table of contents This week's tablehopper: a mixed bag.

the chatterbox
the word on the street

the lush
put it on my tab
the wino
in vino veritas

the socialite
the starlet
no photos please
the matchmaker
let's get it on

the sponsor
this round is on me

Golden Glass


JUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO The weekend weather was completely bipolar, no? Fortunately it didn’t mess up one of my favorite days of the year, the Wine Country Classic Historic Car Races at the Infineon Raceway—can you imagine 350 historic racecars, some dating as far back as 1915, all racing on the track? Fabulous. My dad and I go each year, and we were happy to finish the day with pizza for dinner at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, my third delish pizza of the week. What a gorgeous wood-fired margherita, earning nothing but grins from me and pop.

The other winning pizzas last week included the rustica at Poggio (an inspired combo of thick slices of smoky speck, red onion, and peppery arugula), and let’s not forget the gricia pizza, a riff on a Roman pasta dish, scarfed down imageduring a lunch at Pizzeria Delfina: it included a delightfully salty-meets-creamy combo of guanciale, spring onion, cream (!), and the kick of some chili (Calabrian?). In a word: in-freaking-credible. And I’ll be riding my bike everywhere this week, thankyouverymuch.

I pinch myself (for luck, and to make fun of my waistline) each week for the bounty of wonderful food (and the people who make it) in my life. This became especially poignant to me last week when I was a guest speaker at the CHEFS program, Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service, a culinary program through Episcopal Community Services that places homeless adults in gainful employment within the food industry. Here’s more about the program: “Hundreds of CHEFS graduates work in restaurants, hotels, and nursing homes. Today more than 85 percent of CHEFS graduates acquire jobs, which is a tremendous rate given the complex challenges associated with chronic homelessness that many face.”

I was a guest for their daily homemade lunch, and was invited to speak (for three hours!) about my work as a food writer. I covered all kinds of topics, from what eating sustainably and locally means to how to describe food (the students play food critic and analyze their meals each day), and answered a slew of questions from the group, from what’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever eaten (real Kobe beef) to how do I analyze food I don’t know well (I try to dine with experts in other cuisines). The 30 or so students were amazing and engaging—their interest and enthusiasm was so impressive, and I noticed a big interest in my experience with “exotic” foods.

To continue their culinary journey, and to expose them to a cuisine style they might not know very well, I had an idea: I want to take the current CHEFS class out to dinner! But to do this, I need your help, dear readers. I’m hoping some of you would be willing to help and donate some money, it could even be just a few bucks, anything at all would be a huge help. Based on the amount we collect, I’ll then see how many students I can take out, and where! I’m thinking an early family-style dinner at Poleng Lounge where we can order some off-the-menu funky and delicious dishes, or perhaps Bodega Bistro for some Vietnamese… A lot of the students are on very limited budgets (like the Care Not Cash program), so an outing to a sit-down restaurant would be so special to them.

Thanks so much for considering a donation—I was really touched by my experience with the students and want to do something fun and educational for them. You can donate via PayPal—just click the donate button below, or send money via this email: [marcia at marciag dot com]. I want to avoid the transaction fees if we donate to my business account. Since PayPal charges an evil fee per transaction after I reach $500 (here’s hoping?!), personal checks are also very welcome: just hit reply and I can provide you with a mailing address. Sorry I don’t have this set up for tax deductions—this is literally a spontaneous idea and therefore a bit “fly by night.” (Next time.)

Thanks so much, gang! Of course I’ll keep you posted, and will do a big recap about the excursion, I can’t wait. Also, be sure to take a look in this week’s socialite for an annual fundraiser event for the CHEFS organization, SummerTini, another great way to provide assistance to this wonderful organization.

One small tech issue: it seems the tablehopper promotion code for the 10% discount for the Pinot Days event wasn’t working last week, but now it’s fixed, sorry! Click here to reread all about the event.

Remember last week when I said I’d have a review this week? I guess I lied—without meaning to, of course. This issue got too huge, eep, so I decided to cut it. Next week: less news and events, and a big honkin’ write-up instead. Oh, and I can’t sign off without tipping my hat to Yves St. Laurent, who sadly passed this week. His contribution to defining what is style, and elegance, is simply immeasurable.


~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia) subscribe
the chatterbox

Golden GlassJUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO And now yet another reason why my Western Addition/Nopa neighborhood rocks: one of my favorite pastry chefs ever, Boris Portnoy, formerly doing his magic at Campton Place, is now taking over the kitchen at ~CANDYBAR~. Portnoy will be launching his new (and tighter) menu tomorrow, on Wednesday. There will be a seasonal dessert tasting menu, a few more savory dishes, and the new menu will organized into two sections, fruit and chocolate, for both savory and sweet. Some examples of savory/fruit include razor clams with grapes and purslane, or pork belly and stone fruit—how about some foie custard with almond nougat and nectarine compote for dessert? In the chocolate zone, a savory dish will be beef cheeks with caramelized onion broth and a red pepper bonbon, or a sweet will be chocolate savarin with raspberry Turkish delight. I seriously can’t wait to see what Boris is putting together—this could get dangerous, his delectable and inspired desserts are a mere block away. Hours are also changing: Candybar will be closed on Tuesday instead of Monday, so more industry folks can come by and hang out. 1335 Fulton St. Ste 101 at Divisadero, 415-673-7078.

Over in Union Square, the chef changeover at ~CORTEZ~ is approaching. Executive chef Seth Bowden’s last day will be June 15th, but today, June 3rd, Jenn Puccio, formerly the chef of Ramblas, officially starts as the executive chef of Cortez. Bowden will be training her for two weeks, while her husband, Ed Puccio, formerly the GM of Ubuntu, has already started as the new GM. Cortez’s sommelier, A.J. Ferrari, has taken the assistant GM position. We’ll see where Bowden lands once he returns to San Francisco from his travels in September… 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

More downtown news: from a tablehopper tipster, rumor has it that ~MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE~ is taking over the closing Disney Store space, and will move upstairs for its a la carte dining, and will keep the current downstairs room for banquets. This is all unconfirmed—I’ll follow up with confirmed details as soon as I have ’em. 400 Post St. at Powell, 415-986-5830.

Over in the Mission, the fire that happened last week in the hotel above ~LIMON~ initially looked like a small issue for the restaurant, but it has turned into a bigger one. Due to some water and structural damage, Limon is closed until further notice. One report from someone close to the restaurant says it could be over a month, another source says possibly even two. I’m also hearing about a liquor license in the works. Will let you know when a reopening date looks close. 524 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-252-0918.

One place that is opening in the Mission will be location number three of ~BALOMPIE~! Balompie Café No. 3 is (finally) opening in the former Libis Ng space on June 14th. The offerings will be pretty much the same as the other locations, but since it won’t be open for breakfast, don’t look for any desayuno treats. Pupusas, of course, will continue to be in full effect. Beer and wine too. It will be open Wed–Thu and Sun 4pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 11am–11pm, closed Mon–Tue. 3801 Mission St. at Richland.

Here’s an update on Yerba Buena Lane: the first San Francisco location for ~AMBER INDIA~ (currently with locations in Mountain View and Santana Row) is looking like it will be open the second week of June, hopefully by the 11th, according to the owner. Amber is a multi-level and 5,000-square-foot space, and will be open for lunch (Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm) and dinner daily (Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–10:30pm), brunch on the weekend (Sat–Sun 12pm–3pm), and the lounge will be open and serving appetizers and bar bites daily, continuously from 11am–11pm. 13 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-777-0500.

Just around the corner, opening on June 8th is ~CAFE ON THE SQUARE~, the café associated with The Contemporary Jewish Museum. McCall Associates & Events Management put together the seasonal menu, which strikes me as a bit more Cal-Mediterranean than necessarily Jewish (think mushroom and cheese panino instead of hot pastrami), but there will be some “daily specials consisting mainly of Jewish recipes interpreted with a contemporary twist.” Ingredients are local and organic, seafood is line-caught, and the menu will have a number of vegetarian and kosher selections. There is indoor seating on the Museum’s lobby level, plus some outdoor seating on the new Jessie Square facing Yerba Buena Gardens. Open daily (except Wednesday) 11:30am–4:30pm, and on Thursdays from 11:30am–7:30pm. 736 Mission St. at Third St.

The neighboring ~PRESS CLUB~ is further delayed: the new opening date is looking like late June. 20 Yerba Buena Lane.

Another update on a delayed project: ~CIVIC RESTAURANT AND BAR~, the restaurant opening in the Soluna space. The partners are still working out the lease details with the City for the adjoining corner lot they are hoping to turn into the restaurant’s patio. Once things are final and a go, the target date is a soft opening by the end of July. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin, 415-621-2200.

Up on Russian Hill, after Pasha suffered damage from neighboring restaurant Star of India’s fire, the new owners decided to start from scratch, and are reopening after six months of closure as ~COSSU~. The restaurant is slated to open from mid to late June, and will feature an eclectic menu that includes Moroccan, Asian, French, and Californian influences from chef Hicham Senhaji, a native of Morocco. Sample dishes on the menu are Moroccan pan-seared scallops with pine nut couscous, or cumin and anise seed-crusted rack of lamb, plus brochettes, and bastillas. The interior will be outfitted with rich fabrics, including an overhead canopy of satin anchored with a hand-carved ceiling centerpiece. Guests can come in for dinner in the main dining room, or for drinks and appetizers in the lounge. 1516 Broadway at Polk, 415-885-4477.

More damage-related news: Eater broke the story this morning that poor ~OUT THE DOOR~ at the Westfield Shopping Centre is temporarily closed due to some water leaking through the ceiling above, causing significant damage. No word on the why, or when it will reopen, stay tuned...

I have no idea if these Buffalo wings are any good, but according to an ad I saw, the somewhat new spot ~DOUBLE DECKER~ in Hayes Valley has an all-you-can-eat wings night on Wednesdays from 4pm–8pm, for $11.95. Their beef for their burgers is Niman Ranch, and they make their own fries, but no word on the site what the provenance of the chicken is. Bwok. 465 Grove St. at Gough, 415-552-8042.

And now, vegans, a little something for you! I got a report from a tablehopper reader that they are diggin’ the new eats at ~THE USUAL SUSPECTS CAFÉ~ in North Beach. The two-level space has a 90-percent vegan menu, serving a few dishes with real cheese, hence the ten percent that’s non-vegan. The menu is mostly Mediterranean comfort food, with some Latin flair. Dishes include pressed taquitos with cashew cheese, seared red pepper, onion, and asparagus with a cashew-based cilantro “sour cream”; shwarma with house-made seitan; some pasta dishes; and quite possibly the only vegan pizza in San Francisco, with an organic cornmeal crust and a variety of toppings. The chefs are Mark Benedetto and Ted Rosenblatt, and the owner is Bob Bosco. Vegan and dairy-free desserts are being baked in-house a few times a week by Sugar Beat Sweets, a change from the typical citywide selection from Black China Bakery. Each level has 50 seats, and the space has a 1950s diner look—you’ll also hear some surf tunes on the sound system. Beer and wine, and some open-mic comedy begins this week Thu–Sat—look for even more comedy, plus acoustic music down the road. Hours are Tue–Fri 11am–10pm, and Sat 5pm–10pm or later, closed Sun–Mon. 450 Broadway St. at Montgomery, 415-434-4444.

Also in North Beach, consider this a little teaser (a mere bite of a sandwich) about some changes coming to ~PALERMO DELICATESSEN~. I can release more details next week on the who and what, but for now, the news is that it changed hands, and will be called La Spiaggia Deli (which means beach in Italian). Stand by! 1556 Stockton St. at Union.

More deli news: Thrillist mentioned Pacifica’s ~UPPER CRUST DELI~ is opening a second branch in the Fillmore—based on the address, it’s moving into the former Cocina Poblana space (too bad they closed, I liked some of their dishes, like the mole). The menu includes burgers, cheesesteaks, and other hot sandwiches, like grilled pastrami. 1109 Fillmore St. at Golden Gate, 415-674-1301.

More Fillmore news: Top Chef contestant and pastry chef ~MARISA CHURCHILL~ is no longer up the street at Yoshi’s—she will be consulting elsewhere, and Suzanne Lafleur, who was working under her, will assume the reins. No drama, and it was an amicable parting, but it looks like it was a bit of a belt-tightening move. 1330 Fillmore St. at Eddy, 415-655-5600.

While the next season of Top Chef hopefuls is being determined, a summons to über-chefs was called last week, for the biannual ~BOCUSE D’OR~ World Cuisine Contest (visit the site for some Iron Chef-like drama and musique). Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller are recruiting and training a USA team to do us proud—applications are due June 30th. For local flavor, chefs Traci Des Jardins, chef and "DJ Oobert" Hubert Keller, and Michael Mina are all on the all-star board for the event. Let’s rawk, USA!

Meanwhile, the ~JAMES BEARD AWARDS~ are on Sunday, best of luck to all our local restaurant talent, including Nate Appleman (nominated for Rising Star Chef); Boulevard and the Slanted Door (for Outstanding Restaurant); Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bakery) and Nicole Plue (Redd) for Outstanding Pastry Chef; Terra (St. Helena) for Outstanding Service; Douglas Keane, Cyrus (Healdsburg); David Kinch, Manresa (Los Gatos); Craig Stoll, Delfina (San Francisco); and Michael Tusk, Quince (San Francisco) for Best Chef: Pacific region. There are also a number of wonderful cookbook authors and journalists up for awards too, kudos to all.

Next week’s is Incanto’s fifth annual ~HEAD TO TAIL DINNER~ on Monday June 9th and Wednesday June 11th, fives courses of meatses partses for $75 per person. Check out the full menu here. 1550 Church St. at Duncan. For reservations, call 415-641-4500.

~CHEESE PLUS~ is hosting its third anniversary with a summer solstice food festival on Saturday June 21st from 11am–6pm. More than 20 local bay area artisan food vendors will hand out samples of their handmade foods throughout the day for free. This year’s line up includes: sausages and salami from Fra’Mani; LaLoo’s Goat Milk Ice Cream; Bellwether Farms farmstead sheep cheese; Allison McQuade’s authentic and tasty chutneys; Redwood Hill Sonoma goat cheese; Perfect Edge knife sharpening service (fee for sharpening); and live music. 2001 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-921-2001.

imageOn my drive down to Palm Springs last week, I was kicking myself for not picking up a TWO-go box lunch from ~TWO~ before hitting the road. That was totally my I-5 savior the last time I drove down to the 760. And how timely, TWO just launched a new spring TWO-go menu with new sandwich and side options—you’ll now find sandwiches on the main lunch menu as well. TWO also posted the dates and menus for the annual and upcoming cooking classes—last year’s lobster boil was a total blast, enter the lottery to see if you can snag a spot for it in July! 22 Hawthorne St. at Howard, 415-777-9779.

Meanwhile, over in the East Bay, there’s a cool hands-on class for chocoholics at ~CHARLES CHOCOLATES~ with Chuck Siegel. He has opened the doors to his Emeryville kitchen for a series of public chocolate-making workshops. The classes will take place on Saturday afternoons, and last approximately five hours. Participants will be able to take home all of the confections they make, plus a deluxe kit containing molds, an offset spatula, sheet pans, and several recipes developed by Siegel—everything necessary to use what was learned during the class at home. The cost is $300 per person, and the first class will take place on Saturday June 14th from 1pm–6pm. For more information or to reserve one of the limited spaces in the class, call 510-652-4412 x311 or go online.

Saturday June 7th, The Pasta Shop is hosting ~HOG HEAVEN–A CELEBRATION OF ARTISAN PORK~. There will be cooking demonstrations, food tastings, and in-store product giveaways, all for free (except for any product purchases). The event includes products from Boccalone, La Quercia prosciutto, Iberico-cured hams (finally available in the United States), David’s Old World Meats “Hamlettes” (local artisan-made single-muscle hams), and The Pasta Shop’s original house-made pork products and prepared dishes. 1pm–3pm. The Pasta Shop, 1786 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-250-6070.

imageNext week are ~OLIVETO’S OCEANIC DINNERS~, from Wednesday June 11th–Saturday June 14th. I adored my meal there last year, so many delicious and delightful dishes, like the chilled octopus soppressata (pictured). This year’s menu includes new numbers, like green sea urchin flan, a Hangtown fry omelet crèpe, and potato gnocchi with tiny Tomales Bay mussels. For reservations, call 510-547-5356. 5655 College Ave. at Shafter, Oakland.

More East Bay Buzz! Chowhounds are discussing a newly proposed Southern Italian trattoria called ~FALANGHINA~ from Haig and Cindy Krikorian of Sea Salt, Lalime’s, T-Rex, Fonda, and Jimmy Bean’s. Can you say wood oven-fired Neapolitan-style pizza? There will also be antipasti, homemade pastas, and a full bar, with an extensive wine list and a variety of Italian classic digestifs. The restaurant will be located in an 80-year-old building that is next door to Sea Salt, complete with brick walls and wood beams. Falanghina will actually be taking over two spaces, combining the storefronts at 2514–2516 San Pablo. There will also be a small retail sales line of specialty food products, wine, and liquor, like grappa and Fernet. Hours are slated for 11am–11pm daily. You can check out the plans here. 2514 San Pablo Ave. at Dwight, Berkeley.

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

the sponsor

Golden Glass

SLOW Sipping: 5th Annual Golden Glass Wine Event
Sunday June 8, Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion
Grand Tasting: 3pm–7pm

Looking for that perfect Sunday plan? How about a little SLOW adventure in a glass? Swirl and taste your way through Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Spain, Australia and beyond at the 5th Annual Slow Food Golden Glass wine event on June 8th at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion. Nibble delicious treats from Bay Area restaurants, get the scoop on state-of-the art winemaking developments in New Zealand and Piedmont, Italy, dine with a winemaker, listen to a few famous tenors.  

Tickets: $50 advance purchase, $60 at the door ($45 Slow Food members)

For more info, visit Proceeds from Golden Glass benefit the Slow Food SF School Garden Project and Slow Food USA’s “Ark of Taste” program.

the lush

therapeiaJUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO A new venue called ~50 MASON SOCIAL HOUSE~ is opening in the former SF Comedy Club space, from the folks behind Civic Restaurant. This new concept will be a music venue where guests can view a wide variety of local musicians for an affordable (to sometimes nonexistent, read: free) cover, depending on the night; there will also be an art gallery. One of the operating partners is René Denis, the former GM of Biscuits and Blues, who got experience booking musical talent while working there. There will be 120–200 seats, with beer, wine, soju, and sake. The sign for Social should be lit up in a couple months, say, the beginning of August. 50 Mason at Eddy.

Got word that bartender ~MARCO DIONYSOS~ will be leaving Tres Agaves to work at Michael Mina’s CLOCK BAR, opening this summer at the Westin St. Francis. Tres Agaves wishes him well, and supports him in pursuing this move.

Friday June 6th, there is a tasting from ~EDEN CANYON VINEYARDS~ at The Jug Shop, with Elaine Villamin, whose family owns and operates the Paso Robles winery. 6pm–8pm. The following 2005 vintages will be poured: "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, and "Jolie" Bordeaux-style blend. Tasting fee: $5. Jug Shop Wine & Spirits, 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk, 415-885-2922.

Monday, June 9th, ~SOCIALE~ is hosting winemaker Italo Stupino from the historic Castello Di Neive in Piemonte for a special dinner, at 6:30 pm. The selected wines include one dolcetto and three (possibly four) Barbarescos, including the famed 1999 Santo Stefano Riserva. Dinner will be on the patio, under the heat lamps with an intimate group of 20 people. The cost is $150 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. 3665 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-921-3200.
For those of you who despaired over missing the Bourbon and Bacon Dinner at Orson, now you can buckle up for the upcoming ~GIN & STONE COCKTAIL DINNER~, featuring Right Gin and Kubler Absinthe on Wednesday June 11th. The menu will have three courses, plus two–three amuses, matched by gin and absinthe cocktails. As chef de cuisine Ryan Farr expounded, “Every course will also be showing off the beautiful bounty of stone fruit that we are being blessed with, a perfect dinner on the eve of a tasty summer.” Amen. Here’s the breakdown:

In the Beginning
Sweet Peach and Lobster
grilled peaches and spiced lobster gazpacho
Minted Marble
right gin, manzanilla sherry, mint, lemon, syrup

Broiled Hamachi
apricot, smoked pork belly, puffed black rice, togarashi
Fairly Jaded
right gin, kubler absinthe, ceylon tea, pineapple, lemon, mint

Whole-Roasted Duck Breast
plum and duck confit tart, peppercress, pistachio
right gin, aperol, dubonnet rouge

Summer Snow
white peach and lychee soup, lemon verbena sorbet, kubler absinthe foam

In the End
The Golden Forest
rainier cherries, dark chocolate, cinnamon, kirsch, gold
Smokey Quartz
right gin, smoked cherry syrup, coffee

The price is $65 per person, excluding tax and tip. The regular menu will also be available that evening. Reserve in advance. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.

the sponsor


Therapeia would like to thank our friends in the restaurant industry who work so tirelessly and help them enjoy life more by offering a 60-minute massage for just $60 (normally $90), or a 90-minute massage for only $90 (normally $135)!*

Just mention you saw this offer in tablehopper when you call to book and we’ll do the rest. 

Therapeia takes great pride in providing its clientele with therapeutic, personalized, custom massage sessions that improve their overall well-being, resolve problem areas, and encourage rejuvenation. Book your appointment today by calling (415) 885-4450 so we can help you enjoy life more!

Therapeia is located at 1801 Bush Street (between Laguna and Octavia). We hope to see you soon!

* Offer is valid Monday thru Thursday from 10am–3pm, perfect for those people who work nights!

the wino















JUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Helen Roy on Grappa

For sommelier Helen Roy, food and wine has played an integral part of her life since childhood. Upon graduating high school at the age of fifteen, Roy furthered her education by first earning her Associate's Degree in Hospitality Management at CCA before spending several years in Europe managing restaurants and exploring different wine regions. Returning to New York, she received her Sommelier Certification at the International Sommelier Guild before obtaining her Advanced Level Bordeaux Certification at the Institute of Culinary Education and later went on to earn an Advanced Certificate with Distinction in Wine and Spirits at the International Wine Center in New York. After serving as Manager and Wine Director at Varietal Restaurant & Wine Bar, she returned to San Francisco where she serves at the Wine, Bar & Beverage Manager for the InterContinental San Francisco and continues her studies for the Diploma in Wine and Spirits, and works towards her Master Sommelier certification.

It’s not always easy to get people to try grappa. There are so many preconceived notions and horror stories of grappa tasting gone wrong that it can be difficult to convince someone that grappa can be good, better than good, or even amazing. But with gentle counseling, some free tasting, and a tour of the beautiful bottles, it is possible to get them to understand grappa, even if they aren’t ready to appreciate it.

Most misconceptions begin with how grappa is actually made. Those who have truly dismissed grappa altogether make The Face and say, “It’s made with the stems and all of the leftovers right?” Wrong. True, like most spirit production, grappa had a rough start, with production dating back well into the Middle Ages, but along with the advancements found in vineyard technology, the spirit has evolved, as good grappa only comes from good pommace: the pulp that remains after the grapes have been crushed.

One could write a 500-page dissertation on how grappa is actually made. But, for grappa’s sake, we shall stick to the most important information necessary to select quality grappa. Much like wine, grappa is made from red or white grapes. White grape grappas are made from the beautifully aromatic varietals found in the Northern Italian region near Veneto, where grappa actually comes from with riesling, gewürztraminer, and tocai Friulano/Friulano being the most popular. These grappas are fresh, clean, intensely floral, and full of complex aromas. Red grape grappas, like pinot nero, sangiovese, or the more commonly seen grappa di Brunello, grappa di Barolo, or grappa di Barbaresco are firmer, gripping with heavily defined flavors.

Gone are the days of squashing grapes into a bone-dry pile of nothingness, extracting their harsh green aromas and bitter flavors, and tossing the remains outside to dry out further and decompose in the sun. A true grappa artisan like Poli or Nardini collect the juicy and fresh pommace within hours of the crush, distilling it almost immediately to retain all of the finesse and elegance of beautifully ripened grapes gently pressed by a master.

To simplify, grappa can be divided into the following categories:

Grappa Giovane: referring to “young grappa,” this is grappa aged very briefly in stainless steel, yielding a taste that is fresh and aromatic.

Grappa Affinata in Legno: grappa aged in wood.

Grappa Invecchiata: grappa aged in wood barrels for at least a year.

Grappa Riserva or Stravecchia: grappa aged at least 18 months in a barrel.

Grappa Aromatizzata: a grappa liqueur infused with anything and everything, such as almond wood, chamomile, honey, or lemon verbena. These are usually sweet and are great for cocktails, or as a substitute for dessert wine.

Grappa is becoming very chic, and therefore many popular wine producers are now jumping on the trend. Gaja, Ceretto, Banfi, Macullan, Luce, Ornellaia and the rest are all sending out their highly prized and allocated pommace to be distilled and bottled for export into the American market. These grappas are usually all very good and enjoyable, but keep in mind that most of them are being made by very well-known grappa producers already prized for their craft, and so those original delicacies should not be overlooked.

A few of the most well-respected grappa producers include Poli, Nardini, and Marolo. Poli, widely known for beginning the craze of the beautiful hand-blown glass bottles, has been making quality grappa since the 1200s, and is a solid producer well worth the price.

Nardini boats the “first” real grappa producer title. This, like everything else, is debatable—but the quality of their grappa is not. Nestled in the hills around the picturesque village of Bassano del Grappa on the river Brenta (like Poli), Nardini grappa is bottled in standard liter bottles; most are simply labeled like the Bianca, Riserva and Riserva 15, made from cabernet, merlot, tocai, and pinot bianco. They also boast a wide range of infused aperitivos and delicious liqueurs, including Aqua di Cedro, a sumptuous grappa-based liqueur infused with the well-known thick-skinned lemons native to Italy; it drinks well on its own, and makes an even better cocktail!

Marolo Grappa, a producer found in the Piedmont region, produces extremely elegant and refined grappa in equally elegant packaging. The Grappa di Barolo, aged for varying years in expensive oak, is an amazing experience to taste vertically, while the Grappa & Camomile liqueur is a wonderful find, and seems to have sought out a home for itself in many of San Francisco’s finer restaurants.

Grappa for me (and I think for many who have been enjoying it well before its rise to fame) will always remain a link to the wonderfully relaxed, warm, and rich culture of Italy; it’s a truly beautiful spirit that embodies a sense of history and place.

the socialite


2008 Golden Glass Winemaker Dinners
Thu. June 5th–Sun. June 9th, 2008

Various locations
San Francisco


JUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Plenty of folks are fired up for Sunday’s 2008 Golden Glass event (me included). I also wanted to draw attention to some spiffy ~GOLDEN GLASS WINEMAKER DINNERS~ happening around town this week:

Thursday June 5, 2008 at Fifth Floor:
Enjoy a chance to meet the masters of tempranillo and founders of Ribera del Duero, the esteemed Alejandro Fernandez and Tinto Pesquera. Nine special wines and six courses. Reception 6:30pm for 7pm dinner. Cost: $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, contact The Fifth Floor at 415-348-1555. View the invite.

Friday June 6, 2008 at Acquerello:
Featuring celebrated winemaker Marco Caprai from Umbria and a rare vertical of his ‘25 Anni’ Sagrantino, paired with Suzette’s exquisite cooking! Reception 6.30pm for 7pm dinner. Cost: $350 per person, includes tax and gratuity. For reservations, please contact Acquerello at 415-567-5432.

Saturday June 7, 2008 at Farina:
Enjoy an exclusive Ligurian dinner by Genovese chef Paolo Laboa, featuring Farina’s World Champion Pesto, paired with the premium Piedmont wines of the following estates:

Cascina Bongiovanni
La Gironda
Marchese Incisa
De Stefanis

All the producers will be at the restaurant and can give you first-hand information about their wonderful wines. For reservations, please contact Farina at 415-565-0360 or visit Open Table.

Saturday June 7th, 2008 at Perbacco:
On Saturday June 7, join Perbacco for dinner and meet some of the best wine producers in Piemonte. Their wines will be featured by the glass, quarter and half liter as well as by the bottle. The following winemakers will be present at the restaurant:

Tenuta Ca’ Meo
Bricco Maiolica
La Corte
Villa Giada
Ruggeri Corsini
Cantina del Pino
Germano Ettore
Ghisolfi Attilio

To make reservations, call 415-955-0663 or go to the website at and reserve online.

Monday, June 9th at South Food + Wine Bar:
Meet Nick Nobilo and some of the great New Zealand producers attending the Golden Glass. Anna Weinberg and Gerard O’Bryan have prepared a special menu to pair with the best New Zealand wines. Reception at 6pm for 6:30 dinner. Cost $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, contact South at 415-974 5599 or make a reservation online.


Fri., June 13th, 2008

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission St.
Cross: 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA



tickets: $85
purchase tickets online or call 415-487-3736

JUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO I know, there are a bunch of fundraisers every week in this town, but this is one I really want to highlight. For the fourth year in a row, members of San Francisco's food community have joined forces to organize ~SUMMERTINI~, a benefit for the CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service) program of Episcopal Community Services (ECS). SummerTini features live and silent auctions, live music, comedy, signature martinis and alcohol-free infusions, and appetizers from Millennium, E&O Trading Company, Lettus Organic Cafe, Poleng Lounge, Hayes Street Grill Bar & Grill, Kuleto's, Lark Creek Steak, Roots, Baker's Dozen, Garibaldi's, Sukhi Indian Cuisine, and Ducca.

As I mentioned in my intro this week, the CHEFS culinary training program places homeless adults in positions within the food industry. Hundreds of CHEFS graduates work in restaurants, hotels, and nursing homes. Today more than 85 percent of CHEFS graduates acquire jobs, which is a tremendous rate given the complex challenges associated with chronic homelessness that many face.

SummerTini helps raise funds that are truly needed for the CHEFS program to operate successfully. There’s a downright impressive live auction, including a week in Provence in a private home for eight; New Orleans for two and Tahoe for 20; a restaurant review dinner out with Michael Bauer; and a Vespa! The silent auction includes weekend stays at top hotels, dinner certificates to restaurants like Boulevard and others, tickets to the theater and sporting events, two flights on Southwest anywhere… a ton of things to bid on. There is also Sponsor-A-Chef: for $50 you can purchase a uniform, $100 buys textbooks, $700 buys all the ingredients needed for class, $1,200 covers a CHEF's monthly stipend, and for $2000, you can provide everything an aspiring student needs to complete the CHEFS program.

Why don’t you consider making next Friday’s happy hour one that does a lot of good?

the starlet

JUNE 3, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Some tablehopper readers spotted Robin Williams waiting for his to-go order at the Mill Valley In-N-Out with a pretty brunette on Sunday June 1st. He was reportedly “looking fit and happy and was gracious and friendly (although most of the customers let him be).”

Okay, I am so not enthralled with these Jenna Bush sightings, but anyway: she dined with her hubby on the patio at Sociale on Memorial Day for dinner. They were said to be quite polite, and sans secret service (well, as far as anyone could tell—who knows if someone was hiding in the plants!). They had a half bottle of nebbiolo between the two of them and split the bucatini amatriciana (Jenna passed on the guanciale).

Golden State Warriors center Adonal Foyle dined last Thursday at Yankee Pier in Lafayette and had the Lobster Dinner (that would be 1 ½ pounds of whole Maine lobster with two sides). An Orinda resident, he dined with a group of nine friends, including his business manager.

Did you have a star sighting at a restaurant or bar around town? Send 'em on in! All sightings remain confidential. (So if you happen to work for a restaurant, I'll never reveal who told me which star was dining at table four, or getting loaded on Cristal.) Just hit reply to this email.

the matchmaker

Le Colonial Restaurant is seeking an assistant sommelier position. Le Colonial is a fast-paced fine dining restaurant that specializes in French-Vietnamese cuisine. 

This position requires 5–7 years of fine dining experience, as well as an enthusiastic and knowledgeable interest in the world of wine. We also ask that you not have extensive scheduling commitments that deflect from you being able to be flexible and work fulltime; this includes a demanding school or other part time work. 

Le Colonial is one of the premier Union Square dining destinations and is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this month. This is a fantastic opportunity for the right candidate.

Please email your resume to


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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