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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: from the land of sky-blue water.

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Behold: the wicked-tasty faux-nut from Stag’s Lunchette. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Greetings from Lake Tahoe, which is where I will hopefully be taking a dip this afternoon as soon as I get this column out (yesterday was way too windy for a beach day—but it was perfect for drinking a beer on the back deck of my family’s cabin, let me tell you). I’m already scheming for tomorrow’s farmers’ market in Homewood—of course I already used up all my tomatoes in a panzanella (the official dish of September, I swear). The kitchen counter is covered in ripening peaches I picked up at Ikeda’s in Auburn on the way up (I always have to stop)—their perfume is promising. Peaches, do not disappoint me! No getting rotten from the middle, or any mealy action. Be cool, peaches. Be good.

So guess who had a total tech snafu? Yeah, me. I was going to finish editing my images last night for today’s fresh meat review and let’s just say iPhoto’s new “share a photo stream” feature did not work as planned on my poor traveler laptop. Lame! Whatever. You’ll get the review on Tuesday instead—it’s worth waiting for.

Okay, so some news. You know that fabulous gay singles event I am hosting next Thursday September 12th at MKT? Well, after some friends have been having issues with the age range on it (although I said the age range was only a suggestion!), I have decided to remove the age range completely on it. So are you 28 and want to come? Do! Are you a sporty 61 and make most 40-year-olds look tired? You better be there. Let’s just have a roomful of a bunch of great gay guys, drink good wine, eat tasty food, enjoy our cocktails, and have a blast. Done. Any of you who can spread the word, tell your friends, and post about it are total fricking rock stars, thanks!

Hey, remember I mentioned that faux-nut pop-up that’s happening this Sunday morning at Stag’s Lunchette in Oakland? Well, I had a sneak peek taste of a couple of them this week—Double G(ougin) (vanilla) and Red Hot (bourbon and chile)—and let me just say, “Whoa, Nelly.” They are damn tasty, and will put you into a cream-induced coma after you eat one. Yeah, you know you want it. Since things are gonna be a little crazy at Stag’s on Sunday morning (it opens at 9am), one lucky tablehopper reader will get front-of-the-line privileges, and one of each flavor (three total) will be waiting for you (guaranteed)—although you gotta pay for ‘em (they are $6 each), and you have to get there between 9am-11am. To enter to win, all you have to do is comment on today’s post featuring today’s newsletter on the tablehopper Facebook page about how bad you want to try a faux-nut. I’ll randomly pick a winner on Saturday and will ping you back on the good ole Book Face to coordinate. Good luck! And don’t forget your Lipitor.

Today we have a bookworm for you on fall cookbooks, and the final installment from Eugenio Jardim about Malbec Camp in the wino. I also have a piece up on 7x7.com about what the Emirates Team New Zealand sailors eat every day—I was invited to tour the base a few weeks ago and learn about their crazy training and racing eating habits. Sadly no one was in the shower room when I came by. What the hell.

Oh, and here’s this week’s Tablehopping column in the Bay Guardian, with some tidbits about Tu Lan, events at Omnivore Books, and some damn good carrot cake.

Enjoy the sunny weekend—of course the city gets warm when I leave town. Of course! [shaking my fist]

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Sep 6, 2013

It's Time for the Second Tablehopper Singles Event! Calling All Gay Gents!

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MKT’s fantastic steak tartare. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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MKT’s fried green tomatoes and smoked tomato rémoulade. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Hello, my fellow singles who love food and wine. Did you catch the news last week? It’s time for round two of the tablehopper singles events! This time it’s for the gents, specifically gay men of all ages, as long as you are over 21 (we removed the previous age range). The event is going to be on Thursday September 12th at 7pm at the recently remodeled ~MKT RESTAURANT—BAR~ at the Four Seasons (oooh, swanky!) in their clubby Private Den (and since we’re on the fifth floor, it has some great views—and I’m not just talking about the hot crowd).

We have room for 40 (fabulous, hello!) gay men (tickets are selling fast!), and you will have an opportunity to meet everyone at this sit-down event, which is a bit like a mash-up of speed dating and a wine tasting and a partay. You’ll have fun tablehopping—the last one we held was a blast.

Thanks to Graton, CA-based Purple Wine Company, we are going to be enjoying five wines from their portfolio (and learning about each of them from Executive Vice President Lisa Ehrlich). There will also be a beguiling welcome cocktail, courtesy of Charbay, plus one of their dessert elixirs at the end, and it wouldn’t be a tablehopper event without some bubbly in there too (generously provided by Boisset!). Pop!

Executive chef Mark Richardson and restaurant chef Chris Aguirre are going to be preparing a variety of delicious bites, so you will have plenty to taste throughout the evening. Here’s the evening’s menu (warning, you are about to get hungry): during the welcome reception, there will be a Charbay cocktail with hand-passed appetizers like seasonal soup shots, gougères, and a Margherita pizza. During the tablehop event, you will have sparkling wine with MKT’s fantastic uni and soft-scrambled egg; 2011 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay and heirloom tomatoes with burrata; the 2011 BEX Nahe Riesling with fried green tomatoes; the newly released 2011 Alto Cinco Old-Vines Spanish garnacha with MKT’s superlative steak tartare (it’s really really good); the 2010 Maverick Amador County zinfandel with the MKT duck fat burger (uh-huh); the 2011 Avalon California cabernet with the BBQ prime beef short rib and Brentwood corn; oh yes, and Charbay’s lush Pomegranate Dessert Wine with the rhubarb, raspberry, and cardamom cheesecake. Hubba! (If you have some dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance—there is also a vegetarian option available.)

You can get your tickets here (tickets are $95). PLEASE NOTE: There are no ticket refunds if you can’t make it to the event (unless we can fill your place, but there are no guarantees about being able to do so). This event is 21 and over only, please. The event will run from 7pm-9:45pm or so.

Once you buy your ticket, we are going to request that you email us a headshot/snapshot of you—we’ll need them post-event when we do our matchmaking, so please start thinking about which image you want to send us.

We really look forward to seeing you there!

This is the second in a series of tablehopper singles events. Look for more in the coming months, for different age groups and sexual orientations, so if you don’t fit the parameters of this one, please sit tight!

Thursday Sep 12, 2013
7pm–9:45pm
$95
more info

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Sep 6, 2013

(Sponsored): Don't Miss the 18th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

Indulge for a cause at the 18th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival held in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, on September 14th and 15th, 2013! Come enjoy gourmet chocolate tastings, two culinary stages with premium chef demonstrations, ice cream eating contests, and the NEW Cadillac Chocolate & Wine Pavilion.

All proceeds from the event are donated to Project Open Hand, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides meals to those in need. For more information, please visit Ghirardelli.com/ChocolateFestival

the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
Sep 6, 2013

Pete Mulvihill on Fall Cookbooks

Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20 percent 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.

As fall approaches, there are many big books on the way from brand names like Mollie Katzen, Manresa, Kermit Lynch, and so on. Before those start trickling in, let’s take a look at two innovative cookbooks with an ethnic slant.

Indian Cooking Unfolded

Indian Cooking Unfolded

Raghavan Iyer

Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer (Workman, $19.95) deserves attention mostly from those learning to cook or looking to branch out a bit. This book is noteworthy, first, for the packaging—its graphically rich, foldout format lends itself to learning. The lie-flat binding is another practical touch.

Beyond that packaging hook, though, the book contains high-quality instruction from an author who has won the IACP Award for Excellent Cooking Teacher of the Year. When Iyer moved from India to Minnesota, he learned the limits of American grocery stores. He faced that challenge head-on, so what you get in Indian Cooking Unfolded is 100 easy recipes using 10 ingredients or fewer. At $19.95, it’s an affordable and innovative book for the curious amateur.

Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love

Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love

Einat Admony

From India, let’s head northwest to the Mediterranean and on toward New York. Einat Admony’s mixed Israeli heritage (Yemenite, Persian) blends with her experience in New York kitchens to reveal a melting pot of deliciousness. Her new book is Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love (Artisan, $29.95).

The basics: there are roughly 140 recipes, all with a Mediterranean angle. The chapters are organized in an unusual but helpful fashion based on how much time you have and for whom you are cooking: Dinner Party Dishes, Recipes to Feed Your Kids, Comfort Foods, Recipes Best Enjoyed Outdoors, etc. And the book is full of photos and charm.

The recipes themselves vary in their complexity and creativity but, on the whole, are pretty doable for the casual home cook. Further, the recipes rate pretty high on the “I have to cook this ASAP” scale, from the Morning “Big O” Cocktail [Ed. note: we had to rename it here lest spam filters think we’re talking about something else!] to the Ricotta, Pine Nut, and Honey Bread Pudding.

If you’re bored of what you’re cooking or know a budding chef who wants to branch out, both of these books are sure to please.

Thanks for reading.

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the wino

Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)
Sep 6, 2013

Eugenio Jardim on Wine Tasting in Argentina (Part Three)

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Catena Zapata headquarters: La Pirámide. Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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Stone doorways and hallways. Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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The amazing design of La Pirámide. Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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The barrel room (love the smell!). Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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Our fearless leader in the art of making empanadas, Matilda (and her three very eager students). Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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The diploma! Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

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Serving up the Andes. Photo by Eugenio Jardim.

Brazil native Eugenio Jardim is a Bay Area wine consultant and educator. Sunset Magazine named him Sommelier of the Year in 2010. He ran the wine program at Jardinière for 11 years and conducts very high-profile wine tasting groups in the U.S. and Brazil.

His approach to wine is fun but professional, educational and nonthreatening, creating an enjoyable experience rather than an intimidating one. Jardim’s philosophy is driven by his passion, and he has built a reputation for seeking out the new and exciting wines of the world.

Eugenio visited Argentina on an intensive educational trip nicknamed “Malbec Camp” and shared with us a few of his notes (and pictures) from the road! The last two installments have been about his time in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Here’s his final installment about Malbec Camp.

Malbec Camp: Day Four and the Rise of the Empanada Jedi

The fourth day of explorations brought us to Catena Zapata’s headquarters: La Pirámide. This is the name given both to the 3,000-feet-elevation vineyard planted in 1983 and the magnificent Mayan-style building that houses their business offices and gorgeous cellars.

Just refer to the photos inserted throughout this story to make sure there has been no exaggeration on my part when describing the beauty of this site. The Catena family held nothing back when creating a state-of-the-art facility to assist with the making of their wines.

We were greeted at La Pirámide by Laura Catena herself, who kindly came from San Francisco to receive us and to give us a heartfelt recap of her family’s four-generation history in the region and their dedication to making world-class wines in Argentina.

In 1902, Laura’s great-grandfather, Nicola Catena, an immigrant from the Le Marche region of Italy, planted his first malbec vineyards in Mendoza. In 2009, 107 years later, his grandson (Laura’s father) Nicolas was named Decanter Magazine’s Man of the Year.

Laura told us of her family’s early struggles with the same pride and passion that she shared their current success. Among the stories she told us one stuck with me as particularly sweet: Every year around Christmastime, her great-grandfather, her grandfather, and her father would send a truck filled with wine and food to a family in Santa Fe, to show their gratitude to the family that first welcomed the Catenas to Argentina in the late 1800s. The Catenas kept this tradition alive for almost a century.

She then went on, telling us how the curiosity, intelligence, and absolute determination of her father took grape growing and winemaking in Argentina to the next level. His tireless efforts and studious mind challenged every existing notion and promoted the changes needed for his beloved country to produce world-class wines.

If you are beginning to think this is just a Catena lovefest you are mistaken! We were shown as much of her family’s delicious wines as we were encouraged to explore the many other wonders of Argentina, its wine, its people, its music, and its food.

We tried the Catenas’ low-tier Tilia wines as well as the stylish Alma Negra lineup of wines from Laura’s brother. Both lines pleased, though for completely different reasons: one for its great price-to-quality ratio and the other for its artistic approach.

With every great-tasting lunch and dinner, we enjoyed an incredible array of the country’s delicious cuisine and their favorite snack, the empanada! I became so obsessed with the minute differences in the texture of their crusts and the mixture of their fillings that my lovely traveling companions Katelyn and Brigette dubbed me the Empanada Jedi, a nickname inspired by the initials of my first and last name.

You can only imagine how thrilled I was when Laura and her team arranged an empanada-making class for us. An adorable and petite grandmotherly lady named Matilda patiently taught us the art of creating this wonderful treat.

Throughout the week I went through a blind tasting of wines, which spanned 13 vintages, with an intense nasal congestion aggravated by the freezing winds, cold and damp wine cellars, and late nights by the bonfire. I traveled on rough dirt roads, slept very few hours, and took a test to become a certified Master in High-Altitude Malbec. I did it all with a big smile on my face, knowing that just around the corner there would be another steamy and delicious empanada waiting to be “tested” by my very delighted eyes and palate.

From the vineyards of Tupungato and Agrelo to the restaurants of Mendoza and Buenos Aires, I truly enjoyed myself and was constantly asked by my peers how did the latest empanada rank in comparison with the previous. My answer? I loved them all!

But that was not all we did in Argentina. There were many hours learning about the malbec grape and many more reading about the history of viticulture in Argentina. There were tours of vineyards and wineries, many wonderful talks and tastings conducted by very dedicated winemakers. I skipped a lot of the details of Malbec Camp in the hopes that after reading my reports you, too, will visit Argentina and see with your own eyes and feel with you own hearts, the love and the beauty that my fellow wine lovers and I were so fortunate to experience.

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