table of contents   This week's tablehopper: Cozmo, COCO, and vino!

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So I understand a pile of you requested the free CozmoCard restaurant discount cards—way to go, you dining fiends, you. But there are a couple you're gonna want to pull out: both Fresca and Sushi Groove should be yanked out of the deck since they are no longer participating in the promotion. Thought you should know. Feel free to go nuts using the rest of the cards.

There's also a pretty good deal mentioned in the socialite for a new promotion in July. Gotta love those dining deals.

Will I see you at the SF Magazine Best of the Bay party this Thursday? I'll be the one communing with a flute of champagne. And there's a can't-miss event happening Sunday up in Petaluma, called "Outstanding in the Field"--wait 'til you read about it in the socialite!

Ciao chow,

the chatterbox

JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A new spot will be opening soon in the old Long Island Chinese Restaurant in Noe Valley—taking its place will be ~BISTRO 1689~ by July 8 or so, which is looking good because they just passed all their inspections. The 45-seat restaurant is being done up with shades of grey, including the two-tone banquettes and the imported floor tile from Italy. There will be art from local artists displayed on the wall, and a cozy wine bar that will seat four. In fact, the entire restaurant has been completely redone, like, everything is new—it took about six months to do so. The owner is Benny Cheung, whose family has Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong and Thai restaurants in Shanghai, so now he's opening his first in California, a French-California restaurant with chef Scott Drozd at the helm. Drozd previously worked as a dinner chef at Anzu in the Hotel Nikko, plus did some stints in some San Diego restaurants (Catamaran Resort, Parallel 33), Lake Tahoe (PlumpJack Squaw, Moody's Bistro, and Graham's), and New York (Aureole, Gramercy Tavern). He is crafting a technique-driven menu of seasonal and rustic French cuisine with Californian accents that will change nightly. The upscale bistro-style dishes will feature fresh, sustainable, and local ingredients, with meats from Niman Ranch and fish from three trusted sources. Dishes will include sautéed duck breast with roasted figs, pea tendrils with a shallot vinaigrette; and pan-roasted halibut with roasted cherry tomatoes, mussel and garlic confit, and a lemon-basil broth. He's also doing desserts like fresh pear tart with goat cheese and ricotta mousse, topped with thyme streusel, and a drizzle of olive oil and honey with a sprinkling of fleur de sel (I am so gonna try that dessert), or chocolate hazelnut cake with homemade brown sugar ice cream and lemon anglaise. (Entrées will range from $16-$24, and desserts $5-$8.) Dinner will be served nightly from 5:30pm-10pm, and until 10:30pm on Fri-Sat. 1689 Church St. at 29th Street, 415-550-8298.

So here's some unfortunate news: it ends up two thugs came into ~BLOWFISH SUSHI~ Friday night around midnight and robbed it, in addition to firing off three rounds into the floor (one had a handgun, and the other a shotgun). Fortunately everyone is okay (there were reportedly two tables of diners in the restaurant at the time of the robbery), and the poor waitress who was reportedly pistol-whipped is doing okay after some stitches and a visit to the hospital. The staff is understandably shaken up, and the police are investigating the matter. (Please note the link to the Fox Reno piece from the Metroblog story above contains some errors.)

Those nostalgic for baseball might be interested in ~JOE DIMAGGIO'S ITALIAN CHOPHOUSE~ which opened yesterday in the old Fior d'Italia space in North Beach. The space is intended to look like a timeless throwback to the 1930's, but with a Rat-Pack soundtrack (think Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra). The space will be sleek and swanky, with a granite bar top, leather tufted booths in the "North Beach Room," and the "Manhattan Room" will feature steel blue and gray with dark Brazilian cherry hardwood floors. (Yes, there is also a Marilyn Room.) The project comes from Jeff and Rick Dudum (McCovey's and Bing Crosby's restaurants in Walnut Creek), Architecture & Lighting (Le Colonial, Shanghai 1930) and Best-Santos Studio (Bing Crosby's, Sir Francis Drake). The kitchen is headed up by Culinary Director Frank Palmer and Executive Chef Allen Vitti, who will work in tandem to lead the menu creation. D. Michael Bussinger will serve as the Executive Sous Chef. Expect classic dishes with modern flair on the menu like a Sicilian fisherman's stew, rabbit three ways, pizzettas, and aged Midwestern Angus beef steaks and chops—there will also be a focus on using local vendors and sustainable produce. The restaurant will open for cocktails starting at 3pm, and dinner nightly from 5pm-11pm (bar until 1am). Live music seven nights a week (including live piano). 601 Union St. at Stockton St., 415-421-JOED (5633).

~DOSA~ is now open for weekend brunchy-lunches (as of this last Saturday and Sunday) from 11am-3pm! They'll be offering some new dishes, plus a variety of egg dosas and uttapams (including "Egg Poriyal" for the traditionalists), salads, Lillet cocktails, mimosas and pitchers of white sangria soaked in fresh seasonal fruits. Carnivores will dig the South Indian Lamb "Dumm" Biryani cooked under a lid that is sealed with dough to capture all the delicious aromas during the baking process of the Niman Ranch lamb, basmati rice, onions, saffron, ginger and a myriad of other spices—hello. (For those who like to know how to properly say the name of their food when ordering it, "Dumm" is pronounced "dhum" and rhymes with mum.)

fresh meat


500 Brannan St.
Cross: Fourth St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


Apps $4-$8
Salads $6-$12
Small plates $9-$19
Desserts $5.50-$8.50

Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm
Fri 11:30am-11pm
Sat 5:30pm-11pm

JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO NOTE: I struggled whether I should place ~COCO500~ in "fresh meat" since a number of people still haven't checked it out, but then again, it's been open for close to a year, so into "the regular" it goes.

I have to hand it to chef/owner Loretta Keller, it's one of the most successful restaurant reinventions in the city—like a tranny who went from being known for a continual Liza shtick to suddenly rocking it as Beyoncé. It does make me wonder if a few others around town could follow suit (restaurants, not trannies). For those of you who remember the space as Bizou, it's been cutely situated on a corner in SoMa since 1993, filled with cheerful light during the day and offering a somewhat urban view of cars zipping by in the evening. The building itself has always struck me as tres charmant, with little planter boxes under the windows, and it's a cozy size. After the two-month remodel, Keller smartly kept a few Bizou favorites on the menu so she didn't have a riot of her regulars on her hands, but overall the look and vibe of the restaurant couldn't be more different. And the name makes me happy to say it—it sounds racy. Vroom.

The mostly mid-century styled space features a predominance of wood (did you think I was gonna say velvet?), like teak tables that can actually hold a fair amount of the small plates you'll be ordering, comfy and always-sexy Thonet chairs, and a wood-slat divider separating the bar area from the dining room that looks almost sauna-like. Tables are nestled close to each other, very close, but this way you can scope what your neighbors are eating—it's almost impossible to not chat with them at some point. (Maybe that's just me, though. Chatty Patty, here.) The artwork works, there are little flashes of cobalt blue here and there, and the lighting is flattering. It all feels quite clean and urban, and yay, you're not in IKEA.

I've eaten here at least three times over the past year, and I have to say, the food definitely continues to improve. (Prices also seem to have climbed a few ticks here and there.) Service is mostly responsive and always friendly, and the restaurant manages to pack in an interesting and eclectic mix of city folk, from industry peeps dining out on a night off (and swilling the fab organic cocktails, natch) to hip homos to MILFs out on the town who want a somewhat chic place for dinner that is fun but feels more like a restaurant than a bar. Speaking of, I've heard the bar can get going in the early evening with SoMa workers after they punch the clock. But in actuality, it always seems to have a lively vibe, with lots of conversation sometimes punctuated with a little silliness (again, the cocktails).

I send a number of folks here when they have the tricky task of pleasing both carnivores and vegetarians alike, without one or the other getting shortchanged. The small plates menu of seasonal Cal-Mediterranean dishes features a nice smattering of vegetarian options, so I took a veggie pal visiting from L.A. here recently, and she was thrilled. A can't-miss dish is the signature fried green beans ($6). There's a reason they are a signature. You'll get a pile of piping hot green beans fried in a perfectly light batter, with a dipping sauce that can rotate—I've enjoyed dipping them into a kicky aioli, tasty. In past visits I also ordered the COCOmole "tacos" ($4), five petite tortilla chips topped with the famed beef cheeks in a mole sauce and a dollop of avocado puree on top. Little delectables custom-built for popping into your mouth, and for $4, sure, bring it on.

Once you leave the "small starts" section, prices do ramp up (maybe it's COCO500's zippy name that forces the quick acceleration?)—salads clock in around $11, so pay attention if you are on a boo-jay. Do not let the term "small plates" hypnotize you: small plates rarely equate to cheap (dang!) unless you only order a couple. I have tried to reconcile with the spring pea ravioli ($13) twice, but alas, they just don't manage to charm me. Especially since both times they have shown up lukewarm, and this last time, the unheated plate did not help the situation. The actual dough is tender and good, but there's just too much of it for me. Meh. We are through.

But here's where things get wicked tasty: the squash blossom flatbread ($9) is beyond scrumptious. I am craving it now. A thoughtful display of blossoms melted delightfully into the cheese, and the kicker, a drizzle of some truffle oil. Yes, a total cheap-thrill ingredient, but man, does it work. Beautifully blistered cheese and crust. (Are those enough superlatives for you?) Funnily enough, this past week there has been a battle of the COCO500 flatbreads discussed among some local food bloggers —I'll have to come back to meet the contender, the cured salmon pizza ($13).

One advantage to dining with a vegetarian—you eat a lot less, and much more cheaply. Well, we actually blew our cash on cocktails—more on those later. We didn't venture in the "a la plancha" section, which features dishes like roast chicken ($18), or P.E.I. mussels ($11), all cooked on heavy steel with very little fat. A dear friend recently wrote to tell me how he was gettin' all crazy for the beef cheeks ($15) from the "wood oven" section, but asked me to question the cornmeal-y crust they appeared to be deep fried in. I have no answers—I was eating vegetables on this last visit.

Instead, my veggie pal and I ordered up some sides, like gigante white beans ($5) and sweet white corn ($6) from the "california dirt" section. I remember being enthralled with the sweet corn the last few times I visited, but this time it had some shiitake mushrooms nestled in there, whose funky musky flavor really overpowered the corn. It was like a pretty girl on a date with a dirty hippie. The gigantes were a touch mealy, such is the nature of this beastly bean, but the Mediterranean flavors of the Davero olive oil and melted Parmesan cheese on top helped win me over.

Desserts seem to vary, but lately, the Greek yogurt ($5.50) with orange blossom honey has been getting rave reviews, and the night we were there, we had a strawberry "brûlée" ($7) studded with a mound of the most exquisite strawberries I've tasted in ages. Reminded me of little wild berries morphed with my grandma's, which I remember plucking off bushes on her deck (always be a berry benchmark for me).

Overall, as you can see, the food is quite approachable and "safe," so you could even bring pickier eaters here and they'll eat well. (I tend not to dine with picky eaters, but I know they are out there.) The ingredients are all top-notch, so fresh, and quite balanced. If you're looking for groundbreaking food, you might want to head elsewhere. But sometimes you don't need the adventure, and that's when COCO500 is just right. There are touches of rustic indulgence for those craving it (veal marrowbones, beef cheeks, cheese), but overall it's lighter, clean, simple food. It would also be a perf destination for a fun date, a girl's night out (well, maybe about four of you, tops—not the best place for large groups), and I have some pals in the area that dig it for lunch.

Oh, and the cocktails, ba-damn. They're made with organic ingredients, and smaller-production spirits. So, no, they are not cheap. But they are very very good. The mint julep ($9) packed a serious wallop (thank you sir, let's do that again) and the COCO500 ($10) with Thai basil, Kaffir lime vodka, lime, and seltzer is what I'll be craving on the next warm evening. Actually, a number of the cocktails are spot-on for that, as rare as those evenings are. (Sigh.) So the next time you have a first date with a vegetarian or a dinner with some picky pals, you know exactly where to go (and no, it's not hell).

the socialite

Hip Tastes Fiesta

Hip Tastes
Sip Bar Lounge
787 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

Friday, June 30, 2006

Tickets $25 online, $30 at the door
Order here

Hip Tastes website

JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Another non-traditional wino event is coming up from the charming Courtney Cochran of ~HIP TASTES~—this time she's getting all fiesta on us, and pairing wines with bites from Pancho Villa. Considering my pal and I polished off a bottle of Veuve with a couple burritos from Papalote a couple weeks back, I'd say this is a fellow woman who understands the powerful concept of hi-lo. This Friday fellow tasters will be trying:

Chips and Guac with Cantosan Rueda, Annie's Lane Riesling
Pollo Tacos with Michael David Incognito Viognier
Burrito Bites with Marques de Riscal Crianza Rioja
Carne Asada Tacos with Rosemount Diamond Shiraz, Burrell School Vineyards Cabernet Franc

I have also heard rumors of a piñata, a DJ, and Three Amigos being projected. (No, this is not the start of a joke… there's no lady with a poodle).

More on Hip Tastes: Hip Tastes wine tastings are stylish events for adventurous enthusiasts looking to broaden their knowledge of the good stuff. Join other hipsters in search for the real meaning of terroir and other vinous curiosities. No paisley tie-wearing wine auction-attending dilettantes here. Just real people getting to know real wine, one great party at a time. Bottoms up!

Members of the Hip Tastes Wine Club attend for just $10. (Club members, send an email to to RSVP.)

"Dine Out With VISA"

Dine Out With VISA
July 1-31, 2006


JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO For the entire month of July, forty-nine restaurants in San Francisco, including Sausalito, are offering four-course prix-fixe dinner menus at $54.95 (plus tax and gratuity), available exclusively to Visa cardholders paying with a Visa card for the ~DINE OUT WITH VISA~ promotion. A la carte menus are available as well. Some of the spots are quite nice, like frisson (no dining room can make you look foxier), Scott Howard (you can try his new approach!), and Winterland (Have you been yet? You should.).

The complete list of participating restaurants, along with sample menus, restaurant photos and chef biographies, are available at the "Dine Out with VISA" site. The list can be searched by location and cuisine, and you can even make reservations on it.

"Dine Out With VISA"

Outstanding in the Field
Sunday July 9
County Line Harvest Farm


$150, all-inclusive

JUNE 27, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I have wanted to go to one of these for sooooo long—have you heard about the ~OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD~ events? They celebrate local farmers with white-linen dinners set between the soil and the sky surrounded by the fields that produced the bounty for the table. This Sunday will have Nate Appleman of A16 trucking up to Petaluma for this Outstanding in the Field dinner at County Line Harvest Farm. Host farmer David Retsky will show guests around the farm before everyone sits down for a family-style meal at Outstanding's long table in the fields. Nate will prepare the five-course feast on-site in Outstanding's al fresco kitchen. (Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the Slow Food movement, called A16 "the first Italian restaurant I like -- outside of Italy.") Sonoma wines will be poured with each course.

The menu:

  • Grilled oysters with lemon
  • Little gem lettuce, radishes, farm eggs and rabbit kidneys
  • Zucchini and squash blossom salad with sheep’s milk ricotta, cherry tomatoes and mint
  • Grilled Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit and liver sausage with rosemary, savory, garlic, and wild arugula
  • Raspberries and melon with Sonoma wildflower honey and Cowgirl Creamery cottage cheese

This is the second of six OTF dinners in California before the Outstanding crew hits the road for their 3rd cross-country tour. See the schedule for the California Series below.

July 8 – Corralitos, Santa Cruz County
Host farmer: Thomas & Constance Broz, Live Earth Farm, Corralitos, CA
Chef: Justin Severino, The Ol’factory Cafe, Sand City
Wines from Martin Alfaro Winery & Alfaro Family Vineyards

July 16 – Point Reyes Station – West Marin County
Host farmer: David Evans, Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes, CA
Chef: Daniel Long, de Young Museum Café, San Francisco
Wines TBA

July 21 – Half Moon Bay Sea Cove – San Mateo County
Host fisherfolk: Hans & Heidi Haveman, H&H Fish
Chef: Lewis Rossman, Cetrella Bistro & Café, Half Moon Bay, CA
Wines TBA

the socialite

MAY 30, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO 2223 Restaurant had its fair share of characters this week, from Charles Busch from "Die, Mommie, Die!" to Chi Chi La Rue with a group of porn stars (what did you expect, teachers?).

Radiohead, in town for their show, were spotted having lunch at Asia de Cuba.

Thelma Houston was spotted at Teatro ZinZanni—upon clearing her dessert plate, she did not sing "Don't Leave Me This Way."

Okay, and here's a sighting I had with my own damned eyes: after Matthew Barney's "Drawing Restraint'' opening at SFMOMA wrapped up, there was an impromptu after-party at the Stud, where Barney spun on the decks while wifey Bjork hung out in the side room. I KNOW, Bjork, in all her kimono-esque cuteness, at the Stud. Tres cool. But can I tell you? The Nordic-speed metal music Barney decided to hurt everyone's ears with proved too annoying and painful for me to stick around and wait for Bjork to spin. I wasn't the only one clearing the dance floor. I mean, come ON. That dance floor could have gone off, but instead, we all just plugged our ears and craned our necks to sneak a peek at them. I was bored in ten minutes. I will say this—SF needs more parties like this. "Just because" parties. Secret parties. (Just no speed metal.) High-five to the Matmos guys for putting it together, and not even charging a cover. How SF.