table of contents This week's tablehopper: hophead.

the chatterbox
the word on the street

the regular
it's about time we met
the lush

put it on my tab

the socialite
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
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AUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO What can I say, Tahoe was a total dreamscape of sunny weather, cool water, fresh air, and some pretty good home cookin’, if I don’t say so myself. But this is why my life is just ridiculous: here I am, trying to take it easy and be all low-fat and non-alcoholic and queen of quinoa, and not only do I get a cold (see what happens when I go healthy?), but I get an email from my bud, chef Mark Estee at Moody’s Bistro in Truckee, and he’s like, “Marcia, I’ve got some beauty tomatoes, you gotta come get ‘em, you’re going to love them!” Fabulous, I’ll be right over. Color me stoked. But then guess who tucks some house-made mortadella and damn it, a container of Gioia burrata in the box? Oh yes he did. I swear, are all chefs Jewish grandmothers? And what am I going to say, no thanks? Of course not. So I was loving those tomatoes, seriously the essence of summer, with some scoops o’ burrata, hells yes. And I wonder why I keep redlining to a state of critical ass.

To that end, yes, my rear end, literally within half an hour of getting home Sunday evening, I was off to Piccino for their Fatted Calf dinner. (If anything was going to get me home from Tahoe, it would be that!) What a stellar Sunday meal, with an interesting group of folks, and hello fab wines chosen by Wayne Garcia! Cameron and Anita from Married With Dinner were there, you gotta check out their lovely pics from the evening! And I highly recommend trying to attend one of Piccino’s upcoming dinners—it’s why I threw a tablehopper supper there: the location rocks as much as the food, wine, and people. The one coming up with Thomas Odermatt, the Roli Roti/Oxbow Market’s Rotisario guy, will definitely be a winner—pray for his porchetta.

One last event announcement: this Wednesday evening is the Top Chefs Tell All event I’m moderating for the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum series. There are just a few tickets left! Hope to see you there.

Ciao chow,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

advertise on tablehopperAUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Folks have been wondering what exactly ~CHARLES PHAN~ is opening in the SOMA Grand. Well, the answer is: something new. The yet-to-be-named restaurant is a 3,500-square-foot space, and is made up of two areas divided by cuisine, décor, and a curtain: one part is a 40-seat lunch noodle bar with a fast-casual menu using quality ingredients. The other section will be a 100-seat lounge-type space, with a bar, extended hours, and DJs. The press release promises “an innovative dining experience unlike anything Phan has done in his previous ventures,” but that’s not telling us much, so stand by. Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design, who also did the Slanted Door on the Embarcadero, is designing the space. The project is scheduled to open in November 2008. 1160 Mission at 7th St.

San Francisco Waterfront Partners has found a tenant for Pier Three (its neighbors will be the upcoming La Mar Cebicheria Peruana and Lafitte): ~LETTÜS~, the organic cafe folks will recognize from the Marina, is opening its second location there. (I’m not big on vegetarian burgers, but theirs is killer.) From the press release: “The 4,600-square-foot bayfront café occupies two spaces at Pier 3, straddling what was once an historic railroad passage. The south space will feature quick service organic coffee, pastries, lunches and dinners while the north space, which includes a 700-square-foot bayside patio, will provide a full service lunch and dinner menu. Both spaces will be lined with sidewalk seating on the Embarcadero.”

Wondering how Brett Emerson’s ~CONTIGO~ project in Noe Valley is coming along? Well, the Mugnaini pizza oven is in place and mighty spiffy (it’s like the ones at Picco, Pizzaiolo, Nopa, and Chez Panisse). But a pizza oven does not a restaurant make. Here’s more! Check out the latest renderings, and let’s hope for that September opening. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St.

I’ve had folks asking wassup with ~PRESS CLUB~, the spiffy tasting room on Yerba Buena Lane that is going to feature eight Cali wineries like Hanna, Chateau Montelena, Miner, Saintsbury, and others. The opening date has been pushed and pushed and pushed, and it’s because the project hit some big ABC snags. They are working with the ABC and now hoping to open this fall. The wineries are still on board, so we’ll just have to wait for this to all get sorted before we can start cheers-ing. 20 Yerba Buena Ln. at Market, 415-494-2000.

It’s time for your coffee report: I was hoping to say ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~ is open for biziness today, but alas, due to some %$#& PG&E delays, co-owner Jeremy Tooker said the opening is looking more like maaaaybe Thursday, and perhaps not even until Saturday. Hours will be 7am–8pm daily. 375 Valencia St. at 15th Street.

Here’s a night when it’s okay to see red: ~CITIZEN CAKE~ chef William Pilz is continuing Thursday theme nights, and this Thursday August 21st is all about red. Think: ripe tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, and more. The menu includes a terrine with watermelon and tomato; deconstructed ratatouille and lamb; red snapper crudo; and for dessert, citizen red velvet with raspberries, cream cheese, and chocolate. There are also some $8 cocktails, like the love letter, or one with watermelon, tequila, and chiles. This special themed menu is in place of the regular dinner menu, and is $65. And coming up on August 28th is a special seafood dinner. 399 Grove St. at Gough, 415-861-2228.

Since I was gifted some burrata in Tahoe, it was almost like my own little A16 by the lake. Sadly, no pizza oven was nearby. Or trippa alla napoletana. But I’ll leave that to the experts. Anyway, I wanted to get this Book Passage off-site event listed early since it’s assuredly going to sell out: Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren are celebrating the release of their new A16: Food + Wine book, with a ~SPECIAL MEAL AT A16~ on Sunday September 28th. Price is $100, and it includes the book (which on its own is $35). 12:30pm. Order tickets here. 2355 Chestnut St. at Divisadero.

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the regular




Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
1398 Haight St.
Cross: Masonic Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94117


Mon–Fri 12pm–12am
Sat–Sun 10am–12am

Apps $4–$12
Entrées $12–$22
Desserts $7

AUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh lord, did I just take a hit of acid? Did someone sprinkle some Acapulco Gold in my salad? Are you sure those were just morels? I’m feeling funny. Why am I giggling? Actually, there’s a very good reason: I’m just cruising through ~MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY’S~ new website and getting lost in the illustrations. Delicious quirkiness. Dude, pass the pipe!

Magnolia has been a staple in the Haight for years, an oasis for the thirsty, the hungry, and yes, the baked. The place has quite the dappled history, including its days as “The Drugstore Café” (hence the Prescription Pale on the beer list) and then the period of 1967–1969, when it was owned by Magnolia Thunderp*ssy. (I can’t write out her name or this week’s newsletter will end up in everyone’s spam trap!) She was a local burlesque performer who is the namesake for the restaurant, and the inspiration for the Dead’s track Sugar Magnolia.

When Ms. Magnolia TP owned the joint, she was known for her dessert delivery business, running until late at night (“the munchie hours?”). What’s it gonna be, a Pineapple P*ssy, or the Montana Banana? For reals. Shame she’s no longer with us. I was lobbying owner Dave MacLean to bring her desserts back. Or at least a variation of them, because I’m not sure how an exact rendition of half a pineapple filled with strawberry ice cream and covered with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and a cherry fits in with the new Magnolia mojo. Ahem.

The restaurant just celebrated its ten-year anniversary, and is now sporting a spiffy new look, style, menu, the whole shebang. I know some folks have been throwing granola at the changes, but personally, I am digging the update; there are plenty of grungy spots to hang out at on Haight Street—not all of them have to look like a co-op. Perhaps the most noise was over the famed hippie mural getting painted over, but it’s not like McLean didn’t care—would someone painstakingly photograph it, and eventually offer it as a downloadable panorama if they didn’t care? Exactly. After ten years, he was just ready for something fresh.

The space already had great bone structure (it was a pharmacy that dates back to 1903), but now it has a bit of a vintage East Coast vibe, with tall-backed and tufted booths ideal for small groups or a tête-a-tête, large mirrors with details of the menu (take a close look—no, you’re not trippin’), subway tiling (especially in the bathrooms), a weathered-meets-gold leaf paint scheme, and there’s now a communal table made of Douglas Fir wood from the original Levi Strauss building in the Mission.

Chef Brandon Jew (Zuni, Quince, Pizzetta 211) has put together a menu of gastropub fare that is a celebration of SLO (sustainable, local, organic) and let’s add an H in there for house-made. It’s the new Slow Food: SLOH food. And it definitely has some modern flair and creativity—classic Brit pub fare this is not.

Let’s start with the munchies part of the menu (yes, that’s what it says). It’ll be leaving us soon, but the refreshing wedges of watermelon with saba and Maldon salt ($5) would be ideal as a mid-course/intermezzo. Say, post-boudin. Or after scarfing the fried boar headcheese ($5) served with peppery watercress. (I know not everyone would scarf this dish, but kudos to Magnolia for having it on the menu—it disappeared off our table in a flash. Wow, nice trails.) We also got a taste of a scrumptious Scotch egg, not sure if it made it onto the menu yet, but it should be on there.

The charcuterie selection is beer-friendly, and I like how share-friendly a lot of the dishes are, from the oh-so-lightly battered Monterey squid ($8) with squid ink aioli, or the lacquered duck wings ($7). But I’d like a wet towel after eating the wings; the Nopa-style dishtowels-as-napkins aren’t quite enough to do the job after those sticky little buggers. Speaking of the dishtowels, one night I had quite the dingy-looking one—it needed to be retired and signed up for an AARP magazine subscription, stat.

There’s are three tasty salads to choose from, including the summer melon salad ($11) styled with balls of fried goat cheese, plus figs, arugula, and speck—it was a spot-on play of flavors, textures, and temperatures. Salad, don’t leave us! But alas, fall is on its way…

Perhaps one of the city’s best deals for din din is the house-made sausage with two sides, for $12. The sausage selection changes a fair amount, but a favorite was the grass-fed buffalo, a chewy but flavorful sausage with deep seasoning that comes sliced up in a warm cazuela-like dish. Built for beer. The boudin, however, put me into a food coma, with its heavy breading.

Sides to choose from include the perfect horseradish potatoes, with just the right amount of whip and kick, or house-cut fries (they’re good—order them crispy), or sauerkraut—but I wanted the sauerkraut to have a little spin, like so many other dishes do on the menu. There are also seasonal vegetable sides, and speaking of non-meat items, there’s a vegetarian sausage version on the menu, cool.

What would a gastropub be without fish and chips ($15)? Uh, not a gastropub. The fish depends on what’s the daily catch, but one constant is the flaky and light batter made with mead, and the pickled sea beans were a nice touch. I just wanted the malt vinegar in a shaker, and not the petite ramekin in came in—it’s hard to dispense properly on the fries.

Unfortunately on one night, the Prather Ranch burger ($13) was so not on its game: it was overdone, and the bun was soggy. Even the killer mustard and pickle couldn’t elevate it. But then I have a friend who swears by the burger, so what can I say? Ah, the vicissitudes of restaurants. To that point, I have experienced some missteps here and there on Magnolia’s menu during my two visits, like underdone beans or salty snapper, but they mostly felt like new menu kinks.

Dessert also needs to get worked out a bit—one time a puck-like toffee pudding came with under-ripe nectarine, and the slice of the porter chocolate cake, while decadently delicious, was a bit precious for $7. The cubes of goat cheesecake ($7) were a tangy finish, with figs and honey, total hearts, but the topping of almond brittle was difficult to break into bites. Again, these are small tweaks that I am sure will get adjusted in time, especially considering the dessert history of the joint!

So, about that brewery part in the name. The beers here are unique, crafted with love and obsession, and a pleasure to taste and try. I appreciate the brewski education you can get (do you know what ABVs and BUs are?), and that you can compare cask-conditioned ales against beers on draught (do a taste test with the Blue Bell Bitter!). (You can read more about McLean and his passion for English ales in his wino piece here.) The names are clever (care for a Cole Porter?), many referencing Grateful Dead songs, so the list is like a built-in drinking game. There are also some wines to choose from, or house-made sodas and complimentary filtered fizzy water for the teetotalers. Plus Blue Bottle Coffee anyone can perk up with.

And ladies, if you want to hang with or perhaps pick up some beer-drinking lads, this is your spot—the chaps here are more the “thinking man’s beer dudes,” and not like the rapscallions you’ll find at Murio’s down the street. In fact, if you need a place to meet up with a fella on a date, say, date number one or two, this spot is on the money: it’s not too expensive, the food is approachable, the interior has pleasant atmo, and while it’s a bit noisy, there’s enough going on that it doesn’t feel like an awkward quiet DATE. And there’s BEER, so you and the fella stay relaxed. And I also can’t help but think the historical p*ssy power of Magnolia bodes well.

NOTE: there is a popular brunch served all weekend, and the famous friend chicken is on Thursdays from 5pm until they run out.

the lush

advertise on tablehopperAUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Bummed with this B.S. weather? (I feel ya.) Free for some BBQ tomorrow? (I wish I was!) Orson is hosting a ~SQUARE ONE VODKA & SUMMER BBQ DINNER~ this Wednesday August 20th. The three-course menu with paired cocktails includes Hog Island oyster with smoked corn and cucumber, and to drink, the Drunken Watermelon (Square One cucumber vodka, simple syrup, Espelette); the first course is pork belly with watermelon, arugula, eggplant, and sweet peppers, paired with Summer Seraph (Square One cucumber vodka, Lillet Blanc, St. Germain, sparkling wine, lemongrass); second course is mixed grill, with beef ribs, smoked beer sausage, jerk prawn, heirloom tomato panzanella, and to drink, the Dandy Shandy (Square One vodka, peach puree, Anchor summer beer, ginger). There’s also a dessert amuse of grilled tomatillo and a honey-parfait shot, and for dessert, olive oil-almond soup with orange house-infused Square One vodka pearl, and grilled peach sorbet paired with Blazing in Gold (orange house-infused Square One vodka, Galliano, espresso). Yum! $75 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. You can book online at and put "summer BBQ" in your note. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.

There is nothing like a recession or a slow summer to get some happy hours and drink specials going. I can’t even keep up. But let’s try.

My friendly neighbors at ~CORKAGE SAKE & WINE SHOP~ have started serving sake no sakana, little snacks meant to be enjoyed while drinking sake. On offer are tako wasabi (octopus marinated in wasabi/$3.75), edamame ($3.25), ika-sansai (smoked squid with mountain vegetables/$3.75), kappa maki (small cucumber roll/$4.75), and oshinko maki (small pickled radish roll $4.75) from 3pm–10pm while you do your sipping. 1300 Fulton St. at Divisadero, 415-567-6503.

~TERZO~ has launched their late summer promo, “Come Early, Stay Late,” running from now through Labor Day. Go in for a glass of wine off their great list, or a beer, or an aperitif at the bar, and receive a special appetizer of the day, for free, yo! Available Monday through Friday from 5:30pm–6:30pm. 3011 Steiner St. at Union, 415-441-3200.

~LEVEL III~ in Union Square has a happy hour Monday through Friday, from 4pm–7pm. Guests can order from three red wines, three whites, three cocktails developed by H. Ehrmann of Elixir, and three bar nibbles, all at 50% off. Some menu items include mac and cheese, crispy calamari, and American Kobe beef sliders. JW Marriott, 500 Post St. at Mason, 415-771-8600.

Italian vino patrol begins here. ~UVA ENOTECA~ in the Lower Haight is hosting an Introduction to Italian Wines this Saturday August 23rd. You’ll learn the fundamentals of winemaking, history, and tasting. Class size is limited to 15 people. 3:45pm. $35 per person. Call 415-829-2024 or email to sign up. 568 Haight St. at Steiner.

And then over in Cow Hollow, ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~ is hosting a Regional Wine Tasting: The "Other" Piemonte on Wednesday August 27th on their front patio. You’ll learn (and taste) a wide range of grapes and styles from Piemonte's lesser-known areas, like whites from local grapes like Timorasso and Nas-cëtta, and reds like Ruché and Croatina. There will also be some Piemonte-inspired dishes and cheeses served. $55 per person (includes educational materials, wine tasting, and food pairings). 6pm–7:30pm. A credit card is required to make an event reservation, and subject to a 48-hour-cancellation policy. To sign up, email Melissa Gisler or call 415-674-8400. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

I made a small boo boo last week: Victoria Damato-Moran will be the DAY bartender at La Mar on Pier 1 1/2, while Enrique Sanchez of Tres Agaves will be the lead bartender at night. Meow! Here’s hoping for the September 18th opening.

the socialite


Slow Food Dinners
Thu. Aug. 28th–Mon. Sep. 1st, 2008

Various locations


AUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Slow Food Nation is on its way, and for those who aren’t heading off to Burning Man (waaaaah!), there are some really cool ~SLOW FOOD DINNERS~ happening all over the Bay Area, benefitting a variety of very worthy organizations.

One that caught my eye is the Orson event on Friday August 29th—the staff has teamed up with the organization Nextcourse. Chef de cuisine Ryan Farr will go to the farmers’ market with kids from the Nextcourse program, picking out vegetables for the dinner, with a video camera following them while they shop. During the dinner, guests can watch the market video as they eat the produce they picked out. For more, here’s a link to the menu.

Cavallo Point across the bay has a special dinner on Saturday August 30th for only $75, with wine pairings, tax, and tip included! I tried Joseph Humphrey’s tasting menu a few weeks back and was quite enthralled—they even have their very own “house cheese” from Andante! Stay the night if you can.

Vegetarians will also be pleased with all the choices. Chef Leif Hedendal’s event on Thursday the 28th at Small Shed Flatbreads in Mill Valley looks like such a winner.

There is a bunch to choose from, be sure to take a peek.


A Food Affaire
Mon., Sep. 22nd, 2008

Ruby Skye
420 Mason St.
Cross: Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


VIP event begins at 6pm

tickets $100
industry $88
VIP $150

buy tickets

AUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO This year’s Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) event, titled ~A FOOD AFFAIRE~, will feature over twenty chefs showcasing aphrodisiac-inspired cuisine (the event was formerly called Toast of the Town). Participating chefs and restaurants include Mark Gordon, Terzo; Richard Corbo, Ducca; Joey Altman, Miss Pearl’s Jam House; Bruce Hill, Bix; Massimo Caporale, Gelato Paradiso; Tammy Huynh, Bong Su; Pablo Estrada, Rose Pistola; Ruggero Gadaldi, Beretta; Paul Piscopo, XYZ; Ranjan Dey, New Delhi; Damon Hall, MoMo’s and Pete’s Tavern; Dan Scherotter, Palio d'Asti; Joseph Manzare, Tres Agaves; Gary Rulli, Emporio Rulli; Ben Hetzel, Uva Enoteca; Billy Berkowitz, Max’s; Tim Luym, Poleng Lounge.

There will also be exotic dancers, henna tattoo artists, and fortunetellers. SKYY Spirits is the exclusive beverage sponsor for the event and will be creating a list of specialty cocktails for the evening. Proceeds raised from A Food Affaire will benefit the GGRA’s Scholarship Foundation, which provides talented students with scholarships to help fund their tuition towards careers in restaurants and hospitality.

the starlet

AUGUST 19, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO A tablehopper reader spotted Aisha Tyler (from 24, CSI, Friends, and others) with a bunch of friends at Sotto Mare in North Beach last night.

Now this is what I call a star sighting, whoa: Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel visited Bourbon & Branch last Friday. They took a full tour of the three rooms in the nouveau speakeasy, and also got a private tour of the original basement speakeasy. (Hey, I want that tour!) They were reportedly "wowed" by the space and its history, and the drinks were a hit as well.


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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