tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: the manhattan project.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the jetsetter
get outta dodge

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

the sponsor
this round is on me

Lost Art Salon

JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO My past week was quite rich with little jaunts out of town. Go tablehopper go! I was on a non-tablehopper assignment and needed to check out Nick’s Cove and Cottages in Marshall (I know, this is such horrid work—when will these tedious duties ever end?). I just have to tell you, if you’re looking for a dreamy escape during the winter, the cottages are IT (and with the wintertime rates, see if you can afford a waterfront one!). Imagine stunning views of Tomales Bay, a toasty wood burning stove, heated bathroom floors, gorg linens, deep soaking tubs… and total peace. It was like I was at a cozy cabin that has been in the family for years. (I wish.) I wanted to move in and write my book. Pat Kuleto really knows how to do it right.

Also got a chance to head to Sonoma this weekend for the Feast of the Olive Dinner at Ramekins during the seventh annual Sonoma Valley Olive Festival. The multi-course dinner (try eight) was a great way to try some dishes from local chefs (and Sonoma wines, too). Bruno Tison of Sante Restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn totally blew me away with his refreshing combo of wild shrimp, hearts of palm, asparagus (crazy early), Cali osetra caviar, and Olive Press Limonato olive oil aioli. Dude. And Dana Jaffe of Saddles Steakhouse had a side dish that was so scrumptious, a gratin of turnip, yam, and Asiago. The barbera port from VJB Vineyards & Cellars totally won our table over as well.

I managed to hit lovely weather during both trips, so it made me think January can actually be a fab time to travel—well, if you get lucky. And if you do, jeez, it’s stunning up north. It only took us 45 minutes to get to Sonoma. Think about it. And get outta dodge! Speaking of, I hope you enjoy this week’s recap of where I ate and drank during my recent jaunt to NYC. I heart NY.

Ciao ciao,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox
Lost Art SalonJANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO You know, sometimes I hear things, but usually I have to go out and find things. (Thank you Google, I couldn’t do my job half as well without you.) But wow, let’s hear it for when I discover news totally by accident. Surprise! I was trying to confirm some info about when the ~TOP CHEF~ contestants are going to be announced for Season Four—Chicago, and whoa, what have we here? A blog with pics of some contestants on a challenge while at Whole Foods! Now, I already have a hunch about some of the SF contestants who might be on the show (it’s funny how some mysteriously disappeared for a few weeks), but the proof sure is in the cock’s comb on this one. Next week I’ll be able to officially name names since the press release comes out later this week, but let’s just say I sure am glad we’ve got a super-talented SOMA badass in the competition. Those of you who are good with faces (and hair), have fun. Man, one of my favorite Cali cuisine outposts is going to get even more press, good for them. More next week! Go SF!

Big drama on Telegraph Hill: ~JULIUS’ CASTLE~ is closed—they served their last meal Saturday night. the operators are engaged in a lawsuit with their landlord, who took over from the former owner, Jeffrey Pollack, who had the restaurant for 26 years, until 2006. Now we’ll have to see how the allegations of fraud, misrepresentation, and lease issues shake out in the Superior Court. 1541 Montgomery St. at Union, 415-392-2222.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. This Wednesday marks the opening of ~BLUE BOTTLE CAFÉ~ in Mint Plaza! (It is incidentally the three-year anniversary of the kiosk on Linden!) I took a peek at the menus, and it looks like mornings will have creamy polenta with speck and Gruyere (or maple syrup and butter!), an egg and potato torte, and a wicked variety of poached eggs (hello, with pancetta, or morels, or with béarnaise-glazed artichoke hearts and tomato sauce, yum!). Evenings will bring cured hams, salami, chorizo and other charcuterie, olives, cheeses, and additional wickedness in the form of pancetta soufflés, porcini flan, or gnocchi with a wild nettle and pine nut pesto sauce, along with some salads. And yes, all the ingredients are local, organic, and sustainable, natch.

There will also be six wines by the glass chosen by Coi’s Paul Einbund, three white and three red (including a bubbly, and a Madeira, Paul’s favorite). As owner James Freeman put it, you’ll be able to get a wonderful glass of wine for just $5. All right! There will be 23 seats total, with 12 at the communal hickory table and stools, plus a low table, and room for ten standing at some bar space. You can geek out and check out some pics of the space on their Flickr page here. Blue Bottle will open at 8am this Wednesday, but moving forward, the hours are Mon–Fri 7am–7pm, Sat 8am–8pm, and Sun 8am–4pm. 66 Mint St. at Jessie.

~SOLUNA CAFÉ AND LOUNGE’S~ former owner, Rick Nyman, has sold the business to new owners after running the show for 2 ½ years (he’s going to be moving to Chicago). Meanwhile, the new owners are reportedly involved with Biscuits and Blues and First Crush, and I heard the new name will be Civic. I’ll be able to confirm and report more details as they come in. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin, 415-621-2200.

Executive chef Jeremy’s Bearman’s last day at ~LARKCREEKSTEAK~ was Friday the 18th—the new chef is John Ledbetter, who was Jeremy's sous chef. Ledbetter has been in the industry for about eight years now, previously at Restaurant August and Emeril’s in New Orleans for three years. Prior to that, he was in New York for three years, where he was a tournant at Union Square Cafe and also helped open Spigolo as sous chef in 2004. He joined LarkCreekSteak in August. Rock on, Ledbetter. Westfield Centre, 845 Market St., 4th Floor/Suite 402 at 5th St., 415-593-4100.

I’ve been following the posts about ~BOILING CRAWFISH~ on Chowhound, and must admit my curiosity is piqued. This place just opened last week in the Outer Sunset in the former Ha’s space (not to be confused with Ho’s, or ha ha)—they also have locations in San Jose and Sacramento. Reportedly crawfish is flown in every other day from Louisiana. You can eat the crawfish with corn and sausage, and there are also shrimp, clams, crab, and oysters on the menu. Open daily 3pm–10pm. 2333 Irving St at 24th Ave., 415-665-6033.

And then in the Outer Richmond there is ~PAGAN~, a new hippie organic café. Kidding. It’s actually a 48-seat place with a dual Thai and Burmese menu that moved into the former Sarin space. According to some posts on Yelp, the new look is “cozy” and “glowing.” A Yelper also conveniently explains the name, a region in northern Burma/Myanmar now known as Bagan. Open Wed–Mon (closed Tue), 11am–3:30pm, and then 5pm–10pm. 3199 Clement St. at 33rd Ave., 415-751-2598.

Chowhounds also have the word that after 11 years of business, Firecracker in the Mission has closed. The first San Francisco location of ~UDUPI PALACE~, the South Indian vegetarian place people adore in Berkeley, Fremont, and Sunnyvale, will be opening around the end of February or so. I don’t quite understand why they had to go and open near the lovely Dosa, when they had the entire city to choose from, but that’s the irony of the Mission restaurant scene for you. 1007 1/2 Valencia St.

Got a few more details on ~LUCE~, the restaurant opening in the InterContinental San Francisco in the end of February or so. I read that Bar 888 will have specialty grappa-based drinks created by master mixologist Francesco Lafranconi! And some menu items mentioned in the press release include a trio of mini sandwiches at the bar, plus flatbread with tomato confit, olives, arugula, salami, and pecorino, and a white bean soup with parsley oil and avocado. Lunch will include a lobster BLT sandwich with tomato confit, spicy mayonnaise, and applewood-smoked bacon, and a quinoa risotto with beets, aged goat cheese, and curry oil. Some dinner items on the six-course tasting menu include pappardelle with red snapper, saffron endive nage, and olio verde, and aged beef tenderloin with wild cress, California Camembert, and calvados. There will also be a four-course “farm to table” tasting menu. 888 Howard St. at Fifth.

I had a chance to chat with ~DANIEL PATTERSON~ of Coi before he headed off to Spain to MadridFusion, the big four-day conference most chefs dream of attending. He’s the only chef from the U.S. presenting this year. Patterson is going to do a cooking demo of two dishes and talk about the traditions and practical usage of essential oils. He’s really excited, this being his first trip to España. Can’t wait to see what he discovers—he said he’s going to be hitting both some traditional and modern restaurants while he’s there.

SF is soon to get its first winery in a national park: ~FOGGY BRIDGE~ is opening in the Presidio. According to the press release, there will be a tasting room, a working winery, a casual café, and a 120-seat restaurant. First the tasting rooms will open this summer in a former Army machine shop, and will offer educational seminars, food and wine pairings, and a traditional tasting bar. The second phase will wrap up this fall, and will be part of a former aircraft hangar dating back to 1921, all 20,000 square feet of it, which will be restored and include a concrete tasting bar with a floating translucent glass top lit from below. Roland Passot’s Left Bank Brasserie is behind the casual café opening in the summer, and the flagship San Francisco brasserie will open in conjunction with the winery’s second phase, in late 2008.

Look for a warm industrial feel, with exposed steel beam supports, natural wooden walls, and wood cabinetry inside that is reminiscent of the military barracks of the World War I era. Howard Backen of Backen Gillam Architects is the designer (they also did Kokkari, Cyrus, and wineries like Harlan, Sterling, and Cliff Lede). It gets better: in addition to the winery, Foggy Bridge will also operate food and wine bay cruises aboard the historic USS Potomac, which was FDR’s presidential yacht and was also owned by Elvis Presley. Does this mean they will serve fried peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwiches? ‘Cilla! Foggy Bridge Wine Cruises will sail April through November of 2008.

As for the players: Daryl Groom is a principal and winemaker at Foggy Bridge Winery (he was formerly senior vice president at Beam Wine Estates, executive winemaker at Geyser Peak Winery, and senior winemaker at Penfolds in Australia). They are adopting organic farming practices in the San Francisco Bay vineyard, producing a range of wines from grapes that will be crushed, fermented, and bottled at its Presidio winery. There will also be a cab from Napa Valley and a sauvignon blanc from Sonoma; Foggy Bridge will announce its partner wineries in spring of 2008. Foggy Bridge’s founder and principal is John Kontrabecki, CEO of TKG International. Northwest corner of Crissy Field at Presidio Buildings 935 and 937, Old Mason Street.

Want a sneak peek at ~EPIC~ or ~WATERBAR~ before they officially open to the public next week? Well, if you have some ducats, there are two charity dinners this Friday, 1/25, with the bulk of ticket sales, if not all, going to support each charity. There are only 100 tickets per each restaurant, and the chefs are chomping at the bit to start cooking for people, so you know they will be pulling out all the stops on these menus. Tickets are $500 each for either event. Cocktails are at 6pm; the four-course dinner with wine starts at 7pm. Waterbar’s event will benefit KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program; please call 415-284-9922. EPIC Roasthouse’s event benefits the 49ers Foundation; call 415-369-9955 for tickets.

You can also live large at a tasting of big reds from magnums at ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~ this Thursday from 6pm–7:30pm. The tasting is $35, and includes small bites. Check out the listing of what will be poured on their site. If you can’t make it at 6pm, come by Ottimista anytime that night to taste the wines—they're offering special flights all evening. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

Yo home chefs, here’s a fun little competition for you! ~PARTIES THAT COOK~ has announced the first “Virtual Cook Off 2008: What’s your best appetizer recipe?” contest. Send your most original appetizer recipe with a photo to cookoff@partiesthatcook.com by March 1, 2008. Include your name, contact info, and a couple of lines about why your dish should win. Entries will be judged on originality, taste, and presentation. Your recipe should be mind-blowingly delicious and possible to prepare in an hour or less. One entry per person, please. They will eat their way through the entries and announce a winner on March 31. The first-prize winner will receive a private cooking party for 16, courtesy of Parties That Cook (a $1200 value). Runners up will win tickets to their Gourmet Dating events or the Sumptuous Small Plates recipe card deck. The winning recipes will be inducted into the culinary hall of fame on the Parties That Cook blog, and have the chance to become the next hit dish at their Parties That Cook events. Get cookin’!

On a much more serious note, I am sad to share the tragic news about ~DAVID GOGOLAK~, 36, of Hobson's Choice Bar and the co-founder of Asqew Grill, who was killed in an avalanche on January 13 while skiing in Whitefish, Montana. Here’s a link to the article in USA Today and here’s more from a release I received:

David was an entrepreneur as well as a family man, respected by business associates and much loved by his employees and partners. After graduating from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in 1997, Dave, along with friend Mark Nicandri, opened the first Asqew Grill in San Francisco’s Haight district in May 1999.
 
“The memories, the laughter, the love, the gratitude, the respect and the adoration for David will fill each heart and each restaurant — now and in the future.” said Michael O’Keefe, president and chief operating officer of Asqew Grill.
 
In mid-2007, Dave realized a second life-long dream by moving to Whitefish, where he could pursue his outdoor passions, including hiking, boating, swimming and skiing. During the week, Dave remained committed to both personal and professional dreams by commuting between Whitefish and San Francisco.

Asqew Grill was the result of David’s vision to create restaurants in which everyday people could enjoy solid food and drink at reasonable prices with superior service — establishments that became a part of the fabric of their neighborhood.  One can see the realization of these efforts in the eight Asqew Grill locations. David’s dream will continue to thrive as the multi-unit operation opens its ninth location this spring in Mill Valley, Calif, the town in which Mark and until recently, Dave, both lived with their families.
 
David's zest for life was widely recognized and exuded through his outdoor pursuits, his passion for culinary creations and most of all, his love of people. He is widely regarded as a person larger than life, someone who had a kind word for everyone, a boundless sense of humor and a deep devotion to his family and friends.

David is survived by his wife, Nicole, their two children, Graylin and Johnny; David’s parents, Peter and Kathy; and his brother, Tommy, of Darien, Conn.

Donations in David’s honor may be made to two non-profit organizations close to David and Nicole’s hearts:

Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol
P.O. Box 433
Whitefish, Montana 59937

Montana Land Reliance
324 Fuller Avenue
PO Box 355
Helena, Montana 59624-0355

The Cottage in Daren, Inc.
C/O Kelly Associates
Attn: Doug Milne
780 Post Road
Darien, CT 06820


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Lost Art Salon

Lost Art Salon is a San Francisco resource for Modern Era (1900–1960s) paintings, drawings, fine art prints and photography, sculptures, ceramics and glass.

“Modern Love”, our next feature show, opens Valentine’s Night, Thursday, Feb. 14th from 5:30–8:30pm. The party is free and open to all. Live music and champagne cocktails will accompany a collection of Modernist works from the early and mid-20th century.

Our library of over 3,000 original works reflects the major styles and movements from throughout the 20th Century.

the jetsetter
  JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO New York, New York—January 2008

Lost Art Salon

Momofuku
171 First Ave.
Cross: 10th St.
212-777-7773

Sun–Thu 12pm–4pm, 5:30pm–11pm
Fri–Sat 12pm–4pm, 5:30pm–12am

Can you believe on this last trip I ate at ~MOMOFUKU~ twice? Yes, the pork buns really are that freaking delicious (especially with a squirt of the warm sriracha that has a lingering, beastly heat—be sure to request it). The buns demanded a repeat performance the very next day. David Chang’s noodle (and more) outpost in the East Village has total cult status, and every chef I know seems to love this place—yup, there’s a lot lot lot of hype hype hype, and I’ll be damned, it’s quite deserved.

The menu is a ridiculous tour de force of animal scrumptiousness, from the spicy tripe and bacon braised with carrot and onion; Manila clams in a thick stew-like broth with sunchokes and parsnips; and the grilled beef tongue with mustard and a side salad of frisee dressed with pickle juice and topped with thinly sliced cold tongue totally rocked—the salad tasted like the best tongue sandwich. Ever. And you get to try their perfect pickles, too. The pork neck ramen dish we ordered didn’t really do anything for us, in fact we didn’t even eat it since it was so blah, but the kimchi stew the next day with pork shoulder and rice cakes was the bomb. Wash it all down with some spendy Hitachino Ale ($11). Hoot.

Don’t bring a vegetarian—there are no substitutions, and there is only one noodle dish they could eat. It’s all communal dining, with everyone crammed in at the sleek and minimalist tables or the long counter… love the rock blaring, like the Clash. Trick: go for a super late lunch midweek, like around 3:15pm, and you should waltz right in.

 

Lost Art Salon

Abraço
86 E. 7th St.
Cross: First Ave.
212-388-9731

Just around the corner, famed SF Blue Bottle barista Jamie McCormick has opened his charming little café, ~ABRAÇO~, and I am thrilled to see how well he has already ensconced himself in the neighborhood. Terrific coffees, natch, from the individual drip coffee to a café cortado—and they are even making almond milk that is supposed to be extra-delish warmed up. Everything tastes all smooth, like the Brazilian records playing. Chef Mario Hernandez is turning out some tasty little bites, like pressed panini, and don’t get me started on baker Elizabeth Quijada’s olive shortbread (there are all kinds of house-made morning and sweet treats too).

Caracas
91 E. 7th St.
Cross: First Ave.
212-228-5062

This place is almost kitty corner to Abraco and totally pinged on my radar, but I was so damned full from my lunch at Momofuku I just couldn’t indulge in one single arepa. Nary a bite. Jamie at Abraco said the arepas at ~CARACAS~ are just incredible. And they’re wheat free, crazy. Next time I am all over one, perhaps the version with roasted pork shoulder and a spicy mango sauce. You can even make your own combo, but there are 14 to choose from. Empanadas too.  And juices, like a coconut milk shake with cinnamon. Mreow.

Lost Art Salon

Gottino
52 Greenwich Ave.
Cross: Perry St.
212-633-2590

Over in the West Village, I had a nice time hanging out at the charmingly rustic ~GOTTINO~, the brand-new enoteca from Michael Bull and Jody Williams (the chef of Morandi). The place smelled like cheese. Heh. The crostini were ridiculously tasty, like the one of walnut pesto with Parmesan and thyme, and another with bottarga and a poached egg. I purred over the savory bread pudding of pig trotter and chestnuts. There are a variety of well-chosen Italian wines by the glass, and you can crack some complimentary nuts (like walnuts, yo) while sippin’ at the marble counter. Ideal place to hang out for an early (or late) evening bite and catch up. Order an espresso and they put sugar on top of the coffee before drawing your shot from their gleaming Faema machine. Wild, man.

Kefi
222 W 79th St.
Cross: Broadway
212-873-0200

After checking out the killer Richard Prince show at the Guggenheim, my friend and I had fun walking across the park and catching an early dinner at ~KEFI~, an unassuming Greek place under chef Michael Psilakis and Donatella Arpaia on the Upper West Side. We got a kick out of the West Side scene packing the room, all outfitted in black and some in furs. I wouldn’t make a special trip uptown, but if you’re in the ‘hood, the price is right. And in SF, we really don’t have much Greek, so I was happy to check it out.

We dug the stuffed cuttlefish with a sweet and sour honey glaze as a starter, and the gnudi that were lightly pan seared, served with pine nuts, tomato, spinach, and a spicy lamb sausage—I decided this sauce would make a perfect pizza topping (both $8.95). My grilled branzino was juicy but needed salt and lemon—when all is said and done, the two hearty filets with olive, potato, and tomato were a downright steal at $15.95. My friend’s pan-seared striped bass was too oily and under-seasoned, so no comment. Good Greek wines for crazy cheap (like, $6!). Service is brisk and the tables are packed, with even more people waiting to eat, so don’t expect to hang out.

Lost Art Salon

Anthos
36 W 52nd St.
Cross: 5th Ave.
212-582-6900

Also had lunch at Michael Psilakis’s other outpost, ~ANTHOS~ (with partner Donatella Arpaia, who was actually hanging out when we arrived). The $28 prix-fixe lunch menu seemed swell until we were told the famed lamb burger was 86ed. Rats! To the main menu. I couldn’t resist the bizarrely intriguing combination of grilled Hawaiian prawns, saffron orzo, smoked chicken, and a six-minute egg. The flavors were rustic and kind of smoky-haunting, but what a pain to shell the prawns in the clay pot it came in. And at the lovely Midtown business lunch price of $18. 

The grilled (with the head still on, yay!) loup de mer ($29) was cooked just-right and oh-so-juicy, but the side little crock of winter vegetables was actually kind of a crock: under-seasoned, and too underdone. Why not have them on the plate? And again, a total mess to try to eat out of the crock. The room was kind of blushed, with cherry blossom art, and the first time I saw a base layer of pink table linens in a restaurant. Service wasn’t very fabulous, especially considering the prices—a not-ready-for-primetime kind of lunch squad. Dessert was unique (chocolate mousse and ouzo syrup anyone?), but the true charmer was the goat’s milk butter we scarfed with our bread.

Lost Art Salon

Akwaba
62 E. 116th St.
Cross: Park Ave.
212-426-8967

When I went to Tales of the Cocktail last year in New Orleans, I met this swell woman from Liberia who promised to take me out for some real African food the next time I was in NYC. Yay, I took her up on it, and headed up to Harlem to ~AKWABA~, a quirky little place run by women with a menu of West African fare, mostly from Senegal, Guinea, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. I loved the new flavors, like attieke (ground and fermented cassava that is almost like a couscous), palm oil, alloco (plantains), and I had my first taste of Maggi, a bouillon cube that is supposed to be a West African staple. We had a delish grilled fish (poisson braise), yassa (fried chicken with grilled onions and a tangy lemon sauce), and some dibi (fatty grilled pieces of lamb with mustard and onion). Cheap, and a fun and filling adventure.

Lost Art Salon

The Modern
The Museum of Modern Art
9 West 53rd Street
Cross: Fifth Ave.
212-333-1220

After taking in whatever is showing at MoMA, I don’t know about you, but museums make me hungry and ready to take a seat for a little while. All you have to do is head downstairs for a bite off the afternoon menu in the low-slung Bar Room at ~THE MODERN~ while relishing a little Danny Meyer hospitality. We savored a glass of Ruinart rose over the scrumptious tarte flambée, a thin crust Alsatian tart with crème fraîche, onion, and bacon. No, that did not suck at all. Dessert was also gorgeous, namely the hazelnut dacquoise with milk chocolate chantilly. Pretty! And quite artful itself.

Lost Art Salon

La Taza de Oro
96 Eighth Ave.
Cross: 15th St.
212-243-9946

I also was having fun checking out some galleries in Chelsea, but after some laughable gallery attitude from the knob working at the Cheim & Read gallery who fancied himself smart AND handsome, I had enough. I needed a coffee and a bite. I remember a tablehopper reader telling me about ~LA TAZA DE ORO~, an authentic little Puerto Rican diner. Within five minutes of perching on a stool at the counter, it totally won my heart, and was perfect to counterbalance the vapidity I experienced not 15 minutes before. Everyone on both sides of the counter was friendly, curious, and had something to say. So New York. I dug into my pastele (banana meat tamale for a whopping $2.50) and finished with a café espresso ($1, thankyouverymuch) wishing I could come back for some of their daily specials. XOXO.

Lost Art Salon

Dumpling House
118A Eldridge St.
Cross: Broome St.
212-625-8008

Some more cheap eats I was fired up on were the chive and pork boiled dumplings (8 for $2) at the ~DUMPLING HOUSE~. No, not the best, but for $2, who’s complaining? Even better though was the warm sesame “pancake” sandwich stuffed with roasted pork and loaded with cilantro and pickled carrot, for $1.75. I’d be here every week, perhaps more than once. I think a lot of other people feel the same way. Good thing they just moved into this new location that is quite a bit more spacious.

Lost Art Salon

Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St.
Cross: Orchard St.
212-475-4880

Mmmm, caviar. I was convinced caviar cream cheese was going to be the shiznit, but after trying it, it sadly wasn’t anything major. However, just the experience of going into ~RUSS & DAUGHTERS~ made me happy. Oh, and the Super Heeb was pretty tasty (whitefish/baked salmon salad with horseradish cream cheese on a bagel, with wasabi flying fish roe). In fact, all the lunch sandwiches look rather stellar. This joint has been around since 1914, and I wish I could swing by the counter each week and order half a pound of gravlax, a pound of sable, and some pickled herring to keep in my Lower East Side apartment fridge. Some day.

Lost Art Salon

Blue Ribbon Sushi
119 Sullivan St.
Cross: Prince St.
212-343-0404

Ah yes, more fish please. Kitties like fish. A $65 omakase linner (that’s lunch/dinner) at ~BLUE RIBBON SUSHI~ in Soho was one of the better sushi experiences I’ve had in a while. And for $65, compared to the crap you can spend that money on in NYC, well, I say spend it here. We were presented with a stunning array of freshwater eel, horse mackerel, hamachi, perch, toro that almost had a weird hint of beef, urchin opened minutes prior, the tiniest and sweetest creamy ama-ebi I’ve ever had, smooth amberjack, smoked yellowtail topped with shiitakes (genius), giant clam, snapper, maki of toro and scallion… criminy, it was all so gorgeous.

This place continues to hold it down, with the groovy touches of its sauna-style bathrooms, mellow reggae music, well-worn wood, friendly and professional staff… Again, a great place to eat at for a late lunch/early dinner during the week (like we did at 4:30pm, because we could) since you’ll walk right in. Otherwise you will WAIT, my friend. I loved it years ago, even before I knew what good sushi tasted like, and am happy to say I think I love it even more now.

Lost Art Salon

Rayuela
165 Allen St.
Cross: Stanton St.
212-253-8840

I had a fun hipster dinner with a pal dining at the counter at ~RAYUELA~, a stylish Lower East Side joint under chef Máximo Tejada. The name means hopscotch (you’ll see the motif throughout the restaurant’s cool design)—there’s also a lovely olive tree that starts downstairs near the boisterous bar where you’ll find some clever concoctions, and extends up to the spiffy second floor.

The menu is kind of pan-Latin/Spanish (freestyle Latin, as they like to put it), with ten ceviches to choose from (I liked the corvina with carica and red onion)—the version with the sea urchin was a bit disappointing after my recent memory of the über-fresh urchin at Blue Ribbon. Hey, more carica! I still don’t see it much in SF; we had stuffed carica with duck confit and spinach in a Pedro Ximenez duck sauce, tasty. And the grilled steak tenderloin (churrasco con camarones) topped with shrimp chimichurri was cooked to the requested medium rare, why thank you. I luuuurved the Spanish cheese custard with an odd kick of olive compote and basil mousse (for dessert!).

Lost Art Salon

124 Rabbit Club
124 Macdougal St.
Cross: Bleecker St.
212-254-0575

I know, didn’t I have a drink? Of course, darlings. If you really want to get away from it all, descend into the ~124 RABBIT CLUB~ in the West Village, a warren of a bar with an incredible selection of beers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, England, and more. Quite staggering, that list. I had my first Rodenbach sour red, not for everyone, but perfect for me. You can also get a sandwich made with pretzel bread (there are four kinds to choose from, like roast beef and boursin). The place is a narrow one, with low ceilings, brick walls, a brass bar, Flaming Lips and Violent Femmes playing, flocked wallpaper, candles, and exposed light bulbs in trippy little industrial cages. I can’t imagine what a firetrap this must feel like when it’s full. Not for the claustrophobic. But definitely for the friendly. And beer savvy.

Lost Art Salon

PDT
In Crif Dogs
113 St. Marks Pl.
Cross: Avenue A
212-614-0386

And yay, I finally got to experience ~PDT~ (you can read about my attempt during my last trip, and how this East Village speakeasy entered through the phone booth in a hot dog place all works, here). You can call at 3pm the same day to make a table reservation, but then you’d miss the opportunity to snag a seat at the bar and watch the bartenders do their thing.

I was thrilled to take a tour of the new winter menu, including the Black Flip, a killer concoction of Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, and a whole egg; Fallen Leaves, an Audrey Saunders dream of a drink; a Rittenhouse Old Fashioned; a Harvest Moon that was total cocktail couture; and a Cinema Highball, with buttered popcorn-infused Flor de Cana Silver Dry Rum and Coke, a total winner from bartender Don Lee. After all that, I was so grateful to be able to order a Chang Dog (a deep-fried dog wrapped in bacon with kimchee puree, yes, it was brilliant except for the non-toasted bun), and the ghetto fabulous mountain of tater tots with cheese and jalapenos from Crif Dogs next door. Ahhhh, saved. Otherwise the next day I would have felt like some of the stuffed taxidermy in the room, like the jackalope.

 
the socialite



Acorn Edition Pig Dinner
Thu., Jan. 31, 2008

Bar Bambino
2931 16th St.
Cross: South Van Ness
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-701-8466
website

8pm

$175 per person

JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Oink. Did you hear that? I sure did. ~BAR BAMBINO~ is hosting a special dinner in celebration of La Quercia Farm's Acorn Edition pig! Yes, the pig has an edition. For more information on La Quercia's Acorn Edition pig, see the La Quercia website. The Des Moines Register also has an article on the project.

This year, for the first time in its history, La Quercia Farms in Norwalk, Iowa (a family-run farm dedicated to the sustainable production of artisanal cured meats) has reserved fifty heirloom, acorn-fed Berkshire pigs for select purveyors. Bar Bambino has been selected as a featured restaurant (other SF locations include A16, Boulevard, and Ducca).

Executive chef Elizabeth Binder has created a six-course tasting menu that showcases every cut of the Acorn Edition pig not reserved for curing. Wines will also be paired with the meal. Seating is limited, so please contact Ryan at 415-701-VINO (8466) for further details and to reserve your place.



Valentine’s Day
Thu., Feb. 14, 2008

Various locations

JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Yes, $%#@ ~VALENTINE’S DAY~ is creeping up. Love it, hate it, whatever, the city erupts in events and all kinds of opportunities for you to blow some cash. If you’re wondering where to take your sweetie that night, I say pick your favorite place and call and see what they’re offering that night. Here are a few fun ideas below for singles and couples alike.

Tonight is the perfect night for singles to get together with friends and have a group dinner. Take back the rose-studded night! I was in Australia last year, but the year before we had a big ole group of at least 12 and held our “Lonelyhearts Dinner” at Taiwan on Clement Street, which turned into quite a feast for a whopping $20 each.

You could set up a banquet dinner at Lichee Garden, do a party menu at Tortilla Heights (for $24 each!) and get drunk on tequila and maybe make out with your friend at the end of the night, host an old-school pizza party at Gaspare’s, or get a big round table at Bodega Bistro or PPQ Dungeness Island and feast on some crab and other Vietnamese delights! No need to stay in and feel like a loser—besides, anyone in a bar that night is probably single, so go out afterwards and have fun.

W is hosting “Feel the Wuv Day,” with a variation of the spin the bottle game in the XYZ Bar with Jimmyjane from 6pm–8pm. Guests will be given an exclusive W Hotels + Jimmyjane SPIN ME game, which includes a bottle filled with provocative adventure strips. Each strip includes two possibilities: one suited for public play, the other intended for private enjoyment. Ahem. There’s also a tasting menu in the XYZ restaurant, with three courses for $65 ($30 for a wine flight) or a four-course tasting menu for $78 ($40 for a wine flight).

I gotta hand it to Presidio Social Club, while it may not be the most romantic destination per se, they do have one of the least expensive dinners I have seen: three courses for $48. Might be good for that person you just started seeing… Tim Stookey has also whipped up two drinks specials for that night. Think pink.

Hey, why go out when you can stay in and cook? Granted, this option won’t exactly save you money, but it will save you time if you are trying to prepare a dinner yourself. You can use Cook! and order the Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two at $125 (plus delivery fees; vegetarian option available). The menu offers four courses infused with legendary aphrodisiacs, all fully measured and prepped along with simple step-by-step instructions. Here’s the menu.

 
the health nut


JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Looks like I’ll be sleeping in even more on Saturdays since Fit Camp will no longer be holding Saturday classes at Dolores Park. Zzzzzzzz. I know, that’s terrible of me, I should go out on a bike ride. I promise I’ll do something sporty, although this Saturday morning will have me at the ZAP festival for the trade portion of the tasting, oops.

Anyway, back on Fit Camp: they are moving the Saturday class to Monday evenings at 7:15pm at Kezar. I usually spend Mondays with my heinie firmly planted at my desk, typing up the weekly tablehopper, but who knows, maybe I’ll have it done early one of these days and go do some laps, stairs, and other assorted things that are good for my heinie besides sitting at my computer, or a restaurant table.

 
the starlet

JANUARY 22, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Sean Penn was spotted in Kuleto’s, leaving some people to wonder if his dreads were part of his hat, or perhaps a disguise. Maybe it’s his new look. Anyway, he and some cast from the Harvey Milk film were there for a late dinner.

Senator Diane Feinstein booked one of Spruce’s private dining rooms and celebrated her wedding anniversary with hubby Richard Blum.

Also heard that Connie Nielsen was at Toy Boat Dessert Cafe on Clement Street with a few kids and a friend/nanny. One of the kids was riding the mechanical toy horse, screaming, "Connie, Connie, Connie!” The tablehopper reader wanted to point out she was Dirk's mom (Mrs. Calloway) in Rushmore, and she was also in Gladiator. Nielsen was reportedly, “chatting with what appeared to be the owner, and had apparently never heard of Mr. T. Seriously. This is what they were discussing. Mr. T.”

 

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