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This week's tablehopper: Happy Holidaze from Blitzen.

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The stunning vintage chandelier at Alfred’s Steakhouse (had to say farewell before they close on New Year’s Eve!). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Ahhhh, hullo, Friday! I’m sure all of you have quite the holiday party lineup (and list of elf errands) this weekend, amIright? Today we have a hopper holiday gift guide for you in case you need some inspiration—and one more idea for you: buy a ticket for your friend or coworker to join you at the upcoming tablehopper two-martini lunch at Bix on Friday December 18th! We have just five tickets left! I’m giving you an excellent reason to play hooky and leave your office early that day.

On Tuesday night, I was fortunate to be invited to the MoAD Diaspora Dinner, hosted by chef-in-residence Bryant Terry and The People’s Kitchen. Each delicious dish told a story of place and people (and so many folks came together to put this meal on, thank you!). We learned about benne cake and bunny chow and finished the night with Red Bay Coffee and iconic bean pie by PieTisserie, all while listening to the beautiful music of Marcus Shelby (and others) throughout the engaging and thought-provoking meal. Looking forward to future MoAD events! This was a special one.

So you want a little treat too? I’m sure you deserve it, I see you, right there at the top of Santa’s “nice” list. Last week we mentioned the special holiday dinners Shorty Goldstein’s is hosting on Friday nights this month (there’s a Hanukkah one tonight at 8pm—say hello to duck confit matzah ball soup!). We have two tickets to give away to next Friday’s dinner, which will feature “Jewish Christmas,” a Chinese-style dinner, complete with pastrami and scallion pancake and dumplings (and considering owner Mike Siegel used to work at Betelnut with Alex Ong, he knows what the hell he is doing!). We will award two tickets to the Friday December 18th dinner (at 8pm) to one lucky winner who comments on our Instagram post by Monday 1pm PST. Good luck and happy holidays!

Today I want to give a special thank-you to 707 scout correspondent Heather Irwin, who has been covering the 707 for us for many, many Fridays. With my upcoming move to New York and an impending shorter tablehopper column, this will be our last 707 scout column from Heather. But you can keep up with all the Sonoma County news by signing up for the BiteClub newsletter. Thanks for all the reporting, Heather!

One last thing: did you see my post on Tuesday about the “Adopt-a-Student” holiday drive for students in the ECS CHEFS (Conquering Homeless Through Employment in Food Services) Program? There’s still time to take part! They have requested simple but important items such as shoes and clothes to help them prepare for school. For more details, please click here to be assigned a student. Thanks everyone!

Have a great weekend, filled with holiday cheer(s)!
Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Dec 11, 2015

Holiday (and Host/ess) Gift Ideas from the Hopper

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One of the tablehopper’s vintage-style T-shirts. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Who wouldn’t want a cheese platter this pretty at their party? Learn the tricks at The Cheese School of San Francisco. Photo via Facebook.

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The simple and effective design of Aervana. Photo via Facebook.

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The holidays are here, and I know you’re being hit with a million gift guides, but here are a few more ideas for what to get the food lovers in your life. We also have some past gift guides here and here that have some still very relevant and fun gift ideas.

First, of course, I am going to plug my line of tablehopper T-shirts with vintage San Francisco restaurant and bar graphics. There are five in all, whether you want to go classic with the Blue Fox or sassy with Players Club or boozy with Tippy’s (yeah, these shirts are also good for your favorite booze lovers too). They’re all printed on quality cotton shirts that have a nice fit and they’re supersoft. Tees are $25, and the Blue Fox hoodie is $45 (it’s really plush and perfect for these chillier months). You can order online.

Be classy. How happy would you be to receive a gift certificate for a class at The Cheese School, or the San Francisco Cooking School, or one of the fun classes at Parties That Cook (also an awesome tablehopper sponsor). You can go Southern Italian with a cooking class from Rosetta Costantino or give a walking tour with Edible Excursions.

For the beer lover, a membership to Noble Brewer would rock—it’s a beer club that features home brewers.

There’s always a new wine gadget hitting the shelves, but the Aervana is pretty cool. (I tried it a couple of times and was impressed with the results—ditto my somm friend with the killer palate.) It’s a push-button aerator that is really simple (and clean!) to use, and it helps reduce tannins/improve drinkability in any wines that could benefit from some aeration. Do a taste test and you’ll see.

If you’re showing up to someone’s party or a holiday dinner, of course, wine is always welcome, but you can offer some other snazzy options too. Think about showing up with freshly made panettone from Rulli (some of the best—it’s so good with coffee in the morning, and tell the lucky gift recipient that they can use it to make the best French toast ever). Clairesquares has made a Classic Irish Christmas Cake, you can order it online or pick one up at Bi-Rite Market. And of course b. Patisserie makes one heck of a bûche de Noël.

Olio nuovo is such a seasonal present since it’s all being released right now. I love it drizzled on soft-boiled eggs, bean soups, and bruschetta. You can stick with domestic olive oil, like vibrant McEvoy Ranch (it’s organic and available online and at the Ferry Building), or Séka Hills (it’s made in the Capay Valley by Native Americans), or Round Pond in Napa. Market Hall in Rockridge has one of the best selections of olive oil from all over, period (and you’ll note on the shelves that Italy had a much better harvest this year).

Everyone loves being treated to dinner, so why not get a gift certificate to a hot SF restaurant? The way to do it is through ShareTable.org and the SF-Marin Food Bank, because with every $50 gift certificate purchased, $5 goes to the food bank (you can thank Mission Chinese Food for spearheading this fantastic program). We’re talking about GCs to State Bird Provisions, Foreign Cinema, Nopa, and more.

While I was at the MoAD Diaspora Dinner the other night, I was thinking how cool it would be to give a museum membership to someone (here’s a link to MoAD’s). You could go classic, like the de Young/Legion of Honor, and then there’s the new SFMOMA opening in May! Give the gift of some “culchah”! Another option that’s a bit more culinary in nature would be a membership to 18 Reasons. It has a lot of perks and does a lot of good—and all memberships are $10 off until December 31st, 2015!

While our bookworm Pete Mulvihill has a great roundup of holiday titles, I wanted to add a few more in a quick-fire round here (and don’t forget, you can find these at Green Apple Books!):

For the pasta lover (and maker): Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis.

For the Swede (or Viking) in your life: The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken Magasinet).

For the saucy home cook (get that demi on point!): Mastering Sauces by Susan Volland.

For the 2.0 Ottolenghi cook (and damn, is this a beautiful book): NOPI by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully.

For the friend who complains there’s no good Indian food in SF: Made in India by Meera Sodha.

For the culinary badass who always needs to master a new skill: Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton.

For your wino friend who loves malbec: Wines of South America: The Essential Guide by Evan Goldstein.

For the cocktail lover who would appreciate some schooling on SF classics (or maybe it’s just someone who loves and misses our incredible bars): Drinking the Devil’s Acre: A Love Letter from San Francisco and her Cocktails by Duggan McDonnell.

Cheers to all of you, happy holidays!

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the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Dec 11, 2015

(Sponsored): Your $1 Donation Feeds 9 in Need!

It’s the season of giving! Let Caviar help you spread some holiday cheer. Turn a $1 donation into 9 meals for those in need with the 12 Days of Giving holiday program.

Add a donation to your delivery by applying code GIVEBACKSF before checkout to donate $1 to the SF-Marin Food Bank. When the code is used to order from participating restaurants (identified by a “Give $1” badge on our website and app), both Caviar and the restaurant will match your $1 donation, bringing the total donation to $3.

The SF-Marin Food Bank turns every $1 into 3 meals, so the total matched donation of $3 becomes 9 meals. And that’s a whole lot of cheer.

Details here. (Code valid to 12/12/15.)

Caviar delivers meals from popular local restaurants—this holiday, we’d like to make sure everyone gets fed!

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Dec 11, 2015

Thad Vogler Opening a Rum Bar on 24th Street in the Mission

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From Trou Normand, the Quarantine: agricole rhum, lemon, vermouth, absinthe, egg white. Photo via Facebook.

Details are slim on this one, but even the preliminary facts are too exciting not to share: according to some ABC activity, our city’s consummate barman (and operator), Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole, Trou Normand) has an upcoming project on 24th Street in the Mission. It will be called ~OBISPO~ and is named for the street in Havana he lived on when he was young, Calle Obispo (yes, he’s had quite the interesting life).

All we can glean for now is that it’s going to be a rum bar (or should we say rhum?). The space was previously a retail property, but is noted as a restaurant subtype on the property listing, so it’s going to be a full and completely new buildout. We’ll let you know when Mr. Vogler is able to share some details! 3266 24th St. at Capp.

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Dec 11, 2015

Brunch at Ninebark, Best Sonoma Restaurant Openings of 2015, More

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Granola with seasonal fruit is one of the items on the new Ninebark brunch menu in Napa. Photo courtesy of Ninebark.

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Ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Watch out In-N-Out, Amy’s Kitchen is planning a meatless version of the Double Double. And it’s a contender. Photo courtesy of Amy’s Kitchen.

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Branzino at Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Hazel.

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Sonoma County terrine at Bistro 100. Photo by Heather Irwin.

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Hush puppies, sweet potato tots, beans, ribs, brisket, and corn muffins at KINsmoke in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Napa’s recently opened ~NINEBARK ~ will begin brunch service this weekend, featuring a lineup of sweet and savory dishes including bread pudding with crème anglaise, a fried oyster po’boy, smoked seafood Benedict, and the Ninebark burger. Morning cocktails crafted especially for the brunch crowd include the Tiziano (sparkling wine with Cocchi Americano and grapes), Southside fizz, and an Aperol sour. Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm. 316 Main Street, Napa, 707-226-7821.

There’s always a great new restaurant opening somewhere in Sonoma County, and this year was no exception. Our 2015 west Wine Country lineup includes Michelin-worthy restaurants, fast-casual pizzerias, a vegetarian drive-thru, barbecue spots galore, and even a neo-Jewish/Korean spot. Here are our favorites for 2015.

~VALETTE~: There’s a reason why people spend hundreds of dollars for a meal; to delight every sense, one at a time. Valette delivers on that promise by showcasing the best local products, well-studied technique, and creative execution. A gathering spot for the who’s who of Healdsburg, this upscale-yet-approachable restaurant is the namesake of chef Dustin Valette, a longtime Charlie Palmer/Dry Creek Kitchen toque. Dishes are elaborate and carefully thought out to include a mix of textures, flavors, colors, and culinary intrigue, so prepared for plenty of surprises. The best bet is to immerse yourself in the chef’s “Trust Me” tasting menu—a guided tour through four (or more) dishes on the menu. At $15 per course, you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Dinner nightly starting at 5:30pm, lunch Fri-Sat 11:30am-2pm. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0946.

~AMY’S DRIVE THRU~: This healthy fast-food alternative created by Andy and Rachel Berliner of frozen-food giant Amy’s Kitchen is focused on an all-vegetarian (and vegan- and gluten-free-friendly) menu. But that doesn’t mean your junk food cravings won’t be satisfied. Go for double-stack veggie burgers, chili cheese fries, milk shakes, burritos, pizza, and salads that are a whole lot better for you than traditional fast food. ”This is food that even though it’s meatless, you don’t miss the meat,” said Rachel Berliner. The (literally) million-dollar question: where and when will they expand? Judging by the still-lengthy lines at the drive-thru, fans are coming back for more, and more, and more. More restaurants are in the works, but no word on exactly when. 58 Golf Course Dr. West, Rohnert Park. Daily 10am-10pm.

~SANTA ROSA SEAFOOD/RAW BAR~: For seafood in Sonoma County, it’s hard to beat this boat-to-table restaurant. An expansion of Santa Rosa Seafood’s retail shop, this casual cafe serves up destination-worthy fish tacos, fish and chips, and tuna ceviche along with more upscale classic seafood dishes like seafood cioppino, petrale sole piccata, grilled swordfish, and North Beach-style linguine with clams. This is the kind of fresh seafood you wish you could find at the coast, but rarely do. Prepare to be hooked at first bite. Lunch and dinner Wed-Sun. 946 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-579-2085.

~BIRD AND THE BOTTLE~: Popular Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark’s newest venture, Bird and the Bottle, is a marriage of East and West brought together by fire and schmaltz. Here, dishes like smoked black cod schmear and chicken skin cracklings fried in schmaltz with Nashville hot sauce commingle with congee-style cheese grits, mac and cheese, or buttermilk fried chicken. It’s a menu that not everyone gets, but the strange mash-up somehow works, with bold flavors and risky dishes that still have the rib-sticking comfort that the Starks’ restaurants are known for. A great cocktail lineup and $1.5-million interior make it a favorite meet-up spot. Sun-Thu 11:30am-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm.1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000.

~HAZEL~: Two blisteringly hot wood-fired ovens are the muscle at Jim and Michele Wimborough’s Occidental restaurant, Hazel. Left there by the previous occupant (longtime French restaurant Bistro des Copains), the ovens are being pressed into service for everything from housemade sourdough loaves to whole braised branzino, perfectly cooked pizzas, and every so often, pastry chef Michele’s chocolate chip cookies. Already being hailed as a new West County classic, the couple have quickly endeared themselves to the community with a mix of Mediterranean and California cuisines. Great weekend brunches too. Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. 3782 Bohemian Hwy, Occidental, 707-874-6003.

~BISTRO 100~: Local, comfort classics with a French twist are the signature of this cozy Petaluma bistro. Here, everyone knows everyone or, if they don’t, they will soon. The bistro tables lend themselves to casual conversation and your neighbor’s knowing nod of approval as your lusty plate of short ribs arrives. Most of the food (and wine) is sourced from within 20 miles or less, giving diners a true taste of the local area’s bounty. Best bets include mushroom and truffled bruschetta cream canapés and Sonoma County terrine, and cabernet-braised short ribs. Tue-Sun lunch 11:30am-3:30pm, happy hour 3:30pm-6:30 pm, dinner from 5pm-close. 140 2nd St., Suite 100, Petaluma, 707-981-8228.

~DICK BLOMSTERS KOREAN DINER~: Follow your nose to this funky Korean pop-up, where kimchee and KFC (Korean Fried Crack) are served up along with Kobe beef hot dogs (with pickled daikon and kimchee aioli, natch) and short rib mac and cheese. The sign goes up at 5pm, outside Don Taylor’s Omelette Express, after the pancakes and burgers are put away for the day. There are plenty of kid-friendly dishes that make this an experience for the whole family, along with fried PB&J with Pop Rocks for late-night diners. Wed-Sun 5pm-10pm.112 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-869-8006.

The Barbecue Crew of KINSmoke, Terry’s Southern BBQ, Sauced, Rossi’s 1906, Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse, and Juicy Pig: The new Sonoma aroma might just be wood smoke and brisket. This year, barbecue restaurants popped up like gophers on a golf course. It seemed like every time I turned around another chef had spent a month in Austin, Texas, learning the secrets of barbecue masters, and was now touting his secret sauce and philosophical approach to brisket.

With its “nondenominational” approach to barbecue, ~KINSMOKE~ tops our list, featuring everything from St. Louis-style pork ribs and Texas links to Alabama white sauce, Carolina mustard sauce, and Texas brisket. With a serious approach to sides, they’re the all-around spot to get your ‘cue on. Be forewarned that when the brisket or ribs are gone for the day, they’re gone. Lunch and dinner daily. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440.

The return of ~TERRY’S SOUTHERN BARBECUE~ is cause for celebration among its many fans for fall-off-the-bone ribs, hush puppies, catfish and Momma’s Boss Sauce, and sweet peach cobbler. 5979 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park, no phone.

~SAUCED~ has the unicorn of West Coast barbecue, burnt ends, along with a monster-sized sweet potato with pulled pork, bacon, sour cream, chives, and pretty much the kitchen sink of other goodies. 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 707-410-4410.

Glen Ellen Star chef Ari Weiswasser spent nearly a month in Austin learning the fine art of barbecue and has brought that back to Sonoma’s ~ROSSI’S 1906 BBQ SMOKEHOUSE AND DANCEHALL~ with a brand-new menu. Working with owner Max Young, they’re calling it “Texas barbecue in a California context,” featuring dishes like brisket and oysters. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, 707-343-0044.

Newest to the lineup is Texas-style barbecue spot ~COCHON VOLANT~, where chef Rob Larman serves up ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder sliced by the pound. 18350 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-509-5480.

~BASILICO CUCINA ITALIANA~: Just opened in Santa Rosa, this trattoria is the second from the owners of the critically acclaimed Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma. Fresh pastas and real-deal Northern Italian entrees that go well beyond the usual spaghetti and meatballs fare. 4776 Sonoma Highway, Santa Rosa, 707-539-0260.

The nearly 100-year-old ~TWIN OAKS TAVERN~ in Penngrove, a favorite of ranchers and honky-tonkers, has been purchased by HopMonk Tavern owner Dean Biersch. Don’t expect another Hopmonk (there are HopMonks in Sebastopol, Novato, and Sonoma), because plans are to simply do a remodel and update, keeping the same honky-tonk vibe and iconic neon sign, just with better food and 16 taps. The bar closes in January for the remodel and will reopen in the spring with a new dance floor and kitchen and an expanded patio.

Doing some baking this weekend? We’ve got seven years of amazing holiday cookie recipes! This year’s BiteClub Holiday Cookie Contest is over, and the winner is…Jo’s Lemon Snowflake Cookie Recipe. We just loved the bright lemony flavors at the time of year when citrus is in season, and we’re also a bit “chocolated” out. This year brought a plethora of great new recipes, including the much-debated Salted Caramel Apple cookie (which some judges thought should win this year’s top prize), fudgy chocolate crinkle cookies, a really stellar sugar cookie recipe, and several others.

the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
Dec 11, 2015

This Season's Holiday Cookbooks by Pete Mulvihill

Another holiday season is upon us, and another rich bounty of cookbooks has sprung from Bay Area cooks. Sure, there are many other worthy food books out there (Spuntino, The Nordic Cookbook, Pop Chart Lab’s A Visual Guide to Drink, etc.). But the Bay Area’s intersection of ingredients and culture is always compelling, and we’re all about local, so here are some temptations for the food lover in your life.

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.

Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel

Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel

Heidi Swanson

Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson is the best of both worlds: vegetarian recipes inspired by NorCal and its market offerings, plus food inspired by Heidi’s travels in Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India. The book is gorgeous enough to perpetually be left on your counter, and most recipes don’t require trips to speciality markets. That said, Near and Far will have the home cook stretching boundaries and trying new ingredients and combinations, like the Quinoa Blini, the Lilikoi Curd, or the Vaghareli Makai. It’s not quite as user-friendly as her Super Natural Every Day for the less adventurous home cook, but it is full of delectable recipes. And at $30 (Ten Speed Press), it leaves some cash for odd spices.

Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

Dominique Crenn

Another book sprouting from an intersection of cultures comes from Brittany-born Dominique Crenn, the first woman in the United States to receive two Michelin stars. Her Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste is a big leap up the ladder of sophistication and artistry, and it’s probably more aspirational for many home cooks than practical—one recipe,”Birth,” goes on for seven pages. But it’s beautiful and thorough and oozing with love and appreciation. So for the true pro or aspirant on your list, this $50 book (from Houghton Mifflin) is the professional choice.

The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook

The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook

Danny Bowien, Chris Ying

For a quirkier food book, check out The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook by Danny Bowien and Chris Ying. If ever there were an adventurous fusion experiment, this is it, and I don’t only mean the food. The book is really a mash-up of narrative, interviews, sharp photography, and recipes from the Korean-influenced fusion pop-up in a Chinese restaurant in a Latino neighborhood. The food is creative and relatively doable for the home cook, and ingredients are easy to come by around these parts. Think Taiwanese Eggplant and Clams, Sichuan Green Peppercorn Salsa Verde, or Salt Cod Fried Rice. It’s $34.99 (from Anthony Bourdain Books).

This Is Camino

This Is Camino

Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain

From across the bay comes This Is Camino by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain. I’ll let the LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold sell you on this one:

“Russell Moore is the ninja of California live-fire cooking…Camino, which he runs with his wife Allison Hopelain, is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. But when you read this book, what emerges is the soul of a principled cook…This Is Camino is easily the most important chef’s book to come out of the Bay Area since Judy Rodgers’s Zuni Cafe Cookbook almost 15 years ago.”

It’s from (local!) Ten Speed Press and it’s $35.

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

J. Kenji López-Alt

Finally, for the nerdy cook—and our pick for Cookbook of the Year—check out The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt. You may recognize Kenji’s name from his kitchen science columns on Serious Eats. Regardless, this giant tome (more than 900 pages) houses the results of thousands of trial and error experiments, and even reading just a few pages will make you a better cook. From knife skills to perfecting fajitas, this book is extremely practical, very well illustrated, and offers straightforward recipes for a wide variety of food. He even answers questions I wouldn’t think to ask: should I add oil to my pasta water? The book, from Norton, is $49.95, but the bang for your buck is excellent.

I hope your season is merry and full of good food. Please put your money where your mouth is this season and shop local first. Thanks for reading!

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All content © 2015 tablehopper, LLC. I am more than happy if you want to link to my reviews and content elsewhere (thanks, glad you dig it), but republishing any part of them in any way, shape or form is strictly prohibited until we talk first. Please take a look at my Creative Commons license for more detail.