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This week's tablehopper: Santa baby.

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The many wonders of hot cocoa never cease to amaze. (At the Sir Francis Drake for holiday tea with Miss Hannah and her dear mother, Ms. Lisa.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.

How’s your last-minute holiday shopping going? Is your eggnog consumption where it should be? Has peppermint been making appearances in your snacks? Have you noshed on any latkes? Have you used “ho ho ho” in a sentence or email? Hopefully you can answer positively to all of the above.

I have been loving my morning breakfast of a Gibraltar and a slice of panettone (this year’s is a sweet beauty, an Amarena cherry version from Rustichella d’Abruzzo, che buona!), and my other mornings have been all about my treasured Laudemio olio nuovo on top of soft-boiled eggs and ripped-up pieces of toasted Josey Baker bread (excellent after a night of too much holiday cheer). ‘Tis the season!

I’m fired up to leave town this afternoon, and fortunately it’s an easy hop to San Mateo, where I’ll be celebrating my dad’s birthday tonight with my fam. Tomorrow is a big day, when we’ll be preparing all the dishes for our family’s annual Feast of the Seven Fishes. Not sure how many people we’re cooking for this year, it’s usually around 25. Bring on the anchovy and bread crumb pasta, my favorite.

This past week was unfortunately filled with too many writing deadlines, mamma mia. Glad those are all done so I can get into a deeper holiday frame of mind over here. Saturday was pretty special though: my dear friend brought her five-year-old daughter up to the city so we could show her what San Francisco’s Union Square holiday show is all about, from the kitties in the window at Macy’s to the Neiman Marcus tree to high tea at the Sir Francis Drake to picking out an ornament at Gump’s. (Next year we’ll take her ice skating.)

I also managed to have some adult eggnog time at Kuleto’s (damn is their eggnog amazing), and went to Naked Kitchen Saturday night for their last dinner of the year with chef Alex Ong. I can’t believe I got to have his beggar’s chicken (with Jinhua ham!). Ahhh, it has been too long. Plus other fab dishes, like his roasted crispy pork belly with the most amazing chile-garlic sauce. I’ll let you know the next time he’s doing a dinner, his food is so fantastic.

Sunday night, sis and I got lucky and bought tickets off her friend for the SF Symphony’s holiday show, featuring Charlie Brown’s Christmas (there are still a couple more nights!). What a sweet show. Oh, Vince Guaraldi, your music always gets me into a sentimental holiday mood.

Today’s column includes a post on where to dine for New Year’s Eve, and I also did this post for 7x7.com on New Year’s Eve dinner deals. I’m not sure when my post for 7x7 about New Year’s Day brunch is going up, but I’ll keep you posted on Twitter and the BookFace. Here’s one more for you: I wrote this piece on the best new 25 restaurants of 2014 for Refinery 29.

Oh, and I’m going to be heading to Los Angeles next week for New Year’s Eve! So excited, it has been tooooo long. If you have any recent recos for dining and drinking, please let me know! On my list: Rustic Canyon, Night + Market Song, Petit Trois, Sqirl, Barrel & Ashes, Alma, Bestia, Eggslut, Sycamore Kitchen, Superba, Faith and Flower, still haven’t checked out Bazaar at SLS, and I’m going to need to get some Koreatown time in there, and daily tacos, of course. I’d appreciate any recos on LA places that are floating your boat!

All righty gang, I’ll have a little missive for you next Tuesday, even though I’m leaving town. Yup, the bore will be in your inboxes! Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, and happy holidays. Peace and love and joy to you all.

XOXO,
Champers, the elf

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Dec 23, 2014

398 Restaurant & Bar Now Open in Union Square

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The bar at 398 Restaurant & Bar. Photo by Kelly Puleio.

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A cocktail at 398 Restaurant & Bar. Photo by Kelly Puleio.

A report by Dana Eastland. There’s a follow-up to the October opening of Klyde in Union Square. It’s called ~398 RESTAURANT & BAR~, and, like Klyde, it’s in the Hotel G but is a separate project. Klyde’s Sam Fechheimer is the chef here, as well, with a menu of European-inspired dishes. The charcuterie selection is extensive, with pâtés and terrines made in-house, and entrées include pastas, meats, and salads.

There’s also some big news (ha) behind the bar: Brian Felley and Mo Hodges of the short-lived Big are running the show on the cocktail side of things. These new digs are actually large, clocking in at 124 seats, and the pair will still be shaking up their creative and flavorful concoctions. The drinks and food will be designed to play well together, so think cocktail-friendly food and vice versa.

The interior is a mix of industrial and raw with polished accents. The banquettes are upholstered with blood orange velvet to give a plush vibe, while raw beams and the original and distressed plaster ceiling keep everything from getting too fussy. The back bar has botanical wallpaper, which echoes the many ingredients in the cocktails, and Holophane-style lights, with polished dark wood stools and a pewter-toned bar.

398 Restaurant & Bar officially opened on December 19th. Hours are daily 5pm-11pm. 398 Geary St. at Mason, 415-654-5061.

New Chef in the Kitchen at Delfina: Edward Higgins

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The dining counter at Delfina. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

Big news on 18th Street: replacing chef de cuisine Brian Gremillion, who was at ~DELFINA~ for four years, is Edward Higgins, most recently at Bix. His background includes NYC’s Craft, Hearth, and Insieme, plus Ekki at the Four Seasons Hotel in Marunouchi, Japan, and Palo Alto’s Quattro. Chef-partner Craig Stoll confirmed Higgins starts at Delfina on January 7th and says, “We’re super excited to have Edward join our team and looking forward to an awesome, collaborative 2015.”

We contacted Bruce Hill for news on Edward Higgins’ replacement at Bix, and should have something to report in the New Year.

Delfina - 3621 18th St. San Francisco - 415-552-4055

Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson's Loco'l Coming to the Tenderloin

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The vacant 65 Club space on Taylor; Loco’l is moving in to the grocery space in the foreground. Photo via Phantom Coast’s Facebook page.

An update on Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s ~LOCO’L~ for you: they are opening their first location of their fast-food concept right in the Tenderloin, at Turk and Taylor to be exact. I drive by that corner often and have noticed a lot of construction, and wondered what was going in after the Phantom Coast project fell through.

As we mentioned before, Patterson and Choi will be offering a healthier, more sustainable alternative to the current fast-food choices, while maintaining low prices. They are specifically hoping to appeal to youth in struggling neighborhoods, with a menu of “smashes” (burgers with beef, whole grains, and tofu), rice bowls, and other dishes featuring fresh ingredients.

Scoop reports the 3,200-square-foot location was a former corner store, and Patterson’s architect for all his restaurants, Scott Kester, will design the space. There will also be a commissary kitchen for Patterson and Sasha Bernstein to hold classes for The Cooking Project, a nonprofit that teaches cooking skills to kids and young adults from the Tenderloin community. They hope to open in the summer, with other locations following in LA and possibly Oakland. Way to go, guys. 57 Taylor St. at Turk.

An Update on the New Valencia Project from the Burma Superstar Team

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The dining room at Burma Love on Valencia. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

Well, it turns out we didn’t have all the correct information in our piece last week from the Burma Superstar team on their new project in the Mission. However, we got some new intel this week, so here’s an update for you. The new restaurant is actually going to be called ~BURMA LOVE~, and while Burma Superstar is known for its everyday, classic Burmese dishes, the menu here will include dishes that you’d find at a family feast, with an emphasis on seafood. They mention the dishes will be a bit spicier and more concentrated in flavor. (Although you will still find some of the favorite dishes from Burma Superstar on the menu too.) The plan is, as we reported, to open after Christmas. 211 Valencia St. at Duboce, 415-861-2100.

Tidbits: Jersey, La PanotiQ, Simply Delish, Dinosaurs

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The exterior of La PanotiQ, now open on Chestnut. Photo from Facebook.

Back in August, we reported on the new La Capra Coffee in SoMa from the brothers Rosenthal of Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor & Hope. Their expansion in the neighborhood continues, with a new pizza joint called ~JERSEY~. As the name would suggest, it’s a New Jersey-style, full-service pizza place. Pies will be the focus, but other dishes will also be available, Scoop reports. The current timeline is a February opening. 145 2nd St. at Minna.

Adding to the bakery madness in town is ~LA PANOTIQ~ in the Marina. As previously reported, this is the second location of the small bakery chain, which started in Campbell. Chowhound caught the opening, which appears to be just one of several planned outposts, including Noe Valley, Berkeley, Livermore, and Mountain View. The menu offers soups, sandwiches, salads, and pastries, as well as coffee and tea. 2234 Chestnut St. at Pierce, 415-525-3625.

A friend sent in this tip: Bayview has a new place for breakfast and lunch, called ~SIMPLY DELISH~. Apparently, the owners originally planned to open a larger Thai restaurant in the same building, but then the developer offered to give them a good deal on the corner space, too, as long as they agreed to offer affordable lunch and dinner options (the building houses low-income seniors). So, Simply Delish is open now, and a larger Thai restaurant is in the works. Early Yelpers report good curry and Thai dishes, as well as American-style diner breakfasts. 5668 3rd St. at Armstrong, 415-529-1649.

Eater reports that banh mi mini-chain ~DINOSAURS~ has opened a fourth location in SoMa. Yelpers report that the space has a pinball machine, in addition to their menu of salads, rolls, and sandwiches. 18 Boardman Pl. at Bryant, 415-701-1421.

Closures: Chez Papa Bistrot, Nombe

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The Nombe interior. Yelp photo by Claudine C.

Up on Potrero Hill, French restaurant ~CHEZ PAPA BISTROT~ is closing at the end of the month. Owner Jocelyn Bulow says he plans to keep the corner space, according to Scoop, but no word on what might be up his sleeve. His other restaurants, Chez Maman and Papito, each have a location in Potrero and Hayes Valley and remain open. The last day of service for Chez Papa is Wednesday December 31st.

Also closing on Wednesday December 31st is Japanese izakaya ~NOMBE~. Well, it’s not closing, exactly, but will no longer be functioning as a restaurant, according to Scoop. Owners Gil Payne and Mari Takahashi cite family illnesses as the reason they can no longer keep up with daily operations, but they are holding onto the space and will be using it for cooking classes, including sessions on sake, ramen burgers, and sushi. Check out the class schedule here.

Nombe - 2491 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-681-7150

New Service: Bottomless Dim Sum Brunch Coming to Chubby Noodle Marina

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Image courtesy of Chubby Noodle.

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Chubby Noodle’s jook with hickory-smoked bacon. Photo via Facebook.

Your weekends are about to get dim-summier and rowdier with the arrival of the bottomless dim sum weekend brunch at ~CHUBBY NOODLE MARINA~, starting Saturday January 3rd. For $37 (plus tax and tip), you will have 90 minutes to enjoy bottomless dishes and four or five beverages, too, ranging from draft Sapporo to their cold tea to probably some mimosas.

The starting menu will be divided into five sections: dim sum (pork buns, shrimp and cilantro dumplings, shu mai), noodles (expect Hong Kong-style chow mein, rice cakes in XO sauce, wonton noodle soup), soup (hot and sour, crab and corn chowder), rice (their amazing fried rice, and jook with smoked pork and a poached egg), and sides (bok choy, pea shoots, eggplant).

Knowing chef-partner Pete Mrabe, these initial dishes will change up a bit. He plans to start with 12 the first weekend, and then ramp up with new ones each week, eventually getting the menu count to 25 (five dishes in each section). You’ll check off on a piece of paper which dishes you want. Depending on the size of your group, you may need to order double—your server will advise you.

Bonus: since tables will be timed for 90 minutes, reservations will be available (via SeatMe or Yelp). You can hop over to their website right now and book your table. Brunch will be served 10am-3pm, and with these new hours, they will be open continuously on Sat-Sun through dinner.

Chubby Noodle Marina - 2205 Lombard St. San Francisco - 415-655-3335

New Entertainment Venues: Noise Pop to Swedish American Hall, PianoFight in Original Joe's, More

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The dining room and bar at PianoFight. Photo from Facebook.

A report by Dana Eastland. The plot keeps thickening at the former ~CAFE DU NORD~ space and the ~SWEDISH AMERICAN HALL~, the multilevel entertainment, food, and beverage complex on Market in the Castro. As reported in October, many partners are involved, with a few different projects. A Basque-inspired restaurant, Aatxe, from the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (Flour + Water, Salumeria, Central Kitchen) is in the mix, while downstairs will be an entertainment venue with food and drink operated by Ne Timeas and the Bon Vivants (Trick Dog).

Now, Eater reports that the Swedish American Hall, the upstairs entertainment space, will be operated by Noise Pop, the programmers behind Treasure Island Music Festival, the Noise Pop Festival, and the 20th Street Block Party. Actually, the whole project is starting to seem like 20th Street North, with many of the same partners. Anyway, the Hall will now serve as the headquarters for the Noise Pop Festival, as well as other local and national acts throughout the year. No word yet about food and drink service in the space, which should reopen February 2015. 2174 Market St. at Sanchez.

The Tenderloin has a new comedy, food, and beverage venue in the former Original Joe’s location. Eater reports that it’s called ~PIANOFIGHT~ and has multiple venues: a 5,000-square-foot theater space upstairs, a 3,000-square-foot basement, plus a full bar and restaurant. All told, there are two theater spaces and a cabaret stage, along with multiple dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces. The bar and restaurant offers classic American food, like burgers, corn dogs, and fried items. Drinks are simple: just a few classic cocktails, plus beer and wine on tap. The bar and restaurant is open 4pm-12am daily, with special late hours after shows. Here’s the show calendar. 144 Taylor St. at Eddy.

One more note about music and sound: ~OLIVETO~ in Oakland has installed a new sound system in partnership with Meyer Sound. It’s not exactly a music venue, but it is a novel new way to explore sound in restaurants. Meyer Sound, whose work can be found in multiuse spaces like Zellerbach Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center, have taken a two-pronged approach here: there’s a passive sound system (called Libra) and an active one (called Constellation) that help to control and optimize the diner’s experience of sound. Libra uses sound panels (beautifully printed with photographs by Deborah O’Grady) to minimize sound, while the Constellation system uses a special “reverberation algorithm” and 18 microphones to adjust the sound experience in the dining room. Now, this all may sound a bit fussy, but the overall effect is basically that you can hear your tablemates perfectly, and everything else in the dining room fades to a pleasant, quiet hum. Which is really the dream, isn’t it? The system was installed in anticipation of a new series of programs in the Oliveto dining room, too, including lectures, workshops, and musical performances. That programming is yet to be launched, but when it does, you won’t miss a whisper.

San Francisco Restaurant Week Is Just Around the Corner

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The artist formerly known as Dine About Town is back, but this time it’s called ~SAN FRANCISCO RESTAURANT WEEK~ and is presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association instead of San Francisco Travel. It runs from Wednesday January 21st through Friday January 30th, and there have been a few changes to the program too. They’ve partnered with OpenTable and have officially named the SF-Marin Food Bank as a charity partner, meaning the bank will receive $0.25 per cover during Restaurant Week.

So, the food: two-course lunches are available for $25, three-course dinners are $40, and a new option, the discovery menu, is $85 including beverage pairings. The discovery menu is intended to offer a chance for restaurants to get a little more creative, and for diners to try something new. For example, Hog & Rocks is offering a special whiskey dinner with High West whiskey, while AQ will be doing a “Roots” dinner with a Roots soundtrack and root vegetables on the menu. Participation, menus, and hours vary by location; full details will be released on their website January 5th. Confirmed participants include Ichi Sushi and Ni Bar, RN74, and Waterbar. To celebrate the new partnership, some restaurants will also be offering additional specials on drinks and appetizers, in addition to the prix-fixe, so look for that.

If you’re really into Restaurant Week and end up visiting four or more restaurants, post a picture (including the menu) to their Facebook page, and you’ll be entered to win one of many gift certificates to local restaurants.

Tuesday Jan 21, 2014 – Thursday Jan 30, 2014
more info

Explore East Bay Restaurants During Oakland Restaurant Week

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The East Bay restaurant scene has been running full tilt the last few years, and ~OAKLAND RESTAURANT WEEK~ is a great way to try new places without breaking your (holiday-bruised) bank. It runs from Thursday January 15th through Sunday January 25th. More than 75 restaurants are participating, including Juhu Beach Club, Box and Bells, Penrose, and A16 Rockridge. Check out the full list here—it’s a doozy. Prix-fixe menus will be available at lunch and dinner, with three different prices: $20, $30, or $40 per person. Hours vary per restaurant, so be sure to check the website for details, where you can also make reservations and search by neighborhood.

Thursday Jan 15, 2015 – Sunday Jan 25, 2015
more info

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Dec 23, 2014

(Sponsored): Fatten Your Bottom Line in San Francisco!

The Winter Fancy Food Show is coming to San Francisco January 11th-13th.

Be there January 11th-13th at the Winter Fancy Food Show.

Get more information and register today!

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Dec 23, 2014

Bar Bites: Bubbles Tastings, a Benefit at Brass Tacks, Trick Dog's New Menu, Oasis Opens!

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The bar at Trick Dog. Photo from Facebook.

Get primed for the new year with a Champagne tasting at ~BAY GRAPE~ wine shop in Oakland. The class takes place on Sunday December 28th and is called All About Champagne, Lovers! Sounds pretty perfect, right? The class takes place from 3pm-4pm and is $35 per person. There is space for 16 people, first come first served. Sign-ups begin that day at 1pm. 376 Grand Ave. at Perkins, 510-686-3615.

Nothing says New Year’s like Champagne, and the bar at ~BRASSERIE S&P~ is hosting a special Champagne Tasting on New Year’s Eve from 3pm-7pm. The tasting includes a Champagne Henriot flight of brut, blanc de blancs, and rosé, along with canapés, and is $55 per person. To reserve your spot, email or call 415-986-2020. (The Brasserie will also be serving dinner on New Year’s Eve in case you want to stick around.)

Earlier this month, Geral Lowe, a doorman at ~BRASS TACKS~, lost his apartment and almost all his belongings when his building caught fire. He is fortunately safe, but he has tragically lost almost everything. To help raise some money to get him back on his feet, Brass Tacks is hosting a fundraiser on Monday December 29th at 7pm. There will be a silent auction and a raffle with lots of prizes, including gift certificates to bars and restaurants like Locanda, Biergarten, Piccino, Nopa, Boxing Room, and Mission Bowling Club. In addition, the bar will be offering drink specials (with all proceeds going to Lowe), and Deli Board will be serving food. So, basically, not only is this a great cause, but it’s going to be a pretty fun party too. Let’s all come together and help a fella out! 488A Hayes St. at Octavia.

For those of you who follow the menus at ~TRICK DOG~, get ready for a new menu on Thursday January 8th. This means the San Francisco map menu is on its way out, so be sure to stop by for a Golden Fire Hydrant or Alcatraz before it’s too late (and note they’ll be closed January 1st-6th). 3010 20th St. at Florida, 415-471-2999.

Heklina and D’Arcy Drollinger, the high-heeled hostesses behind the new ~OASIS~ in SoMa, said they were going to be opening their new 6,000-square-foot cabaret theater and nightclub on New Year’s Eve, and they are doing it! Tickets are selling fast for opening night. We wrote about the project a couple of months ago, and you can read some great details and backstory on the space here. The January calendar is already looking busy, including the launch of Heklina’s new party, Mother, formerly Trannyshack. Yay, a new playground! 298 11th St. at Folsom.

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the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Dec 23, 2014

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

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Cheers! Photo by Aubrie Pick from the tablehopper Top It Off event in 2013.

Event Info

Wednesday Dec 31, 2014 – Thursday Jan 1, 2015

Ready for 2015? No? Neither are we, but New Year’s Eve is coming right up, on Wednesday December 31st. Since there’s nothing we can do about it, let’s at least celebrate its beginning in style, shall we?

For a jazzy good time in Dogpatch, check out ~PICCINO~, where a four-course prix-fixe dinner will be accompanied by live music from Tin Cup Serenade, an old-time jazz band. The menu hasn’t been finalized yet, but rumors of Dungeness crab and chestnut pasta are swirling in the air. There will also be special wines to pair with each course. Dinner is $125 per person, which includes food and wine pairings but not tax and tip. There are two seatings, from 5pm-7pm or 7:30pm-9:30pm. Reserve online or by calling 415-824-4224. If you’re not looking for a sit-down dinner but would love some pizza, the Piccino coffee window will be open until midnight, serving pizzas to go, sparkling wine, and coffee to keep you lively all night long.

It’s hard to beat the downtown glamour of ~BIX~, where a four-course prix-fixe menu will be served all night. The first part of the evening will include live music from a jazz duo, and the second half of the evening will be spent with a jazz quartet. Reservations from 5:30pm-7:30pm are $95 per person and include food but not beverages, tax, or tip; reservations made for after 8pm are $170 per person and include a glass of Champagne and a special gift. Reservations can be made by calling 415-433-6300, or try for a spot at the bar, which will be open to walk-ins.

~FOREIGN CINEMA~ continues their run of fun themed parties with a special Purple Rain Party on New Year’s Eve. Get your best ’80s glam gear out and shake it! The evening includes a four-course dinner for $100 per person, not including beverages, tax, and tip. The party kicks off at 5:30pm, and reservations are recommended.

Had a good year? Go full-on fancy at ~FARALLON~ with a six-course tasting menu. You can choose from the traditional tasting menu for $120 per person (wine pairings, $65), or really go for it with the Caviar and Truffle menu for $155 per person (wine pairings, $85). Reservations can be made online or by calling 415-956-6969.

Swanky ~HAKKASAN~ is offering a six-course prix-fixe on New Year’s Eve, with prawn dumplings and stir-fried green lobster, to name just a few of the choices. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with a glass of Champagne from Perrier-Jouët, classy. The dinner is $138 per person, not including beverages, tax, and tip. Reservations are available for 5:30pm, 6:30pm, and 9:30pm and can be made by email or by calling 415-829-8148.

If you love crab, ~CHINO~ is throwing one hell of a crabtastic feast, complete with crab and pork belly soup dumplings, crab noodles, and spice-roasted crab, Chino style. It’s $70 per person for the four-course prix-fixe menu, and then $25 more for four customized cocktails by Danny Louie (tip and tax not included). This would be a fun one for a group too. Reservations can be made here.

For New Year’s in the 510, check out ~HOMESTEAD~ for a five-course prix-fixe with seatings from 5pm until 11pm. The menu will include a choice of entrées, including “ribeye and truffle” with winter root vegetables, creamed spinach, and sauce Périgord. Dinner is $100 per person, with wine pairings available for an additional $100. The price includes a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and a toast at midnight for those still dining. 4029 Piedmont Ave. at 40th St., 510-420-6962.

For a slightly more casual evening, try dinner at ~RAMEN SHOP~, where they’ll be offering a special six-course dinner with all-you-can-drink bubbly. There are two split seatings, one at 7pm/7:30pm and the second at 9pm/9:30pm and tickets are $75 per person. Or, if you’re just interested in a party, you can just go to their Champagne party after 10pm; tickets are $25 per person.

Go Italian style with a dinner at ~DOPO~, where they’ve created a special menu of Sicilian dishes to pair with a celebration of Sicilian wines (fantastico!). The highlight of the dinner is a celebratory timballo, or traditional meat pie, made with meat ragù, meatballs, stuffed pasta, and farm eggs. Take a look at the menu and pairings here. The dinner is $65 per person, with wine pairings for an additional $25. Seatings are at 5:30pm, 7:30pm, and 9:30pm (the last seating also receives a beverage at neighboring Adesso). Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. 4293 Piedmont Ave. at John, 510-652-3676.

Still looking for a good spot? Check out this piece the ‘hopper wrote for 7x7.com on four good New Year’s Eve deals.

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Dec 23, 2014

Valette, NYE in Wine Country, Cook Tavern, Atlas Social

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Building out furniture for Dustin Valette’s new restaurant is an all-in-the-family project. Photo courtesy of Dustin Valette.

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A sketch of the new charcuterie box for Valette. Drawing courtesy of Dustin Valette.

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Cook Tavern opened this week. Photo courtesy of Cook Tavern.

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Atlas Social will open in Napa next year.

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

Just off the press, chef Dustin Valette’s new Wine Country project officially has a name: ~VALETTE~. This ain’t about ego, however. We’re wiping a tiny tear from our eyes after Dustin explained that the building (which housed Healdsburg institution Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar for years) was once owned by his grandfather, Honore Valette, in the 1940s. “We spent some serious time thinking about what to call our new little ‘baby’ and we couldn’t get away from Valette. It pays homage to our family’s history with the building,” he says. So sweet. Adding to the charm factor is the all-in-the-family vibe: brother Les Garzini of Garzini Welding is making the restaurant’s charcuterie box and bro Aaron is co-owner. Look for a spring opening.

New Year’s Eve in Wine Country is always a food- and wine-centric affair, making the dress code more about casual comfort and fun than, well, six-inch stilettos and microminis (though you’re welcome to that, too, if that’s your bag). Here are a few of our top picks to celebrate the dawn of 2015.

~MATEO’S COCINA LATINA~: A tribute to Drakes Bay, including oyster shooters, halibut ceviche, and clam soup with local Dungeness crab and Fort Bragg uni (OMG, please). Also expect rabbit with pear demi-glace, goat with ancho chile demi-glace, and persimmon upside-down cake. $75 per person. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1520.

~BACKYARD~: The Forestville fave offers up California oysters, mackerel crudo, roasted bone marrow, Dungeness crab-stuffed sole, roasted quail, and purple potato gnocchi with foraged mushrooms. For dessert, there’s chocolate budino, tiramisu, and Meyer lemon tart. Three courses, $44; four courses, $65; and five courses, $75. Reservations required. 6566 Front St., Forestville; 707-820-8445.

~SOLBAR~: A 12-item menu includes buckwheat blini with caviar, chilled Maine lobster, Kobe beef carpaccio, grilled yellowfin tuna, petrale sole, veal tenderloin with sweetbreads and black truffle, and Black Forest cake. $90 for four courses, $20 for each additional course. 755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga; 707-226-0800.

~VILLAGE INN & RESTAURANT~: One of the best values for NYE is in the quaint West County village of Monte Rio. Chef William Oliver prepares a three-course prix-fixe that includes mustard seed-crusted smoked trout, lobster bisque, beef Wellington, poached Maine lobster, Cornish hen with herb gnocchi and foie gras jus, black truffle gnocchi with roasted chanterelles, and a Champagne tart with berries. $55 per person, reservations required. 20822 River Boulevard, Monte Rio; 707-865-2304.

~CENTRE DU VIN BISTRO~: Five courses of classic French bistro fare includes oysters Rockefeller, roasted chestnut soup, butternut squash ravioli, filet mignon Oscar, and chocolate-orange pot de creme. $100, $150 with wine pairing. 480 First St., Sonoma; 707-996-9779.

~SPINSTER SISTERS~: A three-course prix-fixe for $65 includes choices such as Dungeness crab with Meyer lemon aioli, duck liver mousse with port wine gelée and candied kumquats, tangerine-brown butter scallops, grilled beef cheek, rabbit pappardelle, Moroccan vegetable tagine, steamed chocolate cake, and Meyer lemon meringue tart. We’re also loving the idea of their New Year’s Day brunch, celebrated from 9am-3pm. 401 South A St., Santa Rosa; 707-528-7100.

I’ll be adding more spots as I find them at BiteClubEats.com.

~COOK TAVERN~ in St. Helena opened this week with a seriously noshable menu that includes housemade fried pickles, poutine with beef cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads with red wine veal jus, and mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Bigger plates include buttermilk fried chicken wings, a house-ground burger, slow-roasted Cubano, and steak frites. Potables include an old-school daiquiri, barrel-aged Manhattan, hot toddy, and crafty cocktails like the Cougar Juice (Grey Goose, St. Germain, peach shrub, lemon juice, and wine). Why do I feel slightly offended, yet thirsty? The tavern is the little sister restaurant of the popular Cook St. Helena. 1310 Main St., St. Helena; 707-963-7088.

Just one night a year, Christmas Eve, ~COSTEAUX FRENCH BAKERY~ sells its famous homemade cannoli. Fried pastry shells are filled with mascarpone and ricotta cheeses, candied fruits, and chocolate chips, then rolled in powdered sugar. This Southern Italian dessert has traditionally been part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Christmas Eve dinner that celebrates the bounty of the sea. Just remember to leave one out for Santa and his reindeer. We hear they’re huge fans. Advance orders only; six for $25. 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1913.

We’re chomping at the bit for Napa’s ~ATLAS SOCIAL~, slated for an early January opening. Headed by Michael and Christina Gyetvan of Azzurro Pizzeria & Enoteca and Norman Rose Tavern, the kitchen will be in the hands of Nick Ritchie (the former chef de cuisine at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega). Industry veteran Pat Jeffries will run the front of house. Opening menu items will include crispy fried farm egg with bacon jam; winter greens, apple, and persimmon salad; smoked trout rillettes with caraway-rye crostini; and citrus-braised pork belly tacos. Atlas Social will also feature family-style platters, including a garlic- and chile-roasted Dungeness crab and an ale-braised boneless beef rib. 1124 First St., Napa.

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