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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: springing forward.

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Spring morning view from the Wine Country Inn.

Last week was all about whoa, wow, and what a whirlwind. And let’s not forget wonderful. It has been a great experience launching my book (the support has been amazing—you all rock), and last Friday’s reading (my first!) at Booksmith in the Haight was such an unexpectedly touching evening. I had no idea who was coming, so as people kept arriving, it was like a surprise party; one of my old bosses from my advertising days even showed up, along with a designer I used to work with, dear friends I didn’t even know read tablehopper, and even a friend from out of town.

It also felt like a fun cocktail party, with pink Pompadour Rosé bubbles provided by Domaine Carneros, and the delicious Indian flavors of orange-cardamom-ginger with saffron gobs from Gobba Gobba Hey, and cardamom-ginger chai and green chili chai from The Chai Cart (thank you all for donating your treats for the soirée). And many thank yous to the kind staff at Booksmith for throwing such a special kickoff party—and apologies to those of you who came and weren’t able to buy a book when the store ran out of copies! Me lo siento.

Coming up this week is my reading on Thursday at Books Inc. on Chestnut Street at 7:30pm. (Let’s hope you’re not too wrecked from St. Patrick’s Day the night before.) Of course I have to have something for us to taste, so to continue the Indian theme, we’ll have some “Suria” chocolates from Maison Mitchell, a blend of dark and milk chocolates infused with cardamom; we are also going to be enjoying Durigutti’s Malbec “Clásico” (many thanks to Bock Wines and Spirits for the donation). Hope to see you there—or next Wednesday at Omnivore (here’s my book tour schedule).

After all the emails and phone calls and deadlines and running around last week, it was a much-needed treat to hit the road for a 24-hour trip to St. Helena on Sunday, with a wine tasting and lunch at CADE, more wine (and olive oil) at Long Meadow Ranch, and dinner at Farmstead (where our table got a peek of Thomas Keller and Laura Cunningham having dinner at the bar). The weather was ridiculously perfect—what a dream. And then I woke up. Oh, it’s you, mister alarm clock, reminding me that it was time to pry myself from my comfy bed at the Wine Country Inn and scoot my heinie home Monday morning to get this beast of a column written.

Speaking of, we have a historical hardhat this week from Erin Archuleta on the upcoming Comstock Saloon, and I also have a review of Contigo, where I happily celebrated my book launch last Tuesday with a dear friend. (Whaddya know, that’s a new occasion I’ll have to put in the next edition of my book, heh.)

Here’s to longer evenings, spring produce, and all the kind people I know! Oh yeah, and finally having a “Kabaret Kab” ride from Buzz Brooks—it was an entertaining way to travel to my reading on Friday.

As Buzz would say, “Manifest more mirth!”

Yours,

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Mar 16, 2010

Rumors Were True: Mina Moving into the Aqua Space

Well, the little birdies were correct: Michael Mina is taking over the lease to the ~AQUA~ space since the Bacchus Management Group passed on it. No word yet what Mina has in store, nor do we know an opening date, or when the current Aqua will close. Obviously, more information to follow. 252 California St. at Battery.

Deets on Farina's New Pizza Place

I know, I know, MORE PIZZA. The latest establishment to toss their pie into the ring is ~FARINA~, which will be simply calling their upcoming establishment ~PIZZA~. This pizzeria is going to be all about Neapolitan authenticity: the oven, ingredients, and yes, the pizzaiolo will all be from Naples (does that make him a DOP pizzaiolo?). And it’s smack dab in the 18th Street corridor, on the corner of 18th and Valencia; it’s going into the ground-floor commercial space in a new building, with apartments above. The 2,000-square-foot space will have a menu running at a lesser price than Farina’s, with quick but quality items like salumi, cheeses, croquettes, a calzone fritto, and items from the grill. There will also be pasta dishes, but not made by hand like how they do it at Farina. The space will have a small wine bar to hang out at, and a counter selling fresh items to take home (or to Dolores Park), like focaccia, tomato purée, and hopefully Farina’s famous pesto. There will be around 49 seats with the oven as the focal point in the space, with large windows overlooking the street, and outdoor sidewalk seating. The look will have a similar taste to Farina’s, with wood, ceramic, and steel, but with less marble. They hope to open at the end of the summer. 700 Valencia St. at 18th St.

And Now... Pizza Coming to the Westfield Centre

Moving into the former Zazil space in the Westfield Centre is going to be a ~PIZZA PLACE FROM THE LARK CREEK RESTAURANT GROUP~. The 3,500-square-foot artisan pizzeria will be just next door to LarkCreekSteak, serving seasonal, Italian-influenced dishes. The plan is to open in the fourth quarter of 2010. Reportedly vice president and culinary director Adrian Hoffman recently participated in an intensive pizza workshop with Enzo Coccia in Naples, Italy, so Hoffman is going to be overseeing the creation of the Neapolitan pizzas, available for dining in or take-out.

New Neighborhood Joint Opens in the Mission

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More Valencia Street action: ~SOUTHEND GRILL ‘N’ BAR~ has opened in the former Toad’s space, serving American comfort food like Buffalo wings, burgers, steaks, and chops, with nothing over $20 (complete menu here). It has been going through a soft opening phase, and the grand opening is this Friday March 18th and Saturday March 19th. The 40-seat space was refreshed with a simple and comfortable look. Owner Steve Silver, who was born and raised in the Mission, told me it’s meant to be a neighborhood joint, with affordable pricing. There is a selection of beer on tap and by the bottle, and wine by the glass; lunch and brunch should be starting in a month or so. There will also be outdoor seating along 26th Street. Hours for now are Sun 5pm-9:30pm, Mon-Thu 5pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11:30pm. 1499 Valencia St. at 26th St., 415-648-8623.

Yup, Yet Another Cool Project Coming to the Mission

According to former Poleng Lounge owner Desi Danganan’s blog, he is going to be opening ~THE SUMMIT~ in the former New College building in the Mission, rather primo real estate. The plans online reveal an art bar/café concept, with an eclectic look. I’ll have to wait and see what Desi says about the whole thing once I hear back, but so far Brent-ski (looks like a nickname to me) of Kambayashi Design will be designing the furnishings—he consulted on the design of Poleng, as well as SOM. and Namu. According to his blog post, Danganan said the project was originally going to be Casa Poleng, the second Poleng “with a twist.” And just like that, I am missing Tim Luym’s adobo chicken wings. Stand by for more… 777 Valencia St. at 19th St.

Local Mission Eatery May Be Opening This Week

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Just a heads up that ~LOCAL MISSION EATERY~ and Knead Patisserie may be opening as soon as this week—things are very close. The website is live with the menu and class schedule, and more on the concept, check it out. I spoke with partner Jake Des Voignes, who was happy to see the cookbook library going in. You can follow my Twitter feed and/or Local Mission Eatery’s for updates on the actual opening day. Hours will be 11am-6pm, with dinner starting in three weeks or so. Yay.

Local Mission Eatery - 3111 24th St. San Francisco - 415-655-3422

More Business Changes in the Mish

Even more Mission news, although this one is pequeño: the former Mi Tierra has morphed into ~LOS JAQUIS~, serving dishes from Jalisco. I asked the kind gentleman who picked up the phone what his favorite dish was (in the best broken Spanish I could muster), and he mentioned burritas. No, not burritos: these are more like a fork-and-knife number—but that’s where the explanation ended, so this is something I gotta investigate. Hours are 9am-8pm daily. 324 S. Van Ness Ave. at 14th St., 415-252-8204.

Hot Dogs That Help

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Louisiana hot link photo by John A. Benson.

Just in time with the longer evening light, chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark of ~SHOW DOGS~ are hosting an evening party on March 25th. Proceeds will benefit the neighboring San Francisco City Academy, a private elementary school for the inner-city children of San Francisco. There will be hot dogs (of course), beer, and live music. Passed bar bites will include my very favorite onion rings, barbecue fries, and mini versions of Show Dogs’ signature dogs, including the organic duck with kimchee, and the organic sweet Italian with ancho-grilled onions, as well as a selection of local microbrews on tap, including Lagunitas IPA, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. Show Dogs will also auction off gift certificates, including dinner for two, to both Show Dogs and sister restaurant Foreign Cinema.

Thursday Mar 25, 2010
6pm–8pm
$20 (all inclusive)
more info

Show Dogs - 1020 Market St. San Francisco - 415-558-9560

Jebena, a New Café on Polk

Received word about a brand-new café called ~JEBENA~, serving coffee from Barefoot and loose-leaf teas, along with savory dishes like panini, soup, and salad. Since owner Kinani Ahmed is Ethiopian, he also plans to offer an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, brewing the coffee in a traditional way (this is coming soon). The Lower Polk location means it’s a good spot before or after a movie at the AMC on Van Ness, doubly so when he opens his gelato/ice cream and crêperie shop in the space flanking the café later this summer. Hours are 7am-10pm daily. 990 Polk St. at Geary, 415-409-1200.

Uva Enoteca Adds Sunday Brunch Service

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~UVA ENOTECA~ has decided to add Sunday brunch to its schedule (I guess their Saturday brunch was looking for some company). Brunch service is 11am-2:30pm, and includes dishes like French toast, fried eggs with pancetta, an open-faced egg panino with Fontina, and a few of their pizzas (many with eggs on them, certo).

Uva Enoteca - 568 Haight St. San Francisco - 415-829-2024

Weekday Lunch and Sunday Brunch Now at Oola

~OOLA RESTAURANT & BAR~ is now launching weekday lunch (Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm) and Sunday brunch (10:30am-3pm). Lunch items include the baby back ribs, salads, a Reuben, fish and chips, grilled flat-iron steak, and the trending dish of the year: fried chicken and waffles. Starters are $6-$16, and mains $10-$18; you can see the menu here. (There’s also soup of the day accompanied by a grilled Gruyère sandwich for only $6.) For Sunday brunch, options include French toast stuffed with hazelnut chocolate, truffled egg toast and prosciutto, and Ola’s steak and potato hash—check out the entire brunch menu here. 860 Folsom St. at 4th St., 415-995-2061.

Cute Alert: Elmwood Café Opens in Old Ozzie's Space on College

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I swear, as soon as I saw pictures of this cute café, I was wishing I had some reason to play hooky and head over to Berkeley, stat. The ~ELMWOOD CAFÉ~ moved into old Ozzie’s on College; it’s a project from owner Michael Pearce, and both managers Kara Hammond and Rachel Ericsen are Café Fanny alums (Kara for eight years, Rachel for four)—although I know Rachel from her fabulous vintage clothes, The Bees Knees Vintage, which is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, sniff (and you may recognize her sweet face from Camino).

Chef Donna Boechler (previously of Lola’s on Solano) has put together a “Berkeley cafe” kind of menu, with healthy breakfast options, plus two sandwiches available per day (yesterday they were chicken with mango chutney and coleslaw, and a ham and cheese panino, and there has also been a vegetarian option with roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, and spinach), soup (like butternut squash, or a recent purée of asparagus and escarole). In the evening, there is one dinner entrée served, like a braised beef stew, a winter vegetable stew, or a pulled pork dish. Pastry chef Mark Chacon (also from Café Fanny) is luring people back with his cranberry or kumquat coffee cake, and fleur-de-sel shortbread cookies. Since Ozzie’s was a soda fountain, they are making some newfangled ones with house-made syrups like pear-vanilla, kumquat, and cranberry (since people are requesting them, milkshakes will be coming later).

The vintage atmosphere is gosh-darned quaint (you can see more pictures of its cuteness here), with a marble counter, bright red stools, and there are even a few outdoor tables. And here’s the amazing part: half of all the profits will be donated to charity. I know, seriously? Wow. That’s something I am happy to help support. Hours are 7am-10pm daily. 2900 College Ave. at Russell, Berkeley, 510-843-1300.

A New Option for Lunch in Alameda

~DRAGON ROUGE~, in the heart of Alameda’s Park street business district, is celebrating its third year of business by adding affordable lunch service; look for Vietnamese dishes like banh mi and pho. Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm. 2304 Encinal St., Alameda, 510-521-1800.

Liege Spirits Lounge Opening This Week in Oakland

The folks behind Levende East are now opening ~LIEGE SPIRITS LOUNGE~ in Oakland—the grand opening is this Wednesday, March 17th, starting at 7pm. According to a note I received, they will be serving “tapas items and an assortment of healthy, house-made broth-based fondues featuring organic meats and seafood items, and the regional focus of the menu will change every eight weeks, this applies to the food and beverage program.” The first regional focus will be Latin America.

You’ll be able to take a seat at the 12-seat bar, a large communal/game table, a semi-private lounge area that accommodates 10 to 12 persons with a 47” LCD flat-screen, and an additional seating area featuring a 58” flat screen that seats 50. There will also be two ethanol-based fireplaces, and a photo booth.

As for bevvies, there will be 10 specialty cocktails handcrafted by the bar staff including a fresh farmers’ market cocktail every Friday. There will be approximately 20-22 wines available by the glass, ranging in price from $7-$14, four beers on tap, and numerous bottles.There will be happy hour Tue-Fri from 4:30pm-7pm, and during that time they will be serving things like house-cured olives, along with a small assortment of meats and cheeses gratis to guests at the bar. Hours are Tue-Fri 4:30pm-2am, Sat 6pm-2am, Sun 6pm-1am, closed Mon. 481 9th St. at Washington, Oakland, 510-835-4343.

Wally's Café Got Hitched--To Ms. Wally's Café

The kind couple behind bargain bite favorite Wally’s Café, Angelica Zuberbuhler and Walid Matar, have now opened ~MS. WALLY’S CAFÉ~, also in Emeryville. While the menu will continue to offer affordable and authentically made Mediterranean and Lebanese dishes like hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, and kebabs, new dishes include crêpes, galettes, and kibbeh. (Walid told me the dishes like the kibbeh are exactly the way he makes them at home—can’t wait to check it out.) The 49-seat restaurant is open from 7am-3pm and then 5pm-9:30pm daily (it opens on the weekend at 8:30am). 4336 San Pablo Ave. at 45th St., Emeryville, 510-547-0992.

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Mar 16, 2010

(Sponsored): Mmmm, $5 Corned Beef Sandwiches Are at Whole Foods Market

Grab a lucky deal on a tasty St. Patrick’s Day meal at NorCal Whole Foods Market stores. Our chefs are creating special sandwiches made with traditional, all-natural Wellshire Farms corned beef. We’re serving them with a half-pint of our house-made potato salad and a juicy Alexander Valley Gourmet pickle, all for just $5!

We’ll only have the deal available March 13th-17th. (Sadly “corned beef season” is only once a year!) So come see us at your local Whole Foods Market and celebrate the green by saving some green!

the regular

Established Restaurant Reviews (it's about time we met...)
Mar 16, 2010

Contigo

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Sardine and avocado toasts.

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Jamón Ibérico de Bellota “pata negra.”

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Asparagus with egg and mojama.

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Albóndigas.

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Canelon catalans (pork and chicken cannelloni).

Neighborhood restaurants. We’re in a city full of 49-seaters, local gems with their faithful regulars who have their favorite dishes on the menu, their favorite server, and their favorite table. But it’s a pitch-perfect restaurant that can make you feel like you’re a regular when you’re not.

~CONTIGO~ in Noe Valley just turned one year old in February 2010, and has established itself firmly in the hearts of many food-obsessed locals. It’s the kind of quintessential San Francisco restaurant you want to expose out-of-towners to: it’s in a cute neighborhood with hills; the ingredients are seasonal, organic, and market fresh; owners Brett Emerson and Elan Drucker are always in the house; the look is chic without being snobby; and the menu is varied enough to please the picky and interesting enough to grab the attention of gourmands.

And then there’s the jamón Ibérico de bellota “pata negra.” Yes, that sweet, acorn-finished, 36-month-old top-shelf precious pig is available in two portions, $15 and $29—and it’s the only restaurant in San Francisco where you can taste it. (The one they offer here is from the town of Guijuelo in the Salamanca province.) Yeah, pick it up with your fingers off the wooden cutting board, take a little sniff, and then let its porky goodness coat your tongue. There’s a reason this jamón is as fetishized as it is—it’s rare and not the easiest thing to find and expensive as hell. I can’t wait for the day when I have my very own bellota ham leg in my apartment (if I don’t turn into one first). There are actually all kinds of both domestic and imported hams to tempt you here, six in all—I’m going to come back for a night of comparative grazing.

The other starter that made me sit upright was the plate of anchoas de Cantábrico (anchovies; $5). And as the menu says, they’re three of the world’s finest cured anchovies. No joke, I was ready to order an entire tin of them. They were sweet, meaty, special—and could win over anchovy haters who only think of them as nasty, fishy, little bony things. These were revelatory, even for this anchovy lover. And wait until you dunk your bread into the shimmering green olive oil that’s left on the plate. Yeah, that’s the stuff.

Since we’re talking fish, a standard on the menu is the sardines, no accident since chef-owner Brett Emerson’s blog is In Praise of Sardines, which he hasn’t been able to really update since the restaurant opened (huh, I wonder why—kidding).

Last June, I went crazy over the sardines on the creamy and bright green avocado toasts ($7), and on a recent visit, they were listed on the menu as oven roasted ($9) with a celery and radish salad with Meyer lemon salsa verde. Even if you slightly waver over something like sardines, be fearless here: order them. Sardines: they’re not just for seals or cats.

I was lucky to dine here just as asparagus season started kicking off, because the tender spears of asparagus ($10) topped with an olive oil-fried egg (with wonderful little frizzled edges) and glistening slices of mojama (cured tuna loin that also got an olive oil bath) was one hell of a dish. The finely chopped Marcona almonds with smoky pimentón on the side was a flavorful flourish. This dish is a fabulous homage to asparagus season, go get it.

Smaller plates like tender albóndigas (meatballs; $9) made with pork, lamb, and jamón scraps have a air of decadence to them—as it lands on the table, the smell of cinnamon wafts from the piping hot cast-iron skillet. The note of cumin in the meat and amontillado sherry in the tomato sauce are the Act II players after your first bite—it’s a complex dish. Another little bubbling cauldron from the wood oven that I remember loving was tripe with chorizo and chickpeas. I appreciate that Emerson always has a few dishes that use offal or other whole-animal parts for those who aren’t afraid of things like pig ears.

Well, look at that. Thank heavens, it’s a paella-free zone. While the menu is definitely Barcelona-inspired, of course seasonal California ingredients like Meyer lemons and little gems tickle the restaurant’s Catalan sides.

The menu is structured around a snacky/antipasto course, a first course, and larger plates for those who want to saddle up for a main course. I like that the food is still well-poised to be shared, although you can certainly tuck into your very own dishes if you are dining alone. Then again, I wouldn’t want to sit down to an entire serving of the chickpeas with house-made blood sausage ($8), pine nuts, and plump golden sultanas—just a few bites were all I needed of that delicious but iron-rich dish.

On a recent visit, I got even closer to needing an angioplasty with the homey canelon catalans ($17), savory pork and chicken cannelloni in a bubble bath of béchamel. It was totally a dish that reminded me of the cannelloni Mrs. Tucci made for me when I was invited to her home for pranzo one summer in Calabria—the kind of dish you make to show off for company. It’s the tone of the food here: while everything is well-made and nicely presented, it’s rooted in both a visual and taste theme of rusticity. Homeyness.

While there are definitely some meaty star dishes, you could totally bring a vegetarian here and they’d find plenty to eat outside of the prosciutto and chicken liver and calamares. Dishes also change a lot, so while I miss the amazing fingerling potato chips dusted with spicy pimentón, there are always new dishes to keep you occupied.

A permanent fixture on the menu is the coca (flatbread), blistered and substantial enough that I’d recommend it for larger groups to share—but if you’re just a couple on a date, it’ll fill you up too much. The $17 price tag of a recent one with nettles, black trumpets, melted leeks, Manchego, and thyme struck me as a bit dear, even though I know those ingredients weren’t cheap—and then with the mandatory supplement of $3 for the Fatted Calf bacon (well, mandatory in my world), you’re suddenly looking at a $20 flatbread. Yeah, the Anthony Mangieri pizza zone.

But on that note, are you ready for one of the city’s best dining deals? I’m sure you are. Sunday through Wednesday, you can get the four-course menú del día for only $35. Yup, you get a first course, second course, side dish, and dessert of your choosing—a filling tour de force, such a deal.

Dessert has some troublemakers, like the thick hot chocolate ($4) and fried-to-order churros (addl. $4)—it’s a naughty kind of dessert you want to share if you’re on a date. The burnt caramel flan ($8) is custardy and rich, and is so delicate that if you don’t eat it quickly enough, it will start to fall apart on the plate. Or perhaps you want to linger over some Spanish cheeses, membrillo, and one of their many wonderful sherries and dessert wines?

The all-Spanish wine list has an extensive number available by the glass and carafe, and they’re reasonably priced—be sure to employ the services of wine director Andrew Nelson if he’s on the floor. The night I dined there, he had me taste some unexpected numbers like the Laureano Serres Montagut “Terme de Guiu” from Terra Alta (a funky one that’s not for everyone, but I dug it). You can explore a variety of wines—the staff is happy to turn people on to Spanish wines, and want to help you find one you’ll like.

It’s impressive how well Emerson and the architect (Douglas Burnham of envelope Architecture + Design) managed to fit the restaurant into this tiny space. There’s a bit of a Scandinavian vibe with all the salvaged redwood planks and seating, and I like the different seating levels and areas, from the tiny bar to the covered and heated outdoor patio (you sit next to the restaurant’s vegetable garden). Solo diners can happily perch at the small wine bar in the middle of the restaurant, or at the counter overlooking the cozy open kitchen.

I appreciate all the artful-environmental touches, from the recycled wine punts used as water glasses (filled with house-filtered water, natch) to the Heath ceramic wall tiles in the bathroom and kitchen that were actually “seconds” that are typically discarded. A lot of thought went into creating an environmentally friendly restaurant—you can geek out on all the build-out details here. (In fact, I think it’s wonderful that they posted these details—other businesses can learn from and be inspired by their research and decisions.)

The room is comfortable, and just lively enough. There’s a California ease to the place, drawing in families early in the evening, to groups of friends and ladies and dates for the later seatings. There are some seats reserved for walk-ins, so even if you’re flying solo instead of “contigo” (with you), you’ll likely find a place to dine. (And if it’s your first time, it’s easy to pretend they were saving you a spot. Your spot.)

Contigo - 1320 Castro St. San Francisco - 415-285-0250

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Mar 16, 2010

Cascina Ca' Rossa Winemaker Dinners

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Angelo tying vines (from Paul Marcus Wines).

Fans of Cascina Ca’ Rossa wines in the Piemonte region should know about these upcoming events: first, this Thursday March 18th, winemaker/owner Angelo Ferrio of Ca’ Rossa will be at a dinner at ~DONATO ENOTECA~ in Redwood City. The five-course menu will feature Piemontese regional cuisine, and a special night of wine pairings, featuring arneis, single vineyard barbera, single vineyard and reserve nebbiolo, and other wines from Ferrio’s collection that have been awarded the prestigious Tre Bicchieri distinction. $85 per person, excluding tax or gratuity. 7pm. 1041 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City, 650-701-1000.

~BELLANICO~ in Oakland is also hosting a winemaker dinner with Angelo Ferrio on Monday March 22nd—they are co-hosting it with Paul Marcus wines in Rockridge. You can read more about the wine and menu here. $70 plus tax and tip. 6pm-9:30pm. 4238 Park Blvd. at Wellington, Oakland, 510-336-1180.  

El Dorado Wine Tasting (with Food and Jazz)

This Saturday March 20th, 25 El Dorado County vintners will be traveling en masse from the Sierra Foothills for the ~EL DORADO COUNTY WINEMAKERS TASTING~ at Postrio. Participating El Dorado wineries include: Auriga Wine Cellars,
 Boeger Winery, Busby Cellars, Cedarville Vineyards, Chateau Rodin, 
Colibri Ridge Winery & Vineyards, 
Crystal Basin Cellars,
 David Girard Vineyards,
 Fenton Herriott Vineyards, 
Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge,
 Gold Hill Vineyard, Granite Springs Vineyards,
 Holly’s Hill Vineyards,
 Latcham Vineyards, 
Lava Cap Winery,
 Madroña Vineyards, 
Miraflores Winery, 
Mount Aukum Winery, 
Narrow Gate Vineyards,
 Perry Creek Vineyards,
 Sierra Oaks Estates,
 Sierra Vista Vineyards & Winery, 
Single Leaf Vineyards & Winery, and Windwalker Vineyard.

In addition to the 100 or so wines available for sampling, guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres by local chef Jordan Grosser (formerly of The Alembic), including Moroccan braised short ribs, prosciutto-wrapped squab, and hamachi crudo. Live jazz will cap off the afternoon in the Postrio Salon.

The consumer event is from 2pm-5pm and costs $38. You can buy four tickets for the price of three (available when you book the tickets). There is also a special tasting event for trade and members of the press from 12pm-2pm.

Saturday Mar 20, 2010
2pm–5pm
$38
more info

A Donkey and Goat Open House This Saturday

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This is looking like an extra-tasty tasting: ~A DONKEY AND GOAT~ are having their spring open house party on Saturday March 20th. Not only will they feature their seven new spring wines, but they have invited the folks from the new Locanda da Eva, which opens in April, to tease their new restaurant (look for more on the restaurant in tablehopper very soon). Here are the edibles: deviled Soul Food Farm eggs with roasted pepper, capers, and chicken liver; grilled beef spiedini with garlic, herbs, arugula, and lemon; fresh ricotta on crostini with roasted carrots and marinated beets; pork liver pâté with pickled vegetables; and tortilla española with spinach, mushrooms, Fontina, and romesco sauce.

Wines include: ‘08 Four Thirteen; ‘08 El Dorado Roussanne; ‘08 The Prospector Mourvèdre; ‘08 El Dorado Syrah; ‘08 Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay; ‘07 Vieilles Vignes Syrah; and ‘09 Grenache Rosé, plus there are always a few older bottles passed around, not to mention a sneak peek of what’s to come with barrel samples. Music will be provided by Michael LaMacchia Trio. Ticket includes a souvenir Riedel glass or BYOG (glass) and receive a $10 off any wine purchase of $50 or more.

The first 15 people who CHECK IN on Four Square at the Donkey & Goat Winery Release Party Saturday get a FREE copy of the The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco with any wine purchase.

Saturday Mar 20, 2010
1pm–5pm
$20 in advance or $30 at the door (cash only)
more info

The Latest Happy Hour Deals Around Town

Here are a few ways to save some dough on your sauce around town: ~UMAMI~ has a Sumo Happy Hour from 5:30pm-7pm daily, with 50% off all bottles of wine, plus specials on sushi and hot dishes. You can check out a PDF of all the menu items here. 2909 Webster St. at Union, 415-346-3431.

~CHAYA SAN FRANCISCO~ has kicked off their All Night, Every Night Happy Hour, running happy hour from 4pm ‘til close Monday through Friday, and 5pm ‘til close on Saturday and Sunday. Happy hour drink cocktails all run for $5.50, plus new bar bites like steamed Mediterranean mussels with fries ($8.50) and crispy chicken tender satay ($6). 132 The Embarcadero at Mission, 415-777-8688‎.

It's Time to Rally to Save the Tonga Room

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Next Tuesday March 23rd, ~SMUGGLER’S COVE~ is encouraging anyone concerned about the fate of the Tonga Room to swing by and sign a petition opposing the demolition of the city’s tiki palace to make way for a parking garage and luxury condominiums. After you sign the petition, of course you are encouraged to stay a while and enjoy a rum cocktail or two while you mix and mingle with like-minded people. Around 6pm, Chris VerPlanck and Erica Schultz of S.O.S. Tonga will provide a brief update on efforts to save the Tonga Room and exhort you to contact your local supervisors and the president of the Historic Preservation Commission, urging them to designate the Tonga Room as a local San Francisco Landmark. For more information, contact Chris VerPlanck.

Tuesday Mar 23, 2010
5pm-7pm
more info

Smuggler's Cove - 650 Gough St. San Francisco - 415-869-1900

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Mar 16, 2010

Cooks With Books/tablehopper Luncheon at Perbacco

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The Barolo room.

Event Info

Wednesday Mar 31, 2010
12pm
$100 (includes book, tax, tip)
Tickets/info
Perbacco
230 California St. at Front

Yeah, Wednesday can be so boring. Oh, hump day. But Wednesday March 31st will be far from boring, because all you have to do is take one look at this menu chef Staffan Terje of Perbacco (and the new Barbacco) has put together for the ~COOKS WITH BOOKS LUNCH~ in honor of my book launch, and you are going to wish every Wednesday was like this. You ready? Okay, let’s all get hungry reading this together.

Of course there had to be a selection of Staffan’s incomparable house-made salumi, so that will be served for the table.

For the first course: an artichoke and pecorino sformato with an egg yolk center (sexy) and morel mushroom and fava bean stew.

(Or, for those who want a salad, there will be an insalata primaverile [spring vegetable salad] with herb zabaglione.)

For the main course, rotolo di asparagi (rolled pasta filled with asparagus, mint, and ricotta topped with preserved Meyer lemon brown butter).

And dessert, one of my favorites: gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut) semifreddo.

This intimate luncheon will be held in one of Perbacco’s private rooms. We’ll talk about my book, The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion, food, San Francisco restaurants, cocktails—you know, the usual. I will also be signing books at the event (please note my book is included in the event price, as well as wine, tax, and tip—no fuss, no muss!). See you there? Mangiamo!

the hardhat

Project Sneak Peeks (watch your step)
Mar 16, 2010

Comstock Saloon

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Jonny Raglin and Jeff Hollinger.

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The corner of Pacific and Columbus.

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Overhead view of one the historic bars.

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Light fixtures (a different finish is in the works).

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (coming soon to 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

Reopening within the next month or so at 155 Columbus is a historic gem of a San Francisco building in an area that’s seen it all: secret societies, prostitution, boxing, and piano-playing. What could be a better place to saddle up for a killer history lesson as you try to drown your database-driven working day blues? The Comstock Saloon is opening up in the site of the former San Francisco Brewing Company, and will offer a full bar and pub fare.

Named after Henry Comstock and the Comstock Lode, which brought silvery mining fortunes to the Northwest, the building harkens back to its original Edwardian-era roots established during the Barbary Coast days. Bartender friends Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin of Absinthe are taking on this friends-and-family construction project in the much-mythologized border of the Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods.

The 1907 site (rebuilt after the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire) will reopen with a style that’s not as modern and masculine as it was under the old San Francisco Brewing Company reign. Both guys had dreams of finding a historic San Francisco building, and after searching for a few years, landed on the corner of Pacific and Columbus Avenues.

With due respect for the building’s historic status, important upgrades were still called for. For instance, in a cozy move to adhere to ADA bathroom/upgrade compliance, and keep with the original intent of the space, the guys constructed an alcove with a true Victorian/Edwardian parlor in which guests may “have a sit” next to the (faux) wood-burning stove (it runs on energy-efficient gas).

Jonny’s work as general contractor on this project has lent incredibly personal touches. His serious interest in the area’s history led him to befriend some local gents from the secretive Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (best known as the descendents of miners who partake in an annual retreat to the grave of Emperor Norton); they were more than happy to open up about the history of the area. Jeff and Jonny are planning to work with the fraternal order to resurrect the plaque declaring the Comstock Saloon (by the Order) as the last standing bar on the Barbary Coast (it was removed when the SF Brewing Company’s fate was still up in the air).

The lead on construction has been Marin-based builder and friend, Steve Bernardini. Steve worked with the team over at Absinthe quite a bit, and the guys really liked his style. Another friend, Anand Gowda, SF-based furniture designer of Gravy Service, is building out the booths and tackling the other woodwork. Jeff and Jonny were familiar with Anand’s work after he built a stunning dining room table for Jonny’s home. You may have spied Anand’s work at the Curiosity Shoppe in the Mission where he designed the shelves. Anand is also working with a classic sepia and evergreen embossed imprint leather for the booth seats, keeping an authentic look for the space. Another friend (and future bartending employee) lending a hand is Matt Conway (of Citizen Cake and NOPA), who was sanding away on dining tables during my visit. These guys have such a cool dynamic while working, they’ve even taped a found (modern) copy of the Declaration of Independence to the bar to keep them rooted in history while they scrape, sand, and hammer.

The lighting in the space and all the metal work will be in cool silvers, standing out against the warm wood. The guys said they were purposely steering away from some of the clichés predicted for the space—no brassy finishes. No harkening in a literal way to the mines; instead, evoking the miner’s quest with subtle silver finishes and hints of shine.

The guys are softening the glow in the saloon with recessed lighting, decorative chandeliers, and sconces sporting Victorian-style fluted shades. On the main dining floor, the five booths will each have their own lighting, casting an intimate glow over brews, cocktails, or a bite. The antique front bar that they’ve been sanding for the last couple of weeks will seat 12 on foundry-cast bar stools with old ball and claw bases, and they’ll also have a big dining table with a marble top to seat larger parties.

Jeff and Jonny are leaving the silver-toned beer tower from the brewery in place, and are trying to keep as many nods to the former hotel’s history as possible. One note making this amateur boxing pupil super-excited is the gesture to the Andromeda Café’s original owners, who according to Jonny were big-time boxing promoters who employed Jack Dempsey to work here.

Even Baby Face Nelson found his way through the doors in this time, meeting up with bartender Freddie Field and proprietor James J. Griffin, who allegedly introduced him to locals “living left of the law.” In proper fashion, the front area along the long wall will be lined with images of the boxing heroes who frequented the old Andromeda.

In more practical, modern-day terms, a huge unexpected benefit coming with the building is the massive amount of space in the lower level. Almost unheard of in the San Francisco dining scene, there are walk-in coolers and there prep space galore. These multiple cold-storage spaces were leftover from the old brewery work, and now these rooms offer up excellent locations for a temperature-regulated preparation kitchen to supply the fare upstairs. Usually in a build-out, plumbing and cold storage can eat up a huge portion of a budget. For these guys, they’ve inherited their own mother lode.

In clearing out the catacombs downstairs connecting to the North Beach Hotel, they found panels from the 100-plus-year-old bar, which they are reinstalling. A huge portion of the build-out labor came from removing the old brewing equipment. While gutting the five-plus ton slabs of concrete from the front bar, the guys decided to keep a boisterous piece of furniture—the old upright player piano—and moved it to the mezzanine level, where they’ll employ a regular Ragtime pianist to play during happy hours.

The art will remain simple, all except for the Emperor Norton statue above the back bar, which came as an inspired idea to Jonny after listening to a podcast about the peacock-feathered and epaulet-laden Emperor on local San Francisco history blog, Sparkletack. These guys take their San Francisco history seriously, especially when it involves our wacky checkered past. So of course, rather than just recreate a statue, they called on local artist Daniel Macchiarini, whose father, Peter, cast the original mold in 1936. Peter was a beloved bohemian figure, and there’s even a set of North Beach steps named after him.

Leaving the Comstock felt a bit like one of those transformative visits you get when you’ve been to a more sacred and hallowed space (albeit this one is probably for our hedonists). The guys note that there was an assumption that San Francisco was this real city when the Gold Rush hopefuls came rambling in, when in fact most of our 7x7 was dotted with nothing more than makeshift camps. It looks as if the Comstock Saloon will be able to invoke a bit of that frivolity and debauchery by way of classic cocktails and offer a meet-up for all the company you keep.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Mar 16, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel Spotting (and Not with Ben Affleck)

~Jimmy Kimmel~ was spotted by a couple tablehopper readers at ~BAR CRUDO~ Saturday night at the big table upstairs on the back mezzanine. Nope, he wasn’t with “his f**k buddy” Ben Affleck, nor his now-ex, Sarah Silverman, but as reported by my reader, he was with “some young, pretty blonde thing…and a few other folks and seemed to be having a good time.” Yup, he was at exactly the right place for other fish in the sea.

Kevin Spacey on the Scene

A reader reports that ~Kevin Spacey~ was at the Audio Alchemy show at ~YOSHI’S SAN FRANCISCO~ on Saturday night. Is Spacey a fan of producer Dan The Automator? Cool.

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