tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: big love from the big apple.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews

the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the health nut
take a lap, tablehopper
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Tango Diva

JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO A Manhattan-sized hello and MEOW from NYC—it was a miracle I even made it here considering STORM 2008 was going full-tilt when I was flying out of SF on Friday. And miracle number two: it's something like 68 degrees today. I know, huh?!

Highlights thus far: the Richard Prince show at the Guggenheim (yes, I went to a museum), Lucian Freud at MOMA (no, not Momofuku—yet), a gorg omakase linner (that's lunch/dinner) at Blue Ribbon Sushi, a deliciously intimate industry cocktail and bites session at Bouley Test Kitchen with Lillet cocktails galore from talented local bartenders, and Bouley himself and crew turning out gorgeous bites of decadence (I was like pinch pinch, is this all real?), and the Black Flip and Chang Dog I had at PDT Sunday night. I'll be doing a jetsetter recap once I return, promises promises, but for now, let's get cracking, because I have some yakitori places to hit and pizzas to eat!

Oh, but before I dive in here, I wanted to do my own little matchmaker shout-out for a web developer skilled in html. I am looking for someone to code a drop-down menu that my designer will already have designed… You got the skillz? Know someone who does? Please drop me a line!

Doh, I also wanted to let you know about the giveaway I'm doing this week: a pair of tickets for the annual Make-A-Wish Wine and Wishes gourmet food and wine tasting (more below in the socialite). To enter the drawing, one, you have to be a tablehopper subscriber, and two, you have to forward this week's newsletter to just two people (or more is great, you star you) in order to be eligible to win. Just cc luckyme@tablehopper.com when you forward the newsletter to your pals (it's best if you explain why you're sending it to them). No, I won't be collecting your friends' emails, those will stay private—I just need to keep track of how many folks you forwarded it to. The deadline to enter is by midnight, Sunday, January 13. I will be randomly drawing the winner and will email you to let you know you've won next week. Good luck!

I heart New York (and you too),

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox
JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Been watch-dogging the restaurant project slated to moved into the InterContinental San Francisco for a while, and the word is finally out about ~LUCE~. This new restaurant will be opening when the hotel opens, most likely by the end of February. The executive chef is Dominique Crenn, who was recently at Abode in LA—she has one of those dreamy backgrounds you can only envy (raised in Versailles, numerous travels in Europe and Indonesia, she cooked in SF with Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at Stars, as well as with other esteemed San Francisco establishments). Yes, she's excited to return to SF. Look for some Cali market-fresh cuisine with Italian inspiration, designed to be urban and sophisticated but inviting—there will also be a vegetable tasting menu. Menu prices will range from $9–$22 for apps, pastas from $14–$22, and mains from the high $20s to $30s. The name is inspired by Luce, the Super Tuscan wine that was the first wine ever produced in Montalcino by blending sangiovese and merlot grapes; it was a Napa-Tuscan collaboration between the Frescobaldi and Mondavi families that happened in 1995. Naturally, some fantastic selections from the Frescobaldi portfolio will be highlighted on the list—can you say winemaker dinners? Overseeing the wine fabulosities will be sommelier Helena Roy—she was most recently the wine director and bar manager of Ducca, and was previously the manager and wine director of Varietal Restaurant and Wine Bar in New York  (she was also with a retail wine establishment in New York).

Luce's bar will be called Bar 888, with one of the largest grappa selections in the U.S., and even busting out some grappa-based cocktails. There will be 130 seats, with room for 12–14 at the bar, and private dining, too. Will keep you posted on the look, dishes on the menu, and more as things develop. 888 Howard St. at Fifth.

With the beginning of the New Year sadly comes some closures. ~TRADER VIC'S~ has served its last Mai Tai: it has closed its doors (but the Emeryville location remains open). Didn't get a call back about the what and why. 555 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness.

Another classic that just closed is the ~WASHINGTON SQUARE BAR AND GRILL~. It was a sudden closure, and one that has a lot of North Beach locals seriously bummed, and wondering. Herb Caen is shedding a tear. 1707 Powell St at Union.

I checked in again with the former chef of ~FRINGALE~, Thierry Clement, who told me Fringale's new chef, Tripp Mauldin, started yesterday. Clement will work with him until Saturday, when Mauldin will then hold down the fort. Mauldin's background includes the very tasty Angèle in Napa, Michael Mina, Aqua, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. As for Clement's new project, ~L'ARDOISE~, the latest is that Clement is hoping to open between mid-February and early March. Right now he's finalizing a designer who will renovate the former Los Flamingos space. More on this as things take shape. Fringale, 570 Fourth St. at Brannan, 415-543-0573; L'Ardoise, 151 Noe St. at Henry.

~GLOBE~ was slated to reopen this week after its small fire—didn't get a call back confirming the date, but the message on the voicemail says some time this week. 290 Pacific Ave. at Battery, 415-391-4132.

Neighborhood charmer ~METRO KATHMAN DU~ is launching a happy hour every day from 5:30pm–6:30pm, with half-off on wine by the glass, beer, and soju cocktails (I will refrain from any comments). Another thing to make Sundays smoother, and easier on your wallet, is for the month of January, on Saturdays and Sundays, they are offering complimentary mimosas made with freshly squeezed OJ, 9:30am–2:30pm. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

A few weeks back, I mentioned the new FourBarrellCoffee and Conduit projects, and solicited for names for what to call the micro-neighborhood that isn't really Hayes Valley, Civic Center, Upper Market, or the Mission (this is what happens in San Francisco, because we're so tiny). I got so many responses, you all should be hired for naming projects, I swear. But, it ends up there is already a name into use: ~THE HUB~. It borders Van Ness to the east, Buchanan to the west (the North of Market border), Dolores (the South of Market border), and then Page to the north, and 15th Street to the south. A reader explained, "This is the historical name for the neighborhood because the "F" used to turn around at Valencia and Market before the rail was extended to Castro. The neighbors are working to revitalize the neighborhood including reinstating the name 'The Hub.'" There was even a street festival celebration called "Welcome to the Hub" last year to begin to unite the neighbors. Go Hubsters. 

But for fun I thought I'd include some of the other nominations, all directly quoted from readers below:
 
NoMi No(rthern) Mi(ssion), pronounced "noh-mee"
The Intermission
Inner Zeitgeist (One reader says, "It sounds like a philosophical dilemma more than a neighborhood. I like it.")
Maybe Castro Valley as a pun to the East Bayers?
NoMon North Mission, or am I still stuck in Jamaica?
Woodward slope or Woodward's Triangle
Middlesville
NoMiss (North Mission)
NoMis (North Mission)
Market Rise (brokers would love this one)
Haas Slope (Levi's original building)
Haas Hill
Missing Gardens
Greektown (obviously the church in the center but also references the frat boy invasion)
Inner Valencia
Center
El Central
Le Coeur
Corazon
The Gulch
Mint Slope
DuValMis (streets)
ValMis (streets)
Clinton Park (street)
The Pearl (street)
Armory Meadows
Kinkyland
The Wedge=a neighbor to the Duboce Triangle, based on shape of course

Here's one more reader comment, "One (lame) district name I am promoting though is Midtown because SOMA just can't be that large! So Midtown per my definition is 5th to South Van Ness and Market to just about Townsend. Spread the word if you believe!" Okay then, there you have it.

Those of you in Cow Hollow will be happy to know the vino is back in ~JOVINO~. They were without an ABC license since June (someone decided to take their glass of Chard and salad outside, so they got popped and lost their license). But now the wine is back, and with the new license, they can serve both inside and outside, so cheers. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-563-1853.

I am sharing this letter from someone who works at Spruce, who wanted to alert industry readers to ~YET ANOTHER SCAM~ targeting restaurants: "An attempt was made by a scam artist...although we believe he's an addict. I was actually working on the phones and answered a call from a Dr. Sussman. He claimed to be a regular and a big fan of the restaurant. After buttering me up with a slew of compliments about our establishment, he then went on to tell me his son had locked his keys, phone, money and a lot of expensive equipment in his car. His son needed cab ride downtown to get a replacement key for his Mercedes. At first I was sympathetic, but then immediately suspicious when he asked for money. He said his son needed $50 to get downtown and then would return the money that evening. I asked why he wasn't calling any of his friends for help and he said the incident was so embarrassing he didn't feel comfortable asking anyone else. Right..."

"So, I had an envelope ready for his son, "David Sussman." He showed up about 45 minutes later. He looked completely strung out. White male, about 5'8", brown hair that looked greasy and matted, 5 o'clock shadow, bloodshot eyes. He walked into the restaurant and asked if there was something for him. I handed him the envelope and he walked out. My manager saw him get into a car parked just past our restaurant. She had seen him before and was afraid that I had given him money. But, his sob story on the phone had been too suspicious and I had written a note that said, "Happy Holidays. Good luck." That was the note I had put in the envelope."

"Anyway, I'm sure this man has pulled this before and I'm sure he's had some success. There are many good Samaritans among us who are less suspecting of others. Just thought I'd share to help get the word out."

One last thing: I don't have many details about this, but I heard there are some muggings happening in Cow Hollow and the Marina. A restaurant worker got knocked down and mugged at Green and Octavia last week—fortunately she's ok. The police want to encourage people to be vigilant, don't walk alone, and take cabs or get a ride when in doubt. I will let you know if I learn more details about this—sorry I don't have more at this time.


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

 
fresh meat

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Farina
3560 18th St.
Cross: Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-565-0360
website

Lunch/brunch
Fri–Sun 11am–4pm
Dinner
Daily 5pm–10pm

Apps $10–$17
Pastas $17–$19
Entrées $24–$29
Desserts $8–$10

JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Some locals have said it took a lot of chutzpah (or as the Italians would say it, "palle") to move into the Mission and open a big sprawling Italian restaurant mere blocks away from the long-standing beloved, Delfina. The unique look of ~FARINA~ (nope, this was definitely NOT another rustic 49-seater) additionally raised eyebrows. And there were tales of disgruntled neighbors, gossip about valet parking politics (and paint maliciously splattered on a few parked cars), and let's not even get started on the ruckus surrounding the permits for the upcoming roof terrace.

With that much buzz and chatter swirling around, you really have to be on your game the second your doors swing open. Being different, and splashy, sets up serious expectations (especially in this town), almost encouraging people to hover about, gossip, and critique, perhaps secretly waiting for you to trip in those high heels of yours, or fail. Farina was totally our pop star restaurant opening of 2007—the only thing missing was a head shaving and coverage on PerezHilton.com.

I don't have the whole story on all the various dramas, who does, really? (Does anyone have the scandalous video? I kid.) But no matter. Because from the moment Anna's Danish Cookies went dark and the plywood went up, I was excitedly awaiting who was going to take over the sunny corner on one of the best gourmet streets in the city, our own little Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In a restaurant scene moving more and more toward regional Italian fare, and giving Tuscan food a breather, Farina's Ligurian offerings have perfect timing. I dined at Farina a couple times in the beginning months, but honestly wasn't enamored with my experiences—even the highlighted focaccia wasn't quite there yet, so I decided to sit back and wait a bit, let things iron out. Italians like to look well pressed, so I was confident things would get sorted. Based on my most recent meal at Farina, let's just say that Zegna suit is ready to hit the runway.

There is a spacious communal table, with two-tops that that are cleverly made out of the former Anna's Danish Cookies sign that line the towering front bay windows, plus there is casual bar seating (there's a full bar) and some high tables, while larger wood tables line the side wall for bigger groups. The lighting fixtures are funky and eclectic, with hits of red and playful shapes, while the white ceiling and tiles pop and feel bakery appropriate. The furnishings mix industrial elements and wood in an engaging way that makes me think of New York, or London. It has personality. I adore the presence of all the marble, almost sarcophagus heavy, enticing you to run your fingers along them—and wow, some of the hulking and sculptured pieces are actually sinks. 

I think a ringside seat on one of the red lollipop stools in front of the busily working pasta and focaccia makers is where it's at. You can smell the irresistible wafting of cheese and bread baking, watch cooks pound out the carpaccio, and prep the focaccia and pastas—it's quite mesmerizing, actually—much more interesting than a visit to the Twinkie factory, and totally builds your anticipation for your impending order.

So, about that focaccia: you really should take the focaccia di Recco ($15) for a whirl. My fave was the one with prosciutto ($17), actually, Rovagnati ham, with crispy and curling edges from the intense heat of the oven. These are not the thick bready focaccias you are probably used to—instead, you get layers of thin dough that's flaky and crackly, enclosing dollops of melted stracchino cheese (a tangy Crescenza-like cow's milk cheese, one of my favorites when I lived in Italy, and sadly not one I see a lot of stateside). You can easily share an order with two­ or three people.

Genovese chef Paolo Laboa has crafted a menu that is quite unlike anything in the city—you'll find dishes he has painstakingly researched, some dating back hundreds of years. The chilled Genovese layered salad ($16) of seafood, potato, and vegetables was gorgeous (admittedly prettier than its rather subtle flavors), looking like something out of the film Marie Antoinette, or an historical book on the Medici dining habits. (It's actually from a 17th century recipe.)

During truffle season, we indulged in the tortino of white truffle ($30), a delicate and oozing buttery little number that was ideal for showing off a shaving of this year's rarity of Piemontese truffle. The presentation of this dish was downright artful.

So after watching the staff churn out fresh pastas all night, you start to understand the $17 price tag. Yes, it's a scoch more than what you're used to paying around town, but with one bite of the supple mandilli al pesto ($18), a tender handkerchief pasta laced with the most fragrant and enchanting pesto, you are impelled to open that wallet. Wide. It's like it hypnotizes you or something.

The capellacci ($17), hand-made ravioli of eggplant, summer squash, and Brie had a perfect ratio of stuffing (an unusual one at that) to pasta, which was almost crepe-like in its delicacy, napped in a subtle thyme brown-butter sauce. The hard part was there were five more pastas I wanted to try—it brought up the same kind of indecision I get at a Batali establishment, what to choose, what to choose... 

Mains have a good representation of seafood (hello, Genova)—the pan-roasted orata (dorade/$26) took me back to Italy, with its fishy Mediterranean flavor and fattiness, served head-on in a savory tomato broth. I just wanted a sharper knife to cut through the slice of oily (in a good way) crostini resting underneath.

The rack of venison ($29) was the essence of winter, with chestnuts, black truffle, and glistening with a port reduction. It was a real hunk of meat, and one that got better, and juicier, as you cut closer to the bone. It's the kind of dish that begs for a stellar wine pairing, which the list can definitely provide. The helpful descriptions on the wine list keep it from being intimidating, but feel free to ask questions and for guidance, especially of Gabriele Originario, the manager. Oh, and one quick thing about the mains: they are Euro a-la-carte style, baby, and not plated with accompanying side dishes—you have to order those separately.

Sweets range from the bigne al cioccolato ($8), little ethereal puffs with a custardy/pudding-like center, or the marron glace con crema ($10), mascarpone cream infused with amaretto and served with candied chestnuts. People are also losing it over the sweet milk fritters ($9). The cheeses are also tempting—be sure to ask what's available that night.

Service has piccolo missteps here and there, with instances like servers leaving you alone for too long, or not explaining dishes well (the menu will inspire a lot of questions), or I had my coffee served without sugar. Nothing dramatic, but not buttoned up like other establishments in this city that are running at a parallel price point. Speaking of, the place definitely draws a moneyed crowd, with lots of expensive eyewear, trios of S*x in the City chicks, and well-groomed homos and hipster couples, all in the mix. Oh, and the staff? Hot.

A lot of thought and labor (and hello, money) went into this place; there are so many details to take in. It's just taken some time for it all to develop and be less self-conscious, and begin meshing into the city's dining landscape. I think people are realizing it's time to stop talking: let's eat.

 
the sponsor

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the socialite

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Wine and Wishes
Sat., Feb. 2, 2008

Treasure Island
San Francisco, CA

415-982-9474
website

tickets

5pm–7:30pm

$150 (tablehopper readers: $135)

JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO The seventh annual ~MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION'S WINE AND WISHES~ event is coming up, a gourmet food and wine tasting hosted on Treasure Island. Over 60 of San Francisco's favorite chefs and wineries will be providing hors d'oeuvres, like Ana Mandara, A16, Ozumo, SPQR, Perbacco, Piperade, and Slanted Door, and some primo wines will be poured.

Tablehopper readers can get discounted tickets for $135: just click on "Buy Tasting Tickets," fill out the registration form, and enter "dream" under the discount code. The event is one of the organization's signature fundraisers, generating over $500,000 for the greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation.

There is also a big-ticket four-course winemaker dinner from 7:30pm–10pm, with courses prepared by Mark Dommen from One Market, Douglas Keane from Cyrus, Loretta Keller from Coco500, and Roland Passot from La Folie, with fine wines paired with each course. Remaining tickets are available for $325–$1000 (this includes entry into the Gourmet Food Tasting). For ticket availability, call 415-982-9474.

 
the health nut

JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Uh, I'm trying to walk a lot in New York this week. Even when I don't want to, I am walking. A lot.

 
 
the starlet

JANUARY 8, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO We had a busy New Year's Eve in the city: Laura Dern and Ben Harper were at Washington Square Bar & Grill, at 12:30am on New Year's Eve (technically, New Year's Day). Just in the nick of time, I guess. They were also spotted at Eliza's on California, sitting right next to the front door with about 10 people, a mix of adults and kids, and tons of food.

Also heard that Kenny Loggins dined at Bix on New Year's Eve, and even played some Frank Sinatra numbers with the band.

Jessica Alba, Baron Davis, and Cash Warren recently had a meal at Mamacita.

Mos Def dined at farmerbrown—he's reportedly a big fan of the catfish and the fried chicken.

 

All content © 2008 Marcia Gagliardi. I am more than happy if you want to link to my reviews and content elsewhere (thanks, glad you dig it), but republishing any part of them in any way, shape or form is strictly prohibited until we talk first. Please take a look at my Creative Commons license for more detail.To subscribe to this list, please visit http://www.tablehopper.com/lets_talk/subscribe.html

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