tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: fancy feast.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the wino
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the hardhat
watch your step
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me


Melbourne Australia

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JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Wow, the alfresco living just continues… Who would have thought that on Friday night I was going to be sitting on the outside patio at Chez Papa Resto for dinner, without a jacket or heat lamps? Downright balmy at 8pm. Seems a fair number of Dine About Town-ers were enjoying the patio with me—and it was cool to see Mint Plaza in effect.

Saturday I went to a party celebrating the launch of Culture magazine, a new rag about cheese (and you thought it was going to be about opera). Cowgirl Creamery hosted the dairy-laden event, which was full of cheese heads, like Clark Wolf and Laura Werlin. I was especially taken with the Délice de la Vallée goat and cow’s milk cheese from Sheana Davis, and the “untitled” number from Tumalo Farms in Oregon.

Later that evening, I was invited to a dinner at Acquerello hosted by and using ingredients from the Association of Organic and Biodynamic Producers of Emilia-Romagna for the BioBenessere project. Standout products were the wines from Venturini Baldini (especially the Rubino del Cerro, a blend of lambrusco with bonarda), the organic acacia and chestnut honeys from Alce Nero, vanilla ice cream topped with an extra-vecchio aged balsamic (my new favorite dessert), and of course Acquerello’s classic budino was dreamy. Lucky me, I also scored some premium pasta by Alce Nero and a jar of tomato passata—let’s just say my dinner Monday night of mezze maniche pasta rocked the house.

All of these tastings were merely a sideshow to Sunday, an absolute doozy: day one of the Fancy Food Show. Just think: thousands of exhibitors from around the world showcasing their products. You end up with flavor ADD—one minute you’re tasting pineapple curry, and the next, latkes, or seafood from Australia. I have outlined some of my favorites in the chatterbox, and you can see the entire list o’ things that caught my fancy (har) in this flickr album I set up. All I can say is I’m grateful I tried to keep focused on my criteria (new, exotic, unfamiliar, unique, and of course delicious items) because it’s one heck of an overwhelming array of things to plow through and taste, and I only had one day to do it. I definitely lived up to my tablehoppin' name.

Yo, it’s giveaway time! Thanks to everyone who entered last week; I listed all of your wine country favorites in the chatterbox below. This week’s giveaway is a pair of tickets to Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Wine and Wishes Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting Event on Treasure Island on Saturday February 7th (you can read all about it in the socialite). I am giving away one pair of tickets to a lucky reader. To enter to win, please forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to a minimum of three buddies, but even more would be so very fabulous. Just tell your friends why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, I wish I was kidding!), and CC or BCC luckyme@tablehopper.com so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. Deadline to enter is midnight this Friday January 23rd; I will notify the winner over the weekend!

I have some guest columnists this week in the wino and the hardhat; since this issue got astronomically long, I bailed on writing a review this week. Oh, and some of you get cranky when I mention anything political, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say I have an enormous grin on my face today, and I know I’m not alone.

Best wishes to you all!

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

Melbourne AustraliaJANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Hey, muchas gracias to everyone who entered the giveaway for Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking. Yes, all 63 of you! ~BELOW IS A LIST OF YOUR FAVORITE WINE COUNTRY RESTAURANTS~; I thought you’d like to see what’s on everyone’s list! I grouped any similar answers together, but in no particular order. And many of you shared places on your wish lists, so I included those as well. French Laundry, no surprise, is a dream visit of many. Thanks everyone! Here goes:

~

My favorite wine country place to dine is Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. 

My favorite wine country place to dine is Don Giovanni in Napa.

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My favorite wine country place to dine of late is Redd. Usually I eat at the bar—they have the best spicy nuts with bacon.

Love dining at Redd. Food's great, service superb. This is from a Charleston S.C. native who visits his daughter in Berkeley and never fails to venture north to wine country.

Redd, Yountville

One of my favorite Wine Country spots is Redd. Mmm mmm.

I base my choice for favorite wine country restaurant (at least for 2007) on what I consider all the elements necessary for a complete wine country dining experience. My winner is Redd in Yountville, Napa County. We sat outside on a casually elegant patio enjoying balmy weather, flowers in bloom, and people watching on the street. The menu was fresh and innovative without being pretentious drawing on local, seasonal selections and wines form nearby wineries. Prices were also reasonable which I consider a plus. Our waiter was knowledgeable, attentive, and happy to answer our questions about the many small nearby Napa wineries. He suggested a fantastic 2007 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc to accompany our fish entree. What made this our perfect wine country dinner was that before the evening was over, the winemaker actually dropped by for a bite to eat. Finally, on our last day in Napa, we drove a few miles down the road to Cliff Lede Winery to purchase some of his Sauvignon Blanc and enjoyed a very sophisticated art exhibit at the winery before driving home.

~

I love dining at so many places in wine country, but Bouchon is a wonderful classic with a great vibe and bar!

Bouchon at the bar. Meet great folks there and nibble on several of the killer appetizers and maybe a few oysters. Bartender is friendly and will usually top off a glass of wine that’s getting low. If it’s on special, gotta get the Basque cake for dessert. And then toddle off across the patio to the bakery to get some intense fruit jellies and an almond croissant for breakfast the next morning. That is, if one can hold off that long.
 
Napa is my ‘wine country’ locale, since I went to the CIA there. It’s a personal favorite. As far as a favorite place to dine, aside from a cheeseburger at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena (not quite “dining”), I like Bouchon. The food is straightforward, and very good. I've liked Hurley's in the past - but haven't been there in some time.

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Taylor's Refresher!

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Rutherford Grill!!!

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Madrona Manor in Healdsburg in the beautiful Alexander Valley.

My favorite wine country restaurant is Madrona Manor.

~

My favorite wine country restaurant is Cyrus in Healdsburg. It is the ultimate in fine dining.

I have to say, hands down, my favorite place to dine in wine country is Cyrus in Healdsburg. The restaurant is right on par with French Laundry at half the price. The food is unbelievable and the wait staff could not be nicer. When it was time for the cheese course, our server told us where all thirty cheeses were from, as well as which ones were pasteurized and which were raw (I am pregnant and unable to eat unpasteurized cheeses). Though it is a very nice, elegant restaurant, there is nothing pretentious or snooty about it. You feel at home when you are dining at Cyrus. I have a feeling in a few years we will be reading about Cyrus much as we do now with French Laundry.

I'm dyin' to go Cyrus, just can't find someone to go along.

Definitely would be Cyrus in Healdsburg. Great innovative cuisine at half the price of the French Laundry in an elegant décor setting.

I've heard of a restaurant called CYRUS in Healdsburg that is supposed to be great! I'd love to go there.

~

My favorite place to dine in the Wine Country is Ad Hoc (with Ubuntu a close second).

Ad Hoc, with its flavorful fresh food and lovely wine in an austere yet comfortable atmosphere is a destination in itself.

My favorite wine country place to dine is Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc serves simple food done perfectly and the atmosphere and wine selection are all fabulous. Plus, visiting Yountville is fabulous in itself!

Ad Hoc!! Haven't been but want to go. Ok... French Laundry is where I'd really like to go but can't bring myself to part with the dough! :)

ad hoc.

~

My very favorite is K & L Bistro in Sebastopol…food is always top notch and service is great.

~

My new faves are Martini House and Ad Hoc. Both were very good! I loved being able to sit by the open-ish kitchen at Martini House! Chatted with the sous chef and took photos of all the yummy plates coming out during our dinner.

Just spent a couple of weeks at the CIA in St. Helena, and the stand out meal (other than the ones we cooked in school!) was at the Martini House. Not very original, I'm sure, but the food was exceptional. The mushroom soup was soooo good, I'm dreaming about it. Made a couple of weak attempts to copy it. I'll just have to go back to get a fix.

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Santé in the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma is my absolute favorite Wine Country restaurant!!

I love the food at Sonoma Mission Inn. The name is Sante!

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Étoile!

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Bleaux Magnolia in Napa has a great brunch! Sit outside on the patio in the sun listening to a great jazz trio, and drinking wine with lunch! The Gator Tater Tots are fabulous.

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Swiss Hotel off the main square [in Sonoma], they serve country Italian and American classic food.

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Cafe La Haye is my favorite spot to dine in wine country. Always a good meal with great service in a lively setting but not too big or too noisy.

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La Toque

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I'm pretty partial to The Girl and The Fig... especially when I get a table out back on the patio!

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I rarely dine in wine country—I’m usually too busy wining and we often just picnic (Cornerstone in Sonoma is great for this). I have had some great experiences at the CIA—we used to take my grandmother here every year for her birthday. She always got a kick out of it. Tra Vigne was fabulous the one time I was there. Most recently I ate at La Salette—yummy and they were so kind to hold our table for a long time because we were terribly lost. My to-eat list includes: Bouchon, French Laundry (both are dreams) the girl and the fig (a bit more realistic).

~

Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. I haven’t been there yet but plan to go asap! I want to see him to do a live 60 second rant like he does on his TV show.

BOTTEGA!!

I had a great lunch last week at "Bottega" in Yountville and the best part was the hugs from Michael Chiarello himself!!!! I will be back soon.

Well if you have not been to the new Bottega, you are missing out. Located in Yountville, it is beautiful and the food is worth the drive. Very creative menu, but still keeping in line with Italian peasant cooking. Everyone must go!

~

One of my faves is Willow Wood in Graton, another one is The Fig Cafe.

~

My favorite wine country place to dine? French Laundry, bien sur! (Okay, I've never been lucky enough to go there. But from what I've heard...)

The best was French Laundry for my husband's birthday. Really liked it.

I don't have a favorite...but I always hear that I have to go to French Laundry before I die. Only, it just may take that long to save up for it. :P

I wish I could eat at French Laundry. It's my dream, alas, no car and a tiny income keep me forever dreaming. One day I WILL enjoy that nine-courser, 'til then, the cookbook I cherish so will continue to do nicely.

I've never been there but I've heard a lot about The French Laundry. I'd love to try it out.

After nearly four years of dating, my lovely boyfriend is spoiling me with French Laundry for our anniversary in April!! I am beyond excited and most certain it will become my new favorite place to dine!

I don't have a favorite, but would love to go to French Laundry.

Besides French Laundry? Only kidding. (I never been there...) When I think of wine country, I think of Sonoma County, where I used to live. I have to vote for Santi, in Geyserville… A lot of folks don't know about it, guess because it's so far north. Great atmosphere… And I adore Italian food. A new one I'd like to try is the Starlight Wine and Bar in Sebastopol... I'm intrigued. Sounds cool in the railroad car.

I really, really want to dine at Cyrus and Ubuntu. That said, I love the French Laundry and La Toque.

Hands down the French Laundry is by far my favorite place but tough economic times make that a bit more difficult.

~

Second in line is certainly Bistro Jeanty. Regardless of the current weather I always crave the cassoulet at this time of year. I took my brother-in-law there for the first time and all I remember is the sweat rolling off his neck as he plowed into what he described as "the best damn dish" he's ever had. We still tease him about that and I think that he has some sort of Pavlov-ian reaction as every time he talks about it as his neck begins glisten. Besides the cassoulet, I've converted more people to lovers of tomato soup with the Crème de Tomate en Croute than I can count.

Bistro Jeanty—nothing new, but it's always delicious and easy. Compared to its pretentious neighbors it's a relief.

I have to say that my favorite wine country place to dine is Bistro Jeanty. I love the fact that it is unpretentious, and there is a large community table (at least there was last time I was there). The food is so comforting, and filling after a day of gallivanting about in the vineyards. And so different from what you get in the well-known wine country restaurants. Not that they are bad.

~

So many wonderful dining opportunities in the Russian River area but I'm casting my top vote for Mirepoix in Windsor. It's a cozy, intimate, unpretentious bistro with outstanding seasonal menus and a lovely selection of boutique wines. If you haven't been, GO!!!

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Has to be Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena! Just off the beaten path on Railroad Ave. Warm and cozy…yummy food and you can't go wrong with Cindy Pawlcyn! The Chef Pablo is amazing and will come out and chat with you about the menu! He is self-taught and has worked his way up from dishwasher at Mustard's to where he is today! Awesome!

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My favorite is Mustard’s Grill—best pork chop you will ever eat in your life!!!!

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Auberge du Soleil. I stuck my head in there a few months ago and am now dying to go back and eat and enjoy the lounge at the hotel.

I don't have a favorite place to dine but I would love to try Auberge du Soleil.

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My favorite place to dine in wine country is The General's Daughter in Sonoma. The food is always superb and the atmosphere is cozy.

[Note: this is now Estate restaurant.]

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My favorite is Celadon… Lovely outdoor seating when the weather permits; elegant service; excellent food. Mmmm… lovely.

~

And now, the extra-credit entries:

I'm writing in to vote for my favorite place to eat in wine country. Here are a couple of my tops (sorry, can't pick just one, hope that doesn't defeat the purpose) in no particular order:
 
Healdsburg
El Sombrero - who doesn't like tacos? and a nice Mexican beer mid-wine tasting generally hits the spot w/ a little chips and salsa
Jimtown - great sandwiches + antiques, who doesn't like shopping when they’re tipsy?!
Willi's Seafood - I always have the best time here; a patio on a warm day + shared plates = bonding
 
Sonoma
The Girl and the Fig - home style cooking w/ a laid-back wine country atmosphere and again, great outdoor patio, favorite dish: duck confit
 
Napa
Ubuntu - probably one of the best lunches I've had in my life, favorite desert: cheese cake made in mason jar (incredible!)
Taylor's Refresher - everyone loves Taylor's as is apparent by the massive line
Ad Hoc - Thomas Keller should be dq'd from this list, but can't help it; such simple food made so well... leaves you with that Sunday night dinner feeling of pure contentment

And one more:

Places I like:
French Laundry
The Girl and the Fig
El Dorado Kitchen
Taylor's Refresher
 
Places I want to go:
Ad Hoc
Cyrus
Redd
Bouchon
Bistro Jeanty
Farmhouse Inn
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful answers! And so many different opinions, how cool.

Ready to continue some food meandering? Here are the ~TABLEHOPPER’S TOP TEN TASTES OF THE 2009 FANCY FOOD SHOW~—you can see pics of the entire line-up of the items that are mentioned below, plus others that caught my eye in my flickr photo stream here.

HollowI adored the pickles and relishes from Picolos in Texas, especially the emerald-cut bread & butter relish. Snappy instead of mushy, how novel.

Lemon frozen custard from Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream in Washington—decadent creamy texture and bright lemon flavor, a nice change from ice cream, gelato, and sorbet.

The selections of amaros and liqueurs from Izzi, especially the Sambuca al Caffè served cold—I wish I could finish every meal with this.

Ficoco, a tasty fig and cocoa spread: move over Nutella! No fat, and low in sugar—bonus!

Now, in the high-in-fat category, I loved the English lemon pudding from the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company, made by an English baker living in Austin, Texas. For one of those nights when you wanted something warm and decadent for dessert, with no time to make one, this would be a shoo-in from the deli case. Best warmed up in the toaster oven.

The flavors of the foods at the Tunisian table rocked my palate, like the remarkable harissa from Jrah Trading, and the fiery salade mechouia, a canned grilled pepper salad, by Jardins de Carthage. Fire! Fire!

I tried to stay away from eating too much cheese, because it will just knock you down at this event. But I am so glad I pulled over to try the triple cream goat’s milk cheese from Coach Farm, whoa. And their drinkable yogurt, Yo-Goat, with no sugar added was also a delight.

It’s hard to choose a favorite beverage, but the apple beer from Utah was so refreshing, and I was content slugging the colas and ginger beer from Fentimans, like the spicy Ginger Beer and Curiosity Cola.

Since I was focused more on savory than sweet, I asked ~ADAM SMITH OF FOG CITY NEWS~ for his three favorites from the show since I knew he’d be looking for delectables to stock in his store. Here’s what he had to say:

Three Sweet Finds We'll Soon Be Carrying:

1) Michel Cluizel tins of dark chocolate-covered orange peel
2) Bonnat's three 75% dark bars made from Porcelana cacao beans (Venezuela, Peru, and Mexico origin)
3) Fentimans Curiosity Cola (like no other cola on the market!)

Shall we get to the news? Let’s do it.

ContigoThis weekend I cruised over to Noe Valley to take a peek at the soon-to-open ~CONTIGO~ project from Brett Emerson. How soon? I’m excited to announce Tuesday February 17th is the intended opening date! It’s super cute, cheerful, and I know Emerson is beyond excited to open this thing after two years of planning and construction. First, let’s discuss the Barcelona-meets-City-by-the-Bay menu, with dishes made with quality seasonal ingredients. The menu begins with a “pica-pica” section (which means “nibbles”), where you can choose from 17 hot and cold bites ($8 each/three for $21), including salads, seafood (anchovies, fried smelt, esquixada of salted rock cod, squid a la plancha), oxtail croquetas, and a variety of vegetable dishes, like chard and beet greens with garbanzos. There will also be an array of jamóns (yes, some 30-month acorn-fed jamón Ibérico de Bellota will be in the casa!), and some larger dishes, including a rotating Catalan flatbread, a chorizo burger, and fisherman’s stew. The only thing I spotted over $17 is the jamón Ibérico de Bellota, and a rotating “por dos” dish-for-two, like slow-roasted half duck, or a whole fish. There will also be some desserts, like the sure-to-be popular chocolate con churros, plus a variety of cheeses, and Blue Bottle coffee.

Contigo's wine list will be all Iberian, mainly Spanish, with some Portuguese, and a smattering of French-Basque and French-Catalan selections. The total list will include about 60 bottles, almost half under $40. They will offer nearly 20 wines by the glass, including several cavas and Sherries.

A few things you won’t see: sangria or paella. In all Emerson’s trips to Spain, he’s never had sangria, and had paella just once, at a restaurant surrounded by the fields where the rice is grown. So that’s that.

The contemporary space opens with six dark grey-padded seats at a counter that overlooks the open kitchen, wood-fired Mugnaini pizza oven, and display case, plus a hand-cranked slicer and a hot chocolate machine. This 49-seater has a variety of different areas, including a small bar in the middle of the restaurant, bench seating made from reclaimed wood, upholstered banquettes and seating on a second level, and a bright-green 16-seat enclosed patio that includes a planter box with lettuces and herbs. The space was built following sustainable and green principles, like the water glasses made from recycled wine punts, bathroom tiles that are seconds from Heath, and tabletops from the Levi Strauss building. I also find the layout of such a tight space to be quite impressive—it’s almost like a design you’d do in New York or Tokyo. The newly hired GM is Maz Naba, formerly with Salt House and Anchor & Hope. Hours will be Sun and Tue–Thu 5:30pm­–10pm, and Fri–Sat until 11pm. There are plans to launch weekend brunch later on. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St., 415-285-0250.

A tablehopper reader wrote in to alert me that ~OSHA THAI~ has opened a sixth location in Glen Park in the Super Stars Yong De Restaurant, right across from the BART Station on Diamond Street. Hours are 11am–11pm daily. 2922 Diamond St. at Bosworth, 415-586-6742.

Here’s some news regarding the project moving into the former Frisson space in Jackson Square. It will be a ~STEAKHOUSE LOUNGE~, offering a contemporary take on a steakhouse menu, with smaller portions for those who aren’t up to eating a monster porterhouse. The steaks will be Midwestern beef from Dodge City, with possibly some Wagyu from Japan. The menu and many details are still being worked out, but chef Marc Vogel is leading the kitchen. The project is from Steve and Albert Chen (no relation), ex-managers of Circolo, and investors in Bin 38 and Louie’s Bar and Grill on Stevenson. This project has been called Alex, but the name will most likely change. It’s due to open in the next month-and-a-half or so—in the meantime, they are working on the menu, getting permits and inspections squared away, hiring the staff, and updating the interior. For now, the décor will have less orange tones, and more cream and black. There will be around 85 seats, with three private dining rooms, and the lounge. I’ll let you know when I get to peek at a preliminary menu and can release more info. 244 Jackson St. at Front.

I heard ~ESPETUS~ had a fire in their flue Saturday evening during the height of a busy service. Fortunately no one was hurt, damage was minimal, and they are working round the clock to reopen by this Thursday for a big event. 1686 Market St. at Gough, 415-552-8792.

tablehopper reader Jason B. writes in about a new sushi place in SoMa, ~SUSHI CLUB~: “The good news, perhaps, is it is open late. I discovered it walking to the trusty 14 Mission stop at 5th/Mission after a DJ last Thursday, say about 1:30am, and they were still open. Or perhaps the weather inspired them to stay open. Who knows. The bad news is the one review [on Yelp] doesn't look good. Assuming they don't close up shop, I'll be trying it at some point nonetheless…” Now there’s a second review up, and it’s less painful. Soft-opening mode in effect! 71 5th St. at Mission, 415-536-7888.

I’ve had a few readers wondering what’s going on with ~DEEP SUSHI~ in Noe Valley. They have had a sign on their door saying they were closed for an emergency, but that has been up for weeks. Another source tells me it was for sale. The phone just rings and rings. Will report back once I hear something definite. 1740 Church St. at Day, 415-970-3337.

HollowThere’s a cute new café and gift shop that has opened in a former salon in the Sunset called ~HOLLOW~. There’s an espresso bar serving Ritual coffee, plus some sweets, truffles, and teas. The place is tiny, so there are only a few tables where you can linger. The inside/outside look is quite cool, a bit Secret Garden-meets-Alice in Wonderland, with all kinds of cards, hostess gifts, and more that are based on nature. Hours are Wed–Fri 8am–3pm and Sat–Sun 8am–5pm, extending very soon to Mon–Fri 7am–5pm and Sat–Sun 8am–5pm. 1435 Irving St. at 16th Ave., 415-242-4119.

Also in the neighborhood, Nick Fasanella’s taco shop at ~UNDERDOG’S SPORTS BAR & GRILL~ has extended its hours, serving tacos and other bites until midnight Thu–Sat, and until midnight during the week. 1824 Irving St. at 19th Ave., 415-566-8700.

I was out on a scouting walk this weekend, and noticed all kinds of things happening in Hayes Valley. First, the old Mad Magda’s/Frjtz space is becoming ~MARINO~. I looked at some permits— the new tenants have a restaurant called El Delfin in Delano. I will let you know when I hear back from them about their plans for this location. 579 Hayes St. at Laguna.

The windows remain papered over at ~215 OCTAVIA~. Curious what will move into the former Akelarre café space… 215 Octavia St. at Page.

One sure thing is ~PAULETTE MACARONS~, a tiny little spot that is opening today just next door to Ver Unica. This is the second location of the macaroon shop in Beverly Hills. Daily Candy had additional details, like the fact that the macaroons are: “handmade daily in Beverly Hills and shipped fresh to us. The lineup includes a dozen flavors — from caramel pecan, Colombian coffee, and lemon to Madagascar vanilla, Sicilian pistachio, violet cassis, and Earl Grey. […] They’ll also be serving coffee, Italian espresso, and teas from Mariage Frères.” Hours are Tue–Sun 11am–7pm. 437-A Hayes St. at Gough, 415-864-2400.

Chef George Morrone was recently brought on at ~SUTRO'S AT THE CLIFF HOUSE~. Now that that holiday season has wrapped up, his contemporary-American menu is almost entirely in place, offering a “twist on classics, with contemporary flair.” Some dishes include citrus-cured gravlax with pickled beets and Fuji apples; lobster-ricotta-mascarpone ravioli with blood orange-tarragon butter; and salt-crusted prime rib of veal with parsnip-horseradish puree. By the end of the month, Morrone’s final menu will feature local seafood offerings like petrale sole, Dungeness crab, sand dabs, and shellfish. He is working closely with executive sous chef Brian O’Connor. Some of "George's favorites” will be on the menu, including his tuna tartare. 1090 Point Lobos, 415-386-3330.

Another move: ~ANDREW GENERALAO~, the former GM at Yoshi’s is now in place at La Mar on the Embarcadero. Look for service to get tightened up, special lunch menus, and more. Pier 1 1/2 at Washington, 415-397-8880.

I received this press release a few weeks ago about the ~FOODZIE~ website, almost an Etsy for the food world. While at the Austrade post-Fancy Food Show event Sunday night, I got to meet a couple of the Foodzie folks who were out here from Colorado promoting their business, an online marketplace featuring small artisan producers and growers. Though Foodzie hasn't yet officially launched its full marketplace, a few producers are up and running in a "sneak preview" version of the site. Here’s more: “Foodzie operates on a commission-based model whereby producers pay the company a fee of 20 percent for each transaction conducted through the site, allowing the producers to keep a full 80 percent of what they charge. (Traditional retailers, by contrast, often charge fees as high as 50 percent.)” Check it out, and look for more items to be available in coming months.

And now, some deals around town, including one that’s sure to appeal to many gourmands: ~SPRUCE~ is serving Perigord truffles at cost! Yup, $20 to get those puppies shaved on your dinner. The word is this year’s season is quite a good one, and while some places around town are writing off this luxurious ingredient during this tough economic climate, the folks at Spruce decided to let us eat the cost, so to speak. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-931-5100.

~SOUTH FOOD + WINE BAR~ will be celebrating Australia Day (January 26th) on Sunday January 25th, with “posh barbie fare” and beer from 1:30pm–4:30pm. $55 per head, includes food and beverages, plus tax and gratuity. RSVP at 415-974-5599. 330 Townsend St. #230 at 4th St., 415-974-1911.

~TWO~ is turning two this month, so there will be a series of special birthday menus featuring five $5 dishes each week from Mondays through Thursdays, until February 19th. You can check out the menu here. 22 Hawthorne St. at Howard, 415-777-9779.

An Oakland update: things are happening at the ~JACK LONDON SQUARE~ project, and here’s the latest on who will be keeping Joey Altman (Miss Pearl's Jam House) company.

First, Daniel Patterson (Coi) and Lauren Kiino (formerly chef de cuisine at Delfina) will be collaborating on ~BRACINA~, an 80-seat 3,000-square-foot project on the ground floor of the soon-to-be-complete Jack London Market (she will be the chef, while Patterson will “provide organizational oversight and consult on the menu”). Bracina, Latin for “kitchen,” will feature an open kitchen and rotisserie as well as a full bar, plus outdoor seating that will look out over the waterfront. The menu will be casual, “a brand of rustic-refined California cuisine highlighting the best local and seasonal ingredients.”

Then there’s ~BOCANOVA~ from the husband-and-wife team of Rick Hackett (MarketBar) and Meredith Melville. BOCANOVA will feature a Pan-American grill menu, with dishes from South, Central, and North America that will use local ingredients when possible; Hackett is collaborating with local farmers in planting South and Central American produce that isn’t readily available in the Bay Area. There will be dishes like Argentine cuts of beef, whole fish with Peruvian peppers and spices from the rotisserie, and regional South and Central American slow braises and bean pots from the open kitchen. There will also be ceviche from the raw bar, salads, seafood tacos, and more, including desserts from the bakery. BOCANOVA is opening in the 6,500-square-foot 66 Franklin Street Building, an historic ice warehouse from 1926. Michael Guthrie & Company is designing the contemporary yet rustic space, and will be using recycled and sustainably harvested materials.

Meg Ray, the founder of Miette Patisserie, is opening ~WREN BAKERY~, a small retail storefront, spacious production facility, and baking school. The state-of-the-art kitchen will feature 17-foot ceilings and enormous plate-glass windows. The professional cooking course will focus on cake and pastry production, with instruction in both American and European techniques. Non-professional class topics will include baking, decorating, marzipan-rose modeling, petit fours, chocolate work, and candy making, taught by acclaimed pastry chefs from New York, Paris, and Vienna. A course on bread will be added in the coming years, and there will also be classes for children.

Many of these projects are hoping to open in the spring and summer. All the restaurants will benefit from the proximity of the 70,000-square-foot ~JACK LONDON MARKET~, the largest of its kind on the West Coast, scheduled to open in the summer. It will house small businesses selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, cheeses, and specialty products with an emphasis on local and sustainable practices. Cocina Poblana also has a location in Jack London Square, so the final tally could go up to 10-15 restaurant tenants. Blue Bottle is also opening nearby, in the Jack London District, but west of the 880.

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

 
the sponsor

Melbourne Australia

Melbourne, Victoria – Australia’s cuisine capital

Did you know Melbourne, Victoria is Australia’s cuisine capital? With a few tastes of our one-of-a-kind food products, you’ll see why. Come to Andronico’s stores in the greater San Francisco Bay area this January, and you’ll be able to experience organic, indulgent, and authentic outback flavors.

Victoria’s delectable cheeses, gourmet crackers, specialty oils, sauces, and splashes are at all Andronico’s locations.

Our best food artisans are looking forward to tantalizing your taste buds, so come down, say “G’day!” and savor the best of Victoria’s culinary delights. See you there, mate!

You can read more about featured Australian products here.

 
the lush

MelbourneJANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO ~15 ROMOLO~ in North Beach is closed for a facelift, and when it reopens around mid-February, there will be a new weekly menu of affordable bar food, with about 6–10 items on the chalkboard per day. The look will be warm and inviting, and will give a nod to pre-Prohibition, with amber-pink lighting, and long banquettes along the side. The original Victorian archway at the entrance is now exposed, plus there are some changes in the bar shelving. I hear the bar plans to be the SF headquarters for Pimm’s Cups, made with rum or gin and house-made ginger syrup. The kitchen will be open at 5pm, with food served from 6pm until 1am or so nightly. 15 Romolo Pl. at Broadway, 415-398-1359.

On Market Street, the Octavia Lounge is now ~THE TRIPLE CROWN~. There are already some parties and regular nights underway, with local talents like Jeno, Garth, M3, and some funk with Vinnie Esparza. Hours are Tue–Fri 5:30pm–2am, Sat–Sun 7pm–2am. 1760 Market St. at Octavia, 415-863-3516.

~BLOODHOUND~, the bar opening in the former Cassidy’s space in SoMa, is slated to open next Monday January 26th, although that date might slip. The space will have a comfortable neighborhood vibe, with rustic 100-year-old reclaimed barn siding on the walls, custom-made chandeliers, wallpaper with a design of blackbirds on the ceiling, and some large artist-commissioned paintings of taxidermy. There are brown-leather sectionals in the front, plus a spacious 15-seat bar, some 6x8 high-top communal tables in the back, and a pool table and jukebox loaded with rock ‘n’ roll. A few sample cocktails off the list include Planter’s Punch, a Jack Rose, a Negroni, and the namesake Bloodhound #2 with No. 209 Gin, sweet and dry vermouth, orange bitters, and zest. There will also be some well-chosen beers and wines. Open 4pm–2am daily. 1145 Folsom St. at 7th St.

I swung by ~HEAVEN’S DOG~ after the Fancy Food Show on Sunday night, and learned that Jackie Patterson is no longer working as the bar manager at Zinnia, and is now full-time behind the bar at Heaven’s Dog. Tables were talking about the new spears ice (nice and cold, but does it mean less cocktail in the glass?), the long flowing slab of wood for the bar top was quite gorg, and I foresee pork buns will be on every table. 1148 Mission St. at 7th St., 415-863-6008.

Over in the Marina, ~ACE WASABI'S~ is offering half-price drinks during happy hour, from 5:30pm–7pm. 3339 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-567-4903.

I got more details on ~MINI~, the wine and Champagne bar that is slated to open tomorrow (Wednesday the 21st), next to Esperpento in the Mission. True to its name, there are only 12 seats inside, but some outdoor seating will be added this summer. The list is also petite: four–five wines by the glass, 25-35 bottles of wine, plus a sparkling wine selection. The look includes marble tabletops, crystal chandeliers, and tiny oil paintings. Since the project is a collaboration between owners German Maldonado and Esperpento, there will also be some food items, like cheese, charcuterie, pate, a sandwich, and canapés available. Open Wed–Sat 5pm–midnight. 3283 22nd St. at Valencia, 415-850-4778.

This week is Brunello madness, and The Jug Shop is hosting an ~AFTER HOURS BRUNELLO BASH~ on Thursday January 22nd. The winemakers of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino who are visiting San Francisco as part of their U.S. market tour will be present. Look for great deals on the 2003 vintage, as well as discounts on pre-arrival purchases of the 2004 vintage. Space is limited for this special event and RSVP by phone is required. 9pm–11pm. $50 per person. RSVP by phone to 415-885-2922. 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk.

~UVA ENOTECA~ is hosting an “Intro to Italian Wines” class with Giovanni, their wine guy, this Saturday the 24th at 3:30pm. The class will cover five different wines and discuss each region. The featured wines will be: Vernatsch from Alto Adige; Dolcetto from Piemonte; Tourette from Val d'Aosta; Frappato from Sicily; and Taurasi from Campania. The class costs $40 and will end at 4:30pm. Call 415-829-2024 to sign up. 568 Haight St. at Steiner, 415-829-2024.

 
the socialite

Beer Week Logo

SF Beer Week
Fri. Feb. 6th–15th, 2009

Various locations

website

 

JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Strong Beer Month and ~SF BEER WEEK~ are coming up. Strong Beer Month begins February 1st, and SF Beer Week, a new event celebrating local craft beer history and the artisan beer culture here in SF and around the Bay, will run from February 6th–15th. SF Beer Week has more than 150 beer-related activities, and over 100 San Francisco breweries and pubs participating. There will be festivals, beer dinners, cheese-and-beer pairing events, gourmet food events, special releases, meet-the-brewer evenings, home-brewing demonstrations, music, films, and even a museum exhibition exploring the history of Bay Area brewing, from Monterey to Sacramento and beyond.

There are so many events, all over the Bay Area, that I can’t even begin to list them all, but here are a couple highlights: 

Strong Beer Month

February 1st–28th
Free (samples may be purchased separately)

February 1st marks the start of the 7th Annual Strong Beer Month. The brewers of the 21st Amendment and Magnolia Pub and Brewery once again bring you an astounding range of memorable brews to lift the winter doldrums. Visit both breweries, try all twelve beers and keep the special commemorative glass. Commemorative t-shirts are also available. The festivities begin February 1st, but check back often as special kegs and casks of vintage and barrel-aged beers will appear throughout the month and runs the entire month. These special beers and glasses will be available from February 1st until they run out.

Magnolia Brewery
1398 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA
415-864-7468

21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant
563 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA
415-369-0900

 
The Beer & Nosh Dinner

Wednesday February 11th, 6:30pm–10pm

Hosted by Scala's Bistro, with a five-course meal prepared by chef Jen Biesty, formerly of Coco500 and Top Chef Season Four. Menu coming soon, check here for updated posts.

Paired with beers from these generous breweries:
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Triple Rock Brewery
Drake’s Brewing Company
Sacramento Brewing Company
Shmaltz Brewing
Oskar Blues

All profits for the dinner are being donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. $100: all-inclusive for dinner, beer, tax, gratuity, and donation. Please send questions or reservation requests to rsvp@beerandnosh.com.

Fifth Floor

Wine and Wishes Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting
Sat. Feb. 7th, 2009

Treasure Island
Building 180
San Francisco, CA

website

5pm–7:30pm

$150
tablehopper price: $135
use discount code “magic” to receive 10% off

JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Coming up is ~MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION’S WINE AND WISHES GOURMET FOOD & WINE TASTING EVENT~, which includes a walk-around tasting of wine and food on Treasure Island. Restaurant participants include: A16/SPQR; Absinthe Brasserie and Bar; Bocadillos; Culinary Academy; Farallon; Farina Focaccia Cucina Italiana; Kara's Cupcakes; Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant/Oola; Marin French Cheese/Rouge Et Noir; Masa's; Millennium; Namu/Happy Belly; Navio; One Market; Ozumo; Parcel 104; Perbacco; Piperade; Poleng Lounge; The Lark Creek Inn; The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton San Francisco; the girl and the fig/Estate; Shari's Berries; The Slanted Door/Out the Door; Anchor and Hope/Town Hall; and Wood Tavern.

Check the site for the list of participating wineries.

Normal ticket price is $150, but the tablehopper reader discount price is $135. The discount code is “magic” to receive 10% off.

There is a shuttle option for $10—you can reserve a seat on the shuttle from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero BART Station.

There is also winemaker dinner, featuring the following chefs: Elizabeth Falkner, Citizen Cake and Orson; Emily Luchetti, Farallon, Nick’s Cove and Waterbar; Roland Passot, La Folie; and Daniel Patterson, Coi Restaurant. Dinner tickets range from $350–$1000 (this includes entry into the Tasting too). Tickets usually sell out quickly. For more info on the dinner, you can call 415-982-9474.

 
the wino

Fifth Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Emily Wines is the wine director for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and the Fifth Floor Restaurant. In February of 2008, she became one of 15 female Master Sommeliers in the world. In addition to maintaining the Fifth Floor's Wine Spectator Grand Award, she teaches the casual Wednesday wine series “Wines on Wine” and competes in the monthly “Three on Five” beverage pairing dinners at the restaurant.

Blind Tasting My Way Back to Childhood

There is something so sensual and memory-invoking about both smell and taste. The language of smell is all about offering familiar items as a reference point. Pinot noir doesn’t taste exactly like cherries, but is so much more like cherry than blueberry or peach. It may offer an earthy taste that we can’t name, so we might compare it to a mushroom, since it is closer to that smell than any other earthy-smelling thing that comes to mind. An image of the aroma is drawn, composed of a group of comparisons. Smell is also incredibly nostalgic and memory provoking. Have you ever gotten a whiff of your ex’s perfume on a stranger? You recognize it instantly.

So often, as I taste wine, a bouquet comes up that brings me back to childhood. Like Chateau Latour; yes, it smells like lead pencil, but for me it is an instant flashback to the second grade. I am transported to the moment when I am shaking the pencil sharpener into the trash and its dust is wafting up into my face.

South African and Chilean wines often have a fragrance of rubber to them. The nostalgic trigger for me is those reddish-pink playground balls. The rubber smell is hot in my nose, as I prepare to die in a game of dodge ball.

Candy generates some of the most poignant flavor profiles. Sweet Tarts are often recalled when tasting a young, high-acid white wine. Sometimes pinot grigio even reminds me of baby aspirin, with its bitter, vaguely orange taste. Do you remember that powdered candy that you dipped the hard candy stick into? Lick-M-Aid, I think it was called. Or better yet, the powdered candy that came in the long plastic tube. I think that all young, fruity wines have that kind of flavor. Albariño has that with a bit of margarita mix put in for good measure.

When I was in Germany tasting tank samples of the 2004 rieslings, my notes were peppered with the abbreviation GAJR, which stands for Green Apple Jolly Rancher. I’m certain that all Gen-Xers would taste the same thing in these wines.

I’ve had Hermitage Blanc that was hauntingly similar to Banana Laffy Taffy. The tang of wax-candy lips is recalled in Vouvray and Beaujolais tastes like Cherry Hubba Bubba. (I don’t think they even make that flavor any more.) One of my benchmark characteristics of Chianti isn’t anise or even licorice, but Good & Plenty. One of the greatest wines I have ever tasted, Chateau Cheval Blanc 1928, was like liquid Tootsie Roll.

So perhaps mine is not the most dignified palate. But I love finding the nostalgic references that make a wine stick in my mind. A world where any glass of wine could remind you of your Grandma’s perfume, a day at the movies, or riding horseback while smoking a cigar and eating a bacon sandwich is a fine world indeed.

 
the hardhat

Erin Archuleta

flour + water picture
David White and Sean Quigley

flour + water picture

flour + water picture

JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we’ll be checking in on the build-out process of flour + water, a new restaurant project that is underway in the Mission. The hardhat will highlight the unique coups and complications when opening a restaurant in San Francisco. This section will be written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

David Steele and David White are in the hunter-gatherer phase of the build-out of their soon-to-be Mission-neighborhood restaurant flour + water.

In the past marathon month, David W’s crews have completed all their permitting and initial build-out hopes, and are now in the final stages of sheetrocking, mudding, and taping. David W. assures me that “once the sheet rock is done, it’s a major milestone in any (building) project.” David’s also been sourcing some great equipment for repurpose at local restaurant auctions.

Most equipment will be repurposed, but the Mugnaini wood-fired oven will be specially hand-built just for the kitchen. An expert wood-fired oven craftsman, Michael Fairholme, is coming next week by way of Arizona and New York to build the gorgeous Italian stone oven at 20th and Harrison.

An exclusive tablehopper.com scoop is the announcement that painter Jessica Niello was chosen as the winner of the flour + water mural contest. Per our October announcement, Jessica will be collaborating with designer Sean Quigley (whom you may know from Paxton Gate and Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids) to create a large wall mural in the restaurant. As the winner, flour + water will also host her SF Open Studios event in conjunction with ArtSpan, purchasing her a full-page ad in the Open Studios Guide. Her work bears a like-minded approach to Sean’s aesthetic, focusing on science, the natural world, and taxidermy. She is a neighbor to the restaurant, with studio space at 17th and Mission Streets. Jessica is currently showing work at Bell Jar and the new NOPA gallery and boutique, The Perish Trust.

Next month, we’ll be checking back in with David Steele and David White on their exciting Italian wine list, as well as the story behind their house wine. In the coming week, both Davids will be L.A.- and Vegas-bound, eating some delicious meals for food and wine inspiration at some of Batali’s joints, as well as other Italian notables: Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, Angelini Osteria, Casa Bianca, Fiamma Trattoria, Enoteca San Marco, B+B Ristorante and Carnevino, Nora's Wine Bar & Osteria, and Trattoria del Lupo.

We wish David White a wonderful wedding in India, and may all the interior work be completed before his plane takes off with him and his tuxedo (and small bites at all those restaurants will ensure it fits!).

 
the starlet

JANUARY 20, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO A tablehopper reader wrote in with a sighting of Todd Oldham and John Waters having dinner at Asia de Cuba: “John looking dapper as always, Todd looking like a lumberjack, scruffy with a beard.”

Glenn Close was spotted dining at Bong Su in the company of friends.

Adam Savage, from Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, was at Foreign Cinema Friday night.

Patti Stanger, the host of The Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo had lunch at Brix in Yountville on Saturday. As the spotter noted, “The show returns for its second season on February 12th… Maybe she found some hottie millionaire in Napa.”

And “Just Jack” Sean Hayes was at Venticello on Sunday night.
 
 

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