table of contents This week's tablehopper: hello, daddy-o.

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

the lush
put it on my tab
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
the bookworm
another place for your nose
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Ghirardelli Square

Out of the Kitchen

MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Did you have a good time saluting the mothers in your life on Sunday? I know I am one lucky girl to have my mother AND grandmother live so close by (San Mateo), and had fun planning and cooking a celebratory dinner for them. I owe a big merci to Georgeanne Brennan for her delish recipe for leg of lamb with herbes de Provence—I learned how to prepare it in one of her cooking classes last year at Purcell Murray, and the escarole dish I made was from one of David Gingrass's classes at the former Hawthorne Lane. It was all so good with sides of spring peas and carrots, and roasted potatoes with mint. Oh, and grazie to Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks for her awesome baked artichoke dip; a total hit, especially with some bubbly (next time I'm adding some prosciutto to it, heh). For you bakers out there, if you want a super-easy and tasty cake recipe, check out this winning lemon and olive oil cake from Gourmet—we ate it with fresh raspberry sauce on the side. Meow.

Thanks to everyone for the helpful feedback on what you'd like to see more of on tablehopper, or what you'd like to see change (YES, we are working on the font size—long story. This is too big, but we're trying to find "just right." Stand by). Congrats to Riki T. who won tickets to this weekend's OysterFest! As for the "I ate a gross critter in my Tequila" award, the scorpion-eating Annie P. won that one. Speaking of, I wanted to share this tidbit from Eric Rubin of Tres Agaves who "learned me" a bit about Tequila:

"Unfortunately you will not receive any photos of people eating Tequila worms. It is illegal under CRT (Consuigo Regulador del Tequila) law to add any foreign objects to a bottle of Tequila. What is true is that mezcals are allowed to add foreign objects, hence agave plant larvae (aka Tequila worms), and also scorpions are found in some low quality products. Also, the word 'Tequila' is always capitalized as it is a proper noun. All denomination-of-origin products are capitalized; Camembert, Kobe, Armagnac, Scotch (technically only single malt), Tequila, Cognac, Champagne, etc.  But not cheddar, rum, vodka, etc."

Gracias, Eric!

I know some of you are big fans of the annual CozmoDeck (I am) for easy discounts on local restaurant dining. They are now hosting their mid-year special: buy one, get one free. Hubba. The two-for-one offer is valid until the end of May; just use the code "thmay" to double your order for free. Any purchase made with that coupon code will automatically double your decks on Cozmo's end (unfortunately they can't reflect it in the receipt—just trust the doubling will happen).
This week is shaping up to be a hot one, so I thought I'd share this link to my "Foodie 411" column for the SFCVB Taste site—last week I made a few suggestions for good spots for outdoor dining.

In honor of San Francisco Cocktail Week this week, Duggan McDonnell tried to out-do me in word count—I hope you enjoy his piece in the wino (knowing Shotzi, his piece would have a better home in the lush, actually, but no matter). Whaddya know, this column is even LONGER than last week's. Glug.

See you on the town!

~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia) subscribe
the chatterbox

Ghirardelli SquareMAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO The next project officially moving into the Mint Plaza zone, just to the left of Chez Papa Resto, will be a ~GASTRO-STEAKHOUSE PROJECT~ from Peter Greerty, most recently the GM of Bong Su. The name, and chef, are currently undecided, but look for more details in the coming months since the project is slated to open in late November or early December—the lease was just final on Friday. There will be 120 seats total, with 30–40 outside, and 90 inside (including seats at the bar). It will be open daily for lunch and dinner, serving a late afternoon menu during the in-between times. The hours are also planned to run late, until midnight or even 12:30am on the weekends. The space is rather industrial, so expect a hip, modern design. I'll keep you posted as details tighten up. 418 Jessie St. at 5th St.

After 25 years in its location, the CCA is serving its last lunch on May 23rd and then closing the ~CARÊME ROOM~ at 625 Polk Street. Since the campus has been moving to consolidate everything at its newer campus at 350 Rhode Island in Potrero Hill, they really only need one restaurant—it doesn't make sense to have two locations. The new Carême 350 restaurant opens for lunch on May 28th (all the other campuses down in that area should be happy with this new dining option), and will serve lunch Tue–Sat 11:30am–1pm, and dinner Tue–Sat from 6pm–8pm. Some interesting news on the history of the old Polk Street space since I'm into that stuff: it used to be a German social house, bowling alley included, and later on it was California Hall, when big sixties bands like Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller, and Jimi Hendrix played there (check out the groovy sixties posters of past acts). In coming months there will be a few one-off classes and offices, and the school will cease all activity in the location in August.

Yup, it's one big head shaker: the money-makin' ~TAVERN ON THE GREEN~ is expanding to San Francisco—yeah, the one that's the second-highest grossing independent restaurant in the U.S. It's opening on the top floor of the Metreon, overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens, and will be the largest restaurant in San Francisco, sporting a hefty 40,000 square feet. Can you say private events for convention-goers? Exactly. But I will say the outdoor terrace should be pretty neat. The project is due to open next summer, in 2009. The San Francisco Business Journal has some good details on the project, read more here, and a piece in the Chronicle reveals the executive chef will be Brian Young, formerly of New York's Le Bernardin and Citarella the Restaurant.

Yay, more Asian street food is making its way into the mainstream. Opening at the end of May will be ~KASA INDIAN EATERY~, a cross between a taqueria and Indian joint (perhaps not coincidentally the space was most recently La Castro Taqueria). The menu will feature a variety of "kati rolls" (think Indian wraps) in buttery roti bread; you'll take your pick from fillings like chicken tikka or tikka masala, lamb curry, and veggie options, like paneer with peppers and onion, or cumin potatoes, or a version with scrambled eggs, Gruyere, and onions and chutney (not sure what to make of that one, but I'll try anything once). All the kati rolls will come with raita and chutney; you can also order a dish "deconstructed" and get daal (lentils) and basmati rice on the side instead. Everything will be made from scratch and with quality ingredients. The space will have an order-at-the-counter style, with guests moving down the line as you order a la Pancho Villa. There will also be beer, wine, Indian sodas, and chai tea. 4001 18th St. at Noe.

Nua in North Beach barely closed and now moving into its place is ~VICOLETTO~. The name means "little alley" in Italian, and that's a hint about where the young new owner and chef are from: yes, Italia. The owner, Francesco Covucci, is Calabrese but has been living in San Francisco for five years, and the chef, Gabriele Lastaria, is Napoletano—he just landed in San Francisco over the weekend. They will be putting together a seasonal menu and are focused on using quality ingredients, plus they will be making pastas in house, like tagliatelle, ravioli, and gnocchi. The restaurant will open for dinner next week, from 5pm–11am. 550 Green St. at Jasper Alley.

I'm hearing that former site of the Pagoda Palace Theater on Washington Square (next to old Washbag space) will be another ~LA CORNETA TAQUERIA~, a relative to the one in Glen Park. Didn't hear back from the architect in time for details—will have more next week! 1741 Powell St. at Union.

Last week I failed to mention the new ~HARD KNOX CAFE~ location is open in its new outer Richmond digs, in the former Greco Romana space. Every neighborhood needs a fried chicken HQ. Hours are Mon–Sat 11am–10pm, and Sun 11am–6pm. 2448 Clement St. at 25th Ave., 415-752-3770.

Since I have better odds of winning the lottery than getting a phone call or email back from the folks at ~TOAST~, we have the Noe Valley Voice to thank for the update on timing of the second Toast location. Mid-June is the projected opening in the former Herb's Fine Foods space. According to writer Mazook of the Rumors Behind the News column, "Like Toast No. 1 (1748 Church), the cafe plans to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with hamburgers and salads as specialties." 3991 24th St. at Noe.

Just a reminder: ~MAGNOLIA~ in the Haight has closed for its renovation—it should be open again next week for dinner on Wednesday, May 21st, all nice and freshened up. There will be a new sausage program too: a selection of five different house-made sausages (including a veggie one) will be available, solo or with a choice of two sides.

~BOCCALONE~, the salumi line from the folks at Incanto, will now call a retail shop in the Ferry Building Marketplace home—it's moving into the former Capay Organic space. According to their newsletter, expect a modern American version of a traditional salumeria this summer, featuring all varieties of their handmade meats. You will be able to purchase salumi sliced to order, in hot and cold panini (how about some lonza with peach and mint?), on a variety of salumi platters, or in portable paper salumi cones (who needs ice cream when you can have a cone of coppa?). There will be red vintage Italian slicer, and an eight-by-eight-foot glass refrigerator showcasing a variety of hanging meats. Boccalone items will also be available for delivery in the downtown area, courtesy of a bright red "salumi-cycle," designed and built by Sycip Designs of Santa Rosa. I think I need one of those.

Thought you'd like to know the latest hours for ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~ so you can get your alley coffee fix: Mon–Fri 7am–5pm, and Sat–Sun 9am–5pm. Just enter the alley (Caledonia) off 15th Street—it's parallel to and a little bit east of Valencia (i.e. going toward Mission).

Seems the charms of alley coffee are irresistible, because open today is ~CENTO~, which just rolled open its door on Ritch Street in SoMa. This petite kiosk is the latest from John Quintos, who had Café Lambretta on Polk Street until he was forced to close due to some neighborhood café non-compete mess. While he's still searching for a location to reopen Café Lambretta, he has opened Cento, which means one hundred, and was also the smallest Lambretta. The kiosk is right next door to 330 Ritch, which Quintos used to own. Blue Bottle Coffee espressos will be pulled on the La Marzocco Linea, and they built their own custom drip bar too. A daily breakfast polenta will be served (savory or sweet) and in a couple weeks more baked goods will be offered. Hours are Mon–Fri 8am–3pm. 360 Ritch St., between Townsend and Brannan, and 3rd and 4th Streets.

Since we're talkin' risin' and shinin', ~BERETTA~ has started serving weekend brunch, with some of the savory dishes, plus the addition of some brunchy items, like spicy sausage hash with poached eggs and smoked mozzarella ($9.50), eggs with roast potatoes and toast, frittata ($9), pancetta or mushroom scrambles ($9.50), and French toast ($9.50). Personally, I'd just concoct a breakfast pizza with pancetta, egg, and Fontina, done. Brunch is Sat–Sun 10am–3pm. 1199 Valencia St. at 23rd St., 415-695-1199.

You got your reservation lined up for this Thursday's (May 15th) ~COCKTAIL WEEK SUPPERS~? Here's a peek at the menu for bacar (see below). Reception at 6pm, dinner at 6:30pm. $90 per person.

Prosciutto Wrapped Roasted Prawns with Avocado-Cucumber Gazpacho
Day at the Spa - Square One Vodka & Cucumber
Striped Bass with Sugar Snap Peas, Potato, and Tomato, Thai Curry
Rhum Basil - Cruzan Rhum, Basil, and Fresh Chilis
Liberty Farms Duck Breast with Scarlet Turnips, Candied Kumquats & Tonka
Trilby - Johnny Walker Black, Crème de Violette & la Fee Absinthe
Chocolate Cherry Beignets with Stout Sabayon
Black Sails - Santa Teresa Solera Rum, Cherries from Lodi, Double Bock Draft Beer

This Saturday, May 17th, Bi-Rite Market in the Mission is hosting a ~COMMUNITY DAY~ on to benefit Nextcourse, a five-year nonprofit food education program with a project at nearby Mission High School. Bi-Rite Market will donate 5% of its proceeds from sales made on May 17th to Nextcourse. The event will feature free food tastings, Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream, free short nutrition consultations, and a drawing for a gourmet food basket. Mission High students who have participated in Nextcourse programs, as well as Nextcourse staff and volunteers, will talk about their program and facilitate the event. 10am–4pm. Bi-Rite Market, 3639 18th St. at Guerrero.

Then Sunday, May 18th is the ~IN SEARCH OF GOOD FOOD BIKE TOUR~. In collaboration with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the up and coming film In Search of Good Food will be hosting a bike ride in search of good food, mostly through the Mission and southeast portion of the city (nice and flat!). The ride will meander around the Mission and southeast portions of the city before ending up at Alemany Farm. Over about two hours, you will visit sites of interest that relate to the history, past and present, of people trying to eat good food in San Francisco. There will also be guest speakers at a few stops, including Mission Pie, Veritable Vegetable, and a unique up-and-coming FREE farm stand. Please RSVP at so they know how many people to expect. Ride safe, eat well! 1pm, Mission St. at 16th St.

The Commonwealth Club Bay Gourmet Forum is hosting an awesome panel on May 19th to discuss ~CHEESE IN THE RAW: EVALUATING RISKS AND REWARDS~. Here's more: "Drawing on their professional experiences in the industry and the most current research on dairy production, the panel will separate fact from fiction in the ongoing controversy surrounding the production and sale of raw milk cheese. They will address criticism from pasteurization advocates and will give their opinions on the government's current 60-day rule. You'll have a chance to consider their arguments while enjoying a distinctive selection of artisanal cheese." Colin Shaff, Maitre-Fromager, Bar Bambino, San Francisco, will moderate. The panelists are: Gordon Edgar, Cheese Monger, Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco; Andy Lax, Sales & Marketing Mgr. Fresca Italia, Brisbane; Moshe Rosenberg, Professor & Specialist, Dairy Engineering & Technology, University of California, Davis; Soyoung Scanlan, Owner/Cheese Maker, Andante Dairy, Petaluma. Ferry Building, Port Commission Hearing Room, 2nd Floor, check-in: 5:45pm, program begins 6:15pm. $8 Commonwealth Club members; $15 non-members. Order tickets at or 415-597-6705.

And next Tuesday, May 20th, you can enjoy May's bounty o' shrooms at ~CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN~ with their first-ever spring mushroom dinner. All dishes will be served a la carte (and there will be a few funghi-free items on the menu too). 1666 Market St. at Gough, 415-437-1770.

Over in the East Bay, David Seawell is the new executive chef of ~B RESTAURANT & BAR~ in Oakland. His background includes working with Robert Price at Rumpus (anyone remember the chocolate brioche cake there? lordy), Stars Café, Boulevard, and Fog City Diner. The B Restaurant & Bar menu changes seasonally and is prepared with ingredients often obtained from farms within 100 miles of the Bay Area (a bit easier to execute when the Old Oakland Farmer's Market is practically at your front door). Dishes on Seawell's new spring menu include appetizers ($6–$14) like marrow bean soup with fennel broth and chicken liver crostini, California asparagus with poached egg and a Champagne vinaigrette, and entrées ($14–$27) like bacon-roasted quail with white cheddar corn bread stuffing and Dungeness crab gumbo pan sauce, and California halibut with a horseradish crust, English pea flan, and green garlic broth. 499 Ninth St. at Washington, Oakland, 510-251-8770.

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

the sponsor

Ghirardelli Square

Uncorked! Wine Festival, in partnership with COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food, & the Arts, will take place on Saturday, May 17th, 1pm–6pm. Enjoy the ambience of the waterfront and entertainment along Beach Street and throughout Ghirardelli Square's courtyards while you taste over 100 varietals from 50+ Northern California wineries.  

Experience chef demonstrations, wine education seminars, and gourmet food sampling. Check out a pastry demonstration by recent Top Chef contestant Marisa Churchill at 1:30pm (advanced reservations needed).

The event is free and open to the public, however, tickets are required to participate in wine tasting. Tickets are $40 in advance/$45 at the door. Tickets are available now at

fresh meat


© 2008

508 4th St.
Cross: Bryant St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


Mon 6pm–10pm
Tue–Sat 6pm–11pm

Bar opens at 5pm

Small plates $5–$17
For two $32 and up
Desserts $5–$10

MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Are you naughty or nice? Are you chocolate experienced, or just fairy experienced? Do you like to be teased? Wanna explore, or explore deeper? If you're eating at ~ORSON~, you better be prepared to answer all of those flirty inquiries, because everything from the drinks menu to the desserts are gonna ask. The blushing part is up to you.

Like a saucy film, or Ghesquiere's latest avant-garde collection for Balenciaga, Orson has been earning its fair share of discussion and debate—raised eyebrows and whispers galore. Hey, everyone, look at the new kid! His mom puts boudin noir on his pizza! Oh yes she does.

I've eaten here three times, and like a good restaurant, each time I'm noticing how it continues to evolve, featuring all kinds of dish refinements, wording tweaks, and menu changes, big to small. It's like, heck, when do I write this place up? I came to the realization that I don't think it's ever going to stop changing, that's the point. The place is full of food inventors, and they can't be stopped.

This restaurant is not for everyone, let's just say it. My parents would find the two-level historic warehouse space cold, too industrial, too much like a "weird" gallery, and the rowdy mix of beats ranging from LCD Soundsystem to Aerosmith to Goldfrapp to Pink Floyd would seriously put them over the edge.

My budget-conscious pal paying off his college debt and 2007 taxes would be stressed with the prices on the menu, but I'd be able to steer him to what to order and he'd be happy: asparagus, chicken sausage, farro with crescenza—there there, all that came to $28, that wasn't too much now, was it? Here, eat some of my duck fat fries. Shhhhhh.

Some hungry orthodontists in town from Connecticut for a convention? Hrm, could be too hip, too challenging, unless they want a little walk on the wild side. As for my buddy who wants a pork chop and potatoes, well, if that's all you like to eat for dinner, then no, this place won't make you happy. (And now you know why I don't like to go out to eat with you very much, either.)

Elizabeth Falkner and chef de cuisine Ryan Farr have dreamed up a menu that would make Orson Welles proud: it's borderline epic. Pages and pages, dishes and dishes. (Which are now being consolidated onto one large page, another wise refinement.) I totally feel like I'm dating this restaurant, learning what I like each time, enjoying some surprise kisses and nibbles on the ear, and coming back for more.

The food here is layered in preparation, using many modern techniques, and cloaked in a certain amount of plotting and planning, building serious intrigue. (It's not all serious—it's also playful.) The seasons are a major driver on the menu—dishes are tweaked accordingly, week-by-week. So it's really not a one-time date. Well, perhaps for some people.

Let's hop to it—my favorites: the trio of pork buns ($7) stuffed with porky bits (like trotter and shank) sealed in a savory dough that reminds me of a soft version of my mom's breadsticks—you dip these rustic and golden little buns in a maple sherry gastrique, stuff them with Fresno chilis and cilantro, and then quickly wonder where they all went; the clever cold-smoked tempura egg ($8) encased in a nori batter shell that you break open and the yolk luxuriously runs into the scallion broth—vegetarians, rejoice; charred hamachi ($11) with a brûlée of sugar, chili and salt, paired with cooling avocado, kicky radish, and cut with citrus vinaigrette; the supple house-made chicken sausage ($14) with a boudin blanc texture and candied pistachio topping that made my heart beat faster (was it the flavor, or the fat?—hmm, don't answer that); the lightly cold-smoked trout ($15) cooked sous vide and served on a bed of black rice, and further smoke-a-riffic with house-smoked bacon—great dish for ex-smokers who want a fix.

And then you ride your horse to flavor country (as it charmingly said on my receipt): the grilled kama for two (hamachi collar, $32) is pure fish decadence—meaty, juicy, spicy, salty, herbal, and smoky, with tang and verve from the yuzu, spice, and togarashi (Japanese seven-spice chili) marinade. After being grilled, the collar is then flash broiled with a puree of herbs and oil. Seriously, how much more flavor can that kitchen work outta and into that fish? (Hold me.)

This is sh*t I could never, ever make at home. This is exactly the kind of food I go out for.

The "companions" are all top of my list to go on a movie date or a weekend away with, like the melt-in-your-mouth carrot dumplings ($6) made from a puree of Chantenay carrot and a (shhhh, it's a secret) Japanese starch, packed with full-tilt carrot flavor. But my fave was the earthy farro ($5) cooked in cabbage broth (you'll find some ribbons of cabbage), plus dollops of crescenza, and the bite of little fried lentil bits. Such texture. Craving. It. Right. Now.

The menu reads a bit cryptically, usually with three to four items listed, like a culinary haiku of sorts that is meant to be evocative. Or then there's just the super simplistic "roasted pig" ($17). That's it, two words. It's all you need, really. (Savvy servers can give you the complete breakdown of every dish, so just ask—they're used to it.)

Promise me you'll at least go out on a limb with something—be daring. Like the silky quenelle of Parmigiano pudding with pepper jam, and cocoa nib explosion (read: pop rocks). It's pretty funny to watch your dining companion grinning with pop rocks firing at will in their mouth. And for $5, almost harmless to play with (better skip the chaser of carbonated soda, ha ha). Heck, you can always order the "safe" (but delish) black cod ($15) prepared sous vide with tender butter beans and served with saffron rouille.

My favorite perch is at the 30-seat horseshoe bar, made of gorg reclaimed marble, with a funky-modern light fixture hanging above, like an exploding icicle. No brainers to start with off the "tease" menu: the duck fat fries with brown butter béarnaise sauce, the light-fry tofu with an understated house kimchee (don't be afraid—it's delicate) made with bok choy that just hits the mark, and the pork candy, aka the chicharrones ($5 each/three for $13).

You can share a wood-fired pizza with a pal, most are around $14—the menu keeps expanding. I just get too seduced by all the other dishes, gotta try the new pizzas… The house-made charcuterie list includes the scrumptious rye salami and spiced tri tip, but I found all the accompanying mustards a bit distracting, even if one was a cool violet mustard.

It's easy to get all ADD here, and I say you better embrace it. If you fight it, you're going to be no match for dessert. Pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez is gonna mess with your mind: blame it on the tuile of candy cap mushroom (was that laced?) with the decadent brûléed chocolate French toast and vanilla jelly ($5)—you can smell this being served across the restaurant. Just wait until you try to figure out what's in the "invisible" dessert ($10).

Not up for full niceness? Don't fret, there are other $5 gems on the "naughty" list, like the maple bacon ice cream in the "you better get your spoon away from my" pigwich, sandwiched in pizzelle. And the stellar 50/50 shot, a dreamy creamsicle-meets-bitters intermezzo that made me christen it an ideal candidate for "Stuff White People Like."

The dessert names alone make me want to try them, like "sundae always comes too late," or "gleaming the cube" (as delicious as it is clever). Villavelazquez told me they actually start with the names first, cool process. I'll keep that in mind for my next column.

Mixologist Jacqueline Patterson's cocktails can be very femme fatale: haunting, perplexing, fascinating, or in the case of the celery or cucumber gimlets, downright dangerous (because they disappear like an adult spa drink). (Note: my kind of spa.)

I dug the edgy staff uniforms designed by Falkner's partner in the restaurant and in life, Sabrina Riddle, with the frayed edges, jaunty tie/scarves, three-panel aprons, and cheeky armbands, like a sporty-looking bartender's vintage sleeve garter.

The space is clubby, with gothic dark elements that have a SoMa naughtiness to them. There are also arty and personal touches, like the canvases painted by Falkner's father, Avery, and there's a video of his in rotation with the other projections above the bar. I'd like to see some adjustments with the lighting—sometimes the space feels a bit too bright, and needs a few additional touches of warmth, like some candles.

I do have some quibbles with the wine list—while the choices are well sourced, the options are too slim considering the explosion of flavor happening elsewhere on the menus. And I'd like at least a couple bubblies to choose from, the place feels like bubbles to me. Some half bottles would be nice since the menu is great for couples dining together. And since we're on gripes, yes, there were a few dishes I didn't care for (octopus salad), or with elements that needed tuning (one night the tai snapper was overcooked). This write-up is monster-sized enough—I prefer to focus on what I liked.

Recent additions to the menu (crazy, there's more!?) include a variety of tasting menus, a côte de boeuf that reaches epic flavor proportions (and is a la Epic Roasthouse in price), and look for a special farmer's menu that will be added on Mondays. There is also a kiosk selling treats and coffee in the mornings.

Welcome to San Francisco's new culinary lab for edgy California cuisine. Are you curious?

the lush

Out of the KitchenMAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO I know a lot of you are fired up for the opening of ~PRESS CLUB~ in Yerba Buena Lane, but there are still some issues with their ABC license, so the official opening date is on hold. The space is booking private events, but they can't open to the public for the regular tasting activities just yet. As soon as I hear something I'll let you know, and will update you on the project details too!

Lots of wine events coming up. Tomorrow, May 14th, is an ~ALBARINO HAPPY HOUR AT B44~, from 5pm–7pm. Representatives from ten Rias Baixas wineries will be on hand to pour their Albariño-based wines and to discuss the region, paired with some culinary creations from chef Daniel Olivella. Space is limited. $35 per person. Folks can RSVP to The Jug Shop at 415-885-2922, and you can read more here. 44 Belden Place at Pine.

Next Thursday, May 22nd, Courtney Cochran of Hip Tastes and Mark Bright of Local are hosting ~AUSTRIAN ODYSSEY~ from 7pm–9pm. Join a small group of Hip Tasters in the sleek new wine room at Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant as they walk you through the varietal characteristics, regions of origin, food pairings, and flavor and aroma profiles of the wines of Austria. They'll wrap with a taste-off between teams to stir up a little friendly interaction. No apples here: all students leave with a very cool free gift. $60 per person. Book here. Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant, 330 1st St. at Folsom.

Now for some wine dinners. This Sunday, May 18th, at restaurant paul k is an evening with ~MAT GUSTAFSON~, the winemaker behind Paul Mathew and Dutton Estate wines. Click here for the evening's menu and details. $99 all-inclusive. For tickets, please call 415-552-7132.

~JUSTIN VINEYARDS~ is hosting a couple upcoming wine dinners. First, next Thursday, May 22nd, a dinner will be at Michael Mina's Arcadia in San Jose, benefiting Girls for a Change. Wines will be paired with a seasonally inspired, five-course menu prepared by chef Daniel Patino. Justin staff will be on hand to share the story of this family-run winery, and guests will have an opportunity to taste Justin's flagship wine, Isosceles. 6pm cocktails, 6:45pm dinner. $125 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity). Call 408-278-4555 for reservations.

And then Thursday, May 29th, is a ~JUSTIN VINEYARDS WINE DINNER AT BARAKA~. Dinner begins at 6:30pm and is $75. Here's chef Chad Newton's menu:

2007 Justin Sauvignon Blanc
Baby Lettuces
Poached Rhubarb, English Pea Puree, Goats Cheese, Sherry Vinaigrette
2007 Justin Chardonnay
Pepper-Crusted Ahi
Green Garlic Potato Puree, Justin Syrah Reduction, Parsley Emulsion
2005 Justin Syrah
Creekstone Farms Natural Beef Bavette
Baby Savoy Spinach, Parsley Bone Marrow Butter, Bordelaise
2005 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
Baraka Peanut Butter "Cup"
Sea Salted Chocolate, Praline, Vanilla Gelato
2006 Justin OBTUSE

Attention bubble lovers: next Tuesday, May 20th, ~SOCIALE~ is hosting a dinner featuring the wines of Majolini Franciacorta. The Majolini family will be in attendance for this not-to-be-missed dinner on their intimate heated patio. "The dinner will begin with their flagship Brut and then move onto the fresh and racy Electo paired with crudo. Not far behind will be their Rose, made with 100% pinot noir (a rarity in Franciacorta) served with rouget, strawberries, and basil. Dinner will conclude with the 1994 swansong "Valentino" paired with buffalo rib eye." The cost is $100 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. 6:30 pm. 3665 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-921-3200.

the sponsor

Out of the Kitchen

Out of the Kitchen is a quarterly publication designed to reveal the passion, dedication, and collaborative nature of the restaurant business. Relationships cultivated in restaurants nationwide allow chefs, sommeliers, and restaurateurs to collaborate with myriad individuals who bring value, quality and ideas to the table, all to enhance diners' experiences. By sharing our experiences out-of-the-kitchen, we will include stories about farmers, fishermen, winemakers, mixologists, and other artisans who make our business possible.

Our spring issue features local cheesemaker Donna Pacheco of Achadinha Cheese Co. and seasonal recipes and wine-pairings included in each issue. Chris Cosentino, chef at Incanto and owner of Boccalone, also tells how he got started in the salumi making business and what's in his future. Read these stories and more by subscribing today at

the wino


MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Duggan McDonnell is a partner in the Latin cocktail lounge Cantina, educator, consultant, as well as a candidate for an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.
A few weeks ago I taught a cocktail class at Cantina for friends of La Cocina. Our theme was savory & spicy, and the cocktails I chose to demonstrate provided balance as well as counterpoint to the flavors in the food prepared by a trio of chefs. Really, the evening was a discussion, an experience in flavor. And for me, the event served as a great reminder to why I love creating cocktails and also to the experience of a singular joy in my life: flavor. 

Today marks the beginning of the 2nd Annual San Francisco Cocktail week. It is a timely event as cocktail culture here in the City and across the country has been booming, and as one might expect, has been experiencing growing pains to match its great success. Constant cocktail competitions have sprung up, while new consulting opportunities arise everyday. Bartenders are earning a delightful dollar, and in some circles have become mini-celebrities, so to speak. Mixologists. Bar chefs. Cocktailians. Bartenders. All of it, nomenclature for a motley crew whose members are found in every major American city. And this includes me—a San Francisco saloonkeeper, who's been labeled all of the above.

I'm wondering, on the cusp of this great celebration and all of its figurative fireworks, why do we stick out the late hours and borderline alcoholism and how it is we became closer to sommelier and chef than soda jerk?

"The massively important milestone in the cocktail movement was when Food & Wine magazine declared 2006 to be the Year of the Cocktail," Gary Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology, says to me. "Now an authority comes along and says to the foodies, cocktails are legitimate." 'I know, Gary,' I'm thinking; 'I know.' I was in that issue; I was featured in that article as one of the 'Leaders of the American Cocktail Revolution.'

I remember one night shortly after that issue of Food & Wine came out—I'm bartending at Frisson, hammering away at drink orders in the front service well, plus handling the guests directly in front of me. I'm feeling rushed, a bit nervy at all the activity around me. A woman arrives before me, plants herself in front of my well. Oh no, I think to myself, she's got the magazine—"Can I have an autograph?" she says... My jaw drops; a single sweat bead from my forehead pitches itself into the margarita I'd just made; a cocktail server taps his finger as he waits for his glass of Barolo to be poured. This is not happening to me. But her smile is sweet, I'm thinking. And she is waiting. "What's your name?" I ask, removing the permanent marker from her hand.


"I think the whole 'celebrity bartender' thing is a bit overblown," says Jeff Hollinger, author of The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics. "There's no doubt they're famous in their own right, especially to those of us in the know... but when I've talked to people who read food and wine magazines and newspaper articles, they have little to no idea who any of the famous players are... Put that test to Emeril, Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, and you'll get different results." Jason Wilson, who writes a spirits column for The Washington Post, was more realistic in his blunt assessment: "We're using 'celebrity' in quotes. It's not like George Clooney is your bartender."

True, Jason; true. But I recall being a kid and desperately wanting Tony Hawk to autograph my skateboard, and also being thrilled to actually meet Pauly Shore, of all people. Celebrity status and affection can exist on many levels.

On a recent Saturday as I closed the bar I was thinking more and more about all of this. I'd returned earlier in the week from Miami where I was awarded a Rising Star at the Cheers Beverage Conference. I'd worked and traveled all week; and this night, I'd been on my feet for fourteen hours. I sat and looked around the place, at my back-bar full of bottles, several hundred strong, shelves lined with boutique and imported spirits, and there I sat with the lights all up, the saccharine scent of crushed citrus and burnt wax in the air; broken glass, matches and mint underfoot. And I recalled Toby Cecchini's words from Cosmopolitan, A Bartender's Life: "There is an ephemeral hour then when the bar, like a woman d'un certain age, cleverly cloaked in evening light to conceal flaws she knows are beneath consideration, glows with an imperfect, hard-used loveliness." This was not that hour.

The Cantina had performed well, but now both of us were beyond tired; I felt like a used ballerina, after having danced a matinee's Nutcracker, soaking her corns in a tub of salt and tears.

"Most people who come in here have no idea what you do," Tony Abou-Ganim recently said to me. Tony is the Joe DiMaggio of cocktails, a middle-class kid with a great smile and a humble heart come up because he's got talent. To look at Tony is to recognize guts; his build is that of a classic prizefighter, his gaze direct—there's no need for a bouncer at Bar Milano, the new restaurant he's just opened on 24th and 3rd Avenue in New York.

Tony and I have met again and again over the years. Cocktail competitions. Seminars. Las Vegas. New Orleans. Aspen. But we don't know each other well. Our portraits and recipes have appeared side-by-side in magazines, but this is the first private chat we've had together. So, it's nice.

Tony was in San Francisco for one day to promote his DVD Modern Mixology: Making Great Drinks at Home on local television. And, Tony is by most experts' estimation the most recognized bartender in the country. He's appeared on Iron Chef: America, hosted the show Cocktail Kings, and been in more television bits and editorial features than even he can remember. In spite of all this, he admits the DVD is selling poorly.

Ryan Magarian, a samurai-esque bartender and guru behind Liquid Relations beverage consulting, relays Tony's contribution: "Tony has separated himself from the Industry. His celebrity has crossed over the industry line and into the public eye." And Tony, humble as ever, is slow to agree with Ryan. Tony is an entirely self-made man who understands the many opinions, the responsibilities and nuances of his career. In fact, when I asked him what was the most important factor critical to continuing his work—post Bellagio, post large consulting contracts with global spirits' conglomerates, and on the eve of opening his own joint—he replied, "The Brand." That is, the brand of Tony.

Gary Regan, ever the salty stalwart of American cocktail culture echoes Tony: "You don't open a shop to sell shoes and not tell anyone about it." Which I take to mean: it's stupid not to promote the quality of one's work. And allow me to add—after opening Cantina nearly one year ago, I am constantly telling the tale of its brand.


So, here I sit in Cantina in the too-bright light on a Saturday night and wonder how these seemingly disparate factors of work and culture and drink and branding come together in a meaningful way. And as a guy who makes his living caring about just that, I'm looking for answers.

Toby Cecchini published his memoir of a bartender's life in 2003. His star had risen quickly in Manhattan's bar circles after his stint at the Odeon and then opening Passerby in Chelsea. But it wasn't until Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life hit the press that bartenders and cocktail geeks across the globe knew his name. "Suddenly I was that bartender guy who writes about drinks," he said. For a time, Toby was the brightest star in bartending. The Passerby is still a must-stop for drinkers visiting Manhattan, as are speakeasies Milk & Honey and P.D.T.; and the tranquil cocktail hubs Pegu Club and Little Branch—all of which are run by cocktailians famous in their own right.

So famous are they that few full-time bartenders remain at any of these establishments—most spend their hours consulting for spirit brands and handling the beverage needs for special events, airline companies, and cruise lines. "I don't consider myself in that same company," Toby said. "I can do anything that those guys do. I make great drinks. But the Passerby is the antithesis of that. I like the mice and the cockroaches. I like running a bar's bar."

"There's a lot of different ways to skin an apple," Tony said to me when referring to how Bar Milano operates. "We don't want to be another Pegu Club; we want to be a great restaurant with a great lounge and we certainly don't want the cocktails to be intimidating."

And I agree with him.

Sometimes it's best to keep things simple, and also, forget trying to be the best and earning another buck, and do something for nothing.

San Francisco Cocktail Week is a not-for-profit love affair with cocktail culture. We've organized all of these events because we love the work we do. And tonight, up in the grand Starlight Room, we honor our hero Tony Abou-Ganim for his great contributions to San Francisco cocktail culture.

I am still a saloonkeeper who sits alone at the end of a night's shift. I sit in the glare of the post-cocktail light, and find myself thinking of Nick Carraway thinking of Gatsby; "He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night."

It wasn't that long ago that I was a mere barback, a bartender's lackey hustling up and down flights of stairs with cases of whiskey atop my shoulders stooping in walk-in coolers to change kegs while burning my hands beneath the squeezing of limes over blood-cut fingers as bartenders dropped and smacked eggs in my pockets only to fool me again and again. Every night I tasted something new; every night I found flavors that ultimately informed how I was to live my life. That was when I fell in love with work. That was when I knew I wanted to be a bartender. Then, none of us were famous.

Especially me.

the socialite


Dine About Town San Francisco
June 1–15, 2008

Various locations
San Francisco, CA


MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Coming up soon, The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) will offer a second run this year of its popular ~DINE ABOUT TOWN SAN FRANCISCO~ program. More than 100 of San Francisco's restaurants, plus a few beyond the Bay, will offer three-course prix-fixe lunches for $21.95 and/or dinners for $31.95, exclusive of tax and gratuity. A la carte menus will also be available.
Reservations are starting to fill up—take a look on the site, which lists each participating restaurant, searchable by cuisine and location. What will it be, A16's meatballs for lunch, or the line-caught black cod for dinner at Namu?

Reservations may be made online at through a partnership with Visa is the preferred method of payment for Dine About Town. And for the first time, videos of participating restaurants will be available online through a partnership with TasteTV.


Breakfast by the Bay
Sat, June 7, 2008

Ferry Plaza Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

three seatings: 9am, 10am, 11am

tickets $25
$15 for children 2–12


MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO One of the most gorg breakfast buffets is coming up: ~CUESA'S ANNUAL SPRING BREAKFAST~ fundraiser, when you can indulge in all that lovely spring produce you see at the market. The buffet-style menu will include: farm-fresh scrambled eggs with fava beans, green garlic, and peas or wild mushrooms; herbed potatoes; blueberry pancakes with lemon ricotta; dandelion green salad with bacon; fresh strawberries, cherries and blueberries with crème fraîche, yogurt, and honey; warm breakfast pastries and bread; artisan cheeses, hand-made jams; and coffee, tea, and juice.

CUESA's Dacor teaching kitchen in the North Arcade will be transformed into the setting for the annual breakfast gathering. A farmers' market seller will be at each table to share stories about her or his business. There are three seatings: 9am, 10am, and 11am.

the bookworm


MAY 13, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO By Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books

Don't forget: this book below is available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code "tablehopper" at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

When I first saw this book, with high-end cookery store Sur la Table's imprint on the cover, I thought, why would I pay $35 for a Sur la Table catalogue when I can get one for free? But Things Cooks Love is much more than a catalogue of expensive and obscure items you can buy to make your kitchen look like the back room of The French Laundry.

For one thing, they brought in local cookbook eminence grise Marie Simmons to put it together. In this book, Simmons travels the world and presents tools such as the suribachi, the tortilla press, the chinois, the cocotte (see below to win one!), and the tawa. Not neglected are more familiar items such as terracotta bakeware, pasta machines, and cast-iron. She includes an encyclopedic explanation of each tool, as well as usage tips and care instructions. Best of all, each implement is accompanied by several recipes. The perfect gift for the cook who loves to spend time in the kitchen, but doesn't yet have a karahi.

And now, that contest:
The generous folks at Sur la Table have bestowed upon us a beautiful sunflower-yellow Staub cocotte (just like the one featured on the cover of the book above) to give away; it's a $200 value and the perfect tool for braising just about anything. It could be yours merely for writing us a very short essay (50 words or less) about what your favorite kitchen gadget/tool is and why. Bonus points for difficulty, humor, obscurity and the like. Cookbook legend Paula Wolfert has generously agreed to judge the winning entry. Entries must be sent via email to no later than May 31st, 2008.

Thanks for reading.


All content © 2008 Marcia Gagliardi. I am more than happy if you want to link to my reviews and content elsewhere (thanks, glad you dig it), but republishing any part of them in any way, shape or form is strictly prohibited until we talk first. Please take a look at my Creative Commons license for more detail.

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