18, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO As
many of you may have already heard, Craig and Anne Stoll are opening
a second location of ~PIZZERIA
this time in the Fillmore District. I couldn’t release the
location info last week, but here it is: the pizzeria is moving
into the Zao Noodle Bar space on California at Fillmore, and is
slated to open in May. It will have 44 seats, twice the size of
the current space, but will pretty much have the same format of
the original, i.e. it’s a pizzeria, not a restaurant serving
pizza. They will be putting in a wood-burning oven and are discussing
an antipasto case, and beer on tap. Zao will close when escrow
is all finished up, in about 60–90 days after the ABC posting,
which was just posted last week. 2406 California St. at Fillmore.
any San Franciscan gourmand who has lived here for ten years
or so, and they should have fond memories of ~THE MEETINGHOUSE~,
Joanna Karlinksy and John Snell’s restaurant that was the
home of the famed fabulous biscuits (it’s where Quince is
now). Well, like a phoenix, The Meetinghouse is rising again. I
can’t say where, but let’s say it is exactly 7/10
of a mile from the original. Get your Google Maps out, LOL. Stand
by for more in coming weeks.
the story about Franck LeClerc of Café Claude’s latest
project. No, not Gitane, which is due to open in April, but yet
another addition to Claude Lane: ~CINQUE, ITALIAN
WINE BAR & RESTAURANT~. The name is Italian for the
number five, and comes from the address, 5 Claude Lane—the
former home of MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing). LeClerc elaborates, “It’s
also a powerful symbol stretching from ancient roots meaning unity.
Cinque will be an expression of the five human senses brought together
in one place where sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell are bound
to create a unique and harmonious dining experience.” (Yoga
not included.) The menu will feature fresh pasta inspired by the
Emilia-Romagna region, with a list of approximately thirty wines
by the glass. Indoor seating will be counter/bistro-style tables,
chairs, and counters (approximately forty seats), while outdoors
in the lane there will be seating for 30. The designer is Elmer
Lin of Consortium Architects, who led the design of Bocadillos.
Lunch and dinner will be served six days a week. Opening date?
For now, let’s just say 2008. Once some permits go through,
I’ll report back with a better idea of timing. 5 Claude Ln.
suffered a fire Monday night that started in the grease flue,
thank goodness there were no injuries. Here are a few more details
in the Chronicle.
While the damage is reportedly minor, the time it takes with insurance
and repairs makes me think you’ll need another late-night
place to eat for at least the next week, if not more. Will confirm
once it’s back open. 290 Pacific Ave. at Battery, 415-391-4132..
in the Mission, ~VELVET
(or as my friends like to call it, the Reagle Beagle) had a kitchen
fire on December 7—fortunately
no one was hurt. The restaurant will remain closed into 2008—the
best-case scenario will have it reopening in the first week of
January. Fortunately the damage is minor—I’ll let you
know when they reopen so you can get your margarita on. 3349 23rd
St. at Bartlett, 415-648-4142.
Also in the neighborhood, I am sad to report ~EDDIE
BLYDEN’S~ West African-inspired project
that was going to open at 18th Street and Treat is no longer
happening. We’ll just have to see what Eddie cooks
Are coffee bars becoming the new wine bar? At least they keep
moving closer and closer to my zip code. Jeremy Tooker, one of
the cofounders of Ritual Coffee Roasters, is starting a new venture: ~FOURBARRELCOFFEE~,
with partners John Abrahams, David Huebner, and Duane Sorenson
(two hail from Ritual, and Sorenson owns the much-admired Stumptown
Coffee Roasters up in Portland). The concept is more coffee bar
than café, with some seating, but it will primarily be a
space to showcase their coffee to wholesale clients (and people
obsessed with coffee). So don’t plan on making this your
new office. There will be a limited menu, so no syrups, nonfat
milk, chai, or espresso to go will be served. (They will have soymilk,
however.) There will be two La Marzocco Mistral machines, the only
ones in California. Fourbarrelcoffee will be sourcing single origin
coffees, and doing their own espresso blend. Instead of going through
brokers, one of the partners will always be traveling to find and
pick the best lots of coffee direct, before they are blended—almost
like wine, really, discovering what makes better coffee. Tooker
said they will cup and taste daily, numerous times a day.
partners are taking over a former upholstery shop, and here’s
a fun trivia tidbit: about 20 years ago, it was a Hell’s
Angels clubhouse of sorts—during construction they’ve
discovered some “curious” items in the walls, like
license plates and some dentures with a gold tooth (nice). The
location is spacious (try 5,000 square feet), with room for two
roasters from 1957 and 1960. Wholesale accounts will be able to
purchase espresso machines (new or used) at cost—there won’t
be any leasing of machines. The coffee will only cost a slight
bit more per pound than other suppliers. The opening date should
be the end of February or early March, open daily from 7am–8pm.
375 Valencia St. at 15th.
down the street and possibly opening this Friday (and most definitely
by December 26), will be ~CONDUIT~,
a slick new addition in the northern Mission (looking forward to
a nickname for this micro-neighborhood soon—anyone have ideas?).
Executive chef Justin Deering’s contemporary American menu
with French and Italian influences will range from $9–$12
for apps, fresh pasta for $12–$15, and entrées for
$18–$25, with 125 wines to choose from. Some preliminary dishes that caught
my eye include a pigs’ feet terrine, warm duck salad, porchetta,
agnolotti with oxtail and Gruyere, corvina with guanciale, and
where would we be without some short ribs? (Not in San Francisco,
I’d say.) The flatware, dishes, and glassware are reportedly
gorg and stylee. Dinner nightly, bar opening at 5pm, kitchen at
5:30pm, serving until 10pm, and until 11pm Fri–Sat. 280 Valencia
St. between 14th and Duboce, 415-552-5200.
Reza Esmaili, who is formerly of Pesce and most recently was
consulting for Enrico’s, has been brought on to oversee an
innovative beverage program at Conduit—look for classics
and new drinks alike made with top-notch spirits, sodas from out
of the bottle (no gun here), and purees made in-house. There will
even be a section on the drinks menu highlighting cocktails created
by bartenders from around town, a unique way to pay homage to cocktail
colleagues. Esmaili will be behind the bar in the beginning, but
will soon be busy with his ~NEW PROJECT~ that is launching in the New
Year in Hayes Valley. It will be a brand-new space, featuring a
young and up-and-coming chef. Expect more details on this after
the lease in signed in January.
had a reader asking what was up with ~VINOVENUE~,
and is it closed permanently? According to a story in the Chron,
there are some lease and rent rumblings to blame for the closed
doors—we’ll see if they reopen. 686 Mission St. at
so you know, ~TASTY
AT JACKS~ wins
for the short-lived business of the year: the chef is gone, and
so the tiny kitchen that was supposed to churn out southern eats
is closed. You can still get stiff drinks at the bar, however.
2545 24th St. at Utah, 415-641-5371.
of drinks (that segue always has to happen somewhere in the tablehopper
column, fortunately it’s easy), the partners
behind Bourbon & Branch
(Dahi Donnelly, Brian Sheehy, Doug Dalton, and Todd Smith) are
launching a badass new whiskey and artisanal spirits shop, ~CASK
In fact, their goal is to revolutionize the liquor store biz. Can
you say limited editions? Uh huh. The shop should be open by late
January, and is opening in the Financial District, just next door
to the divey Dave’s Bar. You’ll find star B&B bartenders,
like Todd Smith, Jon Santer, Joel Baker, and Yanni Kehasiaras all
doing shifts at Cask, in addition to service staff too (Melissa
Wolfe and Jessica Morin). There will be downtown delivery on 1920s-style
three-wheel pedal bikes (free to start), and a 24-hour turnaround
bottle engraving service for personalizing bottles—I’m
already fantasizing about getting my very own bottle of Pappy Van
Winkle 15 Year Family Reserve, with “Peach” engraved
on it. There will also be wines available, and a strong online
ordering component too. Open 11am–9pm daily. 17 Third St.
on “saving” ~CAFÉ FLORE~:
they had their hearing on December 6, requesting the option of
offering 24-hour food service, and permission to serve alcohol
until 2am. The request was approved by the planning commissioners,
but there are a few conditions, like no seating at the sidewalk
tables after 9pm Sun–Wed, and after 11pm Thu–Sat. Seating
on the outdoor patio will also be ended at 3am—until the
commission holds a hearing next year in September, and will make
a ruling about future 24-hour access to the outdoor tables. Owner
J.D. Petras still has some ABC and Entertainment Commission approvals
to secure, and there will be some sound monitoring in the coming
months, but overall Petras is thrilled with the outcome. You can
read more on the site.
There are some tweaks happening over at ~TERZO~ in Cow Hollow. They have removed the glass tapas case to allow
more space for guests at the bar, and the small and separate tapas
menu (of six or so items) has been axed. Instead, the small plates
menu will expand to about 20 items, with two-thirds running as
small plates and one-third that are large plates. And to wash it
all down, executive chef Mark Gordon is adding a Mark's Selections
section on the list, with 20 or so high-end wines priced between
$100–$300 per bottle, featuring hard-to-find and boutique
wines. 3011 Steiner St. at Union, 415-441-3200.
Bayless’s ~FRONTERA FRESCO~ fast-casual
concept has opened in the Macy’s Union Square basement, his
first restaurant opening outside of Chicago. The menu features
authentic Mexican street food, like tortas, huaraches (Mexican
corn flatbreads topped with meats and vegetables), handmade tamales,
FOR HOPE~ campaign kicked off last
week, raising an impressive $37,495 thus far to benefit Lesotho
in South Africa via the World
Food Programme. Take your pick of incredible raffle items, including
tickets to Madrid Fusion, unique dinners and excursions, swell
autographed books… basically, if you love food and wine
(and I know you do), you’re going to have a hard time choosing
from this bounty of prizes generously donated by food bloggers
from around the world. You have until this Friday to enter the
raffle. Why not buy
tickets on behalf of some of your gourmand pals
for holiday presents? (They are $10 per ticket.) Just think: your
friend could win, and might even take you to Madrid Fusion.
bitter? I do, which is why I can still keep a smile on my face
while I’m drinking something “amaro.” I
know everyone drinks Fernet in this town, but have you ever tried
Averna? L’adoro. Bartenders: there is an ~AVERNA
COMPETITION~, running January 1–March 31. A judging
panel of leading spirits experts will select winners from five
regions: New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
You can win a trip to Sicily to compete in the finals at the Averna
distillery, and $1,500. Submit your most creative cocktail recipe
using Averna Amaro as a base ingredient here.
Let me know if you need a taste tester, ha ha.
a couple weeks back I mentioned I got to hang out with the newest
Iron Chef, ~MICHAEL
SYMON~ (AKA Mister Chuckles) of Cleveland’s
very popular Lola
and Lolita restaurants. He’s 38, and has been working in
restaurants since he was 14—he opened Lola when he was just
26. He was also voted a Best New Chef by Food & Wine in
1998—prescient, I’d say. Michael’s family had
the biggest influence on his cooking: his mother is Greek and Italian,
and his father is eastern European; they always cooked together
and ate at home, especially around the holidays, which is why he
says he has a “heritage-driven style.”
had a great time hanging out with him and his awesome wife Liz
at the bar at Hog Island Oyster Company. Both super-cool people,
and Michael is really easygoing, with a refreshing lack of pretense.
So instead of asking a bunch of questions that I came up with,
prior to the interview I asked some local chefs what they would
want to ask him. Let’s do it:
What do you think of SF dining, and our restaurants? (Joel
Huff of Silks)
I think next to New York, it’s the best food city in the
country. The greats here are as great as anywhere. I love this
city, adore it.
How do you find the time to do it all? (Ravi Kapur of
I don’t sleep. [Laughs.] I get about five hours a night.
To be honest, I haven’t figured it out 100 percent. I always
used to take off Sundays, now it’s more of a rarity. We have
a really good infrastructure and great chefs and partners in the
restaurants, which makes it all do-able. But it’s been hard.
Where do you find your line cooks, and do you have any
to spare? (Ravi)
We do pretty well—there are a lot of young cooks who work
for us who have worked all over the country. We’ve been really
fortunate. A lot of people come work for us for a year, but then
they want to take the next step and move on. Sometimes we have
a list of ten guys to replace them, sometimes only two.
What advice do you have for chefs about getting sponsorships?
I have been lucky in the sense that they’ve built up over
time. I’ve been with Calphalon for nine or ten years—they
called Liz at the restaurant wondering if we’d be interested.
And they’re an Ohio-based company. Pick stuff you believe
in. I’d never represent something I don’t have strong
feelings about. I also have a brand manager based out of New York
who reps several chefs, Scott Feldman of Two-Twelve
so some things come that way too.
How do you honestly feel about Iron Chef? (Jonnatan Leiva
of Jack Falstaff)
At the end of the day, it takes very little time out of your
life, and being in your restaurant: eighteen days, and then when
we film the season for Iron Chef, it’s just three weeks. All you’re
doing is cooking, it’s not like you’re learning lines
like an actor. I enjoy it, I love competition—I’m a
very competitive person. I thrive on it.
How is Iron Chef going to help your career? (Jonnatan)
A lot of ways. The viewership is huge, so it really gets you out
there, and really helps establish your brand and your name. If
you want to do a project in Vegas or cities like that, it gives
you the name recognition to do it. Not like it makes me cook
better or anything like that, but it gives me the ability to
do things for a larger market.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? (Jonnatan)
Retired! Actually that’s in 12 years. So in ten years I’ll
be thinking very hard about retiring. You know I’ll still
be working. [Laughs.]
Are you thinking about Vegas? (tablehopper)
Yeah, I’d like to do a project in Vegas, very much so. I
think Vegas is a neat city to do projects: you get to do a lot
of different concepts, there are great chefs there already. And
look, Mesa Grill got two Michelin stars, and Mesa Grill in New York got one.
I love them both—but man, it’s impressive.
Good for Bobby [Flay], doing multiple projects in multiple cities,
and getting that kind of recognition.
do you like to go when you’re in Vegas? (tablehopper)
Do you want to be a TV personality now? (Jonnatan)
You know, I’ve always been of the thought process that if
something happens, it happens. I just let it happen naturally,
and don’t really force it. Every break I’ve gotten
on television has been due to what I’ve done in the restaurants,
so they are always my main concern. I always want to do them well.
Is this the future for chefs? (Jonnatan)
No. I don’t think it is. It’s a small little market,
and there is only going to be so much room. It’s scary to
me: there are kids that want to go to culinary school to be on
TV. That scares the sh*t out of me. The future for chefs is always
going to be in restaurants. That’s where you make it as a
well, not counting Iron Chef, but look at the Food Network as
a whole, the only “chef chefs” are Bobby, Emeril,
Mario… Giada is trained, but she doesn’t currently
have a restaurant. There are very few chefs on the Food Network—it’s
more personality-driven. The future of chefs is in restaurants.
Once you’re out of the restaurant, I question how much of
a chef you actually are. You’re chef of what? The legions
of your fans? What are you a chef of? Other than Jacques Pepin,
I can’t think of another chef who doesn’t have a restaurant.
What do you want for your last meal? (Jonnatan)
It’s funny, the person who I would want to cook it is Jonathan
For sure. I’d just let him cook whatever he wants to cook.
[Thinks some more.] But I would love for him to make his perfect
roasted chicken, with some of those perfect Waxman fries, and then
I’d just let him have at it. And I would have to have a little
pasta from my mom.
He’s just the greatest cook, I love his food. We’ve
been friends for over ten years, he’s always kind of been
there for me in the business, and had a mentoring thing with me.
He’s done and seen it all. It’s great to have someone
like that who is so giving of their knowledge that has built up
from doing right and wrong things over the years. I mean, he’s
taught me a lot about food, and doing the right things as a chef.
About staying relaxed and not freaking out. He’s very good,
he’s like Valium, he’s got this way about him that
just takes the edge off. I can be having the worst f*cking day
of my life and I’ll call him and he’ll be just like, “It’s
all right, it’s all fine.”
So you call him? (tablehopper)
Yeah, I call him quite a bit! [Laughs]. I have a couple chefs I
call for advice, asking, “What should I do here?”
Why Cleveland? (Jonnatan)
I was born and raised there. Was in New York for a little bit,
then returned home, met my wife, and decided to open a restaurant,
and never left. It’s comfortable there. The neat thing
is we were able to be such a part of the food movement, and to
watch it grow and happen around you. The food scene is better
than it’s ever been there. There are some great chefs there.
Braised pork or grilled? (Jonnatan)
Braised. I do love a good wood fired grill, but I’m a braiser.
I braise everything.
Do you cook for you or your guests? (The Cortez kitchen
during staff meal)
It’s gonna sound like kind of a copout answer, but it’s
the truth: it’s almost like a half and half. There are things
on the menu that are geared towards me and the other chefs in the
kitchen, like, we do a lot of offal—we know we’re not
going to sell a ton of it, but we do it for us. It does sell, but
not like other stuff. At the end of the day, this restaurant supports
me, Liz, my other partner Doug, the 120 employees that work for
both restaurants, and you know, if I am just going to sit and cook
chef jerk-off food for myself and have an empty restaurant, it’s
not good for anybody.
the things we do for the guest, we are very proud of. At the
end of the day, as a chef, if I don’t make the guest
happy, then I’m a sh*tty chef. You’re in the business
of making people happy. We write the menu, putting things on there
we know the guests are really going to love, and then we always
have some dishes on there that we feel are great dishes, but are
going to take a little more time to sell and educate the guest
on them. A lot of those dishes have become dishes that are signature
dishes for the restaurant that people love, like the pork cheeks.
And sweetbreads. Anything we did with rabbit was a tough sell at
first. And we’ve even had success now with braised pig’s
head and fried pig’s ears—that were tough sells initially,
but now people come in and ask for them. I think it’s your
responsibility as a chef to educate people, but let it happen naturally,
does it feel to go up against the best chefs in the U.S., and
win? (Ryan Scott of Myth Café)
Feels pretty f*cking good. [Laughs.] I really don’t know
how else to put it. It’s funny, I get there, and chefs all
know each other, so you’re like, holy sh*t, Traci [Des Jardins]
is here, it’s gonna be tough to beat Traci. It felt great,
it felt awesome, not to beat them, but to compete against them.
It was brutal, but it was enjoyable too. It was stressful, but
it was fun. And to win felt great. Not just for me, but for the
city. It had a big impact on our city. The city erupted, it was
insane. It really made the city feel good about themselves, and
other cooks in the city, and chefs, and customers. It really felt
good. That’s so flattering. It made me feel happy. And honored.
have a great attitude and laugh a lot. What fuels your attitude
and keeps it going? What’s your secret? (Ryan)
[Laughs.] I dunno. You know, it’s just kind of how I am.
I have like one big blowup a year and I throw a coffee cup. I’m
a thrower. Not at anyone though! But I’d much rather be upbeat
than negative. It’s just a waste of emotion to be all negative.
It makes everyone around you miserable. You just get so much more
out of yourself and your employees if you remain positive and upbeat.
What are your favorite three places to travel? (tablehopper)
Greece, [pause], Greece, [laughs], Italy. And here, San Francisco.
And I’m not just saying that!
How about a shout out to three of your chef pals who are
doing great things. (tablehopper)
Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Avec.
even though he is so different and nothing like how I cook, but
I respect him so much: Wylie Dufresne of WD-50. It’s
the total opposite of the way I cook, so it interests me in that
sense—it gave me a whole new respect for it when we did it
on the show. I respect his mind and what he does.
Jonathan Waxman, I just love his respect for product.
like Mark Vetri a lot too. We have a lot of similar feelings
about food. And other stuff too: we’re also two bald guys,
with the same dogs (bull mastiffs), and totally into motorcycles.
thanks to Michael Symon and his wife Liz for taking time to
chat during their trip to San Francisco. And I gotta get to
Cleveland. Never thought I’d say that, but there it is.
closing, did you read Michael Pollan’s article about
what sustainable means in the New York Times on Sunday?
You can (and should) here.
a hot tip? You know I'd love it (and you). Just reply to