December 2014

December 30, 2014

Uni pâté at Union Larder. Photo: ©

Brrrr, how you all doing in your chilly Victorian and Edwardian abodes? Well, at least that’s the current state of my apartment, which means flannel pajamas are the attire of choice right now. (So glad my boss is cool with PJ Mondays.)

I hope your holidays have been merry and bright—a visit to Tom and Jerry’s Christmas house on 21st Street is one surefire way to dial the bright part in. I have been eating far too well: my family’s annual Feast of the Seven Fishes somehow managed to get eight in there (because more is more), and you’d think it was New Year’s Eve already with all the Champagne I’ve been drinking. Yaaaaaas.

I’ll be celebrating the New Year in Los Angeles. When you get this email, I’ll hopefully be well over the Grapevine in my little Fiat by then (meep meep). Looking forward to hitting up a bunch of LA spots, it has been too long since I hung out down there. Thanks to everyone for your LA faves and recos you sent in! You da best.

For those of you looking for places to dine on New Year’s Eve, we’ve got you covered. And today’s issue also includes where to eat on New Year’s Day! And a shout-out to yesterday’s sponsor, Flywheel, who is offering $10 cab rides on New Year’s Eve, how ‘bout them apples?

And last but not least, today’s (abridged) issue includes my annual installment of the bore, when I talk a little smack/pour out a little haterade about what’s annoying me in our local culinary scene.

But since I don’t want to end this last missive of 2014 on a cranky note (that’s not my style), I’d like to point you to this video about cultivating chance that my pal Lisa Schiffman recently did for Creative Mornings—I hope it’s inspiring for you as we look to 2015, and everything that it holds! Let’s rock it.

Buon Anno!
Marcia Gagliardi

December 23, 2014

The many wonders of hot cocoa never cease to amaze. (At the Sir Francis Drake for holiday tea with Miss Hannah and her dear mother, Ms. Lisa.) Photo: ©

How’s your last-minute holiday shopping going? Is your eggnog consumption where it should be? Has peppermint been making appearances in your snacks? Have you noshed on any latkes? Have you used “ho ho ho” in a sentence or email? Hopefully you can answer positively to all of the above.

I have been loving my morning breakfast of a Gibraltar and a slice of panettone (this year’s is a sweet beauty, an Amarena cherry version from Rustichella d’Abruzzo, che buona!), and my other mornings have been all about my treasured Laudemio olio nuovo on top of soft-boiled eggs and ripped-up pieces of toasted Josey Baker bread (excellent after a night of too much holiday cheer). ‘Tis the season!

I’m fired up to leave town this afternoon, and fortunately it’s an easy hop to San Mateo, where I’ll be celebrating my dad’s birthday tonight with my fam. Tomorrow is a big day, when we’ll be preparing all the dishes for our family’s annual Feast of the Seven Fishes. Not sure how many people we’re cooking for this year, it’s usually around 25. Bring on the anchovy and bread crumb pasta, my favorite.

This past week was unfortunately filled with too many writing deadlines, mamma mia. Glad those are all done so I can get into a deeper holiday frame of mind over here. Saturday was pretty special though: my dear friend brought her five-year-old daughter up to the city so we could show her what San Francisco’s Union Square holiday show is all about, from the kitties in the window at Macy’s to the Neiman Marcus tree to high tea at the Sir Francis Drake to picking out an ornament at Gump’s. (Next year we’ll take her ice skating.)

I also managed to have some adult eggnog time at Kuleto’s (damn is their eggnog amazing), and went to Naked Kitchen Saturday night for their last dinner of the year with chef Alex Ong. I can’t believe I got to have his beggar’s chicken (with Jinhua ham!). Ahhh, it has been too long. Plus other fab dishes, like his roasted crispy pork belly with the most amazing chile-garlic sauce. I’ll let you know the next time he’s doing a dinner, his food is so fantastic.

Sunday night, sis and I got lucky and bought tickets off her friend for the SF Symphony’s holiday show, featuring Charlie Brown’s Christmas (there are still a couple more nights!). What a sweet show. Oh, Vince Guaraldi, your music always gets me into a sentimental holiday mood.

Today’s column includes a post on where to dine for New Year’s Eve, and I also did this post for on New Year’s Eve dinner deals. I’m not sure when my post for 7x7 about New Year’s Day brunch is going up, but I’ll keep you posted on Twitter and the BookFace. Here’s one more for you: I wrote this piece on the best new 25 restaurants of 2014 for Refinery 29.

Oh, and I’m going to be heading to Los Angeles next week for New Year’s Eve! So excited, it has been tooooo long. If you have any recent recos for dining and drinking, please let me know! On my list: Rustic Canyon, Night + Market Song, Petit Trois, Sqirl, Barrel & Ashes, Alma, Bestia, Eggslut, Sycamore Kitchen, Superba, Faith and Flower, still haven’t checked out Bazaar at SLS, and I’m going to need to get some Koreatown time in there, and daily tacos, of course. I’d appreciate any recos on LA places that are floating your boat!

All righty gang, I’ll have a little missive for you next Tuesday, even though I’m leaving town. Yup, the bore will be in your inboxes! Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, and happy holidays. Peace and love and joy to you all.

Champers, the elf

December 16, 2014

The bar at Devil’s Acre, ready for garnish action. Photo: ©

Okay everyone, let’s pause D’Angelo for a second, and take a peek at what’s going on in the city this week. The first thing I’d love to draw your attention to is that we are in the final hours of the Indiegogo fundraiser for the Bay Guardian to print a final commemorative issue, and to preserve the 48 years of archives. Everything helps, thank you!

Beginnings, endings. Sunday night I swung by The Devil’s Acre in North Beach for the first night of their soft opening (check out our piece in the lush today), and then headed over to the Empress of China for Charles Phoenix’s quirky-fun holiday slideshow and to say farewell to the Empress, which is closing in a couple of weeks, I hear on New Year’s Eve. Sadness.

Back to beginnings: tonight marks the first night of official service for The Progress (you can read my in-depth preview here), which is now taking reservations (release the hounds!).

Today is also the first night of Hanukkah—here’s our post from last week with some “Hanukkah helpers” and happenings for you.

Keep dry, enjoy some eggnog, see you Friday.
Marcia Gagliardi

December 12, 2014

Amazing rainy weather vittles: beef short rib potpie at Huxley. Photo: ©

Man, NorCal got one hell of a bath yesterday. Stormageddon didn’t keep me from going out, though: last night I had some wine and cheese (and meats too) at the new Tender (pssst, it would be a great spot for a first “getting to know you” date) and then headed over next door to the intimate Huxley for a delicious dinner (the beef short rib potpie was exactly what the weather called for). For anyone with rained-out basements, fields, first floors, or floating cars, I hope things turn around quickly for you—there was some crazy water damage out there, man!

One phoenix I am really happy to see rising from the ashes is Manresa, which just announced that they are opening up their reservations book on Monday December 15th after being closed since that horrible fire in July. And how apropos, the first reservations will be for New Year’s Eve. Here’s to a bright 2015 for David Kinch and his talented crew.

Meanwhile, thrilled would be an understatement for what I was feeling when I read this fun post by the fantastic Kate Krader—the restaurant editor of Food & Wine—about the tablehopper-Sosh chef party I hosted last week at Locanda. (We’ll have to make sure she is out here for the next one!)

And since it’s totally eggnog season, here’s a post I wrote up for on some tasty eggnog options around town (including a couple that are egg-free, can you believe it?). Cheers!

Have fun this weekend as the city explodes with holiday parties.
Marcia Gagliardi

December 9, 2014

Lineup at The Progress. A bounty. Photo: ©

While the Bay Area braces for one heck of an impending storm, the past couple of days, I have already had my own kind of whirlwind. On Sunday, what started as an impromptu invitation to view the space of the oh-so-hot and about-to-open The Progress turned into a three-hour in-depth tour, with the opportunity to interview numerous members of the team.

And on Monday, I broke my firm stay-chained-to-my-desk policy (my Tuesday deadline demands it) to photograph the space just hours before they opened their doors for their first friends and family meal. Of course, I wasn’t going to miss an experience like that. I got to witness their lineup with their staff and stay for their first service too—how exciting to be one of the first people to experience their nascent menu in their new, soaring space.

It was one of the most richly colored moments in my career as a restaurant columnist—Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski gave me such an utterly personal and intimate look at their process (and progress), and in quite a vulnerable and thrilling moment: their first service.

So guess who stayed up really late to write about this rare experience? I’m talking 5am. I would have loved the luxury to sit with this piece for a few more days, to tweak and craft it, but there’s nothing quite like a looming deadline to force you to just get the impressions out. Stuart and Nicole entrusted me with an all-access pass to their inspiring new venture, so today’s piece is a deep dive on its many details. The Progress is not something you can just place into a nutshell. A juggernaut demands more than a couple paragraphs.

A profound thanks to associate editor Dana Eastland, who took on the entire rest of the column today—the whole shebang—while I rabbit holed on my Progress report. What a rock star.

I had plans to include a holiday gift guide for you today, but that puppy got moved to Friday. However, I did want to mention that it’s the annual time when you can help bring some holiday cheer to an ECS resident! Although this year they are asking for help in adopting a CHEFS (Conquering Homeless through Employment in Food Services) student and providing a holiday gift, which will mainly be requests for kitchen shoes (clogs, work boots, sneakers—nonslip) or a durable backpack for these culinary students to carry their belongings in. You can contact Mallory Hasick to get a name and exact gift request (you can also call 415-487-3300, ext. 1245). They will need gifts delivered by Friday December 19th if possible. Thanks for helping to take care of others this holiday season!

Okay then, grab your napkin, and let’s get started. Today’s a meaty one.
Marcia Gagliardi

December 5, 2014

Time. For. Spaghetti! At The Family Meal. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography).

Howdy. I’m sure I’m not the only one craving a hot toddy with this wet weather. Yay! I was already at Arlequin Wine Merchant last week stocking up on some holiday bubbles, but last night was my annual (and personal) holiday kickoff, their Champagne tasting event. Forty-five gorgeous Champagnes, from Pol Roger to Philipponnat to Paul Bara (another thing that begins with “p”: purr). If you want to pick up something special to bring to a party, they’ve got you covered. (Pssst, I think one of the best deals I tasted is the Rare Wine Company “Le Mesnil” blanc de blancs grand cru—if you like a richer style—for $45; the Moncuit 2005 was another luxe one, disgorged this year, with seven years on the lees, $62.)

An impromptu feast with friends afterward at Monsieur Benjamin felt so decadent, with an overflowing plateau de fruits de mer, and their stunning quail à la chasseur, and Époisses toast for dessert (don’t forget they just started brunch service!).

If you’re going to be doing some holiday shopping downtown this weekend, here’s my piece on where to eat and drink near Union Square (in case you missed it earlier this week). I also have my monthly post on on five new places to eat at this month. And for SF Travel, I have a roundup on some of the city’s best cheap eats, a post written in conjunction with tablehopper associate editor Dana Eastland. Enjoy.

Marcia Gagliardi

December 2, 2014

An incredible course at SPQR: broccoli and hen of the woods mushrooms, aged Gouda “budino di pane,” and acorn ham. Photo: ©

So how are you all feelin’ out there? A bit like you’re in the Jabba Zone? Yeah, I’m with you. But that long weekend was such a treat—was nice to hang out with my fam, hit the Auto Show with my dad, and enjoy a decadent meal at SPQR with my friend in town from LA. Oh yeah, and the annual truffle brunch with my dear pal Roberta on Sunday was the icing on the cake, er, pumpkin pie. I hope your holiday weekend was lurvely.

December is on, and holiday shindigs are in effect, whether you like it or not. If you are going to be doing some shopping downtown, here is a piece I did for on where to eat and drink near Union Square.

Another piece that should come in handy is my “holiday spirits tour” on Mosey, have fun! (Although you may want to wait for this glorious rain to lighten up since it’s a walking tour.)

I think the news cycle is still on vacation (or in a food coma), so this week’s column is a light one (unlike its founder, ha-ha), and I have a big party I’m co-hosting tonight, so let’s dive in!

Marcia Gagliardi

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