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This week's tablehopper: engine engine number nine.

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Kanpai! The rich and robust sake flight at Yuzuki. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Welcome to your weekend, you’re almost there. I don’t know about you, but I have a Lunar Night Market and a Scotch party in my not-too-distant future. Don’t forget, you can check out some new bagels (from Earl’s Bread) on Sunday!

And then there’s the Oscars on Sunday—I’m pretty excited about spending my Kitchit credit to have a Kitchit Tonight chef come over to cook and serve me and my friend dinner in bed as we watch the show. How fun and decadent is that? They even do the dishes. My idea of a perfect, lazy Sunday (because it has been a week). There will be Champagne.

Another reason I’ll be chugging some bubbles this weekend: can you believe tablehopper is turning nine tomorrow? I know, what the hell. Thanks to all of you for your support all these years! So can I ask a favor? The most helpful thing you could do for me is tell a friend or two about tablehopper. I understand some of you like to keep it to yourselves as your secret dining weapon, but new subscribers are always warmly welcomed here. Thanks for spreading the word!

So originally I was going to write up three short blurbs on wine bars I have been loving lately, but as I started writing about La Nebbia, it morphed into a full review, so here we are. Heather Irwin also has some 707 bites for you.

Enjoy the weekend, pop!
Marcia Gagliardi

fresh meat

New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Feb 20, 2015

La Nebbia

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The signature truffle butter crostini with anchovies and cocoa. All photos: © tablehopper.com (except where noted).

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Prosciutto and jamón heaven.

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White bean and prosciutto soup. Photo courtesy of Ryan Robles PR.

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Buttery semolina gnocchi and pecorino.

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An off-menu ‘nduja, stracciatella, and garlic confit pizza.

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The latest version of the margherita with the new pizzaiolo.

Anyone who has enjoyed the fantastically deep list of Italian wines (crammed onto the legal-sized menu in its minuscule font) over the years at Noe Valley’s ~LA CICCIA~ will be pleased to run around in Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan’s second playground: ~LA NEBBIA~. It’s the perfect +1 to La Ciccia, just a half block away, a casual and unpretentious place you can swing by for pizza at the counter (ideal for solo diners) and a few glasses of something delicious, because it’s never just one glass here—which is why its name, “the fog,” makes perfect sense. You can also plan ahead and reserve a table for your posse (or your date)—an enoteca that takes reservations, fantastico.

The best part? You still feel the same cozy sweater-level of warm hospitality you get at La Ciccia. It’s why you will often find restaurant industry folks in here: good hospitality plus good wine have an undeniable pull. Massimo and Lorella are running in between both spots all the time, but you can spend more time with Massimo when he’s behind La Nebbia’s bar (and in the kitchen) on Sundays.

The menu is enoteca-casual, with approachable starters like burrata and grilled radicchio ($11), and sweet wild shrimp from the gulf with Umbrian beans ($13). When the baked eggplant and scamorza napoleon ($10) comes back on, get it. And then there’s the wild card snuck in there: crostini soaked with truffle butter, topped with a fillet of anchovy and shavings of…bitter cocoa ($10). Weird! And that’s where you can see the playfulness here. The flavors harmonize remarkably well together, one of those funky pairings that totally works, like the peanut butter and bacon burger at Yo Mama’s in New Orleans, and you don’t have to be three Sazeracs deep to enjoy it.

I see you, checking out that long list of cured meats on the menu. The selection of hams is bonkers. You can try prosciutto di San Daniele aged 18, 24, or 36 months (the last one’s sweet fat is a wondrous, magical thing), or maybe some glistening paleta de Ibérico Bellota Redondo Iglesias is what you’re in the mood for? You have 12 to choose from, and I say go for a flight ($14-22) so you can try three at a time before you start committing to single selections (which will come later in your prosciutto education and jamón obsession). The Ibérico de Bellota DO Marcos Salamanca is waiting for you, dark and marbled like a hot, buff Spaniard on the beach at Sitges (it’s also the caviar of the menu: $42).

And then there’s the bean and prosciutto soup ($10) they make with the leftover prosciutto bones—it’s cucina povera pulling from the top shelf because, hello, we’re talking about the best ham bones in existence. The lasagna ($14) with béchamel is classic and gorgeous—and it’s Massimo’s aunt’s recipe, so it’s solid gold. Then there’s the bubbling buttery bowl of semolina gnocchi ($11), loaded with pecorino. You will want all these dishes. You should have them.

The pizza recently got an upgrade—it was good before, but the new pizzaiolo (previously at Farina) has stepped things up with the dough (they’re using the same Caputo flour, but now they’re proofing the dough for 24 hours). The margherita ($13) is so bright with tomato, the crust that sexy balance of chewy and crispy you get from a hot deck oven. The version with mozzarella, soppressata, radicchio, and pecorino ($15) is Lorella’s favorite, typical from her family home of Verona. If you like it hawt, ask for some chile oil for that one. The squid ink pizza ($16) is a fun one, balanced with anchovies, uvetta (sweet, golden sultanas), and pine nuts. And then if you ask nicely, and if they have some ‘nduja in the house, you can request the Calabrese connection, an off-menu pie they made for me one night with ‘nduja, stracciatella, and garlic confit. Mamma mia.

The well-priced wine list is a beautiful thing. It’s primarily Italian, and full of small producers, but you’ll also find an alluring selection of Champagne (along with some well-priced sparklers). The number of wines by the glass is pretty dangerous, just over 30 in all, which is why I recommend pulling it on over at the counter and flipping your hazards on so you can have some tastes and find wines that will really speak to you, like the smoky Franciacorta Brut La Montina ($15/glass).

This is an ideal place to put yourself in their hands—there are skilled folks on the floor who will steer you to some killer pairings (the Lambrusco Emilia Rosso Labrusca from Lini Oreste is waiting for you to pick your prosciutto) and great deals like the Giorgio Cecchetto Raboso del Piave, which drinks like much more than its $43 bottle price, ditto the Ettore Germano nebbiolo brut rosé ($48). Sparkling gamay sound intriguing? Cool. Check out the Robert Serol Côte Roannaise Turbullent ($36). And lucky us, there’s always something new on the list to try.

Finish the night with some cheese—they source some good ones, and always have a little something that’s not on the menu. Try the three quenelles of fresh ricottina ($7) drizzled with honey and citrus zest, so simple but of course elevated to something sublime when they pull a final dessert wine from the fridge for you—again, something that’s not on the list. You didn’t think you were going outside in the fog without a final-final, did you?

This review was based on three visits.

La Nebbia - 1781 Church St. San Francisco - 415-874-9924

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Feb 20, 2015

Sonoma-Style Chinese New Year, Mangalitsa Dinner, Cheesefest, Yountville Live!

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Egg puffs at Quickly, which recently opened in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Mini octopus from Quickly, in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Woolly mangalitsa pigs at Winkler Wooly Pigs in Windsor, California. Owner Tim Winkler supplies many of the local restaurants with meat. Photo courtesy of Tim Winkler.

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Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega Restaurant in Yountville is among the all-star lineup at Yountville Live! Photo courtesy of Michael Chiarello.

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

Thursday marked the first day of the Lunar New Year, a two-week festival of food and family. The spring celebration ushers in the promise of good fortune with steaming bowls of noodles, whole fish, sweets, citrus, and other “lucky” delicacies.

This is the year of the goat, an animal that’s notorious for its appetite. (Okay, some say it’s the year of the sheep, which eat a lot too.) We say that’s good enough reason to break out of your sweet-and-sour pork rut and try something new at some of Sonoma County’s favorite Asian eateries. 

  1. Deep-fried foods and egg puffs at Quickly: Based in Taiwan, this wacky fast-food transplant is all about the tea—be it green, black, flavored with roses, coffee, red beans, or waxed gourds—supplemented with tapioca boba or grass jelly. Just dive in, because it’s all an adventure. There’s also an eye-popping menu of deep-fried items including mini octopus, tofu, and fish balls, which are pressed bits of fried fish, and not part of the fish’s, uh, reproductive anatomy. If you’re a little unsure about trying new flavors, go with the egg puffs. Though they look like bubble wrap, the taste is similar to a really eggy waffle. Expect a line of hungry Santa Rosa Junior College students ahead of you. 1880 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

  2. Steamed bao, pork belly, and barbecue pork at G+G Market: This local market is an under-the-radar gem for all things Chinese—at a great price. We’re huge fans of the steamed bao and barbecue pork, available in the deli. You can also find just about any Asian ingredient, from lychee jelly to black bean paste and dried shrimp, in the extensive grocery section. 1211 W. College Ave, Santa Rosa; and 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

  3. Chicken feet and tofu skin at Hang Ah: Dim sum fans agree that this is the best in the North Bay. The menu is massive, and chances are you won’t recognize about half of the small plates. But at just $2-$4 each, it’s worth some experimentation. Chicken feet are exactly that. They’re a huge delicacy, and folks raised on ‘em swear by them. Personally, I’m not a fan, but I did try one. Tofu skin? Sounds weird, tastes incredible. 2130 Armory Rd., Santa Rosa.

  4. Cantonese roast duck and mapo tofu at M.Y. Noodles: Martin Yan’s noodle shop at the Graton Casino is a hugely overlooked restaurant with really solid (and authentic) Chinese favorites. We really like the hoisin-glazed roast duck and mapo tofu. 288 Golf Course West Dr., Rohnert Park.

  5. Hot and sour soup at Kirin Restaurant: I’m a recent convert to hot and sour soup, over my usual wonton. Filled with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, feathery bits of egg, and with a spicy kick, it’s my new alternative to chicken soup when I’m ailing. 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. 

  6. Bakery goodies from East Wind Bakery: Just about everyone who’s been to this charming little Asian bakery has raved about the baked bao in flavors like kimchi-sausage and curried beef, along with Chinese sponge cakes and taro buns. I’m also gaga for their milk bread. 3851 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa.

  7. Goji Kitchen: This Pan-Asian restaurant has become a junior college-area staple because of its extensive menu of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes and also because of their dedication to fresh, often organic products and an extensive vegetarian selection. Though its not exactly authentic, you’ve gotta try the walnut pineapple prawn (the best in the area, hands down), along with clay pot rice and housemade pot stickers with ginger-garlic sauce. 1965 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

Cheese lovers unite at Sonoma’s Artisan Cheese Fair, happening all weekend! This intimate cheese festival is at the cooking school Ramekins. Sunday’s gathering is one of the best opportunities to get face-to-face with the Bay Area’s artisan cheesemakers. Cheesemonger Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection hosts the annual event, which includes a mac and cheese cook-off, cheese tastings, and beer, wine, and cider tastings, plus guest chefs, live music, and of course, cheese wheel races. $50 per person, 21 and over. Trust us, you won’t walk away hungry or thirsty. Tickets available online.

If you haven’t heard about the mangalitsa pig, you should. This prized, woolly breed is fatty and flavorful, and definitely not “the other white meat.” A number of chefs are now offering the prized pork on their menus, but by far the best mangalitsa-centric (secret) feast we’ve seen lately is this Tuesday February 24th at the Epicurean Social Club/Matrix Winery dinner in Santa Rosa. Feast on charcuterie, pork rinds with pork lard, pork sliders with saffron rouille, pork jowl bacon, pork belly sous vide, pork tenderloin with vanilla bean sauce, leaf-lard cocoa nib cookie sandwiches, and of course, a bacon-chocolate brittle goodie bag. $95 per person includes wine; tickets online

Yountville Live: From March 19 to 22, Napa’s toniest town hosts an intimate lineup of top music performers, restaurants, and wineries for Yountville Live! The four-day event includes concerts, winemaker dinners, wine tastings, and more. Expect more than 20 musical acts (Aimee Mann, Colbie Caillat, and O.A.R.), 15 restaurants (Bottega, Hurley’s, Lucy, Brix), and 30 wineries (Jessup Cellars, Hill Family, Ma(i)sonry). There’s also a gospel brunch and the Taste of Yountville. Tickets range from a hefty $1,500 for an all-access pass to $450 for a music pass and $85-95 for concert tickets. Details and tickets online.

Still hungry? Check out BiteClubEats.com for even more delicious North Bay food news.

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