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The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion.

This week's tablehopper: OCD (obsessive culinary disorder).

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Venison chili and a Manhattan at the Big 4.

Cough cough, excuse me, oh, hi. What a lame week of illin’—I got nailed with a cold that had me sounding like Brenda Vaccaro, but then by the weekend my voice quickly devolved two octaves deeper, leaving me a dead ringer for Selma Bouvier from the Simpsons. Made it kind of hard to do my job—I couldn’t really interview people for a few days. At least a cab driver liked my voice. Yeah, creepy.

Feh, colds. That’s what bourbon is for! My friend and I had a perfect rainy day lunch at the Big 4 last Friday, complete with Manhattans and their venison chili. I also managed to get some cocktail medicine at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland with their Fata Morgana, a total enchantress comprised of bourbon, blood orange, Amaro Nonino, dry vermouth, and cardamom. Hubba, feeling much better, thanks.

And when things got really rough, it was time for turnip and pork rib soup at Taste of Formosa, and a seaweed-pork-tofu soup at Sunny Shanghai in San Bruno (xiao long bao/Shanghai soup dumplings are also really fab when you’re sick). For those of you suffering from the same lame cold, you’ll find more feel-good options in today’s fresh meat review of OTD (Out the Door) on Bush.

But fortunately I am turning the corner on this thing, and just in time, because the countdown begins now: my book launches in one week (woot!), and I am going to be one bizzee ladee.

Keep dry, toasty, and healthy, mmmmkay?

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Mar 2, 2010

Radius (May) Open By This Weekend...

~RADIUS~, the new cafe-restaurant opening in the former Julie’s Supper Club is in the final stretch of inspections this week, and may even open on Friday. The cafe has 30 seats, and Kelly Hughett’s menu includes seasonal soups, salads (duck confit, quinoa), sandwiches (truffled egg, pork loin and cheese), hot-pressed panini (eggplant, pork belly), and starting at 5:30pm, there will be a nightly pasta dish, fried chicken, and a vegetable torte. Ingredients will be sourced from within a 100-mile radius, hence the name. I’ll have pics and more details next week about the interior, patio, and the beer and wine list once things are official, stand by. The hours will be 11am-11pm Sun-Wed, and 11am-1am Thu-Sat.

Radius - 1123 Folsom St. San Francisco - 415-525-3676

Ame Gets a New Executive Chef

Since covering for Greg Dunmore after his departure in October, Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone have brought on Orlando Pagan as the new executive chef at ~AME~. Pagan was most recently the chef de cuisine at Silks Restaurant, and has also worked at Restaurant Gary Danko and Ducca Restaurant. Under the guidance of Sone, together with influence from Pagan, Ame will launch its spring menu on March 5th, showcasing new, seasonal items alongside Ame’s signature dishes (like Lissa’s Staff Meal, which is thankfully staying put). Meanwhile, over at the Mandarin Oriental, executive chef Rick Bartram will continue to oversee the hotel’s entire culinary program, which includes catering, in-room dining, VIP service, MO Bar, and Silks restaurant. A replacement for the chef de cuisine position has not been named.

Ame - 689 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-284-4040

The tablehopper on Tour

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The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion is now on sale, so I’ll be making a variety of appearances at all kinds of events around the Bay Area. You can keep track on my Google calendar, and here’s the current lineup below.

Details will be added in coming weeks about each event, like, what we’ll be eating and drinking (oh you know it!). Looking forward to seeing you out and about!

Friday March 12th, 7:30pm, free
Book Signing at Booksmith
1644 Haight St. at Cole, San Francisco
Event details.
Treats: orange-cardamom-ginger with saffron gobs from Gobba Gobba Hey, and cardamom-ginger chai (and another surprise flavor) from The Chai Cart. Pompadour Rosé bubbles provided by Domaine Carneros.

Thursday March 18th, 7:30pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Books. Inc. Chestnut St.
2251 Chestnut St. at Pierce, San Francisco
Event details.
We will be tasting “Suria,” a blend of dark and milk chocolates infused with cardamom from Maison Mitchell and Durigutti’s Malbec “Clásico” (many thanks to Bock Wines and Spirits for the donation).

Wednesday March 24th, 6pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Omnivore Books
3885 Cesar Chavez St. at Church, San Francisco
Event details.
Andrew Mariani of Scribe will be pouring his delicious 2008 Pinot Noir, Carneros, Sonoma. And Patrick Horn, owner of the Pacific Brewing Laboratory, will be serving “Blood of the Lamb,” a Belgian dark strong ale aged in bourbon oak (it will be paired with some good Irish cheeses, even though it’s past St. Patrick’s Day!).

Thursday March 25th, 7pm, $18 members/$20 public*
Moderating an Event with Michael Chiarello (and Book Signing)
Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
Event details.
*Mention tablehopper.com in the comment area when purchasing tix online and get the member price.

Wednesday March 31st, 12pm, $100 (includes book, tax, tip)
Cooks With Books Lunch at Perbacco
230 California St. at Front, San Francisco
Tickets/event details.
Read the delicious menu here.

Thursday April 1st, 7:30pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Kepler’s Books
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

Saturday April 3rd, 2pm, free
Chat and Tasting with Jake Godby Humphry Slocombe/Signing at Bloomingdale’s
Mini duck fat pecan pies and of course ICE CREAM will be served.
845 Market St. at 7th St., San Francisco

Monday April 5th, 5pm-7pm, $35 ($50 door)
Book Signing at Wines of Portugal—A World of Difference Tour 2010
Westin St Francis, 335 Powell St., 32nd Floor, San Francisco
Tickets/event details. First 150 ticket buyers get a free copy of my book!

Thursday April 8th, 7pm, $5 members, $10 general
18 Reasons Event (with bubbly and bites from La Cocina producer Onigilly)
593 Guerrero St. at 18th St., San Francisco
Event details.

Saturday April 10th, 12pm, free
Book Signing/Meet and Greet at The Pasta Shop
We will be grazing on a variety of my favorite pantry items, from honey and olive oil to cheese and olives (we’re calling it a pop-up party)!
The Pasta Shop (inside Rockridge Market Hall), 5655 College Ave., Oakland

Wednesday April 14th, 6:30pm-8:30pm, $15*
Hop Dog Happy Hour
CUESA’s kitchen in front of the Ferry Building.
*SOLD OUT Books will be for sale at the event for $17.50 (tax included).

Friday April 16th, 12pm-2pm, free
Book signing and chocolate tasting at Fog City News.
Featuring samples from the amazing Xocolatl de Davíd. We’ll be tasting the following chocolates: Almond Pimentón, Salted Caramel (probably the darkest and saltiest caramel bar they sell, 72% dark chocolate base), and my favorite, the Bacon Raleigh bar (nougat, pecans, fleur de sel, 72% dark chocolate, and bacon-infused caramel).
455 Market St. at 1st St., San Francisco

Saturday April 17th, 2pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Read Booksellers in Danville
Blackhawk Plaza, Danville

Thursday April 22nd, 6pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at The Tyler Florence Shop
Tyler will be there, and Jackie Patterson will be making cocktails!
59 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley

Thursday April 29th, 12pm, $67 members, $77 non-members
Two-martini lunch with the tablehopper at Bix
This event is part of the Bay Gourmet/Commonwealth Club program. Moderated by Jordan Mackay.
56 Gold St. at Sansome, San Francisco
Tickets and more.

Saturday May 8th, noon-2pm, $15
Sandwich Social with the tablehopper at Purcell Murray
To register, call 415-330-5580. More event details.
185 Park Lane, Brisbane
Marcia will lead a Q&A with two of San Francisco’s best sandwich makers: Douglas Monsalud of Kitchenette, Jeff Mason and David Knopp of Pal’s Take Away, and Timothy Brown of Morty’s Deli, who will also demo his house-made Russian dressing. And of course we will eat! And drink bubbly. Cheers!

Saturday May 15th, 4pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Mrs. Dalloway’s
2904 College Ave. at Russell, Berkeley
There will be snacks provided by their charming neighbor, the Elmwood Café.

Thursday May 20th, 5pm-9pm
Appel and Frank Event
(*RSVP in advance)
You get 50% off the $10 admission with code: tablehopper.
It’s a fun night of shopping, cocktails, wine, and more, and tablehopper will be there. I will also have treats from Pinkie’s Bakery to share with you!
Regency Center, Sutter Room, 1270 Sutter at Van Ness, San Francisco

Saturday May 22nd, 4pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Readers’ Books Sonoma
130 E. Napa St. at 1st St. E., Sonoma

Thursday May 27th, 7:30pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Books. Inc. Market St. (Castro)
Featuring delicious bittersweet cocoa truffles from Neo Cocoa.
2275 Market St. at 16th St., San Francisco

Saturday June 5th, 2pm, free
Book Reading and Signing at Copperfield’s Books
140 Kentucky St. at Western Ave., Petaluma

Sunday June 6th
Book Signing in the VIP Reception at Cochon 555
Details and more (like a discount code for the event!) here.

READY TO BUY NOW? HERE YOU GO.

The Return of Bi-Rite Creamery

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Almost on schedule, ~BI-RITE CREAMERY~ is due to reopen this week (perhaps tomorrow, Wednesday March 2nd) after a short closure, with expanded room inside (formerly three seats, now ten!). And it’s time to loosen the belt one more notch: there’s going to be a new soft-serve ice cream window, featuring chocolate, vanilla, or the classic swirl, all made from Straus Family dairy; future plans for custom soft-serve flavors are in the works. You’ll also be able to pick up the bakeshop’s cupcakes, cookies, pies, and galettes from the window.

The Creamery family invites the public to visit next week on Our Treat Day on Thursday March 11th: anyone who makes a purchase at Bi-Rite Market across the street will be entitled to one free small soft-serve ice cream at the new window from 4pm-8pm—their treat! 3692 18th St. at Dolores, 415-626-5600.

Guest Chefs Doin' It Up at the Tacolicious Stand

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Starting this Thursday March 4th, some of the city’s best chefs will have their own taco on offer at the ~TACOLICIOUS~ market stand every week for the next six weeks. Here’s the lineup: this week (March 4th) is Chad Newton from Fish & Farm, serving slow-poached then seared octopus, confit potato, smoked crema, lightly pickled cabbage, lime, and cilantro plus (bonus item), a pineapple and celery agua fresca.


Then on 3/11 is Craig Stoll of Delfina, 
3/18 is Alex Ong of Betelnut (reportedly doing pork leg braised in duck fat, topped with fish sauce infused with chiles, anise, and Szechuan peppercorns, hold the freaking phone), 
3/25 is Mark Denham of the soon-to-open Bishop, 
4/1 is Liza Shaw of A16, and 
4/8 is that wild man Robbie Lewis (formerly of Bacar and Jardinière) who is doing conejo al guajillo con ensalada de fabas (guajillo chile-braised rabbit with fava bean and radish salsa, cotija cheese). 



Una Pizza Napoletana Comes to SoMa

Kudos to Grub Street for sleuthing some details on Anthony Mangieri’s upcoming pizza project in San Francisco, ~UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA~. According to the post, his wood oven from Naples is already installed and he’ll hopefully be open by May—while the exact location isn’t revealed, he’ll reportedly be quite close to Thad Vogler’s upcoming Bar Agricole. Also noted: his pies clock in around $20, so start saving your yuppie food stamps.

In the meantime, in case you never saw this gorg video about his pizza-making, Naturally Risen, check it out. May can’t get here fast enough.

Orson Brunch Begins This Weekend

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Copyright © 2006-10 FrankenyImages.com.

This weekend marks the kickoff of brunch at ~ORSON~, which is going to look swell during the daylight hours. Full bar, check. The hours are also civilized: Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 3pm. I got a preliminary peek at the menu, which promptly made me wish it was Saturday already (prices might shift a little, FYI). Here goes: brown butter-vanilla donuts, jam, and glaze ($8); Betty’s pancake, a Dutch-soufflé with citrus marmalade ($11); ramen with egg and pork—hey, it’s what’s for breakfast! ($13); beef and beet hash with two poached eggs and horseradish cream ($15); and a rösti roll with scrambled eggs, scallion, chili, and paneer ($14).

For those who want lunch-y items, there are items like a pastrami and Swiss sandwich ($12), a fried chicken sandwich ($12), and of course the Orson burger ($15), but there’s now a new burger coming to the table: the OTT Burger, with fried egg, cheddar cheese, house-made kimchee ketchup and tonkatsu mayonnaise, served with duck fat fries ($16). Yeah, get an extra napkin for that bad boy. Sorry I didn’t include any of the healthy items, like the house-made granola. What can I say, I’m hopeless that way.

Heart Adds Brunch--Three Days a Week

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Photo from Heart.

Yup, you read that correctly: ~HEART~ is now offering brunch on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (yes, industry folks, Monday!) from 11am-3pm. You know those sick minds from Kitchenette are doing up some fierce vittles (like braised duck scrapple with pear and cabbage slaw, 4505’s maple bacon breakfast sausages, and Berkshire pork blade steak with poached eggs), plus there are oysters on the half shell (Hog Island Sweetwater oysters with radish-coriander mignonette), bubbles, and musica. Salivate over the menu here

Heart - 1270 Valencia St. San Francisco - 415-285-1200

Lunch Special at La Mar

~LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA~ is now offering a new lunch option: almuerzito peruano (don’t worry if you can’t remember what it’s called, or how to say it—it means “Peruvian small lunch”). For $17, you’ll get a sampler plate of four of the restaurant’s most popular items, plus dessert: cebiche classico (California halibut in a classic leche de tigre, red onions, habanero), arroz chaufa (fried rice with chicken, scallions, ginger, crispy egg noodles), empanada choclo (stuffed with Peruvian corn “choclo,” butter, and aji amarillo), ensalada nikei (mixed greens with bell peppers, green papaya, jícama, soybeans, pickled carrots and daikon, crunchy quinoa, Peruvian purple corn, and rocoto vinaigrette), and for dessert, arroz con leche (rice pudding with fresh strawberries, sweet balsamic reduction, and butterscotch sauce).

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana - Pier 1 1/2 San Francisco - 415-397-8880

One More Lunch Special

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Mural on the Gracias Madre patio.

Also learned ~GRACIAS MADRE~ in the Mission is now offering a $10 lunch special every day from 11am-3pm. On the menu: a handmade organic tamal made with heirloom corn, filled with butternut squash and green chiles, covered with a spicy enchilada sauce and cashew cream and served with rice and beans. The other is an Acme torta filled with black beans, rajas (grilled poblano strips), cashew cheese, avocado, pico de gallo, and romaine grilled in garlic oil, served with a small Caesar salad and spicy pickled vegetables. Items subject to change, but this is what’s available now—based on the dinner I had a few weeks ago, it seems like it’s a substantial lunch.

Gracias Madre - 2211 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-285-7550

New Café Coming to the TenderNob

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Photo: Kelly Ishikawa; Art Direction & Styling: Rod Hipskind.

Call it a quirky sort of destiny: David Williams of Hooker’s Sweet Treats will be opening a café in the TenderNob named after his addictive sea salt-orange cream-dark chocolate caramels. (The name is sure to make some neighborhood folks wonder exactly what kind of business he’s running.) Williams will also be offering espresso service, courtesy of Sightglass Coffee. The new space will allow him the room to do both manufacturing and selling of his caramels, in addition to potentially offering a monthly meal (let’s hope his gumbo makes the first appearance). While it’s a petite space (there will be room for about 14 folks), it’s sure to be high on style, since he’s working with Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa of The Perish Trust. And in case you’re wondering what was in the space previously, it was Chez Momo. He’s hoping for a late spring opening, perhaps mid- to late April—I’ll keep you posted. 442 Hyde St. at Ellis.

Keeping Tabs on the 212

In case you were curious about former A16/SPQR chef Nate Appleman’s project in New York with Keith McNally, ~PULINO’S BAR & PIZZERIA~, here’s an update on Grub Street New York for you, menus included.

A New Kind of Combo

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I know, at first glance, I was like, huh? A 99-cent store and the ~OASIS CAFE~? It ends up that the businesses are next door to each other, almost like a Taco Bell/KFC combo space, but instead of getting an enchirito and a bucket of wings, you can get some aluminum foil and a coffee. Owner Taddesse Haile is from Ethiopia, and quite a lover of coffee. He’s going to be offering what I think is a first in town: ten different kinds of individual drip coffee. There will be sandwiches, juices, and other affordable eats (hours will be 6am-11pm daily). Also in the works: beer and wine, but being budget-minded and all, he said his prices will be like happy hour all day. He expects to open around March 15th. 901 Divisadero St. at McAllister, 415-474-4900.

Krasinski In the Mix

One of my favorite pastry chefs EV-AH, Nicole Krasinski, is working with Caitlin Freeman to develop some yeasty sweets for Blue Bottle. Items include new cinnamon buns, savory brioche, and here’s what really got my attention: a stout and currant cake with a caraway and pecan topping, made with stout from local suds outpost Magnolia. The treats are available at all locations but seems to be running out in the day, so the early bird gets the buns. Ahem.

Cool SF Parties Around Town

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There’s no shortage of events this week, starting with the Divisadero Art Walk this Thursday March 4th. There will be all kinds of deals up and down Divis, like $1 oysters and $5 chowder at Bar Crudo, 50% off one pizza (dine in only) from 5pm-7pm at Little Star Pizza, $4 sparkling cocktails and sangria all night at Candybar, and art receptions at a bunch of businesses. Check out the entire lineup of offers and entertainment and art openings here. Everything kicks off at 5pm.

Then on Saturday March 6th is the next SF Underground Market (5pm-11pm). The lineup of vendors is rather hefty, from organic beef jerky to jams to chai to kimchee. Here’s more from the post: “This time around we’ve got twice as many vendors, 3 times as much space (so the lines should be shorter), and more great music and workshops. Come early to avoid the lines.” In order to get in, you need to sign up to be a free member first. 9 Langton St. (near 7th St. and Howard).

Lastly, La Victoria Bakery in the Mission is going to host SF food carts and live music every Saturday, starting this Saturday March 13th from 6pm-9pm. 2937 24th St. at Alabama, 415-642-7120.

Time for Meatses Partses

Okay you fearless meat-eating types: ~INCANTO~ is hosting its 7th Annual Head to Tail Dinner on Monday March 22nd and Wednesday March 24th. You can check out the menu here. But please note the menu items are subject to change, so don’t get your heart set on the oxtail and beef lip terrina with artichokes and tarragon. The five-course menu is priced at $75 per person, excluding beverages, service, and tax.
 
Optional wine pairings will be available by the glass or flight.

It will be a good time to check out Incanto’s new look, which has swapped out the brocade curtains for some large-fomat photos (which are cleverly obscuring some noise-dampening panels), plus there are new floors, refinished tabletops, and now some banquette seating. You can read more in Incanto’s post about some new dishes to be found on the “Odds & Ends” board, and the new group dining option called “Ham in Hay,” which sounds like some kind of quirky children’s song.

Monday Mar 22, 2010 – Wednesday Mar 24, 2010
more info

Incanto - 1550 Church St. San Francisco - 415-641-4500

What's New At Gather In Berkeley

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A few tidbits: ~GATHER~ is starting full lunch service today, Tuesday March 2nd. The menu includes salads (like baby escarole with toasted nori in garlic-lemon-tahini dressing), soup, sandwiches (like Long & Bailey pulled pork on pan di mie roll with crème fraîche), pizza (local chanterelles with fontinella, rapini, braised leeks, and thyme), and dessert. Soups and salads range from $7-$10; sandwiches $10-$12; and pizzas $12-$15. Lunch hours will be Monday through Friday, 11am-3pm. They will be adding to-go lunch in the next week or so.

More news: there is now a full-time pastry chef, Adam Weiss, who replaces opening consultant Amy Pearce (he was last at XYZ in San Francisco’s W Hotel). Coming up next, and just in time for spring: the 48-seat patio should be open in the coming month, and full-service brunch begins April 1st.

Gather - 2150 Allston Way Berkeley - 510-809-0400

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StPatricks_120x600.gif

the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Mar 2, 2010

(Sponsored): Find the Best Corned Beef at Whole Foods Market

For St. Patrick’s Day only, the best corned beef in NorCal is coming from Whole Foods Market stores! Using locally-sourced spices and antibiotic- and hormone-free Country Natural Beef from family farms, our cooks are turning out the most flavorful and tender corned beef this side of the pond. Available March 10th until it’s all eaten up.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re making our own traditional corned beef in-store using Country Natural Beef brisket and bottom round, all-natural spices, and our secret blend of brine and pickling spice. The meat is raised on a vegetarian diet, without antibiotics or added growth hormones, for the most flavorful, tender corned beef imaginable.

Tender, flavorful, perfectly brined, and spiced… it’s our all-natural corned beef, made right in the store and only available for St. Patrick’s Day! Starting March 10th, customers can pick up traditional corned beef round or brisket made with meat raised without antibiotics or hormones on Country Natural Beef’s co-op of small family farms. Only available while supplies last.

fresh meat

New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Mar 2, 2010

Out The Door

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Chicken porridge (chao).

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Brisket, eggs, and potatoes.

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Artic char, watercress, persimmon.

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Coffee service.

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Interior shot.

As my friend and I were inhaling—truly, with our noses, and not (yet) scarfing—the winter melon soup at the latest ~OUT THE DOOR~ on Bush Street, I realized I had found an equally strong contender for “the dish I want when I’m sick,” almost nudging pho ga from Turtle Tower off its previously unchallenged pedestal.

The soup had a deep chicken-y flavor (those of you who are fans of Charles Phan’s pho ga know this broth well), feisty and frisky with pepper and cilantro, plus added richness from egg that was whisked in, just like an egg drop soup. $5 for a bowl of instant wellness.

Flash forward to a foggy morning, when I’m meeting a friend for a midweek breakfast after a late night (whoops, how did that happen, again?). The famed pho ($9) was boldly staring me in the eye, but the chicken porridge ($8) is what got my order. It’s simultaneously simple yet so rich: the rice is cooked in chicken water and fish sauce, with plenty of ginger, but chef de cuisine Grace Nguyen adds more chicken fat to it for good measure. Nice stroke. And plunked on top are slices of fried Chinese donut, spongy and almost eggy in texture, plus crisp fried shallots, and fragrant and bracing fresh shreds of rau ram, otherwise known as Vietnamese coriander. It’s the kind of dish you just want to curl up in, the snuggly sweater of breakfast.

Meanwhile, my friend was communing with the cult dish of Niman Ranch beef brisket ($13) topped with silky slow-poached eggs (thank you, immersion circulator, for these perfectly cooked eggs—and they’re wonderful eggs indeed, free-range little numbers from RedHill Farms) and crispy chunks of potato. Move over steak and eggs: here’s a somewhat deconstructed hash that totally sings with flavor. And wait until you dip the fresh-baked mini baguette into the dark sauce and bright yolk—it almost feels illegal.

Somehow, somehow, we managed room for the beignets (covered in a cloud of powdered sugar that Pablo Escobar would approve of) and Vietnamese coffee ($6) at the end. And this is where the Pac Heights zip code really sinks in… You’re definitely not in a Little Saigon joint, because the coffee comes to you already prepared in a Heath mug—no metal coffee contraption for you.

I like having a place that isn’t downtown where you can go for a breakfast meeting, but isn’t a dingy little café either. Breakfast meetings—they’re the new lunch. Although this place is also a perfect lunch spot. OTD is additionally open during that awkward post-lunch and pre-dinner time, serving a menu of snacks like rolls, salads, and soups in case you’re peckish at 3pm.

The stylish look is industrial-natural (to be expected from Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design, who does all of Phan’s locations): pine slat walls, black slate floors, custom bent-steel banquettes along the wall (a bit chilly for the bum on a cold night), marble tables, two long dining counters (one overlooking a large open kitchen), mid-century modern chairs, and a baker’s table used as a communal table in the front. The long counters make it ideal for single diners, and the place draws families on the early side while groups of ladies dining out together pile in on the later side, plus it’s reportedly a popular spot for first dates (I can see why—it’s informal but just nice enough).

The dinner menu is full of many of the established “Phan favorites” (spring rolls, daikon rice cake, chicken claypot, cellophane noodles and crab, and yes, the shaking beef), but diners willing to break the routine are richly rewarded. Nguyen’s background includes Postrio and working for Wolfgang Puck in Vegas, but she’s been with Phan since 2007, so she knows the rules enough to break them, or at least improvise on them.

She plays with tradition by grilling pork meatballs ($8) in a metal grill basket—good flavor, but unfortunately the meatballs were tough. What actually caught my attention was the accompanying spicy and thick pineapple-anchovy sauce, which had that spicy-salty-tangy-sweet interplay I love so much about Vietnamese cooking.

Another sauce that demanded attention was the ginger-chili sauce that came with the sautéed Artic char ($16). Nguyen said she added more lime than what’s traditionally used in the sauce and liked it so much that she was inspired to cut the char into dunk-able chops for guests. Bingo. The dish also came with rugged watercress and sweet slices of persimmon, another flavor balancing act that helped cut through the fattiness of the fish.

We also had the banh nam ($7), a silky rice cake in banana leaf that was like a Vietnamese tamale, with ground shrimp and pork inside. It veers on a bit spendy for street food, but I’ll let your pocketbook be the judge.

My favorite of the evening was the duck ($25), a half portion of that blessed bird that Nguyen steams and then puts on the rotisserie (yup). The skin has that decadent crackly texture you want with duck, containing such juicy flesh inside. The side players of roasted red grapes on the vine and tender upland cress kept my fork returning to the plate, long after I was full. The menu changes often; Nguyen mentioned now she’s doing a lamb dish instead of the duck (sorry if I got you excited—let’s hope it flies back soon).

But save room for Chucky Dugo’s desserts, you must: the bright Thai basil ice cream (all desserts $6) has become a dish they can’t take off the menu, and I also thought the red kabocha cake with caramelized pineapple was right at home at the end of the meal.

The wine list features quite an extensive wine-on-tap program, which keeps the by-the- glass prices in a good “quality for the price” zone (you can also get half glasses). (Here’s more on the wine-on-tap program.) Back when Slanted Door was on Valencia in the mid-90s, I remember it was the first time I ever had a Saison ale, let alone drank a beer that wasn’t in a 12 oz. bottle, or, heh, a can. Wine director Gus Vahlkamp doesn’t forget how wonderful Vietnamese food pairs with beer, as the list of 13 selections attests. In fact, the vibe reminds me a lot of the original Slanted Door; it’s relaxed, a bit funky, lively, and wow, look at that, the place is full of locals.

Out The Door - 2232 Bush St. San Francisco - 415-923 9575

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Mar 2, 2010

Time to Get Schooled

Zach Pace, a local wine and spirits expert (he has written a wino piece for tablehopper here) is hosting a four-part wine series at ~18 REASONS~ exploring all the major wine regions of the world. The series will allow students to view the diverse world of wine through varietal expressions of terroir and style. Each class will include six wines.

Here’s the lineup: Class One (3/8): Three Pinots; Class Two (3/22): Don’t Forget Merlot; Class Three (4/5): California’s Other Wines; and Class Four (4/19): Killer Cabs. You can take one, or all four, you over-achiever, you!

 

Monday Mar 8, 2010 – Monday Apr 19, 2010
7pm–9pm
$50
more info

18 Reasons - 3674 18th St. San Francisco

"In Residence" at Quince

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Photo by Sara Remington.

Next Tuesday March 9th, the ~QUINCE~ “In Residence” Wine Dinner Series continues with winemaker Markus Heinel of the J. Hofstätter estate. He will lead guests through a tasting of the many varietal wines he crafts in the shadow of the Italian Dolomites: the single-vineyard “Kolbenhof” gewürztraminer; the white blend “Vigna San Michele”; the luscious lagrein “Steinraffler”; and, perhaps most notably, two vintages of the acclaimed “Barthenau” pinot noir—one of Italy’s reference-point pinots. Hofstätter’s lineup offers a unique glimpse of what’s possible in the varied terrain of the Alto Adige (the Alpine, German-speaking region that was ceded to Italy after World War I). The winemakers of the Alto Adige have been creating some of Italy’s most celebrated wines, both white and red, even though they still do so in the shadow of more famous regions such as the Piedmont and Tuscany. Here’s an opportunity to see just how great these wines really are. Chef Michael Tusk will create a six-course menu uniquely suited to each wine’s distinctive profile.

And mark your calendar, because on Monday March 22nd, Quince will host agronomist Elisa Scavino of Paolo Scavino Winery, whose Barolos from the famed “Bric del Fiasc” cru will be the focus of a spectacular vertical tasting. If you are a lover of Piemontese wines, and Barolo in particular, here’s a chance to taste four landmark vintages (1990, 1998, 1999, and 2000) from a benchmark producer. 6:30pm. $295 per person (exclusive of tax & gratuity); includes six-course meal with wine pairings.

Tuesday Mar 9, 2010
6:30pm
$195 (exclusive of tax & gratuity)
more info

Quince - 470 Pacific Ave. San Francisco - 415-775-8500

Say Cin Cin at dopo with Gunther Di Giovanna

On Sunday March 7th, dopo in Oakland is hosting organic wine producer Gunther Di Giovanna from Sicily. The family-style menu may change depending on what’s available the day and the week of the dinner, but here’s what’s slated for now: antipasti misti (house-cured smoked swordfish, artichoke conserva, octopus al mattone) paired with 2008 “Gerbino” rosato di nerello mascalese; house-made spaghetti ai ricci (sea urchin) paired with 2008 grecanico, IGT; house-made maccheroni with house-made ricotta, tomato, and Sicilian pecorino paired with 2008 nerello mascalese, IGT; roasted leg of lamb, rib chops, and lamb sausage, plus chicory and potato salad paired with 2005 G & K nero d’avola, IGT; and to finish, house-made gelato with brioche. And yes, I am now hungry and thirsty. You?

Sunday Mar 7, 2010
Two seatings: 5pm and 8pm
$60 per person (tax and gratuity extra)
more info

All Wines By the Glass Are $5 at luella in March

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Photo from luella.

~LUELLA~ restaurant on Russian Hill is celebrating its five-year anniversary by offering all wines by the glass for only $5, Sunday through Thursday, throughout the month of March. You can take advantage of the special pricing in the dining room or at the bar, where the full menu is also served. Take a peek at the current wine list here (note to self: gotta try the wine by Gianni Gagliardo—although I was expecting it to be a Calabrese grape, and not favorita, a grape from the Langhe).

Note: the Powell-Hyde Cable Car line runs right past the restaurant, and there is a parking garage at 1945 Hyde Street near Union (close to Swensen’s Ice Cream).

Monday Mar 1, 2010 – Wednesday Mar 31, 2010
Mon–Sat 5:30pm–10pm, Sun 5pm–9pm
more info

No Corkage for Late Diners

I have a feeling this one is geared for industry folks: come into ~FLOUR + WATER~ after 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and there’s no corkage. Limit two bottles per table.

Flour + Water - 2401 Harrison St. San Francisco - 415-826-7000

A Sea of Half-Off Drinks for You

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Midnight Prayer from Brian MacGregor at Jardinière.

From Monday March 1st through Sunday March 7th, Yelp has arranged for a week-long happy hour at 25 bars and restaurants around the city: we’re talking half-off drinks, all night, baby. Each location is offering three drinks at 50% off. For example, you can get the Charlie Chaplin at DOSA on Fillmore for $5, a delicious basil gimlet at Rye for $5, a Winter Sour at Elixir for $5, you can check out the Fifth Floor Restaurant Lounge over a $5 gin martini, or sip a pisco sour at La Mar (bar area only) for $5. Check out the entire list of 25 places where you can wreck your liver here. And be classy: tip your bartenders on the regular price.

Monday Mar 1, 2010 – Sunday Mar 7, 2010
more info

The Monk's Kettle Hosting SF Debut of Ninkasi Brewing Co.

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This Wednesday March 3rd, the ~MONK’S KETTLE~ will welcome Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing to the Bay Area (yup, it’s going to be distributed here) with a five-course dinner. Courses will include coconut curry Laughing Bird shrimp over savory Thai basil rice cake paired with Total Domination IPA (which arguably lives up to its name), and cumin-rubbed pork tenderloin with a rosemary-orange glaze paired with Tricerahops, Ninkasi’s Double IPA (here’s a PDF of the menu).

Doors open at 5:30pm for a welcoming hour, during which the first beer will be served, with the first course beginning at 6:30pm.

Wednesday Mar 3, 2010
5:30pm reception, 6:30pm dinner
$80, plus tax and gratuity
more info

Monk's Kettle - 3141 16th St. San Francisco - 415-865-9523

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Mar 2, 2010

Festa Della Donna

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Event Info

Monday Mar 8, 2010

One of my favorite annual events is here: ~FESTA DELLA DONNA~ (International Women’s Day) returns on Monday March 8th. And ~A16~ always does it in style: chef Liza Shaw will be preparing a special à la carte menu in addition to their regular menu, and pastry chef Lori Rich will be preparing some special treats. Shelley Lindgren, Ehren Jennings, and the other fabulous ladies of the sommelier team have selected wines entirely from women winemakers to accompany the special dishes. The room will be decorated with yellow mimosas, the flower traditionally handed to Italian women on this day. In addition, they will be donating profits to La Cocina and to the Red Cross for Haiti.

Here’s more from the press release: “International Women’s Day has evolved and taken on different meanings over the years, and throughout the world it has always been strongly associated with the victories and/or tragedies of women’s struggles and women’s rights. The 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire in New York was an event that was both tragic and victorious, and it is often commemorated in Italy for it was mostly Italian and Jewish women workers who perished in the building. A terrible fire broke out while the exit doors of the building were locked to prevent labor organizing, and it claimed the lives of 146 female immigrant workers. However, it is from a tragedy such as this, that we began to make new progressive labor laws. This tragedy, which led to triumph, is represented in the yellow, sunny mimosa, and as one of March’s first flowers, it symbolizes the promise of spring after the darkness of winter.”

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)
Mar 2, 2010

(Sponsored): Win Tickets to a Boutique Wine Tasting

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Golden Gate Wine Cellars is hosting another Boutique Wine Tasting Extravaganza on Saturday March 13th.

Come and meet the owners, the winemakers, and a bunch of stellar producers. You will be tasting wines from Page, Paul Lato, Arbe Garbe, A.P. Vin, Copain, Dutton Estate, Sean Thackrey, Hidden Ridge, Field Recordings, and J. Moss.

The event is Saturday March 13th, 5pm-8pm at the Lakeside Cafe (Private Room), 2529 Ocean Avenue. Food is provided.

tablehopper is giving away three pairs of tickets (six tickets total). All you need to do is forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one buddy, but even more would be so very fabulous. Just tell your friend(s) about the event, and Cc: or Bcc: me at luckyme@tablehopper.com so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is this Friday March 5th at 11:59am. I will notify the winners over the weekend; deadline for winners to RSVP to the event is March 8th by 11:59am. Good luck!

You can also buy tickets for $40 per person or $60 for two (you don’t have to be a couple!). Those buying six tickets will get two tickets free. For reservations, call 415-337-4083 or click here. Cheers!

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Mar 2, 2010

Halle Berry Has Good Taste in Sausage

~Halle Berry~ was spotted at the ~FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET~ on Saturday. After touring around the market and checking out the edibles, she decided on the maple breakfast sausage wrapped in brioche from the new Saturday breakfast stand from Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats. She ordered two, one for her and one for her Canadian model beau hunk, Gabriel Aubry, who was with her (and there were two nannies trailing behind).

She was a bit incognito, as much as a gorgeous woman can be, sporting a grey knit cap and of course some fab shades (the description matches these pics from PopSugar), and she was pushing her daughter Nahla in a stroller. Cesalee Farr, Ryan’s Farr’s wife, said her skin and smile were both stunning: “You can see why she’s a movie star.” Another tablehopper reader writes in: “[She] listened to some of the bands playing (seemed pretty into it). She was wearing killer boots and was super gracious, flashing stunning smiles at anyone who got a little excited to see her.” According to this blog post on 7x7, the couple possibly has a new place in Tiburon.

Olympic Fever Continues

Just last night, ~Jonny Moseley~ was spotted at ~PIZZERIA PICCO~ in Larkspur with his son. He ordered the burrata appetizer, and a Specialized pizza: a margherita with sausage and pepperoni. (Looks like someone’s a meat lover.) It appears there was a decent amount of carbs in that meal—no need to request a dinner roll (his trademark move).

The Star Power of the 94117

A tablehopper reader spotted ~Sean Lennon~ at ~NOPALITO~ last Monday night, and he also dined at ~NOPA~. He was playing that week at The Independent on Divisadero as part of The Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger (featuring Charlotte Kemp Muhl and special guests Cornelius).

Gypsy Music

On Thursday, bassist ~Mike Dirnt~ from Green Day dined at ~GITANE~. He had the gambas salad, the chipirones, the lamb “cordero,” and he loved the prickly pear margarita.

Lunch: Possible

~Robert Irvine~, the chef on the Food Network’s “Dinner: Impossible,” dined at ~BISTRO BOUDIN~ last week for lunch. He had the crab cake appetizer and garlic flatbread with arugula (which he added pepperoni to—looks like someone wanted to “have it his way”), and was reportedly oohing and aahing over the view.

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