tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: pani purrrrr-i.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met

the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Cellar360

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Pssst, hey, Californians. Did you vote? I really hope so. I had Stevie Wonder wake me up this morning, calling to say, “I love you” and urging me to vote. I am no Stevie, but by the time you get this, there is still time. Please don’t let the primary slide by. Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox.

Last week’s tablehopper supper at Aziza was so special: we had a swell time in the atmospheric private room. Chef Mourad Lahlou really whipped up a delish spread, from a scrumptious series of passed bites to his famous kefta skewers, couscous, and basteeya, and don’t get me started on the spoon-tender Marin Sun Farms beef stew. The desserts from their new pastry chef Melissa Chou (formerly of Quince) were so very good—she’s one to watch! Also, I promised everyone in the group I’d report back what the fantastique bubbly was that we were sipping in the beginning: François Pinon Vouvray Pétillant Brut of the Loire, France (you can get it at K&L).

I really dig the unpretentious, friendly, and passionate group of people attending these dinners—find out their favorite two places in SF here—thank you all for coming! The next supper is coming up in March, stand by for more details on the who, what, and where!

So I know I already reviewed DOSA a while ago, but the brunch I recently had there was so unique and delish, I had to add this full-length update in the regular. Go go go.

Speaking of go-go, yours truly had her first national TV appearance this weekend. Meow! And no, it wasn’t on ABC. Let’s just say if I wrote the name of the show and channel down, it would get this week’s newsletter all caught up in your spam folder. Suffice to say, it was on Hugh Hefner’s special channel (think bunnies), and nooooo, I did NOT take my clothes off—“Birthday Suited Food Writers” would not really get that many viewers, if you get my drift. I was actually interviewed about San Francisco restaurants while kicking it at NOPA for the new San Francisco series of “[Birthday Suit] Happy Girls”—so don’t be embarrassed to tell me if you saw me on TV, wink.

Mreow,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox
Cellar360FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Whoa. Big major bummer here: this remains officially unconfirmed, but I heard from a couple folks ~SCOTT HOWARD RESTAURANT~ has closed. Thud. Damn. Howard was reportedly personally calling all the employees yesterday to tell them the unfortunate news that they wouldn’t be open today. I didn’t get an email back to confirm the sad what and why, but I do know business in January has been rough for some places around town… Will let you know next week once I hear back from him. I know a lot of local people are really sorry to hear it didn’t work out—so many folks love his cooking, and have a lot of respect for him. Best to you, Scott, thanks for all the heart and soul you have put in your food and restaurant. I look forward to seeing where you land next—and I know I’m not alone! 500 Jackson St. at Montgomery, 415-956-7040.

Let’s cut to some really good news: the staff of A16 and SPQR want to give a “Big happy returns” to ~CHRIS GERWIG~, the sous chef from A16 who was rescued on Monday morning—he is thankfully ok after being reported missing this past weekend while skiing at Alpine Meadows. His friend and ski buddy, Patrick Frost, is also reportedly fine and they only had a little frostbite. Amazing. Read the harrowing tale of their lost weekend surviving in snow caves here.

Been hearing some buzz about ~CANTEEN’S DENNIS LEARY~ opening a new place, one rumor placing it downtown. At the moment, Leary is being muy silencioso about the project, so I’ve got nothing definitive. The details are getting worked out, and he promised he’ll be sharing the concept and name and design details once those things are final. Soon. Can’t wait!

OK, more big and slightly mysterious news: executive chef ~SEAN O’BRIEN OF MYTH~ has partnered with Sprezzatura Restaurant Group (i.e. Joe Hargrave and Andrew McCormack of frisson and Laiola). All right! They are reportedly not working on a set project at the moment, and just getting the partnership thing underway. BUT, I couldn’t help but ask if they were planning to make changes to frisson. My little inquiry has to remain unanswered and unconfirmed at the moment—they said to sit tight and all will be revealed in the coming weeks.

But wait, there’s more! (I feel like a Ginsu commercial). Executive chef ~TYSON GREENWOOD OF PLUMPJACK CAFÉ~ is no longer at the restaurant. I’ll keep you posted on where Greenwood lands. 3127 Fillmore St. at Filbert, 415-563-4755.

Also heard that ~1300 ON FILLMORE’S~ chef de cuisine, Shawn Paul, is no longer with the restaurant. They are currently interviewing for a candidate to take his place. I’m waiting to hear back from him where he is landing.

Since we’re talkin’ 1300, the restaurant is celebrating ~BLACK HISTORY MONTH~, running through February 29. A four-course tasting menu will be offered ($85 per person, plus tax and gratuity), paired with wines from African-American-owned wineries (Black Coyote, Esterlina, Vision Cellars, and Brown Estate)—there will also be a special flight available of these wines. 1300 Fillmore at Eddy, 415-771-1700.

Opening today in Hayes Valley, in the former “friend” space, is ~CHRISTOPHER ELBOW CHOCOLATES~. This is the first store out west for the Kansas City chocolatier. This combination chocolate boutique and café will have everything from artisanal caramels (hello, strawberry balsamic) to gorg ganache little numbers to truffles to an array of hot chocolates to coffee (a special blend from The Roasterie in Kansas City). The modern look is done up in chocolate brown (natch) and red accents, and there are tables and chairs, plus a long bench with armrests and light-up tables. Hours are Mon–Thu 11am–8pm, Fri-Sat 11am–10pm, and Sun 12pm–6pm. 401 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-355-1105.

The Western Addition, excuse me, NOPA, will have some jazz coming to the neighborhood, ironically not too far from the previous location of the Saint John Coltrane Church, before it moved to Fillmore Street some years ago. This project is a jazz café that’s moving into the former liquor store on the corner. Funny, the café will be called ~ON THE CORNER~, inspired by the Miles Davis album. Owner, Rich Hohl, a jazz guitarist, is partnered up with Jean O’Rourke, the former owner of O’Rourke’s Bar, which later became my pal Jamie’s 540 Club on Clement Street. The 1400-square-foot-space will have a café atmosphere by day, with Wi-Fi and coffee, and by night, will have more of a living room/loungey atmo, with couches, armchairs, and tables and chairs for eating. The owners plan to have live music nightly, and since there isn’t a stage, the musicians will be right there, very close and in the mix. It doesn’t have a full kitchen, but they will be offering sandwiches, bagels, hummus plates, plus personal pizzas will be available in the evening. And since O’Rourke is 100% Irish, look for a tasty sausage breakfast in the morning. They are applying for a beer and wine license, which will hopefully happen soon. The opening is slated for the last day of February—yup, it’s a leap year, which should make for some interesting anniversaries if they meet the date. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak.

If you are craving some jazz in the 94117 right now, my favorite new bicycle café, ~MOJO BICYCLE CAFÉ~ has Tuesday night Jazz Night each week with the Jack Tone Riordan Trio starting at 8pm. Jack Tone Riordan has been playing in the San Francisco Jazz Scene for eight years, and is an indispensable member of multiple performing groups. His own band includes Smith Dobson Jr. and John Shifflet. 639-A Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-440-2338.

And now, some updates about some SF stalwarts. First, ~KIMO’S~ on Polk is under new ownership as of February 1. The two partners in the project are currently revamping the upstairs, redoing the bar, and putting in new tables and chairs, and adding lots of TLC. Once the upstairs is complete, the downstairs refresh will begin. The punk format will be gone, and more rock and blues will be on the playbill. Drag too, yay, just like old times! The name will remain. 1351 Polk St. at Pine, 415-885-4535.

Second, I can finally reveal the new owners of ~GINGER’S TROIS~: Dahi Donnelly, Brian Sheehy, and Doug Dalton of Future Bars (i.e. Bourbon & Branch, Anu, Swig, and the upcoming Cask Spirits). They just took over last Tuesday, and are planning to keep everything status quo in the coming months while they are getting Cask up and running and the extension to Bourbon & Branch—no details to reveal on the latter, yet. The only changes at Ginger’s mentioned for now are “new barkeeps, cleaner restrooms, and stiffer pours.” I know they have a lot of respect for what an institution Ginger’s is, and are sensitive to keeping the loyal long-term clientele happy. 246 Kearny St. at Sutter, 415-989-0282.

Over in Glen Park, a ~FAMILY-STYLE ITALIAN RESTAURANT~ will be moving into the old Bird & Beckett bookstore location. I spoke with owner Monhal Jweinat of Higher Ground Coffee House, and he said to look for an opening in the end of April or so. Jweinat lived in the Friuli region and in Milan for six years, but he said the restaurant will pull from all kinds of styles, from pesto to puttanesca. The name is still undecided, and the chef hunt is on, so expect more details in the coming months. 2790 Diamond St. at Chenery.

Looks like two ramen shops are brewing: moving into the Dragon House space on Geary in the Richmond will be ~WATAMI~, which has Chowhounders wondering if it’s a spin-off of the big izakaya chain in Japan, or perhaps just inspired by it. Meanwhile, a second ramen place, ~ASUKA RAMEN~, is reportedly opening in March in Nob Hill, in the former Asuka Mart space. Are we finally going to have multiple ramen choices in this town? Shocking. Watami, 5344 Geary Blvd. at 17th St.; Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St. at Taylor.

Also on Bush Street, downtown’s ~POPOLO~ (375 Bush St. at Belden) has closed… After ten years of business, the owner decided to close when the landlord renegotiated the lease and raised it to an impossible amount. Guests are being referred to their sister restaurant, Pasta Bene, 88 Hardie Place at Kearny, 415-989-2222.

And a reader tipped me off that ~GUSTOFINO FINE FOODS~ on Church has closed too. I emailed with owner Matt Rutledge, and he said things just weren’t working out. The space has already been leased to a café. Mrow. 248 Church St. at 15th St.

Some good news in the neighborhood, however: I’ve had two people tell me how happy they are with ~GOLDEN NATURAL FOODS~, a market that recently opened on Church Street right across from the behemoth Safeway, near Burgermeister. These are the same owners of Golden Produce, and supposedly the meat counter is amazing, highlighting organic, local, and sustainable products, with unusual cuts available too! According to a post on Yelp, “they plan to add a hot foods counter for quick take-home dinner food, [and] they do made-to-order sandwiches at lunchtime.” I gotta check it out. 130 Church St. at Duboce Ave.

And ~BRANDY HO’S~ new location in the Castro is having their grand opening party this Friday—Saturday the dining room will be open to guests. Hunan in the hizzy! 4068 18th St. at Castro, 415-252-8000.

After their December fire, ~VELVET CANTINA~ in the Mission is back open again! Swing by for a margarita and say hello. 3349 23rd St. at Bartlett, 415-648-4142.

~KING-CHA CHA~ has officially opened in the former Citizen Thai space in North Beach. According to a Yelp post, it’s the same owner of King of Thai Noodle House. Eater has news about the “Monkey” space, which is now Manchester City English Pub. 1268 Grant Ave. at Vallejo, 415-364-0008 (King-Cha Cha) and 415-391-8215 (Manchester).

~MIXT GREENS~, the ever-busy salad outpost, will be opening its third location in the Financial District, this one is slated to open April 7. According to the Mixt Greens folks, this new location will have, “a totally new look and feel and showcase a whole bunch of new green building materials. We are also adding more tables to the JP Morgan Courtyard so we will have plenty of outdoor seating. And we are designing the restaurant to have a significant catering operation to service SOMA.” The new location will be 580 Mission St. at 1st St.

Nicole Kosta was just appointed wine director/sommelier of ~SILKS~. Kosta hails from Adelaide, Australia. She was general manager of Valentino’s in Omaha, NE within one year of joining the restaurant; worked under Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon in Detroit where she studied and obtained her Sommelier Certification; and at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Livonia, MI as wine director. Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome St. at Pine, 415-986-2020.

In the event world, ~BATTLE OF THE CHEFS: ROUND TWO~, a lighthearted cooking competition between San Francisco chefs is underway. The lineup includes:

Monday, February 11: Rick Corbo of Ducca vs. Travis Flood of Moose's
Monday, March 10: Mark Sullivan of Spruce vs. Mark Denham of Laïola
Monday, April 7: Joel Huff of Silks vs. Ian Begg of Café Majestic

During their “battles,” the chefs are given 45 minutes to prepare a dish using the night’s “secret” ingredient. Chefs are allowed to bring ingredients that showcase their style of cooking, as well as a sous chef to assist them in preparation. Marisa Churchill, known for her role on Bravo’s Top Chef and currently the executive pastry chef at Yoshi’s of San Francisco, will provide the play-by-play commentary. The judges for each event will consist of local and national food personalities. Admission to each "Battle of the Chefs" event is $10 and includes the competition, food, and wine samples. The bell sounds at 6pm on the fight night dates above. Space is limited. For more detailed information, including tickets, which are now on sale, please visit rivera-pr.com.

~FOREIGN CINEMA~ is hosting their anniversary party this Thursday, well, 8 ½ years, screening what else but Fellini’s 8 ½. Bites will be passed on the patio, plus some drinks, and a variety of entertainment, like the Jazz Mafia, Vau de Vire Society, and acrobats will be performing. 6pm–late. $40. All of the evening’s proceeds will benefit StreetSmart 4 Kids of San Francisco. 2534 Mission St. at 21st St., please RSVP, space is limited: 415-648-7600.



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the regular

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DOSA [update]
995 Valencia St.
Cross: 21st St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-642-3672
website

Dinner
Sun–Thu 5:30pm–10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm–11pm
Brunch
Sat-Sun 11:30am–3:30pm

Apps $7–$9.50
Dosas $8.50–$11
Curries $12–$14
Dessert $5–$6

 

Cellar360

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO One night I was watching Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie, one of my absolutely favorite shows right now, and their episode on South India had me grinning from ear to ear. The colors, the food, the families, the stories—just mind-blowing. As I watched one family pop messy bites of pani puri in each other’s mouths, I had an acute craving. I wanted the inimitable sensation of eating pani puri now. RIGHT NOW. I needed a fix, stat. No matter it was 1am—if Vik’s Chaat Corner in the East Bay was open, I would have schlepped across the bridge, right then.

Good thing pani puri princess (i.e. moi) had plans to visit a friend for brunch at ~DOSA~ the next morning. After having a stranger at the counter at Farina chide me for not experiencing DOSA’s brunch yet, and it’s a mere bike ride away, I was way past due to get on it. So in case you are in the same boat, actually, missing the boat, hopefully this will get you fired up.

Now, this isn’t a brunch for those of you who only can deal with pancakes on a Saturday morning. But if your palate can veer more to the savory scale, man, this place is a goldmine. There is a special chaat menu only available on the weekend—if you want more on what chaat is, check it out here.

You can start with a spicy Bloody Mary Curry ($8), with green chile-infused soju and curry leaves, one of the few soju mixed drinks I’ve ever liked—clever execution, and quite far from the typical “cranberry soju faux cosmopolitan” types of drinks you see around town.

Okay, you can’t hold me back, release the pani puri ($7)! Hollow little puffs come to the table, and you break a hole in the top, tap tap. Take your pick of stuffing them with chickpeas, mung beans, or potato, then top it off with spicy mint water, a drizzle of tamarind, and you pop the whole thing in your mouth. It initially looks daunting, like, dude, that’s a rather big bite to put in your mouth, but it’s really not—the whole thing compresses into the most spectacular bite, a whoosh of spice and tang and crunch and flavor. Ridiculously wonderful. Even just the puff with the mint water and tamarind is sublime. Don’t try to bite them in half, because the whole thing will crumble and run down your chin and you’ll look like a disaster. Like Stephen King’s Carrie, but at the table, and covered in green.

There are also the dahi batata puri ($7), which are puffs conveniently pre-filled for you with Straus organic yogurt, potato, and mint and tamarind chutneys. You can’t leave them sitting for long because they get soggy, so eat up! All the puri are great to share, and woo hoo, they have a kick! Like, authentically spicy. Vroom. But refreshing with the yogurt. It’s brilliant.

Also on the chaat menu is the bhel puri ($7), an unusual dish with puffed rice, green mango, potato, tomato, onion, and coriander, all layered in a bowl. Fab texture. And spicy with the addition of the spicy and sweet chutneys on the side. Hearts.

I am so obsessed with eggs, like, I need to start attending a Grade A Extra Large Brown Egg self-help group (“My name is Marcia and I am addicted to soft-boiled eggs with olio nuovo and Maldon salt.”) And discovering new executions really turns my crank. There are a variety of (organic) egg dishes, like a South Indian omelet ($9), two kinds of dosas filled with eggs ($10), and my personal favorite, the tomato, onion, and chile uttapam (an open-faced dosa) with two sunny side up or over easy eggs on top ($10). The texture of the uttapam blending with the egg yolk was pure decadence, and it came with a side of the fantastic fresh coconut chutney, tomato chutney, and a larger bowl of sambar, the lentil dipping soup. I could eat this dish every weekend. Forever.

You can also order off their regular menu of dosa and uttapam, and each weekend there is a special non-vegetarian curry, too. If you’re a vegan, the kitchen can do all kinds of options, so this place will be heaven for you.

We finished with the delightful seasonal fruit napoleon ($10), with little pancakes of coconut batter layered with caramelized seasonal fruit, and drizzled with a tamarind-strawberry chutney (uh, yum).

In case it isn’t clear, I was completely thrilled with this meal. Kicking myself for not coming sooner. And the easygoing scene was fun: lots of couples, a cool ethnic Mission mix, and some families too, with a few strollers and kidlings here and there. The vibe was friendly, cheerful, and upon your first sip of chai tea and pop of puri in your mouth, you’ll be grinning like a fool.

 
the sponsor

Cellar360

Cellar360 announces February Events. Call 877-774-WINE for details.

Janet Fletcher book signing February 12, 5:30pm–7pm
The cheese columnist for the Chronicle will sign her new cheese book. Yum!

Victoria Bitter Party February 24, 12pm–5pm
G’Day Mate! Victoria Bitter, Australia's favorite beer, comes to America. Celebrate with meat pies, Aussie cheeses, wine and beer.

Hervé This book signing February 26, 5pm–7pm
The internationally renowned chemist, French television personality and bestselling cookbook author will be signing Kitchen Mysteries. C’est magnifique!

Cellar360 is a new wine bar on the Plaza level of Ghirardelli Square.

 
the socialite

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Strong Beer Month
Feb. 1–29, 2008

Magnolia Pub & Brewery
1398 Haight St.
Cross: Masonic
San Francisco, CA 94117

415-864-7468
website 

21st Amendment
563 Second St.
Cross: Bryant St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

415-369-0900
website

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Mmmmm, beer. There are all kinds of options coming up this month for some suds. First, the sixth annual ~STRONG BEER MONTH~ has kicked off! As the announcement states, “It celebrates age-old brewing traditions surrounding the higher gravity beers that emerge during the coldest and darkest winter months. From the barleywines of old England to the double IPAs and other extreme beers of today’s craft beer renaissance, brewers always seem to have a special strong beer or two up their sleeves, to celebrate holidays, warm up winter nights, or just to give their loyal patrons a treat now and again, a way of saying thanks for the support.”

“This joint celebration with Magnolia and the 21st Amendment features twelve such beers, six at each brewery. It’s as big a time as it gets in these parts. Both breweries pull out all the stops, slowing beer production down to a maddening crawl in order to give these beers the time and attention they require. The result: an amazing collection of styles, flavors, and ingredients, meant to be sipped, pondered, and enjoyed all month long.”

And here’s how this festive month works:
 
“Ask for a ticket when you order your first strong beer at either brewery. You’ll get your ticket punched once for each full-sized (13 oz.) strong beer purchased. When you have all 12 punches, you can redeem your card for a commemorative Strong Beer tasting glass. Tasting glasses and t-shirts are available for purchase, too. And don’t even think about trying all six beers in a sitting. Relax, we have you all month for that. Please take public transit or taxis and don’t drink and drive.”

Magnolia will feature a special three-course pairing menu every weekend (Friday and Saturday evenings 6pm–10pm)—each weekend the pairing menu will be designed around a different strong beer. There will also be a special strong beer Tapas Menu available everyday (six little bites, $2 each) with one designed to pair with the six strong beers. Cheeses too ($3 per cheese). Mmmmmm, beer. Oh wait, I said that. Homer wouldn’t mind.

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Slow Beer Festival
Sat., March 1, 2008

Golden Gate Park
County Fair Building
Lincoln Way and 9th Ave.

website

Noon–4pm

$50 all inclusive
$75 VIP pass includes a goodie bag and tour of one of the local breweries

tickets

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Just when you’re bummed and sulking because Strong Beer Month has ended, the very next day, Slow Food San Francisco and the San Francisco Brewers Guild will highlight local microbreweries at the annual ~SLOW BEER FESTIVAL~! Woo hoo! It’s an afternoon of beer tasting paired with artisanal foods benefiting Slow Food San Francisco programs.

Over 25 handcrafted beers by Beach Chalet Brewery, Wunder Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch, Magnolia Pub, San Francisco Brewing Co., 21st Amendment, Speakeasy, and Thirsty Bear among others will be showcased as part of Slow Food's effort to promote the pleasures of eating and drinking from the well of our own backyard. The event will also showcase artisanal food provided by Hog Island Oysters, Fatted Calf, Harley Farms goat cheese, and Bodega goat cheese.
 
Proceeds from the event will benefit Slow Food San Francisco Programs including the Sanchez School garden and sending Bay Area farmers to Terra Madre.
 
the starlet

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO T.R. Knight of Grey's Anatomy was spotted dining at È Tutto Qua in North Beach. He and his companion ate pasta fagioli and fresh sardines, and were reportedly friendly with the other diners who asked to take photos and get autographs.

Corbin Bernsen was spotted last night at Ame at the St. Regis with a large table full of businessmen.

 

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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