table of contents   This week's tablehopper: get into the spirit.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the socialite

the starlet
no photos please


OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I feel like I just finished a weekend gourmet marathon of food, wine, and socializing (all in a day's work!). I can be a sausage or a seal for Halloween at this rate. Dinner at the counter at Boulevard on Saturday at the hands of the talented Chef de Cuisine, Ravi Kapur, was truly the picture of indulgence (abalone, foie, pork belly—the holy trinity?). Of note: Inside the Kitchen at the Ritz was definitely one of the better food events I've attended in some time—and the caliber of the food and wine at the Grand Tasting Sunday night was downright delish. (The after-party was also quite a shindig—let's just say French chefs really like to party.) Now excuse me while I go run eight miles and attempt to pay for my sins.

Happy Halloweenie,

the chatterbox

OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I am very saddened to report that ~ENRICO'S SIDEWALK CAFÉ~ has closed as of last night, October 30. Lavay Smith was the last performer, a fitting finale since she has been performing at Enrico's for some time. I spoke with the GM, Al Russek, who explained they hadn't had a lease since January— the partners of Enrico's were hoping to remodel and re-launch in the coming year, but obviously couldn’t reinvest in the restaurant without knowing the terms of the new lease. After months of negotiations, the financial terms of the new lease just weren't going to work for both sides. While it's most definitely a sad closure and the end of an era (the restaurant has been around since 1958), the parting is amicable between the landlord and the partners behind Enrico's—it just didn't work out. Here's wishing the tight-knit staff at the restaurant sincere thanks for years of memories for many, many people. I know the closure of this restaurant is particularly poignant...

This past week I spoke with a very cool designer, Rich Hansen, about a couple of his upcoming restaurant projects. He designed the slick ~OSHA Thai~ on Valencia Street, and is currently working on another location for OSHA that is moving into the old Amici's East Coast Pizzeria space on Union. Hansen said it will be more upscale than the Valencia location, with seating for 90-100. This will be the fifth OSHA location in the city, and is slated to open in early 2007. 2033 Union St., between Buchanan and Webster.

Hansen's second design project is ~VISIT~, opening soon in the Lower Haight. (The space was formerly a Futon Shop—awwww, the '80s.) This Thai restaurant (no affiliation with OSHA) should hopefully be opening sometime in November—they have to make it through permit purgatory first. There's also the slight chance it might be an Italian restaurant instead of Thai (maybe), and they are trying to secure a beer and wine license; yes, things are a little in limbo at the moment. I will say I have never seen anything like it—the space is going to be quite unique. You cruise into the clean and contemporary restaurant via a sloping epoxy stone aggregate floor (a naturalistic material you tend to see poolside). Along the wall are these brightly colored fabricated trees made from MDF—they look like primary color lollipop trees (no licking allowed!). There's also a slat wood vertical divider that runs at a slight slant (it's clever). The design has some elements of 1970s fun but it's definitely contemporary. I felt like I was playing Candyland in Tokyo by way of Willy Wonka's factory—groovy, man. (That Kool-Aid I drank at lunch was some good stuff.) The restaurant will have 49 seats, and in case you were wondering about the name, the owner's name is Visit Teveethamcharoen (obviously easier to go with his first name for the restaurant's moniker). 518 Haight St. at Fillmore St.

I know I was just tooting about the badass BLTs at ~ABIGAIL'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~—but dang, bummer news: they closed last week, and will probably just be serving coffee and baked goods from here on out (the costs of running a restaurant were more than the owners wanted to deal with). The sous chef went over to Ramblas, and Josh Bush, the talented Executive Chef, will actually be heading over to Vintage 415's project in the old Yoshida Ya space, working as Executive Sous Chef to Executive Chef Sam Josi. Speaking of, the izakaya-style restaurant/lounge now has a name: ~UMAMI~. Now that's something I can get behind; not only does it embrace the Japanese component of the restaurant concept, but the Vietnamese street food dishes as well (fish sauce, anyone?).

Things in Hayes Valley continue to percolate: moving into the old Blue Muse space on Gough will be ~BREEZY'S~, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant. A French chef will be at the helm, who also spent years living in Morocco. Owner Bawer Tekin (he formerly owned Terra Brazilis, where Modern Tea is now) wants to create an easy and casual atmosphere that will still feel upscale and contemporary. The bar area will have 12-15 seats, with 80 seats overall. They hope to open in the beginning of the year—depending, of course, upon licenses and permits and such. Lunch and dinner will be served daily, with brunch potentially soon thereafter. 409 Gough St. at Hayes St.

And just around the corner, Tekin has also taken over the Sage Chinese Restaurant on Hayes, and in its place will be opening ~HAYES AND KEBAB~, serving (you are so smart you) kebabs and gyros. This fast-casual restaurant will have salads, like Greek and Caesar, plus all kinds of options of sides, from hummus to baba ghannoush. The chef is coming from England, and will be preparing beef, chicken, and lamb kebabs, plus gyros made with beef and lamb. Mmmmm, gyros. The opening is slated for December. 406 Hayes St. at Gough St., 415-861-2977.

A number of you have asked what's going on with ~PRANA~—well, things have been on hold due to some tricky permit issues on the 70-year-old building, primarily an easement issue (CalTrans owns the land on the Natoma exit side of the building). The day they hoped to get their final sign-off (a couple months ago) is when the issue was raised of verifying easement—without totally boring you with nightmarish details, the unfortunate outcome is construction was halted and most of the staff had to be let go (including Executive Chef Jamie Lauren, Beverage Manager Alison Harper, the new pastry chef, servers, and others involved in the project) due to financial constraints. The folks behind the project are hoping to get this all squared away with the city soon, and since revenue is obviously their priority, the club, Temple, will be opening before the restaurant. More will be revealed in the coming months…

Some changes over at ~LE METRO CAFÉ~ in NoPa: a new partner was recently brought on, bringing a stronger focus on the food and wine at the restaurant. And with it comes a new Executive Chef, Nathan Foot, who has worked in numerous top-notch kitchens around town, like Campton Place, Elisabeth Daniel, the Four Seasons, One Market, Jardinière, and two years at Masa's. I stopped eating at Le Metro Café years ago, but after reading his resume, I am totally ready to give it another shot—especially since it's just blocks away, and has a cute patio in the back. Foot has already made some changes to the dinner menu (less classic bistro/more nouveau bistro) with dishes like a bread salad with roasted golden beets and arugula; braised escargots with parsley puree and wild roasted mushrooms; duck breast with polenta; wild salmon with melted leeks; and red wine-braised short ribs—and none of the current entrées are over $17.50. The killer three-course $16.50 prix-fixe menu continues (5:30pm-6:30pm Fri-Sat, and all night Sun-Thu)—you'll get something like a soup or house salad, a choice from a couple mains, and dessert. Brunch and dessert changes are forthcoming, and lunch will potentially kick off in January. 311 Divisadero St. at Page St., 415-552-0903.

Not sure what you're doing for Halloween tonight, but for you crazies heading to the Castro, you can kick things off at ~DESTINO~, which is celebrating its bar expansion (it has a little more room now, and its own designated area) with 2-for-1 cocktails all night long and some free bar bites too. From here on out, Destino will be doing a happy hour Mon-Thu 5pm-7pm with 2-for-1 drinks, can't beat that. Pisco sours, baby! 1815 Market St. at Octavia St., 415-552-4451.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, ~JOANNA KARLINSKY~ of The Meetinghouse fame, and currently the consulting chef at The Elite Café, will be opening a biscuit business! Yes, her addicitve "crack biscuits" will soon be available for retail sale and shipping all over the country. (Local delivery will also be in the works…) She's hoping to have the biscuit biz up and running by November 15, with the site launching next week. Karlinsky also mentioned she is considering starting up a line of products based on some old faves, like her fudge sauce and Meyer lemon curd, plus some flavored butters to use on the biscuits. She's also thinking about creating some different flavored biscuits down the road, and perhaps breads, cookies, brownies, and her delish mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, a signature from The Meetinghouse days! Her role at the Elite Café will be diminishing so that she will have time to focus on this endeavor. Bring on the biscuits!

Baked goods fanatics (I know you are out there) will also be happy to know ~KARA'S CUPCAKES~ opened up this weekend. Those frosted little buggers are made with local and organic ingredients, so you don't have to feel totally guilty about scarfing down that vanilla buttermilk number stuffed with passion fruit curd. Open Tue-Sat 10am–7pm, and Sun 10am–5pm; closed Mondays. 3429 Scott St. (between Chestnut and Lombard), 415-563-CAKE.

Correction time: I was misinformed about the opening date of the rotisserie chicken place I mentioned last week, ~REGALITO ROSTICERIA~. How about November 4? Yay. Check out their super-cute website here and wait until you see the menu! Pozole, grilled nopales salad, and an awesome weekend brunch too. Que bueno. 3481 18th St. at Valencia St., 415-503-0650.

And just up the street, ~BI-RITE~ will be opening their ice creamery on November 25. 3692 18th St., 415-626-5600.

Just down the street is ~WEIRD FISH~, officially opening tomorrow, November 1! They will be open for lunch and dinner, with brunch on the weekend, and breakfast during the week really soon! Regular hours will be Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri 11am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 9am-5pm. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-863-4744.

Some folks might recognize ~KEITH REESE~ (formerly at Absinthe, and prior to that, Gary Danko) over at Poleng Lounge, who was just hired as consulting GM. The first-time restaurant owners of Poleng Lounge decided it was worth the investment to get some assistance on the floor—it's been tough on the service staff handling all the covers each night since their three-star review from the Chronicle. The food is good, and now the service will be right there too.

After giving dinner service a try at ~MYTH CAFÉ~, they have decided to return to their original format and just stick with breakfast and lunch. Since the BLTs are no more at Abigail's, at least Ryan Scott's BLT bodaciousness continues to remain in the hizzy. (And a shout-out to Mister Scott, who shares the same birthday as yours truly, tomorrow—Happy Birthday, man!)

Just next door, ~MYTH RESTAURANT~ has a new GM, Estelle Lacroix, who was classically trained in Switzerland, and has worked at Aqua (hostess) and The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco (four years doing special events) and as Assistant GM at Masa's for four years. Some might wonder about the last name: yes, she is the wife of Stephane Lacroix, the Director of Wine and Sommelier at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.

the starlet

Mediterranean Spirit

Mediterranean Spirit
1303 Polk St.
Cross: Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


Mon-Sat 10am-9pm
Sun 10am-5pm

Apps $1.99-$3.99
Wraps $4.60-$5.95
Plates $9.95-$12.95
Desserts $1.50

OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh yeah, I definitely caught the spirit here. The owner of ~MEDITERRANEAN SPIRIT~, Khalil Aboudamous, and his wife, Lubna, really have the spirit. Their regular customers totally have the spirit. You will too. Because at this little hole-in-the-wall joint, man, are they doing good things to Mediterranean food. In fact, Lubna's father was a chef for 40 years in Jerusalem, and he helped the couple during the first few months of opening, which was about ten months ago. Obviously having mad skills in the kitchen runs in the family.

First off, I gotta tell ya, this place has the best pita bread I've found in the city. I am so freaking excited, because I never find good pita anywhere to make sandwiches at home, or for tasty snaxx. These are the dense and fluffy kind, made by Ross Bakery, and since Khalil and Lubna have the spirit, you can even buy a bag for your own consumption at home ($2 for a bag of five pitas, and they are kosher). Now Khalil is gonna have to see me each week, coming by for my pita bread. Rainbow Foods, are you reading this? Buy from this bakery, yo.

Now let's discuss a couple of things you can scoop up with this heavenly bread: a natural place to start is their creamy and rich hummus ($3.99), or the smoky and tart baba ghannoush ($3.99), both totally scrumptious.

Another dish you don't see everywhere is fool mudamas ($3.99), a tangy mash of fava beans with garlic, tomato, jalapeño, and herbs. I was told they make it with canned favas—I'd love to try this when favas are actually in season, but I guess canned favas are de rigueur; it was still mighty tasty. The fool (the dish, not your ex) came with a dollop of chili sauce in the middle (a delicious lake of fire) and thinly sliced pickles alternating with little piles of parsley around the edge of the plate. Pleasing presentation—it's a nice touch. If you are seeking a break from your usual order of hummus or Baba G, yo, give this one a whirl.

If you take a peek into the gourmet bargain bin (uh, it's practically the entire menu), you'll find the vegetarian special ($7.95), a full-on extravaganza of two falafel, two tender dolmas, hummus, baba ghannoush, and tabouleh. The falafel will knock your soxx off—they are quite perfect, with a delightful texture and a crispy exterior that isn't the slightest bit greasy. Even die-hard carnivores will attack. If anyone finds better falafel in the city, let me know and we'll do a taste-off. These things fully represent. Everything on the plate is completely fresh and clean-tasting—the tabouleh also tastes just-made. Oh, and wait until you try the savory tahini sauce—it's downright addictive.

There is one thing that cracked me up, and it's because I'm inappropriate that way: it was the placement of the two falafel balls on the plate with a long mound of tabouleh and some dolmas pointing out of it. Goodness. I'd recommend separating the falafel. (Or keeping people like me with a sense of humor that's not unlike a fifth grader's away from this dish, which will be tough, because it's totally a winner.)

I am so glad Khalil suggested this next plate, because this was my favorite, and it's not even on the menu (yet!): a hearty pile of perfectly seasoned chicken shawerma surrounded by a plentiful serving of hummus (instead of the usual sides of rice or couscous). The chicken was so tender and flavorful, and was tangled up with grilled onion—what a dish. I couldn't stop eating it. It totally took over my brain. I was helpless before its savory goodness. Oh, and all the meats are halal, FYI.

There's also a kufta kebab plate ($9.95) with two skewers of finely ground lamb that they grind in-house. The skewers were herby and succulent, and you get six patties total, plus a side of red cabbage, rice or couscous topped with mousabeha (a tomato and garbanzo bean sauce), PLUS that pita bread. Yes, leftovers are imminent, lucky you. Any hungry men in your life will totally commune with this plate o' sustenance. Khalil mentioned another hit is the whole tilapia plate, also $9.95, and not on the menu.

Everything here is made with care and love—Khalil and Lubna are really proud of their food, and will totally insure your order is just what you need or want, even if it's not exactly on the menu. Be sure to inquire what the dish of the day is, and don't hesitate to ask questions—they are happy to educate.

For dessert you can order an Arabic coffee ($1.50), which is just like a Turkish coffee, so beware the sludge at the bottom. (Ask for it sweet if you like your coffee at all sweetened.) There is also mint tea offered ($1.50). Want some sweets for your sweet? There are desserts like baklava ($1.50) or the house-made triangular treat of phyllo dough stuffed with custard and sweetened with rosewater (it sounds like "warbat" but Khalil and I couldn't figure out how to spell it to save our lives—anyone?).

While this isn't a date place per se, it's a clean and friendly little neighborhood joint that's just right for an easy and affordable (and totally delicious) lunch or dinner—especially if you're out with the kids, or even by yourself. Get ready to feel the spirit, seriously.

the starlet

Big 4 image

Wild Game Week
November 7–11, 2006

Big 4 Restaurant
Huntington Hotel
1075 California St.
Cross: Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA 94108


OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Attention meat eaters: here's your big chance to try the outré! How about some cornmeal-crusted crocodile, or lightly smoked corned buffalo hash, or wild boar loin, or rib eye of Himalayan yak! No, National Geographic Explorer is not hosting a dinner of animals that "didn't make it," but the Big 4 Restaurant is hosting their annual ~WILD GAME WEEK~! One of the nation's premier game chefs, Executive Chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls has been holding it down at the Big 4 for 27 years. Go Gloria.

If you've always wanted to check out the Big 4, this is definitely the week to do it—I love this restaurant (it's great for lunch and dinner), and it has a wonderful old school SF atmosphere. Get that steak knife poised and ready.

Thanksgiving image

Thanksgiving Dinner

Hawthorne Lane
22 Hawthorne Lane
Cross: Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Oakville Grocery–San Francisco
2801 Leavenworth (At Jefferson)
The Cannery at Del Monte Square
San Francisco

Oakville Grocery–Napa Valley
7856 St. Helena Hwy.

Oakville Grocery–Healdsburg
124 Matheson St.

Oakville Grocery–Palo Alto
Stanford Shopping Center
Palo Alto

OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, you water-scorchers out there have nooooo excuse for not having a proper Thanksgiving meal this year. Probably the best deal I've seen is ~HAWTHORNE LANE'S~ "Thanksgiving-to-Go." Starting tomorrow, November 1, you can reserve either a ready-for-the-oven holiday meal or a pre-measured ingredients kit including recipes with step-by-step instructions from Executive Chef Bridget Batson for taking the feast from the box to the table. You'll get a 12-pound, ready-to-roast turkey with lots of gravy, Gravenstein apple and sausage stuffing, garnet yam puree, Brussels sprouts with double-smoked bacon, a dozen signature chive biscuits and a pumpkin pie. It's totally idiot-proof! The dinner serves six to eight people and costs $120.00 plus tax. Chef Bridget also includes some recipes for creative "day after" dishes, such as turkey potpie and turkey and Brussels sprouts pasta.

Orders may be placed between November 1-November 17 by calling 415-777-9779 or by completing the online order form available here. Orders are to be picked up Tuesday and Wednesday, November 22nd and 23rd. Hawthorne Lane accepts all major credit cards.

Another option for you non-cooks out there is to order your dinner through ~OAKVILLE GROCERY~, which includes a whole-roasted turkey for $49.95—this fully cooked turkey is from Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in Sonora, and weighs approximately 12-14 lbs., and serves eight. There are also starters available for order, like homemade butternut squash and pear soup, wild mushroom tartlets, and sides like a classic cranberry sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, and artisan bread dressing with fennel and apples. And of course there are pies—these are from Napa Valley's Sweetie Pies Bakery.

You can call any one of the four Oakville Grocery stores up until Sunday, November 19 at 5pm—they can fax you a menu.

Jardiniere image

Ken Wright Cellars and Bindi Wine Growers Dinner
Monday, Nov. 6th, 2006

300 Grove St.
Cross: Franklin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


call Naomi Smith
at 415-255-1481
or email Naomi [at] jardiniere [dot] com

6pm reception
6:30pm dinner

$150 per person (tax and gratuity included)

OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Wines from two of the most acclaimed producers of pinot noir, Ken Wright and Michael Dhillon, will be poured at a special five-course dinner at ~JARDINIÈRE~. The menu will include pinot-perfect dishes like gnocchi with foraged mushrooms, and pan-roasted squab.

From Jardinière: The Willamette Valley of Oregon and Victoria Region of Australia are at the vanguard of producing some of today's most innovative and exciting Pinots and both of these appellations enjoy this acclaim because of the success and recognition of Wright and Dhillon. Ken and Michael tend vines on opposing ends of the earth but their wines share a bond and distinction as some of the world's most alluring and well-crafted Pinot Noirs. Ken Wright notes 2005 has the potential to be his best vintage in his 20 years, no small feat. Like Ken, Michael Dhillon sees Pinot Noir as the soothsayer that will best reveal the singular characteristics of each vineyard that best define his home region.

the starlet

OCTOBER 31, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Giiiiiiiirl! RuPaul was spotted at 2223 Restaurant.

Last Wednesday Lance Bass of *NSYNC, Kirsten Dunst, and Sofia Coppola were all hanging out together at Slide—they were there celebrating the release of Reichen Lehmkuhl's new book, "Here's What We'll Say," and the release of San Francisco's own artist Chris Clouse's new album. They were reportedly up boogieing until 3am. But I also heard that Dunst totally had a "sick time." Awwww, meow.