|table of contents
week's tablehopper: wine and some whine for ’09.
no more in 2009
put it on my tab
in vino veritas
no photos please
this round is on me
30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Greetings
from sunny LA. Every time I descend to the 213, I am reminded of
how much I j’adore 71 degrees in December. I am so gonna
be one of those Palm Beach ladies when I am 80, I know it. At
match my leather bag. I also managed to catch a stupid cold yesterday,
argh, but at least I have my pick of pho houses and nose-clearing
spicy salsas down here.
do you have your New Year’s Eve all lined up? Will
it be a super burrito from El Farolito, or perhaps you kept all
your money in your mattress this year so you’re up for something
spiffier? If it’s the latter, here’s a mini
recap I did a few weeks ago on some New Year’s
Eve dinners in case you need idears.
Since I am all about shopping for vintage clothes and scouting
ethnic eats in the City of Angels this week, I am making this one
a special seasonal short issue. We all know what a boozy week this
is, yup, champers galore, so I have not one but two wino
pieces for you: the first wino is from Jerry Cooper, with
an overview of some spirits to look for at your liquor store or
hooch parlor, and the second is a highlight of what local wine
directors and sommeliers are anticipating we’ll be seeing
more of in 2009.
yes, as is the tablehopper’s annual New Year’s
tradition, the bore returns, full of ten items I don’t
want to see much of anymore in this coming year—yeah, it’s
a bit snarky.
be back next week, guns blazing with all kinds of news, events,
New Year, people! I am wishing you all health, happiness, low
cholesterol, high times (feel free to interpret that in any way
you like), and may we all look and feel mighty fine in ’09.
Cheers my dears!
DECEMBER 30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Every
year I do a roundup of ten
things I don’t want to see on restaurant menus or in
bars anymore. Yeah, it’s time for the tablehopper to cop
some ‘tude, arch an eyebrow, and be a little fussy. Hey,
you try eating out and drinking five nights a week, and you’d
have some things to say, too. Let’s dive in.
Thanks, I’m Fine: No More in ’09
am so blowing the whistle on cupcakes.
Yes, it’s great to have a few shops in each city, but we
don’t need more than a few. And really, what is up with the
LINES of people (mostly ladies) waiting at some of these places?
Ri-donkedonk. Now, I would queue up for a true Parisian croissant… but
unless those sprinkles on said cupcakes start coming from happy
pills, the frosting on my cupcake is of an unhappy face.
on dessert, what is up with all the salt ending
up in my sweets? Salted caramels, lovely. Salted caramel ice
cream from Bi-Rite, bring it. But when I start crunching on large
flakes of salt in my chocolate dessert and suddenly need to order
more water, I gotta draw the line. Please keep the monster flakes
o’ Maldon away from my Madagascar chocolate.
think I was going to skip fro-yo,
did you? Hells no. See, it’s the exact same cycle that
happened back in the 80s: too many yogurt shops open at once,
the city gets flooded with fro-yo, and then suddenly every place
closes shop and we end up with none. It’s a runaway train
of fruit-named knockoffs breeding like rabbits. And hilariously,
the City doesn't even have a Pinkberry, the mother ship of them
Ahem on mixology mayhem. Now, I love my cocktails as much as
the next boozehound. And we’re blessed to have so many
pros in San Francisco who can make a spectacular cocktail—I
dig the “kitchen notes” in a lot of drinks that
make them pair well with food, or help my cocktail do double
duty as an appetizer, heh. But more and more I find myself glazing
over when my drink starts to sound like something I should be
eating in a haute French restaurant, with a detailed description
of each and every ingredient and the techniques used to make
the darned thing. Can we dial this back to five, or six? (The
hype, and the minutes it takes to make it.) Let’s get back
to having the folks behind the stick be bartenders first, mixologists
second. Which is why I am finding myself back on Manhattans.
They’re quick, because yo, I’m thirsty. And it better
not cost $14.
gonna get some heat on this one, but the cocktail consulting thing
at local restos also needs some reining in. A good cocktail
list does not a good restaurant make. Yeah, the cocktail program
reads great on the restaurant’s press release, and it’s all dandy during the opening when the
startenders are there, but what is going on with those drinks
a month or two later? That quality control thing is tricky. I’d
prefer simpler drinks (see above), less fanfare.
one is a cautionary tale: bacon.
I totally dug the pigwich at Orson, and the bacon with apple
and maple donut from Dynamo was an item whose time had come.
But folks experimenting with bacon better stop acting all OCG
(Original Culinary Gangster) because look around, everyone is
doing it. Bacon is totally jumping the shark.
on poached eggs. Breakfast, it’s
what’s for dinner! Not. I eat far too many eggs every week;
they’re definitely going with me to the desert island.
But man, can we take it (over) easy? Eggs are making appearances
on dinner menus everywhere. Unless the chef is doing something
really unique, like Seis Kamimura at Postrio, who is soft-cooking an egg inside a Wolfe Ranch quail,
wrapping that puppy in San Daniele prosciutto, then deep frying
it, and glazing the quail with a maple Banyuls vinegar gastrique—otherwise,
can we just leave the poached eggs to the brunch places, truffle
season, pizzas, and bistros serving salade Lyonnaise?
8. Large plates,
but small tables,
and even smaller portions. ‘Nuff said.
tables, especially the big
ones that are so wide you can’t hear your friend sitting
across from you, especially with all the other people around talkin’ loudly.
So much for communal. Yes, they are a clever way to seat single
diners or a random group of folks who don’t
have reservations, but find me anyone out there who brightens
up when the reservationist says, “No, we don’t have
any tables available that night, but we do have first-come, first-served
spots at our communal table!”
I just hear that woman at the table next to me ask if the salad
was local? Yeah lady, the menu says it’s from County
Line Harvest, relax. The intense local / sustainable
/ organic policing that is happening at restaurant tables
is making my head hurt. It’s like the Inquisition! These
are fine questions to ask of your salmon, your beef, and your
tomatoes during that pesky scare, but what’s coming under
the microscope next, the garnish in your drink, and the chocolate
shavings on your dessert? Why even eat out?
Sagatiba Presents Brasil's Holiday Spirit.
Sagatiba Pura gives the
caipirinha a twist of Brasilian contemporary. And now it will give
an extra twist on your holiday celebrations.
Savor our new seasonal mix: the Sagatiba Snowflake Martini with
cacao cream, almonds, and raspberries. Learn the full recipe and
how to mix and remix other great drinks with our experts on the
Mixology section of sagatiba.com.
Happy Holidays from Sagatiba.
30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Since
a lot of industry folks are working hard to make this important
event a successful one, I wanted to repeat last week’s
details, plus mention some additional ones about the ~BENEFIT
FOR TONY DEVENCENZI~ that
is happening on Monday January 5th. I know the organizers will
so appreciate anything you can do to support this event, as will
are the most important details: the event runs from 6:30pm–11:30pm
at Enrico’s on Monday
now for some new deets: there will be $10 raffle tickets, a silent
auction, and Joey Altman’s Back
Burner Blues Band plays from 8:30pm–10pm. Prizes include
bottles of wine and spirits, and gift certificates to local restaurants.
There will also be a poker clinic from 8pm–11pm. And here’s
what I wrote last week:
was very sorry to learn local bartender ~TONY DEVENCENZI~ (he
works at the Clock Bar) was in a terrible accident last Sunday
night when out walking, and has had to undergo some major surgery.
He is in stable condition and doing well, but unfortunately does
not have health insurance, and will be missing a lot of time from
work as he heals. The bar and restaurant industry, and the San
Francisco chapter of the United
States Bartender Guild have rallied to set up a fundraising
benefit for Tony at Enrico’s on Monday
Enrico’s has volunteered exclusive access
to the entire restaurant, and is donating passed apps (sliders
and pizzas) from 6:30pm–9:30pm. While
the official hours of the event are 6:30pm–11:30pm, people are encouraged
to come later when they get off work, too. The entire bar staff will be USBG
volunteers who are donating 100% of their tips to Tony’s fund. (The majority
of bar revenue will also benefit the fund.) Reza Esmaili of Conduit and Zare
at Fly Trap is managing the event and happy to take inquiries/volunteers.
Event organizers are taking donations at the door, and will be
selling raffle tickets for restaurant gift certificates, wine,
and silent auction items and other prizes, including chef Joey
Altman cooking at your home, spirit gift baskets, and collector
cocktail books from Gary Regan and Dale Degroff. There will also
be music (to be confirmed next week) and a great crowd of folks.
additional details next week. 504 Broadway at Kearny.
How you can help:
~Attend the event, donate, buy raffle tickets, tip big.
~Donate auction/raffle items (they are looking for spirit, wine,
and beer sponsors for the event; monetary donations; raffle and
silent auction items). If you or your company has something to
donate, please contact Debbie Rizzo of Drink PR: darizzo[at]gmail.com.
a check to the USBG. All proceeds will go to Tony through the
USBG Relief Fund, a 501c3 Charity. Checks can be made out to
the USBG and are tax-deductible. To make a donation, contact
Debbie Rizzo (see above). Here’s wishing Tony a speedy recovery.
30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Jerry
Cooper owns Swirl
on Castro, a wine/spirits retail store and wine bar in the
Castro district, and is an active participant in the wine and
spirits world. He judges for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine
Panel, The SF International Wine Competition, and the SF World
Cheers to a Splendid and Spirited 2009!
a toast to all my friends!” Ok, if the truth be
known, I just might join Tara Reid in rehab by the end of the
month. As they say, “’tis the season,” and
for those of us who pride ourselves on being urban cocktailians, this
is definitely the season to raise our glasses for a celebratory
toast, over and over again.
we are gunning up for the big New Year’s parties, with
glasses in hand, let’s look at some off-the-beaten-path
adult beverages. I am growing weary of the word “artisan,” but
we will take a peek at some handcrafted spirits that have recently
landed in town that I am forecasting will soon be ingredients
for the new 2009 cocktails (and stocked at your home bar).
rich, and divine…
(no-CHEE-no) della Cristiana Walnut Liqueur (200ml,
$24) is produced by a really sweet husband-and-wife couple
in Napa Valley, Giorgio and Manbin Monteverdi. This labor
of love is based on a traditional Swiss recipe using green
(unripe) walnuts, grape brandy, and is infused with spices
from around the world (with no artificial ingredients). It’s
super concentrated and nearly indescribable—closer
to a digestivo than liqueur. Sip after dinner with
cookies, and try adding Nocino (1 tbs. per cup) to sweetened
whipped cream and serve over pecan or pumpkin pie.
Second on my shopping list is Belle
de Brillet Liqueur (375ml, $30), a heavenly pear elixir
from France. This Poire Williams au Cognac is sweet but not too
too—and what’s truly amazing is that it tastes exactly like
freshly cut pears dosed with just a hint of Cognac. Ten pounds
of pears are used to produce one 375ml bottle, no lie. I am not
a sweet liqueur consumer (too many Grand Marnier hangovers in my
youth), but I could take a bath is this stuff—and since it’s
only 30 percent alcohol, I can sip this to my heart’s content
on school nights. Serve neat (my preference, why mess with perfection?)
or mix with cava or prosecco (don’t mess with my Champagne)
for celebratory bubbles. Someday I have got to try the ultimate
(I imagine) pairing: Belle de Brillet and crêpes flambées.
Find a bottle of this stuff, you can thank me later.
My recommendation on the “green” list; the artisanal
(I know, I know…) vodka called Crop
Harvest Earth (750ml, $32.50). Okay, now, let’s
put on our Birkenstocks and talk about this. This is a true USDA-certified
organic product, distilled “with great care” from certified-organic
grain grown on America’s plains, and distilled in Princeton,
Minnesota. We took this vodka on a taste test, and it passed with
flying colors. Crop is very clean and pure, with good depth and
character, great viscosity, and some real twang on the finish—comparable
in style to Ketel One.
interesting is the fact that Crop is distilled “so efficiently” that
no carbon treatment or charcoal filtering is required. I think
we are safe to assume that this is good for the planet; less
charcoal must be better, right? They also make a cucumber vodka
and a tomato vodka. With so many vodkas on the market, and even
with our ringing endorsement, we are not sure this will be a
big hit outside Berkeley and Madison… But I say go for
it. Ask for it by name: CROP.
DECEMBER 30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Local Wine Directors and Sommeliers on 2009 Predictions
Local wine directors and sommeliers are
looking into their crystal decanters and share what they think
we’ll be swirling in our glasses in 2009.
Melanie Alioto, beverage manager/sommelier
Market Restaurant, predicts that Washington State syrahs
are going to be one of the next big things in 2009 because
normally think of Washington as a red-growing state in general—they’re
more known for their rieslings and other whites. Per Alioto, “Syrahs
are one of the few reds that grow well in colder regions and
the ones coming out of Washington are amazing right now. The
rosé trend is also going to continue to grow. The wines
from more unknown regions of France, such as Languedoc, and
others in the Southwest are going to be more popular as the
economy continues to slow because they’re value wines.”
Nicole Burke, the wine director for EPIC
Roasthouse, thinks, “There will be a lot of value to be found as
price readjustments trickle through the market. Domestically, wineries that
still need to move wine will have to do so with price reductions. So if you're
willing to pay a little bit more, you can potentially have a whole lot of wine
in your glass. Australia is making a big push to correct its marketing mistakes
and promote high-quality, balanced wine (i.e. no more furry-critter wines,
we all know the culprits). Look for snappy, mouthwatering riesling as a fantastic
alternative to a sea of sauvignon blanc. Don’t forget about the Kiwis
either! They are producing world-class pinot noirs that are complex, layered
with fruit and spice, but toned down on ripeness; you don't find any syrah
masquerading as pinot noir here!
has been hitting home runs with luscious malbecs. I saw many
people turn to malbec this year for its affordability and high
quality. The press has given many accolades to the 2008 vintage,
which will be hitting the market in the early months of 2009,
which will make malbec a continuing trend.”
Mauro Cirilli, the sommelier at Perbacco,
has seen a growing trend in guests looking to support small producers,
and he thinks this will be very big in 2009. Also, he anticipates
more consumers and restaurant guests will be interested in buying
and drinking wine that is organic and/or biodynamic, both farming
styles that fall in line with small producers and in turn, Perbacco
will feature more such producers on their wine list.
Alex Fox, formerly a sommelier at Gary
Danko and the wine director at Myth, says, “The key
words for the SF wine and beverage world in 2009 are affordable
luxuries, shrinkage (not the Seinfeld kind) as opportunity,
and Chateau du Corkage. While the potbelly may not come into
vogue in '09, handcrafted beers (and the chubby folks who love
them) will continue to grow in popularity as an affordable
luxury. Ditto for ‘froufy’ cocktails.
“On the wine side, 2009 will be the year of indigenous
grape varieties from less-heralded appellations made by smaller
producers in the $20-and-under retail and $60-and-under restaurant
price ranges. The ‘it’ wines of 2009 will be prosecco,
grenache, and anything from Southern Italy.
will occur as fancy restaurant wine lists will lower their
inventories by not taking some of their allocations of pricey
California cult wines creating an ‘opportunity’ for
consumers with cash to buy direct from the wineries and high-end
retailers. It remains to be seen whether they will lower their
margins as well. They would be well advised to do so as corkage,
corkage, and more corkage will be seen, especially at restaurants
with the worst reputations for high mark-ups. This is understandable
in the current economy, but please exercise restraint and help
out those restaurants with passionate staff members, creative
lists, reasonable mark-ups, and an array of selections in all
price points by leaving that bottle at home. Happy holidays,
and drink up!”
Andrew Green, the wine director for Bacchus
Management Group (The Village
Pub, Spruce, and
the forthcoming Café Des Amis) anticipates the big value
regions for 2009 to be the wines from Southern Italy, Central
Spain, and the focus on great values from Argentina and Australia
to continue. 2007 wasn’t the best vintage in the classic
regions of France, so he doesn’t think there will be
a lot of hoopla over releases from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
O. Timothy Jones, sommelier at Bong
Su Restaurant & Lounge says, “People are more willing to explore
unknown areas and are savvier than they were five years ago. They are more
educated about the world of wine. In 2009, value is going to be at the forefront—this
doesn’t mean cheap, but that the quality of what is in the bottle has
to be a good value for the price. Food-friendly wines will gain more interest;
there are great examples coming from regions like Portugal, Spain, and Italy—wines
like falanghina, greco di tufo, and vermentino; they have great acidity and
are lighter. The trend is going to be away from big alcohol, big oak, and big
fruit bombs. Additionally, there will be a continued discussion of the carbon
footprint of the wine industry as wineries look at packaging, sustainable growing
and harvesting, and shipping. We might be just starting to see a move away
from heavy glass bottles.”
Shelley Lindgren, wine director of A16 and SPQR,
has this to say, “There’s good news for Italian wine lovers for
2009. The slightly strengthening dollar is starting to make a positive price
difference with the new shipments of small-production, fabulous wines reaching
our shores. Italians know a thing or two about surviving through down times
without having to forgo the pleasure of making sure there is wine in a glass
and great food to eat. I am really looking forward to new gems from Sicily,
Campania, and Marche.
“We just brought in a wonderful vernaccia nera from around
the Serrapetrona area of Marche and some magliocco from the west
coast of Calabria near Lamezia Terme. The venerable Casa d’Ambra
winery from Ischia, Campania, has arrived at long last, and the
biancolella they produce from the highest peak on the island, ‘Frassitelli’ will
be paired with our octopus terrina with fennel, radish, preserved
lemon, and olio nuovo on New Year’s Eve at A16. Salute!”
Emily Wines, wine director at Fifth
Floor Restaurant, shares her predictions: “As
Champagne prices continue to go into the stratosphere, bubbly
drinkers will revolt and start drinking more offbeat sparkling
wines. Cremant, sekt, cava, and Franciacorta will grow in popularity
as Champagne becomes too pricy to sell in grocery stores.
“The wines of Greece, Southern Italy, and Portugal will continue to surprise
people. The funky juice is a thing of the past. The wines are really good and
mostly really cheap!
“Wine drinkers will revolt against high-alcohol wines. 16-percent-alcohol
cabs will be relegated to the status of the super ‘oaky/buttery’ chardonnays
that were popular in the late 90s. Those wines will still have their fans,
but conscientious consumers will demand wines with more finesse.”
DECEMBER 30, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO On the celebrity front, Sharon Gless from Cagney
and Lacey and Queer as Folk was in the other night
at Orson for dinner.
one to rock out to: Sammy Hagar (who
owns Cabo Wabo Tequila) dined at The Lark Creek Inn on December
23rd with his wife and family. Coincidentally, Mr. Burillo (the
owner of Don Julio Tequila) was also dining the same night in the
sunroom, so there were a lot of Tequila fans in the casa!
content © 2008 Marcia Gagliardi.
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