March 2013

March 26, 2013

The Pied Piper mural, soon to be returned to The Pied Piper Bar & Grill. Photo: ©

Well, I sure am glad this column isn’t filled with a rant about the sudden removal of the beloved Maxfield Parrish Pied Piper of Hamelin mural in the Palace Hotel, which was slated to be sold at auction at Christie’s in a couple of months. Nope, the outcry by the public was so great over the removal of the iconic mural that it’s going to be restored and then returned to the hotel (hopefully back up above the bar where it belongs and has been since 1909). Cheers to everyone who signed the petition and got hopping mad. I was truly in a snit over the whole thing. Now, I’m just relieved that greed did not prevail. Score a point for the sentimentalists who care about our fair city and her many jewels.

For those of you celebrating Passover, Happy Pesach to you—and you officially have me craving matzo ball soup. If you celebrate Easter, here are some options for you, plus some Easter treats you should hunt down. Remember some places close for the holiday, so double-check before heading somewhere.

I can’t believe I’m missing Easter with my family, but it’s for a damn good reason: I leave for New Zealand on Thursday! Yeah, I’m beyond busy trying to get ready for my departure—and there’s nothing like having to clean your apartment before a trip for your house sitter, can you feel me? The tablehopper column will be taking a break until Friday April 12th, so please don’t pitch me about any events happening before then, thanks!

If you want to keep up with trip highlights, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where I will assuredly be posting a bunch of pics the next two weeks.

Big thanks to everyone who came to hear my presentation at the Chocolate Salon on Sunday about San Francisco’s best chocolate desserts. It was kind of torturous to be talking about all these amazing desserts while showing pictures of them, without having any of them in front of us. I created a list of all the chocolate desserts I talked about; chocoholics, step right this way!

Don’t forget, this weekend is the Food and Farm Film Fest: there are still some tickets available for some of the movies, like The Last Shepherd and don’t miss the classic Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, which will be introduced by Alice Waters (one of the stars of the film!).

Okay friends, I am off to start packing and get my act together. See you on April 12th!

Marcia Gagliardi

March 22, 2013

The stunning cheese plate at ChocolateLab. Photo: ©

Happy spring, fabulous people. Boy am I feeling it—although I am sorry for the folks on the East Coast currently freezing their heinies off. What I can’t believe is that in one week I’m going to be in New Zealand’s late summer weather. With one look at my pale legs, those Kiwis will know I’m not from there.

Did you go to Taste of the Nation last night? Holy cow, was that an amazing turnout of chef and bartending talent. A lot of folks really brought their A game. (You can see a few of my Instagram pics here.) Big thanks and kudos go out to everyone who participated in this fantastic fundraiser to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. After watching A Place at the Table (you have watched it, right?), it made me appreciate last night’s abundance even more—we are all so lucky lucky lucky.

Speaking of lucky, today I have a fun sugar mama ticket giveaway for you to the WLX Soirée, along with a review of M.Y. China (maybe it will inspire you to check it out for brunch this weekend), a Checking Lists piece from Alan Goldfarb about corkage (a topic that is always worth discussion), and a 707 scout on Wine Country happenings from Heather Irwin. It’s a wonder I got this thing out today—had a serious tech meltdown for the past three hours. Where’s my DRINK?

Oh, and this week on 7x7, I posted a roundup of the newest bakeries (and tasty baked goods) to join our local scene—yeah, things are smelling really good around here. Mmmm, buttery goodness.

Enjoy the sunny weekend, and if you are coming to the Chocolate Salon on Sunday, my talk about the city’s best chocolate desserts is at 2:30pm. Do come by and say hi! There’s also the Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, always a good time.

Marcia Gagliardi

March 19, 2013

Friday night dinner at Cassava: English spring pea and mint velouté. Photo: ©

Hello, clouds. So much for riding my bike to dinner tonight. And then on Wednesday evening I’ll be taking the train down to San Carlos for a winemaker dinner with Lucio Gomiero of Vignalta at Limone. Oh, and Thursday is Taste of the Nation, with a fabulous lineup of chefs and talent. See you there?

So, on Sunday, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Chocolate Salon at 2:30pm on the best chocolate desserts in San Francisco. Just to be sure I am not missing any (and boy, my list is already pretty long), I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email me your favorite chocolate dessert in San Francisco at I’ll randomly draw two winners, each winning a pair of tickets to the Chocolate Salon. The deadline to enter is a fast one: please email me by 11:59am on Wednesday March 20th (yup, that’s tomorrow afternoon). Good luck!

Do you have your Passover plans lined up? And this week, we have some Easter treats for you too.

Congrats to all the James Beard Foundation Awards finalists (check out the list here, and some very funny commentary from SFist here). The winners will be announced on Monday May 6th.

Oh, and who can resist a feisty interview with Thomas Keller? Enjoy.

Marcia Gagliardi

March 15, 2013

A parade of Pfendler Vineyards wine and dishes at Hakkasan. Photo: ©

Buon giorno. I just have a few tidbits today for you—I have been drowning in deadlines, and things are beginning to heat up around here with just two weeks until I leave for my trip to New Zealand. (Can’t. Wait.)

Earlier this week, I was invited to a wine dinner with Pfendler Vineyards in one of Hakkasan’s gorgeous private dining rooms (the one we dined in features an enormous lazy Susan made of marble). I was happy to discover how well Pfendler’s chardonnays (especially the 2009) paired with the fried dim sum (like the XO scallop puff and crispy prawn dumpling), and our table was busy tasting and pairing the three pinot noirs with the parade of saucy dishes that followed (I could drink the 2011 pinot noir with the pipa duck all night). Many thanks to Kimberly Pfendler and winemaker Greg Bjornstad for hosting—this was my first time tasting wines from the Petaluma Gap, and I really enjoyed the acidity in the wines.

So we have lots of happenings this weekend: there’s the New Taste Marketplace (check it out below in the chatterbox), Satellite Republic and Liholiho Yacht Club are each popping up, and oh yeah, Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun out there.

A few more items to keep you busy: here’s a recent list of must-eat dishes in SF that I contributed to on Blackboard Eats, and I also have my monthly roundup of five new restaurants to try on

Happy eatin’ and drinkin’!
Marcia Gagliardi

March 12, 2013

Flav-o-rama: Laksa with hand-pulled noodles by Azalina’s Malaysian. Photo: ©

Hola. How was your weekend? Mine was pretty en fuego, starting with the Hard Water preview party (details are in today’s column) and then Festa della Donna at A16 on Friday night. The restaurant was packed with lovely ladies (and the men and women who love them). Was such a pleasure to turn my friend on to Occhipinti wines, and we adored guest chef Maria Sinskey’s stuffed guinea hen breast with olive oil-roasted potatoes, and for dessert, the fluffiest Marsala zabaglione with citrus supremes.

After sweating the wine headache off at boot camp Saturday morning, I headed to a friend’s house to learn how to make egg-filled arepas (they are as delicious as they sound) and empanadas. And drink his homemade beer. Daytime drinking, always dangerous.

Sunday was all about the Russ & Daughters brunch at the JCC, which I had on my calendar since the day it was announced. All you have to do is mention that there will be sable in the vicinity, and I will come running. We also got to savor their Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, pickled herring, whitefish and baked salmon salad, and kippered salmon (and babka, and rugelach) while listening to Mark Russ Federman talk about his amazing family history with Joyce Goldstein. Can’t wait to crack his brand-new book, Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built.

Sunday evening, I took a much-needed bike ride to Wise Sons for the last pop-up dinner in a series by Azalina’s Malaysian. Fortunately my friend was game to order everything on the menu with me, from the superlative laksa with hand-pulled noodles to the mamak beef rendang with coconut rice (duuude). We also went for the chai banana fritters with durian ice cream for dessert. You want to know what’s horrible? Burping durian ice cream while on a long bike ride home. Oh dear lord. That mistake is never to be repeated. My bad!

Wanted to wish a big congrats to all the local chefs nominated for Food & Wine’s annual People’s Best New Chef. You have through March 18th to vote for your favorite. Our nearby picks include Matthew Accarrino (SPQR), Kim Alter (Haven, Oakland), Thomas McNaughton (Flour + Water), and Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table). Please take a moment to vote and support our local talent!

Lastly, any of you who know me know that I am completely sandwich obsessed (this is what happens when your family has delis in its history—my parents had one, and my aunties too). Which is why I bring you a Citysearch guide of my favorite places for sandwiches in SF. You ready to do some damage?

Have fun out there—tomorrow is shaping up to be even more gorgeous. We are so spoiled.
Marcia Gagliardi

March 8, 2013

Part of Diego Rivera’s mural at The City Club, “The Allegory of California.” Photo: ©

Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s a salute to all the women who do so much to make this world a smarter, kinder, better, and more beautiful place. “Festa della Donna” is one of my favorite memories from when I lived in Italy, the streets filled with yellow mimosa, women carrying bouquets of it in their hands, and sprigs in their hair. Fortunately A16 keeps this tradition alive stateside—am so looking forward to this evening, with the room filled with guest female winemakers, a guest chef, guest cheesemaker, and happy, feasting women. If you can’t celebrate tonight, A16 will be pouring exclusively women-produced wines by the glass for the month of March. Cheers!

More female powah: This week, I was happy to attend the annual EWIP (Exceptional Women in Publishing) Women’s Leadership Conference, which celebrated its 15th year. Always exciting and inspiring. (And holding it at The City Club meant I got to enjoy a viewing of Diego Rivera’s extraordinary mural, which always makes me weak in my knees.)

Guess who was a featured guest on The Travel Channel Wednesday night? I was talking about El Farolito on a new show about late-night dining, Feed the Beast (the segment is online). No comment on the host calling our fair city “San Fran” or the show’s writers getting their super burrito history facts wrong. (Ahem.)

A few more links for you: Here’s this week’s “You Gotta Eat This” segment on KGO Radio about the Manhattan milkshake (and more) at The Corner Store.

In case you’re looking for something new and fun to do around food, consider taking one of the many culinary tours offered in the Bay Area. Here’s my piece on about four kinds of culinary tours you can take.

Oh, and since a bunch of folks are at SXSW (South by Southwest), here’s a link to my Austin piece on where to eat and drink. It may be a few years old, but is still full of good picks! Oh, and if anyone brings me any fluffy flour tortillas back from Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop in East Austin (an easy pit stop for breakfast tacos on the way to the airport, I highly recommend it!), I will be your slave.

Best wishes to Alice Waters and the entire Chez Panisse crew, reeling from the terribly unfortunate early morning fire that damaged the front of the beloved restaurant. Here’s to getting back on their feet soon.

Enjoy the weekend—and today’s wino and 707 scout pieces. Cheers.
Marcia Gagliardi

March 5, 2013

Chocolate egg cream at Shorty Goldstein’s. Photo: ©

Howdy amigos. I can’t believe the ONE night I get invited to go out on a friend’s boat to watch the launch of The Bay Lights, and we are getting rain. It’s been bone-dry and of course it has to rain tonight. So. Lame. Guess I’m going to have to catch the lights on another night, unless I find a place indoors to watch the show. If anyone would like to have me join them in their room at the Hotel Vitale or Mandarin Oriental, let me know—I can bring some Champagne. (Wait, that sounds really wrong. I am not a swinger, for the record.)

Speaking of the Mandarin Oriental, I really enjoyed the Jing Tea seminar I attended on Saturday—this die-hard espresso drinker is now partaking in Jing’s jasmine pearl tea in the afternoon. Who knew? (Sidebar: if you want to experience one of the best facials of your life, be sure to check in to the Mandarin Oriental spa—talk about blissing out. Dry winter skin, be gone!)

And now, let’s swing over to the completely opposite side of the life spectrum. The most memorable part of my weekend was seeing the premiere of A Place at the Table on Friday evening. It’s about hunger, and America’s food deserts, and the staggering fact that 50 million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The film is so powerful, and distressing, and one that every single American needs to see. You can see it in theaters, or even download it on iTunes. I vowed to speak about the film to everyone I came in contact with over the weekend, and here I am, telling you about it now. Please consider taking some time away from your usual midweek TV viewing and watching this important documentary, now. Trust, it made me look at my Sunday farmers’ market, which is just two blocks from my front door, in a whole new (and very appreciative) light. Hell, my whole overindulgent life got a massive reality check.

To encourage people to spread the word about the film, I am going to do another giveaway. I still have an extra pair of tickets to give away to the upcoming Taste of the Nation event on March 21st, a benefit for Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry efforts. All you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to five friends or more and add a note about watching A Place at the Table. Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Friday March 8th at 11:59pm. I’ll notify the winner on Saturday. Good luck! And thanks for spreading the word. Seriously. Big thanks.

In gratitude,
Marcia Gagliardi

March 1, 2013

Pappardelle and ragù from Mattarello. Photo: ©

And…it’s March 1st. Yup, the calendar is showing zero signs of slowing the eff down. Which means my upcoming trip to New Zealand at the end of the month will be here before I know it. Since it will be my first time to that gorgeous country, I’d like to heartily welcome any and all recommendations for food, wineries, beaches, and bars! I’ll be starting my nine-day voyage in Auckland and am still working out my itinerary from there. Release the recos! (Thanks in advance.)

What’s on tap for the weekend? Maybe a tea tasting at the Mandarin Oriental? Watching the just-released A Place at the Table? Checking out the brand-new Juhu Beach Club (open tonight), or swinging by Azalina’s Malaysian pop-up this Sunday? Saying farewell to Betelnut? Grabbing a hoagie for the first time this Saturday at 1058 Hoagie? I will be doing a fair number of those things, oh yesiree.

One thing I am really fired up for is the opening ceremony of the Bay Lights next Tuesday evening! Here’s my piece for on where to watch the lights fire up while having a bite (unless you’re lucky enough to know someone with a boat—then that’s the way to go, obviously).

Enjoy the weekend!

Marcia Gagliardi

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