table of contents   This week's tablehopper: market research

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


AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, not to rub it in for you folks who couldn’t make it to the first tablehopper supper, but boy, that was one heck of an enjoyable evening at Cortez. What an enthusiastic and savvy group of diners! We feasted. We talked. We made new friends. It was a total gourmand salon. In fact, folks started passing around a list of their two favorite local restaurants (oh, how to choose?). If you want to see what made the list, check it out here. One of the guests is also a Yelper, you can read his impression of the supper here. I will definitely be hosting another in the near future—watch for more details soon!

I wanted to wish you fellow paisani a “Buon Ferragosto” this Wednesday! It’s almost like national picnic day in Italy, with everyone heading to the hills or the beach to eat and drink with family and friends. My kind of holiday.

Ciao for now (and of course, meow),

~Marcia subscribe

the chatterbox
AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO More news on restaurant openings in Mint Plaza! It’s looking like Chez Papa will have some new groovy neighbors: ~SUSHI GROOVE~. Well, Sushi Groove Midtown, to be exact. This will be the fourth Sushi Groove location—there is the original location on Hyde Street, plus Sushi Groove South in SoMa, and a location in Walnut Creek. This latest location is moving into the former El Balazo space, and is slated to open in mid-October with 60 seats and a downstairs lounge. Guests will also be able to dine and drink on the big plaza outside, where they will have a full outdoor bar, and fortunately some heat lamps, too. Fridays will bring a special happy hour on the plaza, and since this is a Martel and Nabiel project (Martel Toler and Nabiel Musleh—a third partner is Kevin O’Connor, who just opened Bossa Nova, and is involved in Harlot lounge as well), expect some DJs to grace the indoor lounge’s DJ booth, spinning until the bar closes at 2am. Lunch and dinner will be served seven days a week. 54 Mint St. at Fifth.

So, how’s this for a segue? Some folks also know Martel and Nabiel for their involvement in Oola, the late-night SoMa restaurant they opened with Ola Fendert. Well, many of us have been wondering about the new project Ola has been working on with Mark Bright, formerly a sommelier at Michael Mina. Come late September, ~LOCAL KITCHEN AND WINE MERCHANT~, a multi-faceted project, will be opening in SoMa. There will be a restaurant offering simple Cal-Ital cuisine, with an easygoing neighborhood vibe during the day, and morphing into more of a dining/wine lounge vibe at night. There will also be a retail component to the project, selling what are sure to be some class-act vinos. Carl Grubbs, currently a sommelier at Quince, will have some shifts at Local, and will probably be playing some of his groovy beats. Another player in this new project is John Strickland, who partnered with Martel and Nabiel on Sushi Groove South, and will doing the design. Look for wine tastings, seminars, winemaker events, and according to a post on the Food & Wine “Mouthing Off” blog, there will be also be wine tastings for yogis after working out at Cocoon Urban Day Spa which is opening soon, just upstairs from Local. Nebbiolo and namaste? 330 First St. at Folsom.

Okay, it’s now time for another installment of my favorite new game: “My ‘Hood is Cooler Than Yours!” NOPA residents, something fishy is moving into the 94417: ~BAR CRUDO~ is opening a second location, hopefully by the first of the year. Color me excited. The restaurant will be opening in the short-lived Amina Pizzeria space, just across the street from the Independent. The 60-seat space will have a mezzanine and long bar where you can savor some foamy goodness off what is sure to be a long list of ales. (The Selvera brothers have a knack for Belgians. Beers, that is.) Since the kitchen is bigger than their slip of a space on Bush Street, look for an expanded and different menu. I’ll release more details, like the name, hours, and menu items as things develop. 655 Divisadero St. at Grove.

The Peruvian restaurant trend continues! ~LA MAR SAN FRANCISCO~, an import from Peru, will be opening on the water in the newly rehabbed Pier 1 ½ space (you can read more about the development here). The chef has not been decided, but Gaston Acurio, a well-known chef in Peru, is the man behind the project. (You can read a translated interview with him here.) La Mar will offer the cutting edge of Peruvian cuisine, and is to be styled after the classic Peruvian cebicherías. The menu will be chock-full of fresh seafood prepared with the Andean, Asian, and Spanish influences that are typically found in Peruvian cuisine. Some menu highlights include many different preparations of cebiche, raw fish or other seafood prepared with “leche de tigre,” a lemon-based juice that “cooks” the fish. There will also be causas, Peruvian yellow potatoes topped with fresh fish or seafood (some raw, some cooked). Oh, there will be outdoor seating too (try 3,000 square feet!). I’ve been in the 8,000-square-foot space for a CUESA event, and the view of the Bay is downright gorg. This historic location was formerly the passenger waiting room for the Delta King and Delta Queen that ferried between San Francisco and Sacramento in the 1920s. La Mar is scheduled to open in the spring of 2008, and there are two or three new restaurants and cafés slated to open in The Piers project as well (Piers 3 and 5 are also included in the development). There will be more details down the road, but this is about all there is to know for now. La Mar restaurants are also located in Lima and Mexico City, and will soon open in Costa Rica; Santiago, Chile; and São Paulo, Brazil.

After beaucoup design delays, ~ROE~ is reopening to the public on Monday, August 20. The original chef, Thai Tran, has left the project, and Alvin San is taking her place. San was actually Roe’s chef from June 2006–March 2007, and left the restaurant in March to complete a three-month stage at El Bulli in Spain. San’s menu will offer California cuisine with global influences. Roe will also be kicking off a dinner series called "Good Fridays at Roe.” Each Friday, the restaurant will host a special three-course dinner, starting at 8pm and priced at $50 (not including drinks and gratuity). Once dinner wraps up, a guest DJ will spin until the lounge opens to the public at 10pm. (Bottle service? Uh, yeah.) 651 Howard St. at 3rd, 415-227-0288.

Some folks have been wondering about when the new location of ~SULTAN~ is opening (I’ve been wondering as well—I am so ready for some chicken charga!). According to one of the owners, we’re looking at another three weeks out… sit tight! 340 O'Farrell St. between Mason and Taylor.

Just to remind you, ~JARDINIÈRE~ closes for renovations this coming Sunday, August 19, and will reopen to the public on Thursday September 13.

Update on ~BIG 4~: breakfast and dinner are back, and lunch will resume service on August 20. Thank goodness the bar never closed! (Some of you may know that I’m a fan). 1075 California St. at Taylor, 415-771-1140.

In an interesting switcheroo, it looks like the ~HELMAND~ will not be reopening in its current North Beach home. To recap, it closed in the landslide, and due to some insurance mucky muck and having to finance the repairs themselves, Helmand will instead be moving into Yaya Cuisine’s space on Van Ness in Russian Hill. Yaya plans to close in mid-September or so, and the owner, Yahya Salih, is currently looking for a new space. I’ll let you know when Yaya has found a new address, and as soon as a reopening date is set for Helmand. 2424 Van Ness Ave. at Green.

Froyo madness continues: ~HONEYDOO~ will be opening its flagship shop in North Beach, serving pure yogurt (read: organic) with no flavors  besides plain. (Sorry, green tea or chocolate fans.) There will be some topping choices, however, like fruits, grains, or M&Ms for the kiddies. Some folks had a taste at the North Beach fair, and reportedly loved the tangy “yogurty” flavor. The space is in the former Pixie dress shop—look for an opening in either in September or October. Hours will be Mon–Sat 10am–10pm and Sun 10am–8pm. 1400 Grant St. at Green.

And now a nibble for you vegetarian readers: some of the haute restaurants around town offer vegetarian tasting menus (like La Folie’s Menu Jardinière) and now ~MASA’S~ is offering a dedicated six-course vegetarian tasting menu, with dishes like Yukon Gold potato blini with Italian eggplant “caviar,” lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil, and baby greens; and a  “tian” of roasted sweet white turnips with toasted couscous and Moroccan argan oil ($90). 648 Bush St. at Stockton, 415-989-7154.

Many of you know I only post SF events and news (unless it’s a jetsetter piece), but I did want to forward this link to a petition to save the ~SWEETWATER SALOON~ in Mill Valley, because it may be closing. I know it’s near and dear to many folks in the Bay Area, so I wanted to be sure you knew what was going on.

Got a hot tip? You know I'd love it (and you). Just reply to this email!

the regular


One Market
1 Market Plaza
Cross: Steuart St.
San Francisco, CA 94105


Mon–Fri 11:30pm–2pm
Mon–Sat 5:30pm–9pm

Apps $8.75–$16.50
Entrées $18.50–$32
Desserts $5–$13.50

AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Back in my advertising days, I remember being (occasionally) invited to some fabulous vendor lunches—three-hour affairs that made me want to curl up and sleep under my desk once we returned to the agency. It was the mid-nineties, so places like One Market, Postrio, and Farallon were high on rotation.

There is a definite art to a good business lunch spot: attentive but unobtrusive service, a spacious and well-appointed dining room plus private rooms and big tables or booths, a menu with some luxe dining items in case someone feels like showboating/splurging/taking advantage of the expense account (ditto on the killer wine list, with a range of safe choices and some trophies, too), and food that is savory and interesting but not too outré—you should be able to confidently eat anything presented to you, and there should a range of items that can accommodate all kinds of dietary needs and picky eaters.

So, my advertising days are long gone, but I do have publicist pals who sometimes invite me to dine with them at nice restaurants that I’d probably not consider shelling out the big bucks for. Like, say, ~ONE MARKET~. I mean, c’mon, how long has One Market been around, you know? Years. Like, 14. Why go there when there are so many new, hip, and happening places to visit?

Which is exactly why I like to feature tried-and-true places in this column. Granted, restaurants that are a hit with the business dining set are not high on my shortlist, but I found chef Mark Dommen’s contemporary American cuisine full of elegant execution and nuances (thanks to his pedigree that includes Fleur de Lys, and Lespinasse, Park Avenue Café, and Palladin in New York). And while the prices aren’t cheap, the menu is brimming like a CSA box with quality seasonal product (yes, it helps to have the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market just across the street), plus Dommen has sourced special purveyors, like the couple in Alaska who supply his wild sockeye salmon.

During a recent dinner, one of the apps we tried was the sautéed wild Gulf shrimp paired with watermelon and a hit of Espelette chili ($13.50)—it reminded me of the yummy bags of cantaloupe, jicama, papaya, and watermelon sprinkled with chile you can get from Mexican street vendors, especially in L.A. One look at this dish’s slightly blanched, peeled, and halved cherry tomatoes on the side of the plate, and you’re like, wow, that’s some labor, that’s some care in the kitchen. My sole kvetch was I wanted a bit more salt to play around in this dish.

The smoked Tasmanian ocean trout “mi cuit” ($13) was like my ideal breakfast dish morphed into a dinner appetizer: the pretty in pink trout was perched on a bed of potato rösti (operating like hash browns for me) and had a marvelous hat of a plump poached egg, with a tangy pancetta vinaigrette around the periphery of the plate. Rich, yes. Am I craving it right now? You betcha. (Dommen prepared this winning dish for StarChefs this year, you can check out the recipe here.)

One Market’s menu is quite a meat-fest (wait until you see the setup in the back of the restaurant) and includes a daily rotating roast, some wood-grilled faves, and other marvy meaty combos, like bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin ($25.50). Pork? Check. Bacon? Check. Let’s party. The portion was quite hefty (yay, high-end lunch leftovers!), with smoky bacon wrapped around three plump and tender rounds of pork. I found the dandelion “persillade” base a touch bitter as an accompaniment, especially next to the pork’s bed of sweet apple—but the heavy reduction and side of golden salsify helped bring it all together.

Lavender-rubbed lamb loin from Colorado ($31) was like buttah (thanks to the sous vide preparation), and again, the kitchen showed off its elevated technique and skillz with the spaghetti-like ribbons of zucchini on the side. The pan-seared Alaskan halibut ($28.50) tasted under-salted, but the dollop of bone marrow made for a decadent touch, and the accompanying asparagus spears were the picture of seasonal perfection.

Patti Dellamonica-Bauler’s desserts have a reputation of their own, and this particular night we tried sweet treats like strawberry rhubarb turnovers with mascarpone ice cream, and honey-roasted apricots with star thistle ice cream, a buttery almond financier, and candied pistachios (both $9). Why stop there? There’s always Bradley’s butterscotch pudding to tempt you, or what the heck, go for the mini platter of three choices ($13.50) so you can get three butterscotch puddings, heh.

Some deals on the menu include the “The Business Lunch,” the Caesar salad and a choice of fish or chicken for $20.95 (add a mini dessert for $4!). When I was there for dinner, there was also a three-course Summer Market Menu for $45.

The all-American wine list has some nice by-the-glass picks, like the Foxen 2004 chenin blanc from the Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard ($10.25) that was totally meow with the shrimp. Some of the by the glass options can creep up there price-wise, so pay attention if you’re watching your boo-jay—it’s too easy to get distracted with the Embarcadero views through the massive windows.

Now, for those of you who made it through my lengthy missive (per usual, sorry), there’s a swell secret in the kitchen: the chef’s table. It’s one of my favorite restaurant tables I’ve ever had the pleasure to dine at. Imagine a mafia don’s table, an old-school booth upholstered in black leather (-ette?) in the back of the house, with views of the inner workings of the kitchen, and the Ferry Building outside as well.

I like to fancy myself closing big deals back there, although a birthday blowout is more apropos since you can squeeze seven folks at the table. The chef and crew personally serve you a tasting menu, and you can even get a tour of the kitchen (when it’s not totally slammed). The entire thing is a blast.

So, if you’re looking for a location for a memorable group dinner, this hidden little table is it.  And the next time you have a business dinner coming up, or maybe you’re hosting out-of-town guests who “don’t want to eat anything too weird” but want a San Francisco “big city dining” experience, One Market’s dining room will totally fit the bill (well, that depends on who is paying, doesn’t it?).

the socialite


James Beard Foundation’s Taste America

Sep. 28–29, 2007

St. Regis Hotel
On the Terrace
125 Third St.
Cross: Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94105


Reception 6:30pm
Dinner 7:30pm
Dessert buffet 9:30pm
Silent auction 10pm

Tickets $250

order online
Call Andrew Freeman & Co.: 415-781-5700

or email

AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, the James Beard Foundation is hosting ~THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION’S TASTE AMERICA~, a food festival and series of dinners in 20 cities around the country. San Francisco is gathering together top female chefs/cookbook authors for a four-course fundraising dinner at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Delicious wines will be paired with cuisine from Traci des Jardins of Jardinière, Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, and Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, along with James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Joanne Weir, and nationally renowned Pastry Chef Gale Gand of Tru Chicago, a special visiting guest chef. Also in attendance will be Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation.

The benefit dinner will bring together local business leaders, media, food and wine producers and experts, and James Beard Foundation members. In addition to benefiting the James Beard Foundation, a portion of the proceeds from the dinner will also be donated to San Francisco Food Bank.

The celebration will continue on Saturday, September 29 with an in-store Williams Sonoma Festival Day saluting founder Chuck Williams, at the Union Square flagship store. The Festival will include free cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings, artisanal tastings, and children’s activities. 


Dark Dining SF
Fridays in September
Sep. 14, 21, 28, 2007

Ft. Mason
San Francisco, CA


Seating at 7:30pm
Dinner 8pm


AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Now here’s a twist on a blind date: throughout the month of September, TasteTV is hosting ~DARK DINING SF~, a series of dinners held completely in the dark. For two hours, guests will eat, drink, and talk, completely in the dark. Dinner is served by a combination of visually handicapped (blind) waiters and those fitted with night-vision goggles.

The three-course meal is under the direction of chef Lisa Hines, owner of the Bella Cucina Café in San Rafael; she also catered for the crew and contestant chefs of Bravo’s Top Chef during its first season. The meal includes wine pairings and entertainment, like music, spoken word, and more. The events are limited to 100 guests per evening. Menus are listed on the site, and include your choice of a poultry, fish, or vegetarian menu.

the starlet

AUGUST 14, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Haylie Duff, Rachel Hunter, and poker star Jamie Gold all dined last week at Mamacita.  

Sammy Hagar was having a good time at the special Marc Vetri dinner at Zuppa on Sunday night. Hagar had plenty of opportunity to hang out with chef/owner Joseph Manzare, who is now on his third week behind the stoves at Zuppa. (Look for Zuppa’s new special Sunday prix-fixe dinners that will highlight the regions of Italy—$39 for a four-course prix fixe menu, with choices, plus wine pairings for an additional $29.)

Sandra Bernhard was spotted dining at Perbacco with a guest this Saturday night—they had crudo, and she had trofie al pesto (smart girl—I love Perbacco’s pastas).

Barry Bonds celebrated last week at the Ambassador with some Crown Royal.

In closing, let’s raise a glass of champers in honor of Brooke Astor, the philanthropist, novelist, and famed socialite who passed away on Monday at the extraordinary age of 105. She reportedly left instructions for her gravestone epitaph to read, “I had a wonderful life.” Cheers to that, and for showing us all how to do it in such style. I’d say a bottle of Veuve La Grande Dame would be fitting.