December 2013

December 20, 2013

Tom and Jerry’s Christmas house on 21st Street, one of my favorite things about San Francisco. Photo: ©

Hey there, hi there, ho ho ho there. I know everyone is crazy busy right now, but I hope you’re taking some time out for a little holiday cheer and QT with friends and family. I love this time of year so much. A few highlights from this week’s holiday gallivanting: Tuesday night, I went to check out Desco in Old Oakland, which has an elegant holiday look right now. The housemade casonsèi stuffed with pork and amaretto crumbs and the pork osso buco are ideal wintertime dishes—ditto the baked paccheri, a deluxe version of Italian mac and cheese with cauliflower and egg, just whoa!

Wednesday was the second year of my unofficial Holiday Spirits Tour, a night that included a visit to the Santas at Brass Tacks, Tom & Jerrys at Elixir, a stop at Tom and Jerry’s Christmas house on 21st Street, a late dinner at Trick Dog (the boneless chicken wings, hell to the yes) and their oh-so-tasty Trick Nog, and a nightcap by the fireplace at the Big 4—had to say farewell (for now). What a blast. Documentation of the evening’s shenanigans can be found on my Instagram page. (A version of last year’s tour can be found here.)

Last night was really memorable: a friend and I went to see The Pianist of Willesden Lane at Berkeley Rep, and I am still reeling from that incredible performance. So moving. Tickets are hard to come by, but if you get a chance to go, don’t miss it. It also meant we got to eat at Ippuku, always such a treat. That place pays true homage to chicken, from the yakitori (so glad our server told us about the chicken neck special) to the broth in the ramen they make (although I didn’t spring the tartare on my dining partner).

We all have a million errands to run, but my article on may be a big help, featuring three places that offer unique delivery options in the city, from a holiday roast to Champagne to gifts from independent SF shops, all brought right to your door! One more: many of you responded to my post on Tuesday about Joanna Karlinsky’s biscuits (thank you!!) but in case you missed it, that’s another thing you can have brought right to you. And chili! Yee haw.

So, this is the last tablehopper I’ll be writing until just after the New Year! I’m going to be taking a break to enjoy some free time to be with my family and work on some personal projects. But before we sign off, we have a roundup for you on where to dine out on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! I’ll be back in your inbox on January 3rd with the bore (heh heh)! (Publicists and restaurant owners, plllllease don’t pitch me on anything unless it’s for January 7th or later, thanks a mil.)

Have a very happy holiday, and for those of you who bought tickets to Top It Off, I’ll see you on Saturday the 28th at Marianne’s, can’t wait! Pop!

This has been such a special year! Sincere thanks and immense gratitude for all the abundance, kindness, generosity, and support.

Marcia Gagliardi
(AKA Champers the elf)

December 17, 2013

How to do brunch right: arancini, salumi, and Rosa frizzante at Ca’Momi in Napa. Photo: ©

Whooooooa Nelly, Christmas Eve is just a week away? This month is flying. Fortunately the weekend is full of holiday parties, and I just booked a night with my wingwoman for my holiday spirits tour (which will include a stop at Brass Tacks, gotta check out all the Santas they put up in honor of the space’s previous incarnation as Marlena’s). Christmas treats are also on my mind (like torrone from Rulli!). Since my elf name is Champers, you know what else is on my docket this week.

Speaking of bubbles, unfortunately I only have four more tickets to release to Top It Off at the moment! First two couples to grab ‘em, get ‘em! I may be able to release a few more tickets in the coming week, follow me on Twitter for updates. Hope to see you there in your holiday finery!

This past weekend, I had a pretty epic 24 hours in Napa. I know, I’m not talking about the Valley, but straight-up Napa. My Friday evening started with a wine class taught by Karen MacNeil at the CIA Wine Studies Annex (held at the former Copia). Nothing like walking into a room with 900 poured glasses of wine. Heady. If you ever have the chance to take one of her classes, do it.

Dinner at the recently opened Torc was merely a couple of minutes away, and it was such a pleasure to be back in the beautiful Ubuntu space. The place was hopping. Chef-owner Sean O’Toole is totally rocking some great flavors on this menu—he borrows from an international pantry, with the can’t-miss sweet potato pakoras keeping company with his unique pasta dishes (like housemade bucatini in a wild boar ragù with cocoa and hit of lime), and a stellar roasted chicken for two that took a trip all over Asia. Desserts by Elizabeth Gentry will rock your world (don’t hold back here). I’ll be writing about this one more soon, but I will say I had a twinge of jealousy we don’t have this restaurant in SF.

And then we were off for a deep sleep in one of the comfy Andaz Napa beds (the glass of Marolo chamomile grappa I had across the street at Oenotri also helped). Brunch the next day was at Ca’Momi, an authentic Italian enoteca in the Oxbow Public Market. I have never had a sit-down meal there, just grabbing their bignè (cream puffs) on the run. Well, brunch turned into a full-on pranzo with the owner, Dario De Conti, who stuffed us with arancini, salumi, a piadina stuffed with radicchio, prosciutto cotto, and creamy stracchino, two pasta plates, a pizza, and wood-fired baby back ribs. Mamma mia. And I didn’t even tell you about dessert. We also tasted his wines throughout—his Rosa frizzante was a great place to start. Details in a recap soon! This place rocked.

And you know what else? You rock!

Have a great week, see you Friday.


December 13, 2013

My favorite dish this week: Arctic char tartare at Salt House (handily doing double duty as a wreath). Photo: ©

Bonjour, friends. I am fired up that today is Friday, which means I’m punching out early to head up to Napa for a wine class with Karen MacNeil at the CIA Wine Studies Annex (at the former Copia) this evening. So glad boss of me gave me the blessing to leave early, whew.

What’s on tap for your weekend? Well, a few options for you to consider include checking out the brand-new La Nebbia, which had its soft opening last night. Mmmm, lasagne. And just in case you had Great China in Berkeley on your hit list, they are officially opening in their new location on Monday December 16th. I know, just a few more days! Excited.

If you’d like a reminder of a few other new places, here’s my segment from KRON4 last Saturday on new hot spots that have opened up in San Francisco and the 510 (including Alta CA, Merigan, Iyasare, and Penrose!).

A bunch of folks will be taking part in Santacon tomorrow, others will be doing their best to avoid it (raises hand). But while you’re out and about this weekend, you’re gonna need some holiday fuel, which is why my list of where to get the best holiday baked goods should come in handy. I’m talking panettone, Linzer cookies, eggnog ice cream, and bûche de Noël, babies! (Many of these artisan items also make great host gifts in case you want to bring something special to a partay this weekend. Panettone, always welcomed.) If you want holiday boozy fuel, you need to head to my holiday spirits Mosey instead.

More on the gift front: today my tablehopper-curated gift set launched on the SixDoors app, which is full of fab goods from local shops and artisans. (Of course some tablehopper T-shirts are in there too.) Here’s the best part: anything you order on SixDoors can be delivered in the same day! Pretty sweet. Download the app and check out my set, Gifts for the Stylish Gourmand. And here’s how you can enter to win $100 to spend on my gift set or any of the other awesome curated goods on there (just take a look at the “Holiday Shop” tab in the app)! Read more about the 12 Days of Giveaways sweepstakes and in today’s sugar mama! Good luck!

Okay, it’s time for me to get packed and hop in the Fiat. Meep meep. Have a swell weekend.
Marcia Gagliardi

December 10, 2013

A stunning “insalata di patate” (potato salad, heh heh) dish at SPQR, with three kinds of potatoes, sturgeon, ikura, and more. Photo: ©

I can’t take credit for today’s title (thanks Steven Oliver!) but we certainly are living it. I’d like to do a shout-out to flannel PJs, my current fave for home office wear (although I have been really embarrassed to receive a couple home deliveries this past week). Whatever, it’s about making it work right now in my insulation-less building that dates back to pre-1906.

One thing that has been going through my mind a lot this week is how people are surviving who are homeless, especially those who choose not to go to shelters, or have to spend a lot of their time outside. I can’t imagine. Which is why I’d like to encourage you in the midst of all your holiday shopping to add one more important person (or more!) on your list: a resident at one of the ECS supportive housing sites. The residents pay for food and rent each month, and often have very little left for basics. Their gift requests are very modest but essential, like a bathrobe, slippers, or sheets. You will be assigned a resident to purchase a simple gift for ($25 and under), and I am willing to bet that gift will hold more meaning than anything else on your gift list. What about that person who’s hard to buy for, or promises you they don’t need anything? A gift for someone in need is the perfect solution.

If you’d like to play Santa and sponsor a resident, please email Mallory Hasick or call 415-487-3300 ext. 1245 by Friday December 13th. You will receive the resident’s first name, housing site, and gift request. Thanks for sharing the holiday spirit!

Today’s newsletter is packed with all kinds of holiday action in it, from a very special event called Top It Off that I’m hosting at the end of December with Louis Roederer Champagne (!), to a hopper gift guide, and some Christmas Eve dinner options too.

Ciao for now!
Marcia Gagliardi

December 6, 2013

The justifiably famed fried chicken at Miss Ollie’s (with seriously incendiary hot sauce on the side). Photo: ©

How are my fellow chilly San Franciscans? Based on all the complaining I am seeing on Twitter, I would say not so great. Well, I say it’s perfect holiday cocktail drinking weather. Hop on over here for my latest Mosey, where I outline a fun holiday spirits tour in the Mission that will help you get your heat on. And yes, it’s tablehopper road tested.

We all know what happens after too many Tom & Jerrys and eggnog: hangovers. Which is why my post for about four brunches you can check out this month should come in handy. Have fun out there. (I certainly had my share of fun last night at the annual Arlequin Champagne tasting—I was in bubbly heaven. The 2002 Pol Roger tasted too damn delicious. And I wish more restaurants listed the Pierre Moncuit rosé—what a perfect food-friendly wine, good for the duration of an entire meal.)

There is so much happening in the East Bay that it inspired a special 510 edition of my weekly Tablehopping column for the San Francisco Bay Guardianclick over for your cheat sheet of what’s new.

And lastly, this weekend I’ll be back on KRON4 with my tablehopper hot list, although this time I’ll be on Sunday at 9:45am. Thanks for watching!

Enjoy the weekend.
Marcia Gagliardi

December 3, 2013

40th birthday oysters and Billecart-Salmon. Photo: ©

Welcome back from your holiday weekend. How wonderful to have a couple of extra days off, I swear. Am currently enjoying a huge batch of jook I made with our leftover turkey, a simple and warm dish I will enjoy this week as the temperatures drop. Brrrrr.

So December is here (seriously, how the hell did THAT happen) and it’s time for some holiday cheer. I had fun as a guest of KRON4’s Vicki Liviakis in this special Dine and Dish holiday episode—I mention downtown places where you can grab a festive drink while shopping, plus holiday teas, and who is serving a seven fishes dinner for Christmas Eve this year (always one of my favorite meals of the year).

Just a little reminder: This week Quince is celebrating 10 years with a bunch of very special anniversary dinners from now until December 10th. There are available spots here and there; check out the amazing lineup of guest chefs here. I had a phenomenal meal there last week, and tried the new Quince tasting menu—the option to taste wine director Chris Baggetta’s wine pairings blind is a lot of fun, I recommend it.

Today, the culinary world has a heavy heart with the knowledge that our beloved Judy Rodgers, chef-partner of Zuni Café, has tragically left us. She was only 57 years old, and had been suffering from a rare form of cancer. I was discussing with a friend last night, as Alice is to Berkeley, Judy was to San Francisco. She gave us perhaps our most quintessentially San Franciscan restaurant, one that continues to bring us so much pleasure. A touchstone of quality, and style, and soul. Simplicity done right.

When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I made sure I was going to be at Zuni at the exact time of my birth, sitting outside in the sun, eating a half-dozen oysters and later some shoestring fries, with a glass of Billecart-Salmon in my hand, the smoky tinge in the air from the brick oven. I was happily by myself, just wanting to properly honor my own little landmark moment. I had so many memories in that space already. Dinners with past loves, drinks with past lovers. Where else would I go but Zuni?

All of us have such indelible memories of eating at Zuni—the silky ricotta gnocchi, the trademark anchovies and celery, the epic Caesar, and of course the famed roasted chicken with the warmed bread salad, a dish many San Franciscans would say would be one of their last if they were leaving the city. I know it’s one of mine. And yes, there’s that burger. Even watching Judy in this video making the Zuni burger with Martha Stewart, she is so full of information and tips. She has influenced so many cooks, and so many diners. Her legacy will live on, but right now, her death is such a terrible loss. Deep condolences to all her family and dear friends and colleagues, to everyone she touched. May they find some comfort in the fact that the gift of her many talents to our city is eternal.

Marcia Gagliardi

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