Last Friday, I can’t believe I got to host my dream throwback dinner: a tablehopper vintage Blue Fox dinner at Alfred’s (click for pics)! It was truly a wonderful evening, with guests arriving in all their finery, and the scene at the ALFRED’S bar felt like a night out 60 years ago!
It’s a lovely thing to start the evening with an Alfred’s Junípero gin martini, ahhhhhh, and it was fun to turn so many people on to the pleasure of drinking a Martinez! (The pot-distilled Old Potrero 18th Century whiskey also disappeared quickly, no surprise there.) Many thanks to Anchor Distilling Co. for getting the night started in such high style, and for brand development manager Jen Chen giving us some fascinating backstory on the Martinez!
Once we rounded everyone up in the dining room, it was my pleasure to start sharing some of the deep history and stories of the Blue Fox and Alfred’s—the phone calls I had the past week with former owners of both restaurants gave me so many amazing details! It was lovely to have some guests in the room who remember dining at the Blue Fox, and I was honored to read a firsthand account from chef Suzette Gresham of Acquerello, who sent me the most vivid recollection.
We were so fortunate to have Robert Mondavi Winery’s senior wine educator Dana Andrus in the house—did he have some great stories to share! It was also a treat to be serving reserve wines from such a storied California producer this evening. The pairings were a hit.
The menu was all about featuring some Blue Fox and Alfred’s classics. I did some spelunking through some old books of mine and found some vintage Blue Fox recipes, and chef Bryan Baker was able to integrate the peperoni Don Salvatore in the antipasto plate, plus the scampi alla Livornese and spinach gnocchi (which he added beef sugo to).
The absolute showstopper was the perfectly roasted filet mignon, served with asparagus and red wine demiglace, a gorg pairing with the Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville. I loved seeing the brown butter béarnaise served in some original Blue Fox sterling silver sauceboats on some tables! (Not surprising, we ate every last bite.) We finished the night with a classic: Baked Alaska—a first for many—with Robert Mondavi Winery 2015 Moscato D’Oro, Napa Valley.
It was truly heartwarming to celebrate old San Francisco for a night, with its deep restaurant history and its rich Italian-American heritage. I mean, really, how incredible to be able to share a story about Alfred’s being the last place many soldiers had a steak before shipping off in World War II, and it’s still in business (thanks, Daniel Patterson Group!). There aren’t many restaurants left that have stood the test of time, let alone since 1928.
And the mythic Blue Fox? It was a pinnacle of fine dining and elegance, and the source of so many rich memories for so many people, for decades! I had many more stories to share, especially from some past writers who wrote about the Blue Fox, so look for an upcoming podcast from me! (Great idea, Dapper Diner!)
Thanks to Eric Shifrin for playing vintage standards for us throughout the evening, and a round of applause to the Alfred’s staff and especially GM Lisa Robins for pulling this off! As many of you know, Alfred’s has been closed from a fire in the basement a few weeks ago, and they opened just for this event and let us take over the restaurant for one night! Great news: it looks like Alfred’s will be reopening next Tuesday May 23rd! Follow @alfredssteaks on Instagram for updates. Be sure to come by soon and welcome them back—they will be ready for you!
Deep gratitude for all the guests who came out and supported this event. I can’t host these dinners and experiences if no one shows up, so thank you for helping me keep the spirit of San Francisco burning bright. I also couldn’t do this without the support of generous partners like Anchor Distilling Co. and Robert Mondavi Winery, grazie mille!
The talented Blair Heagerty took many fantastic photos that I think really capture the fun and vintage glamour of the night, enjoy the pics! (Be sure to click through on “black & white” if you want to go into the time machine!)
I look forward to hosting more of these vintage dinners in the future. In the meantime, I will keep sharing pics from my extensive collection of vintage restaurant postcards, matchbooks, menus, books, and more on @tablehopper on Instagram with the hashtag #tablehoppervintageseries. (I know, so modern for something so old.) And you can always get one of my tablehopper vintage SF T-shirts! Until next time! Thanks to all. Cheers!
This is how you start the night: with an Alfred’s Junípero gin martini. All photos by Blair Heagerty Photography.