table of contents This week's tablehopper: buffalo gals go ’round the outside.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
the wino
in vino veritas
the hardhat
watch your step
the starlet
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MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO How positively grim, California is now at a 10.1% unemployment rate. You know, with those kinds of stats, it’s no wonder people are drinking more. I’m also noticing how many bars around town are now serving kick-ass food—you don’t even need to leave your barstool, how dangerously convenient. This week, I’m featuring an “eat where you drink” gem nestled out in the Excelsior—check it out in fresh meat. I’ll be highlighting more bar eats in the coming months since affordable is the new black

Last week I mentioned how excited I am for this Wednesday’s Tre Bicchiere tasting, and I will mention it again. (There, I just did.) I usually attend with my dad and his Italian restaurant buddies—it’s quite the giro d’Italia. This month we have a bunch of wine events, so check ’em all out in the lush.

This Thursday is the tablehopper Festa del Pesto at Farina—I’m looking forward to seeing you there. Since the event sold out so quickly (although there is a little room for walk-ins throughout the evening!), you’ll be happy to know Farina decided to extend the special pricing until next Thursday March 12th. Party on! So if you come to Thursday’s dinner and the next day want more more more, or perhaps you’ve never had the famed mandilli al pesto in the first place, you can do so all week for only $10. Click here to see the other Festa del Pesto featured dishes and wine.

I am grateful to have a couple writers doing some work with me this week: I have a wino for ya with some refreshing beer and food pairings from Rich Higgins, and this month’s hardhat is here. I’ve decided to switch up the hardhat format: we’ll now be highlighting a different restaurant or bar project in each monthly installment, so you’ll get a bunch of sneak peeks at projects around town.

Cheese heads got some lovin’ a few weeks back, and so now it’s your turn, chocoholics: I have a pair of tickets to give away to the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon on March 21st. There will be more than 50 chocolatiers, confectioners, wineries, and other culinary artisans plying you with tastes. All you need to do is forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to two buddies, but even more would be so very fabulous. Just tell your friend(s) why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, I wish I was kidding!), and CC or BCC so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. Deadline to enter is midnight this Saturday March 7th—I’ll notify the winner soon thereafter.

Ciao-chow and meow,

~Marcia subscribe
the chatterbox

Zojo MediaMARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Folks in Noe Valley are fired up to finally be able to claim ~CONTIGO~ as their own—this cheerful Cal-Catalan spot opens its doors tonight! The restaurant doesn’t take reservations (unless there are six people in your party), but there’s a bar area for mingling while waiting for a table. If you want a reminder of what Contigo is all about, refer to the tablehopper issue from January 20th. There’s also a menu posted online. Hours will be Sun and Tue–Thu 5:30pm–10pm, and Fri–Sat until 11pm. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St., 415-285-0250.

Also in Noe Valley, the Noe Valley blog has a letter from the owners of ~NOETECA~ that explains their new biz that is opening in the Last Laugh Coffee space. Here’s more from the posting: “We plan for Noeteca to continue in the footsteps of The Last Laugh Coffee House and to continue to be a neighborhood focused café. The wine selection will be expanded, and the new menu will feature economical and flavorful comfort food in the style of small European cafes. The breakfast and lunch menu will feature items like Ham and Potato Hash with Poached Eggs, Callah [sic] French Toast, Duck Confit Salad, and house made soups and stews including French Onion Gratinée. Dinners will be simple and wine friendly. The wine list will offer roughly twenty accessible wines from various regions – all will be offered by the glass and half-glass. We also plan to offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks...” Also revealed: the owners are Alex Kamprasert from Chloe’s Café and Scott McDonald. They are spending the month renovating, and hope to open on April 1st. To read the note in its entirety, click here. 1551 Dolores St. at 29th St.

A change up in the Castro: the café and creperie ~A BON PORT~ has changed into ~BLUSH!~, a wine bar as of tonight! It’s still run by the same owners, Jean-François Pauly, and Mickael Azoulay from Chouquet’s on Fillmore. There will be 30 wines by the glass, and a bunch of bites from Chouquet’s chef Laurent Guillaume, ranging from beef tartare to tapenade to tuna carpaccio, plus tiny ravioli from Royans that are filled with Comté cheese, topped with a Parmesan and chive sauce. Hours will be 5pm–1am daily, and opening at 10am or 11am Fri–Sun for brunch and imbibing throughout the day. 476 Castro St. at Market, 415-558-0893.

A few weeks ago I got word about a coffee and comic space coming to the Outer Mission, and so a big thanks to Mission Mission for saving me the legwork. ~CAFFEINATED COMICS~ just opened on Sunday March 1st, and has 15 seats, with Four Barrel Coffee (!), fresh juices, comics, free Wi-Fi, and donuts and pastries. Hours are Mon–Fri 7am–6pm, and Sat–Sun 9:30am–5pm, and until 8pm on Wednesdays because I just learned that’s the day comic books come out, so they “wanted to stay open for the fanboys.” 3188 Mission St. at Valencia, 415-829-7530.

Bernal Heights is going to have a lovely addition to the culinary scene up there: ~SANDBOX BAKERY~ is slated to be opening in mid-April or so. The woman behind the baked goods goodness is Mutsumi Takehara, whose background includes La Farine, Chez Panisse, Rubicon (she was head pastry chef there in 1999), and nine years with Slanted Door, all the way back to its Valencia Street days. Her retail bakery will be selling French pastries, like croissants and brioche, plus savory breakfast items. Look for some Asian influences and flair since Takehara is from Japan. Lunch will also be available, including sandwiches on homemade bread, plus soups, and salads to go. The space was formerly a garage, in case you’re wondering what it’s moving into. 833 Cortland Ave. at Gates.

A tablehopper reader also let me know that ~ADELITA'S CAKES & FRITANGA~ is becoming Ice Cream & Crepes. Anyone know the scoop? (Har.) 2943 Mission St. at 25th St.

Let’s talk TV for a moment, shall we? I’m not going to spend too much time on last week’s final episode of ~TOP CHEF~ since it annoyed me on too many levels, starting with Hosea’s childish and unsportsmanlike attitude: oooooh, I’m gonna grab all the caviar AND the foie!! Dude, you’re acting like a big baby, much like the one you found in the king cake. Also irksome: the return of Casey (yawn), Rocco DiSpirito (like, why is he there?), and Carla not staying on her game (damn it, Big Bird, I wanted to see you take it home!). Highlights included Gail’s cups running over, Stefan acting very sweetly to Carla when she started losing it at judges’ table (I knew the guy had a heart), and seeing the end (hopefully) of Toby Young’s shiny pate—I much prefer Tom’s. As for next season, can we plllllease take it easy on the product placements? Geesoos H. Keerist.

Speaking of Top Chef, ~ABSINTHE BRASSERIE & BAR~ executive chef and Top Chef contender Jamie Lauren is offering a special scallop tasting menu in honor of her “Top Scallop” title. The four-course menu includes a bay scallop crudo; scallop and clam chowder; Hokkaido grilled scallop with puree of sunchoke, slow-cooked artichokes, Meyer lemon, and erbette chard; and seared dayboat scallops with creamed green garlic, asparagus, fava beans, and nigella. (I wonder if any celery will make an appearance?) $75 per person, excludes beverages, tax, or gratuity. The menu will be offered during regular dinner service starting at 5:30pm, from March 18th–20th. 398 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-551-1590.

More celery patrol (and if you don’t watch Top Chef, then don’t worry about this segue): whoa, Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York will be cooking for the first time in San Francisco at ~AQUA~ on April 20th. $130 per person. If you can spring for it, I’d make a reservation sooner rather than later. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

More TV news: congrats to Mourad Lahlou of Aziza for beating Cat Cora on ~IRON CHEF AMERICA~. Up next is chef David Kinch of Manresa, who is battling chef Bobby Flay on Sunday March 15th. Kinch’s back-up team is chef de cuisine John Paul Carmona and his former chef de cuisine James Syhabout. In honor of the event, Manresa is hosting a viewing party starting at 8:30pm, and the show starts at 9:30pm. There will be passed canapés and a selection of cheeses, plus beer and wine. $50 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Please let Manresa know that you can attend by calling for reservations. 320 Village Ln., a side street between North Santa Cruz and University Avenues, Los Gatos, 408-354-4330.

Some interesting format changes are underway at ~MASA’S~: starting tonight, executive chef Gregory Short is offering a new, three-course prix-fixe menu for $55 per person ($30 for three wines paired by Master Sommelier Alan Murray). (Please note the price excludes tax and gratuity.) The menu is offered between 5:30pm and 6:30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays only. It includes a choice between first and second courses (hamachi sashimi or roasted beets en terrine; and pan-seared rib-eye or potato agnolotti with fava beans and black trumpet mushrooms), as well as dessert from executive pastry chef John McKee. In addition to what’s printed on the menu, odds are good the kitchen will send out a few surprises, too. In case you’ve always wanted to check out the Masa’s experience and swish interior, here’s your chance. (This menu is also a great option for theatergoers.) 648 Bush St. at Powell, 415-989-7154.

A tablehopper reader let me know there’s another tasty $20-and-under lunch to be had on the Embarcadero in addition to Epic’s burger deal: ~SENS~ in Embarcadero Center 4 started a $19 lunch special. One week it included a lamb and feta meatball sandwich on rosemary ciabatta, with sweet potato chips, mesclun greens, chocolate bread pudding for dessert, and a beverage (including the option of a 12 oz. beer). The menu rotates and is available every day for lunch. 4 Embarcadero, Promenade Level, 415-362-0645.

I received some further info related to the mysterious ~THREE STARS YONG DE~ that is moving into the vacant Crowbar in North Beach. A tablehopper reader pointed out that there’s a Super Stars Yong De Restaurant in Glen Park, a Chinese-Japanese restaurant that doesn’t seem to be very loved on Yelp. 401 Broadway at Montgomery.

Here, pig! Pig-meister Thomas Odermatt of RoliRoti will be coming to ~PICCINO~ this Sunday March 8th from noon–5pm, and will be churning and turning a whole pig (belly to ribs, loin to leg) on his mobile rotisserie! He’s the man—which is why he has me all cracked out on his porchetta sandwich at his Rotisario at Oxbow in Napa. Anyway, Piccino will be supplying the veggies, salads, pizzas, and vino. No reservations required.

And since their last Hog Island Oyster Day got rained out, Piccino is trying to host it again on Sunday March 15th, noon–5pm. Hopefully the weather will let the shucking begin! 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-824-4224.

Fans of Piemontese cuisine will want to mark their calendars for this event: Gemma of Osteria da Gemma, located in the small town of Roddino (near Alba) will be hosting a dinner at ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~ on Tuesday March 24th. The four-course dinner will be served family style and with paired wines—you can check out her menu here. Here’s more from the Ottimista newsletter: “Until now, the only way to experience Gemma’s cooking was to visit Roddino, since she seldom leaves Italy. But after years of trying to convince her to come here, Gemma is finally making her first trip to America–but only to San Francisco.” The cost is $60 per person, including wine, and is limited to 30 guests. 6:30pm aperitivi, 7pm dinner. To RSVP, call 415-674-8400. 1838 Union St. at Octavia.

More Italian news: the folks behind Angelino Restaurant in Sausalito are opening ~CIBO~, a café adjoining a couple Sausalito galleries. Tera (a pastry chef) and her husband Alfredo Ancona will offer breakfast and lunch, leaving dinner to their restaurant Angelino. There will be organic espresso drinks, house-made pastries, and desserts like budinos, tarts, and galettes, all available to take home. Lunch will include panini, soups, and salads—and since Alfredo is Neapolitan, there will also be baked pasta and frittata on the menu. There are 35 seats inside, and outdoor seating, too. CIBO will be open daily from 7am–4pm or so. Look for an opening in April. 1201 Bridgeway at Pine, Sausalito.

Opening this Thursday in the Hamilton Marketplace in Novato is ~TOAST~ from restaurateur Shahram Bijan and chef Michael Garcia; it’s a sibling to the original location in Mill Valley. The menu features contemporary American comfort food, and will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the menu: breakfast pizzas, build-your-own omelettes and burgers, plus hoisin pork chops, brick chicken, and smoke chipotle BBQ ribs. The dinner menu will change monthly and starters range from $5.50–$8.50, with entrées priced from $10.50–$16.95. There will be 30 wines by the glass, nine beers on tap, and a total of thirty to choose from. There’s an open kitchen with counter seating, and there will also be outdoor seating (weather permitting). Architect Stanley Saitowitz designed the restaurant (he also did Conduit Restaurant). Open 7am–10pm daily. 5800 Nave Dr., in the Hamilton Marketplace, Novato, 415-382-1144.

Down in Menlo Park, ~MADERA~, the new restaurant at the Rosewood Sand Hill luxury hotel and spa is slated to open on April 2nd. The executive chef is Peter Rudolph, formerly executive chef at Campton Place. The rest of the team includes pastry chef Shannon Swindle (Craft Dallas), wine director Paul Mekis (he was at Saratoga’s Plumed Horse for 10 years), and Felipe Gomez-Kraus as food and beverage director (his background includes numerous Four Seasons properties). Features include a wood-fired grill and rotisserie oven, a market-driven menu, a large fireplace in the main dining room, a 50-seat expansive terrace, and a lobby lounge and bar—looks like visitors to all the nearby VC and private equity firms have a new deal-closing playground. Madera will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and Sunday brunch. You can check out the menus here (note: it’s a PDF). 2825 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park.

Oh, and before signing off, I discovered this ~UTTERLY CHARMING VIDEO~ on the World of Wonder site. It’s from an American woman’s video camera that she placed on a conveyor belt in a busy sushi restaurant in Japan, a great little slice of life.

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fresh meat

Broken Record
1166 Geneva Ave.
Cross: Naples St.
San Francisco, CA 94112


Sun–Thu 6pm–11pm
Fri–Sat 6pm–1am

Sun–Thu 5pm–12am
Fri–Sat 5pm–2am

Apps $1.50–$6
Sandwiches $5.50–$7.50
Desserts $3


MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Do you know where the Excelsior is? I wager you’ll look it up once you’re through with this review. To be perfectly honest, I have never cruised Geneva Avenue for eats (or anything else, actually). But back in the beginning of 2009, when I was writing up Church Key (a new beer joint in North Beach), owner Jason King told me about his other joint out in the Excelsior, ~BROKEN RECORD~. He mentioned the talented duo of chefs working out of the kitchen in the back, Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher, who served their first vittles on Election Day. They are quickly becoming known around town for their hi-lo menu of inspired BBQ and house-made baked goods.

Back in January, I rounded up a posse and off we went. Broken Record has all the makings of the perfect neighborhood joint: dart board, pool table, and beer pong (!); a friendly staff; an iPod playing a mix of Judas Priest, Pixies, the Stooges, the Rolling Stones, and David Bowie; dudes drunkenly nodding off at the bar; a grand selection of beer and booze (more on that in a moment); a back patio for smokers and alfresco types; and with a kitchen in the back, well, there’s really no reason to ever leave the place, except to take a shower.

The back room has red walls, a few booths, some two-top tables, and theater seats around a few small tables. It’s pretty DIY/bare bones (there are even a few folding chairs), so don’t expect a looker. But the food is going to be getting all your attention in a few moments, just you wait. Oh, it’s also pretty chilly, so be sure you have something toasty to wear. Then again, that’s what bourbon is for.

The first thing to order off the chalkboard is the Buffalo wings ($6). I know, really? I stopped ordering Buffalo wings a long time ago since they’re usually frozen and from a bag, but not these puppies. In fact, the wings are the reason I had to come back a few weeks later—they were quietly flapping at me. Best I’ve tasted in the City. The kitchen ingeniously fries these meaty chicken wings and drumettes and then sauces them up, so the breading gets saturated with the sauce. It’s an untraditional execution, and insanely delicious—you almost don’t want to adulterate the flavor with the back-up singers of celery and fresh-made blue cheese dressing. Well, a little.

We also tucked into some hush puppies ($4), fried cornbread balls with cheese and chiles; it’s another easy dish to share. These roly-poly little numbers came with a fresh-tasting ranch dressing that almost seemed Indian—although our table ultimately decided we prefer honey or maple syrup as a hush-puppy accompaniment to hit that perfect sweet-and-salty balance.

To the sandwiches. Ostler, who is from Texas, has a smoker here, so of course we had to try the beef brisket ($7.50). It comes on a house-made roll with pickled onions. Juicy, smoky, delicious. On a second visit, we fell even deeper in love with the pulled pork ($7.50), a sloppy delight with a tangy Carolina sauce and red cabbage slaw. Zacher’s homemade rolls are scrumptious—and they magically hold up to these meaty monsters.

There are also some exotic and gamey sausages to choose from, like boar, rabbit, venison, pheasant, and even gator ($6). The sausages and rolls aren’t made in house (the rolls are actually kind of meh, especially when compared to the house-made ones), so I would recommend you try the BBQ items first. But these gourmet dogs are still mighty tasty. And for $6? Uh, yeah.

Our favorite was the rabbit with prunes and brandy—as one of my posse members noted, it was like a taste of France. We were actually scheming about how good the rabbit would be in one of the buttery biscuits ($1.50) with a cherry jalapeno jam. (This is what happens when you eat with people who like to cook and eat—we royally geek out on flavor.) The spicy beef hot link ($5.50) also satisfied, awesome with the tasty trinity of Dijon mustard, grilled onions, and sauerkraut.

There is an oyster po’ boy ($7.50) with a spicy aioli, and vegetarians will be fired up about the smoked tofu sandwich ($6.50). The Frito pie ($5.50) remains on my to-try list—I know I’ll dip into it soon enough.

You ready for some sides? The mac and cheese was outstanding, a creamy five-cheese medley studded with roasted pasilla peppers, and shockingly only $2 for a little ramekin. It looks like the scary boxed mac sauce, but it sure doesn’t taste like it. The ramekins are a bit hard to eat of, so be careful or you’ll spill half your order. You can also order a side of greens with bacon, roasted Brussels sprouts, tangy slaw, all made with care.

Save room for dessert, because you will stoke your taste buds with sweets like a s’more with a homemade marshmallow and graham cracker, or a decadent cupcake ($3), or whatever Zacher is baking that day.

This charming cookin’ couple met while working in the pastry department at Boulevard. Zacher has also worked at Campton Place and Firefly, where she became the pastry chef. Ostler helped open Range, plus Quince, tinderbox, and Serpentine. They’ve got cookin’ chops, they’re talented, use good ingredients, and are working so hard to make this happen: many long hours, lots of time on their feet, no budget, and it’s just the two of them. And they make damned good food, fo’ cheap. Exactly the kind of people you want to support. So cooks, chefs, diners, and adventurers, get your butt out there if you’re craving some down-home eating, it’s absolutely worth the schlep.

And boozehounds and beer lovers, you will be kindly rewarded with a thoughtful array of beers, and wait until you see the wall o’ whiskies. It’s an outrageous collection, over 200 in all. Totally unexpected considering the location. But beware Fridays, which is 50-cent PBR night, and it’s reportedly quite the madhouse (duh). We also were lucky to get our food order in one night before a soccer team descended on the place for a post-practice bite. Every firehouse, sports team, police station, band, writing group, and book club should adopt this place.

One last note: unfortunately a cranky neighbor has unearthed a discrepancy between the zoning and liquor license for Broken Record. According to neighborhood zoning, the bar should actually close at 11pm. Eep. Which would spell the death of the business. So once you go and fall in love with the place, please consider attending the hearing on April 2nd, or at least drop a line to Adrian Putra at adrian.putra [at] sfgov [dot] org in support of the Broken Record staying open until 2am. It’s a little lighthouse of beer, bourbon, good eats, and nice peeps on an otherwise dreary stretch of a street.

the lush

Zojo MediaMARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Are you ready for a slew of tastings and events? Tonight, ~BIONDIVINO~ has winemakers Dottore Emilio Rotolo from Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Volpe) and Salvatore Geraci (Palari) from Sicily's Mt. Etna area at the shop from 6pm–8pm. $10 tasting fee and a 15% case discount on the night of tasting. And then Sunday March 8th is a tasting with Bruno DeConciliis. 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.

Just around the corner, also tonight, ~THE JUG SHOP’S~ Floribeth Kennedy will host an exclusive after-hours winemaker tasting featuring current releases from the Tre Bicchiere award-winning wineries. Please note: many of the wines that have won a Tre Bicchiere for 2009 have not arrived in the U.S., so The Jug Shop will be pouring wines that represent the range and style from each of the participating award winners. You'll be able to chat with the winemakers in town for the Tre Bicchiere tasting that’s happening on Wednesday, and taste a few of their signature wines. In case you fall in love (with a wine, that is), there’s a 15% discount on any purchase of Italian wine made that evening. Here’s where to view the line-up. 9pm–11pm. $15 per person. An RSVP is essential—please call 415-885-2922 to secure your space. 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk.

This made me laugh: this Thursday March 5th, ~CRUSHPAD~ is hosting the San Francisco premiere of the movie Merlove, a documentary that was made in response to the much-maligned merlot in Sideways. There will be fresh-popped corn, guest merlot producers from Judd's Hill and Blackbird Vineyards, and a special Crushpad merlot to taste. This event is also a BYOM event, so be sure to bring a bottle of your favorite merlot to share. $20 (seating is first come, first served). 6:30pm. You can read more and buy tickets here. 2573 Third St. at 23rd St.

I’m thrilled that my friend Jordan Mackay’s book on American pinot, ~PASSION FOR PINOT: A JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICA’S PINOT NOIR COUNTRY~ was just released. Jordan will be hosting an in-store and online tasting of American pinots on Saturday March 14th at The Jug Shop, while there will also be a Twitter Taste Live online wine tasting: a live video stream will allow tasting attendees to follow Mackay’s educational tour through the finest Pinot Noir regions of California and Oregon, and participants can also ask questions through the website’s real-time Twitter feed. Tasters must have a Twitter account in order to actively exchange questions and comments about the wines. The tasting is 5pm–7pm (PST). The real-life one costs $5—please RSVP by email only at 1590 Pacific Ave. at Polk.

Starting on March 14th, ~PRESS CLUB~ will host a new Saturday School program, an informal wine education series that will go on for five weeks (through April 11th). Five of the eight wineries at Press Club will host a Saturday School session and guide participants through a range of wine basics. The first session is with Landmark Vineyards, with a class on smelling basics. Each one-hour session will cost $20 and includes wine education, wine tasting, and some food offerings. For a complete list of participating wineries and details about classes, visit the site. Class begins at 1pm and lasts for approximately one hour. 20 Yerba Buena Ln. at Mission, 415-744-5000.

I enjoy ~METRO KATHMANDU~ owner Roshan KC’s passion for the wines he puts on his list, but in light of hard times, he is kind enough to offer BYOB for a pittance of a corkage fee (only $5) Sunday through Thursday throughout the months of March and April. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

Here’s a happy hour for afternoon lushes to get happy about: ~RESTAURANT LULU~ is hosting one from 3pm–5:30pm Monday through Friday, with half-price on selected wines by the glass, beer, and spirits. They are also offering half price on mimosas and Bloody Marys on Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11:30am–3pm. 816 Folsom St. at 4th St., 415-495-5775.

~LUELLA~ restaurant is celebrating their four-year anniversary the entire month of March by offering $4 wines by the glass Monday through Friday. 1896 Hyde St. at Green, 415-674-4343.

La Cocina and Duggan McDonnell of Cantina are hosting a night called ~DOING TEQUILA RIGHT~ to celebrate, si, Tequila. Guests will learn about the history, brewing, distilling, and aging process of Tequila, taste a lot of different types, mix some cocktails, and of course eat fantastically: Mexican street food will be provided by El Huarache Loco. $80/person gets you the class. $110/person gets you the class and a goodie bag of La Cocina products. 70% of all ticket sales are tax-deductible. You can buy your tickets here. It all goes down on Monday March 9th, from 6:30pm–8:30pm. Cantina, 580 Sutter St. at Mason.

the socialite

Art by Kelly Tunstall.

Festa Della Donna
Sun. Mar. 8th, 2009

2355 Chestnut St.
Cross: Scott St.
San Francisco, CA 94123


MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Every year, A16 celebrates International Women's Day—and of course it’s in an Italian style, so it’s ~FESTA DELLA DONNA~. There’s much to celebrate, including the many wonderful women who work at A16, and the promotion of Liza Shaw as a partner/chef at A16 (congrats Liza!!). Liza and sous chef RaeLynn Vasquez will be preparing a special la carte menu in addition to their regular menu for Festa Della Donna, and pastry chef Jane Tseng will be preparing some special treats.

Here’s more from A16: “A16 encourages women to enjoy celebratory dinners with their female friends, as this is the tradition throughout Italy but, men are of course welcome too (some men often come because it's predominantly women). Shelley Lindgren, Ehren Jennings and the other fabulous ladies of the sommelier team have selected wines from women winemakers to accompany the special dishes, and they will be decorating the dining room with yellow mimosas; the flower traditionally handed to Italian women on this day.

“International Women's Day has evolved and taken on different forms and meanings over the years, and throughout the world it has always been strongly associated with the victories and/or tragedies of women's struggles and women's rights. The 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire in New York was an event that was both tragic and victorious, and it is often commemorated in Italy for it was mostly Italian and Jewish women workers who perished in the building. A terrible fire broke out while the exit doors of the building were locked to prevent labor organizing, and it claimed the lives of 146 female immigrant workers. However, it is from a tragedy such as this, that we began to make new progressive labor laws. This tragedy, which led to triumph, is represented in the yellow, sunny mimosa, and as one of March's first flowers, it symbolizes the promise of spring after the darkness of winter.”

The Cuisine of Southwestern France
Mon. Mar. 16th, 2009

Fifth Floor
12 Fourth St.
Cross: Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103


$150 for James Beard Foundation members
$165 for non-members

6pm: reception and silent auction
7pm: dinner

MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Fifth Floor Restaurant & Lounge is hosting a special ~JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION BENEFIT DINNER IN HONOR OF COOKBOOK AUTHOR PAULA WOLFERT~. Chef Laurent Manrique and a roster of his acclaimed fellow chefs and friends will prepare a spectacular six-course dinner with dishes adapted from Wolfert’s classic recipes from the Gascony region of France. Master Sommelier Emily Wines will pair wines.

Here’s the menu (sorry for inducing any drooling):

Chef Laurent Manrique, Fifth Floor:
Homage a Jean Louis Palladin
Veloute de Châtaignes Rôties et Petites Quenelles de Volaille
veloute of roasted chestnut with chicken quenelles
Jardin de Bouscasse Pacherenc du Bihl 2006

Chef Ariane Daguine, D’Artagnan, New York:
Foie Gras D’Artagnan au Four, Echalottes Confites et sa Compote de Coing
whole roasted d’artagnan foie gras with shallot confit and quince compote
Chateau Bouscasse Pacharenc du Vic Bilh "Brumaire" 2005

Chef Jean Pierre Moulle, Chez Panisse, Berkeley:
Ragoût de Cabillaud aux Huitres et au Caviar D’Aquitaine
lingcod stew with oysters and caviar
Montus Blanc, Pacharenc du Vic Bilh 2006

Chef Jennie Lorenzo, Fifth Floor:
Fricassée de Lapin au Jurançon, Sauté de Cèpes aux Pruneaux
braised rabbit in jurançon with sauteed cèpes and dried plums
Chateau Bouscasse Madiran 2005

Chef Gerald Hirigoyen, Piperade:
Salmis de Pigeonneau Basquaise aux Légumes de Printemps
salmis of squab basquaise with spring vegetables
Chateau Montus "Cuvee Prestige" Madiran 2001

Chef Lionel Walter, Fifth Floor & Aqua:
Gâteau Basque Traditionnel, Feuillantine de Chocolat aux Noisettes
traditional gateau basque with hazelnut chocolate crunch
Veuve Goudoulin Armagnac 1977

the wino













MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Rich Higgins is president of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and has been brewing professionally in San Francisco for five years. He is also a certified Cicerone and a consultant to the restaurant industry on beer and food pairing. He can be reached at rich [at] richhiggins [dot] com.

2009: Year of the Beer

I hereby declare 2009 to be the Year of the Beer. Why not? Quality beer is incredibly diverse and damned tasty. And even the best beer is relatively affordable—offering flavor, art, and history while setting you back a fraction of what you might pay for comparable quality wine. If your belt has tightened enough that you don’t want to buy a bottle of wine at a restaurant, try ordering a bottle of great beer. It’s a win-win: you get a great beer, and you’re still supporting the restaurant in a way you might not have otherwise.

So the economy’s tanking, your favorite restaurant is thinking of cutting back its hours, and you have to drive your bank account a little farther between refuels? Here’s how you can tone down your spending without toning down the caliber of your dining and drinking: with beer and food pairing.

I’m talking about good beer, here: American craft beers and quality imports. The way I see it, if a brewery is able to pay for television advertising, they’re not spending that money on superior ingredients and brewing technique. They can keep their subsidized corn adjuncts, processed enzymes, and multiple filtrations out of my glass and off of my dinner table.

The good stuff embodies quality, art, and authenticity. These beers make pairing with food easy and economical. Beer is a natural partner with food; Europeans have known this for centuries, but we’re just catching on over here. Beer’s various ingredients work together to mimic or contrast food flavors, with grain (usually barley, but sometimes other cereals like wheat and rye), hops, and yeast, and sometimes fruits, vegetables, spices, and sugars. All these work together in different preparations and ratios to create the stunning variety of beer styles and flavors.

In short, to brew a beer, starchy grains that have been caramelized or roasted are steeped and cooked with water, and the resulting sweet sugars are balanced by the hops’ herbal, bitter, and aromatic qualities. It’s similar to making a tea or a broth that shares some of the same flavors as many foods: bread, caramel, and roast from the barley; bitter, herbal, fruit, and oils from the hops; and fruit, spice, and alcoholic heat from the yeast fermentation. Essentially, it’s the ratio and types of barley, hops, yeast and water that makes one beer different from the next, each offering a different combination of familiar flavors to be more than the sum of its parts.

Beer pairs so well with food because the brewing process closely mimics the cooking of food—the whole “liquid bread” thing is not too farfetched. To top it all off, beer is carbonated, and so the fizziness does wonders to lift flavors and aromas of both food and beer from the palate to your nose, allowing you to smell and experience flavors in a very visceral way. The carbonation also scrubs your palate clean, cutting through fat and intense flavors, helping to refresh your palate for the next bite of food.

To pair beer with food, take a look at the food flavors that will be served on your plate, whether you’re dining at home or ordering off the menu at a restaurant. Then think about flavors and textures in beer that would be a good match.

For example, a salad with greens, roasted beets, cheese, herbs, and a vinaigrette is perfect with the coriander and bitter orange peel of Belgian witbiers and the tropical fruit and clove spice of Bavarian-style hefeweizens.

Next up: soup. Broccoli-cheese, cream of mushroom with white wine, and potato-leek are all great with the gentle bitterness and subtle tree fruit flavors of golden ales—think British bitters and pale ales. If you prefer split pea soup with ham, a real stunner is a rauchbier, a German smoked lager.

With a main course like pasta with seared scallops, pancetta, rapini, and a brown butter sauce, I would reach for a light-bodied, lower-intensity beer that won’t overwhelm the more delicate flavors in the food. A peppery, citrusy Belgian saison would work great, though my favorite pairing with shellfish is a German schwarzbier. Its black, roasted malts, extremely light body, and crisp dryness work fabulously with the briny, sweet, butteriness of shellfish. For a richer main course, say, grilled hanger steak with a red-wine mushroom sauce, frites, and roasted shallots, try enjoying it with the earthy, toffee, cinnamon, and plum flavors of a Belgian abbey dubbel or Belgian dark ale.

Beer and cheese are absolutely blissful in each other’s company, and who am I to keep these two fermented staples of my fridge apart? As far as pairing flavors, cheeses vary as much as beers do, but overall, beer has the same earthy and nutty flavors of cheese, and it’s hard to go wrong with a pairing. To play it safe, I usually recommend Belgian golden ales’ earthiness, herbal-ness, and carbonation, but if you like really hoppy beers, the bitter-sweetness of piney, sticky, grapefruity American IPAs is just beautiful with rich, washed-rind cheeses. And for desserts, try cutting their fat and sweetness with the high alcohol and sweet intensity of an American barley wine or barrel-aged ale, and if there’s chocolate anywhere near an imperial stout, get ready for a match made in heaven.

So, here’s to 2009, the Year of the Beer. Make friends with a quality beer, and then introduce it to the foods you love. May it treat you well, affording you phenomenal, luxurious, gourmet experiences, letting you live the real high life.

the hardhat

MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we’ll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.

The ~BAR CRUDO~ brothers are just weeks away from opening their new NOPA spot, targeting the end of March for their opening. Twins Mike and Tim Selvera are trading in their former tunnel-toppy spot on Bush Street in favor of feeding neighbors and friends closer to home (both guys live near the new site located at 655 Divisadero at Grove). They have actually been working on getting a spot on their side of town since the beginning of their restaurant days. A friend points out that with the advent of the success of other eateries in the 94117, plus the close proximity of shows at the Independent, this is really the right time to bring all those oysters to the ’hood!

A former pizza parlor, the space was wired on the outside, so the guys had to bring in all new electrical upgrades and pipes. Moving each of the pipes was quite costly and it forced them to reconsider their resources. The original cash flow for all the extra help in the build-out was maxed, and smartly, they turned to their community for help. Their general contractor, Chris Holden of Holden James Construction, has been a customer since the beginning. His appreciation of the Selveras’ aesthetic and love of raw seafood made a good marriage for putting up the walls and committing to the grueling inspection process.

Another long-time fine-art friend contributed to the sleek build-out of the new space, Kelly Tunstall. Tunstall is responsible for the gorgeous art at their first location, and will be creating wall murals and consulting on the final design of the space. She’s collaborating with NOPA neighbor and lighting designer Kevin Randolph, currently a featured artist at The Perish Trust—they are creating a warm, ambient atmosphere that will draw the eyes around the cozy space.

And by cozy, I mean cozy. Much like their former location, the long, thin space, approximately 1,500 square feet, will accommodate 55–60 folks. They’ve smartly placed 16-foot marble bar tables along the wall across from their 14-seat bar. There’s also a great upstairs gathering spot for groups that overlooks the bar—plus it has a view of the folks passing by on Divisadero through the original 1920’s windows.

For Bar Crudo fans, the menu will remain true to the original tastes. As Tim states, “We’re an oyster bar that does fish as a unique and more modern raw bar.” Elegant seafood will remain as the main feature for diners. Tim also assures me that we shouldn’t wait for dessert to appear on the menu. (He promises to refer out to other delicious neighbors offering coffee and sweets.) Do look for their trademark great selection of wines and beer, and they’re adding even more impressive draft beers.

The guys have final health, building, and fire department inspections to pass in these next three weeks. Best wishes to the brothers as we wait to crack some fresh Dungeness crab and slurp oysters with neighborhood pals.

the starlet

MARCH 3, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh my gawd, Marisa Tomei had brunch on Sunday at Venus Restaurant in Berkeley. She “is one hot mama” and was with two guys, one who was reportedly also “super hot.” They enjoyed themselves, feasting on the country brunch (house biscuit, Blue Chair Jam, eggs, and potatoes), stuffed French toast with mascarpone and roasted strawberries, and an omelette Royale with apple-wood bacon, aged Vermont cheddar, chipotle crema, and avocado, and they also drank some passion fruit and mango Bellinis.


All content © 2009 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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