tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: hobgobblin’.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Zojo Media

NOVEMBER 25, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Woo hoo, it’s a short week! And this will actually be a short tablehopper issue since my fab designer is traveling, and asked me to keep this one imagebrief. Which is just as well, because I’m still in a food coma from the early holiday party I attended Sunday night that featured a turducken (yay, my first—and I’m now a fan, as long as I’m not the one making it), plus enough side dishes to fuel a planet of hungry stoners. And wine and booze, natch. Speaking of booze, high five to St. George Spirits for throwing one hell of a party on Saturday—their holiday open house was mighty fun (and their De Profundis 20-year-old pear brandy is profoundly delicious).

Speaking of parties, check out the upcoming event I’ll be hosting on December 9th—it’s a unique cocktail and cookin’ competition! See below for more in the chatterbox—would love to see you there!

I’m so lucky to just ease on down the road to San Mateo on Thursday for Thanksgiving with my parents, sis, and grandma. Gotta love being local. More local love: in case you’re still stumped on what you’re drinking this Thursday, Ian Becker of Arlequin has written up a wino column on that very topic, so enjoy.

Here’s wishing you all a lovely Thanksgiving, full of good food, family, friends, vino, and let’s all give thanks for everything we have, know, do, and are. Oh, and I owe an extra big thanks to all the restaurants that responded to last week’s call for placing interns from the upcoming graduating class of the CHEFS program—both the program manager and I are beyond thrilled with the response. Very grateful, indeed. You rock.

Yours,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

Zojo MediaNOVEMBER 25, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Attention drinkers, eaters, bartenders, and chefs: on Tuesday December 9th, I will be putting on a chocolate and cachaça cocktail-and-food competition at Rosewood in North Beach from 6pm–8pm. The event is celebrating the final month for entry submissions for Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie.com's ~CHOCOLATE ADVENTURE CONTEST~. To inspire beverage adventures, they’ve partnered with Sagatiba Cachaça, which is co-sponsoring this special event.

Next week I’ll be announcing how to RSVP for the party since there will be a limited number of spots for guests—look for it in the tablehopper column on Tuesday December the 2nd!

In the meantime, in the spirit of chocolate adventure, we need four teams to compete at the party, each comprised of a chef and a bartender. Yup, this is a different kind of cocktail competition! Since this event is generously co-sponsored by Sagatiba Cachaça and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, bartenders will need to make a cocktail using Sagatiba Pura cachaça (Dominic Venegas can get you a bottle to play with), and Scharffen Berger chocolate (you can use anything from cachaça infused with nibs to a dark chocolate rim, as long as the chocolate contains anywhere from 41% to 99% cacao), and one of the following adventure ingredients:

Meanwhile, chefs (from sous chefs to cooks to executive chefs to pastry chefs) are invited to create a bite to accompany their team’s cocktail. Chefs will need to use Scharffen Berger chocolate (it must contain anywhere from 41% to 99% cacao), and an adventure ingredient (listed above) in their bite. It can be savory or sweet.

Best cocktail wins $200, best bite wins $200, and the best pairing means $400 goes to the winning team. Think about it: if your team is that good, you could even do a complete sweep, walking out of the party with $400 in your pocket. But don’t sweat it—even if you don’t win or get to compete, you can still enter the Chocolate Adventure Contest for a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize in the categories of sweet, savory, and beverage.

Our fab judges include Elizabeth Falkner, chef and owner of Orson and Citizen Cake; Lisa Schiffman, founder of TuttiFoodie.com; Brad Kintzer, Master Chocolatier of Scharffen Berger; and Jordan Mackay, wine and spirits editor of 7x7, wine and cocktail contributor to CHOW.com, and author of the upcoming book Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America's Pinot Noir Country.

A few things to note:

  • All bartenders and chefs must be currently working in a restaurant or bar in the 415 or 510 (so no caterers, private chefs, etc., sorry).
  • Chefs can choose a bartender who works elsewhere, and vice versa: you don’t have to be from the same establishment. So choose your teammate wisely if you want a good shot at winning best pairing!
  • You’ll be preparing a total of five drinks and bites for the judges.
  • Chefs: you are responsible for any heating elements/induction burners/equipment you will need to prepare your bite. We just provide the power and the space. Small plates for you to serve your bite on for the judges will be provided—if you need bowls or something else to serve your bite, please bring it.
  • Your drink and bite will be judged on the following criteria: taste, appearance, creativity, use of ingredients, and finally, how does it pair with the bite or cocktail.
  • The first four bartender and chef teams to register with me will be the ones to compete. Once you get your team finalized, email me ASAP to enter!
  • Are you a bartender and need a bottle of the Sagatiba Pura cachaça to practice with for the contest? Contact Dominic Venegas: domvenegas@gmail.com.

So, you’re not a chef or bartender… but wondering if you can come to the party? Of course, there is going to be room for partying guests! The party is free, and we’ll be serving complimentary Sagatiba Velha cachaça cocktails (offering a sneak peek and taste of this soon-to-be-released aged cachaça!), plus some mole sliders and sweet treats from La Cocina. Since the guest list action will be limited, please watch for details on how to RSVP in tablehopper on Tuesday December 2nd. You’ll want to act quickly!

Lastly, anyone can enter the TuttiFoodie.com and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest. You can submit sweet, savory, or beverage recipes—in fact, not many people have entered beverage recipes thus far (hint hint). One first-place prize will be awarded in each category (sweet, savory, and beverage). Winners receive: $5,000, a mention in Saveur magazine, and more! Submissions to the contest end on January 4th, 2008. Read more here.

See you at the partay!

And now, the news!

Lots of chef switcheroos and departures around town: I was sorry to hear Mark Denham is no longer the executive chef of ~LAÏOLA~—his sous chef, 27-year-old Ron Pei, has assumed the role of executive chef. Starting December 1st, look for more casual tapas, and a paella-only night on Mondays. Lunch service will start January 1st. As Pei stated, "Mark [Denham] is one of the best chefs in the city," says Pei. "He launched Laïola to a fantastic start and I intend to make sure we maintain Mark's integrity." I spoke with Denham, and he said, “Ron’s a terrific guy, I wish him the best of luck.” Will keep you posted on Denham’s next kitchen, which I hope happens soon, because I dig his cooking and philosophy. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

~LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA~ has barely been open for two months, and now the executive chef, José Luis de Cossío, is leaving and returning to work at Andina in Portland. His last day at La Mar is today. He actually opened Gastón Acurio's first La Mar in Lima, working there for two years, and then came to the U.S. in 2005 to work at Andina in Portland for 2 ½ years. After speaking with de Cossío, it seems he missed the creative freedom of working at Andina, and said of opening La Mar in San Francisco, “It was a great opportunity, but it’s not for me.” He wants to start a family with his wife, and wants a backyard and a dog, which we all know is rare to make happen in San Francisco. He is looking forward to the challenge of running his own show in Andina, and will start at the end of December. As for his replacement in SF, that remains to be seen (another chef might be starting in a couple months), but he said there is always staff from the original La Mar in the SF kitchen, maintaining the La Mar vision and style. Pier 1 ½ on the Embarcadero, 415-397-8880.

Executive chef Alex Marsh is no longer at ~BRICK~ due to some personal reasons—assuming his role is sous Nathaniel Cooper, who has worked with Marsh for over a year. At ~SOLSTICE~, Jorge Romero, who has been there for over three years, will be in charge of the kitchen. Co-owner Matt Sturm expressed, “Both kitchens are in very capable hands.” GM Matt Budesa, a trained chef who has been with the group for the past five years, will supervise both. Brick: 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232. Solstice: 2801 California St. at Divisadero, 415-359-1222.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire! Well, it certainly was at ~NOPA~ this Saturday, when there was an unfortunate fire in the shaft connected to the kitchen (for the record, the hood has been cleaned diligently and on schedule—it was just one of those things). The good news: no one was hurt, it was before dinner service, the fire was isolated and put out quickly, and woo hoo, Nopa will be reopening this Friday. Nopa held a staff pre-holiday party Sunday night to use up some of the food that wasn’t going to be consumed this week while they’re closed, and they donated a bunch of food to the Food Bank and Walden House. You can read more on Richie’s line cook blog. Here’s to their quick return to business… And on a more somber note, everyone raise a glass (and a gorgeous organic vegetable) in memory of Diane Joy Goodman, the lovely mother of NOPA co-owner Allyson Woodman, who tragically and unexpectedly left us a couple weeks ago. You can read a touching tribute to Diane and her passionate work in last week’s CUESA newsletter. Sending much love and sympathy to the Nopa crew, and all the people who knew her. 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes, 415-864-8643.

A small update on additional happenings in the neighborhood: Nopa’s baby offshoot, ~NOPALITO~, is coming along nicely, and should be open by January 1st. 306 Broderick St. at Oak.

Up Divisadero, ~B'S BBQ & GRILL~ has finally opened. Well, kind of. They’re definitely in what I’d call soft opening mode with erratic hours, so try calling before heading over. The sign said they were going to be open this week today and tomorrow (Wednesday) and then be closed for Thanksgiving. Seems the brisket is the meat to order, according to some Yelpers who have managed to have a meal here (I have been less successful). The space is no frills and pretty small. It’s supposed to be open for lunch and dinner, from 11am–9pm. 855 Divisadero St. at McAllister, 415-525-3419.

Not too far away, ~DOSA ON FILLMORE~ is holding their official opening next Monday December 1st. I got a sneak peek at the space last week, and let’s just say that big kitchen has owners Anjan and Emily Mitra all excited about the expanded menu—look for even more dishes hailing from the Southern Indian states.

One thing I noticed is a special four-course tasting menu for $39 per person, which your entire table would need to order. You can also do an additional wine pairing for $16 (one half-glass with each course). The courses are a starter, a mini dosa, a South Indian curry, and dessert (which includes some vegan and vegetarian options). Will it be red beet cumin soup, or fried prawns rubbed in ground lentils and chiles to start? There are a bunch of dishes in each section to choose from, and there are à la carte selections, too. The wine list is from Dosa Valencia Street’s wine director and manager Todd Smith, who put together an even more extensive list, with many small producers and often organic and biodynamic wines from around the globe.

Jonny Raglin (Absinthe Brasserie & Bar and Nopa) is the consulting mixologist behind the “Spice Route” cocktail program. The list of 10 original cocktails will highlight house-made bitters and syrups (like coriander nectar), plus spices like cumin and saffron, fresh tropical fruits, and exotic garnishes (like lime-flavored curry leaves). For example, there’s the Juhu Palm, made with DH Krahn Gin, coconut milk, lime juice, Kaffir lime leaf, and bird’s eye chili, served up with a spanked (ouch!) curry leaf ($10) and the Faux Swizzle, with El Dorado Rum, St. Germain elderflower, chicory bitters, served over crushed ice with a sugar-dusted mint sprig ($9).

The Mitras and Jim Maxwell of Architects II were very committed to sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives for the restaurant, including solar-powered water heaters, and recycled glass for the bar tops and faces. The room is spacious and has high ceilings, with lots of shimmery details and colorful elements. There’s a bar, a lounge area and communal table, room for 82 in the dining room (with some booths), and an upstairs mezzanine that’s perfect for private parties (room for 50). Dinner will be served nightly 5:30pm–midnight, and lunch will start a week later, Mon–Fri 11am–3pm, and then brunch Sat–Sun 11:30am–4:30pm. 1700 Fillmore St. at Post, 415-441-3672.

Just in case you’re jealous of my turducken experience, you can try one at ~MAGNOLIA~ this Wednesday. Chef Brandon Jew is making turducken for his monthly three-course dinner that’s held on the last Wednesday each month, and this one will feature butternut squash soup, turducken (with Modesto Farm chicken in a Liberty Duck in a heritage turkey) plus giblet gravy, Firebrand brioche stuffing, and pomegranate sorbet. Beer pairings TBD. All for $33! Starts at 5pm. 1398 Haight St. at Masonic, 415-864-7468.

And then over at ~ALEMBIC~, there’s a new happy hour Mon–Thu from 5pm–7pm, and on Fridays from noon–6pm, with half-price nibbles (Togarashi popcorn, pickled quail eggs, shishito peppers, goat cheese croquettes, among others). All righty! And mark your calendar because on Sunday December 7th, Alembic is hosting a Sutton Sunday Supper, from 3pm until they run out of the whole pig they’re roasting for the event. Winemaker Carl Sutton will be on hand to talk and entertain, and will be pouring four wines. Each dish will be around $15 paired with a half glass of wine. Alembic will post the menu on their blog as soon as the chefs finalize it. 1725 Haight St. at Cole, 415-666-0822.

Fan of brunch? ~THE TERRACE RESTAURANT AT THE RITZ-CARLTON~ just launched a new Sunday brunch this past weekend, blending buffet and à la carte selections for $55 instead of the former mega-buffet jazz brunch for $78. There’s now a smaller breakfast buffet which includes fresh breakfast pastries, seasonal fruits and berries, house-smoked salmon, build-your-own omelet station, breakfast meats, and potatoes—you then choose your main course, which includes a variety of Benedict variations, French toast, Belgian waffle, New York steak and eggs, corned beef hash, a vegetable sandwich, and more. And then there’s the dessert buffet, with a choice of assorted European-inspired desserts. There’s also the option of ordering a shared seafood platter for the table, or caviar and blini. $55 (includes a glass of sparkling wine, freshly brewed coffee or tea, choice of orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice). Sundays (excluding special holiday brunches) from 11am–2:30pm. 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-773-6198.

Over in the East Bay, Chowhound had a posting about French-country ~JOJO~ in Oakland closing. They are celebrating their ninth anniversary in December, and will then go out with a bang on New Year’s Eve with a cassoulet dinner. According to the goodbye note, here’s what the owner had to say, “Many of you have expressed interest in our future plans. Besides a little time set aside for some skiing, we'll be moving into event planning, taking on endeavors both large and small.” 3859 Piedmont Ave. at Yosemite, Oakland, 510-985-3003.


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the wino

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NOVEMBER 25, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Ian Becker has worked in the restaurant industry for much of the past 15 years, and is currently the manager of Arlequin Wine Merchant, the sister store of Absinthe Brassiere and Bar in Hayes Valley. Ian’s interest in wine began as a waiter getting through undergrad while studying journalism. Ironically it was sports writing that brought him to the Bay Area, where the food and wine call was too much to resist. Most days you can find Ian at Arlequin, where he continues to search for the classic and unique wines of Europe and California.

Choosing Wines Worthy of Your Thanksgiving Spread

I love to think of wine as food.

Now, before you think I’m just a crazy drunk, who drinks his meals and it’s time to organize an intervention, what I mean is that I often think of wine as a product of the vineyard, like the apple from the orchard. Thinking of wine from this angle—well, let’s call it fantasizing—makes it all the more available to me, giving heightened pleasure to actually drinking it.

It’s fun to think about the hot sun in Provence when drinking a rosé from Southern France, or the fog-lined rolling hillsides of the Sonoma Coast while enjoying a Northern California syrah. Okay, you’re right. I’m a nerd.

This type of geeking-it-out thinking hits me the hardest when the seasons change. With this in mind, there’s no greater American culinary celebration of the harvest than Thanksgiving. And while for me it’s almost impossible to plan a meal without building each bit of the menu off which wine I’m serving, traditional Turkey Day fare can make finding the “perfect” wine and food pairing a real challenge.

But don’t be afraid—you are not alone. Just keep the following bits of advice in mind, and you’ll be sure to have a great diner, even if your Aunt Sally brings that green-bean casserole again.

Buy the Best Beaujolais

Look, clearly I love ringing in the seasons as much as anybody—but just like parachute pants, perhaps we should leave Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1980’s time capsule where it belongs. Since the mid-1950s, producers of this wine that is made from gamay noir grapes grown just south of Burgundy raced to be the first to hit markets in Paris, England, and here in the States. But in 1985, the third Thursday of each November was established as Beaujolais Nouveau release day. A pretty savvy marketing technique for this whole-berry fermented wine that has no tannin and smells of bananas, since it lands just in time for us Americans to have it with our turkey and stuffing; never mind that it has only been six weeks since the grapes were harvested!

Now, I know that your Uncle Terry always brings a couple of bottles of Duboeuf to Thanksgiving each year, and it’s part of your family’s tradition and all, but seriously, maybe Uncle Terry should do the dishes this year, too. Well, you don’t have to be that mean, but give Terry a call and tell him you’ll bring the Beaujolais, and shock the whole family with a wine that has been aged and crafted with the type of care that a meal like this deserves.

In other words, Cru Beaujolais. Look for names like Brouilly, Fleurie, Chénas, and Morgon. All of these areas in Beaujolais still produce light-bodied gamay that will pair very well with dry turkey, but they will also posses the completeness of a wine you’re looking for. And if Uncle Terry tries to call you a snob for bringing something different, simply find the word “Beaujolais” on the label, point to it and tell him not to break any of Mom’s china while he’s busy busting suds.

Know Your Audience

I grew up in Southern Ohio in a big, German-Catholic family. Indeed, my people like to drink. One year I brought back a few bottles of grower-produced Champagne for a pre-meal toast. And while I was walking around the table filling glasses, I saw a few of my aunts immediately drop ice cubes into their flutes.

”Next year,” I mumbled to myself, trying to regain my composure, “it’s cava for you two.”

The bottom line is that they simply didn’t care about the things that made this wine special to me, and who am I to make them? But more importantly, why should I have to pay for it?

The next year, I brought some great crémant (French sparkling wine not from Champagne) from Alsace that cost much less. I still enjoyed it, and so did my aunts’ ice cubes.

Know the Menu

I’ve had Thanksgiving dinner at seven different homes in the past seven years, and no two have been exactly the same—not even close. One year we started off with guacamole, another with Dungeness crab and oysters, and last year nearly each dish contained bacon—guess where I’m headed back to this year!

My point is there’s a good chance you’re going to someone’s house who is going to serve something a bit different than what the Pilgrims ate. And if your host was nice enough to tell you details about the menu in advance, and it seems like there are a lot of different flavors competing for attention, go with wines that won’t try to outshine the competition. With high acidity and lean mineral tones, gruner veltliner from Austria can be a safe bet that will pair with almost anything. For reds, the low tannins and high acidity of pinot noir from the Old or New World can also avail loads of possibilities.

Drink What You Like

It’s the most important thing to remember. Don’t freak out, it’s just fermented grape juice.

If you like hugely oaked Napa Valley cabernet or austere cabernet franc from the Loire Valley, do it up! You’ve earned this day of pigging out. Relax and enjoy it.

But this is not only a day to revel in gluttony, it’s also a day to share. One person brings a big jammy zinfandel, another an aged Barolo and yet another a vintage Champagne. Who’s the loser? That’s for you to decide.

 
the socialite

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Meat the Rancher
Fri. Dec. 5, 2008

18 Reasons
593 Guerrero St.
Cross: 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

6pm–9pm

Three time slots are available: 6–7pm, 7–8pm, and 8–9pm.

$15 in advance
$20 at the door
(18 Reasons members receive a $5 discount)

Advance tickets




NOVEMBER 25, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO It’s time for a ~PIG HOOTENANNY~, and not just any pig, but SOME PIG! Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite Market says, “Come meet Jude Becker from Becker Lane Organic Farm in Dyersville, Iowa. Bill Niman (formerly of Niman Ranch, now of BN Ranch) is now representing pork exclusively from Jude’s ranch. The average age of Iowa Hog Farmers is 63. Jude just turned 32, took over his family’s pork business 10 years ago, and is a visionary leader in the new generation of hog farmers. We talk about love, passion, and integrity at Bi-Rite, and Jude Becker has it all. Bill Niman and many Bay Area chefs consider this to be the best pork in the country.
 
“We’ll be featuring the Becker Lane Organic Pork prepared four ways: cured, smoked, roasted, and braised. The ticket price also includes a glass of Bi-Rite’s 2001 18th Street Syrah.
 
“This will be a great opportunity to meet the rancher, learn about the pork, ask questions, and most importantly—taste it!”
 
NOTE: If you’re in the East Bay, on Wednesday December 3rd, Jude will be doing a meet and greet at Eccolo from 6pm–8pm, and there will be some Becker Lane pork à la carte dishes. On Thursday December 4th, Pizzaiolo will be doing a prix-fixe Becker Lane pork dinner at 8:30pm for $75 (wine included).

 
the starlet

NOVEMBER 25, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Supermodel Christy Turlington enjoyed the shrimp Louie salad and Bradley’s famous butterscotch pudding at Yankee Pier in Lafayette on Friday with her mother and two children.

Damon Wayans had lunch at Scala's on Saturday solo. He had a Caesar salad and a bowl of pasta.

Michael J. Fox had dinner at Coi on Friday with son—they did the full tasting menu.

 
 

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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