table of contents   This week's tablehopper: size matters.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite

the sponsor
this round is on me

Charles Chocolates


JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO G’day mates! Yup, today is the day. In seven hours I’ll be on my hell flight to Australia—I hope to sleep through the majority of it. (Hello glass of wine and a Xanax.) Just to reiterate to friends and colleagues reading this, I will be totally MIA for the next three weeks, so please don’t try to call or email since I won’t be accessing anything until I return on February 21! Your unsightly tablehopper crack habit will fire up again on February 28.

Oh, and I have one big favor to ask of all of you: wouldn’t it be fun to share this habit with your friends? Just think of all the scandalous times you’ll have together. If you could take a moment and please forward tablehopper to any of your partners, pals, colleagues, family, booty calls, whoever, and encourage them to subscribe, I would be so appreciative. Even just one person. I’d love to come home skinnier, yet discover a fatter subscriber list. Grazie!!

And yo, don’t burn the house down while I’m gone!

See you later, alligator!

the chatterbox
JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Why does the Mission get all the love? I swear. Anyway, I am crazy jealous about this one: come spring, ~SPORK~ will be opening in the old KFC space on Valencia. The project is from the creative mind of Bruce Binn (the former chef de cuisine of Citizen Cake, who has a long resume that includes Slow Club, Delfina, Mustard’s, Postrio, and some stints in New York, including Lupa). His partner in the project is his cousin (by marriage) Neil Jorgensen, who has managed Saturn Café in Santa Cruz, and has recently been ramping up his knowledge about the back of house at Manresa, Range, and Bar Tartine.

Spork’s motto is “Tasty Food,” and they are taking the Cal-American menu seriously but having fun with it too. Think “short order fine dining.” Binn and Jorgensen want to elevate the reputation of the spork—they think it’s been misrepresented in the past. Their plan to serve amuse bouches on them is sure to help. Besides, we already had a Spoon, and Tablespoon, and Fork—now it’s time for Spork!

Dishes being discussed: chips and fish, a composed salad layered with house-made potato chips, smoked trout and roe, crème fraîche, shallots, and black pepper, a nod to classic caviar accouterments; the inside-out burger, a fork and knife burger with two thin patties of natural beef on the outside and a soft sponge bun in the center, with a quenelle of grilled onions, organic cheddar, butter lettuce, house fries, and pulled dollops of condiments (like aioli) on the plate. Additional dishes being discussed: sticky ribs, Chinese-style fried chicken, pastas, and one of Binn’s personal faves, an open-faced turkey sandwich made with quality ingredients. Other potential touches: house-made rolls, and ground-to-order French press coffee. One definite: beer and wine will be available.

The space will have 48 seats, with a rounded nine-seat counter and booths, featuring a utilitarian modern diner/coffee shop/roadside diner look that’s more about being funky and vibey than kitschy. Eric Heid of Martin Heid Design will be tricking out the space (he also did Range). Dinner to start, with most definitely lunch and brunch to follow soon thereafter. Plus that outdoor parking lot might end up yielding some alfresco options come summer. 1058 Valencia St. at Hill, between 21st and 22nd Streets.

And then to rub it in even more, over on 16th Street will be ~BAR BAMBINO~, a café and wine bar. Even though proprietor Christopher Losa has a Spanish background, he is a total Italophile, and is putting his years of working in the restaurant biz in Boston and numerous trips to Italy to serious work. Losa took his inspiration from the numerous neighborhood bars in Italy (my friends and I used to call them “man bars”) where folks just hang out, talk about soccer, drink some wine, graze on some simple bites, and check their Totocalcio scores. In America, this variation of the “man bar” will have to morph because tons of women will be kicking back and drinking wine in there—they aren’t home doing the laundry and making lasagne, ha ha.

Bar Bambino will be open from late morning until late evening, serving an array of items off their “pane” list (panini for $8.50-$12 made on custom bread from Della Fattoria, plus crostini, tramezzini [I had no idea about the history of the name of one of my favorite Venetian snacks—check this out, and bruschetta) and all kinds of love from the “salumi and formaggi” counter. Yes, counter. There will be a variety of meats from small artisanal suppliers Losa has sourced (one is from Petaluma, another in Geyserville), some so obscure they don’t even have company names. He’s also getting some meats from the high church of salumi up in Seattle, Salumi. You’ll be able to enjoy salumi on premise, or you can get it sliced up nice and take it home. Or if you are like me, you will do both.

The menu will also include 6-7 pastas, and 4-5 entrée-style dishes, and 8-10 sides, many made with ingredients from local farmers. Lizzie Binder is heading up the kitchen. She was at Jardinière, then in Australia for five years, and most recently working as a private chef. Coffee is courtesy of Ecco Caffé in Santa Rosa—there will be two types of espresso, northern or southern style, and drip available too (this is the first place in SF to serve their coffee). The wine list will include 150 wines that are 100% Italian with no regional specificity and moderately priced, many in mid $30s to low $40s for a bottle, and $6-8 by the glass. Losa said he’d be more interested in people being able to come by once or twice a week instead of once or twice a month, hence the friendly price points. Bravo.

The 45-seat space is “crisp but textured” and “rustic modernist”—it’s being tricked out by Aidlin Darling Design, and will feature a glass storefront enabling you to see all the way to the back of the space, with two communal tables that will seat eight each, dark oak floors, chairs and casework, zinc tabletops, a large bar that will seat 15 sporting a white marble top, plus an enclosed and landscaped patio in the back that will seat 20 (this place is gonna blow up). There’s also supposed to be a pair of amazing light fixtures made by some local artists that look like suspended cases of wine with light bulb filaments in the bottles. Optimistic opening is slated for March. Open 11am-midnight, closed Monday, 2931 16th St. between Mission and South Van Ness, 415-701-VINO.

The Italian-fest continues: just across from the Transamerica Building, the old Elisabeth Daniel/Tartare space reopened this week as ~CHIAROSCURO~, an Italian restaurant and lounge from Roman import Roberto Scaccia. The name is Italian for “light/dark,” and refers to the artistic use of strong contrasts, like Caravaggio for you art lovers, or “Rembrandt lighting” for you photographers out there. Scaccia is a total cinephile, so his inspiration is the black and white films of the Italian Neorealismo movement of the ’40s and ’50s (think De Sica). He wants the room to feel like a street in Rome or a terrace from the coast—he actually bought the chairs from the now-closed Enrico’s and painted them off-white and gave them black seats—total Neapolitan style.

The eclectic contemporary style features tables made of chalkboards, poured concrete bench seating, a communal table, two big lanterns reminiscent of Roman street lights that cast an amber glow, plus iron arches with climbing figs. A rotating display of plants is behind the banquettes: this month it’s cactus, next month will be lavender, another month will be basil, or lemon, etc. My favorite detail: Scaccia will only have female servers, dressed in black Sophia Loren-style dresses and tango shoes. (The owner is Italian, what can I say?)

So enough of the set, let’s talk about the food. Both chefs, Damiano Neris and Vanessa Musella, are from Sardegna, but they will definitely be highlighting Roma (Damiano most recently was cooking in Rome—S.P.Q.R., baby!), with monthly specials that will rotate through all regions of Italy. Lunch service includes salads ($5-$10), pastas ($10-$16), and sandwiches ($7-$9) made with focaccia or there’s one piadina on the menu too (an Italian flatbread)—I can’t think of anywhere in San Francisco that serves piadina. (Anyone?) Dinner includes pastas (available in two sizes, most are $8/$13-16) like gnocchi alla romana or trofie with calamari and eggplant, mains like beef loin with grape must ($22), home-style deep-fried fish ($19), and a tasting/“degustazione” menu will be offered (either fish or meat). All the pasta and bread are made in-house. Lunch is served Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, and dinner is Sun-Thu 5pm-10:30pm, and Fri-Sat 5pm-11:30pm. 550 Washington St. at Sansome St., 415-362-6012.

Good news: Mike Selvera is back in the kitchen at ~BAR CRUDO~. I swung by the other afternoon to say hi, and it was good to find him there. Check it: he even said he has baby conch on the menu. Welcome back, Mike.

As of last week, escrow closed and everything is all set: Scott Holley of Yabbie’s Coastal Kitchen and Steps of Rome has taken over ~EOS~ in Cole Valley—he bought it from Arnold Eric Wong, who owned the restaurant for over ten years. Danny Guerinni, who was Wong’s chef de cuisine, has taken over as the executive chef (he’s been at EOS for five years) and now has the new challenge of leading the kitchen. Holley plans to focus on operations and is leaving things status quo. Wong, meanwhile, is going to be busy with three Bs: bacar, his bakery (Raison d’ Etre) and he mentioned wanting a baby at some point soon (he was recently married). 901 Cole St., at Carl, 415-566-3063.

Seems an electric car set off a fire at the ~WARMING HUT~ in Crissy Field, check out the full story here. Power and dog walkers take note: they’ll be closed for a couple weeks or so.

~MIKE YAKURA~ has left Sutra and is now cooking at ~SPARROW~ in the Gramercy Towers. Yakura has totally changed the menu (more Cal-Asian, less French Asian) and has new staff in place too. Feel free to swing by the counter at the exhibition kitchen and say yo (you may remember him as Mister Mohawk in a recent episode of Top Chef). In fact, if you are totally up a creek and trying to decide where to go for V-Day, odds are good you’d be able to snag a table here since it’s in the most random spot in the world. (Take my word for it.) At least the food will be better now. 1177 California St., 415-474-2000.

Now, I can’t believe how many stories I have “sitting in the ’hopper” that I can’t really write about at the moment, so they have to wait until I get back—but just to give you a small tasting spoon, one in particular that is going to have some info released soon is the Mint Plaza project, between Market and Mission and Fifth and Sixth Streets. There’s going to be a lot going on there, but here’s a teaser of one place that is opening: the ~CASTILLOS OF LIMON~ are opening a restaurant at 418 Jessie. More soon!

Yo, noodle slurpers: according to Chowhound, there’s a new ramen joint called ~GENKI RAMEN~ in the Richmond on Geary near 4th Ave. Check out the postings on for some deets on what to eat—it sounds pretty decent.

From a tablehopper reader (sorry, didn’t have time to research this before leaving, and there isn’t a phone message): “I noticed this ominous sign as a walked by ~SUSHI ZONE~ yesterday. Something cryptic like, ‘Starting Monday we will be closed until further notice’.”

Some chef changes over at ~BISTRO 1689~, one of the latest restaurants to join the Noe Valley neighborhood (it’s been open since July). I spoke with the owner, Benny Cheung, and he confirmed that chef Scott Drozd has resigned, and taking his place is Eric Kuhne, formerly the chef de cuisine at West Shore Café in Lake Tahoe. 1689 Church St. at 29th Street, 415-550-8298.

Last night I was supposed to hit the 7x7 magazine ~FIRST ANNUAL EAT + DRINK AWARDS~, but this column needed to be written instead (aren’t you glad I have my priorities straight?). With readers supplying the votes, Gary Danko cleaned up in three categories (Best Overall, Best Service and Best Maître d’), NOPA won Best Newcomer (surprise! ha ha), Delfina won Best Italian and Best First Date (Hey, why hasn’t anyone taken me there on a first date? That’s one mighty nice first date, jeez.), Absinthe won Best Restaurant Cocktails, and there are a bunch of other categories. I have to say, there are a few (slightly dubious) winners that made me think they had all their friends and coworkers stuff the ballot box, but then again that’s what it sometimes takes to get some notice in this town, so let’s just leave it at that.

Okay, the one thing about my vacation that is seriously chapping my hide is I will be in a plane somewhere over the ocean when the ~TOP CHEF~ finale airs. I can’t believe I am missing the damned finale. My money has been on the punk Ilan all along—I would have preferred the hunk, Sam, but all along I’ve been feeling the Mono monkey is gonna close it. Gail seems to have a thing for the Wolverine’s cooking, but in the end, I think Colicchio’s roots are gonna sway him to vote for Ilan in the end. Unless Marcel poisons Ilan with some foam. And Ilan recently left Casa Mono, which has tongues wagging. But enough of my observations, because TONY is in the hizzouse. Check out what Mister Bourdain has to say about the Top Chef contestants on Michael Ruhlman’s blog. Yes, yet another reason why I adore this man—he seriously cracks me the hell up. Oh, and this just in: if you want to ruin the ending and see who wins, click this link to a wicked spoiler posted on Eater LA.

Got a hot tip? You know I’d love it (and you). Just reply to this email! I’ll read it when I get back, thanks darlings!

fresh meat

Pizzetta 211

Pizzetta 211
211 23rd Ave.
Cross: California St.
San Francisco, CA 94121


Wed-Fri 12pm-2:30pm, 5pm-9pm
Sat-Sun noon-9pm
Mon 5pm-9pm
Closed Tue

Apps $4.25-$8.75
Pizzas $9-$10.75
Desserts $2-$5.50

JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO If you’re a true card-carrying San Franciscan gourmand, there is an unofficial list of destinations you have to visit, ticking them off the list one beignet, Irish coffee, and tamale at a time. Otherwise “they” might revoke your gourmand resident card quicker than “they” do when some fool calls The City “Frisco.”

THE LIST is actually quite immense (well, my list is), but here are a few core basics: lunch at Swan Oyster Depot, an al pastor taco dorado from La Taqueria, dim sum at Yank Sing (oh those magical Shanghai/XLB dumplings), a Caesar salad and roast chicken from Zuni, a croissant from Tartine, an espresso from Blue Bottle while at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market one Saturday or one at Ritual if you’re kickin’ it in the Mission, salt and pepper crab from Lichee Garden or R&G Lounge, a peach from Frog Hollow, burrata at A16, and let’s not forget a drink at the Top of the Mark (seriously, the view is truly magic there). Oh, and Faith’s Cheese Toast at Town Hall. And don’t forget popovers at the Rotunda. Oh my God, I have to stop. STOP!

I know, THE LIST is a yuppie foodie cluster*uck. (I promise to share it later.) And right up there is the entire pizza experience at ~PIZZETTA 211~. Every once in a while I mention this place and someone has no idea it even exists, let alone that it’s on THE LIST. So let’s fix that right now and get any of you who have never been schooled up to speed. I want to make the experience as painless as possible. To manage expectations, I’m just going to do a primer. This place gets maligned for all its quirks and even quirkier staff. You just need to know what’s the deal, that’s all. Let’s do it.

This place is hella small. Like a few precious tables and a counter inside, and a few tables outside under some heat lamps but you still freeze booty. Rainy night? Errr, not a good idea. Don’t come in a group of more than four. Not a place for the kids. Seriously. They get tres bored.

You will wait. Unless you go really early, or after the lunch rush. Don’t come when you’re super hangry because you’ll just get hangrier. Maybe some mixed olives ($2) will help.

You won’t get seated unless your entire party is there. So if you’re smart and tag-teaming (“I’ll look for parking, you go get our name down on the list”) and magically a table is available, you will not get that table until you’re done parking your jalopy and the staff can see the whites of your eyes. Don’t even think about arguing about it.

Usually you have to order at the counter. Once a server took my order at the hard-won table. See what happens. You have to get your own napkins, silverware, water. Tip however you see fit.

Cash only, babe.

You still with me? Good. You can do this. Because now it’s time to order yourself one of the scrumptious, thin-crust Neapolitan style pies made with stellar and often organic/sustainable/local ingredients. Order a pizza with the egg. Just trust me. You get two beautiful runny eggs on top. Once you taste how well yolk melds with tomato sauce and cheese it will make you see the light, Carol Ann.

The margherita ($9) is a thing of beauty—you just want to kiss her. The special pies are often fantastic. One night there was a puttanesca (yeah, I ordered it—those puttane know a thing or two) with capers, sardines, and olives with a citrus kick.

Don’t be afraid of anchovies—embrace them. Especially with pepperoni. Sounds crazy, but it’s freaking delicious. A regular there turned me on to this pizza (thanks!).

These are not big pizzas. Everyone should get their own. Especially because you’re gonna want all that egg to yourself. The place is called Pizzetta, as in “little pizza.” The pizza is not that little. But not a flying saucer either.

You might want to start with an artisan cheese salad ($8.75) and finish with the Scharffen Berger flourless chocolate cake ($5.50) with fresh whipped cream—it will make you forgive how dated a dessert it is because it just tastes so good. And with some Blue Bottle coffee, oh, purr. The saffron biscotti ($2) with some vin santo are another spiffy finish.

Go on a Monday and you will be seriously tempted by the poussin. Or some other Monday night special. Save this for another outing. You must pop your cherry with the pizza first. Poussin is for those who are more “experienced.”

If you show up and they have run out of dough, you are not the first person this has happened to. It’s nothing personal. It just is. Don’t shoot anyone or yell profanities. Just leave the car where you parked it, and get all old school and amble on over to Gaspare’s just around the corner on Geary between 19th and 20th. This is not a great pizza, and it’s not a bad one. But it’s pretty darned good. It’s more like kitschy pizza (wait until you see the booths and dusty Italian ephemera hanging overhead). Just stay away from the yucky black olives—they taste like can. Plot your Pizzetta 211 attack for another day.

Okay, staff attitude. They can be nice, or surly, or odd, or attentive (or not), or hippie freaks, or fast friends, whatever. Joey the pizzaiolo is from New Jersey—he just needs to warm up to you a little before he’ll decide whether he actually wants to talk to you. He’s actually pretty cool. And also rather busy making everyone their pizzas. I’ve had the full gamut of treatment here. Like Tartine. Sometimes the staff can be infuriatingly chilly or ineffectual, and then suddenly you get this nice barista who is on top of things and makes you a dreamy espresso to go with your warm croissant and it’s all catnip. So just remember, in the end, you are here for the pizza, and keep your boat steady, no matter what.

Unless you live next door, don’t order it to go. This pizza is meant to be hot out of the oven and slid onto a plate and promptly put into your mouth. Stat.

Don’t miss a trip to the bathroom for the munchkin theatre installation. You gotta see it. Tres charmant. This pizzeria will become charmant for you too—it’s just a fussy little car that doesn’t drive like all the others but you still totally adore it.

the sponsor

Charles Chocolates

JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Chocolates never go out of style for Valentine’s Day, but there’s always room for innovation. Check out two perfect gifts from artisan chocolatier Charles Chocolates: The Heart Collection, a box made entirely of chocolate filled with 24 handmade, heart-shaped chocolates that will make your sweetheart (or you) swoon. Savor the chocolates, then enjoy every bite of the box. You’ll also love classic red velvet Heart-Shaped Boxes filled with delicious assortments of confections, always shipped within three days of being made.

Take 15% off all Charles Chocolates through February 12, 2007 with promotion code “TABLEHOPPER” at

We’ve just learned that Charles Chocolates is opening a retail store soon next to its factory in Emeryville. You can join their mailing list to get the full scoop.

the socialite

Ferry Building

Food from the Heart
Fri., February 9, 2007

Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA



JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO ~FOOD FROM THE HEART~ at the Ferry Building Marketplace kicks off on Friday, February 9th with a benefit for Slow Food. Serenade your senses with a stroll down the Nave and take in local flavors, wines, tango and music. The public is invited to stroll the candlelit Nave where the merchants and restaurateurs of the Marketplace will offer seasonal hors d'oeuvres and Slow Food will pour wine from several wine bars. Food and wine tickets will be sold in $2 denominations: $2 and $4 for food tastes and $6 and $8 for glasses of wine. Proceeds from wine bar and hors d'oeuvres purchases benefit Slow Food San Francisco.

Saturday the Marketplace and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be brimming with heartfelt foods. On Saturday at 10am, Chef Russell Jackson, the “Dissident Chef” of Sub Culture Dining, will offer a cooking demonstration on how to prepare seasonal, romantic meals. Sunday the celebration continues from 11am-4pm with merchant gift ideas, farm fresh flowers and epicurean offerings. Valentine face painting and craft tables will be available for kids.

SLOW FOOD is a nonprofit international, eco-gastronomic organization that supports a biodiverse, sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage foodways, and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table.

Town Hall

Mardi Gras Party
Tue., February 20, 2007

Town Hall
342 Howard St.
Cross: Fremont St.
San Francisco, CA


5pm on

Reservations necessary


JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Town Hall announces its ~FOURTH ANNUAL FAT TUESDAY PARTY~. Guests are encouraged to don masquerade masks for the New Orleans-style party. A percentage of proceeds from the evening will go to a fund for Town Hall’s own Hector Sahagun, a bartender who was in a tragic head-on taxicab collision on January 4, 2007 after leaving work.

The evening will be a raucous, roving feast, encouraging guests to roam about the restaurant to sample traditional New Orleans’ style foods prepared by Executive Chef/Owners Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal: a shellfish boil strewn over newspaper covered tables; a raw bar with oysters, crab and shrimp; a gumbo and jambalaya station; fried chicken; jalapeño corn bread; beer, wine and Pat O’Brien’s style Hurricanes, a cocktail synonymous with Mardi Gras. Beads and doubloons will festoon the restaurant, and the feet tapping sounds of a New Orleans Dixie band will play throughout the night.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, also called Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday. It is a day when people eat and drink in excess in preparation for Lent, the 40-day Christian tradition of penitence from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

Kim Family Benefit

Kim Family Benefit
Mon., February 26, 2007

1550 Church St.
Cross: Duncan St.
San Francisco, CA 94131


Seatings 5:30pm–9pm

$175 for 5-course dinner

JANUARY 30, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I feel like this press release needed to be read in its entirety, so here goes:

The tragedy that befell the family of James and Kati Kim in the remote snowbound mountains of southern Oregon last December touched people around the world but most particularly those of Noe Valley where the Kim family lives and owns a business. Noe Valley resident and Artery owner Paula Benton and 13 Noe Valley groups created The Kim Family Fund to raise money for Kati Kim and her daughters. Launched in December 21st with a goal of raising $25,000, the Fund has raised over $8,000 to date.

To support the effort, Noe Valley resident and Four Seasons Hotel executive chef Jeremy Emmerson has created ~Chefs of Noe Valley: An Evening of Fine Dining to Benefit the Kim Family Fund~ a five-course dinner with wine pairings. “When Paula contacted me about helping Kati Kim and her girls, I knew I wanted to do something and thought immediately of organizing a dinner with all the chefs and restaurateurs in the neighborhood,” says Chef Emmerson. “I’ve traveled 15 years working as a chef and have never felt more at home than these last four years living in Noe Valley with my wife and our two daughters.”

Incanto will close for business the evening of Monday, February 26th in order to provide the venue for this benefit dinner. Each course (and wine pairing) will be created by a different Noe Valley chef. Confirmed chefs include:

Jeremy Emmerson, Noe Valley resident and Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel
Chris Cosentino & Mark Pastore, Chef and Owner of Incanto
Joseph Manzare, Chef Owner of Pescheria Restaurant
Ray Tobias and Galvin Gaviola, Chef and Owners of Deep Sushi
Eric Kuhne and Benny Cheung, Chef and Owners of Bistro 1689
Bridget Labus, Noe Valley resident and Pastry Chef, St. Regis Hotel

There will also be a Food Lovers Silent Auction featuring packages such as: Meadowood Napa Valley-Two Nights Lodging for Two Couples, four 60-minute Spa Treatments, in each of the guest rooms, including a chilled bottle of Schramsberg and fruit basket upon arrival; Four Seasons Scottsdale–Two Night Stay; Gary Danko–Dinner for Four; Jardinière–Dinner for Two; Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay–Brunch for Four.

“The generosity of Jeremy and the Noe Valley food community is overwhelming,” says Benton. “The chefs will donate their time, food and wine allowing almost all the money raised to go to the Kim Family Fund.”

About the Kim Family Fund
Believing that collectively people can create the community they want to live in, Noe Valley residents and business owners established the Kim Family Fund on December 21st, 2006 with the hope of finding 500 people/families to donate $50 each to reach its fundraising goal of $25,000. The KFF is a cash fund to be given to Kati Kim and her daughters. It is sponsored by Noe Valley resident and business owner, Paula Benton and 13 participating Noe Valley groups to reach out to the Kim family in a caring and financial way. For more information or to make a donation via Pay Pal go to: