Happy New Year greetings, my fellow passengers on the Ark! I hope you’re faring well in this week of unprecedented, Biblical-level storms. Businesses have been dealing with leaks and power outages and flooding all over the Bay, and it was awful to see all the New Year’s Eve damage to businesses down in the old Mission Creek area around 14th and Folsom, a notorious area for flooding. The footage was unbelievable. Parklets just floating away, and rivers running down the streets and flowing into businesses. Poor Izakaya Rintaro, Pink Onion (reopening Friday), Stable Cafe, Standard Deviant (back open), The Wooden Nickel, The Rite Spot, and others—most are still closed. But it’s uplifting to see the community rallying to help Rintaro with their GoFundMe, which just exceeded their fundraising goal. You really should read the fundraiser note to see the extent of the damage they are dealing with, and what a scary situation it was.
We’re experiencing weather we have no frame of reference for, and we don’t quite know what it’s capable of, so please err on the side of caution right now (it’s not the time to drive in the park or go for a walk near trees), be prepared (it has been a good exercise for me to check my flashlights, lantern, and candle supply), and look out for others. I’ve been posting a bunch of storm-related updates in my Instagram Stories, if you want to follow along. Looks like the next wave of yuck is rolling in on Saturday, so now’s the time to go get some fresh crab and support your neighborhood restaurants and bars.
It’s a helluva way to start 2023, but here we go! My ending to 2022 was pretty lousy—I tested positive for Covid a few days before Christmas, which was some really special timing, that. Covid is the Grinch! At least I had my adorable cuddly cat, a freezer full of soup, and a tray of lasagna from Il Casaro to keep me company. Fortunately, it was a MUCH milder case this time, whew—shout-out to that booster I had in November (did you get yours?). Much love and empathy to everyone who is illing right now.
I managed to recuperate in time to have an epic New Year’s Eve celebration with friends—partying on the patio at Chambers, and staying overnight at the Phoenix Hotel was the move. Their staff was so hospitable and fun, and the updated rooms are cute. There’s nothing quite like an inaugural dip in their heated pool on New Year’s Day, and being able to stroll into Chambers for brunch was just so easy (bless). File this away for a future staycation idea when they’re hosting a party on the patio.
I want to thank all of you who bought a Hopper Holiday Gift Bag—it was such a pleasure to see your posts and get your notes about what you were enjoying! Huge thanks to everyone involved, from the local businesses who made such tasty treats to the amazing volunteers who helped me assemble them, and to La Cocina Municipal Marketplace for being our wonderful pick-up partner! Also, shout-out to my sis, who helped deliver bags on the second day when I was out of commission, ugh. Such a good elf.
It ends up I printed some extra tablehopper pizza totes for my fellow weird pizza box lovers. Enjoy your delicious moments! You can order a tablehopper tote here—they have long handles and a gusseted base and are built for schlepping! I look forward to seeing them out in the wild.
So, as any longtime tablehopper reader knows, the beginning of the year is when I release my annual “the bore” piece listing ten things I don’t want to see in the new year. Since 2007, I’ve been bitching about items like sawdusty macarons, bone broth, rectangular plates, and cold Tolix metal chairs, although I took the last two years off to write something positive during the pandemic. Things are still a struggle out there, and this week is particularly rough, so this year’s bore is more of a PSA than a rant.
As you may have noticed, I’m taking things a bit slow at this particular moment—I obviously wasn’t in a rush to send this on Tuesday. (Oh hey, it’s Thursday.) It’s such a weird week, we’re all trying to keep things dialed down. I’m also taking a break on doing any reporting this week—I’m working on a big-ass, exciting project this month and need to conserve all my time and energy. I was in the Covid bunker, and now I’m in the project bunker. More on all this sooooon!
I’m grateful for this new year—I’m optimistic about many things, and I hope you are, too. 2022 was a rough one, up to the very end. I was heading out to New Year’s Eve festivities when a friend shared the horrific news that our city’s beloved barman Ilya Romanov had died in a fall the night before. I was so shocked and struck with immediate, immense grief. Ilya was full of so much light and charisma and kindness, it seemed impossible…. It was too utterly awful. I had just seen him a couple weeks ago at his industry holiday party at Bar Iris, hosting everyone with his cheeky style and that impish grin.
My heart has been heavy—he was such a talent, and one of our city’s brightest stars. I loved his cocktails at Niku (and seeing him at The Beehive), and was so happy for him when he became the bar manager at Bar Iris and could run his own living room there. He was a consummate host and everything you want in a barman. He made such sophisticated and unique cocktails, so chic. He also photographed them beautifully. He was always kind, and warm, and funny. Vivacious. His spirit was so shiny. He took such good care of people, and always looked out for others.
The industry and his many customers and fans are devastated to be mourning this tremendous loss—look at all the comments on these Instagram posts and you see so much love. It just doesn’t make any sense to have him taken away like this. 33 years young. We all have made slightly risky choices and had close calls in our lives, so it’s difficult to comprehend and accept how he could accidentally slip off the roof to his death. I know we’re struggling to wrap our heads around it, the how and why of this brutal happening.
Our hearts are with his family, his friends, his colleagues, and the many people who adored him. There is a fundraiser for his three-year-old son, Ezra, and his former wife, Maya, to help show them support during this terrible time. We are all so fortunate that we knew Ilya and were inspired by him and how he moved through this world—may we try to embody and share his many good qualities in his honor. Even as we grieve, his sparkle lives on in our hearts. I raise my glass high.
Take good care, everyone. Be safe, be kind.
Ringing in 2023 with wishes for abundance, good health, and joy to all. Photo: © tablehopper.com.View tablehopper Newsletter from Thursday, Jan 5 2023