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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: city mouse, country mouse.

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Meet Lily, the sweetest little goat you ever did see. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Man, was it good to get outta Dodge for 24 hours. I was honored to be invited by my friend to visit Roshambo Farms, just off Westside Road in Healdsburg. Springtime in Sonoma is the best—we got to tour the farm, walk through the fields, play with the chickens and turkeys and goats and sheep and pigs and cats, and have an amazing home-cooked dinner with vegetables and wine from the land (and yes, there was some goat, and bacon, too). I am going to savor each and every farm-fresh egg I brought home, let me tell you. Also had a fab (as ever) lunch at Diavola in Geyserville before heading home—chef-owner Dino Bugica has a close relationship with Roshambo, so it was cool to go full-circle with the ingredients from the farm.

The highlight, however, was meeting Lily, this precious little goat who was abandoned by her mother at birth, and is currently being bottle-fed around the clock by my friends. She was an adorable shadow, following us everywhere, hopping and twisting in that hilarious goaty way, and bleating when she was tired and didn’t want to walk anymore. Heart=melted. Big thanks to Timothy and Naomi for having me and my friend up for the night, what a delight.

Apropos of the 707, Deirdre Bourdet has a 707 Scout piece for you today about where to eat on Mother’s Day (I’ll have some 415 spots for you on Tuesday).

Well, yours truly has a ton of catch-up to do, so here’s wishing you a fab weekend. The weather is purty, so I thought I’d run a piece on one of my favorite places to eat alfresco: Gitane. Enjoy!

Marcia Gagliardi

(Psssst, Marcia rhymes with Garcia!)

the regular

Established Restaurant Reviews (it's about time we met...)
Apr 27, 2012

Gitane

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Semolina-crusted sardines. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Lamb tartare. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chicken tajine. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Olive oil pound cake and honey ice cream. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Gitane’s outdoor seating area at night. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Note: this review was written when the former chef, Bridget Batson, was leading the kitchen.

It’s the end of April, bringing with it increased odds of heatwaves and balmy nights that sweep through the city for quick two-night jaunts. While ~GITANE~ has always remained top of my list as one of the city’s best date spots, it’s also a prime alfresco dining location. On a recent warm night, my parents, sister, and I managed to snag a table at this Mediterranean number tucked away on Claude Lane, bordering Union Square and the Financial District. The outdoor seating area has a canopy and heat lamps, and the alley location further helps it be protected from the elements. In fact, it doesn’t feel very San Francisco at all (meant in the best sense).

Then again, it’s a shame to miss out on probably the swankiest interior in the city. The downstairs bar is moody and dramatic, with a skilled bar team stirring up creative cocktails spiked with sherries and shrubs. Upstairs on the mezzanine, the vibe is like you just walked in on your friend’s after-hours supper club in Paris, circa 1972—the tables are tight, and the atmosphere is definitely intimate, with a good-looking and mixed crowd.

The two-level space (designed by Charles Doell of Mr. Important) is densely packed with luscious colors, enticing textures and patterns, reflective surfaces that shimmer like lip gloss, and swish eclectic pieces. And then there’s the bathroom, cooler than most peoples’ apartments, and always a talking point after anyone’s first visit.

Executive chef Bridget Batson’s Mediterranean menu (spanning Spain, Morocco, and Southern France) is truly designed to share, with appetizers like semolina-crusted sardines ($12) topped with chopped hearts of palm and green apple. The unexpected star is the lamb tartare ($18), silky pieces of tenderloin that come with a quenelle of eggplant chutney, along with spiced cucumber yogurt and tapenade. Don’t let the thought of raw lamb deter you—the flavor is more mild than “lamby”—it’s a knockout dish.

Bar-friendly bites include a generous platter of jamón Ibérico with golden housemade flatbread ($16/$30); the crowd-pleasing bacon bonbons ($10), little sticky bundles of prunes stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in smoked bacon; and the thick coca ($16) flatbread with mushrooms and goat cheese (I recommend you get ham on it for an extra $2, and a drizzle of the chile oil that comes with it for extra va-va-voom).

Mains include a tajine of chicken breast ($22)—which would normally be the last cut of the bird I’d eat—but it’s well-seasoned and pleasingly juicy in a saffron broth, with almonds, sliced green olives, and couscous. Another pick is the succulent quail ($28), poised on an elegant celery root gratin and stuffed with a chorizo-apple stuffing (some elements in the stuffing were a bit undercooked, but on another visit, it tasted just right). No, it’s not a cheap date (other mains hover in the $24-$27 range), but if you’re sharing dishes, you’ll find satisfaction since many are gutsy and hearty.

I have always enjoyed the wine program here, currently under the direction of Greg Borden—the educated staff can lead you to a number of choice Spanish picks, and excellent sherries. To finish, don’t say no to the olive oil pound cake ($7) with honey ice cream on the side. You’ll also be in good hands for some dessert wine that will end your night with an ooh la la!

Gitane - 6 Claude Ln. San Francisco - 415-788-6686

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Apr 27, 2012

Fab Feasts for Mom

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ESTATE’s baked eggs en cocotte with house-cured prosciutto; photo courtesy of ESTATE.

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étoile’s dramatic barrel-inspired roof leaves no doubt where you are; photo by Eric Wolfinger.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

What mom doesn’t love to have someone else cook for her? Most restaurants in wine country stay open on Mother’s Day for brunch, but here are a few top picks offering particularly special opportunities to spoil your mom on Sunday May 13th.

~LA TOQUE~ only serves Sunday brunch once a year, and Mother’s Day is that once. This year the restaurant shows off the new spring produce from its Napa gardens with a three-course prix-fixe menu that includes a boozy aperitif, basket of warm cinnamon churros, and plenty of choices at each stage of the game. Think spring veggie “soupe au pistou” with wild nettles, or burrata with olio nuovo, mint, and fleur de sel to start; followed by lobster omelet with leeks, potato, Fontina cheese, and lobster hollandaise, or grilled New York strip steak, crispy halibut, crab cakes, or even a vegetarian “short stack” of portobello mushrooms with béarnaise. Dessert options include the kitchen’s beloved Gâteau Concorde au Chocolat, as well as a lemon crêpe brûlée with blood orange-brown butter sauce. Total cost for the prix-fixe is $65 per person (plus optional wine pairing on two courses for an extra $24), though the under-21 types can get everything but the booze for $48. Call the restaurant or go online for reservations. 1314 McKinstry St. at Soscol Ave., Napa, 707-257-5157.

For mothers with an Italian bent—or those who just love their salami—~ESTATE~ in Sonoma is the place to hit. This year the three-course Mother’s Day brunch menu is chock-full of housemade MANO FORMATE charcuterie, from the aperitivo selection of salumi that kicks things off, through the prosciutto that tops the baked eggs with leeks and truffle crema, all the way to the bacon panino with arugula, Fontina, and roasted red bell pepper aioli. Come to mamma. Three courses are $32, and you can add a glass of prosecco, mimosa, bellini, or other creative selection from the restaurant’s famed Prosecco Bar for an astoundingly low $3. Check the website for the full menu of options. 400 W. Spain St. at 4th St. W., Sonoma, 707-933-3663.

Due to local land use restrictions, Napa Valley has only one restaurant that’s actually in a winery—but that one is more than worthy. Michelin-starred ~ÉTOILE~ is located at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, just a few short minutes from downtown. Its charming young chef Perry Hoffman recently won Food & Wine’s award for The People’s Best New Chef in California, working with the restaurant’s five acres of Carneros gardens, foraged wild products just outside his kitchen door, and of course the impressive variety of Chandon family wines at his fingertips. This year, Hoffman’s Mother’s Day brunch features an ultra-seasonal selection of goodies, like a chilled fennel soup with smoked trout, brioche, and fiddlehead ferns; Delta asparagus salad with prosciutto di Parma, sous vide egg, and rhubarb; fettuccine with spring green garlic, Maine lobster, garden herbs, and preserved lemon; halibut with ramps, tempura squash blossom, hearts of palm, and bacon lardons; and a beef tenderloin with potato terrine, English peas and leaves, and roasted mushrooms. The three-course tasting menu is $75, plus $35 for optional wine pairings. There is also, of course, the Swedish-built caviar cart to take things to an 11…. 1 California Dr. at Solano Ave., Yountville, 888-242-6366, option 2.

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