table of contents   This week's tablehopper: how SF got its groove back.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
it's about time we met
the socialite


JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Attention boozehounds: yours truly has an article about international hangover food cures that came out in last Wednesday's SF Bay Guardian for the Bars and Clubs insert. You can also read a copy of it online, but for some reason there's a bunch of wonky formatting in it, like tildes in the word jalapeño become ugly currency symbols. Oh well. I know some of you like your cocktails (sometimes too much) so hopefully my dedicated research can help save you some bleary Sunday morning after partying like the rockstar you are. You can thank me later.

Speaking of parties, tablehopper readers get a discount at the upcoming San Francisco Magazine Best of the Bay party—check it out in the socialite. I'll also be moderating a cool event next Monday evening called "Food In the City" for SPUR at the City Club. More about it in the socialite as well.

See you at the bar! Any bar. (You're buying, right?)

the chatterbox

JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So check out what's going on in the Presidio, and it's not just a Yoda fountain—hopefully this December the ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ will be opening its doors, courtesy of Ray and Shawn Tang, formerly of the popular Mariposa in Windsor. The menu is going to feature American classics (think steak, chops, and oysters) with a twist. Since Ray formerly worked at Boulevard and Postrio, you know it's going to be a good twist, not a bad one when you're like, "Huh? Who said shitakes and fresh crab was a good idea?" It's a beautiful historic century-old building (Building 563), just inside the Lyon Street gate and across from Lucasfilm. It's going to be a pretty simple and open structure, with a ton of windows. The architect is Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Designs (Slanted Door). There will be a mix of booths, tables and every restaurateur's new favorite addition, a communal table. There will be approximately 100 seats, with 18 at the bar and 50 on the patio. Yes, you read that correctly—there will be a very cool outdoor patio for dining and special events! And bless, a full bar, which will certainly help contribute to the Tangs' vision of the space having a convivial, warm, and unpretentious vibe with a hint of nostalgia, whether you're there for a cocktail or a full-on killer meal. Presidio Social Club will be open seven days a week, serving lunch through dinner continuously. Did you get a chance to see the cool logo on their site? The graphic designer is Mucca Design out of NYC (who recently won a James Beard award for outstanding restaurant graphics).

Soon, there will be a place opening in the Haight that I am rather excited about. (Yes, there is booze involved.) The vacant Maroc space (next to the Red Vic) will soon be the home of ~THE ALEMBIC~, a bar/restaurant concept from Dave McLean, who opened the Magnolia Pub down the street almost nine years ago. While Magnolia is more focused on artisanal beer brewing, this new venue is taking things one step further and will offer a means to highlight the burgeoning micro-distilling scene, with an emphasis on American products and whiskies. (An alembic is the original distilling apparatus that dates back to Persia from 800 or so, and some small-batch distillers use one to this day.) Here in the Bay Area we have Hangar One, and Old Potrero, and 209 Gin, but McLean has been busy sourcing artisan distillers (or large distillers who are doing single-cask releases) from Kentucky to Tennessee to Mexico (there will be a small but well-chosen number of tequilas "in the casa"). There will also be some single malts, small-batch Irish whiskies, and of course some Magnolia beer on tap (along with some bottled Belgians, and sakes too). Tasting flights will be offered and designed to educate while you sample.

To accompany all these fine liquors will be some creative food that's a departure from the pub-style cuisine at Magnolia. McLean has brought on Eddie Blyden, formerly of Sneaky Tiki and 21st Amendment, to craft an American menu of small plates. Incidentally, as of this Monday Blyden has taken over both Magnolia's kitchen full-time and the upcoming Alembic's since the prior chef, Sam Kimerling, has departed. Blyden also worked at the White Dog Café in Philly, which shares a similar "Chez Panisse" vision of sustainability/eating locally and organically. (It's also a philosophy that's important to McLean.) The menu is in development, but there's a possibility that Fatted Calf will be providing some of the charcuterie, yum.

They plan open in late July (optimistically), and the 40-seat space will have room for 20 at the bar/drink rail. Kom Siksamat of The Wooden Duck is doing a custom bar top out of the original bleachers from Kezar Stadium—you'll even be able to see some of the old row numbers burned into it. (Wooden Duck is also doing the drink rail, plus tabletops and chairs from beautiful reclaimed Douglas Fir wood.) The floors are reclaimed wood from an old barn in Pennsylvania that was torn down, and there will be a tin ceiling, with walls painted in mustard. It's designed to feel historically rich and authentic, with a turn-of-the-century vibe that's comfortable and a place where you can linger. Dinner to start, with some plans for lunch down the road. Dinner nightly, 4pm-12am, and the bar open until 2am. 1725 Haight St. between Cole and Shrader.

The ~PATIO AT AMERICANO~ at the Hotel Vitale is truly a force of nature. I was driving by (okay, speeding by) on the Embarcadero last week around 7pm, and I couldn't believe the explosion of blue shirts (you know, THE blue shirt) and skirted lasses on the outdoor patio. Like, whoa. It was like hook-up central. So after a recent renovation, the patio now has more seating, two outdoor bars, patio speakers, heat lamps, and a patio "enoteca" menu with about 15 easy-to-manage bites like risotto croquettes, carpaccio breadsticks, and pork polpette (meatballs) with tomato sauce. There are even some reserved tables with bottle service for you executive types.

Pascal Rigo's latest ~BOULANGE~ opened on Columbus today in the old Sophie's Crepes space. 543 Columbus Ave.

I got a call from ~SCOTT HOWARD~ about the changes he's making at his namesake restaurant—he's completely redoing the menu and wants to steer people away from the preconception that it's a special occasion-only/fine dining restaurant. Lunch was discontinued, and the vibe of the place should be changing, featuring a menu with lower prices, and it will be more reminiscent of the style of cooking he was previously doing at Fork. I say great—I like his cooking and what he does with ingredients, so perhaps now the much-maligned placemats will make more sense. I'll report soon on a dinner there!

fresh meat

NOPA burger

25 Mason St.
Cross: Turk/Market
San Francisco, CA 94102


Dinner Mon-Sat 5pm-12am
Bar until 2am

Apps $5.50-$9
Entrées $9.50-$18.50
Sides $4
Desserts $5

JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I've lived in San Francisco since 1994 (and yes, my favorite sound system will always be the one that was at Townsend). I remember restaurants back then that used to feel authentically hip and even a touch handmade, maybe not the slickest but definitely cool and fun in their own crafty little way. Miss Pearl's Jam House was always a good time with their poolside gospel brunches (did you know Joey Altman used to cook there?). Everyone went to Firefly for a date. Lulu's was so hot. Slow Club was so cool. Ditto for Universal Café. Cypress Club was like returning to the womb—I loved getting tipsy at that bar. And no, we are not going to forget the forever-missed Flying Saucer that sadly zipped away to another galaxy. And really, would anyone ever create a bar like Noc Noc now?

So when my pal and I were dining at ~farmerbrown~ this past week, we were definitely grooving on a feeling we haven't had for some time. It smacked of real SF cool, the way it did "back in the day" before the detour of dot-bomb. No slick Miami/L.A. imported style, no LED, no Kartell chairs, no "sun kissed" house music. I gotta say, it just felt relaxed. It was evening cool, without a "scene" of chicks (still) baring their midriffs, no pushy guys. The vibe was energetic, the lights were dim, with folks cocktailing and B-Love the DJ was playing tight hitz from the glory days of hip hop, tossing in some soul, and then a blues band came on for a bit. Like, good blues. Huh. Yeah, cool.

Perhaps one of the most compelling things I noticed was the crowd. This is what was so refreshing: it had probably one of the most diverse crowds I've seen in some time. From the hip sistahs at the bar to the enclave of gay boys tucked into a corner table to a hot Indian couple sharing some fried chicken… like, wow. We really can all hang out together. More of that, please.

The man behind SF's latest outpost of authentic cool is Jay Foster, formerly of Blue Jay Café and Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, along with Deanna Sison and Gwen Ledet. He and some of his staff did everything in the space by hand, and I mean everything, from the panels of galvanized steel they oxidized on their friend's roof for four months, to the bistro chairs they refinished by hand, to the floor that is actually made of plywood stained a deep oxblood color and then covered in layers of polyurethane and cut into tiles, to the lights above the bar made out of burlap and suspended from the grass green ceiling. (I believe the cracked windows were already there. They are initially a little visually arresting, but it works.) There are rivets and bevels and copper, and booths upholstered in toothy corduroy. Groovy art on the wall from their pal, Keba Konte. Everywhere you look there's a little personal touch of something. (Except the bathroom. I think the bathroom was totally forgotten. I felt like I had walked into the bathroom of a random Thai restaurant in the avenues somewhere.) Even the carafe of water that arrives with mint and lime inside is partnered with Mason jars to drink out of. Details details. I liked the tea towels instead of napkins as well. Homey.

Foster is really committed to supporting local and African American farmers, and using organic/sustainable/biodynamic ingredients whenever he can. We grazed through some apps, like the thick apple-cut style wedges of Kennebec fries ($4.50) that came with a tart green garlic aioli, and the gumbo of the day (a.q./$6), which that night featured chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage and a mound of rice plunked in the middle. It has a nice rich flavor, but needed to be served a touch warmer. Loved the fiery hot jalapeño and vinegar sauce that came on the side. Hoo-weee. Hotsie totsie. (Sidebar: the gumbo is served until the bar closes at 2am.)

Also tried the wedge salad ($6.50), which would be spot-on if a heavier hand was pouring the delicious Point Reyes blue cheese dressing on top, and if it was served ice cold on an even colder plate. I dug the extra touch of thinly sliced radish on the side. There are some other apps, like an old-school baked crab imperial ($9), and I had a taste of the poached prawn with roasted jalapeño cocktail sauce ($8)—I'll be back for more of that. Totally refreshing. Besides the three salads offered, fries, or most of the sides, vegetarians will also be able to tuck into the vegetable jambalaya ($11).

Didn't make it to the po' boy of the day (cornmeal-fried catfish with remoulade)—gonna save that for a late night, or a happy hour. Of course we tried the Fulton Valley fried chicken ($12.50), which was so juicy (yes, even the breast meat) and sported a "like grandma would make it" crunchy crust. Yeah, fried chicken you can almost feel good about eating–it's free range and without any hormones or antibiotics for crissakes. I was way into the delicate coleslaw made with cucumber, cream and sour cream. One of the few coleslaws I ever wanted seconds of. Nibbled on the home-style mac 'n' cheese, with tiny macaroni that weren't drowning in cream and five kinds of cheese with an artery-clogging crust for a change—it had just the right amount of Tillamook cheddar cheese, simple, done.

The roasted trout ($17) came stuffed with an herby layer with crumbled peanuts inside, topped with a thick-cut piece of smoky bacon which my friend said reminded him of Burning Man when he smelled it. I agree—I eat more bacon out there then any other week of my life. (Okay, I'll stop with the digression right there.) I actually wanted a little more bacon for the other half of the fish, partly because the saltiness helped elevate the flavor of the trout, but it's also partly because my car's license plate should read "BACNLVR". Mister fishka was accompanied with some asparagus and sugar snap peas that were cooked perfectly—just the right amount of crispness. A pungent grilled half of a Meyer lemon to squeeze on the fish was thoughtful.

To do a chicken comparison/extravaganza, we also tried the brick-oven roasted version ($17), which was more of a poussin. Also totally juicy, on a bed of sautéed greens, which were a bit salty, but it made up for the slightly under-salted chicken. With one bite together, it was the perfect balance. I practically stuffed myself on the pecan and cornbread stuffing—it was studded with currants, and with the sweetness of the pecans it somehow reminded me a little bit of a tasty Moroccan couscous—it was a touch exotic. The whole thing was one juicy pile of chicken love. Here's the thing—you're gonna want to bring the rest of that poussin home with you so you can seriously pick it apart. Nothing quite like attacking a chicken carcass in the privacy of your own home. The next day I became such a little animal eating it for lunch that I practically saw fur grow on my hands. Rawr.

The side of pork and beans ($4) were too cloyingly sweet for me, but some folks like 'em that way. But here's what totally made my night: the mile-high wedge of chocolate cake ($5) that arrived for dessert. It was like a Duncan Hines ad. With crème fraîche drizzled on top. Moist. Chocolatey. Purr. When was the last time you had a big ole slice of chocolate cake for dessert? Exactly. (The ubiquitous crème brûlée on every restaurant menu can take a long walk off a short pier in my book, and no, I don't care if it features bergamot or yuzu or any other exotic ingredient infusion. Basta!) The bourbon pecan pie was also a treat because you could really taste the pecans—big hunks of 'em, they weren't all broken into mush. It was almost like eating pecan brittle in a thick flaky crust.

Have you heard about the cocktails they're doing? The watermelon margarita ($7) comes with a rim of cayenne salt, genius. Reminded me of the walk-around bags of melon sprinkled with chili powder I love to eat when I'm in the Mission, or in Mexico. The mint julep ($7) is beginning to pop up more and more on menus around town. Yay for me, since I'm a total bourbon drinker. It's a grown-up mojito. Delish. Almost all of the vodkas are local. They have some house-infused rums and vodkas if you feel like downing a shooter ($4). There's a happy hour Monday–Friday 5pm-7pm, when specialty cocktails, draft beers, and homemade infusions shooters are half off and some apps are available too, so you don't get too hammered.

The wine list features an almost entirely organic line-up of local vinos. Including a luscious '02 Esterlina Cole Ranch Cabernet ($9), from a boutique winery that is African American-owned, one of very few African American-owned wineries in the U.S. Six beers on tap, plus a house-made ginger beer and a hibiscus drink.

So while I wouldn't necessarily bring my great aunt and uncle visiting from Danville to this part of town, I would totally meet a pal for a drink at the bar, or have dinner with friends, or even come for a cool date. The food is ultimately more homey than perfect (and the same can be said for the service), but my friend and I had a really enjoyable evening; our pleasure did not hinge solely on having perfect food—it's about the whole experience.

farmerbrown is not like going to a Range or a Zuni—it offers a different sort of urban dining experience, and it's not just due to its super-gritty address in the Tenderloin. Yeah, you'll get hustled a little on the street (well, I was wearing my gold Studio 54 heels that night) so for those who don't feel like strutting around Turk Street, you can park next door at the Hotel Metropolis and get $2 off the fee, which is something like $10.

I say get some pals together and come check it out for a fun night out, and reaffirm your pledge to be a cool San Franciscan. This place has some real style, some good eats and beats, some nice people, and some serious soul. Oh yeah, and chocolate cake, baby.

Brunch and lunch will be happening in the near future, and starting in July, farmerbrown will be open Sundays nights too.

the socialite

Ferry Building

Food in the City
Young Urbanists/SPUR
Monday, June 26

City Club
155 Sansome St.
Cross: Pine St.

event info

6pm registration
6:30pm program
7:30pm reception

non-SPUR members: $20

RSVP to Cheryl Hageman
or call 415-781-8726 x120

JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Yours truly will be moderating a panel discussing our world-class restaurant scene at a Young Urbanists event through SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) called ~FOOD IN THE CITY~ with the following fab panelists: Laurie Thomas, CEO & Owner, Nice Ventures restaurant group, Rose Pistola, Rose's Cafe, & Terzo; Charles Phan, Executive Chef/Owner, Slanted Door; and Joseph Manzare, Chef/Owner, Globe & Zuppa. Sample cuisine will be provided by Slanted Door, Rose Pistola, The City Club, and Zuppa.

Young Urbanists seeks to attract people 40 and under, who appreciate San Francisco and are interested in deepening their involvement in civic affairs. The program's inaugural year will include a series of four events held at The City Club of San Francisco. The series will provide an opportunity for participants to hear from local leaders in the worlds of arts, culture, business and politics, and as well as provide a networking opportunity with contemporaries.

Presented by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), San Francisco's preeminent public-policy think tank. Through research, analysis, public education, and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government.

Young Urbanist events are open to the public. Non-SPUR members pay $20 at the door or may become a member at a special $55 reduced membership price. Young Urbanists receive complimentary admission to the program series, full SPUR membership privileges (including our monthly newsletter, access to SPUR's library, and free admission to midday forums and monthly receptions with Bay Area civic and community leaders), and special invitations to additional programs throughout the year!

Ferry Building

San Francisco Magazine
Best of the Bay party

Thursday, June 29

Concourse Exhibition Center
635 8th Street at Brannan

VIP 6pm–11pm
Main Event 7pm–11pm

Tickets are $70 for
tablehopper readers

Click for tickets

JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, get ready to party with (and elbow) fellow San Franciscans as you try to nab some hors d'oeuvres from 50 restaurants at the annual San Francisco Magazine's 6th Annual ~BEST OF THE BAY AREA PARTY~. There will be some open bars (Grey Goose, Trumer Pils beer, and wine by Andrew Lane and Virgin) plus live entertainment, spa treats, and yes, a gift bag when you leave. The party benefits Koret Family House, but here's where it benefits tablehopper readers: you get to pay $10 less for main event tickets! Normally $80, you only have to pay $70. This offer expires Monday, June 26 at midnight or when tickets sell out. Just click the special link to the left, or enter promo code: tablehopper. I think the VIP tickets are almost sold out, but here's a link for them for those of you feeling flush—no tablehopper discount for those, however. ($150 advance/$180 at the door.)

Rosetta Costantino

Cooking Classes with Rosetta Costantino
July 28-October 6

At Paulding and Co.
1410-B 62nd St.
Emeryville, CA

Class line-up

JUNE 20, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay fellow Italophiles, ~ROSETTA COSTANTINO~ is back with her fab Southern Italian cooking classes from July through October 2006. You can check the latest schedule on her website to the left. Class size is limited and these puppies fill up quick, so if you want to learn how to make some delicious pastas, I recommend you get on it. Hope her mamma is there—she'll be the Italian grandma you wish you had. (I am lucky enough to have one, so I won't keep her all to myself.)