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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: giving thanks early.

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Last year’s plate o’ plenty.

The interwebs are blowing up with Thanksgiving discussions, from tweets about people brining their turkeys, to small businesses reminding you they will be closed on Thursday and Friday (including yours truly—no Friday column from me!), to announcements about pop-up turducken sandwich stands. I’ve been happily following it all, and looking forward to spending time with my parents, sister, and grandma this Thursday, on my favorite holiday of the year. And oh yes, there will be giblet gravy.

But it’s amazing how quickly none of this stuff matters when you’re unexpectedly sitting with your parents in the waiting room at the ER on a Monday night, with your sister admitted for severe abdominal pain. Fearful about a ruptured appendix, and peritonitis. Fortunately sis was released late last night, appendix intact, and will just have to be taking it easy over the next week, with a few more tests and doctor appointments on the horizon. (Exhale.)

But last night really put things into VERY CLEAR PERSPECTIVE. (Which seems to be happening again and again this year.) We are so fragile. And precious. And things can change very quickly in our lives. So this Thursday, as we sit around our tables with loved ones—both relatives and chosen ones—it really doesn’t matter if the turkey is dry, the pumpkin pie crust got slightly burnt, or the stuffing is underseasoned. What matters is those people you are sitting around the table with—and those you wish could be there, but can’t.

Here’s wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving. Truly.

With gratitude,

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Nov 23, 2010

Sean O'Toole Leaves Bardessono and Joins Quince/Cotogna

Big news: talented chef Sean O’Toole has put in his notice at Bardessono in Yountville, and is going to be acting as chef and culinary director of kitchen operations of ~QUINCE~ and ~COTOGNA~, as reported in the Inside Scoop. O’Toole will be working closely with executive chef/owner Michael Tusk—seems they actually worked together back in 2004 at Quince on Octavia.

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

Hot Out of the Oven: Pastry Chef News

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Photo by Kasey L. Ross.

It’s been all over the local press, but I wanted to extend a very big congrats to local talent (and cutie) Yigit Pura, the executive pastry chef at Taste Catering and Event Planning who was the winner of BRAVO’s Top Chef Just Desserts. Pura takes home an impressive prize package, including a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, a 2011 Buick Regal, and $100,000 furnished by Godiva Chocolatier. Yeah baby, a Buick.

Over at ~ABSINTHE BRASSERIE & BAR~ and Arlequin Café, pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez resigned on November 10th. The team currently has a couple really great candidates, and should make a decision very soon.

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar - 398 Hayes St. San Francisco - 415-551-1590

Ken Ken Ramen Pops Back Up in the Mission

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Mission-ites in search of ramen can now swing by ~THE CORNER~ on Thursday nights for a bowl o’ hot, noodle-y goodness from Ken Ken Ramen, SFoodie reports. After the location at Panchita’s #3 didn’t work out (landlord issues), partners Robert Patterson and Stephan Roesch have started it back up (third partner Kenji Miyazake is not involved with this new location—reportedly Taka Hori, the sushi chef at Rocketfish, “will stand in as Ken Ken’s ramen master”). They’ll be taking Thanksgiving off, but it all starts back up on Thursday December 2nd at 5:30pm. You can follow Ken Ken Ramen on Twitter here. 2199 Mission at 18th St.

Happenings at Bar Tartine

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A few months ago, I broke the story that ~BAR TARTINE~ was expanding into the Hideo Wakamatsu luggage store next door. Many new details about the project have been revealed to The Feast, check it all out here. April is the current hoped-for launch date. (And be sure to read the excellent story about Chad Robertson’s bread-making obsession in this month’s San Francisco magazine.)

Also, on Monday November 29th, Peko Peko will be popping up at Bar Tartine, serving udon (kneaded underfoot, rolled and cut by hand) with “hot spring” egg, crispy scallions, and broth made with freshly-shaved bonito. There will be (weather permitting) shoyu-cured steelhead roe with wild cress, simmered yellowtail with daikon, fluffy fried pork and Japanese scallion, and matcha ice milk with milk cookies from Mie. They’ll also be serving craft sake and beer. Five courses will be $60. Cash or check only! Reservations recommended.

Bar Tartine - 561 Valencia St. - 415-487-1600

Patxi's Pizza Noe Valley Now (Softly) Open

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Bill Freeman and Patxi Azpiroz.

While ~PATXI’S PIZZA NOE VALLEY~ (say pah’-cheese) is scheduled to have its grand opening on December 1st, Noe Valley blog reports it’s softly open now. The menu selection includes two styles of pizza dough, four styles of mozzarella, and over 30 different meat and vegetable toppings (there are options like a whole-wheat crust, vegan cheese, and vegetarian/vegan pizzas for diet-restricted customers). You can also order salads, appetizers, and draft beer and wines. There is seating for 90, with a pick-up window for take-out orders. This is the fourth Patxi’s location in the Bay Area.

Patxi’s is also launching a 52 Weeks of Giving Campaign at the grand opening on December 1st, with a goal to raise $130,000 during the year (non-profit organizations can enroll here). The party is from 5pm-7pm and will include complimentary tastes of Patxi’s pizzas, a raffle, and Tory Belleci of MythBusters will be there (he’s an investor). Open 11am-11pm daily. 4042 24th St. at Noe, 415-285-2000.

Restaurant Closures in SF, and Around the Bay

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Yelp photo by Cassie J.

As I was updating the restaurant listings for the Fodor’s San Francisco 2012 guidebook (it certainly has me busy this month!), I was sad to learn that the Vietnamese ~DRAGONFLY RESTAURANT~ in the Sunset has closed. One less place for me to visit, I guess. (Eater confirmed it.) 420 Judah St. at 10th Ave.

Also, riding my bike in the Mission, I was sad to see one of my favorite pitstops for birria, ~LOS ROSALES~, has closed. 301 S. Van Ness Ave. at 14th St.

Over in Berkeley, Sunday night was the last night for Robert Lauriston’s short-lived ~LOCANDA DA EVA~. Even though the restaurant just had a quick remodel, it seems they decided to cut their losses and close sooner rather than later. Here’s hoping the talented chef, Huw Thornton, lands somewhere local, soon. 2826 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley.

Another sudden closure was up in San Anselmo, with the shuttering of ~ L’APPART~ after less than six months. According to the Inside Scoop, “As co-owner Bruno Denis explains it, closing for the winter (and maybe beyond) was a decision made with long-term business prospects in mind. Even though the restaurant was doing OK now, Denis says that the diners—especially neighborhood folks—were treating it as a ‘treat.’ That pigeon-hole as a special occasion restaurant was something Denis wanted to avoid; a neighborhood French restaurant was what they were going for, you see. Furthermore, 40 of the 70 seats are outdoors, so with the rainy season looming, they decided to cut their losses.” The owners are currently trying to sell it, and barring that, they might reconcept for the springtime. 636 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo.

The New Taste Marketplace Launches Saturday November 27th

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Want to taste the wares of talented local vendors while doing good for the community? You’ll have two chances at ~NEW TASTE MARKETPLACE~, a community market and fundraiser for The Food Pantry and St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church to be held Saturday November 27th, noon-5pm, and Saturday December 18th, 4pm-9pm, at St. Gregory’s. Over 30 vendors—street food carts, confectioners, bakers, and more—will be offering everything from pickles and preserves to pig, duck confit, sausages, and cupcakes.

The vendor lineup for this Saturday is quite an exciting list with lots of prospects for holiday shopping and eating. Here are some examples: handmade chocolate truffles from Christine Doerr of Neo Cocoa, assorted cheeses made with Straus Family Creamery milk from Jordan Grosser of Flosa Creamery, ramen to-go boxes from Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen, and organic vegan ice cream from Sarah Smart of Rocket Ship Ice Cream.

The sliding scale entrance fee of $0-10 benefits The Food Pantry and St. Gregory’s. The Food Pantry gives away tons of fresh food to more than 600 families every Friday.

Here’s the full lineup, but expect even more vendors by event-time (visit their Facebook for updates):

  • Nosh This, Kai: bacon crack, bacon rocky road
  • Peter’s Sausage, Peter Gardner: chicken and pork sausage
  • Beer and Nosh, Jesse Friedman: ginger ale and crème fraîche
  • Goat Hill Granola, Juliet Gardner: spiced granola
  • Neo Cocoa, Christine Doerr: handmade chocolate truffles made at La Cocina
  • Flosa Creamery, Jordan Grosser: assorted cheese made with Straus Family Creamery milk
  • Tutmak Coffee, Matt and T. L. Lipner: small batch, whole bean, organic coffee
  • Aunt Kitty’s Kreations, Kitty Myers: assorted jams & jellies, including lavender jelly and kiwi jam
  • Kitchen Side Car, Katie Kwan: banh mi burgers, and fried imperial rolls
  • Hapa Ramen, Richie Nakano: ramen to-go boxes
  • Dulceria, Marisa Williams: cookies, cakes, and ice cream
  • Urban Chef, Kevin Kroger: wild mushroom penne, and chipotle chocolate bacon bar
  • Nute’s Cupcakes, Nute Chulasuwan: mini cupcakes with a touch of Asian flair
  • Boss Hogg’s BBQ, Molly Raney: pulled pork sandwiches and 4 piggy chili
  • SFQ, Michele Manfredi: the original San Francisco BBQ sauce
  • Rocket Ship Ice Cream, Sarah Smart: vegan, organic ice cream
  • Cooky, Dario Barbone: bacon, pancetta, miso, and more
  • Churn, Andrea Barton, Elson: handmade butter, flavored butter, and buttermilk
  • Red Circle Tea, Sina Carroll: artisanal, traditionally processed tea
  • CocoTutti, Elyce Zahn: chocolates, and handmade caramels
  • Emily’s Tofu, Emily Dore: firm and silken tofu, and marinated tofu
  • Oaktown Jerk, Randall Hughes: beef jerky
  • Mo Foods, Caterina Rindi: preserved Meyer and Eureka lemons, umeboshi (pickled plums), Gravenstein apple butter, pickled green tomatoes, and kombucha

Saturday Nov 27, 2010 – Saturday Dec 18, 2010
November 27th, noon–5pm; December 18th, 4pm–9pm
$0–10, sliding scale
more info

A Sandwich Celebration with Meatpaper at SFMOMA

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On Thursday December 2nd, the Meatpaper, Blue Bottle, and SFMOMA crew are at it again, with another ~NOW PLAYING/FOOD & THOUGHT~ party on the roof. The theme for this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser: sandwiches. There will be tasty offerings by chefs Chris Kronner from Bar Tartine, Jerome Waag from Chez Panisse, Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food
, and Leah Rosenberg and Caitlin Freeman of Blue Bottle ($5 per tasting plate). There will also be complimentary wine by Swanson Vineyards, and beer by Trumer Pils. 
The rooftop event is free with half-price museum entry. (Free for SFMOMA members.) It starts at 6pm.

At 6:30pm, there will be a curator talk, and then a screening of Bussotti’s Rara (film), with live piano accompaniment by the director at 7pm. Later, downstairs there will be a cash bar and free bites from Knead Patisserie, The Terrace Room, Paragon, Ozumo, Tres Agaves, and Luce to keep guests fortified for the live music performance at 9pm, featuring Bussotti and sfSoundGroup. You can read more about Bussotti and his restored film here. And the opening party for Stephanie Syjuco’s Shadowshop will be right next door, a project in the SFMOMA exhibition The More Things Change—this mom-and-pop style store stocks hundreds of pieces of artists’ works for sale, from tchotchkes to zines, with 100% of pre-tax sales from Shadowshop going directly to the artists.

Thursday Dec 2, 2010
6pm–9:45pm
more info

Slow Food Crab Feed on Saturday December 4th

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These are definitely two words I like to see in succession: crab feed. On Saturday December 4th, Slow Food San Francisco will be hosting their fourth annual ~SLOW CRAB FESTIVAL~. The meal will be cooked by California Culinary Academy student chefs, and will include products from local artisan food producers as well as lots of delicious, locally caught crab. Local beer from Magnolia, 21st Amendment, ThirstyBear, and Social Kitchen & Brewery will be served with dinner, thanks to the Brewers Guild. And Chris Andrews (director of Steinhart Aquarium) and Paul Johnson of Monterey Fish will be speaking at the event. Proceeds benefit the Slow Food San Francisco Urban School Garden Project. 21 and over, please.

Saturday Dec 4, 2010
6pm
$60 Slow Food members, $65 regular ticket
more info

Cheese-tastic Event on Sunday December 5th in Oakland

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Photo by Karen Preuss.

The California Artisan Cheese Guild is going to be hosting one of their gatherings, Great Cheese & Good Cheer, in the East Bay for the first time! On Sunday December 5th, this holiday fundraiser and gathering will feature 15 California Guild cheesemakers (view the complete list on the website). You’ll be able to sample dozens of cheeses, sip East Bay wines and brews, and nibble special treats from Market Hall Foods. There will also be cheese fondue and panini, too. The $40 ticket price covers all sampling; get tickets here. 2pm-5pm. The event will be held in the Grace Catering showroom in Temescal (a former streetcar depot, and the location of the Pop-Up General Store). 4629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland.

Sunday Dec 5, 2010
2pm–5pm
$40
more info

Scream Sorbet's New Take-Out Location

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Photo from Scream Sorbet.

A friend (and big fan) of ~SCREAM SORBET~ let me know they are now selling pints and sorbet sandwiches out of their retail storefront next to Bakesale Betty in Oakland. The space has been under painstaking renovation for a while, so Temescal neighbors are happy to finally see the business ramping up. Scream is currently selling their hyper-seasonal line of 12-oz. pre-packs and year-round favorites for $8-$10 (with some awesome flavors for Thanksgiving!). Chef Stephanie Lau has come out with an expanding line of sorbet sandwiches, like coffee almond sorbet with a ginger molasses cookie, macadamia vanilla with a chocolate wafer, macadamia vanilla with a shortbread cookie, Meyer lemon sorbet and rose-flecked shortbread cookie, and one I really want to try: pistachio sorbet with chocolate cardamom cookie. The sorbet sandwiches are $4.75. The owners hope to be scooping a week or so after Thanksgiving, but for now, hours are 11am-9pm. You can follow up-to-the-minute reports on their Twitter feed. 5030 Telegraph Ave. at 51st, Oakland.

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Nov 23, 2010

(Sponsored): Are You Up for the Chocolate Adventure?

Scharffen Berger and TuttiFoodie invite you to enter the fun and fourth annual Chocolate Adventure Contest. And this year it’s all about inventive cupcakes. So go ahead: create and submit an original cupcake recipe (up to 10), using Scharffen Berger dark chocolate and at least 1 of 14 “adventure ingredients.”

The grand prize is $10,000—and your recipe will be featured in Food Network magazine. Plus, you’ll get a trip to New York, where you’ll bake and share your creation while riding in one of the city’s beloved Sweet Trucks. There’s more: the contest offers a second place award of $7,000, and a third place award of $3,000, each with a custom gift box.

To be eligible, combine any Scharffen Berger chocolate with 1 or more of 14 select “adventure ingredients” (stout beer, ricotta, Meyer lemon, saffron, coconut milk, and others) in an original recipe. Intrigued? Get more information at chocolateadventurecontest.com. Then go for it. Entries must be received by midnight January 2, 2011.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Nov 23, 2010

Asiento, a New Neighborhood Bar Opening in the Mission

Grub Street broke the news about ~ASIENTO~, a bar opening from Debi Cohn in the former Monkey Club space on 21st Street. I had a chance to catch up with Debi for more details—she’s currently busy doing double duty as a server at La Mar while painting and getting the space ready to open in December. She describes it as a chill neighborhood bar (the name means “seat” in Spanish)—a place where you could kick back, and play backgammon over specialty cocktails made with fresh juices.

Debi also plans to launch some food options, like albondigas, cheese, and other bites in a tapas case she is installing (look for food to come in January). She also mentioned that she installed “a kickass soundsystem” for future parties—there’s no dancefloor, but she wants the music to be a strong part of the ambiance. She is also being very eco-conscious about how she’s updating the space. Debi has been in the industry a while, working with the Resmex Group (Zazil, Colibri Mexican Bistro) and as a GM for Ramblas—she’s also an avid sailor and pro yacht skipper. Look for a soft opening in December for holiday parties and the like, with things ramping up more in January. 2730 21st St. at Bryant.

Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl: 5 Drinks for $5

Yeah, I knew that 5 drinks for $5 would catch your eye, you lush, you. Fillmore Street restaurants and bartenders are taking part in a Fillmore Holiday Cocktail Crawl on Wednesday December 1st. After checking in at Yoshi’s San Francisco (1330 Fillmore St.), you’ll also be able to visit 1300 on Fillmore, Sheba Piano Lounge, Rasselas, and DOSA on Fillmore for cocktails made with Tres Agaves Tequila, and discounted bar bites (a few venues will also have live music). Attendees will pick their favorite beverage with their cell phone (à la American Idol), and the winning bartender will receive a prize. Tickets are $5 in advance (buy them here)/$10 at the door. Admission gets you a Tres Agaves Tequila cocktail at each of the five venues. 6:30pm-9pm. Proceeds will benefit the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Fillmore District. And hello, take a cab!

Camber Lay Now at Town Hall

I got word that bartender extraordinaire Camber Lay has left EPIC Roasthouse to take over the bar at ~TOWN HALL~. And now I am suddenly craving their fried chicken… and a cocktail.

Town Hall - 342 Howard St. San Francisco - 415-908-3900

Another Chance to Drink the Stars of Champagne!

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I attended this fab Champagne tasting, Drink the Stars of Champagne!, at the ~SF WINE CENTER~ a month or so ago, and now here it is on the calendar again! Christie Dufault, ALCS, will be pouring and discussing six-eight excellent Champagnes with an intimate group on Saturday December 11th. You will learn about the different grapes, the winemaking method, different dryness levels, different class levels, vintage vs. non-vintage, and the recent grower Champagne movement. The tablehopper sez: check it out. 5pm-6:30pm. $75; pre-payment required for online tickets.

Saturday Dec 11, 2010
more info

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Nov 23, 2010

Holiday Celebrations, Tea, (and Spiked Hot Chocolate)

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The Westin St. Francis executive pastry chef Jean-François Houdré and his sugar castle.

The Bay Area is now going full-tilt boogie into holiday celebrations and events, so I thought I’d round up some fun options for you, and, if you have them, your little ones.

Starting with tonight, Tuesday November 23rd, The Claremont Hotel Club & Spa is hosting a Holiday Open House. There will be a 12-foot tree and village lighting ceremony, a 10-foot tall gingerbread replica of the Claremont, carolers, hot apple cider and cocoa, and even a visit from Santa Claus (wow, he’s in town early)! 5pm-7pm. 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley.

More holiday housing: The Westin St. Francis is unveiling one of the county’s largest sugar castles this Wednesday November 24th at 10am in the Main Lobby. The event is open to the public, and complimentary hot chocolate will be served. Executive pastry chef Jean-François Houdré will unveil his signature 12-foot rotating holiday sugar castle that weighs over 1,200 pounds. The Sugar Castle will be on display through January 3rd. 335 Powell St. at Geary.

Now, let’s talk adult beverages, shall we? Especially when the Union Square crowds are making you crazy, you need a place to slow down and drink some calming medicine. Seasons Bar & Lounge is letting guests customize their hot chocolate with all kinds of boozy options, and there are some other holiday beverages available at $14 each. And right on Union Square, CLOCK BAR will offer a selection of holiday drinks.

Just in case you are suffering through the Black Friday insanity, stop by E&O Trading Co. San Francisco for lunch, happy hour (available from 3pm-6pm), or dinner, and the restaurant will watch over your holiday purchases with a complimentary shopping bag valet. 11:30am-9pm. Friday November 26th only. 314 Sutter St. at Grant.

Also, on Friday November 26th, the Macy’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is at 6pm on Union Square.

From December 4th-19th, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2pm-4pm, you can partake in the annual St. Francis Holiday Tea. You can enjoy artisan teas from Mighty Leaf or Red Blossom Tea Company, followed by a selection of tea sandwiches, freshly baked black currant scones and seasonal berries with Devonshire-blend cream, preserves, and assorted petits fours. (Although I think I’d prefer the Royal Tea, which includes the complete tea service with a glass of Gloria Ferrer.) Complete tea is $39 for adults; with Red Blossom Tea $42; and $20 for children 12 and under. $45 adults Royal Tea; with Red Blossom Tea $48. Reservations are required; call 415-397-7000.

The Sir Francis Drake is debuting its new Tea Under the Tree service this holiday season. You’ll be able to enjoy an afternoon tea, complete with tea sandwiches, freshly baked pastries, and artisanal tea. For those looking for a little more holiday cheer, a menu of hand-crafted cocktails is also available. The tea is available weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas (November 26th, 27th, 28th, and December 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th, and 19th) from 1pm-4pm. $40 per person for adults, and $20 per person for children. It takes place in the Lobby Mezzanine—and there’s a 20-foot tree. 450 Powell St. at Post. For reservations, call 415-395-8555.

Holiday Shopping Events, Gift Baskets, and Tamales!

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Event Info

Thursday Dec 2, 2010 – Saturday Jan 1, 2011

There are also some fun holiday “shop local” events coming up. One is the first annual Sip Snack & Shop event on Chestnut Street. On Thursday December 2nd (from 6pm-9pm), all participating businesses, including restaurants, will be offering at least 15% off purchases, and many tastes. Attendees will receive a wine glass and the evening’s program upon checking into one of the three designated locations; the program will contain a street map detailing all of the participating businesses, their offers for the night, an entertainment guide, and several coupons redeemable for bites at participating restaurants that evening. 21 and over only. $30 tickets can be purchased here. The Bay Guardian will donate the net proceeds from the advertising in the Sip Snack & Shop program guide to The Marina Merchants Association.

On Friday December 10th, La Cocina is hosting their Second Annual Gift Fair, a perfect way to shop for all the food lovers in your life. You’ll be able to pick up a variety of goods, from Clairesquares to alfajores from Sabores del Sur—and yours truly will also be there, signing and selling my book! In addition to the food and gift vendors, the event will include a bar and a raffle (one item is a lunch and tour of Cowgirl Creamery!) to benefit La Cocina. 4pm-9pm. Admission is free and open to the public. Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission St. (near the 24th & Mission BART).

For those who can’t make it, or just like to shop from home, there are also some fun La Cocina gift boxes, including the San Francisco Street Food Lovers’ Box ($50), which includes a copy of my book! Each box contains a mix of artisanal, handmade products from the businesses enrolled in La Cocina’s incubator program, and the sale of each box directly supports local entrepreneurship and the work of La Cocina. And here’s a nice deal: this Friday November 26th—the day after Thanksgiving—get $5 off purchases of $30 or more (before shipping and tax) when you purchase a gift box!

Do you love tamales? Then you’ll want to check out the annual La Cocina La Tamalada cooking party on Decem­ber 15th (6:30pm-9pm). Join chefs Dilsa Lugo and Maria del Car­men Flo­res as you put hands to corn and banana leaves, and fill them with the magic masa that becomes a tamal. Leave the class with a bag of tamales for your fam­ily. $65. Din­ner and drinks included.

Speaking of tamales, ~PICA PICA MAIZE KITCHEN~ is offering hallacas (ah-ják-as) on the menu, a traditional savory holiday tamale-like treat with a three-meat filling loaded with seasonings and spices, encased in a corn flour dough, and then wrapped and cooked in fragrant plantain leaves. On Tuesday December 7th, you are invited to come by and make your own (with guidance, of course) anytime from 5:30pm-7:30pm. You can take them home for $9 each. Hallacas will be available up until the New Year; you can even order them online here. 401 Valencia St. at 15th St., 415-400-5453.

the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
Nov 23, 2010

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies: by Daisy Chow

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

Alice Medrich

Whether you need a killer recipe for the next holiday cookie swap, or a simple treat for your nearest and dearest, Alice Medrich has written the perfect book: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, a how-to cookie-baking manual and full-range collection of cookie recipes—all obsessively tested by a multiple James Beard-award-winning author.

My first look through Chewy Gooey, I was struck by the sleek, modernist photos that brought out the cookies’ textures. (No pictures with frilly ribbons here.) So it made perfect sense that this book is categorized by texture: crispy, crunchy, chunky, chewy, gooey, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth. You can pick a recipe based on what you feel like eating—a fun and novel take on cookies. The book also has a techie theme, with sections like User’s Guide, Quick Start, FAQs, and a Smart Search that cross-indexes recipes by whether they “freeze well,” are “ridiculously quick and easy,” and so on. And look for recipes with “upgrades” (delicious variations on the recipe) and “tech support” (handy tips for successful baking).

When I spoke with the author recently, the first thing I asked her was what inspired such a unique book. Medrich said it all started with a little cookie book she wrote several years ago that had gone out of print (despite its popularity), and she wanted to update it for a reprint while including iconic cookies, new ideas, and re-vamped recipes (the cocoa wafers are now up to version 3.0, and it’s a go-to recipe, I assure you), as well as adventuresome ingredients, and recipes that are mindful of modern dietary concerns. Hence you’ll find a selection of whole-grain, wheat-free, and dairy-free recipes in here.

Medrich draws on new food trends such as the mixing of sweet and savory (as in the nutty cocoa cookie bark with Parmesan and sea salt), and the use of ingredients from ethnic cuisines, using spices like garam masala (which she points out is not far from the familiar pumpkin pie spice), saffron, and curry. One technique she highly recommends is to dust or grate fresh spices over cookies and brownies to enhance the spicy aroma and create a “layered experience” of flavor. Medrich gives us plenty of these versatile ways to get creative and try new flavors without altering an entire batch of dough.

According to Medrich, the details make all the difference in a great cookie. That’s why I love how each recipe is written with thoughtful, precise, and succinct instructions (plus a spoonful of good humor)—you won’t get mired in extraneous details. And you know that each recipe is exhaustively tested. Medrich constantly asks herself, “What if I change this or that?” Then she does all the side-by-side testing to satisfy her “what if” curiosity so you don’t have to. All the more reason to listen up when she lists cookie sheet preparations in order of preference (when to use parchment paper or aluminum foil liners, for example), or tells you how to adjust the recipe depending on the percentage of cacao in the chocolate you’re using.

As a nerdy baker, my favorite part of Chewy Gooey is how flours and sugars are listed by both cups and tablespoons and by ounces, so you can weigh ingredients rather than measure by volume. In my interview with her, Medrich emphasized the importance of weighing ingredients on a scale. In fact, she tells me this “can make the difference between an exquisite cookie and a doorstop.” IMHO, it’s high time we had cookie recipes by weight. Thank you Alice! (Quixotically, butter measurements are almost always given in tablespoons rather than ounces.)

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The must-try cookies from Chewy Gooey are the bittersweet decadence cookies, which are really just brownies disguised as cookies, or put another way, a convenient delivery system for chocolate (so use good quality chocolate—I used Scharffen Berger for the chunks and Guittard couverture wafers for the melted part). The French macarons are perhaps not for the beginning baker, and the sesame sticks tasted wonderful, but they were difficult to slice into neat rectangles that held their shape in the oven. The sugar crunch cookies delivered exactly what the author said they would: airy and superbly crunchy cookies. I’m definitely looking forward to baking more from Chewy Gooey, especially for the holidays (though there’s plenty to keep you occupied all year long). I’ve already got my stomach, er, eye, on several recipes, like the holiday cookie bark and spicy linzer bars. Holiday baking season, here I come.

Come out to Fog City News on Tuesday November 30th, 12:30pm-2pm, for a book-signing with Alice Medrich and a cookie tasting extravaganza hosted by the staff of Fog City News. Plus, take 20% off Chewy Gooey with the purchase of any of Alice’s other books that will be on hand. 455 Market Street at 1st St., 415-543-7400.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Nov 23, 2010

A Very Posh Dinner with the Beckhams

A self-described “avid tablehopper reader” (why thank you) sent in this awesome sighting: “My husband and I were at The Restaurant at Meadowood on Friday night celebrating our first anniversary. When we arrived we were seated next to a table with ~David Beckham~ and ~Victoria Beckham~ and their three sons. They were on their dessert course and each of the sons went back into the kitchen to help make up their own dessert plate, which they seemed very proud of. Posh and David had some coffee with their dessert and then headed out. David gave most of the staff that we saw serving them a handshake with some cash.” Classy!

And according to a tweet that Eater picked up, the Beckhams also dined at Morimoto Napa on Sunday night.

On a Monday Night at Morimoto Napa...

Just last night, chef Jeremy Fox tweeted: “Grabbing a late bite at Morimoto Napa, & sitting right across from ~Drake~. Is that ~Lil Wayne~ walking in?” And the answer to that question is… No, there was no appearance by Lil Wayne, although that would have been mad cool.

More Stars Dining at the Counter at Wayfare Tavern

Seems Tim Gunn is not the only fan of the counter at Wayfare Tavern: the lovely ~Virginia Madsen~ was spotted dining there as well.

Don't Be a Tool

~Maynard James Keenan~, the lead singer of Tool, dined at Bar Tartine on Friday night, and reportedly enjoyed some Barolo (he’s a big fan of Italian vino). He was in town for a performance with A Perfect Circle.

Park a Fast Car at Slow Club

Seems ~Tracy Chapman~ has been making the rounds around town: she was also spotted by a reader at Slow Club for Sunday brunch.

New York Knicks Play Ball with a One-Pound Truffle

Last Thursday night, 22 players and staff from the ~New York Knicks~ (in town for a game against the Golden State Warriors) dined at Specchio in the main room, including Mike D’Antoni (the head coach). Chef/owner Gino Assaf said their favorite dishes were the fettuccine carbonara—which he served with shavings from a one-pound black truffle—along with more carbs: spelt spaghetti all’amatriciana.

You Are What You Drink

I guess I don’t read enough lad rags (er, make that none) to know who she is, but now I do: a reader spotted model/TV personality ~Tila Tequila~ at the bar at Twenty Five Lusk. And, as the spotter says, “Apparently, she was easy to spot because she was the only one in the entire bar that showed up in a corset. Yes, a corset.”

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