table of contents This week's tablehopper: la la love you.

the chatterbox
the word on the street

the jetsetter
get outta dodge
the lush

put it on my tab
the socialite

the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

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OCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Well, after kicking last week’s stupid sore throat to the curb (thanks to all of you for your well wishes, that was super sweet), yours truly had quite the tablehopping week, starting with drinks on Wednesday at Pisco Lounge, then checking out Zinnia’s opening night (they were busy busy, and it was great to be able to taste Sean’s gnocchi again!), followed by a cocktail at Taverna Aventine—they did a nice job on the décor. Thursday was the Joy of Sake event—full of sake discoveries and tasty bites (Ame wins for their brilliant somen noodle “chute” and presentation), but someone else (who will remain nameless) totally loses for serving blue fin tuna, ahem. Truth be told, it was also quite the non-environmentally friendly event—there was a bunch of needless waste, with only containers for the Fiji water bottles to get sorted and recycled. After seeing how diligent the San Francisco Magazine FallFest party was with recycling, impressively so, I think large events around town need to take notice and follow suit, like, stat. Friday I enjoyed some alfresco dining at Nettie’s Crab Shack and then got my heinie home because Saturday was going to be a big day.

imageSo, what was so big about Saturday? I was presenting a line-up of San Francisco bites to the fabulous Gayle King for a recording for the Oprah & Friends radio show at the O You! conference. Curious about what we ate? Listen in when the show airs tomorrow, Wednesday, on XM Radio at 8am, 2pm, and 8pm EST (so that’s 5am, 11am, and 5pm PST). You can tune in with the free XM Radio trial, just click on the Oprah & Friends Gayle King homepage. It was a little challenging because I wasn’t allowed to serve any hot food (the building’s union put the kibosh on a hot plate or toaster oven), but Ms. King still enjoyed grazing through the six courses of tastes I picked out for her, while we chatted about everything from burgers to boys. (Thanks a mil to everyone who helped me pull this off!)

There will also be some tablehopper tips on dining out posted on the homepage on Wednesday—I’ll send you the link next week! Or just hop on over there tomorrow and check it out!

Oh yeah, and everyone at the conference got a surprise visit from Oprah herself, who gave a very inspiring talk to the 4,000 ladies in attendance—it totally rocked. Now, where did the lovely duo of Oprah and Gayle eat after the O You! conference? Check out the starlet for the answer!

As promised, this week is my jetsetter write-up of my recent trip to Los Angeles—I barely scratched the surface of the town that’s known for them, but it just means I have to return soon, which I plan on doing, oh yesirree.

Okay, it’s another week, and another giveaway! This week I am going to style someone with a pair of tickets to the third annual Tastes of the City event on November 6th (check out the socialite for more). To enter to win, please forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (or more, you star!!), telling them why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, ha ha!), and CC or BCC so I know you sent it (I promise not to use anyone’s email address). Deadline to enter is midnight on Sunday November 2nd.

Tonight I am off to the Milk premiere and gala (with a swell little pre-party at Swirl on Castro, bubbles in effect, you know it!), Wednesday and Thursday are random events and dinners and tastings around town, Friday is all about scary movies and popcorn, and then it’s my birthday this Saturday, so guess who is beyond thrilled to be able to see the YSL exhibit opening at the DeYoung!? Couldn’t score tickets to the seminar with Hamish Bowles (le sigh) but it will be a spiffy day nonetheless. That night I will be doing my annual Chinese banquet dinner with my pals, will let you know where we end up feasting.
Since my birthday is on the horizon, it always makes me reflect on the year that’s past. One thing I’d like to say is thanks to you, dear readers, for helping to support this venture and passion of mine. Yes, this column is a pile o’ work, and so I really value your enthusiasm—it keeps me truckin’. Thank you! (Yes, I am having an Oprah moment.)

Clink clink!

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

Ellison Media GroupOCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Folks have been wondering what chef ~MELISSA PERELLO~ (formerly of Fifth Floor) has been up to these days. While she’s finalizing plans and honing in on the space for her upcoming restaurant, Frances, she is going to be hosting a fun and yet-to-be-named dinner series on Monday nights at Sebo restaurant in Hayes Valley, the night the restaurant is normally closed. Nope, you can’t keep a chef from cooking! The first dinner kicks off on Monday November 10th. As Perello states in her announcement, “The idea is to bring friends and family together for a fun evening of food and wine. A chance to catch up with old friends and an opportunity to meet new ones. I'll be serving a four-course dinner of autumn's best ingredients, featuring dishes like hearty soups, slow braised meats. One could call it beta-testing for Frances’ future menu. The evening’s four-course menu will be priced at $45 per person. A nightly wine pairing will be available to enjoy with your menu or you can also choose from our list of wines. However, please feel free to bring a special bottle of your own; corkage will be just $10. The plan is to continue serving up these dinners on most Monday nights throughout the winter at Sebo. I will notify you of scheduled dinners up to two weeks in advance, via email.”

You can find out about future Monday dates by signing up for the mailing list at You'll need to reserve your spot in advance at that email—please do not call Sebo directly; reservations will be accepted via email only. There will be two seatings for the evening; the first at 6pm and the second at 8:15pm. Please specify your choice of first or second seating. (Your prompt arrival will be much appreciated.) Seats will be limited, so be certain to respond early if you would like to attend. The menus will be crafted from the Saturday and Sunday markets' best, so she doesn’t intend to post menus in advance, but please advise her of any dietary restrictions you or guests may have in advance when reserving your table. The preferred method of payment is greenback, but Visa and MasterCard will be accepted. Street parking can be tricky, but there is a handful of public lots in the neighborhood. Sebo, 517 Hayes St. at Octavia.

More Monday action: Americano at Hotel Vitale is featuring ~AMERICANO MONDAYS~, starting on Monday November 3rd. For three consecutive Mondays, chef Paul Arenstam is offering an Italian-inspired appetizer and entrée, paired with a half carafe of wine, for $20. So Monday the 3rd is escarole and pear salad with candied pecans and Gorgonzola, and orecchiette with braised Meyer Ranch beef cheek, and don’t forget the vino! The 10th is Sausalito Springs watercress salad with Fuyu persimmon, and ricotta gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage. The 17th is Americano minestrone soup with fresh spaghetti and Prather Ranch meatballs. 8 Mission St., 415-278-3777.

A few weeks back I mentioned Bushi-tei was opening a second restaurant in Japantown this winter. Here’s more from the press release: “The casual dining spot, to be named ~BUSHI-TEI BISTRO~, will include a wine bar and seating for 80 on the ground floor of the Kinokuniya Building, just a block and a half west of the original location and near the intersection of Post and Webster streets. The restaurants will complement each other with the bistro offering a more casual menu with affordable prices. The average check will be between $30 and $35 per person," says owner Takumi "Tak" Matsuba, partnering with Eiji Miwa. The bistro's menu will reflect the same French California Fusion theme…” 1581 Webster Street Ste. 100 at Post.

What do chefs do on their last night working at a restaurant? Well, if you’re ~RYAN FARR~, you cook your staff a turducken! Saturday was his last night at Orson, and in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps you’ll be inspired to follow his how-to instructions on his personal website. Farr is currently in New York cooking up a private dinner feast, and when he returns, you can hire him for your holiday parties or private events through his catering outfit, Ivy Elegance. Heck, hire him to make you your very own turducken! It can be the new “it” item this year on every bona fide-gourmand’s holiday wish list.

Spoke with Gino Assaf of North Beach’s Ristorante Gondola, and his new 100-seat Mission restaurant, ~SPECCHIO~, is close to opening. He had a private party for some NBA stars last week, and plans to open for a soft opening next week—look for the grand opening by the weekend of the 8th. To recap, the restaurant is opening in the former Blue Room Gallery space, next to Cha Cha Cha. The menu will feature modern Italian dishes with some Venetian influences, with five­–six antipasti and salads, five pastas, five–six entrées, and three pizzas. Dinner to start, Tue–Sun 5:30pm–11pm, and lunch and brunch will follow later. 2331 Mission St. at 20th.

Looks like the lines at the Thursday night ~MISSION STREET FOOD~ truck won’t be getting any longer. According to a few online posts, a crank-pot at Vanguard Properties (where the truck is parked in front of) raised some ruckus, and then there’s that impending rainy season. So now here’s the new dealio, according to the Mission Street Food site: “We’re announcing a new format for Mission Street Food: each week, we’ll feature a local guest chef/cook, who will offer his or her own dishes in addition to our regular menu. To make this change possible, we’ll be moving from the truck into an actual restaurant. We’ve been talking with some local restaurants about sharing space, and we’ll announce the details in a few days. We’ll be closed this week for planning and will re-open somewhere in the Mission on November 6… Ideally, this will be part of an indie cooking movement that will let talented cooks reach the public without the risks of opening a conventional restaurant—and let the public enjoy great food without the costs of dining at a conventional restaurant.” If you’re a local chef or line cook and want to be a guest chef, check out the site for more details.

If inspections go well this week, ~CHILAYO~ will be opening in the old Andale spot on Chestnut this coming weekend. You can read more in this past issue of the tablehopper. Lunch and dinner will be served daily 10am–10pm, with breakfast on the weekends. 2150 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-674-1814.

I am digging this new wave of Taqueria 2.0: coming in early 2009 will be ~GRACIAS MADRE~, the first 100% organic and vegan taqueria in the Mission. The 75-seat project is from the Café Gratitude crew, and will feature a stone grinder and tortilleria (tortilla press/cooker) from Mexico, plus organic heirloom varieties of corn, also from Mexico. They will also get some corn and other produce from the BeLove Farm in Fairfield, also owned by Café Gratitude. Look for dishes like two kinds of guacamole, seasonal tamales, a pupusa, torta, enchilada, mole, and of course, tacos, like shiitake with purslane, or butternut squash and caramelized onion. There will also be lots of vegetable side dishes, rice, beans, and a chocolate plate, plus organic beer on tap from Eel River, and look for a Sunday brunch with Latin DJs. The look will be a rustic ranch style, with murals from local muralists. Hours will be 11am–11pm daily. The owners look forward to working with Mission High, and offering organic and vegan options for those who love taqueria eats, but don’t want to compromise for non-organic choices. It’s a complete build-out (the former space was a children’s bookstore and press), so look for a February opening. 2211 Mission St. at 18th St.

Since we’re talking Mexicano, did you know ~BURRITOEATER.COM'S 2008 SLAB SCRUM~ is coming up? Here’s what Señor Burrito Eater has to say, “It’s an eight-taqueria tournament field: both 2006 champ Gordo Taqueria and 2004 gold medalist Papalote are back, and they're in it to win it. Same goes for local stalwarts Taqueria San Francisco, Taqueria El Castillito, and El Burrito Express. The other three entrants—Taqueria Can-cún, Taqueria Reina's, and El Norteño—are first-time Scrummers, so we'll see if they suffer from any main-stage jitters. Look for the single-elimination tourney to get going on (or just after) November 1. It'll run five-six weeks.” I’ll report back on the SCRUMptious results in December!

A tablehopper reader wrote in to say, “~CABLE CAR PIZZA~ in the Mission looks closed, replaced seemingly overnight by a burger place called ~THRILL OF THE GRILL~.” But then he went back to double check, and reports, “I stopped by tonight and there are TWO signs: Cable Car Pizza and Thrill Of The Grill. I asked inside and the guy said they were both. What?” What, indeed. 535 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-431-8880.

This rock star tablehopper reader also passed along this tip: “~ROCKIN' JAVA~ in the Haight has been transformed into Park Mini Mart Café, which looks to have a similar menu that now includes some Dreyer's froyo. But the café feeling is gone—the back seating area now houses fridges and shelves with food. There are still a few chairs near the front to linger.” 1821 Haight St. at Shrader.

San Francisco is wicked cool for many reasons. Here’s yet another reason—check out this email I received from David Stockhausen, and the related project he needs help with: “I founded a garden, with help from Peter Hood, Phillip Bellber, and Carolyn Blair (Boogaloos, Spaghetti Western, Weird Fish, CHA CHA CHA) called ~AMYITIS GARDENS~. I started it with the intent to grow as much food as possible for these places. While the garden space we have is beautiful and functional, in reality we need more. I am looking for ways to spread the word about what we are doing as to hopefully get others with passion for food to help us out. We are looking for people to donate space we can garden in exchange for some benefits at participating restaurants, discounts, gift certs. etc.

“It is becoming more and more clear to me and Jessie that we simply need more space. After all, more space = more food. While being eternally grateful for the space we were given, it is simply not enough to really make the kind of dent we're hoping to make in the restaurant alloy. With that now said, I do know that there is a way to make this happen without becoming a full-scale farm. With our garden project we intend not to sustain a restaurant entirely, but merely HELP to sustain a restaurant. I have yet to be convinced that we need to move to the sticks. All around me, in this city, there are spaces. There are unused spaces that need food, and lots of food. What if we all changed the way we thought about usable space? What about tearing up that inedible sod for a little arugula? I am sure that there are many San Franciscans with un- or underused spaces. All we really need is a little more than we've got to really make things cook! So now we're putting out our feelers and looking for space. We ideally would like to find people that have unused space that they would be comfortable donating. I mean landscaping anyone? Not to mention front row seats to the ever-expanding food sustainability movement. In exchange for the space, the donors would have a weekly share of veggies and potentially some deals at the restaurants we serve. Now that is community! A direct link between producers, farmers, and restaurants. So help us out. We need all the community we can get. IF you have space you'd donate, or know of space that is up for grabs, email us.”

I love me some tableside cart action. And now ~AQUA~ is doing a unique late-night spin that involves cheese, wine, and spirits. Every evening, from 9:30pm, they will be serving artisanal cheeses from their cart, alongside traditional and unique pairings. Bar manager Marko has developed cocktails specifically for pairing, and the sommeliers have found unique wines and liqueurs. Here are a few examples: Hudson Valley Camembert with a Calvados and apple cider cocktail, or Sierra Mountain Tomme with Nocino Della Christina walnut liqueur. Check out the entire menu here. You can choose from a three, five, or seven cheese-and-pairing flight. Three cheeses, $15; five cheeses, $22; seven cheeses $30. For the sommelier-selected wine and spirit flights: flight of three, $14; flight of five, $21; flight of seven, $29. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Noe Valley has a few new happenings: as I previously mentioned, ~BELGANO~ was going to reopen as ~TUTTIMELON~, but as a tablehopper reader notes, “The menus are different, the coffee is gone, but gelato is now being offered as well as parfaits (which I love, so I always notice them on the menu).” So I guess that means you can do gelato, or yogurt, or both. 3901 24th St. at Noe.

imageAttention bookworm cooks: due to open in Noe Valley on November 8th will be ~OMNIVORE BOOKS ON FOOD~. You’ll find cookbooks, rare books, signed books, all kinds, covering food, wine, agriculture, and cocktails. The owner is Celia Sack, who some Noe Valley residents may recognize from Noe Valley Pet Co. Looking forward to checking it out, and seeing what kinds of guest events and signings they have in the future! Like Clark Wolf and Soyoung Scanlan on December 13th! Sign up for Omnivore’s mailing list on their website to keep up with all their events. 3885-A Cesar Chavez St. at Church, 415-282-4712.

More in book-land: ~TYLER FLORENCE~ will be at the Cost Plus World Market store for a book signing on Sunday November 2nd from 11am–1pm. Reservations not required; a limited number of books will be sold at the San Francisco store. 2552 Taylor St. at Bay.

And then we have books with food: The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco is hosting a ~LUNCHEON WITH ELIZABETH FALKNER~, celebrating the release of her first cookbook, Demolition Desserts. The event will be held at Citizen Cake on Tuesday November 11th at noon. JCCSF members $45, general $55. Tickets must be purchased in advance; they will not be available at the door. Order online at Citizen Cake, 399 Grove St. at Gough, 415-861-2228.

This Sunday November 2nd is the ~BOSS OF THE SAUCE~ event, basically a big tomato sauce showdown. Restaurants will present their sauce to the attending general public in elimination rounds, and then a panel of celebrities for final judging. Last year's people's choice winner and judges’ winner was Joseph Manzare of Zuppa. Will Joseph continue to rule? Noon–5pm. Tickets are $20 and up, and proceeds from the event benefit Saints Peter and Paul Church, and FIERI, in preservation of the Italian Culture and language. Saints Peter and Paul Event Center, 666 Filbert St. at Stockton.

A few weeks ago I listed the annual ~ONE NIGHT, ONE HEART~ fundraising event for Zen Hospice, and I just had to do one more mention of it because the location where I’ll be co-hosting the dinner is just so darned cool: the new Stable Café on Folsom in the Mission! Elizabeth Falkner and Ryan Scott are cooking the dinner that night, we’ll be drinking wine from Murray Street Vineyards, and we’ll be seated in the urban chic gallery space in the back of the café. I’ve totally fallen in love with the space—I hope you can come. The dinner is on Sunday November 9th, one of nine intimate dinner parties being held that night in the Bay Area. Details about each of these nine unique dinners can be found at I hope to see you there!

Over in Oakland, opening the second week of December will be ~SIDEBAR~, a gastropub project from the husband-and-wife team of Barbara Mulas and Mark Drazek (Zax), with a new partner, Anne-Marie Adrain, acting as the GM. The space was formerly Trio Bistro, and overlooks Lake Merritt (outdoor seating is in the works). Jim Maxwell of Architects II is the interior designer, and mentioned there is a horseshoe copper-topped central bar—Jonny Raglin (Absinthe) is creating a concise cocktail menu that will highlight local spirits. The menu will be seasonal and local when possible, featuring food that is designed to work with the cocktails, but they aren’t small plates. Look for neighborhood pricing, a relaxed and casual atmosphere, and no reservations. Lunch and dinner will be served Monday–Friday, and dinner only on Saturdays. 542 Grand Ave. at Euclid.

The OPEN Restaurant crew wanted to announce a ~FUNDRAISER HAPPY HOUR EVENT~ this Thursday October 30th that they are doing with Novella Carpenter for the BioFuel Oasis. Novella is "harvesting" her goat Bilbo to be made into tacos and more. The party is down at the Trumer Pils Brewery in Berkley. Some folks from Chez Panisse, urban homesteaders, biodiesel burners, all kinds of folks will be there. Plus there will be all-you-can-drink beer, beer tours, a bike-powered ice cream machine, and bites. How 510 can you get? 5pm onward. $10–$10,000 sliding scale. Trumer Pils Brewery, 1404 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-665-5509.

Craving truffles? Chef Peter McNee of Poggio is offering them a la carte in ten different dishes for one week: November 11th–15th at the ~ANNUAL FESTA DEL TARTUFO~. You can enjoy at least one course with truffles shaved tableside by the chef for a supplemental charge of approximately $35 to the a la carte menu. 777 Bridgeway at Bay, Sausalito, 415-332-7771.

And then ~OLIVETO’S~ annual Italian white truffle dinners are set for November 18th–21st. Diners at Oliveto pay by the gram according to the amount consumed. Truffles, the new cocaine. 5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356.

Now, I normally don’t cover wine country events in tablehopper (I gotta draw the line somewhere, or I’ll be covering Portland before I know it), but I had to do a shout-out to these two awesome big pig events. First, most pork lovers I know, and I know a lot, are all ready to hit ~AMUSE COCHON NAPA~! The event started in Atlanta, and is coming west! On Sunday November 2nd, a group of top chefs (Chris Cosentino, Incanto; Allan Benton, Benton Smoky Mountain Country Hams; Peter Pahk, Silverado Resort; Taylor Boetticher, Fatted Calf Charcuterie; Ryan Farr, Orson) will each prepare a heritage breed hog from head to toe for this competition. Guests and professional judges (including locals like chef Rob Lam of Butterfly SF, Dave McLean of Magnolia Brew Pub, Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite Market, and about 20 more) will determine a winner based on creativity, classic preparation, and overall best flavor. The winner will be crowned the “Prince of Pork.” (Because I am already the Princess, ha ha!) In addition, five selected family-owned winemakers will showcase their wines: Palmaz Vineyards, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyard, Hill Family Estate, Saddleback Cellars, and Thomas Michael Cellars. The event starts at 4pm, and is $100 per person. For tickets and info, visit Advance ticket purchase required. $20 discount for members of Slow Food and the restaurant industry—if you are one of these and need the promo code, please email Silverado Resort, 1600 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa.

If you couldn’t make it to Amuse Cochon, two weeks later is ~MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER WINE ESTATE’S 2ND ANNUAL WILD PIG PARTY~, on Saturday November 15th. Winery owner Jacques Schlumberger, winemaker Mike Brunson, and the rest of the winery team will be celebrating with wild blue grass music, wild pig, and wild zin! There will be an unveiling of their 2006 Estate Zinfandel "Cochons Sauvages" (Wild Pigs), plus roasted pig prepared by Geyserville’s Santi Restaurant, which guests can feast on while sipping the first and second releases of the "Cochons Sauvages." Due to extremely limited allocations, the wine will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Michel-Schlumberger is also offering guests the opportunity to taste barrel samples and purchase futures on the 2007 "Cochons Sauvages” Zinfandel. $40 per person. For reservations and for more information, call the winery at 707-433-7427 or visit (This event sold out very quickly last year.) Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate, 4155 Wine Creek Rd., Healdsburg, Dry Creek.

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the jetsetter

imageOCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO You know, it bugs me when San Franciscans hate on ~LOS ANGELES~. My first question is always, “Well, do you know someone there?” Because without at least one local person to point you to some metropolis gems, and there are many, you won’t get a good sense of the city. I understand if you really loathe the heat, or the smog makes you sneeze and cough, and the traffic sucks, but as far as the city’s culinary and design offerings go, it’s major.

I went to college in L.A., and progressively kept moving east, from Westwood, to Melrose and La Brea, to finally Hollywood in the end. Funny, I noticed the crappy mall that was one block from my old apartment off Vine and DeLongpre is now housing a K&L Wines. Shame I moved—but I had no choice: that nasty Northridge earthquake in 1994 shook me right out of my place (my cute four-plex was condemned, school was long over, so back home to Northern California I went).

I have loved my all my subsequent visits to “la,” and every year my list of faves to revisit and new places to hit keeps growing. Managed to scratch a few off during this last three-day trip, so let’s recap. Expect to hear about more L.A. visits soon—this last trip got me really fired up to spend more time down there—all the modern design is so inspiring. The weather rocks. Ditto on the shopping. And yeah, there are some good vittles, too.


Willow Ranch Restaurant
27770 Lagoon Dr.
Buttonwillow, CA

First things first—if you’re driving down I-5, you need to hook yourself up with some decent eats. I refuse to do the fast food route, so this year I did a little pre-road-trip research and discovered ~WILLOW RANCH RESTAURANT~, a spot just off I-5 in Buttonwillow, near Hwy 58. Consider it your freeway HQ for house-made BBQ. It was some pretty damned tasty ‘cue: my friend and I shared a “deep pit” beef sandwich (shredded beef on a fresh French roll, $7.95) and the “Big Hoss,” with sliced pastrami, mustard, pickles and pepperoncini, also $7.95. Loved the BBQ sauce, and the side of house-made country-style potato salad with egg—totally had that good homemade flavor. It was fun sitting on the bell pepper-green stools at the vintage counter, and we got a kick out of our chatty waitress. Next time I’ll come back to try the ribs.



Pizzeria Mozza
641 North Highland Ave.
Cross: Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

How long have I wanted to try the pizza at ~PIZZERIA MOZZA~, the project from Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich? Jeez, before the joint even opened. I made a lunch reso a couple weeks in advance of my trip, and the meal proved to be one of the better highlights. Fun retro style on the menus, placemats, even the breadstick bags. The packed room was a vibrant mix of folks, and it was refreshing seeing L.A. denizens scarfing down some carbs and cheese. The tables are packed super-close, so people definitely eavesdrop on what you’re eating, and saying.

The winners: the antipasto of juicy shrimp, Fresno chiles, melon, red onion, and lime ($12) is a candidate for the next party dish I want to make, and the pizza with house-made fennel sausage, cream, red onion, scallion and a dusting of pungent fennel pollen that almost smelled like curry ($15) was bomb-diggity. The crust was really unique—so crispy and puffy and savory, and the sausage was super juicy. Next trip: I am hitting the Osteria next door so I can check out the famed mozzarella bar. But I did get to taste some bufala mozz on my friend’s pizza with speck and olive tapenade ($18)—creamy and tangy, but a little dry as a pizza. Dag, I can’t believe I didn’t order a pizza with red sauce. Next time! Oh, and service was really friendly, and the wine list had plenty of Italian charmers to choose from (yay, vino al quartino!).


8117 Sunset Blvd.
Cross: Crescent Heights Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Michael Mina’s ~XIV~ had just opened the day before I got into town, so I thought I’d check it out for a quick bite and a drink before my evening kicked off. There was an absolute fleet of staff, a veritable squadron standing guard in the Philippe Starck-designed box, but it still took over 20 minutes to get served my $13 cocktail, so I bailed on a bite because there wasn’t going to be enough time at that rate. Even my friend’s Pernod, not a cocktail, mind you, took 15 minutes to arrive at the table. It was the day after opening, I understand, but jeez, dinner service had barely even started, so what were the 50-plus people inside doing? Anyway. The bigger question: what on earth was I doing on the Strip to begin with? tablehopper, get your butt back east!


The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine St.
Cross: Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

A few folks had recommended ~THE HUNGRY CAT~ to me. Seemed like a no brainer, considering my penchant for meows. I’m not fazed by the L.A. phenomenon of restaurants, many of them interesting and fantastic, being tucked in mini malls and shopping centers, and this restaurant was no exception, with its location next to a Border’s. Drinks were quite good, like the hot tamale with Reposado Tequila, lime, orange, and Fresno chili simple syrup (a whopping $13), but I really wish our table had been inside, noise be damned. The outside patio was like dining in a dungeon—I couldn’t see my food, and the lone tea light on the table was not cutting it. What was this, the 1500s?

There was a bunch of East coast-style fresh seafood on the menu, but I saw no need to blow a bunch of cash on flown-in fish I could get in SF. The smoked trout and bacon terrine ($14) sported an awesome flavor combo (well, I thought so, my friend gifted me his portion), while the chorizo-stuffed squid ($23) didn’t live up to my hopes (the squid was rubbery, and the grits were like lumps of sticky Malt-O-Meal). The Spanish mackerel on toast ($14) was delish with the slow-roasted tomatoes, but why not three pieces of toast for the three pieces of mackerel? It was all on one slice, which made it a mess to eat. I’d probably eat lunch here once in a while if I worked nearby, like my friend does, but it didn’t merit the primetime Friday night reservation I hoped it would. And since it was so damned dark, all I can share is a pic of the women’s bathroom door art. Pfffft.


3847 Main St.
Cross: Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

One afternoon I met up with a publicist pal for lunch and wine at ~BOTTLEROCK~ in Culver City. It’s crazy how much is happening in that part of town—lots of dining options, like Akasha, and Fraîche. BottleRock was a delightfully unpretentious place to kick it, taste a ton of wines, listen to Gil Scott Heron followed by Hall and Oates, snack on bites like a smoked duck salad ($11) or a pressed ham sandwich with cherry jam, caramelized shallots, and Etorki cheese ($9), and not encounter one ounce of ‘tude. The wine selection rocks, literally, the retail portion is great (and funny: “Chards of Class,” anyone?), the staff is knowledgeable and nice, and there is quite the selection of microbrews. Bonus features: they will open any bottle on the list with the purchase of two glasses, and there’s even a game at the counter: if you guess the grape and region, you win a free glass. I wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip cross-town to come here, and it was a bit lacking in the style department, but if I was in the area, I’d happily swing by, order some wines and cheeses, and get tastin’. Also a perfect spot to pick up a bottle or two for a party. P.S. They are opening a downtown location in December 2008.


Cactus Taqueria #1
950 N. Vine St.
Cross: Burton St.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Mmmm, tacos. Had to get my L.A. taco on, and fortunately a local friend recommended the deeeee-lish ~CACTUS TAQUERIA #1~. With a line, always a good sign. Feasted on some slamming carnitas, birria, and al pastor tacos, a precious $1.25 a pop. Like, give me three more! That is so cheap, damn! Spicy salsa, outdoor seating, and reportedly late hours, sold.


Palate Food + Wine
933 S. Brand Blvd.
Cross: Acacia Ave.
Glendale, CA 91204

My LA buddy was laughing that I was going to Glendale for dinner one night. He’s like, Marcia, you’re so adventurous! (Guilty as charged.) Been hearing nice things about ~PALATE FOOD AND WINE BAR~, a restaurant sandwiched in an unlikely location in the midst of an auto dealership row, so I had to check it out. Again, that’s LA for you. The place was really spacious—it just kept going and going. Was initially a little worried based on the interior of the front room (hmmmm, what is up with the very large cascading grapes?)—but the back room with the bar and wine merchant area was très cool. It was a Saturday night, and the place was going off.

The selection of Mason jar treats, all $5, was an inexpensive and savory way to start, ranging from the stellar potted Berkshire pork to the caponata, plus pickled vegetables (all $3). As you can see, the prices are downright inexpensive: a tasty bean dish with almonds, chard, and shallots was $8, and the rabbit special was only $19. An easy place to go share a meal with friends that won’t leave your wallet hurting, and the wine list is one I’d return for again and again—there is also a full bar, but I was too distracted by all the wine choices instead. The Cal-Med food wasn’t what I’d call mind-blowing, but I liked its seasonal simplicity—it’s the kind of food you can eat and just enjoy without taking it super seriously. And the light bleed when the bill arrived was extra nice.


Before I left town, I asked my bartender pals where I should go for a drink. Most mentioned ~THE DOHENY~, a members only-bar nearby the Staples Center. An SF cat made a call for me, so I was lucky to be let in with my friends to check it out. So I shouldn’t talk smack, but come on, you’re running an exclusive private club and you only have three cocktails offered on the menu, and bottle service? I asked our server if that was it for the cocktail selection, and she said yes. So much for hospitality. To top it off, my Southside Royale drink was watery and wasn’t balanced—for $15, I had much higher hopes. Some of the details of the space were cool, and it was nice to have a place to sit and have a civilized chat on a Saturday night for a drink, but the music was pretty cheesy, and it just wasn’t very fun. Meh. Wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so that’s that.

One party that was a total blast was ~SHITS AND GIGGLES!~, a downtown gay party at Club 740 on Fridays. It had some rocking electro-disco traxx, strong drinks, sassy drag queens (of course), a cool underground vibe, and stylee boys—nary a WeHo gym bunny in sight. And for $5. Just like the old days!


comme Ça
8479 Melrose Ave.
Cross: La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

After all the dancing and boozing, I say God bless some good brunch. Been wanting to check out ~COMME ÇA~ for a while, and it made the perfect bookend to my three-day trip. The menu was full of eggy wegg options, like croques and omelettes, all around $12, but once I saw the burger on another person’s table, that was it—the beef tractor beam vectored me right in. It was total beef fabulousness, a mound of tender beef topped with (almost) melted cheddar cheese, and lettuce and onions in a tangy-creamy mayo dressing, all tucked in a brioche bun that stood up to the very end. Oh yeah, and it comes served with double-fried fries and a decadent garlic aioli dipping sauce—let’s just say it was the hit of the table. Although be warned, if you want your burger medium, tell them you want it seriously medium—my friend’s burger was about the same pink as my medium rare, and when he sent it back, they cooked it all to hell.

The space had chic style, nice light during the day, I totally dug the chalk art on the blackboard on the way to the bathroom, and could totally see coming back for drinks and dinner one night. As my friend said, it’s the Pastis for L.A.


Tita’s Pupuseria #2
20643 Tracy Ave.
Buttonwillow, CA 92306

Sadly, it was time to hit the road and head back to the 415, and Buttonwillow proved to be our faithful pit stop on the way home as well. This time we visited ~TITA’S PUPUSERIA #2~. Truth be told, the taco trucks were calling me, but sometimes you just need to sit and eat. The pupusas were good enough, not even close to The New Spot’s, but as an option to all the I-5 schlock out there, Tita’s was a superior choice. Notably good house-made chips and spicy salsa, props on that. And you gotta love the self-serve bucket of curtido, and cheap price of $20 for a honking dinner for two.


A few shopping excursions I love/ed and recommend:

OK for art books, objets, jewelry, housewares, and general artsy and designy inspiration

Tortoise General Store in Venice has fantastic Japanese housewares, art, and more

American Rag Cie never disappoints for some stylee treasures, both vintage (I scored three dresses!) and new hip duds

Jet Rag at 825 N. La Brea is another fave for vintage

The Melrose Trading Post flea market on Sundays rocked! A goldmine for vintage fashions and furnishings—can’t believe how many great coats I scored (SF residents, you can clean UP on coats—people in L.A. don’t wear ‘em that much). $2. And it’s a fundraiser for Fairfax High, genius.

the lush

Ellison Media GroupOCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Found out that the Tunnel Top’s owner, Ludovic Racinet, and his bartender of eight years, Michael Spike Krouse, are buying the ~MADRONE LOUNGE~ in the Western Addition. They should be getting the keys sometime in December, and will be changing the name to Madrone Art Bar. Other changes: it will be free (no cover), the music format will get some tweaks, and the cocktails will feature fresh juices, but they said the drinks won’t be too highbrow, or lowbrow, either. Spike said they plan to keep and add to the artsy vibe, both on the walls, and in the cocktails, too. There won’t be any cosmetic changes the first few months, they just want to move in, check things out, let the good things stay, and let the rest evolve. They said they look forward to joining the stellar line-up of businesses on the Divis corridor. 500 Divisadero St. at Fell, 415-241-0202.

Just heard Jonny Raglin of Absinthe is going to be consulting on the bar program for ~DOSA FILLMORE~: he will launch the program, create the list, and train the bar staff. The opening is looking like mid-November, permits pending. 1700 Fillmore St. at Post.

Over in Laurel Heights, the old G Bar has closed, and will reopen as ~SWANK~ at the end of November. Anthony Laurino is leading the redesign of the space, which will play off the retro look of the adjoining Laurel Inn hotel, but without being “retro cheesy.” Instead, it will be sexy, classy, and stylish, with cool period-piece lighting, deep colors, and a quality cocktail menu. The plans are to be open six nights a week. 488 Presidio Ave. at California.

This Wednesday October 29th, ~ALICE FEIRING~, the blogger and author of “The Battle for Wine and Love: Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization,” will be at biondivino for a book signing and something a little fun, too. More from Ceri of biondivino: “We are planning a very interesting event for our first book-signing... Something that relates to the authors voice about wine... Somewhat of a compare/contrast, but I can't let you in on the secret just yet—you’ll have to wait 'til Wednesday, but I can tell you this: we are going to pour something very different this night... and it is not Italian... We'll be pouring 2 very different white wines and 2 very different red wines—brown bagged... It's Halloween—I’m feeling devilish... Alice will be reading from her book at 6pm and then open for discussion. People like to challenge Alice and opinions run strong... so bring an open mind and your copy of her book if you'd like to have her sign it for you. We will have books available here $25, covers the tasting and a copy of Alice's book, or if you have a copy already, you can enjoy the tasting for $10.” 6pm–8pm. 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.

This Thursday October 30th is ~TASTING THE GREAT WINES FROM ARGENTINA~, from Salta to Patagonia, with more than 200 wines and 30 wineries present. 6pm–9pm, $40 per person. In addition, 50% of the $40 ticket will be donated to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women Cancer Programs. To purchase tickets, please call 800-338-7819 x 4, or email Fort Mason Conference Center, San Francisco.

~ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT~ is hosting a NorCal Pinot event on Thursday November 6th, with wines from August West, Freeman, Halleck, Harrington, MacPhail, Peay, Sandler, Skewis, and Toulouse. They will also be serving gourmet food from the café: charcuterie, cheese, and a few different appetizers. 5:30pm–8:30pm. $35 advance (plus $2.50 service fee), $45 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased on the website. All featured wines will be available for purchase at special event pricing. 384 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-863-1104.
the socialite


Tastes of the City
Thu., Nov. 6, 2008

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



Tickets: $75
Purchase online or at the door

OCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Founded in March 2004, George Mark Children’s House is located in the East Bay Hills of San Leandro. The organization serves a critical need for families facing the loss of a child, by providing them with round-the-clock care for their ill child in a home-like, peaceful environment. The first and only facility of its kind, the House offers a new option for seriously ill children to receive the highest quality of respite care while their families take a break from the non-stop responsibility of home care.

Legacy was created in 2006 to introduce young Bay Area professionals to George Mark Children’s House (GMCH). With members ranging between the ages of 25 and 45, Legacy’s goal is to educate and engage a younger demographic by hosting various social events that raise awareness and funds to the cause of caring for seriously ill children.

At the fundraising ~TASTES OF THE CITY~ event, attendees will sample an array of local cuisine and cocktails, and will have an opportunity to bid on prizes during the event’s silent and live auctions. All proceeds from the event will directly support GMCH. The cocktail party includes:

Food & beverages from: XYZ, Baraka, Alembic, Amarena, Joey & Eddie’s, Sauce, Puccini & Pinetti, Sugar Café and Lounge, Soluna, Trumer Pilsner, Hangar One Vodka, Pama Liqueur, Rodney Strong, and others.

Silent & live auctions with the opportunity to win a range of items, including: getaway packages to Carmel, CA and Sun Valley, ID, gift certificates from Perbacco, Bin 38, Americano, and other restaurants, game tickets to the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and more!


San Francisco Wine Week
Mon. Nov. 10th–
Sat. Nov. 15th, 2008

Various locations
San Francisco, CA


$75 (includes access to all events)

OCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO ~SAN FRANCISCO WINE WEEK~ is the first wine festival of its kind, for six nights, and is geared toward the new generation of young wine industry members and wine lovers.

SF Wine Week attendees will pay one ticket price ($75) which gives them access to all events, consisting of exclusive wine tastings, the sommelier event, and the closing red gala party.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday, November 10th
Project One Art Gallery & Wine Bar
251 Rhode Island (between 15th St. and 16th)

Tuesday, November 11th
25 Maiden Lane
After-party at Harlot

Wednesday, November 12th
The Sommelier Party hosted by Sommelier Mark Bright
Wine in Paradise at the new Paradise Lounge
1501 Folsom St. at 11th St.
6pm–10pm wine event
After-party continues at Paradise Lounge

Thursday, November 13th
The Mercedes-Benz Party
Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco
500 8th St. at Bryant
After-party at Otis

Friday, November 14th
The Vintners Party at The Hayes
55 Page St. at Gough
After-Parties: Sugar, Hotel Biron, Absinthe
Saturday, November 15th
The Red Gala Party
The Atrium
2nd and Mission

A portion of ticket sales will be donated to First Graduate, which helps disadvantaged students from the Bay Area finish high school and become the first in their families to earn a college degree.

the starlet

OCTOBER 28, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Soooooo, where did Gayle King and Oprah eat after the O You! conference wrapped up Saturday night? It ends up the ladies dined at Aqua.

Also got word that on Saturday night, Dave Chappelle dined at Ozumo, with a healthy party of eight.


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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