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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: road warrior.

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Last week, my hand of cards was most definitely a full house, starting with Wednesday’s Tour de Champagne at the Bubble Lounge, which was fantastique (particularly enjoyed the brut from grower-producer Dosnon & Lepage). My Thursday evening mingle at 18 Reasons was a blast (thank you Onigilly for the delicious rice treats! Best party treats ever—no fuss, no muss.). There was definitely a lively discussion that occurred at the end of the evening: the 18 Reasons staff posted a piece of butcher paper on the wall, asking “What San Francisco Restaurant Do You Think Is Overrated and Underrated?” (Here’s a photo of everyone’s submissions. Discuss.)

Friday night I headed over to Cavallo Point for dinner with Peter Greenberg and his crew, and had a good time recording a segment for the Peter Greenberg Worldwide show on Saturday morning about “off the brochure” and late-night places to visit in San Francisco. (Of course booze figured prominently in my suggestions.)

After hanging with my 510 readers and grazing on coppa at my signing at The Pasta Shop at Market Hall (thanks for coming by!), my buddy and I hopped into my Alfa and scooted down to Pebble Beach Food and Wine, just in time for our Top Chef Masters Dinner that evening. Rather than go through a big recap, let’s have the pictures do the talking: here are the photos from my whirlwind 24-hour tour down there. I attended the Top Chef Masters Dinner (our table, table 9, was outta-hand fun) Saturday night, the after party, a tasting of vintage Veuve Clicquot on Sunday morning, and then the Grand Tasting event. The festival is total culinary ADD: everywhere you turn, there’s someone you want to talk to, something you want to eat, something you want to drink. Kudos to the organizers for pulling off another spectacular year. And thank god I was wearing my boots on Sunday, because the run in the rain back to my car was like four-wheeling.

Whew, it looks like the great deluge of 2010 is fortunately over because this Wednesday is the Hop Dog Happy Hour with CUESA at the Ferry Building—sorry to report all the tickets are sold out, and the waiting list is long. However, how would you like to attend something sweet (and free) this Friday April 16th? I’m going to be signing books at Fog City News from 12pm-2pm, featuring free samples from the amazing Xocolatl de Davíd. We’ll be tasting the following chocolates: Almond Pimentón, Salted Caramel, and my favorite, the Bacon Raleigh bar (nougat, pecans, fleur de sel, 72% dark chocolate, and bacon-infused caramel—yeah, it’s insane). See you there.

And then this Saturday April 17th, I’ll be doing a book reading and signing at Read Booksellers in Blackhawk Plaza in Danville—a lot of my relatives will be there, so if you want to hang out with the Gagliardis and DeGrazias, come on by—it starts at 2pm. And Thursday April 29th is my two-martini lunch at Bix with the Commonwealth Club—we are totally going to feast. You comin’? The price is right!

Lastly, it looks like I might be heading to NYC for the Beard Awards and general running around the Big Apple the first week of May. Woot. Anyone know of any rooms/sublets/swaps/unoccupied apartments they’d recommend in Manhattan or Brooklyn? I’m trying to avoid the expense of a hotel for the entire week (will be singing the post-taxes blues, no fun), or couch surfing (and I have been turned on to Airbnb.com, thanks!). Appreciate any leads!

See you on the town,

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Apr 13, 2010

At Last, Sharon Ardiana (Gialina) Gets Her Second Location

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Sharon and her new Wood Stone pizza oven. Start your engines!

I knew Sharon Ardiana of ~GIALINA~ (one of my very fave pizza places in the city) was scouting around for a second location in my neighborhood (Nopa), and I’ll be damned, she got it! This fall, she is opening ~RAGAZZA~ (Italian for “girl”) in the former Metro Kathmandu space, adjacent to the Metro Hotel on Divisadero Street (so it’s more like Lower Haight/Nopa).

We had a chance to talk while she was checking out her almost-new cherry-red Wood Stone pizza oven at Alex’s Restaurant Equipment in Long Beach. She said she chose the name “ragazza” as an homage to the fantastic women in her family, and to female cooks everywhere. Fortunately Ardiana’s fantastic thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas and delicious salads will be on the menu, plus there will be new additions, including more entrées and baked pastas. Her focus on seasonal produce and using locally sourced meat will also continue. The restaurant will seat 45 people, along with limited seating in the outdoor patio/herb garden in the back. Dinner will be served nightly, plus brunch on weekends. Can’t wait to have my first pizza Atomica (or Amatriciana!) out of that fire-engine-red oven.

Ragazza - 311 Divisadero St. San Francisco - 415-255-1133

Bistro Aix Reopening This Saturday

If all goes according to plan, ~BISTRO AIX~ should be reopening for dinner this Saturday. Here’s a recap on the changes from my post back in July: Owner Jonathan Beard plans to totally gut the place and redo it from the ground up—upon reopening, there will be an oak fireplace grill in the kitchen where they will be preparing quality meat, poultry and fish. There will also be a glassed-in patio with a 100-year-old olive tree, reclaimed redwood, and an updated facade. They promise that many of their classics will remain on the menu.

Bistro Aix - 3340 Steiner St. San Francisco - 415-202-0100

Puerto Rican Food Coming to the Upper Haight

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Photo from Urban Daddy/Philipp Weitz.

A reader tipped me off about a new project coming to the Upper Haight called ~PARADA 22~, in the former Chabela space next to Cha Cha Cha (and Murio’s, for you boozehounds). Urban Daddy has more details, here are some highlights: the project is from chef Alex Jackson of The Corner and Weird Fish (and the upcoming Black Sheep Pub) and “one of the guys from Cha Cha Cha (and [is] named after a street in San Juan) … The Cha Cha Cha connection means you’ll have easy access to pitchers of their sangria from next door, in addition to some obscure beers selected with the help of the Monk’s Kettle crew (we heard rumors of Puerto Rican brews if all goes right with customs).” Items mentioned on the menu include creamy shrimp (camarones a la criolla); a caramelized onion steak (biftec encebollado) with a side of cheese-topped, fried plantains; and a fried whole fish. SFoodie also mentions a Cubano sandwich, pernil asado (roasted leg of pork), and vegan habichuelas blancas (white beans in sofrito base with potato and calabaza). They are gunning for an opening this Friday, but call before heading over.

Parada 22 - 1805 Haight St. San Francisco - 415-750-1111

Three Local Food Businesses Forced to Move

Was very sorry to learn from a reader that ~PINKIE’S BAKERY~, ~BENTO 415~, and ~4505 MEATS~ are all losing their shared kitchen/retail space at 300 De Haro at the base of Potrero Hill (their last day in the space is April 23rd). SFoodie has word that the new tenant will be a third location of John Campbell’s Irish Bakery, due to open in June. Will keep you posted on where the three businesses end up reestablishing themselves—Cheryl Burr from Pinkie’s tells me Pinkie’s and Bento 415 are currently trying to find a larger kitchen/retail location in SoMa.

Slick Thai Fusion Joint Opens in the Outer Richmond

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Photo from Morph.

Last night marked the opening night of ~MORPH~, an Asian fusion restaurant (stop your smirking) in the Outer Richmond from first-time restaurant owner T. Tan. The former Watami shabu/ramen location has been radically transformed into a tricked-out space, with a futuristic look of molded white plastic chairs and walls with padded panels, a modern wood wall display, and blue LED light fixtures. (You can view a slideshow of the interior on Grub Street.) The menu has dishes like soy-wrapped pork hand roll ($7) with beets, carrots, lettuce, mint, and egg with tamarind sauce; and broiled flank steak ($12) with asparagus, carrot, and garlic buckwheat soba served with cilantro sauce. Wine, sake, and beer are available. Open nightly for dinner from 5:30pm-10pm; lunch will launch later on. 5344 Geary Blvd. at 17th Ave., 415-742-5093.

Mini Updates on Places Around Town

Eater reports ~JOEY & EDDIE’S~ in North Beach has diminished their hours to Friday through Sunday only.

~SEBO~ in Hayes Valley is scheduled to reopen for regular service this Friday April 16th.

~NOPA~ will be closed this Tuesday the 13th and Wednesday the 14th to celebrate their fourth anniversary. They will reopen for dinner on Thursday April 15th.

Honk! It's Time to Curry Up Now

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Bless my sister for bringing me some bites of the delicious Indian street food fare one afternoon from food truck ~CURRY UP NOW~, which is normally parked in Redwood City and various locations on the Peninsula. According to some recent tweets, however, the truck has been making its way around San Francisco as well. Look for SF destinations this week (although they might not make it on Wednesday) on their Twitter feed.

Express Lunch Spot from Ebisu Now Open in the FiDi

After some stops and starts, Steve Fujii and his wife Koko (and their two sons, Eric and Charlie) of ~EBISU~ have opened their third location: an Ebisu express lunch spot. They will be serving take-out lunch Monday through Friday, plus offering catering for downtown businesses and hotels. The menu includes a variety of salads, onigiri (rice balls), donburi (like katsu don/pork cutlet with egg and chicken karage/sweet-and-spicy fried chicken over rice), vegetable and nigiri combos, bento boxes (all $9.95), and hand rolls.

Benjamin Anderson of The Anderson Studio for Architecture and Pacific Craftsmen, Inc. transformed the former Tasty Express spot on Kearny Street, using dark recycled barn wood for the interior walls, as well as bamboo for other parts of the interior (the new interior has many of the same green materials that were used during the main restaurant’s remodel at 9th Avenue and Irving). There will be several mini hot and cold cases for bento boxes and sushi. As one reader noted to me, “On the same block, about three doors up, Miyabi just opened a take-out lunch place. Looks like a sushi face off.” Hai. 336 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-398-2388.

Upper Haight Gets a Weekly Farmers' Market

A tablehopper tipster wrote in to tell me “Thought you might be interested to know that a ~NEW FARMERS’ MARKET~ is set to start in a few weeks at the Waller Street cul-de-sac in the Haight. The market will be on Wednesdays from 4pm to 8pm. I just found out about the market last night when it was announced at the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council meeting. (There is some controversy. The Waller Street location is also where the SF Rec & Park department is planning to build a skate park, despite some local opposition. I’m not sure how the skate park will affect the farmers’ market, or if the two can both exist at that location.)” This market from The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association starts on Wednesday April 28th at Waller Street at Stanyan.

Now Playing: With Meatpaper and Blue Bottle

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Celebrate having your taxes all done with a tasting and wine reception with Meatpaper and Blue Bottle at SFMOMA’s Rooftop Garden café this Thursday April 15th. As part of the museum’s third-Thursday springtime event series, ~SFMOMA: NOW PLAYING~, local chefs Peter McNee of Poggio, Morgan Maki and Linh Phu of Bi-Rite, Leah Rosenberg and Caitlin Freeman of Blue Bottle, and more will create dishes and desserts inspired by Vertigo, Hitchcock’s 1958 classic set in San Francisco. The menu includes A Visit to Ernie’s (Morgan Maki): steak au poivre with pommes gaufrettes and iceberg lettuce wedge with green goddess dressing; In Memory of Madeleine (Linh Phu): three madeleines (black pepper and bacon with maple butter, Gruyère and thyme with spring onion crème fraîche, and buckwheat and sage with mushroom duxelles); 1950s Salisbury steak TV Dinner (Peter McNee): grilled beef tongue, pig trotter tots, and English pea and mint purée; Steak à l’Americaine (Chris Kronner): steak tartare; and a selection of spiral-ly sweets (Leah Rosenberg, Caitlin Freeman): pinwheel ice cream sandwiches, Thiebaud cake, and red velvet roulade with cream cheese frosting. There will also be complimentary chardonnay wine from Scribe Winery, and beer from Trumer Pils. 6pm-8pm

 (the main event goes until 9:45pm). Free with half-price museum entry (free for SFMOMA members); tasting plates are $5.


In the museum at 7pm, Douglas Gordon’s Feature Film will be playing, a study of the hands, arms, and face of the Paris Opera’s James Conlon as he conducts the orchestral score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

 There will also be a performance in the atrium at 9pm from Laetita Sonami and SUE-C. 


Cool Food-Related Events Coming Up at SoEx

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This month, Southern Exposure is having a couple cool food-meets-art events, including Good for What Ails You, the “debut of the San Francisco issue of an Americanitis Elixir” from Alison Pebworth and Jerome Waag on Thursday April 15th, featuring a concoction made with the cooperation of beekeeper and mead maker, Bryon Waibel, and home distiller Adam Wolf.

And then on Thursday April 29th is the How-to Homestead Hootenanny ($10; free for SoEx members) or free with homesteaded goods and items to share (including home brews, seeds, fermented vegetables, pies, and more). The evening includes free tastings of home-made beer, booze, fermented vegetables, and other homestead goodies; new homesteading movie shorts (some with live accompaniment by the How-to Homestead house band, the sk8 sisters); square dancing with Pearsons Pork Pies, and the night concludes with free-form dancing with the Goat Family, a nuevo-traditional jug band on the old-timey exuberance and infectious tip. Films include: What I Learned the Year I Made My Own Linen Underwear, Everyone Needs a Hoe, SK8 Sisters on the Farm, The Incredible Adventures of the Primitive Creature, San Francisco Spring Foraging, and at least two films culled from their current call for work. 3030 20th St. at Alabama, 415-863-2141.

San Francisco Food Bloggers' Bake Sale on 4/17

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I was reading on Anita Chu’s Dessert First blog that she is going to be co-hosting the very first National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale in San Francisco, which is part of the ~GREAT AMERICAN BAKE SALE~. On Saturday April 17, bake sales will be held everywhere across the nation, with the proceeds donated to Share Our Strength (you can read the national list of food bloggers heading up bake sales here).

The San Francisco Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale will take place at Omnivore Books from 12pm-3pm (and how fortuitous, Rose Levy Beranbaum will be speaking about her book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, at 3pm). If you want to bake, donate, sell baked goods, or more, read more here. 3885 Cesar Chavez St. at Church.

La Festa di Primavera Returns

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The second annual ~FESTA DI PRIMAVERA~ returns to the Grand Hallway (upstairs in the Ferry Building), a “Spring Celebration of Food, Wine and Music.” There are over 25 merchants participating, including Acme Bakery, Blue Bottle Coffee, Boccalone Salumeria, Cane Rosso, Ciao Bella Gelateria, Cowgirl Creamery, Far West Fungi, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, The Gardener, Golden Gate Meats, I Preferiti di Boriana, Market Bar, McEvoy Ranch, Miette, Mijita, Prather Ranch, Recchiuti Confections, Roli Roti, San Francisco Fish Company, Scharffen Berger, and Stonehouse Olive Oil. Featured wines from Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant include Graziano Wines from Mendocino; Hatcher Winery, Sierra Foothills; Italia Wine Imports; Montecastelli Wines; Oliver McCrum Wines; and Zigzagando Wines. Cool, old-style Italian rhythms will be supplied by The Hot Frittatas.

Tickets can be purchased at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant inside the Ferry Building, Shop 23 (next to Boccalone). Tickets are limited, so get yours soon!

Sunday Apr 18, 2010
4pm-7pm
Advance tickets: $35 (children 6–12, $10); same-day tickets: $40.
more info

Dinner with the Author of French Women Don't Get Fat

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On Thursday May 6th, Moussy’s restaurant at the Alliance Francaise will be hosting a dinner in honor of the release of Mireille Guiliano’s latest book, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. (I guess I have been cooking too much from the Italian-American Women Better Watch It or They’ll Get Fat Cookbook.) There is a new executive chef at Moussy’s, Nathan Ivry (formerly of Jardinière), so this is a chance to sample his cooking. There will be three courses with wine, coffee or tea, and music from The Gil Cohen Duo.

Guiliano, the former CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (Champagne Veuve Clicquot/LVMH) will be present to sign books and answer questions. Mireille’s personal philosophy on food and eating healthily isn’t about “dieting” in the conventional sense, but more about eating sensibly and pleasurably. In her new cookbook, there are more than 150 new recipes that are easy, quick, affordable, and delicious. Cost is $85 single or $145 per couple (inclusive of tax and gratuity), and includes an autographed copy of the new cookbook (value: $24.99). A no-host reception with Mireille will begin the festivities at 6pm, and will include passed appetizers from recipes featured in the cookbook. The first ten tablehopper readers who reserve a ticket to the dinner get a $20 discount per reservation (just mention tablehopper).

Thursday May 6, 2010
6pm reception
$85 individual/$145 couple ($20 off for first ten tablehopper readers)
more info

Flacos of Berkeley Now Has a Restaurant

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Photo from Flacos.

An East Bay tablehopper tipster wrote in to let me know: “~FLACOS~, which is a regular at Berkeley farmers’ markets, has a new brick and mortar outpost on Adeline, in the small place that used to be Jamaican.” Yup, Flacos’ organic-vegan-Mexican pozole, tamales, and more are now available at a sit-down restaurant for lunch and dinner. You can also get enchiladas and chile rellenos, and desserts are launching this week. There are 11 seats inside, and 10 outside. You can read more about Flacos in this East Bay Express article. Hours are Tue-Sat 12pm-9pm. (And you can still find Flacos at all three Berkeley farmers’ markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.) 3031 Adeline St. at Emerson, Berkeley, 510-981-8081.

Argentinean BBQ Food Truck Tooling Around in the East Bay

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Photo from Primo’s Parrilla.

A longtime reader let me know about ~PRIMO’S PARRILLA~, a food truck offering an authentic Argentinean BBQ menu of slow-grilled asado (both free-range chicken and grass-fed tri-tip) with chimichurri, hand-made empanadas (chicken and vegetable), and side dishes like sweet potato mash. You can read more about who is behind Primo’s in this Examiner article here. Follow their Twitter feed for all the location details, but past daytime lunch locations in Emeryville have included 62nd Street and Hollis (by Doyle Hollis Park), and Park Avenue between Pixar and City Hall.

Tara's Organic Ice Cream Opens in Temescal

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Photo: Jennifer Esperanza.

Berkeley’s ~TARA’S ORGANIC ICE CREAM~ has opened up a sister shop in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, between Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub and Burma Superstar. Owner Tara Esperanza uses only organic dairy, fruits, nuts, herbs, spices, and even vegetables in her ice cream and sugar-free sorbets. Flavors include adzuki black sesame, garam masala, camote (sweet potato and cinnamon), pandan (a Thai herb), and blueberry mint. And all utensils, cups, and pint cartons are compostable—even samples are served on washable metal spoons. While the Berkeley shop (3173 College Avenue) offers over twenty fresh flavors daily, the smaller Temescal shop will offer a rotating selection of eight flavors in cups or freshly made cones as well as sundaes and frappés, and will soon offer brownie ice cream sandwiches. You can check their Facebook page for daily flavors. Open daily 1pm-10pm. 4731 Telegraph Ave. at 48th St., Oakland, 510-923-1567.

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Apr 13, 2010

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the regular

Established Restaurant Reviews (it's about time we met...)
Apr 13, 2010

Wexler's

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House-made hot sauce.

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Scotch eggs (we ordered an extra one).

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Smoked chicken wings.

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Flounder po’ boy.

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Exterior photo by Mathew Sumner.

I like little engines that could. When ~WEXLER’S~ first opened on Sacramento Street in the heart of the Financial District, more than a couple industry folks expressed their concern over the fate of owner Matt Wexler’s namesake restaurant, especially with the darkened doorways of Rubicon and Jeanty at Jack’s mere blocks, nay, feet away. But the operative word here is little: Wexler’s 36 seats (with 12 at the bar) are far from the size of those sprawling three-tiered operations. And the clientele also falls into that 30-something range, who have created a downright booming lunch business during the week (seven kickass sandwiches for around $12 can have this effect on people), and who like their cocktails in the evening. Wexler’s turns one in June 2010, and they’ve found good momentum; diners will trek there for dinner from across town—it’s not just a place for Financial District workers.

I think when people initially heard the word “barbecue,” they expected a roll-up-your-sleeves place with plates of ribs and wings, but have been won over by chef Charlie Kleinman’s (Fifth Floor, Fish & Farm) sophisticated New American flavors, technique, and presentations that integrate elements of barbecue and smoke. It’s more like top-shelf barbecue—Americana that studied abroad in France.

The smoky chicken liver mousse ($11) is a smooth and creamy quenelle of can’t miss—blame the butter, duck fat, and house-smoked bacon in it. Its acidic accompaniments have gone through a variety of permutations, like green tomato chutney or ruby red grapefruit marmalade, all successful, and total alchemy when you construct a perfect bite with everything on the plate—you just wanna face plant in it.

I feel terrible for writing about the damned Scotch eggs ($12), but the kitchen now executes them so well that they are condemned to an eternity of making them. A dark brown exterior of tender burnt ends (from brisket) clings to a custard-like egg inside, with a perfectly runny yolk. And then with a dollop of the piquant Wexler’s hot sauce, offset with the sweet tea gastrique, and you are suddenly, madly, deeply in love with an egg. This dish is quickly establishing itself as a San Francisco classic, for obvious reasons.

Bonus, they started selling the house-made sriracha-like hot sauce for $3 for 1.5 oz.—it’s spicy (but not too much) and tangy, made with roasted Fresno chilies, garlic, and the addition of roasted carrot gives it an undertone of sweetness and texture. At home, I am putting it on top of and next to everything, especially sandwiches. And eggs. And vegetables. And meat. (You get the idea.)

The salads are also fantastic, like the house-smoked trout ($13) that you scoop up with crisp gaufrette potatoes (a high-end version of mini-Ruffles), elevated with the unexpected nip of candied horseradish and pea shoot leaves; or the refreshing little gems ($10) with a tangy buttermilk ranch dressing holding a touch of piquant spice, mixed with crumbly and sweet cornbread croutons.

Dinner options include a cornmeal-crusted skate ($19), placed on a bed of (slightly salty) Savoy cabbage, crème fraîche, and whole grain mustard, a balanced and savory combination that made me attack the dish to the very last bite. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the flourish of the pulled pork stuffing.

Kleinman continues the meaty treats with smoked short ribs ($20), and a plate of pork ($20), a mix that changes week to week (on one visit, it was a hefty combo of a country-fried cutlet topped with pork belly). There’s also a vegetarian dish or two on the menu (ditto on the lunchtime sandwiches), but really, meat lovers have the most fun here. Almost everything has a little kiss of smoke, but it’s never overwhelming: it’s more like smoke wafting from a neighbor’s window, less like an airport smoking lounge in Germany.

Desserts include the inside-out root beer float ($6) with house-made vanilla soda, Humphry Slocombe root beer ice cream, and whipped cream that will have you slurping it through your straw to the very bottom. (Just try to restrain yourself if you’re on a date, mmmmkay?!)

Lunch, in a word, rocks. The word is out that the vittles are tasty, affordable, satisfying, with people even waiting outside until the doors open at 11:30am (try to get there before noon to score a table, or go later in the day—lunch is served until 2:30pm). Diners pile in at the two large tables at lunch, making them into communal tables. I wouldn’t come here with a group or for a business lunch, but for a casual lunch with a meat-lovin’ co-worker, yes. You can also call in and get your lunch to go.

We couldn’t say no to the smoked chicken wings ($8), a lunchtime tower of saucy numbers perched on a creamy base of yogurt and Pt. Reyes blue cheese. The wings had a great taste and texture (they’re smoked and then fried), but the drumettes were oddly dry and overcooked. Bwok.

Supremely fresh flounder with a light cornmeal coating shows up in the po’ boy ($13), dressed with a spicy tartar sauce, and celery root slaw on the side. There’s also a drippy and hefty BBQ brisket bánh mì ($13), with thin slices of smoky meat that just fall apart (the brisket is made with a mustard dry rub, and smoked for 8-12 hours), counterpointed with a sweet and spicy aioli, pickled cabbage and Fresno chilies, and sprigs of cilantro. The Acme sweet deli roll soaks it all up. It’s not a traditional bánh mì by any means, but is it a sandwich you want to get to know? Quite. The promised bacon in the light dressing of the side of macaroni salad, however, was far too subtle (kind of like some San Francisco guys—like, are you gonna ask me out or what?).

At first, the space’s design from Aidlin Darling Design felt underdone to me, with mostly bare walls, and wood tables with industrial metal chairs (matching the spare bar with metal stools). The only points of visual playfulness are the red chandeliers and the rippling black laser-cut wood piece on the ceiling that looks like something out of Alien or a burnt dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. But then the soft candlelight starts to warm things up, along with the music and friendly staff. Oh yeah, and the Scotch eggs and hot sauce.

It’s the kind of place where two guys can roll in for a bite at the bar, or a couple can be out on a getting-to-know-you date night, and the atmosphere is just right for both. There’s definitely a fair amount of buzz and energy. My preferred seat is truthfully at the bar, because it means I can have the fabulous Kate Bolton whip up some excelente cocktails (there are always a couple special cocktails offered each night). I find myself drinking cocktails with dinner here because the smoky food stands up to my Manhattans (I’m just finding excuses). But the affordable wine list has a nice range of wines that will appeal to any palate, with a strong focus on California wines, good ones, and all clock in at $9-$12 by the glass. Beer drinkers will not go thirsty, either, with three on draught and eight by the bottle. And for you stock market or punch-out-at-5pm types, happy hour food and drinks are offered during the week from 2:30pm-6pm.

Wexler's - 568 Sacramento St. San Francisco - 415-983-0102

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Apr 13, 2010

New Wine School Opens in SF

A year-round wine school opens in San Francisco on April 17th, ~THE WINE SCHOOL AT SAN FRANCISCO WINE CENTER~, with Director of Education Catherine Fallis, one of the world’s few female Master Sommeliers, who has partnered with San Francisco Wine Center owners Brian and Hillary McGonigle.

Classes begin on April 17th with the Six Week Wine Expert, a series taught exclusively by Master Sommeliers that will take students from novice to expert in six entertaining and informative sessions. The World of Wine specialty classes introduce students to the world of wine and food, with topics such as Bordeaux, Napa, Tuscany, Designing Your Dream Cellar, Wine Collecting Fundamentals, and Wine and Food Pairing. The Visiting Dignitaries series features industry icons including Kevin Zraly, Kermit Lynch, Laura Catena, Peter Mondavi, Georges DuBoeuf, and Jean-Charles Boisset. In the Professional series, an instructor team of Master Sommeliers and industry experts share their knowledge and experience in classes for sommeliers, wine directors, servers, chefs, wine retailers, and those in wine sales who work for distributors, importers, or suppliers.

The complete calendar of Spring Session classes and course descriptions are available here and on the San Francisco Wine Center website. Contact the Wine School at 415-655-7300 or email for more information, to make your reservations, or to plan your own private group class.

Five Reasons to Say Viva Italia at Barbacco

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Photo from Barbacco.

Next Tuesday April 20th, ~BARBACCO~ is hosting five of the most unique wine producers from Italy for an informal evening totally dedicated to traditional and natural winemaking: Saşa Radikon (pouring orange wine), Francesco Maule, Arianna Occhipinti of Sicily, Alessandra Bera of Asti, and Mauro Vergano (who left chemistry for Chinato) will be available to pour and talk about their outstanding wines. Each grower will have one wine by the taste, glass, quartino, or bottle, with other wines available by the bottle. You will be able to order dishes off the regular dinner menu, so feel free to swing by for just a glass of wine (or two) and an appetizer, or a full meal.

Tuesday Apr 20, 2010
6pm
more info

Barbacco - 230 California St. San Francisco - 415-955-1919

Numb Tax-Time Woes at a Fleur de Lys Wine Dinner on 4/15

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Photo by Rick Hyde.

Maybe you have a tax return coming your way. Or you don’t want to think about your taxes and would rather forget all about it and drink good wine over a posh dinner. Either way, this Thursday April 15th, chef Hubert Keller and the team at ~FLEUR DE LYS~ will be hosting a dinner with the wines of Hyde de Villaine, the partnership between veteran California farmer, Larry Hyde, and legendary Domaine de la Romanée Conti partner, Aubert de Villaine. The two began a partnership after Aubert married Larry’s “belle cousine,” Pamela. The Hyde de Villaine wines speak of impeccable Carneros farming practices and classic winemaking on the part of Frenchman Stéphane Vivier. Larry, Aubert, and Stéphane will all be in attendance on this evening. Wines to be poured during the multi-course dinner are: Hyde de Villaine ”De La Guerra” Chardonnay 2007, Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay 2007, Hyde de Villaine Syrah 2006, Hyde de Villaine Syrah 2004, Hyde de Villaine “Belle Cousine” 2006, and Hyde de Villaine ”Belle Cousine” 2004.

Second Annual New Zealand Wine Discovery on 4/17

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This Saturday April 17th is the second annual ~NEW ZEALAND WINE DISCOVERY~ wine and food tasting event at the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. Special to this event is a live broadcast of KGO’s Dining Around with Gene Burns program.

This afternoon event will have you tasting the following New Zealand wines: Alana Estate, Allan Scott, Babich Wines, Brancott Vineyards, The Crossings, Elephant Hill, Esk Valley, Freefall Wines, Grey’s Peak, Kawarau Estate, Lawson’s Dry Hills, Long Boat, Man O’ War Vineyards, Matua Valley Wines, Mills Reef Winery, Mt Difficulty, Nautilus Estate, Neudorf, Ponga, Saint Clair Family Estate, Selaks, Shaky Bridge, Spy Valley Wines, Sleeping Dogs, Staete Landt Vineyard, Stoneleigh, Tarras Vineyards, Te Awa, Villa Maria, Wild Earth, Wild Rock, Wither Hills, Woollaston Estates, and Yealands Estate. You will also be able to taste bites provided by Chez Papa Resto, Farm Fresh to You, Gelato Classico, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Hog Island Oyster Company, InterContinental San Francisco Hotel, Left Bank, Marin French Cheese, Oola Restaurant & Bar, and The Olive Press. Event beneficiaries are the San Francisco Food Bank and The Doug Wisor Scholarship.

Saturday Apr 17, 2010
12pm-3pm
$30 advance; $40 at the door; $25 for Visa Signature cardholders at the door
more info

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Apr 13, 2010

Take a Wok on the Wild Side

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Event Info

Monday Apr 26, 2010
5pm–9pm
$150
Tickets/info
Statler Wing, Ocean/Phelan Campus, City College of San Francisco
50 Phelan Ave.
415-239-3152

The twelfth annual ~WOK ON THE WILD SIDE~ is coming up on Monday April 26th—it’s an annual fundraiser for the City College of San Francisco Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Department. This year, guest chefs are preparing a sit-down dinner of classic San Francisco dishes (with student help): Staffan Terje, Perbacco and Barbacco; Bruce Hill, Bix and Picco; Mauricio Sibrian of historic John’s Grill; Jennifer Biesty, Sir Francis Drake Hotel; Laurence Jossel, Nopa; and John Hui of Pebble Beach Resort. San Francisco native and City College alum Tom Sweeney, well known as the Beefeater doorman at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (for over thirty years) is the guest of honor.

Proceeds from the dinner, silent, and live auctions benefit scholarships and underwrite much-needed improvements to the student-run restaurant and kitchen facilities. California budget cuts make it harder and harder to provide the kind of quality education with cutting-edge equipment that their students need to prepare them for the current job market. Please consider attending this dinner to help support our city’s future culinary talent!

Taste of the Nation Returns April 29th

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Event Info

Thursday Apr 29, 2010
VIPs at 5:30pm; general from 6:30pm–9:30pm
VIP $140 ($120 discounted, use code TblhopVIP); $85 ($75 discounted, use code Tblhop) for General Admission.
Tickets
AT&T Ball Park Club Level

24 Willie Mays Plaza
, San Francisco

Share Our Strength’s ~TASTE OF THE NATION~ returns to AT&T Park on Thursday April 29th, featuring top chefs and mixologists, all of whom are coming together to donate their time, talent, and passion to end childhood hunger in America. Instead of a walk-around tasting and sit-down dinner, this year will just feature a tasting on the Club Level of AT&T Park.

You will be able to sample tastes from 40+ of the finest chefs in San Francisco, including Steffan Terje of Barbacco/Perbacco, Jennifer Biesty of Scala’s Bistro, Mark Sullivan of Spruce, Matthew Accarrino of SPQR, Hoss Zaré of Zaré at Fly Trap, and many more, including SFTaste’s Honorary Chair, Traci des Jardins, of Jardinière, Mijita, and Public House. There will also be signature cocktails from local mixologists and wines from around California, plus music, a silent auction, and other activities. 100% of ticket sales ensure no kid in America grows up hungry.

The VIP session starts an hour early (running from 5:30pm-9:30pm), and allows guests to hang out with four of the top bartenders in San Francisco, learn how they make their specialty cocktails, sample the goods, and take home some of the ingredients. Plus there will be “sneak peeks” from several chefs whose restaurants will be opening this spring (like Lauren Kiino of Bracina, and I have been hearing rumors of preview tastes from an upcoming SoMa restaurant that starts with “B”).

Tickets for Taste of the Nation San Francisco are $85 for General Admission and $140 for the VIP admission. But tablehopper subscribers get a discounted ticket price: $75 instead of $85 (use code Tblhop), and $120 instead of $140 (use code TblhopVIP).

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Apr 13, 2010

"Date Night" for the Parenthood Duo

~Peter Krause~ and ~Lauren Graham~, who play Adam and Sarah Braverman on the NBC drama series Parenthood, were spotted in Healdsburg on Saturday dining at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen at Hotel Healdsburg.

Duncan Donuts

A tablehopper reader writes in: “Just saw ~Duncan Sheik~, and probably some members of his band, dining at Absinthe. Presumably it was after his show at the SF Symphony. He appeared to be accompanied by Megan Morris from Cycle 7 of America’s Next Top Model.”

Touring Without the Band

~Pete Wentz~ of the (former/on hiatus) band Fall Out Boy and four friends dined at Bistro Boudin for lunch. Pete and his friends had a crab cake sandwich, Boudin’s Dungeness crab mac & cheese, a baguette burger, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and a club sandwich. He reportedly was very nice and accommodated a guest request to have her picture taken with him.

With My Very Own Eyes

While I was signing books on Saturday at The Pasta Shop at Market Hall in Rockridge, Norwegian singer ~Erlend Oye~ came in for a coffee from Peaberry’s. He’s singling/playing guitar as part of the group The Whitest Boy Alive, on their first U.S. tour, at Slim’s tomorrow (Wednesday).

Throwing a Pass in Pac Heights

~Joe Montana~ was spotted at SPQR.

Fro-Yo for "The Freak"

A new fro-yo shop in Cow Hollow called Cultivé had San Francisco Giants starting pitcher ~Tim Lincecum~ as a customer.

Lickety Split

A member of the industry and tablehopper reader writes in: “Gold medalist sprinter ~Michael Johnson~ had lunch at Pacific Catch in the Sunset district. He is still pretty fast, as he left the restaurant without his credit card. Luckily, he’s not as fast as before: I was able to catch him in the parking lot to return his card before his departure.”

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