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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: das boot.

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The Windshield (mezcal, rye, amaro, lemon) at Loló. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Happy Pi Day, happy Purim tomorrow, happy St. Paddy’s Day weekend, and congratulations to all of us who live in the Bay Area, because this weekend is gonna be a beaut. Tonight is the reopening of Off the Grid at Fort Mason, it’s sure to be a fun one because the weather is ridonkulous. And if you’re looking for some new restaurants to check out, here’s my monthly post on 7x7.com with five new spots that just opened.

So, this is a fun thing: did you know there is a tablehopper car you can hail from now through March 21st on Sidecar? And did you know that when you ride in it, you get free bacon Twix custom made by Pinkie’s Bakery in SoMa? I KNOW. I asked owner-baker Cheryl Burr to make a custom bacon cookie for me, and she was like, how about bacon Twix? Yes to that. I also have the car tricked out with some lights and special beats, utz utz.

First-time Sidecar riders get $15 off their first ride with code TABLEHOPPER. And if you post a pic and tag it #TastemakerTakeover, you will be entered to win a month of free rides, meep meep! Have fun out there, and be sure to request the tablehopper car in the app this weekend.

Today, we have a review of one of my current obsessions (Merigan Sub Shop), some 707 news, and the lovely Chris Baggetta has an inaugural wino for us on stemware, check it out.

OK, I need to start warming up my dance moves, because yours truly is going to see PRINCE tomorrow and I am pretty fricking excited. Beyond.

Rawk!
Marcia Gagliardi

fresh meat

New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Mar 14, 2014

Merigan Sub Shop

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Merigan’s Italian combo. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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Meatball sub.

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The chicken Parm.

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The interior of Merigan, outfitted with brightly colored vintage chairs.

Sandwiches. I live for them. And when they’re bonkers good, if I get one in my mind, I will literally drive or ride my bike across town to get it. The sandwiches at ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ are like that—they haunt me like the ghost of Christmas past. Any faint excuse I have to swing by there for a sub, I’m all over it. Writing this review killed me, trust—I was even trying to justify ordering one on Caviar for delivery.

Chef-owner Liza Shaw is well known around town: she was rocking things in the open kitchen at A16 for seven years, and prior to that she was at Acquerello. So yeah, this Baltimore-raised woman has some serious Italian cooking chops (a lot like the shop name—it’s “American,” with a heavy-ass Italian accent). But Shaw had a hankering for a quality sub in SF, and with her SoMa shop, she’s applying all her mad skills to crafting some truly fantastic subs.

Where to begin? Well, as the daughter of a former deli owner (and I practically teethed on the Godfather sandwich from Woodside Deli), the Italian combo ($13) is near and dear to my heart. Shaw worked with Cheryl Burr of Pinkie’s Bakery to custom make their perfect seeded soft Italian roll. They reverse engineered the roll from Caputo’s in Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn), and 10 tries in, they nailed it. It’s flaky, with a tender crumb, and Shaw thinks their version turned out to be even more flavorful than the original inspiration.

So, the Italian combo comes with layers of mortadella, salami, prosciutto cotto, provolone, shredded lettuce, onion, dressing (made from a salsa verde instead of the usual oil and vinegar), hots (housemade, from Mariquita’s peppers), and tomato (when it’s in season—in the winter, Shaw is using a conserva she made). It’s layered perfectly, the meats are sliced just right, it’s a helluva sub. Can’t. Get. It. Out. Of. My. Mind. (Psssst, there’s also an off-menu sub called the Widowmaker, with roast beef, turkey, and pickled onions added to the Italian combo set—be careful with that one.)

My other favorite is the chicken Parm ($12), one of the hot subs. Shaw uses chicken thigh from Biagio Artisan Meats, which is so juicy, and the breading isn’t heavy with oil (it’s fried in rice bran oil). The chicken comes topped with a bright marinara, sharp provolone, creamy mozzarella from Di Stefano (this is one of the crucial parts of why the sandwich is a game changer), and there’s a nice pop from the fresh basil leaves. If you want to go to the dirty place, you could get it topped with burrata instead (+$4). This sandwich is a beast—extreme comfort food all snuggled into a roll.

If you’re a vegetarian, or you just love eggplant (raises hand), the eggplant Parm ($10) is the way to go. It doesn’t have too much breading either—you totally taste the eggplant. It’s also really good hours later—I ate the other half late one night (I was sober, promise!) and I was definitely in my happy place.

Another fan favorite is the Arista ($13), which has braised pork shoulder and roasted loin with sharp provolone, hots, and rapini (again, this one is insane with burrata, if you want to go there). It’s hot, drippy, and the braised pork has a whisper of Eastern spices, like star anise, cinnamon, and allspice. (Shaw says it was inadvertently inspired by one of her favorite dishes, the pork leg stew from Thai House Express.)

She is breaking down 1 1/2 pigs a week from Llano Seco, which she uses to make coppa di testa, porchetta (yup, it’s a sub), meatballs (the meatball sub is SO GOOD—they’re made with beef and pork), cracklings, and more. Yeah, there’s a lot of heavy labor that goes into your sandwich, and everything is top quality—no shortcuts here.

The menu has some more traditional subs (roast beef, egg salad) or you can go more Italian (panelle, baccalà, ciccoli). These sandwiches are hearty—I usually only make it through half and save the rest for later (unless it’s the chicken Parm—monkey brain took over while I totally horked it). There are also large-format subs and platters you can order for your office or party (people will love you forever).

Things are gonna get busy down there when the ball game season kicks back in, so head over now and start chipping your way through that menu. And Merigan is not just a takeout joint—there are plenty of seats (cute vintage ones at that), beers ($5 drafts all day on Saturday), and bonus, there are some quality wines on tap and in the bottle too. I think it’s the only sub shop serving half bottles of Roederer Estate (how’s that for a high-low pairing?). And with warmer days arriving, wrapping things up with an Italian ice off their vintage Japanese machine (I loved the almond) makes for a nice finish.

Merigan Sub Shop - 636 2nd St. San Francisco - 415-536-2991

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Mar 14, 2014

Chicken Feet, City Winery, Torc's Brunch, Funky Farmers Market

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M.Y. China in Rohnert Park is featuring a new happy hour menu. Photo courtesy of M.Y. China.

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City Winery in Napa will open in April. The combination food, wine bar, and entertainment venue recently named a new chef. Illustration courtesy of City Winery.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

~M.Y. CHINA~ at the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park has a new happy hour menu Mon-Thu 3pm-6pm, with select cocktails for $6 (you can get classics like an M.Y. Tini or M.Y. Hatten) and “bites” including pork dumplings ($5) and chicken feet—yup, chewy bites of poultry claws—for $3. Graton Resort & Casino, 288 Golf Course Dr. West, Rohnert Park, 707-703-1955.

Napa’s ~CITY WINERY~, the forthcoming restaurant, wine bar, and music venue, has tapped Joseph Panarello as head chef. The New Jersey native has worked at a number of large-scale food and entertainment venues in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. City Winery has locations in NYC, Chicago, and Nashville, with Napa’s historical opera house becoming its fourth location, which is scheduled to open in April. Upcoming Napa shows include Bruce Cockburn (April 10th), Graham Nash (April 29th), and the Milk Carton Kids (June). Details and reservations online.

Also in downtown Napa, newcomer ~TORC~ is now officially open for brunch. Chef Sean O’Toole has been getting plenty of local props for his North Bay-centric menu, expanding to weekend brunch from 10:30am-2:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. We’re jonesing for a lime curd-filled doughnut, huckleberry hotcakes, wild mushroom Benedict with pork belly, and chicken hash. 1140 Main St. at Pearl, Napa, 707-252-3292.

The funky little ~WEST END FARMERS MARKET OPENS~ near Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square kicks off its second year on Sunday March 16th, from 10am-2pm near the De Turk Round Barn. Last season, it was a wonderful mix of local farmers, crafts and food vendors, lively music, and lots of family-friendly fun. Watch for Undercover Bakery, Physis Foods (great freshly made broths), Handlebar Farm, Gypsy Girl Sausage, and (plotzing!) chefs Les and Tara Goodman doing some tasty noshes at their Jewish Deli (house-smoked pastrami! chocolate egg creams!).

the wino

Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)
Mar 14, 2014

Breaking Out the Crystal by Chris Baggetta

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Chris Baggetta. Photo courtesy Quince restaurant.

San Francisco sommelier Chris Baggetta has more than a decade of wine service experience in some of the country’s most acclaimed dining rooms, including Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Quince in San Francisco. She has a strong passion for education and enjoys representing small producers from various wine regions and sharing their stories with her guests.

In regards to the more sensual pleasures in life, size does indeed matter, and the enjoyment of wine is no exception. When it comes to wineglasses, it’s not just size that is crucial, but also shape and thickness (or rather thinness, in this case). After years of working in fine dining restaurants and entertaining at home, I have become rather opinionated on the subject of stemware. The perfect wineglass is the marriage of elegance, functionality, and durability.

But perfect for whom? Which occasion? What type of wine? As a sommelier, I find myself describing why I chose a specific glass nearly as often as why I chose the wine I pour into it. Basically, wineglasses are shaped differently because some wines require more of the aroma to be delivered to your nose and palate. Red wineglasses have a wide, round bowl to help release the aroma of the wine. White wineglasses have a more tapered bowl with a narrow rim to keep the wine from being overexposed to oxygen. This, of course, is an oversimplification, as some whites require more air and some reds less, and thus opens up the argument for why there is such a variety of different glasses on the market today.

Let’s compare two common red wineglasses—a Bordeaux and a Burgundy. A Bordeaux glass is characterized by a broad bowl with a tall stem, ideal for highly tannic red wines with moderate acidity. Its shape directs the wine to the center of the tongue, creating structural harmony between fruit, tannin, and acidity in full-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon or syrah. A Burgundy glass, with its wide bowl and tapered top, directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, highlighting fruit and balancing naturally high acidity. It is perfect for red wines with high acid and moderate tannins, such as pinot noir.

The thickness of the glass also has an impact on how the wine flows onto the palate. Thinner glass helps create a finer stream of wine that runs across the taste buds on your tongue. Keep in mind that the tongue itself reveals very little—just the five basic tastes of sweetness, sourness (acidity), bitterness, saltiness, and umami. Every other “taste,” we smell. As the wine enters the mouth, the aromas are taken into the back of the throat, where they are picked up by the olfactory bulb, which automatically analyzes them and transmits the information to the brain as various so-called flavors. A finer stream of wine means more of the wine is mixing with the air in your mouth, enhancing the aromas, while at the same time more surface area of the wine is also interacting with your taste buds.

And of course you need to consider how many different glasses you want to invest in. Do you prefer one universal shape for all wine styles? Or perhaps just two glasses—one for white and one for red? Or are you a convert to the philosophy of different glasses for different wines? Below, I have selected my personal favorite pieces of crystal, no matter which camp you find yourself in.

Best All-Purpose Glass: Spiegelau Vino Grande Burgundy ($10 per stem)
This is my go-to everyday wineglass at home. These crystal glasses are durable, dishwasher-safe, and break-resistant. They are composed of high-quality silica, which allows for brilliant clarity, even after years of washing. This glass has a wide bowl that holds 25 fluid ounces, and while it is designed for red wine, I find white to be equally enjoyable from this glass.

Best White and Red Glass: Schott Zwiesel Fortissimo White Wine Glass and Bordeaux Goblet ($15 per stem)
Made from patented “Tritan” crystal glass, these lead-free stems have long-lasting brilliance, shatter-resistance, and are dishwasher-safe. While all of Schott Zwiesel’s glassware lines are made Tritan crystal, I prefer the Fortissimo line, which is designed with particularly long stems. And since the stems are heat-reinforced for extra durability, you can enjoy the elegant feel without fearing that they will snap.

Best Grape Variety-Specific Glasses: Riedel Vinum Extreme ($30 per stem)
Riedel was decades ahead of its peers in terms of conceptualizing grape variety-specific stemware. As early as 1958, they developed their iconic Sommelier Series Burgundy Grand Cru Glass—a “beautiful monster” with the capacity of 37 fluid ounces representing a quantum leap in terms of wineglass design that earned a place in the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York. Today, Riedel boasts a variety of different glassware, though my favorite line remains the Vinum Extreme Series, which was designed in 2000 to showcase and highlight the unique structure of new-world wines.

Best Splurge: Zalto Burgundy Glass ($65 per stem)
If Riedel is the Chanel of the wineglass industry, then Zalto is its Alexander McQueen. These featherweight glasses are striking and dramatic, showcasing modern design and delicate edges. The development of the Denk’Art series was influenced by the Earth itself; the curve of the bowls are tilted at angels in accordance to the natural tilt of the Earth. Each glass is one single piece—handcrafted and mouth blown from bowl to stem. They are beautiful and luxurious, though at $65 per stem they may only make an appearance at dinners meant to impress.

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