tablehopper
table of contents This week's tablehopper: ay yi yi.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the health nut
take a lap, tablehopper
the sugar mama
get some
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Uncorked! Ghirardelli Square Wine Festival

BiRite Wine Blitz

SF Cocktail Week

hosting provided by

Zojo Media

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO There’s nothing like going out on a Monday morning to move your car for street cleaning and finding your roof all slashed up (two foot-long holes), plus a botched attempt to pry off one of my speakers (sorry lame robber dude, my friend drilled those puppies in tight so they wouldn’t leave). I think the %$#* thief must have gotten pissed that I hid my radio faceplate so well that he decided to jam something into the radio anyway so neither of us could enjoy it. Grrrrrreat, now that’s messed up too. You know a big F word was yelled. (Maybe two.)

Why am I sharing this? Well, I have been searching Craigslist for a garage space for my sweet little Alfa for months and months, to no avail. And the slashed roof has put me over the edge. So if anyone knows anyone with an enclosed garage space to rent near Broderick and Fulton (and less than $175 a month), we’d both be so stoked. Beep beep. Hey, you never know…

As for my other preferred mode of transport, I wanted to give you a heads up that May 14th is Bike to Work Day! I work from home, so I really don’t need to ride anywhere, but in case you’d like to look into it (and I hope you do), here’s the link on how to get a bike buddy, and more!

So I am moving into week two of this cleanse and feeling great—check out the health nut for more. But just because I am on a cleanse this week doesn’t mean you are, so I thought I’d write up a recent meal that was the complete and utter opposite of how I’m eating these days. Yup, a big-ass steak dinner at Harris’. Read all about it in the regular. Plus we have a wino this week since I’m not drinking. See, it’s like you’d never know I was a (temporarily) teetotaling and abstemious vegan!

imageAlthough when I bopped into Nopalito last week for lunch, co-owner Laurence Jossel obviously got the memo about my carnitas-free life: he was more than happy to greet me with a special cleanse-friendly plate, just for me. Awwww, thanks, LJ.

Hey fabulous readers, thank you all for the incredibly kind and congratulatory notes about my book deal last week. Your support means so much! I was especially happy to get these suggested tablehopper book titles from one reader (who happens to be my dad’s Vietnam War buddy)—thanks Bob J. for the ideas! They were so damned funny I thought I should share:

You want SOMA This?!?
I Left My Carbs in San Francisco
Sippin' at the Dock of the Bay
Get Fed Up and Enjoy It!
You Only Live Once, but You Can Eat a Lot!
The People of La Mangia
Bitchin' From the Kitchen
No Room for Slobs on the Nob
Fork Your Way Around The Bay

Really, how can I top those? Bob, you’re a veritable powerhouse of ideas. And funny as hell.

Speaking of the other F word, have fun tying one on for Cinco de Mayo tonight. And Happy Mother’s Day to all our beloved mothers and grandmothers out there! Oh yeah, check out the socialite for a Dine About Town event I’ll be emceeing on May 28th—you can start getting tickets this Thursday.

In tofu I trust,
~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia, yo) subscribe

the chatterbox

Uncorked Wine Festival at Ghirardelli SquareMAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Big congrats to all the ~JAMES BEARD~ winners (and nominees!). Nate Appleman won Rising Star Chef (!!), and Douglas Keane of Cyrus won Best Chef: Pacific. Also, my fabulous new publisher has a winning Cookbook of the Year for Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (author: Jennifer McLagan, publisher: Ten Speed Press, editor: Clancy Drake). For more info on all the winners, please visit jamesbeard.org.

A few updates on delayed projects around town: first, I thought I was going to have a big write-up for you on ~BAR CRUDO~ this week, but I’m saving it for next week since the new location isn’t opening until Friday the 15th. Bar Crudo on Bush is due to close this Saturday. 603 Bush St. at Stockton, 415-956-0396; 655 Divisadero at Grove.

In the Sunset, ~EBISU~ is now looking like it’s opening on Tuesday May 12th. You can check out the updated menu on the new site in the meantime (additions include a robata menu and traditional shabu shabu). 1283 9th Ave. at Judah, 415-566-1770.

I was so happy to read on Eater that ~TAJINE~ is returning! Mohamed Ghaleb is reopening his Moroccan outpost this Thursday May 7th in the Heights on Van Ness, which is normally a nightclub. He’ll be doing a prix-fixe menu Tue–Sun (closed Mon) for $29.95, which will include soup, salad, appetizers like chicken or vegetarian basteeya or a Merguez plate, choice of entrée (lamb or fish tajine, and other items), couscous, plus mint tea and other treats. He also mentioned there will be a number of vegetarian choices, and there will be a bar menu available with smaller dishes. Ghaleb has brought back a lot of fabric from Morocco, so he’ll be using it to create a lush atmosphere, and will offer low seating with lots of pillows in the dining area. You’ll also be able to eat with your hands (don’t worry, there will be a hand-washing ceremony prior, and rosewater at the end). The place will morph into its club-like existence Friday and Saturday nights. Kitchen hours: 5pm–10pm. 2080 Van Ness at Pacific.

More kebabs: the transformation from Pita Pit to ~MARINA & KEBAB~ is complete. This is a second location for Hayes Valley's Hayes & Kebab (hence the nomenclature). The menu is close to the same (think wraps, kebab plates, etc.), except no moussaka since the kitchen is smaller; you can familiarize yourself with the Hayes & Kebab menu here. A tablehopper reader reports the hummus is on point. Hours are Sun–Thu 11am–10pm and Fri–Sat 11am–2am. Yup, late-night Mediterranean! 2257 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-441-901.

Also in the Marina, the very small ~LET’S BE FRANK “DOGHOUSE”~ is open. Well, a Cass Calder Smith-designed doghouse. You’ll be able to get their trademark grass-fed beef hot dogs and family-farmed pork brats, new spicy "hot" dogs, and a "Not Dog" (it’s vegan!), Devil Sauce (can’t wait to try it), plus chili made with heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream sandwiches, local beers, and wines. Hours are Mon–Sun 11am–7pm to start, with possibly later hours coming on Fri–Sat, stand by. 3318 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-674-6755.

I had a chance to take a peek at the new ~SCHMIDT’S DELI~, opening for lunch tomorrow (Wednesday). To recap, Christiane Schmidt of Walzwerk and her boyfriend, furniture designer and architect David Pierce, are behind the 49-seat project. Until their wine and beer license kicks in, they are just going to be serving sandwiches on German bread (including Westphalian ham and veal schnitzel), sausages (five kinds, like wild boar and Thüringer bratwurst), salads, and soups, plus coffee from De La Paz during the week. Homesick Germans will say “now’s the time in sprockets when we shop!” when they see the well-stocked shelves of authentic and hard-to-find items, like plum jam-mousse, sugar beet syrup, gooseberries, pickles, herring, curry ketchup, and mustards. Schmidt’s will also have Bionade, a tasty non-alcoholic drink I tried at the Fancy Food Show. You can also get your carbs on with the supply of pretzels, strudels, and other baked goods from Esther’s Bakery in Mountain View. Eventually there will be espresso, eight German beers on draft, and the large refrigerated case behind the counter will be full of wines (15 reds and whites) and bottled beers. It’s a cool corner spot, outfitted with lots of repurposed materials, including a lovely walnut communal table. Initial hours will be Mon–Fri 11am–3pm. Once the permit kicks in, hours will be 11am–11pm. 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St., 415-410-0202.

Also in the Mission, the ~BLUE MACAW~ had its opening party this weekend. It’s in the former 12 Galaxies location—I will hopefully have more details on the food, line-up, etc. next week for you. 2565 Mission St. at 22nd St.

Received this tip from a reader: “I noticed that ~ROHAN LOUNGE~ was closed for business this weekend. Sign on their door indicated that it was for nonpayment of rent (notice from landlord) and it looked like Rohan had posted a sign saying that they were ‘Closed for Business.’ Seemed pretty final!” I couldn’t reach anyone from the lounge, but with a closed for business sign up, I’d say sadly, yes, the odds are good they are closed. 3809 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave.

After being closed for a week for renovations and freshening up, ~ZUNI~ reopens today. Here are the updates to the space: the front staircase leading up to the mezzanine has been redone; all of the floors in the upstairs dining rooms have new parquet planks; there has been a little resizing of some seating areas (plus there are new restored chairs to come); the brick oven interior was rebuilt; everything was cleaned, waxed, re-grouted, some tables got new table bases, and all of the service stations upstairs have been redone. There’s also a new gallery hanging work now (Hackett-Freedman closed and so now Dolby Chadwick is loaning work). 1658 Market St. at Franklin, 415-552-2522.

Cocktail WeekHere’s more on ~URBAN TAVERN’S~ changes since executive chef Chad Newton has departed. The new exec is Mary O’Neill, who was most recently the executive sous chef. The menu is supposed to show more of a gastropub focus, using seasonal and local ingredients. 333 O'Farrell St. at Mason, 415-923-4400.

A tablehopper reader writes in “~ROCCO'S~, the old school Italian diner on Folsom at the end of my street has been shut down for the last week for a remodel.” The reopening is slated for the 12th. 1131 Folsom St. at 7th St., 415-554-0522.

Another bit of news on Folsom: Ryan “Pig Man” Farr of 4505 Meats and Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf are at it again at ~BLOODHOUND~ (the bar name is almost too appropriate), this time butchering a pig on site and preparing it for the hungry masses. The pig will be grilled, and there will also be a rotisserie goin’ with pork shoulders and pork butts, plus sausages, chicharrones, and corn dogs, as well as Taylor’s assortment of pates and other fine meats. The event is next Wednesday May 13th, 6pm-9pm, $25 per person. Bartender Dylan O’Brien will be crafting another homemade bacon-infused Bulleit bourbon, served Old Fashioned-style (while supplies last). Space is limited, RSVP to info [at] bloodhoundsf.com. 1145 Folsom St. at 7th St.

The Recession Sure As Hell Ain’t Over, Let’s Look at Some Meal Deals:

imageThere’s a new dinner offering at ~WATERBAR RESTAURANT~: the Monday Shellfish & Champagne dinner series. For $60 per person, diners get a three-course prix-fixe meal accompanied by three sparkling wines. The menu changes weekly: May 11th is the sea scallop dinner, while May 18th is the Maine Regional dinner, with Bouchet mussels and Maine lobster (natch). 399 The Embarcadero at Folsom, 415-284-9922.

Pig Out Tuesdays launches tonight at ~BETELNUT~, featuring a platter of delicious roast pork, organic wok-tossed farmers’ market vegetables and jasmine rice, only $24.88 for two (you know, lucky number eight…). Every Tuesday, the restaurant will roast a fresh 40-pound Duroc pig from Iowa’s Vande Rose Farms in its Chinese oven until it’s crispy on the outside, and moist and succulent on the inside. Chef Alex Ong was inspired to do this after a trip to Bali, where he stopped at a restaurant that only served whole-roasted pigs. Available while supplies last. There will also be a pinot noir at a bargain $5 per glass. 2030 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-929-8855.

In case you’re inspired to go hit ~HARRIS’ RESTAURANT~ after reading this week’s review, you should know the restaurant is turning 25, and to celebrate they’re offering a Silver Anniversary Menu throughout the month of May. It includes an amuse-bouche of chilled vichyssoise; your choice of a mixed green salad or a Caesar; an intermezzo of lemon sorbet; your choice of filet mignon Rossini, boneless prime New York, or seared ahi tuna; and for dessert, opera cake or key lime pie. The menu is $55, and $85 with wine pairings (you can read the entire menu here—it’s a PDF). 2100 Van Ness at Pacific, 415-673-1888.

~LAIOLA~ is hosting a Sciabica Olive Oil Dinner on Wednesday May 13th. It includes “pintxos” (confitado of artichoke hearts with Sciabica Mission Variety and a quail egg, olive oil-poached tuna conserva with preserved Meyer lemon and Sciabica olives, and olive oil griddlecake with braised pork shoulder and candied olives); roasted hake with asparagus, Sciabica jalapeño oil, ramps, and spring onions; whole-roasted spring lamb with Sciabica’s Mission Variety Spring 2009 Harvest Olive Oil, pea tendrils, spring radishes, and white beans; and olive oil cake with lemon-rosemary ice cream. $75 per person. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

Wild Game Week returns to the ~BIG 4~ at the Huntington, happening May 12th–16th (it's the 20th annual occurrence). On the menu: piranha, buffalo, antelope, rabbit-rattle snake sausage, Sika deer, Himalayan yak, llama, wapiti, and more. Check out the carnage in the menu here (it’s a PDF). The Huntington Hotel, 1075 California St. at Taylor, 415-771-1140.

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

 
the sponsor

Uncorked! Wine Festival at Ghiradelli Square

Ghirardelli Square hosts the 4th Annual Uncorked Wine Festival on Saturday May 16th from 1pm–6pm. In partnership with non-profit La Cocina, Uncorked brings over 50 wineries to the newly revitalized Ghirardelli Square where you can experience a taste of the wine country on the waterfront. Taste over 100 wines and enjoy live music, chef demonstrations, and wine seminars. 

This event is free to attend, however tickets must be purchased to participate in wine tasting. Tickets are now available for $50 at GhirardelliSQ.com.

 
the regular

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Photos by Mathew Sumner.

Harris’ Restaurant
2100 Van Ness Ave.
Cross: Pacific Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94109

415-673-1888
website

Mon–Thu 5:30pm–9:30pm
Fri 5:30pm–10:30pm
Sat 5pm–10:30pm
Sun 5pm–9:30pm

Apps $8–$17.50
Entrées $25–$170
Desserts $9


MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO When the hankering for a steak strikes, you don’t want to mess around. It’s a primal need that means business. Which is why I enjoy the whole white tablecloth experience that usually surrounds what is quite the carnivorous act. It’s kind of like wearing elbow length opera gloves at a crawfish boil. Then again, if you’re tucking into a $43 steak, a little polish is called for.

I’ve eaten at ~HARRIS’ RESTAURANT~ four or five times over the years, and truth be told, the more I learn about food, the guiltier I feel about eating a steak there. We’re talking corn-fed Mid-western beef, baby. Michael Pollan, forgive me, for I have sinned and I will probably sin again, but goddamn the steak is good here. It’s up to all of us to eat consciously, sustainably, locally, organically, humanely, the whole lot. But every once in a while you want to be bad. So if you’re gonna do it, you better do it in style.

The dining room here has always transported me somewhere else—for some reason it makes me think of being on a set on Giant: it feels big and sprawling and Texan, with some cowboy touches, like the murals of grazing cattle and large chandeliers that look like they should be oil-lit. You can start the evening in the Pacific Lounge, taking in the live jazz trio (Thursday through Saturday) over a cocktail at the turn-of-the-century mahogany bar. But I definitely recommend eating in the main dining room (The Van Ness Room) if it’s your first time. Welcome to booth country.

First things first: you need a drink. I slip right into the Eagle Rare Manhattan, a single barrel bourbon whiskey aged 10 years (Harris’ gets to pick their exclusive barrel) paired with Vya sweet vermouth and Peychaud's bitters ($12). It comes with a little sidecar: an additional splash that stays chilled in a mini-carafe resting in a petite half-barrel filled with ice. Genius. Someone who likes to drink definitely came up with this presentation.

While you’re sippin’, you’ll get some complimentary toast points that come with a spread of white cheddar cheese, port wine, and a touch of cream cheese. It reminds me of one of faux-fancy spreadable cheeses (care for some Rondelé, darling?) but look what got scarfed down pretty quickly. Tonight is all about guilty pleasures.

The menu is simple, as it should be: I usually go for the classic wedge ($9.50)—crisp, cold, just the right amount of dressing (it says chef’s choice, but I like to insure it’s a creamy blue). You can also do a Caesar ($9.50), mixed greens ($8.50), or the baby spinach salad with apple wood-smoked bacon, pine nuts, mushrooms, and a slightly out-of-place soy vinaigrette ($10.50). You know, your last chance for vegetables. And no, don’t look for the word organic anywhere on the menu, I didn’t see it (although the chef reportedly buys local vegetables).

I once got the steak tartare ($17.50)—it’s not prepared tableside, and didn’t come topped with a raw quail egg, which I tend to prefer (although they do prepare the tartare with egg in the kitchen). No matter, you’re getting more than enough beef here. About that beef… I’m usually a sucker for the rib eye ($43), but I left that to the gentleman this particular evening. The lady (yes, me) opted for the prime rib ($37, or $46 for the bone-in executive cut)—you can also specify thick cut or put your pinky up and ask for English (thinly sliced).

So, first: the rib eye. I couldn’t believe it, but it came out overcooked. First time I’d ever had that happen here. After a few bites we sent it back, with nary an eyebrow raised, just a sincere apology from the server. It’s always a weird moment to send food back, but dag, when you’re shelling out $43 for a steak, you want that thing exactly as it should be: a true medium rare. You want it bleeding all over the goddamn plate.

When round two landed, the verdict was declared thusly: “It was the most disappointing steak ever, to the best steak ever.” Amen. Let’s hear it for a salty, fatty, juicy steak, with perfect grill marks (the mark of the beast!) and a dollop of compound butter on top. The beef here has such a satisfying flavor. (Shhhh, Mark Bittman, I’m enjoying my corn-fed beef!) Hmmm, how the hell do you describe it? Beefy, that’s how! But truth be told, it’s the kind of steak you should only get once a year, if that. (I’ve already marked it on my calendar for 2010.)

Meanwhile, my prime rib was pure beef delight (skyrockets in flight): a pretty pink with that wonderful salty exterior you get with prime rib, and I couldn’t stop dipping bites into the fluffy and creamy horseradish. The backup singers of garlicky creamed spinach and buttermilk mashed potatoes drowned out any guilty voices in my head, and insured I had enough butter in my arteries for two weeks. I had to wave the flag when I was about halfway through though—let me tell you, I had one hell of a sandwich the next day.

Uncorked Wine Festival at Ghirardelli Square

For those who don’t want to beef out, there are dishes ranging from seafood to chicken to lamb chops, plus some old school numbers like steak Diane, or a whole lobster.

Did we make it to dessert this time? Uh, no.

So in the ultimate classy move, Harris’ removed the $25 corkage from our bill, I imagine because of the steak snafu. They have a nice enough wine list here with plenty of reasonable options, but I wanted to open a special nero d’avola, Donnafugata Contessa Entellina Mille e una Notte, of which my dining companion noted “That wine… it fits me tighter than my underwear.” I couldn’t have said it better.

There’s a lot of business that goes down at Harris’, from business business in the tufted booths to romantic business in the fireplace room, and I’ve even seen families with well-behaved children here, too. Service is usually on point and sometimes even extraordinary (you can tell some folks have been working here for a long time). Although the hostess was a little, oh, how shall we say it? Hmmm, how about not in a hosting frame of mind?

Anyway. Don’t miss a look at the proud window o’ beef that has been nauseating non-beef eaters for years. In the case you can see rows of loins—they’re aged for three weeks at 33 degrees. It keeps the beef from freezing, and instead creates that marvelous marbling that encases the beef. Both the Harris’ Steak (a bone-in New York) and the porterhouse are dry aged, the rib eye isn’t. And you can actually buy meat at the butcher counter in case you want to cook it yourself.

Harris’ has some good history, so here you go: Mrs. Ann Lee Harris was married to Jack Harris many moons ago when he ran the Harris’ Ranch (AKA cow-schwitz) in Coalinga. When Jack Harris passed away in 1981, Ann Lee moved to San Francisco and opened her own restaurant in the renovated premises of the old Grison’s Steakhouse (it dates back to 1934). You can see a portrait of Jack above the fireplace—look for the plaque that says “Boss.” Harris’ opened its doors in May 1984. So to Harris’ I wish a very happy 25th anniversary!

 
the sponsor

SF Cocktail Week

Sure, happy hour is a magic thing, but then there’s Cocktail Week! The third San Francisco Cocktail Week kicks off May 11th and runs through May 18th.

To celebrate the unique cocktail culture here in SF, there will be a bunch of activities and parties (and yes, happy hours), but a few to pay attention to include the opening gala on Monday May 11th at Le Colonial; Education Day on Thursday the 14th (with different sessions where you can learn about everything from creating house-made ingredients to the nuances of today’s gin); and of course the North Beach Historical Cocktail Crawl on Saturday the 16th, co-hosted by your very own tablehopper! Check out the entire line-up of events and find links to buy tickets here.

You will also want to know that some bars, restaurants, and lounges around the Bay Area will be featuring two limited-edition cocktails: one classic recipe and one original cocktail created by that bar’s “Cocktail Champion,” so look for those as well. Cheers!

 
the lush

BiRite Wine BlitzMAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO After being closed from a fire for eight months, ~MARTIN MACK'S~ in the Haight is reopening this Friday. The menu will be back in effect with Irish bacon and cabbage on Mondays, plus fish and chips, hamburgers, and more. Kitchen hours are Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm and Sat–Sun 10am–3pm for brunch (Irish breakfast!), and nightly for dinner 5pm–10pm. 1568 Haight St. at Clayton, 415-864-0124.

~CINCO DE MAYO~ will be happening all over town—no matter if you serve Italian food (Beretta is doing three Mexican spirit-based cocktails) or pan-Asian (Mercury Lounge will have $2 Dos Equis beer, $5 Cabo Wabo margaritas, and Mercury Tacos with sisig or Korean chicken). The usual suspects will also be partying, like Tres Agaves (from 10am until last call with beer and drink specials, live mariachis, and DJs); Mamacita starts at 3pm; Cantina opens at 2pm and will be serving $4 Cazadores Tequila margaritas and signature cocktails slung by the Cazadores Tequila ambassador himself, Manny Hinojosa, plus $2 Tecates, barrio tunes, and snacks by La Cocina. Aventine is kicking things off at 4pm, with the alley erupting into a party 5pm. Destino is celebrating their nine-year anniversary, and offering two-for-one cocktails all night for $9, plus complimentary tapas. If you want something a little different, La Cocina is hosting a Yucatecan Cinco de Mayo event with fifth generation panadero Luis Vazquez (he’s the owner of Chaac Mool Cafe in Oakland). Guests will learn to create a traditional Mayan dinner, sip mescal, and take home their own homemade Mayan salsa. 6:30pm–8:30pm. $65. Buy tickets here.

~PRESS CLUB~ is hosting Bud Break, an event highlighting a variety of crisp wines, live entertainment, and an assortment of light food on Saturday May 9th from 12pm–4pm. Each of the eight Press Club wineries (Chateau Montelena Winery, Fritz Winery, Hanna Winery & Vineyards, Landmark Vineyards, Miner Family Vineyards, Mount Eden Vineyards, Pahlmeyer, and Saintsbury) will have a representative on site for one-on-one access with Bud Break guests and to showcase several varietals signature to the season. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Ticket price includes entry to the event, tastings at all eight wineries, and hors d'oeuvres. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Spark, in addition to 10 percent of select bottle purchases made that day. 20 Yerba Buena Lane at Mission, 415-744-5000.

imageLast week I mentioned cutie Aussie ~MATT SKINNER~, the wine director for Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group, was coming to town. Ends up his Book Passage appearance was cancelled (hey, when The Today Show wants you to stay over in NYC, you do it), so his event has been moved to this Sunday (yup, Mother’s Day) at The Jug Shop. He will lead guests through a tasting of Australian wines (Clare Valley riesling, Hunter Valley semillon, Yarra Valley pinot noir, Margaret River cabernet, Barossa Valley shiraz, and Tasmanian sparkling), and there will be some Aussie bites by South Food + Wine Bar. He'll also be signing copies of his latest book, Heard It Through The Grapevine: The Things You Should Know To Enjoy Wine. (Limited copies available for sale on the day, $24.99.) For those looking for a creative Mothers’ Day outing, The Jug Shop will give complimentary tastings to all moms (everyone else is $10). 3pm–5pm. 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk.

 
the sponsor

BiRite Wine Blitz

Despite its small size, Bi-Rite Market has one of the best wine selections in town. Wine buyer Josh Adler’s selection of artisan wines leans towards great organic and biodynamic producers from California, Italy, France, and Spain.

From Thursday May 14th through Sunday May 17th, all wines at Bi-Rite Market are 20% off when you purchase any 12 or more bottles. Nothing hidden, no tricks. The sale includes every wine in the store, including more than 50 hand-picked wines under $12, a selection of great food wines at all prices, and bottles from cult producers like Quintarelli, Vieux Telegraphe, and Radio Coteau. They will even delivery for free in San Francisco. For more details, click here (it’s a PDF).

Bi-Rite Market, 3639 18th St. between Dolores and Guerrero, in the Mission District. For more information, call the store at 415-241-9760 or email wine@biritemarket.com.

Bi-Rite will host a preview tasting on Thursday May 7th from 6pm–8pm at 18 Reasons (593 Guerrero at 18th St).

 
the wino

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Zach Pace, wine director for Foreign Cinema restaurant, moved to SF from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Working alongside Bruno Baglin, he has created a world-class wine program to complement the cuisine of Bay Area legends John Clark and Gayle Pirie. Zach received his Sommelier Certification from the International Sommelier Guild and the Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators. He is currently studying for the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

Zach Pace on Two Generations

As a young sommelier in San Francisco, I have a unique perspective on the wine industry, and with that, a unique opportunity to influence it. They say that we, the “new generation,” are set to turn the trade on its ear. Growing worldwide interest and increasing accessibility have led to an unprecedented demand for wines and spirits. With that demand comes a legion of qualified professionals that seem to be getting younger every day. The spirit and dynamism of our youth comes with a responsibility for authenticity, and, for that authenticity, we turn to those with lifetimes of experiences. Just as we find ourselves a new generation of sommeliers, we exist between contrasting philosophies when it comes to that ancient and revered drink.

I find myself at the unique intersection of capricious youth and institutional know-how working with my colleague and friend, Bruno. That’s right, one word: Bruno. He is our Bay Area Bono, our Madonna. Just the single name is enough to evoke recognition among local professionals. After all, he’s been on the scene for more than 15 years, working as sommelier, wine buyer, and maître d’ for such institutions as Farallon, Rose Pistola, and Zuni, and has been with Foreign Cinema since its inception in 1999. He was raised in Paris and his parents are from Calvados country in Normandy. It was not uncommon for his father to buy and cellar vintages for 8–10 years.

I, on the other hand, grew up on the “Champagne of Beers” and remember nipping from my uncle’s Bartles & Jaymes. Although we were an ocean apart, the origins of our calling were similar and our mission is parallel: to spread our enthusiasm and enhance the experience of drinking wine. What differs in our approach remains the same in our passion. Whatever path we take, we draw upon our experiences every day as professional sommeliers.

Cocktail Week

The wine industry is incredibly subjective and the rules are constantly being rewritten. Junk food pairings, speed-blind tastings, and experimental winemakers producing esoteric blends abound. This is truly an exciting and innovative time for our trade. While change is not necessarily bad, there’s something to be said for the responsibility of authenticity.

Bruno’s philosophy is rooted in this tradition. Not only does he have an incredible palate and years of tasting experience, he has intimate knowledge of the classic regions, the hills of the Languedoc, and the fearsome wind of the Rhône. I, on the other hand, have received my education in the classroom, delving into geology, chemistry, and global business. At a recent staff tasting, someone was bold enough to wrestle with chemical terms for compounds in wine. Needless to say, things got messy. Soon we were mired in discussions concerning sulfites, aldehydes, esters, and monoterpenes. How have we gone from terroir and tannin to dipeptides and anthocyanin extract levels? This is indeed the brave new world of wine.

Our partnership is made tangible in our differing tastes. I remember early on tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape with him. I sang high praise for this particular wine, full of fresh fruit with tart and high acidity. Bruno swirled, sniffed, tasted. His brow furrowed as he spat and he briskly remarked, “This is not Châteauneuf-du-Pape.” I quickly learned a valuable lesson: it’s not enough for a wine to be good. It must retain that quality of authenticity—a sense of place. Staying grounded in that belief is important.

That said, I don’t understand the reverence for most California pinot noir. However, I do appreciate the skill and hard work that goes into each bottle as well as the juice that comes out of it. Patience, devotion, finesse, subtlety. These attributes are familiar to me and I respect them. Bruno is an absolute pinot-phile and he forces me to confront that which I may find distasteful but admittedly well crafted. I’d much rather have some tempranillo with my duck, thank you very much.

In some ways the Old World has yet to catch up with this part of the new language of wine. Together, though, we represent the transmutable nature of the wine industry. It is this synergy of perspectives that strengthens the fruit of our efforts. The product of our combined experiences remains poignant. At times, at staff training seminars or at wine tastings, it is difficult to see where I end and Bruno begins. Respecting tradition in an industry so deeply rooted in history is essential. It is also important to remember to withhold incredulity because a little innovation never hurt anyone. And if there’s ever a city to nurture change, it’s ours.

[Ed. Note: Foreign Cinema currently has a guest winemaker or winery proprietor come in on every last Wednesday, greeting guests and sampling them on the featured wines. Guests also have the option to pair selected dishes with the featured wines.]

 
the socialite

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Joe Bastianich Is In Town
Tue May 19th–Wed May 20th, 2009

Various locations

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO
Tuesday May 19th
Friulian Wine Dinner with Joe Bastianich and Valter Scarbolo at Delfina

Delfina will have both Joe Bastianich (representing Bastianich) and Valter Scarbolo (representing Scarbolo Winery, and La Frasca in Udine) on hand all night to pour/discuss their latest vintages. Delfina’s menu will feature Friulian dishes alongside their regular offerings, like poppy seed gnocchi with speck, peas, and morels; asparagus, potato and Montasio frico; mixed grill with polenta and house-made sauerkraut; and strawberry schnitten with lime syrup.

Delfina, 3621 18th St. at Guerrero, 415-552-4055.


Wednesday May 20th, 5pm–6:30pm
Wine Tasting & Discussion with Joe Bastianich at Spuntino

In this rare San Francisco visit, Joe Bastianich, the James Beard award-winning restaurateur, winemaker, author, and TV personality, will visit Spuntino for a special wine tasting and discussion. Joe may be considered the quieter half of the Mario Batali partnership, but he's a superstar in his own right. He makes the wine for his family's two vineyards, Bastianich in Friuli and La Mozza in Tuscany, runs 18 restaurants including Babbo, Del Posto, and Pizzeria/Osteria La Mozza with Batali, has co-authored several books, including the bible on Italian wine, Vino Italiano, and is the wine correspondent for NBC's The Today Show.

Joe will lead an informal discussion, followed by a Q&A, and book signing. Copies of Vino Italiano will be available. Joe will guide guests through a tasting of the Bastianich and La Mozza wines. Space is extremely limited. For reservations, please contact Melissa [at] ottimistasf.com or call 415-931-6410.

Cost: $20 per person
Spuntino, 1957 Union St. at Octavia.


Wednesday May 20th, 6:30pm
Palmina/Bastianich Winemaker Dinner with Joe Bastianich and Chrystal Clifton at Ottimista

I really enjoyed my last meal at Ottimista with guest chef Gemma (cozy quarters but thankfully a delightful crowd) so I’m sure this winemaker dinner will be a blast with Chrystal Clifton, half of the owner/winemaker team for Palmina wines in Santa Barbara County, and Joe Bastianich. (You can read more about their long-term friendship on the Ottimista event page.) Ottimista will be hosting a very special six-course dinner, each course paired with a Palmina and Bastianich wine of the same varietal (tocai, malvasia, rosato, and nebbiolo). Space is limited to 62 guests. For reservations, please contact Melissa [at] ottimistasf.com or call 415-931-6410.

Cost: $100 per person, plus tax and gratuity

Ottimista, 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

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Dine About Town
Mon June 1st–Mon June 15th, 2009

Various locations

website

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) bi-annual ~DINE ABOUT TOWN SAN FRANCISCO~ restaurant promotion returns. Over 125 San Francisco restaurants are participating, offering diners prix-fixe lunches for $21.95 and/or dinners for $34.95, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Dates and times of participation vary by restaurant. À la carte menus will also be available. New restaurants on the June Dine About Town San Francisco list include: bacar; E&O Trading Company; Isa Restaurant; Perry’s on the Embarcadero; and Spruce.

Reservations may be made on San Francisco’s official visitor site. American Express® Cardmembers will be rewarded with a $15 statement credit when they dine three or more times during Dine About Town at any participating restaurants and pay with their American Express® Card. To take advantage of this offer, Cardmembers must register on the SFCVB website between May 10th and June 14th, 2009. 

The Dine About Town San Francisco launch party is May 28th at 6pm in The Cellar at Macy's Union Square. With a $20 donation to Meals On Wheels, guests may sample offerings and meet the chefs from 11 Dine About Town restaurants: Cassis; Enrico's; È Tutto Qua; Grandviews Restaurant and Lounge; Le Club; Mangarosa; Scoma's; Straits; The Cosmopolitan; The Oak Room; and Yoshi's.

The evening also includes a cooking demonstration by chef Steven Scarabosio of Scoma's, moderated by yours truly! Guests may taste wines from the Napa Valley and receive a keepsake 'Only in San Francisco' wine glass. Tickets for the launch event may be reserved beginning May 7th here. Space is limited and reservations are required.

 
the health nut

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Things are going incredibly well with this cleanse—who knew I’d enjoy going vegan so much? Well, until I look at pictures of Sunday’s Pig Out at Coffee Bar. Anyway, life without my morning espresso is actually easy when I haven’t been up late carrying on, eating too much, and drinking. I have been missing wine with my meals, though. One funny moment: a sommelier friend wanted me to taste a wine, suggesting I just put it in my mouth and then spit. I demurred—the whole point is to forget the taste of wine for a while. Can you imagine? The spitting food writer?

It’s funny, a friend said he was going to light a candle for me, fearing that this cleanse would make me irritable. “The Irritablehopper.” I died laughing.

It’s been so grounding to be preparing all my meals—god bless Heidi Swanson for her fantastic cookbook Super Natural Living. I’ve enjoyed the recipes in it for some time, but now the book is my best friend.

When I’m not making my own vittles, here are ~FIVE OFF-THE-SHELF PRODUCTS I AM TOTALLY LOVING~ this past week (yes, I have been trolling the aisles of Rainbow):

image~ I was already totally hearting the kimchee from the Cultured folks months ago (wonderful chunks of daikon and carrot in it), but now it’s my preferred condiment for all my brown rice dishes, lettuce wrap-thingies I’ve been eating, and even straight out of the jar. The khitchari kraut with Indian spices is the latest one I’m digging. And they’re local! Check out their great video series on Chow.com.

~ Guess what that kraut has been delicious with? Yup, these Field Roast vegan “grain meat sausages” I found. Scary amount of sodium, but since I’m barely eating any salt elsewhere in my diet, I’m letting it slide because they’re tasty and satisfying the meat-eater in me.

~ The first couple days on this thing, I was getting crazy hunger pangs that vegetables were not satisfying. Enter faux meat product number two: Primal Strips. They sound hardcore, but they’re actually just seitan. I got the jerky with teriyaki flavor. What’s cool is I can just eat a few pieces and it’s like having a chunk of cheese—totally tides me over at 11:30pm when I’m getting snacky. And the ingredients are pure—no MSG or fakey flavors.

~ I have been missing my pita bread—there are only so many times you can use lettuce and carrots as a delivery mechanism for hummus. A friend gave me these crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers) from an event gift bag, and what a great discovery. Not only are they freaking delicious, but bonus, they’re organic, wheat-free, and gluten-free—exactly how I’ve been eating. Meow.

~ Since I am now a tofu queen, I was looking for some different flavors than the usual savory or teriyaki profile. Enter the international selection from the Tofu Shop: the spicy chorizo was fantastic in my Swiss chard soup. It was dense and springy (but not rubbery) so it stood up to the soup instead of falling apart. Can’t wait to try the Thai and Tandoori flavors.

I wanted to forward along this site of a very impressive woman who had to give up much, much more than what I’m doing these three weeks: how about a life of NO SODIUM? ~SODIUM GIRL~ was diagnosed with Lupus five years ago and ended up having renal (kidney) failure. As a result, she now has a very restricted diet, but it has allowed her to be less dependant on drugs and treatments (she was able to go off of dialysis and avoid a kidney transplant). She has also transformed it into a real passion for food, as well as a real passion for helping others with health-related dietary restrictions successfully meet their needs. She started her blog a couple months ago (www.sodiumgirl.blogspot.com), which is about making sodium-free food (doing the impossible in your own kitchen); finding/buying/procuring sodium-free food (sodium free products, like salt free Kettle Chips!); and dining on sodium-free food (restaurant reviews). So to help her in her goal of getting the word out, I thought I’d pass this along.

 
the sugar mama

Toast To Women

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Just in time for Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week (May 10–16), join WomenHeart and Clos du Bois Winery in supporting women’s heart disease awareness and prevention with a visit to ToastToWomen.com, a new website that is part of a year-long campaign to raise $100,000 to defeat women’s heart disease, the leading cause of death for American women.

In honor of Mother’s Day, tablehopper is giving away ten copies of the WomenHeart ALL HEART Family Cookbook, a collection of delicious recipes featuring ingredients that have been scientifically proven to promote heart health. To enter to win, all you need to do is forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one buddy, but even more would be so very fabulous—just 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 Sunday May 10th (yup, Mother’s Day)–I’ll notify the ten winners the following week.
 
Be sure to visit ToastToWomen.com to check out recipes from the cookbook, festive Clos du Bois Rosé spritzers, and to send a personalized e-card to the special women in your life. For every e-card sent from ToastToWomen.com, Clos du Bois will donate $1 to WomenHeart, for a total donation of $100,000. (You can also enter to win heart-healthy prizes on the site.)

 
the starlet

MAY 5, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO I had two tablehopper readers write in about spotting Vince Vaughn at Gary Danko last Friday April 24th.

Sean Penn was on the town Saturday night, both at the Clift’s Redwood Room with a group of friends, and at RN74 Saturday night with Matt Gonzalez (former mayoral candidate/supervisor/Green Party VP) and two other people. (Penn left the meal twice to smoke a cigarette outside—looks like he picked up where Anthony Bourdain left off.)

Ian Zeiring (aka Steve Sanders from 90210) was at Absinthe on Saturday (he had the halibut—and you thought I was going to say the scallops). 

But here’s the biggie, my friends: the ever-darling Drew Barrymore celebrated her birthday at Bar Jules on Saturday, along with Justin Long. There was a party of 20, and according to one tablehopper reader “Drew looked beyond gorgeous in a backless black dress and a feather in her hair.”

 

All content © 2009 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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