tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: eat me.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please
the matchmaker
let's get it on

OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I sure cooked up a big itinerary for hitting the town last week, funny how this STUPID COLD had other plans for me instead. Like, say, sleeping. I did manage to get a couple friends and family dinners in at Sens and South, so not all was lost—more on that below! Oh, and people, do not get this cold, I see folks dropping like flies. I have tried to shake it for a week now, it’s pernicious. Wash your hands like you have OCD. And for god’s sake, don’t touch your eyes. Just stay in a bubble if you can. Don’t. Get. It.

imageThe second tablehopper supper was a blast—we porked out (literally) on a delicious suckling pig dinner prepared by chef Jonnatan Leiva and his killer staff at Jack Falstaff—it was like an early Thanksgiving dinner with the bounty of delish Mariquita sides we were served (chard, corn, potato gratin, butter beans, and Romanos). I made sure we circulated another list to learn what everyone’s favorite two local restaurants are, check it out here—Myth cleaned up with this crowd, with five votes!

Hmmm, I could have called this issue “drink me” due to the two wine events listed in the socialite. Also in the non-food related sphere (see, I am multidimensional!), I want to do a shout-out for my friend Pete Hudson, the mastermind behind the spec-f*cking-tacular pedal-powered zoetrope this year at Burning Man, Homouroboros, which I know was a fave for many. Here it is by day so you can get a sense of the piece, and here it is in action at night. It was a mind-bobbling piece, and effort. Even with the grant money he received, Pete is currently $30k in debt from building it, and hoping to recoup some expenses. Uh, yeah, I would too. Not sure if any of you burners or supporters of the arts care to help him out, even the smallest donation would be so generous—he dreams and gives big, and I hate to think of him shouldering this expense. Here’s a PayPal link or you can send a (big, fat?) check to "Homouroboros" 161 Gilbert Street, #2, San Francisco, CA 94103. Thanks for considering it—what he did out there was astounding!

Lastly, if any of you tried texting me the past couple days, I didn’t get them since my &^%$ phone has been on the fritz. Call me or email me for the next couple days until I get this sorted, thanks!

And now, let’s rock.

~Marcia subscribe


the chatterbox
OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Here’s an update on some happenings at ~FIFTH FLOOR~: as many already know, the rumors were correct, Aqua’s executive chef Laurent Manrique is taking over the restaurant. As for who his mystery chef is, it’s Jenny Lorenzo, who was a cook under Laurent Gras for a couple years at Fifth Floor, and an opening sous at Ame—she was also in Japan for a couple years. Charlie Kleinman and Jake DesVoignes, who have been cooking at Fifth Floor for almost three years (mostly as sous chefs), were promoted and took over for Melissa Perello when she left early this year (according to the restaurant’s listing on OpenTable, it’s like Perello never left). Kleinman and DesVoignes originally planned to stay through the end of the year until the remodel starts in January and the Aqua-fication begins (with a reopening planned for February). But with Lorenzo getting placed in the kitchen earlier than expected, they decided to give their notice instead—their last day is October 31. Kleinman stated, “It was an amazing experience to cook in a Michelin-starred kitchen, we really enjoyed our time here.” The gents are embarking on a road trip around the U.S. and Canada for inspiration, and have a new project in the works—more on that soon. I will also update you on the concept changes planned for Fifth Floor once I hear more. 12 Fourth St. at Market, Palomar Hotel.

Here’s another little something I’ll be updating with more details as they develop, but for now, things are moving full-steam ahead with the new ~INTERCONTINENTAL SAN FRANCISCO~, slated to open in February 2008 in SoMa, at Howard and 5th. (Is Mint Plaza and the vicinity the new hot neighborhood? Discuss.) The 550-room hotel will be 32 stories and will have a grappa bar on the first floor (sounds like trouble to me)—the name is still TBD, but it will most likely include the hotel's address (888) in the name. A Cal-Italian restaurant is in development, and the chef hunt is on—it will also be located on the first floor, with a separate entrance from the hotel, and there’s some talk about the restaurant being open 24 hours. Imagine, something classier than the Lucky Penny for a 4am feast? Word.

In the “interesting sightings” file, famed Iron Chef ~MASAHARU MORIMOTO~ has been spotted over at Campton Place this past week—it’s interesting because the Taj Hotels group, which owns Campton, is behind his restaurant, Wasabi by Morimoto, in Mumbai. Hmmm.

So I mentioned I got to check out ~SENS~ on Thursday night for a test dinner (they just opened yesterday)—Michael Dotson’s Med-influenced menu is appetizing and has some unique dishes, like tender squid stuffed with spinach, bulgur wheat, pine nuts, and sultanas. Save room for Shuna Lydon’s desserts, especially the “warm & sumptuous” chocolate little number. Yeah, that mall is a nightmare to navigate, but seek and ye shall find. Sidebar: I really enjoyed Shuna’s recent post about opening day on her blog. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am–2:30pm and dinner Mon–Fri 5:30pm–10pm, Sat until 11pm. 4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, 415-362-0645.

I have been supa-excited for ~SOUTH FOOD + WINE BAR~ to open, especially after my trip Down Under earlier this year. Well, good on ya mate, because they also started serving yesterday. The friends and family tasting I attended on Saturday was a total blast. So impressed with what they did to the formerly rinky-dink space—the set-up will create a sociable and fun vibe, and there are good design-y touches, including the custom Maori-inspired tile under the bar, and I couldn’t stop touching the jarrah wood countertop. The all-Aussie/New Zealand/Tasmania wine list offers plenty of exploration, and Luke Mangan’s menu is full of dishes that taste fresh, modern, and light, with unexpected zaps of flavor, like a salmon “sashimi” with curry oil. I especially loved the juicy quail, and yay, barramundi! Open for lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm, and dinner nightly: Sun–Mon 5:30pm–10pm, Tue–Sat 5:30pm–11pm. Look for brunch soon! 330 Townsend St. at 4th, #100, 415-976-5599.

After 20 years in business, the ~BALOMPIE~ empire is growing—unfortunately not in my neighborhood, but it might be a blessing to be sin pupusas in my immediate vicinity, otherwise it’s my waistline that will be growing. Anyway, I digress. A second location just opened in SOMA, with similar menu items as the home base in the Mission, but without table service—just order at the counter. 525 7th St. at Bryant, 415-558-9558. Open Mon–Fri 7am–3pm. Then a third location will be opening in four to six weeks in the former Libis Ng space at 3801 Mission at Richland.

Here’s the word on ~CRAIG’S PLACE~, the 49-seat restaurant slated to open October 9 in the former Platanos space in the Mission. The Dropalas brothers (Tim, Craig, and Tony) are launching a casual all-American comfort food joint, serving off the same menu all day. For brekkie there will be ten kinds of scrambles and omelettes, plus ever-popular breakfast burritos, while lunch will bring 15 kinds of specialty sandwiches, ten kinds of burgers, and salads. The meats will be organic, and fair trade and organic coffee and teas will be served. There will also be a strong to-go program. The look is modern and clean, with a new paint job, bar, and granite countertop in effect. Craig’s Place will be open daily 7am–9pm. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th, 415-355-9191.

Wanted to update you on ~PACIFIC CATCH~, opening in the former Canvas Gallery space in the Sunset. The restaurant should be open by the end of October or the first week in November, and the bar is going to be on pointe. How sharp? Well, Pacific Catch is working with local bar maestros Dominic Venegas, Todd Smith, and Carlos Ytturia (from Cantina, Bourbon & Branch, Rye, etc.) on the bar program. Yup, Attack of the Killer Cocktails in the Sunset! 1200 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

Little Sparrow flew away, and now ~CALIFORNIAN BAR AND RESTAURANT~ has opened in its place. Back in the day, this was the Vanessi’s space, and more recently, Watergate. The Frantin family (parents and son) are running the restaurant, and the chef is Gerard Save, who is from the south of France, but most recently was cooking at Morton’s, the Gold Spike, and the Bay City Bar and Grill. The somewhat old-school Euro-American menu is not one that makes me want to drop everything and head on over, but if I lived in the massive apartment building, I’m sure I’d be happy to be able to have a pork chop and a cocktail downstairs. The bar area is getting a couple TVs, and they are hosting a happy hour as well. 1177 California St. at Jones, 415-474-2000.

Handling the runoff from Osha Thai during the lunch rush is ~TA-RA~, a new Thai place sporting comparable prices and a sleek look—maybe it’s the effect from the former tenant, Vex clothing? (Note to self: don’t name a business Vex, or Hex.) Ta-ra is right across the street from 111 Minna. 123 2nd St. at Minna, 415-348-9977.

Saw this posting on Chowhound and can’t wait to visit: the ~FLYING PAN BISTRO~ has reopened, with house-made noodles now on the Northeastern Chinese menu. If you remember, this was the place originally opened by the owners of the cult-ish Jai Yun. 680 Clay St. at Kearny, 415-399-1938.

~METRO KATHMANDU~ has made some changes since the relaunch/opening—the late hours are no longer (tough to maintain, those late hours), with the restaurant now closing at 11pm instead of 1am, Tue–Sun. Saturday and Sunday brunch hours remain the same (9:30am–2:30pm). The small plates format has also been shifted to offer regular entrée sizes, ranging from $8–$15, with dishes like Kwati with Lamb, a traditional dish from Kathmandu made with nine different bean sprouts cooked slowly with boneless lamb and thyme seeds; and Alu Tama, a vegetarian option comprised of curried potato, bamboo shoots, black eyes peas, tomato, and onion. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

And now, Wharf Watch: ~DARREN’S CAFÉ~ has taken the place of Saigon Grill. Local workers, don’t lament—the owners are new, but a Vietnamese menu will still be offered, and American breakfast has been added. 2731 Taylor St. at Beach, 415-673-3345.

Since I used to throw a party called +Rehab+, I’m not too phased by a chocolate being called ~DROGA~. And drug it is, man, these rocky road little numbers are delish. (Munch munch. Please, hand, stop, get away from the box.) Michelle Bordin is making these rocky road chocolates with peanuts from a 25-year-old family recipe, and they rock. Curious? Swing by Biondivino, which carries Droga (does that make them a drug dealer?), on Wed, Oct. 17 for a little festa from 6pm–8pm; there will be a selection of Menabrea Italian beer, paired with both milk and dark Droga rocky road, which actually goes molto bene with beer due to the salty peanuts! Chocolate and beer, a new winning combo? 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.

Was I asleep? Stoned? Eating too many of those Droga chocolates? Whatever, I don’t know how I missed this, but there is a third ~SPICES!~ location that opened in the lower Fillmore! They also added Korean BBQ and sushi (hmmmkay?), so the concept isn’t exactly like the Richmond locations, but close enough! Maybe that’s what I need to kick this cold. 1325 Fillmore at Eddy, 415-409-2888.

This Sunday, the new show ~NEXT IRON CHEF~ kicks off, with local chefs Traci Des Jardins and Chris Cosentino competing against other chefs to be the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef.” Yup, only SF has two contestants competing! Go 415. Double Dutch is going to be hosting “Next Iron Chef Sunday” parties each week and broadcasting the show to drum up support. There will be rotating drinks specials from Hangar One and $2 pints of Speakeasy brew. Yes, people will be drinking in solidarity. The series starts this Sunday, October 7, at 9pm—doors open at 5pm. 3192 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-503-1670.

Meanwhile, in another ring, we have some top SF mixologists competing in the ~DAMRAK MIXOLOGY CHALLENGE~, trying to win one of three trips to the House of Bols Bartending Academy in Amsterdam (the House of Bowls Pot Smoking Academy is not quite official, yet). It all goes down at Rye, on Tue October 9. The contest starts at 7pm. 688 Geary St. at Leavenworth, 415-786-7803. (You North Bay-ers can watch at the West County Grill in Sebastopol on Monday, Oct 8, or in the East Bay at Scott's Seafood in Walnut Creek on Monday, Oct 15.)


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

 
fresh meat

image

Brenda’s
652 Polk St.
Cross: Eddy St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

415-345-8100
website

Mon–Sat 8am–3pm

Apps $3–$6
Egg plates $6.25– $9.75
Sandos $7.50–$9.75


OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO After my unofficial tablehopping crash course through New Orleans this summer, I was so fired up to learn how much the food and flavors there really had terroir. Like, where y’at? I was in NAWLINS, make no mistake, honey. I would love to move there for a few months, just to learn more about the food—the history is deep, and there’s so much pride in their cooking, I just loved being fed there. And the best thing anyone can do right now is visit that incredible city—look for a jetsetter piece from me soon! My five-day trip took a couple years off my poor heart, but all in the name of research! I had po’ boys to eat, muffalettas to scarf, and Sazeracs to swill! I can’t wait to return to the Big Easy.

Soon after I got home, I heard chef Brenda Buenviaje was opening her own place, aptly named ~BRENDA’S~, in the Lower Polk. What’s the tie in? Well, Ms. Buenviaje was born, raised, and learned to cook in New Orleans. And then she told me about some crawfish-stuffed beignets she was going to put on the menu. Now, I have a sweet spot for Brenda, not only because she is an evil genius hell-bent on creating savory stuffed beignets, but also because she was my very first face-to-face chef interview some years ago while she was the chef at Café Claude (she probably didn’t know that!).

This tiny little slip of a spot is in the former Sun’s Café space (there is a final homage to Sun’s in the bathroom, in the form of a microwave cookbook). Brenda’s is tiny like Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, cute like Dottie’s, tasty like Dottie's. And I foresee it’s going to be busy as hell like Dottie’s.

The space has a red and black color scheme, with close tables, a couple old gleaming milk cans with fresh tree branches poking out of them, a whirring ceiling fan, wood floors, classic café chairs, a tiny open kitchen, and a long counter flanking a mirrored wall so you can watch yourself as you inhale your food. The music was quality, with jazzy crooning and blues, and the servers were friendly and helped add to the chipper neighborhood vibe. It almost has a Bar Crudo cozy coolness—kissing cousins?

I’d been hearing how busy it was for lunch, but a pal and I found a table for two at 1pm just fine. Luck, perhaps? Well, I should count my lucky stars this place isn’t in my neighborhood, because I’d be hankering for it way too much—and everything is priced quite kindly. I would be like, “Hey, it’s foggy. Time for Brenda’s.” “Whoa, it’s Wednesday, time for Brenda’s!” and the most dangerous of all, “I’m hung over, time for Brenda’s!”

Brenda describes the food as French Soul Food served up in a Creole diner, and I’d add to that by saying the vittles here are authentic and homey, with a spunky point of view. Hipsters were tucking into hefty half-moon omelettes, and I loved seeing folks stumble in with tousled hair at 1:30pm for French toast and coffee. Since breakfast is served all day, night owls, here’s a new afternoon roost for you.

We started our lunch patrol with the crawfish beignets ($6), of course. A russet trio come stuffed with sweet crawfish, cheddar, and scallions, and are dusted with Brenda’s own variation of Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning—dare I say bam? Spicy! Meowza! My friend and I determined these are like Creole Hot Pockets, but gourmet. It will be tough to try the other three versions (plain, chocolate, apple), but I’ll find a way. Heh.

The totally illegal item on the menu is one of her homemade biscuits ($1.50). Like, “Uh, ma’am, pull it on over. Are you aware of how much butter and cream you are putting in your mouth?” “Uh, sowwy officew, my mouth is fuwl of dewicious biscuit, can’t tawk. Oh, sowwy about the cwumbs.” Brenda said folks are falling in love with these biscuits, and what’s not to love? Better than falling in love with some of the other neighborhood offerings, ahem.

She did her own twist on a Fannie Farmer biscuit recipe—they are like a hot boy in the 70s, all golden, tall, and flaky. Even better with some homemade jam smeared on them, like the chunky and not over-sweet grape version that still has some whole grapes in it (now I really like grape jelly) or the strawberry, thoughtfully placed in little ceramic pots on the tables. So if you have a choice of toast or biscuit, now you know your answer. And for the record, I’m not one of those crazy biscuit people. But now, I just might become one.

We shared a cup of the hearty gumbo ($3), which was certainly better than most gumbos I’ve had (read: not a thick slime fest), but I did want it a little spicier—the bites I had with sparky andouille were perfect. Break out the Crystal. (Hot sauce, that is.)

Now, for the main event! My pal committed to the Sloppy Josephine ($7.50), a lighter version made with turkey, and with good meaty, tomato-y flavor. Heaped into a big fresh potato bun, sold. Totally brought us back to being kids, but it was healthier. No Hamburger Helper in sight. (I didn’t even know what Hamburger Helper was until I was in second grade and the neighbors, the Lanagers, with their brood of kids had me over for dinner. I could sing the jingle, however.) There’s also a vegan version made with tofu if you are so inclined! (At Brenda’s, silly—I don’t know if Hamburger Helper has a Soyrizo version.)

Of course I went for the po’ boy, requesting a 50-50 mix of fried shrimp and oysters ($8.75)—see the terrible things I learned in NOLA? The seafood had a good cornmeal crust and was cooked just right, but I just wanted a few more oysters and shrimp thrown in there (probably best to forget the mother lode sandwiches I had in New Orleans). I was loving the hearty slathering of the chipotle remoulade, and the buttered and toasted bun is a nice touch. Sadly my side of fries weren’t very hot, but my friend’s coleslaw was fresh and light.

We wrapped things up with a café au lait ($2.25), a much-needed caffeinated finish to help elevate us from our encroaching food coma. Also tasted the house-made sweet watermelon tea ($2.25) with Thai basil and orange pekoe tea, quirky and refreshing.

Five things I can’t wait to come back for and try:

  • the burger made with tasso.
  • the croque monsieur (but make mine a madame, thanks).
  • the grillades and grits.
  • any of the omelettes, but especially the andouille and cheddar version, with sauce piquant.
  • oh, and I guess there’s no getting out of there without eating some more crawfish beignets and biscuits, woo hoo.
 
the socialite

image

Food & Wine American Wine Awards
Wed., Oct. 10, 2007

de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

website

7pm–10pm

$275 each
order tickets
212-827-6447



OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO This looks like quite an event: Food & Wine Magazine is offering tickets to the public for its annual ~FOOD & WINE AMERICAN WINE AWARDS~ for the first time ever. EVER! Only 100 tickets are available, on a first-come, first-served basis. Join winemakers, industry leaders, and key members of the press (well!) for this exclusive opportunity to sample limited production wines and chat with winemakers.

American Express Platinum Card Members will receive a special rate of $250 each. In addition, 20% of all ticket proceeds go directly to Grow for Good, Food & Wine’s charitable campaign benefiting Farm to Table. (All tickets must be bought in advance.)

image

French Connection
Sat., Oct. 13, 2007

K&L Wine Merchants
638 4th St.
Cross: Brannan St.
San Francisco, CA

415-896-1734
website

1pm-4pm

$75 plus tax
$85 at the door
tickets


OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO As if the previous event isn’t enough wine for you (is it ever?), K&L Wine Merchants is holding an event for Francophile wine lovers next week, the ~FRENCH CONNECTION~. This tented wine tasting will be adjacent to the San Francisco store, and a one-of-a-kind opportunity to taste over 50 fab Champagnes, Bordeaux, and Burgundies, as well as French regional, Rhone, and Alsatian wines. Special producers include Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet, Clerc Milon, Yquem, Dom Perignon, Krug Champagne, Roederer Champagnes, and Laurent Perrier. Light appetizers to be provided from Coco500 and Say Cheese. It should be a great event for those who already love French wine, and those who want to learn more by tasting. Salud!

 
the starlet

OCTOBER 2, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Roe held a fundraising event for MS Friends and a few rock celebs attended, including Joe Satriani, Prairie Prince (drummer, founding member of Journey, Tubes, Jefferson Starship), Todd Rundgren (currently with The Cars), Terry Haggerty (Sons Of Champlin), Joe Louis Walker, Wavy Gravy, Rich Kirch (guitarist for John Lee Hooker, new album with songs written with Keith Richards), and Phil Lesch.

Last Thursday, LarkCreekSteak hosted 18 Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim players and staff for dinner in the private dining room. The following Saturday night, many of the players and staff returned with their colleagues who didn’t make it on Thursday. One player was heard saying it was the “best steak he’d eaten in San Francisco”—and I have to agree with him.

 
the matchmaker

Restaurant Biz 101- Everything You Need to Know
Saturday, Oct 20, 9am-5pm at Sonoma State University

Knowledge is power- so if you’re thinking about starting (or updating) a restaurant/lounge it helps to get the skinny from experts.

This unique seminar covers everything from concept development, bar design and menu creation to marketing. Organized by Joan Simon of Full Plate Restaurant Consulting, speakers include Adam Jed, former Director of Restaurant Operations for the PlumpJack Group, Chris Pastena, former chef owner of Bruno’s and Jim Maxwell of Architects II. Detailed handouts address business plans, menu design, cost controls, trends and more.

Given these guys individual consulting rates, the $200 cost is a deal worth the hour drive. Register Online or call 707-664-2394.

..............................................................

Wagstaff Worldwide, Inc. — a hospitality-focused media relations firm with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco currently seeks an Account Supervisor for its San Francisco office.

Qualified applicants have media relations experience at the national level and excellent presentation skills, both written and oral. Account Supervisor candidates must possess the ability to manage 3–5 of their own accounts and oversee account team efforts with junior associates. Relevant experience in the hospitality industry - travel, restaurant and wine - is a must.

Please e-mail a cover letter, resume and salary requirements to Bernadette@wagstaffworldwide.com. No phone calls please.

www.wagstaffworldwide.com