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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: on (and off) the road.

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Joe’s breakfast pizza from Downtown Bakery & Creamery.

How was your holiday weekend, folks? Let’s hear it for destination weddings. I got to spend the weekend up in Hopland; it’s past Healdsburg and Cloverdale on the 101—about 12 miles south of Ukiah for those of you who like to know such things. Talk about summer heat—I was definitely wilting in my car in the 98-degree daytime temperature, but the evenings were beautiful, full of crickets and stars. And it was great to finally visit the Graziano tasting room, a favorite winery of my parents (it was totally Arneis weather).

Of course, on my drive home yesterday, I had to stop in Healdsburg for a cappuccino from Flying Goat Coffee (j’adore the espresso drinks they pull there), and I brought a Joe’s breakfast pizza from Downtown Bakery & Creamery with me on the drive (definitely my idea of road food). A reader recently recommended that pizza to me, and all I can say is it’s a good thing that pizza is normally far, far away from me, mamma mia. (It’s a rocking combo of thinly sliced squash, mushrooms, bacon, fresh herbs, mozzarella, Asiago, and a farm-fresh egg in the middle.)

No comment on the fog bank that was waiting for me in the city, but a spicy dinner from Mission Chinese Food definitely helped perk me up—you can read about it in today’s issue, with news about all kinds of tasty things you can put in your maw. Oh yeah—and here are the latest pics in my Surpies! mini photo series, when I surprise friends and family with slices of the monthly pie I receive from Buttercup Grill. Haven’t had anyone say no yet.

Oh, and a couple more media notes: I now have a quick pick list on the Nirvino mobile app called “The Tablehopper’s Ten Wines That Put a Hop in Her Step.” And Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park put together this fun little video about my book—thanks guys!

Until Friday… Ciao!

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Jul 6, 2010

Mission + Chinese + Food = Hells Yes

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Peking duck chinito.

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Inside the chinito.

Something new to add to your Chinese food world: Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien of Mission Street Food just launched their latest venture, ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ in Lung Shan Restaurant. No, you won’t be dining on vittles from guest chefs from Lichee Garden and Koi Palace, although that would kick ass, too—they’re actually cooking alongside the Lung Shan chefs, with each team offering their own Chinese menus. Mission Chinese Food’s menu offers 10-12 items priced in the $7-$10 range, for eat-in and take-out (plus there’s citywide delivery as well, word!).

The menu is all kinds of sick (and it’s spicy!—a few dishes are right up there with Spices! and Spices II), from the silkiest and peppery ma-po tofu made with Kurobuta pork and fermented black beans, to a chile-loaded lamb hot pot with glass noodles, to salt cod fried rice studded with Chinese sausage (delicious). Plus the groundbreaking chinito (Peking duck confit and skin with cucumber, cilantro, and Chinese donut wrapped in tender rice noodle that you dunk into spicy hoisin—huh wah? Uh huh!). The entire menu will give you terrible hunger pains—I ended up having to order delivery their first night of business, I was so excited. And boy, did I get some numb lips, hello Sichuan pepper. Served 11am-10:30pm daily. (And props: seventy-five cents from each item will be donated to the SF Food Bank.) 2234 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-863-2800.

Mission Chinese Food - 2234 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-863-2800

Soft Opening This Wednesday: Spire

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Interior photo from Spire.

Due to (softly) open for lunch this Wednesday July 7th is ~SPIRE RESTAURANT & BAR~ in SoMa. To recap, the chef is Laird Boles, most recently a sous chef at Waterbar. His contemporary American lunch menu includes: sweet corn soup ($6) with corn fritter, chili oil, and crème fraîche; shrimp and creamy lemon grits ($11) with toy box tomatoes and tarragon-chardonnay butter; fried soft-shell crab sandwich (market price) with cabbage slaw, Acme torpedo roll, and mixed kettle chips; and grilled seasonal vegetables on housemade naan ($9), or with shaved roasted leg of lamb ($13), with eggplant purée, cucumber spearmint salad, and cumin yogurt. The dining room features a clean and contemporary look, with a raw bar, regular bar, and several white, arched columns. There is room for 105 guests, with a few communal tables. Since the alcohol license is still being transferred, the grand opening won’t happen for a couple more weeks. Lunch is Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm. 685 3rd St. at Townsend, 415-947-0000.

Unwind on Union Now Open

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Patio photo from Unwind.

Adding to the lineup of new businesses on Union (Marengo, Roam) is ~UNWIND ON UNION~, open in the former Pasta Pomodoro space. It just opened, so they’re still ramping up the menu, which includes dishes to share like lobster corn dogs ($8), and “New American Skins” with triple crème Brie, bacon, and jalapeños; plus a couple salads ($7), a burger ($10), and “mac and cheese for two” ($9). There is a variety of wine (most of it from California), many under $10 a glass, including a few selections on tap. The beer list is pretty standard (Anchor, Sierra, Stella). The casual space has a full bar, and pictured here, a back patio that is under a glass skylight ceiling—plus plenty of flat-screens. Random trivia: the business will be featured on David Adjey’s Food Network Canada show, The Opener, about first-time restaurateurs. Hours for now are 11am-10pm daily, and until 11pm Fri-Sat, with the bar open until midnight. 1875 Union St. at Laguna, 415-999-7283.

New Mega-Brasserie Opening Downtown

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Brasserie Lille bar rendering.

After lots of local speculation and rumors about who was moving into 101 California Street, the former Atrium, details have been revealed. It’s another project by Mark Weiss of the Whisk Group, called ~BRASSERIE LILLE~. And get ready for this: it’s going to be a 7,638-square-foot brasserie. Nope, it’s not petite. The brasserie will include a pâtisserie, full bar, and outdoor seating, and is planned to open the first quarter of 2011. The Johnson Studio in Atlanta will be designing it, with construction set to begin in the fall (Traci Des Jardins’s Manzanita was another Johnson Studio client). Further details, such as the executive chef, general manager, and menus, will be announced later this year.

Brasserie Lille - 101 California St. San Francisco

Changes at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

A few public service announcements about ~THE DINING ROOM AT THE RITZ-CARLTON~: it’s time for summer break, so The Dining Room will be closed until Monday July 19th, reopening Tuesday July 20th at 6pm. (You can still dine in The Lobby Lounge, ordering off a California market cuisine menu.) I also learned the traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco is no longer offered, but the hotel is working on a replacement experience that should be announced soon.

The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton - 600 Stockton St. San Francisco - 415-773-6168

Morty's Deli, Soon Delivering ZZ Tapas

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The Reuben at Morty’s.

The next time you’re getting tipsy during happy hour at a Polk Street bar, you can place a call to ~MORTY’S DELICATESSEN~ for some delivery, whether you want a kickass Reuben off their regular menu, or a stoner-happy selection off their new ZZ Tapas snack menu. Some sample items: you can get a dozen Buffalo chicken wings with Cambazola blue sauce ($12), Fleetwood MACNuggets (six deep-fried mac and cheese nuggets for $6.25), Catfish Stevens Tacos (two tacos made with grilled catfish, apple cider ‘slaw, avocado, and chipotle salsa), and in a brilliant move, bacon for $1 a slice. Oh, and if you’re feeling especially creative after a blunted/tipsy happy hour, Morty’s is open to suggestions for new dishes—and if your idea is picked as a weekly special, you can win a round of ZZ Tapas (choice of three). Simply pair a band name and a dish (songs don’t count) and email it to Morty’s.

Delivery is free with a $15 purchase, and will be available Mon-Fri from 5pm-9pm. (If things go well, and they better, look for extended hours and territory.) In the beginning, delivery will just be to Polk Street bars (like Vertigo, Hemlock, Lush Lounge, etc.), as well as bars in SoMa, Lower Haight, and the Mission. Whoa, I think this means their Monday Cubano special might be even closer to arriving at my abode on my deadline day—it just means I’ll need to leave my computer and go get a beer somewhere. Heh. It all starts on Monday July 12th. Just call 415-567-DELI (3354).

Morty's Delicatessen - 280 Golden Gate Ave. San Francisco - 415-567-3354

A Goodbye Lunch, and a Hello to a Breakfast and Dinner

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Photo of Skool’s dining room.

Starting this Friday July 9th, ~SKOOL RESTAURANT AND BAR~ will be open for dinner, and weekend brunch will be following at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, as of yesterday, ~SCHMIDT’S~ stopped serving lunch; only dinner will now be served from 5:30pm-11pm. Good news: they will start serving brunch on weekends in mid-August. 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St., 415-401-0200.

Eater also has the news that ~THE AMERICAN GRILLED CHEESE KITCHEN~ is now serving breakfast Mon-Fri 7:30am-3pm and Sat 12pm-4pm. Yes, the Breakfast Piglet sandwich sounds like par for my course (sharp cheddar, ham, egg, apple mustard).

Oh, and ~OSTERIA STELLINA~ in Point Reyes Station has a new summer brunch menu (can you say brunch pizza?) every Sat-Sun from 10am-2:30pm, and is open seven days a week through the summer.

A Grand Shot of Coffee

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Liquid affogato at Grand Coffee.

Last week, as I was riding my bike home from a lunch in the Mission, I swung by the new ~GRAND COFFEE~ for a little fuel. As mentioned previously, owner Nabeel Silmi is applying some bartender skills to the barista craft. What you see here is the off-the-menu liquid affogato, a layered shot of cane syrup, Clover half and half, and Four Barrel espresso. Yeah, it’s one heck of a shot (to the system). I then proceeded to order an iced latte to go, which Silmi shakes up like a cocktail in a shaker, adding a little simple syrup so you don’t need to worry about adding any sugar. Delish and frothy. The space is tiny but cool, with epoxy concrete floors, jazz music playing, reclaimed redwood planks, and a beautiful La Marzocco Linea three-group paddle. (I’ll be back for an egg cream next.) Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm, and starting July 10th, Grand Coffee will also be open Fri-Sat from 9pm-12am. You can keep track of the café’s offerings and hours on their Twitter feed.

Grand Coffee - 2663 Mission St. San Francisco

A Cheesy Night

Next Monday July 12th, join Rainbow Grocery cheesemonger and author, Gordon Edgar, and American cheese expert and author, Laura Werlin, for an 18 Reasons evening of stories and, of course, tastings. Gordon will read from his new book, Cheesemonger, and between readings, Werlin will lead you through a tasting, furthering your understanding of cheese and helping you to navigate the cheese counter more easily in the future. With these two, you’re in excellent hands.

Monday Jul 12, 2010
7pm–9pm
$40 for 18 Reasons members; $50 for the general public
more info

18 Reasons - 3674 18th St. San Francisco

New Izakaya Opens in Berkeley

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Flickr photo by Umamimart.

After months of trying to get some info on an upcoming downtown Berkeley yakitori place, finally the Umami Mart blog gets the story (cheers to Grub Street for unearthing the piece). Thanks to Umami Mart’s informative blog post, the majority of detail-gathering about this new joint, ~IPPUKU~, is done: it looks like there is quite the menu of close to 50 shochus (with 24 on tap); chef-owner Christian Geideman was previously at Ozumo in Oakland; and the 600-square-foot space has a Zen aesthetic, designed by master temple builder Paul Discoe—he used East Bay street trees that he milled at his West Oakland sawmill. It has a great look; and there are enclosed booths, along with small tables with pillows (horigotatsu—shoes off), and the bar is standing room only (tachinomi). Some last-minute details I received: the chicken they use is pasture raised, and comes from Gleason Ranch in Bodega and Soul Food Farm in Vacaville—the kitchen then breaks the chicken down into 20 different cuts and grills it over imported binchotan (white charcoal made from Japanese scrub oak). You can look at pictures of the space and the food (including agedashi tofu and bitter melon tempura) in this Flickr feed. Open nightly 5pm-11pm. 2130 Center St. at Oxford, Berkeley, 510-665-1969.

Ippuku - 2130 Center St. Berkeley - 510-665-1969

A New Twist on Cinnamon Rolls

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Photo from Cinnaholic.

And very close to Ippuku (just across from the UC Berkeley campus) is going to be ~CINNAHOLIC~, a new 100% vegan cinnamon roll shop from Shannon Michelle Radke. You will be able to order a roll, served hot, and then you get to choose the frosting and topping you want. The menu will offer 30 customizable cinnamon roll flavors, from classic “old fashioned,” to mocha almond, to strawberries and cream, to rocky road. All the rolls are cholesterol-free (made with non-hydrogenated oils) and sweetened with evaporated cane juice. The shop is also “dedicated to the vibrant lifestyle of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” with a “punk rock meets pin-up style ranging from our employee outfits to the music, décor, and local artwork that will be rotated and showcased monthly.” There will additionally be coffee from De La Paz. The opening is slated for July 16th, inspections pending. 8am-8pm. 2132 Oxford St. at Center, Berkeley; phone forthcoming.

MUA in Oakland Has a Sister, NEX

Mua in Oakland has a new sister restaurant just next door, ~NEX~, and whaddya know, it’s now open. After closing Soizic Bistro, owner Hi-Suk Dong has launched this new concept, offering an approachable menu of small plates like gnocchi or grilled asparagus with green goddess dressing, bacon, and a poached egg, to larger plates like duck confit and skate wing. And it’s affordable: the most expensive dish is the steak frites for $18. Hours are 5pm-10pm daily (no reservations). There is a full bar menu, along with beer and wine. 2442 Webster St. at 25th St., Oakland. NOTE: The phone for now is Mua’s: 510-238-1100.

Dinner In the Barn Returns to Sierra Valley Farms

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One of my favorite meals last year was the ~DINNER IN THE BARN~ event with Moody’s Bistro & Lounge and Sierra Valley Farms. Since many of you travel to Tahoe over the summer, or perhaps live near enough to attend this event, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this oh-so-memorable happening. (Just take a look at my pictures from last year and tell me it doesn’t look amazing.) Chef Mark Estee of Moody’s and chef de cuisine Guy Frenette will prepare a four-course feast using produce so fresh it grew in the field hours before they serve it, and dinner is served in a barn that dates back to 1936. Gary Romano, whose family has owned the organic Sierra Valley Farms (near Sierraville) for 100 years, will host the dinners July 24th-25th, August 28th-29th, and September 4th-5th.

The meal, which can also be adapted to accommodate vegetarian diners, will be paired accordingly with red and white wines. There will also be live music. Prior to the event, guests can tour the farm at 5pm; dinner is served at 6pm. $125 per person, which includes the four-course dinner, wine, beverages, farm tour, tax, and tip. Kids are welcome, but will be charged the adult price. Limited to 60 people, and it’s expected to sell out. Truckee Tahoe Transportation will offer guests rides to and from the barn dinners. Call Moody’s at 530-587-8688 to buy tickets.

Dinner in the Barn

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Jul 6, 2010

(Sponsored): Whole Foods Market Understands the Thrill of the Grill

Whether you’re a die-hard fan of propane, woodchips, or good old charcoal, this is the height of the grilling season. It’s time to get out there and put flame to tasty, tasty meat. Whole Foods Market has a massive selection of high quality meat, poultry, and seafood always raised to our high standards. You can pick from items we’ve expertly seasoned, or have something specially cut by one of our butchers, just like you could in the old days.

If you want to get a little off the beaten path, try buffalo. For a first timer that prefers meat a little more on the medium to well side, a buffalo burger is the way to go. For buffalo steaks (like a show-stopping ribeye), keep it on the medium rare side for optimum taste and tenderness. Now get out there and grill!

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Jul 6, 2010

Celebrate New Wine Releases with Broc Cellars and Naked Lunch

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It’s time for another fun food and wine pairing with Broc Cellars winery on Sunday July 11th. Three new wines will be released: a white blend, a red blend, and a 120-year-old vine carbonic maceration carignan. Chef Ian Begg of ~NAKED LUNCH~ will be preparing very specific food pairings for each wine.

Sunday Jul 11, 2010
1pm–5pm
$20
more info

Radio Coteau Winemaker Dinner at Spruce

Coming to Spruce on Monday July 19th is Radio Coteau’s winemaker, Eric Sussman, for a winemaker dinner. Here’s more: “Radio-Coteau works closely with select cool-climate coastal vineyard sites in Western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley to produce wines with vibrant, balanced fruit and a distinct sense of place. They focus on detailed and sustainable viticulture in conjunction with a natural, non-interventionalist approach in the cellar to more accurately reflect the unique character of each site and season. Their pinot noirs are elegant and perfumed, syrahs are bold and balanced, and chardonnays are rich with lingering acidity.” You can check out the menu here, which includes lardo-wapped squab. Uh huh.

Monday Jul 19, 2010
6:30pm
$140, exclusive of tax and gratuity
more info

Spruce - 3640 Sacramento St. San Francisco - 415-931-5100

Learn About Lesser-Known Italian Wines

On Monday July 19th, Bi-Rite wine expert Trac Le will pour and discuss unexpected and lesser-known wines and winemakers from Italy during this tasting: ~CHE SORPRESA! OFF-BEAT WINES OF ITALY~. You’ll taste both reds and whites that offer refreshing and intriguing experiences beyond Sangiovese and Chianti. (Snacks provided.)

Monday Jul 19, 2010
7pm–9pm
$40 for 18 Reasons members; $50 for the general public
more info

18 Reasons - 3674 18th St. San Francisco

Suds & Sweets

(Little-known) fact: beer pairs beautifully with pastry! Come see and taste for yourself at the third beer and pastry pairing event at ~THOROUGH BREAD AND PASTRY~ on Saturday July 24th. The event features around six beers and six (small) pastries for a total of 12 pairings. Just have a light dinner before arriving at the event at the 8pm start time—and obviously save room for dessert! This event will be led by certified sommelier, Raj Dev. 21 and over, limited to 30 ticket holders (no refunds).

Saturday Jul 24, 2010
8pm–9:30pm
$35
more info

Coming Up: the 5th Annual Urban Wine Xperience

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The East Bay Vintner’s Alliance (EBVA) will host the fifth annual ~URBAN WINE XPERIENCE~ on Saturday July 31st in the Jack London Pavilion. There will be 19 urban wineries pouring a variety of sparkling wines, whites, rosés, and reds (over 60 wines in all), with food from 19 local restaurants and food purveyors.

Participating wineries from the EBVA will include Adams Point Winery, Andrew Lane Wines, Aubin Cellars, Blacksmith Cellars, Cerruti Cellars, Dashe Cellars, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Irish Monkey, JC Cellars, Periscope Cellars, Prospect 772 Wine Company, R&B Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosenblum Cellars, Stage Left Cellars, Tayerle Wines, Urban Legend Cellars, and Urbano Cellars.

Participating restaurants and food purveyors will include Adagia, Angela’s Bistro, Asena, B Restaurant, Bellanico, Bocanova, Brown Sugar Kitchen, C’Era Una Volta, Chef Cynthia, Chop Bar, Fra’Mani and Ethan’s Culinary Service, Italian Colors, KIND Healthy Snacks, Little House Café, Paradise, Pappo, Savory Events of Oakland, Shay’s Café, Wood Tavern, and Yoshi’s Oakland. There will also be live music provided by Yoshi’s Oakland; attendees can take home their signature wine glass. ($15 tickets for non-drinking guests are available at the door only.)

Saturday Jul 31, 2010
2pm–5pm
$45 in advance; $60 at the door
more info

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Jul 6, 2010

(Sponsored): Get Your Ticket for the First Lamb Jam SF!

All ewe lamb lovers are invited to the first Lamb Jam SF on Sunday July 18th at Fort Mason!  From 1pm-4pm, 20 celebrated Bay Area chefs will compete to prepare the best local lamb dishes in all the land, paired with northern California wines, for an afternoon of feasting, live music, and fun.

Celebrate the California lamb industry’s 150th anniversary with chef/emcee Matthew Accarrino (SPQR) and chefs David Lawrence (1300 on Fillmore), Chris Cosentino (Incanto), Jessica Gorin (Thirsty Bear), Arnold Eric Wong (E&O Trading Company), Robbie Lewis (Bon Appétit), Dino Vasquez (EastsideWest), Michelle Mah (Midi), Sophiane Benaouda (Grand Café), Dennis Lee (Namu), Lizzie Binder (Bar Bambino), and more. There will also be over 15 wineries pouring. Buy your ticket here!

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Jul 6, 2010

Someone Needs the Tablehopper's Guide to SF

~Willem Dafoe~ was spotted at The Stinking Rose on Columbus with his girlfriend. (Pretty on-point and funny choice of location considering his recent role in the vampire movie, Daybreakers.) They sat in a romantic booth all the way in the back of The Bagna Calda room and shared sizzling skillet mussels and steamed garlic clams. The waiter said he was the nicest guy (no comment was made on his breath, however).

Lunchin' With A-Rod

A-Rod (known on his birth certificate as ~Alex Rodriguez~) had lunch at Scala’s Bistro yesterday with friends. He ordered shrimp Louis and the pappardelle pork sugo. He told the sous chef, “It’s always great here, that’s why I always come back.” Nice.

Rockin' Out at Wayfare

A tablehopper reader was happy to see ~Sammy Hagar~ dining at Wayfare Tavern (which is likely to happen again, since Hagar is a partner in TyFlo’s upcoming El Paseo project in Mill Valley).

Stars, They Like Mexican Food Just Like Us!

A tablehopper reader writes in: “Saw ~Chris Robinson~ of the Black Crowes tonight at Puerto Alegre on Valencia tonight. He waited in line ‘just like the rest of us.’” (Ed. note: I think some margaritas are to blame for the two “tonights.”)

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