table of contents   This week's tablehopper: I heart sandwiches.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO After a few weeks of reporting on high-falutin' dining excursions, I figured it was time we got real and went to lunch. Check out my recent discovery in fresh meat.

Coming up next week: I'll be a judge at an annual Oyster Shuck & Swallow event (see the socialite for more)—I hope it doesn't turn into a scene reminiscent of the pie-eating contest in "Stand By Me" because that would be beyond disturbing, and actually kind of disgusting. I'm a little worried. Please, no one get sick. Maybe I'll have to get drunk at the after-party to forget.

Oh, and tablehopper readers get $10 off at FallFest—read all about it in the socialite.

Also, I know many of you may have already seen this piece on spinach from affable Andy of Mariquita Farm on Pim's blog or the CUESA weekly email, but for those who haven't, you should check it out.

Lastly, here's a call to all you "tip please" users: a LOT of you have not written back about the dining excursions and destinations I have recommended to you. (Ahem.) Trust, I know who you are [insert evil laugh here]. So before I have to bug you for it, could you please just be a champ and write me some feedback about your outing? That would rock.

Okay, and with that, there's a lot of news this week, so let's get crack-a-lacking.


the chatterbox

SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Whoa, big changeup at ~JARDINIÈRE~: this is why I go out practically every night, because you never know what you just might stumble across! Oh, and it's fun to go out. Anyway, while swilling at CAV's first anniversary party, I found out acclaimed Executive Chef ~ROBBIE LEWIS~ has left Jardinière, after almost four years in the kitchen there. He has two kids (one is three and the other just eight months), and it seems daddy needed to be home more. I also hear the theater-crowd cycle can be a bit of a grind, but the chef taking on the job, Craig Patzer, is reportedly extremely skilled and fired up, and has been cooking at Jardinière off and on for about five years. I also found out Lewis has a place of his own in the works, which may be opening by next spring or so—but for now, the word is mum. Of course I'll fill you in, darlings.

A little history lesson for ya: Lewis met Traci Des Jardins in the early nineties while at the CCA, and she offered him a job cooking at Rubicon (she was the opening chef there). He started on the Jardinière opening team in 1997, and after subsequent stints opening at places like Boulevard, The Village Pub, and 42 Degrees, he returned to Jardinière as Executive Chef in 2002. Some of you will also remember in 2005 he cooked with Traci on Iron Chef America, and they beat Mario Batali in a Battle of Shrimp!

Did someone say Iron Chef? SF (and especially Robert Lauriston) will be thrilled with this news: ~CHRIS COSENTINO OF INCANTO~ will be competing in the fourth season of ~IRON CHEF AMERICA~! The shows will be recorded this October, and will air in February, 2007. Cosentino will be duking it out against returning Iron Chef Mario Batali (DUDE!) on the morning of October 6, the very first recording for the season. Judges will include Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") (I really hope he says "fabulous!"), Cady Huffman (Tony Award-winning actress), and one of my personal faves, Jeffrey Steingarten (Vogue food writer and the author of "The Man Who Ate Everything").

Cosentino has wanted to go on Iron Chef since watching the show way back during the bad dubbing days, when he would watch it with fellow cooks, friends, and wifey at a joint in Japantown outfitted with widescreen TVs. Cosentino says, "I'm just gonna cook my ass off and have a good time! It's a ride that will last for one hour, and man, it's gonna be one hell of a ride." Joining Cosentino in the audience will be his wife, son, and Mark Pastore, the owner of Incanto, but I know all of SF will certainly be there in spirit.

Cosentino will also have two local cooks rocking it for him in the kitchen, but he wouldn't reveal who they are. (I actually know who one of them is, but I'm gonna keep my mouth shut.) Now we just have to wait until FEBRUARY to see the darned show! Oh, and one fun detail: while Mario will be hustling around in his orange Crocs, Cosentino's buds at Upper Playground in the Haight will be styling the team with these sweet 35th anniversary adidas kicks. Dang, I want a pair too!

Some changes to report at ~ANZU~, the restaurant in the Hotel Nikko: first, many know Anzu's dinner chef, Scott Drozd, left to cook at a recently opened Noe Valley neighborhood joint, Bistro 1689. And now, after six years, their famed sushi bar chef, Kazuhito Takahashi AKA Takahashi-san, has up and moved to Las Vegas to be with his family. He is intending to take at least six months off to relax (we'll see about that) and will most likely land at one of the million sushi bars over there. Takashashi-san's understudy will be overseeing the sushi bar, and they are underway in their search for a second sushi chef. The sushi bar is temporarily closed for now, but will be reopening shortly, offering more contemporary sushi, and some changes to the décor are happening as well. (You can still order sushi off the dinner menu, and the fish is still being flown in daily from the Japanese markets.) The Executive Chef of Anzu, Philippe Striffeler, is introducing some "freestyle Asian" dishes and specials to the formerly more traditional menu—supposedly the slow-cooked and tea-smoked duck (a whole half-duck) is succulent and sublime.

This is cool: the new-ish chef/owner of brunch steady ~ELLA'S~, Matt Skov, will be serving dinner as of Wednesday, October 4th. The affordable dinner options (under the supervision of Ella's new dinner chef, Bradley Sekulich, who has been a cook and sous at places around town like Absinthe, Boulevard, and Grand Cafe) will include shrimp bisque for $5, a hearty app of grilled lamb meatballs with mint pesto and red pepper aioli for $8, and some entrées like skirt steak with sausage gravy and pork two ways for only $16. You can check out the appetizing menu here. If you're wondering why those dinner items sound especially delicious, Skov did a stint (for six years) as the Executive Sous Chef to Todd Humphries and Laurent Manrique in the kitchen at Campton Place (lemme tell ya, this man can cook). Once I was dining at Campton Place for lunch with a girlfriend and he sent out a dessert with two round lumps of something chocolate to my dining partner because he wanted to pay homage to her boobs. Then again, she was his wife, so it was cool. 500 Presidio Ave. at California, 415-441-5669.

Time to report on some openings this week of cool places I've mentioned in tablehopper before (you can search the site if you want more of the original details): Joseph Manzare's Italian fish restaurant, ~PESCHERIA~ (formerly known as Joey & Eddy's Seafood) should be opening today. It will be open for dinner, Tue-Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm, with Robert Leva at the helm (formerly a sous at Redd, Auberge de Soleil, and Jardinière). As long as this gorg weather continues, you might like to know there's a nice patio in the back, FYI! 1708 Church St. at 29th St., 415-647-3200.

Then there's ~THE ALEMBIC~ on Upper Haight, a project from David McLean of Magnolia Pub and Brewery. If inspections go well this week, The Alembic should be open this Saturday, serving micro-distillery spirits and small plates of American food with some seasonal, local, and international flair from Chef Eddie Blyden, who has also been busy cooking down the street at Magnolia since June. Dinner nightly, 4pm-12am, with the bar open until 2am. Lunch Sat-Sun, starting at noon. 1725 Haight St. between Cole and Shrader Streets, 415-666-0822.

~LITTLE STAR'S~ second location in the Mission opened last Wednesday, Sep. 20. Yes, there is a hipster jukebox, just like the original, and the same happy hour slots (5pm-6:30pm and 10pm-11:30pm). Release the deep dish! Open Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm, closed Mon. 400 Valencia St. at 15th St., 415-551-7827.

And yes, the big one: Westfield Centre opens this Thursday, the 28th. There will be a second location of ~BEARD PAPA'S~ (perfect fuel before attacking Bloomies), and a second location of Charles Phan's ~OUT THE DOOR~, with ready-to-eat dishes plus take-home-and-cook kits as well (have you ever tried the delish daikon rice cakes? You should.). Being a sandwich queen myself, I can't wait for Tom Colicchio's ~'WICHCRAFT~.

And those who have been missing Straits on Geary Street can now dine on Chris Yeo's chili crab and rendang beef at ~STRAITS RESTAURANT~, just under the historic dome on the fourth floor. (There will also be a full bar that's open until 2am with a DJ on the weekends.) Open continuously from 11am-2am daily. 845 Market St., Suite 597, 415-668-1783.

~LARKCREEKSTEAK~ will definitely be another one to check out, with an intimate dining room featuring a peaked wood-beamed ceiling and high-backed suede booths, a 21-seat bar and lounge, a floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed walk-in wine cellar, and ten ringside seats at the exhibition kitchen-counter, designed by Mark Stevens of Architect & Light. Chef Jeremy Bearman is offering a steakhouse menu with a twist, and some lighter options will be offered. Choose a Certified USDA Prime cut of beef, ranging from $19-35, and it will be grilled over fruitwood and charcoal embers, and then pair it with one of five sauces. 845 Market St., 4th Floor, Suite 402, 415-593-4100.

I reported a while back that Brandon Clements (of MECCA and Avenue G) was opening a space with the folks from Zebulon called Mercury, in the old Luau Bar & Grill space on Lombard. It's still called ~LUAU~, and will be open this Thu-Sat for drinks, and possibly even burgers next week. The space was repainted and cleaned up, but the big remodel is planned for mid-October, when it will close again, get new floors, a brick wall, and a whole new look. When it reopens in mid-November or so, it will be ~MERCURY~, serving Asian small plates, plus offering late night dining and brunch. Thanks to gal pal Restaurant Girl Speak's blog for the tip on the soft opening. 1434 Lombard St. at Van Ness Ave., 415-922-1434.

Opening up (optimistically) by mid-November will be an Asian-inspired and yet-unnamed ~RESTAURANT/LOUNGE/PUB IN THE FORMER YOSHIDA-YA SPACE~ in Cow Hollow. The project is from the chaps behind Vintage 415, Mamacita, Dylan Boutique, Dylan Shoes, and the newly opened bar in the former Cama space, Double Dutch, in the Mission (3192 16th St. at Guerrero St.). For this project, Nate Valentine, Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo, Lawrence Vavra, and Todd Palmerton are working with their Mamacita restaurant partners (Sam Josi, Stryker Scales, and Eric Passetti).

Mamacita's chef, Sam Josi, who previously worked as a sous at Slanted Door, will be crafting a menu of Asian street food with Vietnamese and Japanese dishes and influences. There will be a small sushi bar serving sashimi and nightly maki specials, but the overall emphasis will be on an eclectic round-up of flavorful Asian dishes that will span the five Chinese elements/phases (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). Some potential dishes in the works are Kobe beef tataki with fresh wasabi, shallot oil, quail egg and gyoza crisps; salt 'n' pepper day boat scallops with lemongrass curry cream and Hanoi crab-glass noodle salad; and crispy mung bean crepes with duck confit, red onions, daikon sprouts, and nuoc cham (a veggie variation will also be offered).

I checked out the space a week ago, and it will be really unique for SF: it's a bi-level space, designed to have a more casual izakaya (a Japanese pub that serves small plates) vibe downstairs, with bench seating, easy communal areas, and the sushi bar, while upstairs (keeping company with the kitchen) will have big booths and a more classic dining atmosphere. They are taking inspiration design-wise from some Tokyo restaurants, and there are some cool rock elements going in you'll have to see. 2909 Webster St. at Union St.

Cow Hollow residents may have noticed the quality of some ingredients just got a few notches better at the ~UNION STREET PANTRY~ (no, nothing has happened to the frozen yogurt). Eric Rud is the new owner, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, and he recently worked at the Four Seasons San Francisco and the Chez Maman located just next door to the market. For the deli, Rud is making fresh aioli, pesto, and pasta salads, and the sandwiches are made with bread from Bay Bread and with Boar's Head meats. 2217 Union St. at Fillmore St., 415-923-9771.

the regular

Silks image

Abigail's Bakery and Cafe
2120 Greenwich St.
Cross: Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94123


Mon-Thu 8am-9pm*
Fri 8am-10pm*
Sat 9am-10pm*
Sun 9am-5pm

*no food 3:30pm-5:30pm

Salads $8
Sandwiches $10-$11


SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Sometimes, all you want is a good sandwich—a tasty preparation that shows there's someone out there who really cares about your lunch, besides your mother when you were seven and brown-bagging it. At ~ABIGAIL'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~, a hidden-away little alcove in Cow Hollow, they care about your sandwich. They also care about your coffee in the morning, your brunch, your dinner, and your to-go pastry that you're taking to your coworker as a surprise afternoon treat. I hesitated about writing this place up without trying their dinner as well, but I had to share about their sandwiches RIGHT NOW, so here we are.

Abigail's is off the main drag of Union in Cow Hollow, and in fact, many people working and living in the neighborhood have no idea this gem even exists, which is slightly troubling. This neighborhood bistro feels like something out of Paris—burgundy banquettes, small tables, an intimate and sunken (and somewhat nondescript) dining room with cream walls, and a small open kitchen. The staff, however, has a friendly unpretentious manner, so the excursion to Paris stops there.

This place is a total lunch jackpot (cherries across the board, baby): outdoor tables in the front, friendly servers, good prices, and yo, the sandwiches. My realllllly hungover friend and I split a couple: the B.L.T. ($10) and the croque monsieur ($10). My pal was actually so hungover he couldn't even eat (Fernet, don't ask) so he had to sit and watch me tear into the hearty B.L.T. with gusto. (He also had to get up a couple times to splash cool water on his face—yeah, he was hurting.)

The B.L.T. is stuffed with apple wood-smoked bacon that the chefs not only butcher themselves, but then bake in the oven with sugar and spices until it's caramelized. This bacon is SICK. It's piled into a house-made baguette with arugula, fresh organic tomato, house-made aioli and man, bingo, check out your killer sandwich. Plus there's a wicked accompaniment of hot and perfectly crispy salty garlic fries that have just a whisper of garlic, plus a dusting of fresh herbs. (Hold me.) Oh yeah, and some cornichons, which I just love. Crunch crunch. I practically eat them daily.

The croque was also a study in scrumptiousness: Black Forest ham and Gruyère nestled between slices of brioche—it's not only pan-fried, but is then finished in the oven for perfect gooey-cheesiness. And those fab fries on the side. Like, sold. I've heard monsieur gains a wife at brunch—I can only imagine how delicious the croque madame is. There's also a skirt steak sandwich ($11), a house-ground hamburger ($11), and a vegetarian sando ($10) with, you guessed it, veggies. All come with those damned fries.

One of the reasons these sandwiches resonate as something out of the ordinary is that the chef, Josh Bush, and his sous, Ben Stilwell, were both cooks at Foreign Cinema. They are really committed to using quality ingredients, and go organic whenever possible. The bakery in the name is due to the owner, Cuong Do, who is the pastry chef and baker who makes the treats in the gleaming case. I tried the creamy chocolate mousse, which totally delivered on its smooth chocolate promise. You can also order cakes and any other hair-brained dessert you may dream up—Do will totally make it or bake it.

I'll update this once I return for dinner, and I gotta try their hamburger, but in the meantime, if you need a place for a tête-à-tête luncheon, or just have a hankering for a hot sandwich, this place is the joint.

The brunch is supposedly delish, and therefore can get busy on the weekend, but I've heard you can breeze right in for dinner on a Saturday, for rotating and seasonal Cal-French dishes that hover around $19. Meet your new secret weapon for those random date nights when you have no reservation anywhere. Friday nights are supposedly livelier, with live music at 7:30pm, like free-form jazz and blues, basically some low-key dining music. Check it out, it's on the one.

the starlet

Shuck & Swallow Challenge

Shuck & Swallow Challenge
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

West Plaza
Ghirardelli Square
San Francisco



Oyster and Wine Pairing
McCormick & Kuleto's
900 North Point St.
Ghirardelli Square
San Francisco



SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Yay, those "R" months have returned (yes, I know it's an old wives tale), which means it's time to bust out the oysters. ~MCCORMICK & KULETO'S 13TH ANNUAL SHUCK & SWALLOW OYSTER CHALLENGE~ will be held in the West Plaza in Ghirardelli Square on Tuesday, October 3. Approximately a dozen teams, each consisting of two members from various Bay Area restaurants, will be competing to shuck and eat as many oysters as possible in ten minutes. (The current record is just under 200.) Some of the contenders include Ana Mandara, City Tavern, Moose's, the Franciscan, and Chaya. I'll be on the judges' panel, along with some members of The Marine Mammal Center.

Immediately following is an oyster and wine pairing at McCormick & Kuleto's Seafood Restaurant. A variety of types of oysters will be available for tasting along with an assortment of wines. Tickets, available at the door, are $25 per person with the net proceeds being donated to The Marine Mammal Center. The pairing will run from 6pm-8pm, and guests are welcome to eat and drink as many oysters and wine samples as they like. Live musical entertainment will accompany the Challenge and the benefit event.


SF FallFest
Saturday, October 7, 2006

Justin Herman Plaza
1 Market St.
(across the street from the Ferry Building)
San Francisco




SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Coming up next weekend is the annual ~FALLFEST~ at Justin Herman Plaza, across from the Ferry Building. Let's hope for some fab fall weather since this festival is outdoors! It will feature chef demos (with Douglas Keane of Cyrus, Greg Dunmore of Ame, and Michelle Polzine of Range), plenty of bites and sips (over 60 Bay Area and wine country restaurants and wineries are participating), and well-known local food personalities hosting the event, like Jan Newberry, Food & Wine Editor, San Francisco magazine; Narsai David, Food & Wine Editor, KCBS Radio; and Joey Altman, Host, KRON 4's Bay Café. Oh yes, and music provided by the Back Burner Blues Band. FallFest 2006 benefits Meals On Wheels of San Francisco.

As a friend of tablehopper, save $10 on your Main Event ticket ($75)–you pay $65. Main Event ticket includes: food and wine tastings, local artisans to explore, chef demos, and live music. Offer expires on Monday, October 2, at midnight. Get tickets at and use promotion code: Tablehopper. $65 per ticket (plus $2.50 credit card processing/handling fee).

There are also 150 VIP tickets available. You can enjoy Main Event activities and a private VIP wine seminar hosted by Chris Blanchard from Redd restaurant. Plus, receive a special culinary gift bag and a Riedel glass. VIP tickets are $145 in advance and at the door—you can purchase these tickets at

the starlet

SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay then: Marin-based Kirk Hammett of Metallica must like the late-night menu (until 1am nightly) at Café Maritime in the Marina since he's come in more than once. Seems he has a refined palate: his predilection for oysters and wild salmon along with champagne certainly shows a heightened culinary sensibility.

27 of the Arianna Huffington crew bounced into Le Colonial after her private book party wrapped up (it was hosted at Larry Ellison's abode on outer Broadway). The crew included Huffington Post Editor Roy Sekoff, Yahoo!'s Scott Moore, An Inconvenient Truth's Lawrence Bender, author/screenwriter Nora Ephron, Norman Lear and his wife Lynn, and Huffington herself, who enjoyed some lamb chops, being the good Greek girl she is.