table of contents   This week's tablehopper: Italians do it better.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I swear, this weekend was a total blow-up! It was such a blast to be invited on "Dining Around" on Saturday, hosted by the original Queen o' Scoop, GraceAnn Walden, who was sitting in for Gene Burns. (I should have the audio file posted soon for those of you who didn't get a chance to tune in to KGO.) You can sign up for her newsletter, "GAWgram," for her monthly restaurant reviews and news about her gourmet walking tours (she's doing a deal right now, Christmas in July, for her North Beach tour—you can get two tour certificates for $160, instead of $140, and use them anytime).

And speaking of North Beach, helllllllo, that neighborhood was on fire on Sunday. Mamma mia! I actually had a mustachioed policeman get very cranky with me for honking my Alfa's horn while I was cruising down Columbus—he was all ready to give me a ticket! I swear, what is up with this town? God forbid we show any excitement! But back to the most important thing: what a game! Victory is so sweet, but especially so after taking 24 long, painful, arduous years to bring that cup back to Italy's hands.

Viva Italia!!!

the chatterbox

JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Those of you who tuned in to the Dining Around show on Saturday heard my announcement that ~supperclub~ now has a new Executive Chef, Jon Stevens, who just started this week. He is replacing the opening chef, Jerry McGinnis, who has chosen to step down, move on, and pursue various other culinary opportunities. Stevens was the Chef de Cuisine at Aurora Maison de Cuisine, reputed as being the finest restaurant in Dallas, Texas, plus Chef de Cuisine for the Mercury at Willow Bend, and was also head chef at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley, along with some stints at Jardinière (Chef de Partie), MECCA (sous), and alongside Chef Sylvain Portay at The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. supperclub has also hired Jean-Gabriel Ferrandon as Sous Chef, who spent three years working with Alain Ducasse and at La Tour de Argent in Paris before relocating to San Francisco.

After speaking with Alex Lustberg, one of the partners of supperclub (the other partner is Tad Glauthier), he expressed how excited they are about having Stevens on board, and are firmly focused on their goal of fine-tuning the food to elevate it to another level. We talked a bit about the dinner service and how it can sometimes run a bit long—he told me how they have tightened up the Sunday night and mid-week service so it's a slightly quicker pace than during Thursday-Saturday, when people like to hang out more. (Good to note for those of you who would like to go on a Wednesday, but don't want to have a leisurely five-course dinner that extends until 11pm.) supperclub's one-year anniversary is this September, but they are celebrating early with a new state-of-the-art sound system, a custom-designed EAW sound system, the first of its kind, designed to provide an unsurpassed auditory experience, specifically designed to optimize dinner lounge music.

Lustberg also mentioned supperclub's expansion plans to L.A. and New York. In L.A., they will be taking over the historic Vogue Theater in Hollywood (it's been empty for ten years), near Musso and Frank's and the Hollywood and Vine intersection—he said they are now beginning the stage of "permitting gymnastics," and plan to open in a year or so. The same designers, Concrete Architectural Associates of Amsterdam, will be designing the restaurant, which will feature a larger lounge than the SF location. In New York, they are hoping to finalize the deal on a space in the Meatpacking District on West 14th Street, with a roof deck! The plan is to create a network of supperclubs, where their cutting-edge ideas about performance, food, and art can be traded freely, a nationwide salon of talent.

This is one major bummer piece of news—one of my top ten favorite restaurants is sadly leaving us: last week I got a call from the GM of ~WINTERLAND~ telling me their last day of business is this Saturday, the 15th. They've been open since March of '05, and it's a shame more people didn't experience the restaurant this past year—Chef Vernon Morales turned out some of the most interesting, savory, fragrant, textured, and unique cuisine in the city. It was a total chef's restaurant—you'd always see at least one person in the industry dining or drinking in there. I went in for my last meal at the bar last week: I had to bid farewell to the poached egg app. Oh, and the French toast dessert. (I also managed to munch on some shisito peppers and tripe too.) So get yourself in there this week so you can experience it before it's all sadly over. Such a shame—the owner, Georges Yazbek, is so kind—thank you Georges for trying! Morales is going to take a break for a little bit—we'll see where he lands (hopefully somewhere in the 415). Pastry chef extraordinaire Boris Portnoy scooted over to Campton Place a couple months ago—I'm eating at CP this week, and looking forward to seeing what he's up to. Thanks Winterland for trying to do something different—you were greatly appreciated by a number of gourmands in this town.

There's also been a BIG change-up at ~MECCA~ (or as I like to affectionately refer to it, Armageddon, because of a night of one too many martinis at the bar with a friend of mine—we were beyond wrecked). But we're not here to discuss my bad martini habits—the real news is MECCA has a new Executive Chef (and partner), Randy Lewis, who is replacing Sergio Santiago. And based on what I read on Restaurant Girl, looks like they will have a new kitchen staff as well since the entire staff walked out last week. Drama! Randy Lewis was most recently the Executive Chef/Culinary Director for The Kendall Jackson Wine Group estates, and was also voted by Food & Wine Magazine as one of ten "Best New Chefs" in America in 2001 while in New Orleans at the restaurant Indigo. Some of you Aspen-goers might have seen him last month at the Food and Wine Classic where he was a judge. MECCA should have Lewis's entirely new menu in place come August, highlighting his "fresh and fun, global and seasonal" cooking. Sounds about right to me.

~SCALA'S~ closed for a major remodel on July 4, and will reopen on August 5. ~BIX~ is also closed right now for some repairs and maintenance until July 12.

This is some lovely news: the Chef de Cuisine of Rue Saint Jacques and Côté Sud, ~ERIC LANVERT~, is back in the kitchen full time after not one but two heart attacks, and a quintuple bypass surgery. Jeez Louise. So glad he's doing better! Wish him all the best—maybe on Bastille Day this coming Friday: Rue St. Jacques is adding a special menu for $57 (does not include tax or tip), featuring frogs legs, foie gras terrine, half a Maine lobster, and dessert. How's that for Frenchy luxury? 1098 Jackson St. @ Taylor, 776-2002. (See, I didn't make a single comment about Italy gloriously beating the French—oh, wait, I just did.)

fresh meat

Outstanding in the Field image

Outstanding in the Field
various locations

(all inclusive)

JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So in honor of Italy's world domination, it only seems fitting to write about (the aptly-named) event ~OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD~, a wonderful series of dinners prepared by local chefs (using locally produced ingredients) that are hosted at farms and other outdoorsy settings in Northern California. The meal I had a couple weeks ago was so special, and unique, that I'm writing this up now so you will consider looking at the calendar and booking a spot at one of the upcoming dinners in July, or October… Don't tarry.

After being fog-banked in SF for most of the weekend (July here is always so special) my friend and I hit the road for Petaluma, where we happily put the top down on the car and were greeted with warm afternoon sun and lazy summer light. That afternoon we were visiting David Retsky's farm, County Line Harvest Farm, known for his organic specialty lettuces, chicories, arugula, and a variety of other veggies, like radishes, squash, and zucchini (plus squash blossoms) and even strawberries. Restaurants like A16, Delfina, and the Nice Ventures group buy from County Line, in addition to Greenleaf, who supplies a variety of produce to restaurants and businesses all over the city. Have you ever seen Greenleaf’s weekly newsletter? It's great to read and see what's really fresh/what you should look for when you're at the farmer's market: you can check it out and sign up here.

Outstanding in the Field dinners are held at a variety of locations, from Santa Cruz to Point Reyes Station, and draw anywhere from 80-100 guests. We had a nice chance to mingle with fellow diners under the shade of trees while drinking a buttery 2004 Estate Chardonnay from Alfaro Family Vineyards in Santa Cruz. The affable (and I'm just gonna put this out there: dashingly handsome and drat, also very married) Retsky gave us a tour of his fields, telling us about his crops and the (hard yet rewarding) life of running a farm, letting us nibble lettuces and strawberries and arugula at each stopping point. Interestingly, we learned they only pick lettuce early in the morning (or the evening if they need to), because once the sun is out, the leaves become bitter in the heat and sunlight. We also learned about the battle with ever-encroaching weeds (his farm is organic) and the manpower it takes to keep the weeds at bay. Work, work, work.

We wound our way up the hill, past some squawky chickens to the long table set under a smattering of white canvas umbrellas. Nate Appleman, the evening's guest chef and the Executive Chef of A16, was hard at work at the outside grill. My pal and I were thrilled to find a couple seats next to A16's Shelley Lindgren and her husband Greg, and A16's other partner, Victoria Libin (who is an utter wealth of food knowledge) and her husband Paul. Gourmand Patrol on high alert. Then began the cavalcade of the most delightful meal I've had in some time—certainly one of the most memorable ones. I haven't had a meal prepared with such fresh and quality ingredients since my last visit to southern Italy, seriously.

The rustic family-style meal started with grilled Drake's Bay oysters (this starter was such a particular NorCal pleasure), and then Nate destroyed me with his salad of the most tender Little Gem lettuces, crunchy and peppery radishes, hard-boiled farm eggs, and rabbit kidney, with a plucky whole grain mustard vinaigrette. The yolks of the eggs were such a deep yellow, so flavorful—truly rich. (The bunny kidneys were courtesy of Mark Pasternak of Devil's Gulch Ranch.) Perfect pairing with the 2005 Alfaro Family Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir. I was longing for the salad as soon as I had cleared my plate. I remain wistful.

It was followed with a second salad of thinly sliced zucchini with squash blossoms, tangled with candy-like cherry tomatoes, mint, and a generous cavalcade of fresh ricotta from Bellwether Farms. I was slipping deeper and deeper into a reverie for Italy, and it wasn’t just because the dish was green, white, and red. It's amazing what getting an hour out of town will do, with summer sun on your shoulders, dust on your shoes, and a plate of lovingly grown and prepared vegetables in front of you, as you're surrounded with charming company. I seriously recommend all you city mice get into a country mouse groove and sign up for one of these dinners. It was so utterly grounding.

It was Nate's 27th birthday that day, and he was preparing a meal like it was our birthday. I can't even begin to express the joy of nibbling on (actually, that's too dainty a word—how about animalistically attacking?) succulent rabbit hot off the grill and tossed with peppery arugula, followed by the plump coils of savory rabbit and liver sausage on skewers (totally Itey-style). As the evening started to descend, the Outstanding in the Field helpers placed small votives on the tables, and we wound the evening down with a summer's kiss of plump raspberries, strawberries, sweet honeydew melon and creamy Cowgirl Creamery cottage cheese, with a hearty drizzle of wildflower honey from the delightful folks at Marshall's Farm in Sonoma (I can't believe the portion of their almond blossom honey I put on my plain yogurt each morning—it's like the devil controls my hand).

The evening chill crept up quickly, the tables were clearing and the chairs were getting folded, so we slowly ambled our way down the hill thoughtfully lit with small lanterns, breathing in the fresh evening air. I returned to the city so restored—it was like I'd been away all weekend, and it was only five hours. Dinners like this make you renew your commitment to using fresh ingredients, and supporting the local farmers and purveyors who work so hard to bring such remarkable produce and products to our markets, our restaurants, our tables, our bellies. Thank you.

Coming up:

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

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


XYZ image

181 Third St.
Cross: Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94103


JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay boozehounds: did you know ~XYZ RESTAURANT~ at the W hotel in SoMa has a pretty fab wine list? And now through the end of August (until August 31), you can have anything off the entire wine list at 50% off? You can enjoy Chef Paul Piscopo's Cali-inspired menu, with vinos like Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2002, regularly $128, and during July and August, only $64, or Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Pinot Noir, Santenay, 1er Cru, "Clos Tavannes," Burgundy, France 2003, regularly $96, only $48.

If you can't quite pony up for a full dinner, you might want to check out the XYZ Bar's Sip & Splurge night on Wednesdays instead, pairing high-end wines by the glass with complimentary indulgent canapés. Meow.

Terms: Lunch and dinner only, and the offer is only good in XYZ restaurant—not valid in W cafe, or the XYZ bar. All guests must order from XYZ restaurant menu. Cannot be combined with any other offer, and does not include wine to go.

the socialite


A Sustainable Seafood Salon & Feast
Sunday, July 23, 2006

Panel Discussion (only)

Sustainable Feast at Hayes Street Grill (only)

Panel Discussion and Sustainable Feast


JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Fish friends: Slow Food Russian River has a ~SLOW FOOD SEAFOOD SALON~ coming up: "Making–and Savoring–Smarter Seafood Choices/Everyday Practices to Support Good, Clean and Fair Fishing," designed to draw public attention to the increasingly urgent issues facing seafood resources and addressing how consumers can make seafood choices that sustain the biodiversity, and culinary treasures, found in our local waters.

Here's the schedule for the day:

Part I: Panel Discussion at the Ferry Building
One Ferry Building, 2nd Floor

Join a panel of seafood industry experts and stakeholders in discussing how we can contribute to creating a world in which our oceans' ecosystems are evolving and producing in a truly sustainable manner. Guests will enjoy samples of sustainable seafood creations presented by San Francisco's Hayes Street Grill, Bodega Bay's Seaweed Café and Healdsburg's Barndiva Restaurant, and wines from Organic Vintners.

The Panel
Patricia Unterman, co-owner, Hayes Street Grill; restaurant critic, chef, and food writer
Tom Worthington: Co-founder and partner, Monterey Fish Market
Sheila Bowman: Outreach Coordinator, Seafood Watch.
Steve Fitz: Local, sustainable sand dab fisherman from Half Moon Bay
Zeke Grader: Executive Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA)

Part II: A Sustainable Feast and Fundraiser celebrating our local sustainable seafood hosted by Hayes Street Grill and Slow Food Russian River
320 Hayes Street (between Gough and Franklin)

Hayes Street Grill chefs, led by Patricia Unterman and Rob Zaborny, will present a dinner showcasing local Bay Area sustainable seafood, strategically paired with organic wines from Organic Vintners. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit Slow Food USA's RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) programs in support of sustainable seafood initiatives.


A "Night in Tuscany" Wine Dinner
July 25, 2006

Hotel Adagio
550 Geary St.
Cross: Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


Reception 6:30pm
Dinner 7pm

$95 per person
not inclusive of tax or gratuity

JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO The co-executive chef chaps at ~CORTEZ~, Louis Maldonado and Seth Bowden, will be hosting a five-course tasting menu paired with wines from Tuscany through Sienna Imports/Romano Chietti. Dishes include a warmed medley of heirloom tomatoes with shaved and marinated artichokes, toasted ciabatta, Parmesan and crescenza cheese; a nest of fettuccine with ragout of veal, caramelized cauliflower and baby spinach; a duet of roasted rabbit loin and "sous vide" leg meat with rosemary, brown butter potato puree and "uvetta sultanina;" and Painted Hills farm-roasted rib eye served with salsa verde, porcini marmalade and confit of cipollini onion. Salud!

the socialite

JULY 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO It's rocker week! Vince Neal (Motley Crew) and wifey and pals were in Le Colonial. There was reportedly a fair amount of plastic surgery represented at the table. Also, Dean Winters from TV's "Rescue Me" and HBO's Oz was spotted.

And then, dude, The Scorpions dined at Asia De Cuba on the 4th of July. Seems they were having a good time, no mention of a Blackout (ha ha). The fab Lauryn Hill was also spotted at The Clift Hotel last week, and Method Man was at the Redwood Room.

The original odd couple, James Carville and Mary Matalin, were recently dining at A16. According to my "starlet stringer," "he seemed very personable and chatted up the Asst. Manager quite a bit, while Ms. Matalin sat quietly throughout the evening with a purse-lipped smile (or was that a smirk?), saying very little. It seemed clear that he enjoyed the evening and the food much more than she did." There you have it: Democrats have more fun!

And at Town Hall, mister celebrity chef Todd English was seen dining in the main room. I wonder if he ordered Faith's Cheese Toast? I should hope so.