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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: winner's circle.

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Red roses (and red Solo cups) at the Eleven Madison Park after-party.

Whoa, there’s Batali. Oh, hello Daniel Boulud. Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten… It would be a gross understatement to say the press room at the ~JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARDS~ on Monday night gave me a serious case of ADD—in addition to having to balance my camera, record interviews on my iPhone, and run over to my laptop to post live updates to the James Beard Foundation Awards blog (I couldn’t even think about trying to get a glass of Champagne in the mix—although I certainly earned my glass of PJ at the end). It was quite a thrill to be invited as a JBFA correspondent for the awards, my first time to the event. (Huge thanks to the team at Savory Cities for suggesting me as a live blog correspondent—this was a wonderful, singular experience.)

It’s a grand event, most certainly. You really do see everyone (and I mean everyone), from young up-and-comers to legacy chefs from all over the country—I can’t imagine how exciting it must be for chefs to see their idols there, and it was great to meet so many fellow writers! I felt a tremendous amount of pride watching our talented West Coast teams accept their awards: huge congrats to David Kinch of Manresa for winning Best Chef: Pacific (and bonus points for thanking his cat, Ella, in his speech); to Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry for winning Rising Star Chef (he’s a very gracious person to speak with, by the way); and to Nicole Plue of REDD for Best Pastry Chef—looks like the third time was a charm for her.

I know it must be disappointing to attend (some many, many times) and not to win, but overall, I saw a lot of excitement in the nominees just being there, especially for the three West Coast nominees for Best New Restaurant (Frances, flour + water, and RN74). And let’s just say it: it’s great to be in New York and eat our way through it. The hot topic is always “Where did you eat last tonight/today/this morning?” And boy, do I have my work cut out for me—I’m here until Friday, and now that my “work” is done, it’s time to hit the town. My list is terrifyingly long—at least I can check Marea, pizza at Kesté, brunch at Joseph Leonard, late-night hot dogs at the Eleven Madison Park after-party, and even later-night munching in Koreatown off my list.

So instead of re-recapping my experience at the Awards in the press room, let’s just let my posts for the James Beard blog do it for me (no need to work twice). I also managed to upload a Flickr album of my pics of the evening—I’ll have a full recap of my week in New York in the next issue of tablehopper. For now, I have to be honest—it’s the most gorgeous day outside, and I really want to be in it. (Or as Frank would say, I want to be a part of it.) Fortunately I have two guest writers today, because this one is tapped out and checking out!

Congrats to everyone—I raise my iced coffee (and my poor, tired feet)!

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
May 4, 2010

Changes at Presidio Social Club

I had a chance to catch up with Ray Tang, who wanted to fill me in on a few changes as he is stepping back in as owner of ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~. First, there is a new chef: Derek McCarthy, who was previously at Blue Plate. Look for a new menu to launch on June 1st, offering a different take on American cuisine (Tang explains the menu’s story as “cuisine that would reflect officers returning from abroad”). Prices will be lower, lunch will return, and the menu is moving away from the recent Southern focus. Instead, look for an all-day menu with dishes like a chicken noodle soup, a BLT, a burger, steak for two, nightly local fish specials, roast beef, or chicken, served with classic sides like broccoli and baked potato—but featuring high-end and locally sourced product. (He also mentioned a basket featuring a fried trio of chicken, quail, and rabbit.) The wine list is also being revamped but the cocktails will remain the same (i.e. delicious)—and look for the return of the Sunday roast pig. Additional details: Shawn Kearney is no longer with the company and is taking a break from the restaurant world, and Puccini Group will continue as the management group.

Presidio Social Club - 563 Ruger St. Building 563 San Francisco - 415-885-1888

Social Kitchen & Brewery: Now Open

Just a quick public service announcement: ~SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY~ is now open. The restaurant is only open for dinner service, for now, from 5pm-10pm. They are not allowed to serve any alcoholic beverages after 10pm, so last call is currently at 9:30pm. (They are working with the city to have that curfew pushed until later in the evening.)

Social Kitchen & Brewery - 1326 9th Ave., San Francisco - 415-681-0330

AQUA's New Ownership

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Flickr photo from that guy 252.

When I had dinner at Barbacco a couple of Tuesdays ago, I took a peek at ~AQUA~ next door: even though the closing night was just that previous weekend, the room was already cleared of almost everything. It felt a little sudden, but upon learning CEO Mark Weiss of the Whisk Group (he lives in Washington DC) had bought all of AQUA’s assets, from the name to the furnishings to the website—and even the phone number—then the quick timing of the clear-out made more sense.

I had a quick chat with Weiss, who said he plans to reopen the famed restaurant again somewhere in the Financial District (three locations are currently being considered). I asked what his connection to the restaurant was, and he said, “It was one of those incredible restaurants, and I had many business deals there…I feel a strong connection to it.” He hopes to get in touch with many of the original players in the restaurant, including the designers, but noted that there are obviously elements that will need to be updated. When I asked about the chef, he said he wants to secure the space before deciding upon the chef, but he does plan on having lunch and dinner service. Weiss also mentioned plans to open another project in San Francisco, which could possibly open sooner than the AQUA redux. Stand by for more.

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco Names a New Executive Chef

~THE RITZ-CARLTON, SAN FRANCISCO~ has named Patrick Callarec executive chef, whose duties will encompass all hotel-specific culinary activities, including dining in The Lobby Lounge, In-Room Dining, banquets, and catering. French-born Callarec’s background includes executive chef for The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and owner of the award-winning Chez Paul Restaurant in Olowalu. (To clarify, chef Ron Siegel is not going anywhere—he will continue in The Dining Room.) 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-296-7465.

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
May 4, 2010

(Sponsored): Moms Rule at Whole Foods Market.

Skinned knees, broken hearts, bad moods. Your mom’s been there for you through life’s challenges, big and small. Sunday May 9th is Mother’s Day, and it’s a great time to come to NorCal Whole Foods Market stores and find all kinds of ways to say “thank you.” From gorgeous and intriguing fresh flowers to indulgent chocolate to heart-warming gifts, we’ve got lots of special items picked out with her in mind.

Want to treat your mom (or yourself) to a natural new look? Our Whole Body department will be doing free mineral makeup consultations May 7th-9th from 10am to 5pm. There’s an awesome deal going on then, too: buy any two Mineral Fusion cosmetics and get a FREE Mineral Fusion lipstick! Presale starts April 26th, so you can shop early (we’ll hold your purchase until the sale).

Find out more about our Mother’s Day specials online or just stop by your local store to explore the treats first-hand.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
May 4, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

It’s not too hard to find a Cinco de Mayo party in San Francisco (just swing a tequila bottle), but here are a few to have on your radar:

Mijita at AT&T Park will be celebrating its inaugural ~CINCO DE MAYO~ with $5 margaritas and $1 off Dos Equis beer from 5pm-7pm, free chips and salsa with purchase, and chef/owner Traci Des Jardins will be doing a stint as a guest bartender! KNBR Radio will also be broadcasting live from 12pm-3pm at Public House ($2 off Dos Equis during broadcast).

Destino is celebrating its ten-year anniversary on Cinco de Mayo with $5 tequila sours and passionfruit margaritas all night long, plus tapas specials for $5 as well (at both Destino and Pisco next door). FYI, for the month of May, Destino will have all tapas priced at $10 or less, like the churraso-grilled Estancia sirloin with chimichurri (of course, the cheaper ones will still be the same price).

And of course the cats at Cantina always throw quite the fiesta. Have fun out there.

Wednesday May 5, 2010
more info

"Best of the Best" Fourth Anniversary Tasting with Uncorked

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~UNCORKED EVENTS~ will be celebrating their fourth anniversary in style, pouring a vast array of their favorite wines from their first four years in one evening. Virtually every wine will be 90 points-plus rated, with many small production and hard-to-find gems, plus ultra-boutique wineries, cult classics, top importers, and luxury distributors all pouring. Participating wineries include: Pride Mountain, Fisher Vineyards, Gosset, Testarossa, Château de Beaucastel, Louis Latour, Penner Ash, Domaine Serene, Movia, Ata Rangi, Warwick Estate, Moët & Chandon, Cloudy Bay, Leeuwin Estate, Casa Marin, Fort Ross, Château Musar, Hamilton Russell, Vincent Girardin, and many more. You’ll have the opportunity to taste over 125 wines from every corner of the globe, plus there will be Belgian and German beer stations.

You’ll also be able to nosh on a gourmet cheese spread and hearty hors d’oeuvres from A.G. Ferrari, with beats provided by DJ Sol. In the past, the event has always sold out, but door tickets, if available, will be $60.

Wednesday May 26, 2010
6pm–9pm
$45. $10 off for tablehopper readers (promo code: hopper)
more info

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
May 4, 2010

Sandwich Social with the tablehopper

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The Big Easy from Morty’s.

Event Info

Saturday May 8, 2010
12pm–2pm
$15
Website
Purcell Murray
185 Park Lane, Brisbane
Larissa Taboryski
Call to reserve your spot: 415-330-5580

It’s no newsflash I am completely sandwich obsessed (I even included a favorite sandwich section in my book, of course!). But with so many new places popping up all the time, and perhaps your place of work being in one spot but a sandwich shop you’ve been wanting to try in another, it’s hard to try them all. Solution: the first ~TABLEHOPPER SANDWICH SOCIAL~ at Purcell Murray on Saturday May 8th!

I will lead a Q&A with three 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. I will additionally moderate and answer any questions for the sandwich makers, or about my dining experiences.

And of course we will eat sandwiches! Kitchenette will be preparing and serving their cult classic: the Dogpatch Millionaire, an Indian-inspired fried chicken sandwich with garam masala honey, coriander, cabbage, coriander, chiles, and fresh lime. The sandwich from Pal’s Take Away will be loaded with Four Barrel Coffee-rubbed and smoked barbecue pork from Becker Lane, with Boozely’s sweet pickle relish, creamy horseradish-y slaw, and River Dog arugula. Morty’s will be preparing and serving their delicious Reuben, loaded with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. We’ll also be drinking something bubbly since it is Saturday after all.

Please note you won’t be eating three entire sandwiches: the portions will be more like slightly smaller sandwich halves. Autographed copies of my book will be for sale ($17.50). And yes, the event is in Brisbane, but it’s a super-quick drive out of the city, trust me! See ya!

the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
May 4, 2010

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge: by Pete Mulvihill

Don’t forget: the book mentioned below is available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount (if ordering online, just write “tablehopper” in the order comment field—when they process the order, you’ll get your discount).

In this month’s Bookworm, let’s take a look at local culture, of sorts. Gordon Edgar, the cheese guy at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, has written a memoir entitled Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (published by Vermont’s Chelsea Green Publishing). And there the puns will end, I promise.

The book starts as straight memoir: how Gordon got his job at Rainbow, how he learned his trade, and so on. Through his story, you quickly get a sense of who he is—there’s some punk in Gordon, certainly, and the requisite lefty NorCal politics.

He then looks at how cheese is made. While this gets a bit technical at times, it’s always written with personality, i.e. it’s an “easy read,” even when discussing more scientific stuff. He then looks at cheesemaking facilities, American food policies, the ethics of milk production, etc. Throughout the book, Gordon’s politics and attitude are more fun diversion than distraction.

This is more memoir than cheese guide, but there’s plenty of helpful information for the cheese-curious, too: at the end of each chapter are footnotes, of a sort, that explain in more depth each cheese mentioned in the previous chapter, including price, origin, where to find it, etc. Cheesemonger is, above all, a personable look into the world of cheese completely without pretense. There’s attitude, sure, but not pretense.

Support your local cheesemonger (and your local indie bookstores), and treat yourself to a copy today. For, in the words of Monty Python, “blessed are the cheesemakers.”

Thanks for reading.

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

Gordon Edgar

the wino

Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)
May 4, 2010

Shelley Lindgren on Carciofi and Vino

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A16 and SPQR wine director/owner Shelley Lindgren’s reputation for seeking out Italian wines made with little-known grapes has earned her recognition as a wine pioneer. She has been named Best Wine Director in San Francisco magazine, Best New Sommelier from Wine & Spirits, and a Top Ten Sommeliers by Bloomberg Markets magazine. Yet Lindgren, who has worked in restaurants since high school, feels that her job is less about creating high-profile wine lists and more about sharing her passion for wine and hospitality with guests. Lindgren continues to search for evocative wines to serve at A16 and SPQR. To stay current, she embarks on rigorous tasting trips to Italy twice a year.

Perennially pairing wines with artichokes has been the opposite of a chore; it’s one of my favorite things to match (almost more than anything). I usually order artichokes whenever I see them on a menu, and routinely add them to my basket at the market. Is it weird to think that if I sipped on the Italian artichoke liqueur, Cynar, I am actually helping regenerate my liver tissue? Artichokes are loaded with phytonutrients, and have been found to really be beneficial for healthy living—but the liver is not the only thing they aid, the list is long. In all seriousness, I feel like I am eating a luxury item every time I get to the tangy, sweet, bitter, and meaty heart.

Ultimately, food and wine are both meant to fill a person’s soul and belly, and the goal is to enjoy both. There is a real magic when the winning combination of food and wine can complement each other, and make eating and drinking a memorable experience. Our motto of “if it grows together, it goes together” is always a fun way of selecting either the food or wine first, and then matching it according to regional dictation. This brings us to our local, northern California wines and straight to countries like Greece, Italy, France, and Spain (among others) with fabulous artichoke recipes and a plethora of wines.

The baby artichokes we see in the stores come from the bottom of an artichoke plant; the larger globes are more mature and come from the top of the thistle—and usually this is where the petals can almost be snacks, until revealing the prized heart. The cool thing about baby artichokes is that we eat the entire thing. This is really important for wine pairing, because whole artichokes contain much more bitterness, fiber, and acidity—important factors to consider when selecting wines.

Basically, you cannot go wrong with a dry white wine with artichokes, from sauvignon blanc to greco di tufo. Usually any preparation of artichokes involves using lemon in some way to stop browning, but it’s also a complementary flavor, slowing oxidation as the bursts of acid accentuate the flavors.

Washing down a bite of baby artichoke with a wine with great verve like a pinot bianco from Alto Adige, Italy, has the same effect as squeezing a lemon and a pinch of salt over the baby artichoke and biting into it. Acid loves acid, and also it can cut through the natural bitterness and richness of the artichoke, so crisp whites are ideal in general. There are many reds that can go with the dense, rich centers of globe artichokes, too.

When artichokes were introduced to Italy by the Roman empire, they traveled from North Africa to Sicily and Naples first, then kept moving throughout Italy to the south of France, Spain, and eventually California.

The reds along this Mediterranean basin have generous fruit, which can have a natural bitterness and less-austere tannins that provide a silky texture and help bring out the herbal, meaty richness of an artichoke heart and not isolate the tannins, producing a metallic flavor like some bold, tannic wines can. At A16, chef Liza Shaw is poaching small purple artichokes in olive oil and adding them to a bianca-style pizza with fresh ricotta, smoked mozzarella, house-made prosciutto cotto, roasted red onions, and basil. The winning match for this pizza is a red from Lazio, just outside Rome proper, the Terenzi, ‘Velobra,’ Cesanese del Piglio, Lazio 2006. This medium-full bodied wine, with its natural baking spice quality and red currant flavor, meld perfectly with the rich nature of the pizza. The artichokes and basil become the main flavors—the density of the fruit highlights the vegetables and almost cancels out with the cheese, crust, and prosciutto cotto. It’s a red wine example of complementary flavors for artichokes.

Conversely at SPQR, chef Matthew Accarrino lightly pickles baby artichokes as he braises them in white wine vinegar, carrots, celery, and onions, and they are served warm in the vignarola salad with fresh Cypress Grove goat cheese, country bread, fava leaves, dandelion greens, pea shoots, sugar snap peas, English peas, snow peas, tarragon, mint, parsley, and more. The ideal match for this, after trying many types of pairings, is the Castel de Paolis, Frascati Superiore, Lazio 2007. With approximately twenty-seven ingredients in this salad, the blend of seven indigenous grapes of Lazio—such as romanesca, bonvino, and malvasia del Lazio—pairs with the high acid of goat’s cheese, and the three types of peas, fava leaves, and herbs—both the grapes and greens are mixtures of symbiotic flavors. The sweet, oaky, and firmly tannic wines that did not match, however, brought out astringent, metallic flavors and really clashed.

Speaking foreign languages is not my strong point, but, I can toast in a multitude of them—and they are often based on drinking (and eating) to one’s health. Enjoy the health benefits of eating artichokes, drinking wine, and your future artichoke and vino pairings…à votre santé, saluti, and stin iyiamas!

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