tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: epic proportions.

the chatterbox
the word on the street

fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush

put it on my tab
the wino
in vino veritas

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

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JULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO I'm not sure how the weekend weather was here in SF, but there's nothing quite like summer in wine country (I adore the sun—how I have ended up living in San Francisco for 13 years and counting is beyond me).

Some wine country weekend highlights: a leisurely dinner outside at the charming Martini House, tasting a variety of boozy treats at Charbay, the dreamy setting and views from the guest house at Terra Valentine, impromptu singing from a soprano at the tasting room at Peju, drinking rosé on the patio at 25º Brix for lunch (there was a lot of wine consumed all weekend, who am I kidding), cruising home from Sonoma along Arnold Drive in the early evening, with the top down on my Alfa… Bliss! And a big thanks to Steven Oliver and Craig Lipton for throwing one hell of a summertime lawn party in Glen Ellen. A few days out of the City does wonders for your headspace. I'll do a jetsetter recap on Napa in August or so, stand by. And I can’t believe I get to go back up this Thursday for the Taste3 conference! (Pinch, pinch.)

Thank you all for your interest in the tablehopper supper at Rubicon coming up on Tuesday July 29th. All the details are below in the socialite. This supper is a special one, so I highly recommend booking as soon as possible. I am also very honored to have a piece from Evan Goldstein for the wino this week. His book, Perfect Pairings, inspired me to ask him to write something—I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and due to some lame snafu, those of you with Yahoo accounts might not have received the 'hopper last week, or got it a few days late. Blergh. (You can catch up here.) I'm not sure the Yahoo block is resolved (yes, annoying!), so if you don't get this week's issue, well, I guess you won't be reading this, will you?

Cheers, yo,

~Marcia  subscribe
the chatterbox

advertise on tablehopperJULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Thank you all for the nice notes after last week's CHEFS dinner recap. I wanted to post this letter below from Russell Rummer, the executive chef of Roots and Daffodil, who hires a lot of graduates from the ~CHEFS PROGRAM~ in his kitchens. I'm hoping some of you chefs and managers out there will consider hiring some CHEFS graduates for positions like dish/pot washer jobs, prep cooks, jr. stewarding, salad prep, and some can do beginning pastry and desserts/plating. There are also some older grads who have gained more experience, so there is a wide range of possibilities for kitchens seeking employees. If you are interested in staffing options, please contact Bill Taylor, Program Manager, CHEFS Program at 415-487-3747.

From chef Russell Rummer:

"At Roots and Daffodil Restaurants, we are grateful to have teamed up with the CHEFS program. We currently have four graduates working full time as line cooks, and in the past two years, we have hired over fifteen graduates. Each semester, we also place three CHEFS program interns in either of our restaurants.

"The CHEFS program teaches their students the basic skills required to work in a professional kitchen. They underscore the importance of good sanitation practices and safe food handling techniques as well as preparation of stocks and sauces and the basics of good nutrition. These skills enable graduates to get back into the work force and have a trade they can carry with them for life. The graduates that I have hired are very thankful for their jobs and eager to learn.

"We believe that the CHEFS program is a wonderfully talented labor pool for San Francisco restaurants, I feel that a major part of sustainability is giving back to your community and this is a terrific way to do so. The CHEFS program provides eager employees and allows employers to help change lives for better and forever.

"My personal motto is: 'I don't give money to the homeless—I give them jobs!' I truly encourage all chefs to support the CHEFS program. I think a great teacher can take these willing graduates and turn them into great chefs."

Sincerely,
Russell Rummer

Thanks Russell! And that contact info again in case any of you are interested in staffing options for your kitchen: please contact Bill Taylor, Program Manager, CHEFS Program at 415-487-3747. Industry folks, thank you for considering it!

And now to some news…

Many locals have been wondering what is going to be moving into the two vacant ~RESTAURANT SPOTS IN THE JCC~, where (415) Restaurant & Lounge and California Street Delicatessen & Café were located. Well, the JCC is getting rid of the restaurants completely, and going in their spaces instead will be a series of little individual "restaurants" from Joanna Karlinsky and her business partner Victoria Smiser. The lineup will include: hot/cold prepared gourmet foods (eat in/carry out), a gourmet pizzeria, a pressed sandwich spot, homemade ice cream, a coffee counter (with wine and beer), a homemade dessert place, and of course you'll be able to get Joanna's famous Meetinghouse biscuits (aka butter transmission devices), as well as on/off-site catering via The Meetinghouse. The JCC is doing some remodeling, and the businesses should be opening up in late September/early October. And good news—this part of the JCC is open to the public, whether you're a member or not. California at Presidio.

Just over the hill, I wanted to update you on ~NETTIE'S CRAB SHACK~, the project moving into the former Palmetto space in Cow Hollow. The new owners just took possession, so work is now underway. Co-owner Annette Yang is the Nettie behind the name, who many of you may know from Spruce (she was the opening manager), plus Jack Falstaff, and Gordon's House of Fine Eats, where she met Nettie's chef and co-owner Brian Leitner, who was working at Gordon's as an executive sous chef. More about chef Leitner: he was at Chez Panisse for five years, and was a co-owner in Living Room Events, a local catering company. He's putting together a menu of regional seafood that will not only highlight New England specialties, but places like New Orleans as well. And Leitner's Chez background will mean highlighting seasonal and honest ingredients prepared and presented in a way that they really shine, simply. Think pails of piping hot steamers and pots of bubbling chowder and fish stews made with the freshest local ingredients.

Jim Zack of Zack/deVito (Gordon's House of Fine Eats, Globe, Bacar, Tres Agaves, and Orson) is the architect who is transforming the front glassed-in area into an actual outdoor patio (hello sun!), and the bar and flooring are also being changed. The dining room will be filled with chunky, rustic wood tables covered in butcher paper, comfortable seating, and simple but genuine décor. There will be daily changing chalkboard specials, plus the full bar means pitchers of house cocktails, and buckets of icy cold beer. The opening is looking like fall, perhaps late September. Lunch Mon–Fri, dinner nightly, and weekend brunch. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan.

A BIG congrats to ~LAURENCE JOSSEL AND ALLYSON WOODMAN~ of NOPA, who just had their first baby: Riley! He is seven pounds, 12 ounces of precious baby boy! He's one kid that will certainly grow up to eat his broccoli since dad's grilled broccoli is one of the best presentations of broccoli that I've ever tasted.

More in the good news department: a tablehopper reader passed on the word that the folks at ~PALACE STEAKHOUSE~ have decided not to retire! (Which is extra great news for chef Jonnatan Leiva, who adores the place.) Instead, the owners are going to take a much-needed vacation from August 1st–15th. And so, the kitsch continues. 3047 Mission St. at 26th St., 415-647-2011.

Also vacationing: ~LA CICCIA~ is closed from now through July 31st. You know, like good Italians, they have to take a summer month off. 291 30th St. at Church, 415-550-8114.

Wanted to also share this update on the ~MEDICI LOUNGE~ project in SoMa, which is looking like late-August or early September for the opening. It will be a restaurant, full bar, and nightclub serving conceptual Italian cuisine, with a wide selection of both imported and domestic wines, and an innovative cocktail menu. The entire exterior of the building facade has been restructured and renovated in keeping with its original early-1900's form (it was previously the sketchy Shadow Lounge). After nine months of construction, the roughly 2,000-square-foot interior will have a new bar, walls, bathrooms, ceiling, the whole kit and caboodle. To recap, the partners are Gregory Noto (he started both Abbondanza Catering and Place Pigalle), executive chef/kitchen manager Matthew Du Trumble (a chef instructor at the California Culinary Academy), and bar consultant/bar manager Sierra Zimei (the head mixologist at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco for over two years)—one of the interesting things Zimei will be doing is using mid-shelf liquor brands as the well drinks. 299 9th St. at Folsom.

Looking for some seriously cheap eats? This offer will be tough to beat: ~3 ½ COURSES FOR $3.50 AT CARÊME 350~ (at the California Culinary Academy). Yup, that's three and a half courses for $3.50, for lunch or dinner. Upcoming dates for this meal deal are: July 24th, and the second and fourth Thursdays in August and September. And/or here's another offer for you: on July 15th, 16th, 29th, and 30th, you can take 25% off your total bill at Carême 350 if you bring one guest, 50% off if you bring two guests, and 75% off if you bring three or more guests (for lunch only). Open Tue–Fri for lunch: 11:30am–1pm, and dinner 6pm–8pm. 350 Rhode Island St. at 16th St., 415-216-4329.

Anyone feeling creative? Nick Fasanella of the newly opened La Spiaggia deli in North Beach is taking over the ~UNDERDOGS SPORTS BAR AND GRILL~ in the Sunset, and is looking to you for a unique concept and name! The winner will get a $500 bar tab when the new place opens. This Thursday night, from 8pm–12am, there will be some live music from Brent Jordan, a singer and songwriter from North Carolina, plus $1 pulled pork sliders, and $1 Buds/Bud Lights and $2 bourbon and ginger (or bourbon and Coke) so Brent feels at home. Swing on by, approach Nick with your names and/or venue concepts, and good luck! 1824 Irving St. at 19th Ave., 415-566-8700.

Eater has been avidly tracking the opening of ~CILANTRO~ (be prepared for a website that reminded me of something from Geocities), a casual Mexican joint that is just across the street from KoKo Cocktails in the lower Polk area. You can check out a PDF of the menu here. The early and late hours should make both neighbors and drinkers who are just passing through pretty happy. Mornings bring huevos rancheros and omelets, while the main menu has standards like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, plus salads (one with nopales!), tostadas de tinga, Oaxacan chicken, and some other house specialties. Open Mon–Wed 8am–10pm, and Thu–Sat 8am–3am. 1035 Geary at Van Ness, 415-931-6065.

Over in North Beach, problems have arisen at the newly opened vegan and cabaret place, ~THE USUAL SUSPECTS CAFÉ~. MenuPages has documented the whole saga about the blowup between the owner and the kitchen in case you're really bored or curious or both. Let's just say "Vegan Russian Homestyle Cooking" is the new concept. Borscht, anyone? 450 Broadway St. at Montgomery, 415-434-4444.

In the non-vegan category, I wanted to do one more shout-out for the Meatpaper/Gastronomica party happening this coming Sunday July 20th at Perbacco called ~SUMMER FEAST~. Tickets are $25, and there will be a sea (and island) of meat and drink, thanks to local chefs and purveyors (chef Staffan Terje/Perbacco, chef Leif Hedendal, chef Chris Kronner/Serpentine, chef Scott Youkilis/Maverick, The Fatted Calf, Prather Ranch Meat Co.), as well as wine and cocktails (Verge Syrah, Meyer Family Cellars, Quixote, La Fee Absinthe, Rhum Clement, Bluecoat Gin, Trumer Pils, and more), an art exhibition, and live music from Gaucho. Sunday July 20th, 6pm–9pm. Tickets are $25 per person, and may be purchased online via credit card or PayPal. A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door. Perbacco Restaurant, 230 California St. at Battery.

And then next Wednesday July 23rd is a unique tequila and corn cocktail dinner at ~ORSON~, featuring Tequila 7 Leguas. The three-course tasting menu is $65, excluding tax and gratuity. Here's the lineup (and please note it includes their killer aged rib eye, like, yum):

In the Beginning chilled smoked corn soup
blue shrimp and tomato terrine
"margarita" : blanco, lime, agave, fleur de sel

First seared skate wing
ham hock and corn hash, Sun Gold cherry tomato nage, chanterelle mushroom
tropic of cancer: blanco, curried corn nectar, grapefruit, ginger

Second grilled aged rib eye
summer ratatouille, corn ricotta gnocchi, olive and sage brown butter
prime meridian: reposado, tomato, lime, vermouth agave, chili

Intermezzo corn, tomato, truffle
ancho and black salt

In the End maple cornbread
tomato, balsamic, agave ice cream
solstice: anejo, fino, sherry, cream, huitlacoche foam

Reserve your spot by calling 415-777-1508 or emailing reservations@orsonsf.com. You may also reserve online on OpenTable and just put "Tequila & Corn" in your note to them. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.

More seasonal food updates: first, the tomato cart has returned to ~BIX~. Or as they like to call it, the "Return of the Killer Tomatoes Cart." You can enjoy some heirloom tomatoes sliced tableside and served with hand-pulled mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and basil ($13.95) during dinner nightly, or for lunch on Fridays. 56 Gold St., off Montgomery St. between Jackson and Pacific, 415-433-6300.

Then, over at ~AQUA~, they have introduced their first-ever tomato menu, the first in a series of four menus that are all designed to celebrate the seasons. The seven-course summer tomato menu also comes with the option of wine pairings featuring specially chosen wines from Domaine Josmeyer, and includes: tomato and parmesan ice cream sandwiches with Pinot Blanc Mis de Printemps 2005; tomato and watermelon tartare with Riesling "Le Kottabe" 2005; chilled yellow taxi gazpacho with Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2005; seared foie gras with Pinot Auxerrois 'H' 2005; tomato-crusted Atlantic cod with Riesling "Le Dragon" 2005; crotin grilled cheese with Riesling "Les Pierrets" 2005; sweet candied tomato stuffed with dried fruits crème fraîche and vanilla sorbet with Pinot Gris Selection Grains Nobles 1995. The tomato menu is $95; sommelier-chosen wine pairing, $85. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Since I was just there, I thought I might as well do a shout out for the annual Tomato Dinner on August 13th at ~MARTINI HOUSE~, with paired wines from local winemaker Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards, alongside chef Todd Humphries' tomato tasting menu. There will also be two special guests, John DeBello, director of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Kevin Morrisey, his director of photography. Dinner and a movie will be in the garden courtyard—on screen, they will be showing the 1981 Killer Tomatoes Eat France. Arrival time is 6:30pm. Group seating with tables of 10 guests. Dinner event includes an exclusive sparkling wine reception followed by a four-course menu paired with wines and a movie: $165 (inclusive). Showtime is at sundown. The same menu will also be available inside and on the patio without a movie. Four-course menu $60, with wines paired $110 (non-inclusive). Reservation times from 5:30pm–10pm. For reservations, call 707-963-2233, ext. 1. 1245 Spring St. at Oak, St. Helena.

And now in the musique category, every Thursday night, ~O IZAKAYA LOUNGE~ will feature a KJ (karaoke jockey), a late-night karaoke dining menu until midnight (featuring chef Balla's pork belly yakimono, shashimi, burger with shichimi spiced French fries, crispy nori), and an all-night happy hour ($3 cocktails). The spiced chicken wings will be complimentary on kick-off night on July 24th. Thursdays, 9pm–midnight. 1625 Post St. at Laguna, 415- 614-5431.

Just down the street, the Bar Bistro on the ~SUNDANCE KABUKI CINEMA'S~ mezzanine level is hosting live music from 6pm–10pm on Saturday evenings, and next door, the Sundance kitchen is running happy hour drink specials Wed–Fri from 4:30pm–6:30pm. 1881 Post St. at Fillmore.

And the beat goes on: over in old Oakland, the ~COCK-A-DOODLE CAFÉ~ is now open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, with a mojito bar (serving blackberry, hibiscus, tamarind, or traditional mojitos) and an evening menu, plus upbeat Latin music from 5pm–10pm. The menu includes Belizean rice and beans with chicken adobo, Cuban pork sandwiches, ropa vieja (shredded flank steak with gallo pinto and sweet plantains), fried yucca, shrimp empanadas, Guatemalan tostadas, pupusas, ceviche, plus homemade flan, panna cotta, and sweet plantains with coconut ice cream for dessert. 719 Washington St. at 7th St., Oakland, 510-465-5400.



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fresh meat

image

EPIC Roasthouse
369 Embarcadero
Cross: Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-369-9955
website

Lunch
Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm

Dinner
Daily 5:30pm–10:30pm

Bar Menu
Sun–Thu 2pm–10:30pm
Fri–Sat 2pm–12am

Brunch
Sat–Sun 11am–2:30pm

Apps $10–$18
Entrées $26–$54
Desserts $10

 

 

 


JULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Let's get this straight right off the bat: ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~ is not a steakhouse. That's selling it way too short. It's a modern roasthouse, which means you'll be able to get a lot more than steak. In fact, I (almost) wouldn't come here if all I wanted was steak, because I wouldn't be able look at the menu and save the necessary room for steak. I don't want to have to say no to delicious dishes like the crispy soft shell crab BLT & A. Resistance is futile.

The vittles here have personality—you can tell by reading the menu, and many of the dishes live up to their sassy and southern-inflected written introductions. Example: there's a section entitled "Potatoes Beaucoup," and another that says "Things You Just Want In a Steakhouse," with a slew of $9 sides listed beneath, like fried onion rings, sautéed spinach (sooooo good), and asparagus with béarnaise sauce. Oh, and a half Maine lobster is tucked in there too (but it's $18, sorry Charlie).

Many remember executive chef Jan Birnbaum from his now-closed restaurant Catahoula in Calistoga. A New Orleans native, he helped point me to some great spots in NOLA when I was there last year for Tales of the Cocktail, and his food definitely has some of the verve I like in Nawlins cookin', made with quality Californ-ai-aye ingredients.

You'll be presented with a trio of carbs, including some scrumptious cornmeal Madeleines (loooooved), and some gougères that I wish were served warm—otherwise, I’d just be happy with a basket of Madeleines.

The salumi platter of house-cured meats had no less than 12 to choose from ($25 small/$40 large), and comes with a trio of mustards and a variety of pickles. The duck prosciutto had such flavorful fat, and the chorizo had a feisty kick, but the one that slayed me was the bresaola, some of the most tender and pink bresaola I've ever tasted.

Also in the beef category, I've enjoyed the tartare ($15 per person) in the upstairs Quiver Bar (one of the city's nicest views over a cocktail, seriously), but it can't knock out Bix's as my favorite beef tartare in the City, sorry. (Blame it on Bix's cognac mister!)

The menu is loaded with appetizers (hot and cold) and soups and salads and salumi. Good luck deciding. And bring a healthy bank account. While tomatoes are in season, don't pass up the crispy soft shell crab "BLT & A" ($18), a medley of texture and flavor, with a nice cornmeal crust on the crab legs that come piled on a brioche round, with crispy bacon bits, plus an avocado puree—a total tower of power. I also dug the "Tomatoes in All Their Glory" ($16), a jumble of different kinds, with fresh and fork-tender mozzarella.

However, the biggest plate-cleaning starter was the wood-oven roasted chili squid salad ($13), a warm and lemony salad with tender and smoky squid, plus kalamata olives, frisee, emergo beans (similar to cannellinis), and tomato confit. Seriously, whoa—this dish hit all the marks. Just give it to me in a food bag, I'll eat it for lunch and dinner, all day.

Also whoa on the roasted marrow bones ($14)—oh wait, that would be my cholesterol level saying whoa. Anyway, these two bony beauties are sliced lengthwise, crusted with herbs, and loaded with fatty marrow that you load on crisp garlic crostini. I mean, hey, if you're gonna do it… They do come topped with a dollop of tomato jam and some frisee to cut the fattiness. Thoughtful. Now, when is my angioplasty appointment?

Okay, it is time to leave the appetizers. Yikes, you can get lost in there. Sure, most range from $13–$15 a pop, so you can't get too lost, unless, of course, someone else is paying, or you're just crazy loaded (on cocktails, or with cash in your pocket, it works both ways).

The parade of main dish meats is significant, from veal to pork to sausages and charcuterie, plus seafood (four kinds), and birds, and beef. There is no way I was passing up a taste of the spicy boudin blanc ($24)—lovers of the smooth style at Terzo and Spruce (my two favorite incarnations) won't recognize this granular and crumbly version. Basically, the pork shoulder is cooked and then ground with basmati rice, plus a bunch of spices and herbs, and stuffed into a casing. And did I mention it's spicy? LOVED it. The side of slaw with granny smith apples, parsley, and apple cider vinegar plays well against the rich boudin. (Say boo-din! Twang optional.) It all rests on a bed of Robuchon pureed potatoes, made with equal parts cream and butter. As my dining partner said, "You had me at equal parts cream." I was calling this dish the defibrillator duo. Birnbaum calls it "filthy food." Indeed. (Note: it's a good thing).

Mmmmmmeat! My dinner reservation at 8pm meant I missed one of my favorites, prime rib, offered nightly until 8pm ($33 for 10 oz./$42 for 14 oz.). I'll just have to get on the early bird train next time.

So, are you ready to gasp at $84 for a 32 oz. rib eye for two? Gasp you will when you taste the 28-day dry age on it too. Gorgeous crust, such well-marbled and tender yet chewy meat, plus some savory fingerlings on the side, bordelaise sauce, and horseradish and black pepper crème fraîche, too. Dare I say worth it? I dare.

I'm a bit surprised there aren't a few more cuts available in addition to the 8oz. or 12 oz. beef tenderloin, a 20 oz. New York strip, and 26 oz. porterhouse. I guess I wanted to see just one more cut at a less-than-beastly portion, and a savory cut besides tenderloin. You know, a lady cut. Oh, there is also a ¾ pound burger ($25) I'm waiting to enjoy some day soon on the patio, and there's also beef short rib ($27) with truffle whipped potatoes.

I don't know how many people will have room for dessert after eating here, but I did manage to stuff one beignet ($10) in my mouth, dunked into Birnbaum's awesome (and boozy) take on the bicerin, a hot chocolate and coffee drink that is famous in Turin (he tried it and fell in love while at Terra Madre, the Slow Food event in Italy). It also has some meringue whipped in for good measure. My kind of dessert.

Wine director Nicole Burke is doing a bang-up job, constructing a list of over 400 bottles that has a definite POV and fun tone, just like the menu. Good arrangement and descriptions, and don't miss her page of "Epic Prospects" of up-and-coming winemakers. There is a nice array of wines "by the splash" or by the glass that make for primo pairings with the wide range of dishes on the menu, with many hailing from California. Plenty of half bottles, too.

I wasn't too thrilled to see the 4% health care surcharge mentioned at the bottom of every menu page. When you're paying prices like this, I think it's better for the restaurant to tuck them away into the already beefy charges. I know they are trying to make a point by stating it on the menus, and perhaps educate guests, but for a special occasion restaurant like this one, I just don't want to see it. My two cents on something that amounts to big dollars.

I also didn't think service appeared to be as buttoned up as I expected it to be—I witnessed time lags in courses, dirty dishes not getting cleared, no matter whose section it was. The floor didn't have "that flow." Almost there…

The room was definitely comfortable, with easy-to-sink-into chairs and booths, and most tables have that gorg view of the Bay Bridge. There's also the jaw-dropping kitchen with the custom wood-fired grill and oven, a rather remarkable setup.

Kuleto has gone big with this one, just like its neighbor, Waterbar, and there are some theatrical elements that make it feel like a movie set from a Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet flick, like Delicatessen, including a big red wheel and pipes at the center of the room. (The design concept is to mimic a salt water pumping station.) I was more taken with the scene-stealing view, but you only really start noticing everything about the interior once the sun is set.

The volume of the room borders on a bit lively, with people having a good time, but the carpet helps soak up the conversation. The crowd is a quirky hodgepodge, from biz diners to double dates, ranging from young urbanites to couples married for 25 years. I'd bring clients here, boyfriends (yes, plural, heh) here for their birthdays, and it would be a perfect setting for a biz lunch. It's also a prime spot for cocktails after work, either on the patio or indoors, with Camber Lay doing her magic upstairs. J'adored the Sazerac, and with a NOLA native in the house, you know it had to be on point.

 
the lush

Jadvertise on tablehopperULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO So a few weeks back I mentioned the bar formerly known as the ~RED ROOM~ in the Hotel Commodore has new owners and a new name. I can now announce the bar is called ~MINX~, and you might recognize some of the bartenders from Amber and the Riptide. The décor is still a work in progress, but you can swing by for a cocktail nightly 5pm–2am. 827 Sutter St. at Jones.

~RUSSELL'S ROOM~, the newest bar/room at Bourbon & Branch, is now open. It's ideal for smaller groups looking for a private party spot (30 max), with plush furniture, a pressed tin ceiling, and authentic cigar boxes lining the wall, a nod to the "JJ Russell Cigar Shop" that was the front for the spot's speakeasy during Prohibition. There are also six new cocktails on the main bar's summer menu, featuring six different spirits. Corner of O'Farrell and Jones.

Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco is kicking off its second annual ~COCKTAILS FOR A CAUSE~ series, a summer cocktail program where proceeds from each specialty cocktail will go to Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Seasons Bar's Sierra Zimei has created a lineup of cocktails, like the Sake 75, a take on the French 75, made with Magellan Gin, fresh lemon juice, and Hou Hou Shou sparkling sake. Every Monday from 5:30pm–7:30pm, through the end of the summer. 757 Market St. at Grant, 415-633-3000.

Then on Tuesdays, ~CAFÉ ROUGE~ in Berkeley has added (oh-so-cheerful) Recession Tuesdays to their weekly lineup, with all draft beers $1 off, and all cocktails $2 off. (The $1 oysters on Wednesdays continue.) 1782 4th St. at Virginia, Berkeley, 510-525-1440.

Feel like brushing up on your French wine knowledge? Raphael Knapp of International Vineyards has been hired by the Alliance Française to teach a series of classes (~LES VINS DE FRANCE: SUMMER INTENSIVE~) on Tuesday evenings. While the eight-week course has already started, you can do partial enrollment, with a two-class minimum requirement for a pro-rated fee. Call for details. 1345 Bush St. at Polk, 415-775-7755.
 
Knapp is also teaching a ~FRENCH WINE CLASS~ every second Monday of the month, geared for restaurant or retailer staff who are new to the world of wine and want to get a broad overview on the French wine regions, as well as an emphasis on restaurant wine service skills. Trade only. $10 per person to cover the cost of samples. The next class will be the Loire Valley on August 11th. RSVP if you are interested via email to raphaelknapp@hotmail.com, or call 415-297-9673.

This Saturday July 19th, ~UVA ENOTECA~ is hosting an Introduction to Italian Wines class for just 15 students, covering the fundamentals of winemaking, history, and tasting. 3:45pm, $35 per person. Then on Saturday July 26th is a regional tasting featuring the wines of Emilia Romagna. 3:45pm, $40 per person. Call 415-829-2024 or email info@uvaenoteca.com to sign up. 568 Haight St. at Steiner.

For you winers and diners, ~BACAR~ is hosting a five-course winemaker dinner with Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project, on Tuesday July 22nd, at 6:30pm. Guests will meet Schoener and taste nine of his wines, including his Scholium Project Gemella 'Last Slough Vineyard' 2007, Scholium Project The Prince and His Caves 'Farina Vineyards' 2006, and Scholium Project Scheria 'Hudson Vineyards' 2002. $125 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and seating is limited. Please call 415-904-4100 and specify "Winemaker Dinner" when making reservations. 448 Brannan St. at 3rd St., 415-904-4100.

Sunday July 27th, ~ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT AND ARLEQUIN CAFÉ~ are hosting San Francisco's first "Resident Winemaker Tasting" from 1pm–5pm. This will be an opportunity to taste and purchase at least 20 acclaimed wines made by your City neighbors. The featured winemakers include Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars; Ed Kurtzman of August West; Andrew Vingiello of A.P. Vin; Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars; and Bryan Harrington of Harrington Wine. Arlequin Café's chef, Carina Lampkin, will prepare a selection of passed hors d'oeuvres. Advance tickets are $25. Tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event for a price of $35. 384 Hayes St. at Gough.

 
the wino

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JULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Evan Goldstein on Perfect Pairings

Evan Goldstein, MS, and President and Chief Education Officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions Inc., is one of the nation's most prolific food and wine industry veterans. His food and wine career started at age 19 in Paris, and in 1984 he joined his mother, chef and author Joyce Goldstein, in opening Square One, where as sommelier his wine lists received a myriad of awards. In 1987, he became the eighth American and youngest ever at the time to pass the Master Sommelier examination. Since 1990, Evan has created education programs, wine training and service hospitality schools with Seagram Chateau & Estates Wines Company, Diageo, Allied Domecq, and most recently, as the Vice President of Global Wine & Brand Education at Beam Wine Estates. In addition, Evan continues to train and examine candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers as a Founding Board member.

Evan is the author of Five Star Service: Your Guide to Hospitality Excellence and Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food (University of California Press). His sequel wine and food book for the University of California Press, Daring Pairings, is planned for release in Spring 2010.

Perfect Pairings

There's a sobering realization when you become conscious that you have done something for longer than you haven't. That fact hit me like a ton of bricks recently as I was recounting my epicurean career to someone who had asked. If you discount the fundamental truth that I have been enjoying great food and wine since I was a young lad (statute of limitations is up on my underage consumption!), I have been doing epicurean as a pro since 1978, so that's 30 years, and teaching about wine since 1985, that's 23 years. Ouch.

One of the queries I often get is that question of epiphany: when were those moments when the food and wine came together in such a memorable way that it was permanently branded into my long-term memory? There are unquestionably a number of "snapshots" that stick out, some fancy schmancy, while others were simply perfect. I thought it would be nice, in such a public forum, to highlight a few of those moments, and what about them made them special.

Eating well as a child (easy to do if your momma is Joyce Goldstein), it was subconsciously possible to become complacent about food… And, since we were allowed to imbibe a glass of wine at dinner if we kept our high school grades up, wine. The heyday of "Bob red" and "Bob white" (the initial offerings from the late Robert Mondavi) were generally our daily fare, except for special events and dinners. It was one Thanksgiving at home in Berkeley, when I was fourteen, when my Mom pulled out a bottle of sheer nirvana: a 1943 Richebourg from Domaine de la Romanée Conti. The wine was extraordinary and sheer perfection and made me realize, right then and there, that wine was my "it girl."

WHY SO SPECIAL: My realization that wine was so much more than just a bottle of fermented grape juice, and it sent me on my way. And yes, I still have that empty bottle on my plate shelf in the dining room.

Living and working in France in the late 1970s was transformational. That said, I never did the three-star thing until the mid 80s when, on a wine trip in my early Square One years, I had a meal at Pic in Valence. The sommeliers, indeed they had several, blew me away with their skill; the dishes, as brilliant as you'd expect but with a rustic Rhône charm, were memorable. And the experience was completed with great wine (a small vertical of Hermitage 'La Chapelle' from Jaboulet) in the company of a great mentor (the late icon, Gerard Jaboulet).

The coup de grace was my first true encounter with a "cheese sommelier," a gentleman whose sole job was to buy, age, or affine the cheeses and bring them out, seasonally and at ripeness, to an adoring audience of fromage-ophiles. That was a WOW moment for me.

WHY SO SPECIAL: Great food, great wine, great ambiance, and great company in an amazing wine region, a culinary grand slam. And a cheese sommelier years before Picholine and Terrance Brennan!

As I married and began traveling with my wife, we'd always try and max our culinary pleasure knowing that once we had kids, well, we'd lose those moments for a few years. While we had a number of amazing experiences that ranged from eating at Les Crayeres with Gerard Boyer before he retired (and I thought I really understood wild mushrooms before that trip), to simpler pleasures, like enjoying fresh-picked raspberries (red, golden, and albino) at Navarro Winery in the Anderson Valley with Ted and Deborah Bennett while munching on salmon, smoked by Ted in a Sears' smoker (!), all the while washing it all down with multiple bottles of his luscious pinot noir.

But when my wife Barbara was about eight-plus months pregnant, we were in Vigo (Northeastern Spain) and visiting with a friend/producer in Galicia. On our way to his vineyards, we stopped for lunch at a nondescript little restaurant called La Reveca, complete with cracked Coca-Cola sign and a picture of a little fawn (think Bambi). I was intrigued as we walked in, greeted by a few Formica tables and a soccer game blaring on a TV stationed in a corner of the dining room. While we ordered a couple of bottles of albariño with a bunch of seafood: percebes (local barnacles), octopus, sardines… I was stunned and blown away by the simplicity yet perfection of the pairings. This was further brought to fruition by a pitcher of slightly chilled local quaff (a blend of mencía and other red grapes) and a ceramic cauldron of caldo gallego, a rich meat stew. I was in heaven.

WHY SO SPECIAL: Aside from the delish wine and the company, the simple yet total perfection of the unforced and not overly obsessive food pairing—it was so unexpected, and so amazing.

Finally, in Australia's Barossa Valley about a year or so back, it was a searing hot day as a few of my business colleagues and I made it to our third winery, sopping in sweat but so delighted to be there. As many of you know, Australia is increasingly all about higher-end food, as witnessed by the tonier restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney. The heart of the Barossa isn't where you expect to eat memorably. Drink well, of course, but dine? Well, maybe not on my radar screen.

As we pulled up our chairs to an alfresco lunch moved indoors because of the heat, Matt Gant, winemaker at the time at St. Hallet winery, treated us to a feast of locally smoked fish and shellfish, and platters of artisanal charcuterie and sausages crafted by third generation German "wurst" specialists, all enjoyed with several bottles of aged Eden Valley riesling (something I had never really explored prior to that), and individual lots of Barossa shiraz from different vineyards' sites all across the valley. WOW.

WHY SO SPECIAL: Unexpected wine treats that transform the way you perceive a region (I am now a walking sandwich board for aged Aussie riesling and truly "get" micro-regionality within the Barossa).

So for lots of different reasons, wines and foods can hit you in a memorable way and leave you with indelible memories from which you build your portfolio of "epiphanal" culinary experiences. There are plenty in addition to those I just described, and I know there will be even more down the road. Discovery and experience are what it's all about for me, and are best where and when you least expect them. Did I mention those gorgeous chilled kiwi pinot noirs enjoyed at a great hawker market off Orchard Road in Singapore…?

 
the socialite

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tablehopper supper
Tue., July 29, 2008

Rubicon
558 Sacramento St.
Cross: Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
 
415-434-4100
website

6:30pm reception
7:15pm dinner

$135 per person
inclusive of tax & gratuity

 
reserve online with OpenTable (specify "tablehopper supper" in the notes)

JULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay my friends, as promised, coming up is a very special ~TABLEHOPPER SUPPER AT RUBICON~. Not only has it been a while since I hosted the last one, but we are also experiencing a dinner prepared by one of my top five favorite local chefs (Stuart Brioza) and pastry chefs (Nicole Krasinski)! Plus, the rest of the staff here is fantastic.
 
And to top it all off, literally, we'll be featuring a brand-new wine to hit the market, the elegant 2006 pinot noir from Pillow Rd Vineyard. This new wine is from proprietors Pat and Anne Stotesbery of Ladera Vineyards, and hails from two vineyard plots located in Sebastopol on the southern edge of the Russian River Valley (you can read more about this pinot noir here.

We'll also be pouring some wonderful wines from their sister winery, the lauded and loved Ladera Vineyards, including the 2004 Howell Mountain cabernet sauvignon, and 2006 malbec.

We'll be mingling and dining upstairs, enjoying passed hors d'oeuvres from 6:30pm until 7:15pm, when we all sit down for dinner. The crowd at these suppers is always friendly and delightfully unpretentious, so even if you are flying solo, you'll find some nice folks to chew the fat with.

Space is limited, and this supper is seriously over-delivering if you consider the quality of the food and wine. And wait until you try the pig! So book soon, and let's rock. You can make your reservation online with OpenTable; just be sure to specify "tablehopper supper" in the notes field.
 
Here's the menu to entice you:

tablehopper and Pillow Rd/Ladera Vineyards Dinner

Hors d' Oeuvres
Pancetta Wrapped Peaches
Watermelon-Goat Cheese
Padron Peppers, Anchovy, Coriander Crema
 
Menu
Chilled Golden Beet Soup
Pickled Cubanelle Peppers, Squid, Mussels, Avocado
Ladera Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Napa Valley

Roasted Wild Striped Bass
Lightly Smoked Purple Cherokee Tomatoes
Pillow Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 Russian River Valley

Slow Roasted, Cabernet Glazed Pig
Lots of Sage & Yellow Eye Beans…
Ladera "Howell Mountain" Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Napa Valley

Old Fashioned Cocoa Custard
Spiced Cashews, Honey Crème Fraîche
Ladera Malbec 2006 Napa Valley

 
Stuart Brioza, Executive Chef
Nicole Krasinski, Pastry Chef
Cezar Kusik, Wine Director

Please note some ingredients may change according to availability and seasonal shifts and chef caprices and/or inspiration between now and then. I'll keep you posted.
 
Looking forward to seeing you there!

 
the starlet

JULY 15, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO This week's starlet is exactly why this city cracks me up. First, there was a little 90s grunge/alterna rock get-together at Bambuddha: the guys from the band Live were at the bar (Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, and Chad Gracey). A bartender mentioned that the bass player from Nirvana, Krist Novoselic, was also staying at the Phoenix Hotel, so one of the guys from Live went to get him and invited him in for a drink. All of them ended up hanging out drinking and listening to Krist's minidisc of the Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti demos, which they rigged to play through the house sound system. According to guitarist Chad Taylor, the last "real job" any of the guys in Live had was working in restaurant kitchens, so they all had to do a shot together, chef included, "to the best part of working in a restaurant: shift drinks."

And then we adjust our eyes to some serious star wattage: Lance Armstrong and Kate Hudson had dinner at Rubicon (see, what great taste)! They were reportedly super adorable, and very lovey-dovey. Kate was thrilled with pastry chef Nicole's financier with plum jam and olive oil ice cream.

And on Saturday morning, a tablehopper reader reports Kate and Lance waited in line at Mama's for about 5–10 minutes before asking a waiter how the long the wait would be, and then abandoned ship.

 
the matchmaker

Due to some technical difficulties, we are re-running this ad—here you go:

Bacchus Management Group (The Village Pub, Spruce, Pizza Antica) is seeking front of house and kitchen managers for its new and existing restaurants. Managers should possess at least 3 years of fine dining experience, a thorough knowledge of food and wine, and a passion for hospitality. Candidates should be personable and enthusiastic team players. We are looking to hire: sous and executive sous chefs, dining room managers, and pastry professionals.

We offer competitive salary, insurance benefits, 401k, meal discounts, and opportunity for growth and development. Please submit your cover letter and resume to: jobs@bacchusmanagement.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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