braised veal cheek matched with the 2004 La Spinetta Barbera d’Asti Ca di Pian.
 
During the course of the evening, MS Peter Neptune will be available for tasting notes and questions; guests will have the opportunity to win a future two-night stay at a Four Seasons Resort.

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Gastronomy by the Bay
Sept. 1–3, 2007

Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

info/tix: 415-551-5190
or
visit the website

JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Over Labor Day weekend I’ll be away at Burning Man raising some ruckus, but I am sorry to be missing the ~GASTRONOMY BY THE BAY~ event over at the Ferry Building. Here’s more on this cool event:

This is the first international gourmet food festival where European and local chefs have the opportunity to come together to explore current and future culinary trends. The festival’s three full days of culinary events include round table discussions, European and local chefs, gourmet food demonstrations, exclusive receptions, chef book signings, and an all-star gala dinner. Topics addressed include current news from the wine industry, organic produce and sustainable growth, as well as the booming new world of gourmet guides from Michelin to Zagat to Internet blogs.

Cooking demonstrations will be held during the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Book signings will include Bay Area and Napa Valley star chefs, culinary authors and international stars. For information and tickets call or visit Gastronomy by the Bay.

 
the starlet

JULY 31 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The patio at Enrico’s is already becoming a hotspot: director Brett Ratner was seen drinking Schramsberg bubbles with a few friends, and this last Friday Sean Penn was spotted eating and drinking with about six pals.

Chris Tucker recently tucked into some sushi at Umami.

 
the matchmaker

JULY 31, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO

So you want to own your own SF restaurant? Hip, intimate 49-seater with track record and high-end demographics available due to owner move. Perfect for chef/owner run setup with FULL BAR LICENSE, like-new equipment including two ovens, Open Table setup and substantial newsletter mailing list. 3 years on current lease at $5500/mo. 2000 sq. ft. includes large storage area and office. “Turn Key” – just adjust the cosmetics if you want and you’re in business!
 
Buyers with pre-approved loans or cash only for this owner sale. Initial vetting by Full Plate Restaurant Consulting. Contact jsimon@fullplateconsulting.com or call 707-795-4885.