tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: the road to sin (with zin).

the chatterbox
the word on the street

the jetsetter
get outta dodge
the lush
put it on my tab

the starlet
no photos please
the matchmaker
let's get it on

the sponsor
this round is on me

Ghirardelli Square

Wattle Creek Winery

JUNE 17, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Whew, what a week. Last Thursday I had a blast on View From the Bay, live in the studio chatting with the super-friendly hosts, Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang, about three of my favorites for semi-affordable and sexy dining: Namu, Laiola, and Lolo. You can check out the segment here.

Congrats to last week’s winners of the Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas book giveaway, Monique and Harmony! (Thank you all who entered.) Now you get another chance at fabulous prizes: I just scored two general admission tickets to give away to the Best of the Bay Area party, happening next Thursday June 26th. Dominic Phillips Event Marketing is producing the event—always a fun soiree for sure, and the best part: 100 percent of proceeds benefit Family House.

So, to enter to win this pair of tickets, just forward this newsletter to three pals (or more, thanks!) and cc (or BCC) luckyme@tablehopper.com when you send it to your peeps—it's best if you explain why you're emailing it to them, or at least include something about tablehopper.com. I promise I won't be collecting your friends' emails, those will stay private—I just need to keep track that you forwarded it to three or more folks.The deadline to enter is by midnight, this Friday June 20th (I need to be able to mail the tickets to you in time). I will be randomly drawing the winner and will email you to let you know you've won over the weekend. Good luck!

And this week in the jetsetter, we have the second half of the Healdsburg installment: where to stay and play!

I also want to say how amazed I continue to be at the checks rolling in for the CHEFS/tablehopper benefit. You people are incredible. We’ve raised over $1,500 so far! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Cheers my dears,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

Ghirardelli SquareJUNE 17, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Whoa, ~TOP CHEF~ is really over? Wednesdays just won’t be the same… but I certainly won’t miss Lisa’s “dead eye” and surly body posture at the judges’ table—bugged me every time. I was almost convinced Blaise was going to win it, but I’m so fired up that my second guess (and hope), Stephanie, ended up taking it home. There are a couple fun recaps out there of the final episode, including this one from the Cooking With the Single Guy Chef blog–his reference to Eric Ripert as Zeus had me howling. And then we have Frank Bruni in the Diner’s Journal who KILLED me with this observation, “…only “Top Chef” has Tom and Padma, who couldn’t be more perfectly matched. He: beefy and brooding, a rib-eye of a guy. She: languid and silky-voiced: a panna cotta of a gal. Together they almost make a meal.

“I wish Tom and the producers would get a little more creative with his threads, because hers are killer. He’s choking on her Gucci dust. It’s been said that restaurants are the new theater, but she proves that the dinner table is the new catwalk. Forget food-wine pairings. Frock-appetizer pairings are the trickier challenge, and she masters them.” Choking on her Gucci dust. Flawless, Frank.

I shall continue savoring, literally, the half-hour episodes of ~AFTER HOURS WITH DANIEL~ on MOJO (You know this show? It’s brilliant.) and just have to sit tight until Project Runway kicks in.

Enough with TV: let’s talk local eats. First, an update on the Bacchus Management Group’s Cow Hollow brasserie that’s developing slowly but surely in the Prego space. The name has finally been decided on, ~DES AMIS~. (Sorry not one of you who suggested names for the restaurant is going to Paris, but the Bacchus team thanks you all for the great name suggestions!) Also, Skye LaTorre, formerly a sommelier at A16, is joining the Bacchus team as a lead sommelier at des Amis. The opening is slated for fall. 2000 Union St. at Buchanan.

Over in Union Square, where Caffe Kuleto's used to be, will now be ~BAR NORCINI~, a new salumi, cheese, and wine bar (Caffe Kuleto’s and the Villa Florence’s lobby wine bar have been combined into one space). The name Norcini is Umbrian for “pork butcher”—chef Bob Helstrom of neighboring Kuleto’s is well known for his love of salumi-making, using pigs from Devil’s Gulch that are actually fed kitchen scraps from Kuleto’s. In the morning, Bar Norcini will serve Illy coffee and pastries, and then after closing for half an hour, lunch will bring panini, pizzettas topped with salumi, salads, and cheese. The evening means the menu goes back down to just pizzettas, salumi, and cheese. There will be some well-chosen Italian wines, and eight special cocktails, each featuring Italian liqueurs and ingredients. The soft opening is this week. 225 Powell St. at Geary.

The rumors are proving to be true that ~IL BUCO~ of New York will be opening a location in the 54 Mint Street space (formerly El Balazo). I’ve heard sightings of the owners recently visiting the space, although nothing has been confirmed. Their publicist says, “il Buco has no information to offer at this point.” Yes, but my sources do! This is getting exciting, because I know numerous folks who totally adore il Buco. Stand by…

Is it just me, or is the resurgence in all things Italian beginning to feel like the 1980s again? With all the salumi, wine, and artisanal cheese popping up everywhere, maybe it’s just Italia Fever 2.0.

24th Street is shaping up to become the new gourmet ghetto. This weekend I got word that handmade donuts and coffee from baker Sara Spearin and her husband Jonny Raglin of Absinthe are coming to the neighborhood. The 7x7 Bits + Bites blog broke the story yesterday about ~DYNAMO DONUT AND COFFEE~: the donuts are the creation of Sara, a pastry chef and avid baker for the past 20 years. Look for flavors like banana dulce de leche, and bacon-apple with maple glaze and caramel fleur de sel. Mmmm, bacon donuts. There will be five to six donuts available, and to go with them, it will not just be any coffee, but Four Barrel Coffee, yo. There will be a killer La Marzocco machine for espresso, a few single origin varietals available on drip, and French press for to-go. Look for this small walk-up kiosk to hopefully open in mid-July (permits and construction pending), and then as things roll out, the shop will be bigger, with additional American-style bakery items added to the line-up, like some breads, plus lunch items. There will also be a back patio! The space is the former home of La Torta Gorda, which has already moved one block down—Dynamo will be just next door to Casa Sanchez. Hours are tentatively 7am–5pm Mon–Sat, and opening possibly earlier (like 6am, depending on how things go). 2760 24th St. at Hampshire.

A few months ago I alluded to a new ice cream project happening on 24th Street—let’s break the lid off of that one too! Coming soon is an ice cream shop called ~HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE~, named after a character from the lowbrow British show Are You Being Served? (as the owner noted, not quite as lofty as the origin of Chez Panisse’s name, heh). Jake Godby, a local pastry chef whose background includes Candybar, Coi, Tartare, Fifth Floor for two years, and Boulevard for four, is calling this “ice cream for grownups,” with small batch, artisanal, and unusual flavors, like Secret Breakfast, a bourbon ice cream with caramelized corn flakes, a salted licorice flavor, and caramel ice cream with balsamic vinegar. Godby described the interior as a 1930s French café that has been remodeled in 1973, featuring eight stools from an old Woolworth’s counter, plus glass bricks, tile, and Formica. The opening is targeted for mid-August, and will be open Tue–Thu and Sun 11am–9pm, and Fri–Sat 11am–10pm, closed Mon. 2790A Harrison at 24th St.

In the Richmond, after three months of construction, Mamasan has been converted to ~HALU~, a tiny 25-seat non-sushi Japanese restaurant. I had a chance to talk with new owner Shigemi Komiyama over the weekend, who is partnering with his wife Mimi on the project—they just had their grand opening on Sunday. (Some may remember Shig from Yoshida-Ya—he was there 20 years ago). Mimi and Shig both went to cooking school in Yokohama for three years. HALU will feature ramen handmade by Mimi (five different types will be served), and will highlight an array of yakitori. The menu sounds delicious: upwards of 20 kinds of yakitori ($3.50–$5.50 for two skewers) will be available, including chicken wings, hearts, liver, thigh, and gizzard, plus bacon combos like enoki bacon or scallop bacon or asparagus bacon, beef tongue, kalbi, plus an array of vegetables and kushi katsu: deep fried skewers, like chicken with basil or stuffed mushroom, served with tonkatsu and karashi mayo sauces. There are also dishes like agedashi tofu, hiyayakko (cold tofu with ginger, green onion, bonito flakes, and dashi), chicken kara age, a variety of salads, lots of vegetarian dishes, some don/brown rice bowl dishes, and plenty of sake, beer, and shochu drinks. Don’t be surprised with the fun rock memorabilia, like the collection of vintage Fillmore posters—Shig was in Hot Tuna, and plays drums for the Shitones. Dinner to start. Rock. 312 8th Ave. at Clement, 415-221-9165.

Over in the Sunset, after 30 years of business, ~PJ’S OYSTERBED~ suddenly closed. No idea what happened—at least the rotting seafood that was left in the case was finally cleared out, as Eater noted (some not very nice “lagniappe” for the neighborhood in last week’s heat). 737 Irving St. at 8th Ave., 415-566-7775.

Another old-timer that has closed is ~LONDON WINE BAR~ in FiDi, which lost its lease after 35 years in business. Eater mentioned there might be a new location in the works in the Russian Hill/Polk Street area. Nope, not many wine bars there at all. 415 Sansome St. at Commercial.

If everything maps out correctly, opening tomorrow (Wednesday June 18th) is ~KASA INDIAN EATERY~ in the Stro. Here’s your chance to give a burrito a rest, and try a kati roll instead, one for $5.50, two for $8.95. You can check out the menu here. Open daily 11am–10pm. 4001 18th St. at Noe, 415-621-6940.

Another place to indulge in Indian treats: barring any snafus, ~AMBER INDIA~ in Yerba Buena Lane is due to open its doors this Saturday June 21st. The owner is Vijay Bist, who went to culinary school in India, and then trained in Baur au Lac, Switzerland; Excelsior, Germany; and France—he is working with chef Anish Potdar. The multi-level and 5,000-square-foot space will be open for lunch (Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm) and dinner daily (Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–10:30pm), brunch on the weekend (Sat–Sun 12pm–3pm), and the lounge will be open and serving appetizers and bar bites daily, continuously from 11am–11pm, and until 11:30pm Fri–Sat. 13 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-777-0500.

Last week I mentioned the turnover of North Beach’s Palermo Deli into ~LA SPIAGGIA~. Now I can release more details about it since the deal is done: Nick Fasanella is running the joint. Many of you will remember him from Nick’s Crispy Tacos and Nicky’s Pizzeria Rustica on Polk Street. He has a variety of (lucky) 13 sandwiches, all named after beaches around the world. So the Amagansett will be a Niman Ranch roast beef sandwich, while the Marina Grande will be made with prosciutto di Parma and mozzarella. There are also sandwiches made with Niman Ranch porchetta (Nick is roasting his own meats), Willie Bird turkey, plus some East Coast combos, like meatball, chicken parm, and sausage and peppers. There’s even a vegetarian sando on the list, and PB&J for the kiddies. Here’s my favorite part: for $5, you can rent a beach chair and take it out to Washington Square Park while you enjoy your sandwich. If you want to kick at the (North) Beach all day, it’s $15. Open 10am–6pm daily. 1556 Stockton St. at Union, 415-362-DELI (3354).

More on the ~WASHBAG~: Once it reopens under the Tiernans, rumor has it Michael McCourt will be back behind the bar. 1707 Powell St. at Union.

The new executive chef of ~PLUMPJACK CAFÉ~, Rick Edge, has just rolled-out his new seasonal menu, which includes a return to the restaurant’s classic technique yet modern style of American dishes, like a puree of sweet corn soup with warm mushroom salad, smoked bacon, and crème fraîche ($9); Maine peekytoe crab cakes ($15); and yes, the big eye tuna tartare cones ($15) have returned. Mains include buttermilk-braised chicken breast ($22) with creamy polenta, Castroville artichokes, morel and maitake mushrooms; and red wine-braised beef short ribs with toasted farro, stone fruit salad, garden herbs, and flowers ($27), but some creative twists remain, like a carrot risotto with Idiazabal cheese, argan oil, and chive blossoms ($11/$20). In addition, he has added a “Power Lunch” section to the lunch menu, a selection of two-course paired menu items for those short on time. 3127 Fillmore St. at Filbert, 415-563-4755.

Talk about upping the ante: chef Thomas Keller will now be building a training facility next door to the French Laundry in Yountville for the ~BOCUSE D'OR~ team that ends up being selected to represent the U.S. From October–January, the team of chef and commis candidates will be housed in a private residence in Yountville, and will be compensated by Bocuse d’Or USA at a rate equivalent to compensation from their current employers. During this period, the team will work intensely with a chef coach in a kitchen custom-designed for Bocuse d’Or training to perfect their dishes for presentation in Lyon, France, when the USA team will compete at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest in late January 2009. Does it get much better than that? Don’t think so. Candidates, you have until June 30th to apply at www.bocusedorusa.org.

Remember the ~OPEN SOIL RESTAURANT~ project I mentioned a few months ago? They have a new project called Open City: they are creating a menu for a temporary bistro using ingredients that have been grown, foraged, and crafted within the city limits of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. Their call for help is as follows: “If you are a gleaner, gardener, forager, or farmer and have produce that will be ready for harvest in late August, contact us at seed@openrestaurant.org. Please tell your neighbors and friends.”

This Saturday June 21st, chef ~MARK SULLIVAN OF SPRUCE~ will be doing a demonstration on grilling at Williams-Sonoma as part of their guest series. Expect some seasonal and summer ingredients to be highlighted. The demo is from 12pm–2pm and is open to the public. It will be on the third level of Williams-Sonoma in Union Square, with seats set up for everyone and recipes provided for all of the dishes that he prepares. Mark will also be holding a Q&A at the end of the demo. 340 Post St. at Stockton, 415-362-9450.

According to a Chowhound, ~WILL'S VIETNAMESE~ in the Duboce/Church Street/Transfer bar triangle (or as I like to call it, “Upper Safeway”) is morphing into Jasmine Garden, also a Vietnamese restaurant. 708 14th St. at Church, 415-861-2682.

Over in the East Bay, former Chez Panisse pastry chef Charlene Reis (and wife to executive chef Paul Arenstam of Americano) is opening ~SUMMER KITCHEN BAKE SHOP~ on College Avenue in Berkeley in late 2008, just two doors down Ici, the ice cream shop from another Chez Panisse alum, Mary Canales. It will offer organic, specialty, to-go comfort-based foods for lunch and dinner, like simple long-cooked braises, stews, and sautéed fish that are meant to be shared family style; plus made-to-order Roman-style pizzas from the hearth oven, sandwiches and tartines, artisan cheeses and salumi, salads, house-made gourmet pantry staples, tarts, cakes, and cupcakes. The menu will change daily according to the seasons and will rely on small local farmers and artisans for organic produce, cheeses, breads and specialty items. The design will have a nostalgic beach house feel, and takes its name from the East Coast grand residences that had second buildings where cooking was done during the hot summer months, in order to keep the main residences cool. 2944 College Ave. at Ashby, 415-533-4012.

In downtown Oakland, ~CAFFE 817~, a small Italian caffe/enoteca, just started opening in the evenings as an Italian wine bar. The all-Italian wine list features 50 bottles from small boutique winemakers and is arranged to represent the 20 Italian wine regions. There are also 15 whites and 15 reds included in the list that are served by the glass or the quartino. There is also a selection of antipasti, cheese, salumi, and pasta dishes. Open Thu–Sat 5pm–10pm. 817 Washington St. at 8th St., Oakland, 510- 271-7965.

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

 
the sponsor

Ghirardelli Square

You're invited to the unveiling of the new Ghirardelli Square, celebrating the revitalized historic landmark, on Saturday June 21st and Sunday June 22nd. Ghirardelli Square has just emerged from a major transformation and is now an urban enclave full of gourmet eateries, high-end retail, wine tasting centers and more. It is also the site of Fairmont Heritage Place, one of the city's most distinctive and exciting new options for luxury living.

During the "Savour the Square" weekend celebration on June 21st–June 22nd, some of the free activities will include: chef demonstrations from our non-profit partner "From the Garden to the Table," doggie fashion shows, children's crafts projects, tours of the Fairmont Heritage Place homes, wine seminars and much more! Visit GhirardelliSQ.com for a complete schedule of free events.

 
the jetsetter

JUNE 17, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO And now we continue with part two of my ~HEALDSBURG~ recap. Last week was about where to eat and this week covers where to stay, and drink good wine. Cheers to that.

~WHERE TO STAY~

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Hotel Healdsburg
Rates $260–$820

I was in hotel heaven at the ~HOTEL HEALDSBURG~—it’s modern and chic but still cozy, and there are all kinds of outdoor spaces for lingering, like the back patio, pool, and atrium areas, so it’s ideal for the warmer weather you get up there. There’s also a downstairs lounge area with comfy couches around a fireplace, and bingo: the hotel is located right on the Plaza. The rooms have clean contemporary styling, in soothing tones of green and sand, with heavy Venetian blinds, and fab feather beds. Enjoyed the super spacious bathrooms, which include deep soaking tubs and walk-in showers. Breakfast downstairs was quite the spread, with all kinds of egg dishes, lox and bagel fixins, and strong coffee.

Would be an ideal getaway space—it was tranquil, soothing, and there’s even a spa (I didn’t have a treatment, so can’t vouch for that part). They do some internet specials and packages (like a girls getaway), so hop online and see.

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Les Mars Hotel
Rates $475–$1050

You want to really do it up? Got a big special occasion you want to celebrate right? I can’t think of a dreamier place to stay than the ~LES MARS HOTEL~. It’s like being in Europe, with such exquisite and personal hospitality, but it never feels stuffy or uncomfortable. You can almost pretend you’re staying at your very wealthy friend’s manse (a girl can dream, can’t she?) It’s no mistake this is a Relais & Chateaux property, and how convenient, Cyrus is just downstairs. If you have the ducats, this is the place to go for an overnighter, or weekend. I’m talking four-poster beds, a cloud of down pillows and comforters, and the Italian Versai linens that will make you hate anything you sleep on at home. Bathrooms are outfitted in marble, and Bulgari products. Luxe, baby.

I was obsessed with the authentic antiques throughout, especially the floral chandeliers and sconces, and wait until you see the woodwork in the room where breakfast is hosted—stunning craftsmanship. Our three-course breakfast consisted of Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, pumpkin pecan pancakes with chicken apple sausage, and a petite herb and cheese omelette. You’re set to go wine tasting all day after a breakfast like that. The wine and cheese reception in the lobby is no slouch either, mamma mia. The entire experience here is thoughtful, memorable, and pure quality.

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Irish Rose Inn
Rates $160–$200

There is also the B&B option, which can be personal, charming, and quite a bit more budget friendly. One place I tried was the ~IRISH ROSE INN~, on Dry Creek Road, a wee bit out of town and nestled closer to the peace and calm of the vineyards. It has two rooms and a cottage, which also looks darling. I stayed in “Michael’s Room” in the main house, with a super-comfy king size bed (great mattress) and my room was delightfully devoid of any dolls or bric-a-brac. I dug my sunny and private bathroom, and the view of the vineyard out back. Chris the innkeeper was super friendly, and made an awesome breakfast soufflé with bacon, plus fresh fruit and bagels.

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Camellia Inn
Rates $119–$249

Now, the ~CAMELLIA INN~ is what veers more into the classic B&B girlie styling, but wow, what a building! It’s an 1869 Italianate Victorian inn that is walking distance from the Plaza. Most of the rooms would freak guys out with all the floral wallpaper, lacy canopies, and pink. And some of the furnishings felt a little tired. But it’s also the home of a super-budget secret: a simple double room for $119–$129 (there’s just a little lace on the curtains, that’s all!). The bathroom is a quick step across the hall, but it’s private and has an awesome tub. Personally, I’d rather stay in a cool historic building like this than some modern chain hotel any day, especially for that price. You can see pics of all the rooms in the virtual tour on the site.

Breakfast was a simple spread of scrambled eggs, plus ham, and a homemade pear tart. Nice folks running the place. And there’s a pool out back. I also had a good run along Matheson, a wide winding road with no winos driving on it.

Other places I know of, but didn’t check out:

I know some folks adore the one-of-a-kind ~MADRONA MANOR~–I’ll report back once I get a chance to visit it.

~THE HONOR MANSION~ comes recommended.

Got a group of two couples, or four friends? This ~DOWNTOWN APARTMENT~ could be a good deal: $275–$325 per night, for up to four people. (There’s also a slightly spendier cottage too). And you can use the pool at the Camellia Inn.  

~WHAT TO SEE AND DO~

So many wineries, so little time. I hope a few of these itineraries can help—there are so many wineries I didn’t even mention. Some things to think about: maybe you want a private tour? It’s worth considering so you can learn more. Also, a bunch of wineries have picnic facilities, and many host fun events, so check their websites for more. If you totally loved a winery, consider joining their wine club—some of them host really cool exclusive events for their wine club members.

A few tips:

  • Always travel with water (drink a lot in between wineries) and bring snacks to nibble on.
  • Make sure your driver practices spitting. Ahem.
  • Pick up a handy Russian River Wine Road Map; you can find them everywhere.
  • Lots of tasting rooms will waive their tasting fee if you purchase something.
  • Don’t drink other wines on a winery’s picnic grounds—just theirs, yo.
  • Be sure to call ahead before visiting any of these wineries—as you know, information can change!
  • Make sure you have something to store your wine in your car so you don’t cook it—especially in the summer, it gets hella hot.

Russian River Valley (The Drive Up):

image On your way up to Healdsburg, if you left the city early enough to have time to visit some places, detour off River Road and make your way to ~ROCHIOLI~ on Westside Road—you’ll have fun crossing the country bridge, cruising the winding roads, and taking in the peaceful view from Rochioli’s patio while enjoying their sauvignon blanc (the first in Sonoma), chardonnay, and pinot noir. Tasting room open Thu–Mon 11am–4pm, Tue–Wed by appointment only.

~ARISTA~ is also along the way (you’ll pass it on your way to Rochioli) if you have some time… and a hankering for some pinot. There’s a pretty Japanese garden, and waterfall, too.

If you packed a picnic or some wine-friendly snacks, further up Westside Road is ~ARMIDA~, where I hear they have primo grounds for a picnic, with a deck shaded by an oak tree, a bocce court, and a stunning view of the valley and a pond. They have a bunch of zins you can try, plus two chardonnays, pinot noirs, and more. Tasting room hours are 11pm–5pm daily.

 

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Perhaps you are sans picnic, but so ready for a snack: double back and then make your way north up Eastside Road to ~J VINEYARDS AND WINERY~. Don’t miss a tasting of their sparklers, meow on their 1999 vintage brut and pretty in pink rose, and hello pinots! (The tasting room flight is $10.) There’s also the J Pear Liqueur (which you can’t taste there, but can certainly buy to drink at home!).

J has always been known for its pairings of canapés with their flights, but things got out of hand with SO MANY PEOPLE coming, so now they have moved the food pairings to the Bubble Room, where you can take your pick of three kinds of flights for $55, including a bubbles and Tsar Nicoulai caviar flight. Open Thu–Tue 11am–4pm, closed Wed (reservations strongly recommended in advance, especially for a Saturday). You can also hang out on the J Terrace (starting every May) Fri–Mon 11am–4pm, and enjoy a tasting menu ($35) of wines with cheese, pate, and cured meats. Ron in the tasting room will crack you up, and can answer any culinary questions you have about the area—he’s like the tablehopper of the 707.

At this point you can head back to your hotel, relax, walk around the Plaza, and get ready for dinner.

Dry Creek:

Here are some ideas of wineries to visit for a full day—add or subtract based on what kind of a day you want, leisurely or turbo:

After breakfast, head out on Dry Creek Road and visit ~DRY CREEK VINEYARD~ (I’m a big fan of their dry chenin blanc, and fully loaded heritage zinfandel—see what they have in the handy 375ml bottle size, perfect for the single boy or girl!) Open daily 10:30am–4:30pm. There is a $5 per person fee for tasting their signature wines, and $10 per person fee for tasting their single-vineyard wines—be sure visit their site for a two-for-one coupon.

Then keep on trucking and head over to ~UNTI VINEYARDS~ for your appointment. This small producer is one of my very faves in the area—Mick Unti and his dad George do a wonderful job with Italian varietals (I heart their barbera) and try their Segromigno blend. This is a can’t-miss experience, and make some room in your trunk. Thank me later.

 

image You’ve been spitting, right? Right. Just a tiny bit further down the road on the right is ~PAPAPIETRO PERRY~, home of some oh-so-drinkable pinots, and zins, too. (Their first release was in 1998.) This place was the pinot oasis, there are nine total plus one zin; the tasting room is tucked in with some other wineries, so don’t worry, you’re in the right place. The tasting fee is $5, hours are 11am–4:30pm daily. Have fun chatting with Barney, who is in the tasting room Thu–Sat.

Okay you little wine warrior, at this point you could cruise up to Canyon Road, hang a right, and then cruise a bit south on 128 for a heavenly lunch at Santi in Geyserville. (See my other issue for details on this delicious restaurant.)

 

image Or perhaps you packed a picnic? In that case I’d keep on cruising north and go to ~PRESTON~ to eat on the picnic tables on their charming grounds, complete with happy cats lounging in the sun. This family-owned winery has been around since 1973, is certified organic, and totally rocked me with their barbera, and the L. Preston Rhone-style blend. The cinsault is nice to have slightly chilled (ideal for picnics), and on Sundays they have Guadagni Red, a jug wine that is a new blend each year; it’s $32 for a three-liter jug (ruh roh) and only available at the winery on Sundays. They also have olive oil (buono!) and cured olives. The tasting room is open 11am–4:30pm daily. $5 tasting fee, refundable with wine purchase.
image Just a bit more up the road from Preston is ~BELLA~—and it totally lives up to its name: the well-maintained grounds are breathtaking. Head into the cave to taste some luscious single vineyard zins (there are three vineyards total), two syrahs, a cab-zin blend, and a late-picked zinfandel. $5 tasting fee. The tasting room is open 11am–4:30 daily.
Back down West Dry Creek Road are two gems: first there is ~QUIVIRA~, where you can learn all about biodynamic winemaking, and taste their award-winning zinfandels and sauvignon blancs. Tasting fee $5 (waived with purchase). Open daily 11am–5pm.
image If you cruise down Wine Creek Road, and if you were a good planner and made an appointment, there’s ~MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER~. What a find—wait until you try their cabs. (Can you say “reserve”?) They offer a wine tasting and a 30-minute tour of the estate to guests at 11am or 2pm daily, or a vertical tasting of library wines, an artisan cheese and wine pairing Fri–Sun, and a "Green" tour and hillside tasting in the morning Thu–Sat—all by appointment only, prices vary. This is a great place to “go deeper” and check things out if you have the time. Read more here.
Alexander Valley:
image Heading east on Alexander Valley Road, a visit to ~JORDAN WINERY~ is pure pleasure. You have to call ahead and reserve one of their two tours, either the Jordan Winery Tour, for a tour of the winery and grounds along with tastings of their current release chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and estate-grown extra virgin olive oil. You will also sample an older vintage cabernet selected from the library, and get "little tastes" to pair with the wines. Classy. Mon–Sat 11am–12pm , $30 per guest. There’s also the Jordan Winery Library Tasting, with tastings paired with artisanal cheeses. Call for available times on Mon–Sat, and daily May–Oct, $20 per guest.
Need something to eat? The Jimtown Store is nearby. Read more about it in my “what to eat” recap.
image Head south on 128 and visit ~ALEXANDER VALLEY VINEYARDS~ for a good history lesson (the estate was once the original homestead of Cyrus Alexander—and if you don’t know who that is, then perhaps you should take a tour here). My family has enjoyed their Sin Zin for years, and the CYRUS Bordeaux blend is another one to take note of. Tasting room hours are 10am–5pm. Tours are available by appointment.
image ~HANNA WINERY~ is family-owned and operated, with a pleasingly pretense-free tasting room in their Mediterranean-style building. There are a bunch of wines to try, including their wonderful sav blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and I love the Noir, a rich Bordeaux blend. Open daily 10am–4pm, click here for a coupon.

At the end of the day, head back up north the 128 for sunset at ~STRYKER SONOMA~ (in the winter it happens by 5pm or so). The architecture is quite cool, and there are lots of award-winning wines to taste here. The tasting room is open 10:30am–5pm daily.

~MORE TO SEE AND DO~

There are tons of little shops all around the square, from clothing to cookware, but one spot that really caught my eye is ~ARTISTS & FARMERS~, right next door to Barndiva. Cool objets, with a Euro and artistic sensibility. Well-selected music, too. 237 Center St. at Mill, 707-431-7404.

Every Tuesday from June 3rd–October 28th is the ~HEALDSBURG FARMERS’ MARKET~ from 4pm–6:30pm on Plaza and Center Streets, on the Plaza. Live music concerts are held from 6pm–8pm.

There’s also a ~SATURDAY MARKET ~ May 3rd–November 29th from 9am–noon, on North and Vine Streets, one block west of the Plaza. Every second Saturday, there are “Shopping with the Chef” and cooking demonstrations courtesy of Relish Culinary Adventures.

Speaking of ~RELISH CULINARY ADVENTURES~, they host cooking classes, plus events, tours, and even things like mushroom foraging excursions—simply sign up for their mailing list on their site to plan your culinary adventure ahead of time. They also just finished their new Culinary Center, complete with an outdoor kitchen.

For you cycling types, the folks at Weekend Sherpa have this itinerary about ~WHERE TO RIDE YOUR BIKE IN DRY CREEK VALLEY~, and mentions some of the wineries I listed above. Just be careful!

I was also told about ~VINE ROVER TOURS~, a car service that can cart you around so you don’t have to worry about driving.

Healdsburg hosts a bunch of annual events, from the Wild Steelhead Festival in February, to the Pigs and Pinot event at the Hotel Healdsburg in March, and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival at the end of May. You can see what’s happening on the Chamber of Commerce site.

If you want some more ideas or info, my pal John Vlahides over at ~71MILES.COM~ did a super round-up of where to go, eat, stay, and play in Healdsburg—check it out here.

 
the lush

Wattle Creek WineryJUNE 17, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO H of Elixir and Cocktail Ambassadors is hosting one of his ~FARMER'S MARKET COCKTAILS~ classes at the Bay Club tomorrow, Wednesday June 18th. You’ll learn how to make better drinks for yourself and your friends, and how to be a more discerning consumer. Every student is given a complete set of tools and a workstation to actually make their own drinks (and taste them, duh). The class is 7:30pm–9pm and is limited to 20 people. It is $85 per person. There are other regularly scheduled classes available to the general public at various Western Athletic Clubs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. These are private health clubs, but the classes are open to non-members as well. Check the schedule here and you can sign up for the classes that are now enrolling.

~THE JUG SHOP~ is hosting the acclaimed viticulturalist, Danny Schuster of New Zealand, who has been busy establishing the Waipara district of North Canterbury as one of New Zealand's premier regions for wine production. This Thursday June 19th, you'll be treated the full range of Danny's wines: his sauvignon blanc, riesling and Petrie Vineyard chardonnay, some pinot noirs, tasting the Twin Vineyard pinot, the Waipara Selection pinot, and a three-vintage vertical of the Omihi Vineyards Pinot (2002, 2004, and 2006). And if that's not enough, you’ll finish with the Hull Family Vineyard late harvest riesling. 6pm–8pm. $10 per person. 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk, 415-885-2922.

~TRES AGAVES~ is starting Tequila Tasting Dinners (somewhat similar to a wine dinner, but surprise, it's Tequila!). The first dinner is this Thursday June 19th. The dinners are four courses and will include tequila pairings and tastings and a tequila seminar given by the hosting distillery from Jalisco. The dinner and tasting is $75. Tres Agaves will run these once a month and feature a different distillery each time. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St., 415-227-0500.

~SOLSTICE RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE~ is hosting their Summer Solstice and Five Year Anniversary Party this Thursday June 19th. To commemorate five years of their raspberry mojito and American Kobe beef sliders, they will be featuring an extended happy hour from 5pm–7:30pm, and Anderson Valley Brewing Co's Summer Solstice draft beer will be $3 all night long! Spinning records for happy hour will be DJ Chris Vargas, and local band Katdelic Revival will have a show starting at 8pm (no cover). 2801 California St. at Divisadero, 415-359-1222.

~UVA ENOTECA~ in the Lower Haight is kicking off their wine education and tasting classes. This Saturday June 21st is “Introduction to Italian Wines,” covering the fundamentals of winemaking, history, and tasting. Class size: 15 people. $35 per person. 3:45pm. Busy this Saturday? On Sunday July 6th, there will be a regional tasting featuring the wines of Piemonte. $40 per person, 3pm. Call 415-829-2024 or email info@uvaenoteca.com to sign up. 568 Haight St. at Steiner.

Sake lovers, come and meet the brewers of Kasumi Tsuru (a master of Kimoto and Yamahai brewing) and Wataribune (who revived the mystic Wataribune rice) next Thursday June 26th for a ~SAKE TASTING AT ANZU~. There will be eight sakes to taste, including a Namazake from each brewery, with appetizers by Anzu chef Barney Brown. For more information on the brewers and their sake to be poured, visit www.jotosake.com. It will be quite the hour of power: 6pm–7pm. $35 inclusive, with validated parking. Limited to 30 people. Call Anzu to make your reservation: 415-394-1108. Anzu (Nikko Hotel), 222 Mason St. at O’Farrell.

~BUCK TAVERN~, the new bar from Mark Landregan and Michael Gouddou of Gallery Lounge (510 Brannan St.) and DaDa (86 2nd St.), is now open (it’s just across the street from CAV and Zuni). Microbrews (plus some Euro beers too). Wine. Casual pub fare. Done. If I remember correctly, lunch should be in the works too. 1655 Market St. at Gough.

Congrats to local mixologist ~CARLOS YTURRIA~ (mixologist at bacar and Grand Pu Bah) who just participated in the Santé Magazine's 3rd Annual Iron Bar Chef Competition in Vermont, and won first place. Elected by the San Francisco Chapter of the U.S. Bartenders' Guild, Carlos was sent to the Symposium to represent the whole state of California in the competition. The two-day challenge included two rounds of competitions where contestants had to make an aperitif, long drink, and a dessert drink using a "secret" ingredient. The first-round challenge was to use tea, and the second was yellow kiwi. They had 45 minutes to create three cocktails in each round. He even got a standing ovation from the crowd, which included Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, and other famous chefs in attendance.

 
the sponsor

Wattle Creek Winery

We have brought Sonoma Wine Country to the city!

The Wattle Creek Winery tasting room is located in San Francisco's historic Ghirardelli Square. Discover what happens when amazing winemaking and sublime terroir come together. You will have the opportunity to sample all of our wines, including very limited releases only available in our tasting room. Come by for a taste or just to pick up a bottle or two for a picnic by the bay with friends.

Click here to find out how to win a one-year membership to our Highlands club, an estimated $800 value!

Our tasting room is open seven days a week, from 11:00am–9:00pm.

Cheers!

~The Wattle Creek Team

 
the starlet

JUNE 17, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Sunday afternoon, a couple tablehopper readers spotted Tony Bourdain at brunch at CIRCA, and then at dinner with chef Erik Hopfinger at Incanto later that night.

Saturday night at Le Colonial, there was a large table of socialites and celebs—seems that they were in town for an "Art of Elysium" event. Celebs in tow included Amy Smart, Will Estes, and Dave Annable, who is reportedly just as cute in real life as he is on Brothers & Sisters. After dinner they all headed upstairs to get their party on in the lounge.

A group of 11 New York Yankees, including Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, were spotted having dinner at Ame restaurant while in town playing the Oakland A's.

 
the matchmaker

Are You Opinionated About What You Find at the Grocery Store?

We're looking for consumers who would be interested in participating in one-on-one interviews in Foster City this Thursday. The interviews will last about 45 minutes and the topic will be good food. 

You'll also get a chance to taste early prototypes of a new product.

If you meet our criteria, you will be compensated for your opinions. Take our screening survey to find out if you qualify.

-------------------------------------------------------

Kitchen Manager
Looking to advance your career?


Brazen Head Restaurant
is looking for a full time kitchen manager with experience to run our food operation. Full time position, competitive compensation, health, dental and vacation benefits available.

We would like to fill the position by July 1, 2008.

Please contact Eddie Savino at 415-298-6826 or email Brazened@aol.com.

 

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.

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