table of contents This week's tablehopper: champagne taste, beer boo-jay.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
the wino
in vino veritas
the starlet
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Edible San Francisco

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APRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Looking back on my culinary excursions last week, it was the week of Little Bunny Foo Foo: I had rabbit pot pie at Mission Beach Café (and a full-tilt-boogie with dessert—j’adore the lemon velvet cream pie, whoa), and rabbit and liver sausage the following night at Poggio (plus lamb’s brain ravioli with ricotta—extraordinary). Huh, I also had some tasty wabbit at Nopa. Methinks the tablehopper has an affinity for animals that hop (and hoppy beers).

You’d think I had rabbit on Easter as well, but no: my family feasted on capretto (baby goat) with peas and my father’s house-made pancetta, and our stupidly Imagedelicious lasagne, stuffed with house-made soppressata, little slices of sausage, baby meatballs, my mother’s incomparable tomato sauce, plus slices of hard-boiled egg, and a slew of cheese. This dish would be my last meal ever, no doubt about it. Good thing we only make it a couple times a year, or it really would be my last dish.

want to welcome all the new subscribers who hopped aboard after hearing me on Forum with Michael Krasny last week on KQED. If you missed it and want to check it out, you can listen to the show here. My fellow fab guests included Michael Bauer, and Meesha Halm of Zagat. We chewed the fat in a quick-fire fashion on a variety of topics and then took live calls; with a room full of restaurant hounds, we could have turned the show into five hours, I swear.

One topic was cheap eats, so I thought for this week instead of doing a review, I’d just do a recap of 10 ideas for cheap eats for y’all (it’s also an easy way for me to link to some of the places I mentioned in the segment—some of you were asking me about them). Another thing that came up is the recent rise of street food. And being in San Francisco, of course we have some clever additions to the scene. Since I got a lot of emails asking about the whereabouts of things like the Magic Curry Kart, I am supplying some links to the latest ad hoc culinary happenings below in fresh meat. I hope you dig it.

We have a very cool wino this week, written by Michaël Engelmann, who just won the title of Best Sommelier in America last week. Check it out—it’s a compelling account of the competition.

It’s a new month, which means another book giveaway from the award-winning Ten Speed Press. This month I am giving away three copies of ImageTakashi’s Noodles by Takashi Yagihashito to three lucky tablehopper readers. All you need to do all you need to do is forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to one buddy, 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 am so not 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 Sunday April 19th—I’ll notify the winners with noodle slurping in their future next week.

Speaking of next week, as I mentioned, yours truly is heading off to Coachella this Thursday for some fun in the sun. And next Monday I will be kicking it poolside instead of writing this beast of a column. Yup, the tablehopper is having a mini getaway, and I intend to enjoy every single sun- and cocktail- and bass- and treble-filled moment of it. So next week’s issue is going to be a shorty (unlike this week’s, jeez Louise), written by guest jetsetter and wino and bookworm writers, yay. I’ll also be off email for a bit, so don’t expect me to get back to you until next week.

Let’s rawk!
~Marcia subscribe

the chatterbox

Edible San FranciscoAPRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO After months of wondering what was going to go into the 54 Mint space in Mint Street Plaza, I was thrilled to get the first peek at the project. A very special Italian restaurant is going to be opening in the now-chic space, a project from Alberto Avalle (an original founder of Il Buco in New York), Carla Nardi, and Nicola Della Morte. It’s opening in the old El Balazo space, just across the street from Blue Bottle. And what’s it going to be called? Simple: ~54 MINT~.

54 Mint will follow the Italian cooking philosophy of using natural, pure ingredients; all of the ingredients are specially sourced, analyzed, and of top quality. The partners have their own line of culinary products, including olive oil, salt, vinegar, flour, and wine, in addition to specialty ingredients like fennel pollen, bottarga, peperoncino, and truffles. Their cheese selection will include a 36-month Parmigiano and pecorino aged anywhere from 3–24 months. So while it’s a restaurant, it’s also going to serve as an alimentari, where you can bring empty bottles and get them filled with olive oil or vinegar, or pick up a chunk of cheese.

The wines will be organic and biodynamic from selected estates of Europe—the only California wine will be from Robert Sinskey. Prices will range from $22–$80, and guests will be able to buy wine retail, by the bottle or case. There is also full liquor, so there will be a small selection of cocktails made from quality spirits.

Avalle hails from Umbria, a region with a long tradition of curing. He will continue this tradition in the restaurant’s offerings, highlighting ingredients cured in salt, air, olive oil, or vinegar. He will continue this tradition in the restaurant’s offerings, highlighting ingredients cured in salt, air, olive oil, or vinegar. The menu will also include antipasti like pinzimonio (a dip for fresh vegetables), frittura mista (a mix of fried items), 8–12 pastas, and baccalà (salt cod). The chef de cuisine is Giancarlo Bortolotti (most recently the chef-owner of Mangiafuoco). Ehsan Ganji is the bakery/pastry chef; his background includes Il Buco, Bouley Bakery, Sullivan Street Bakery, and Balthazar in New York. His pastas will be painstakingly made and rolled by hand (not by machine), and will include pappardelle, fettuccine, tagliolini, lasagne, gnocchi, and ravioli. Ganji will be making the pastas and bread with a special organic flour (the group mills their own grain)—some of the breads will be no-knead, pre-fermented, and cultured. There is also a special water filtration system for all water used in the kitchen and consumed in the restaurant. There will not be any beef—only Ossobaw pork from North Carolina that the kitchen will use to make sausages, pancetta, and lardo (other kinds of salumi will appear later).

The clean Euro look balances the old and new, and includes white metro tile, a granite counter with white permanent stools, a laser-cut chandelier with different offshoot lights that looks like flowers, old pottery and artifacts, and Imagehandmade plates from Rovere. Downstairs there are concrete floors, displays of all the products, grey walls that will feature art, and tables that can be used for large groups or private dining (there are three tables for 8, 10, and 12). There is room for 42 upstairs, 30 downstairs, and 44 outside on the Plaza (to be outfitted with chic Emu furnishings, by the way). Look for an opening in (hopefully) late April. Hours will be Mon–Sat 11:30am–3:30pm, and then 5:30pm–10:30pm, closed Sunday. Brunch will be added later. I’ll keep you apprised of the opening date! 54 Mint at Jessie.

Since the lease is now final, I have a tidbit to make South Park workers (and neighbors) happy: ~IRONSIDE~, a casual dining concept from the District team is slated to open in late summer in the Chronicle Books building (it’s a build-out from a raw space). Coffee/pastries, lunch, and dinner will be served, with plans for brunch down the road. The food is geared to be high quality, healthy and simple with a focus on seasonal Italian and American home-style food. Prices will be affordable and the food will be ideal to take home. And since Caterina Mirabelli is involved, you know there will be some wine available, with five or six wines by the glass. The two-floor space will be cozy, with brick walls and iron elements, and an open kitchen. I’ll release more info as updates come in. 680 2nd St. at Townsend.

Sunday was the last day for the ~LARK CREEK INN~, after nearly 20 years of business. The restaurant is closing for a re-concepting and interior renovation, and will reopen in late May as The Tavern at Lark Creek. As noted on the website, the reason for the change is this: “Today the emphasis is on neighborhood versus destination, lower prices versus higher ones, and simplicity versus complexity.” Chef-partner Erica Holland Toll will be putting together a seasonal menu with main dishes coming in at under $15. Some examples include Delta crawfish boil with Old Bay and drawn butter ($10.25); spiced Petaluma chicken wings with celery vinaigrette ($8.25); meatball sandwich on a crunchy roll ($11.50); free-form duck lasagne with goat cheese and hazelnuts ($13.50); wood-oven roasted half chicken ($14.50); and mom’s classic pot roast with root vegetables ($14.95). Affordable wines by the glass, bottle, and carafe will be available, plus handcrafted artisanal cocktails. Some interior changes include reigniting a wood-burning oven in the dining room, refinished antique tables, new chairs, lighting, and a fresh color palate. There will also be a new herb garden, a refurbished brick patio, and updated street-side grove. 234 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415-924-7766.
After over a million dollars and a complete gutting, the Sunset restaurant ~EBISU~ is slated to have its grand opening on May 7th. Owner Steve Fujii is excited to unveil the redeveloped interior, a new and improved sushi bar, and a state-of-the-art kitchen designed by the team at Tekton Architecture. There will also be new menu items, plus a new website with online ordering—you should be able to check out the menu online during the week of April 27th. As if this project wasn’t keeping the owner busy enough, a few months back I alluded to a new Ebisu location opening downtown. Ebisu will be opening a location in the Financial District at 336 Kearny Street in late summer. It will serve as Ebisu's express lunch spot, with custom catering for downtown hotels and businesses. 1283 9th Ave. at Judah, 415-566-1770; 336 Kearny St. at Bush.  

ImageI’ve been looking forward to the opening of ~BAR CRUDO~ on Divisadero (I know I am not alone). The latest opening date has shifted to May 1st, stand by. In case you want to go by the old location before it closes, Eater has the word that the Bush Street location is closing on April 25th. After that, the Tunnel Top owners take over and will reopen it as Swell (more on that project soon). 603 Bush St. at Stockton, 415-956-0396; 655 Divisadero at Grove.

I got more details about the bakery I mentioned that is opening in the Lower Haight: ~ROLAND’S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~. It’s a project from owners Philip Roland and Michael Green, who met in the baking program at City College. Roland’s background includes working at Sweet Inspirations, his Escape from San Francisco Bagels in Willits, and recently some part-time work at Mission Beach Café. Roland, an East Coastie, is going to be offering hand-rolled specialty bagels from a water bath—can’t wait to plunk myself down with a bagel and some lox, cream cheese, and capers. Additionally, there will be danishes, muffins, scones, croissants, breads, and sweets like cookies, cream pies, layer cakes, and cream puffs. You will also be able to order birthday and wedding cakes. Some light breakfast and lunch will be served, with brunch potentially added later. I’m especially excited for the late-night hours slated for Thursday through Saturday until 3am. The grand opening should be June 1st with a soft opening in late May. Closed Tue, open Wed–Mon 6am–5pm, with special evening hours from 8pm–3am Thu–Sat. 422 Haight St. at Webster.

More baked good(ness): ~ANTHONY’S COOKIES~ has opened in the Mission, and according to a happy tablehopper reader, the cookies are delicious. Flavors include banana walnut, oatmeal, semi-sweet chocolate chip, toffee chip, and whole-wheat oatmeal with chocolate chip. Initial hours for now are Mon–Fri 10am–7pm, Sat 10am–8pm, and Sun 10am–4pm. 1417 Valencia St. at 25th St., 415-655-9834.

I was surprised to learn ~STEVEN OLIVER~, the GM extraordinaire of Le Colonial, was let go after eight-plus years of service. This economic downturn is no fun, no sir. Oliver says, “It’s not my first rodeo—I’m sad to depart but excited too. It’ll be good for me, and will put me out there.” I guess we have to make sure his next destination is big enough to accommodate his annual holiday hootenanny.

Was very sad to read this article on SFGate about Paolo Dominici, the owner of ~BACCO~ in Noe Valley who has gone missing in Hawaii. He disappeared after going spearfishing and getting separated from his friend and dive partner. Sadly the search has been called off. So very tragic. Condolences to his family, friends, loved ones, and customers.

Eater broke the story that the owner of ~FIOR D’ITALIA~ has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. We’ll see what this means for America's oldest Italian restaurant. 2237 Mason St. at Chestnut, 415-986-1886.

A few months ago I mentioned ~MOUSSY’S~, the café opening in the former La Cave Bistro space in the Alliance Française. Well, it’s now open. You can check out pics of the place and the casual menu here—there are a variety of egg dishes, like eggs Benedict, croque madame, and croissant stuffed with egg and cheese. For lunch, there’s a Merguez or steak sandwich, and homemade tarte tatin for dessert. Open Tue–Sun 9am–4pm. 1345 Bush St. at Larkin, 415-441-1802.

According to permits, the Sunset’s ~ENJOY VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT~ is going to be opening a second location in the Ming Seafood Garden location in the Financial District/Chinatown. 839 Kearny St. at Washington.

And now, some on-the-street reports from the intrepid reader Jason B:

“New (upscale) Lee's has replaced Bamboo Buffet. I put upscale in parenthesis because really, a Lee's can't truly be upscale, but they have a nicer interior, dark wood palette, it’s definitely a step up.” 322 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-986-1052.

“And a new SF Soup, home of the fabulous parfait and half hummus sandwich!” 580 California St. at Kearny, 415-781-7687.

“Chocolates on Castro seems to have changed to Chocolate Bar & Café.” [Ed. note: according to a Yelp review, they are serving real Belgian waffles with pearl sugar.] 504 Castro St. at 18th St.

Amy's Café has taken over the spot of Mediterraneo Gourmet Pizza.” 357 Kearny St. at Pine, 415-397-5850.

“Izalco in the Mission has closed.” 2904 24th St. at Florida.

Grazie, Jason!

Vini PortugalOver in Cow Hollow, ~NETTIE’S CRAB SHACK~ is now offering California Casual Clambakes on Sunday nights (replacing the Sunday Crab Feeds). The family-style clambakes include a salad to start, cornbread, a pot filled with steaming hot mussels, clams, Delta crawfish, whole prawns, spicy sausage, and boiled potatoes, and whoopee pies for dessert. $35 per person. Sundays from 5pm–10pm. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-409-0300.

I mentioned ~PICKLES~ [site not live yet] is now serving dinner, but I thought I should clarify that chef Matthew Kerley’s menu just isn’t about hamburgers and onion rings and frozen egg custard: it also includes an Americanized version of pasta carbonara, with hand-cut fresh egg pappardelle, house bacon, sweet peas, tomatoes, fine herbs, Grana Padano, and egg yolk; grilled Niman Ranch pork loin with apples and house potatoes; shrimp scampi; and chicken piccata (all $12.50–$14.50). Plus there are new hours, with dinner until 10pm Tue–Thu, and until 2:30am Fri–Sat. 42 Columbus Ave. at Jackson, 415-421-2540.

In a time when every place around town seems to be closing for lunch, ~HOME~ on Market Street just launched weekday lunch. On the menu: crab salad, steak salad, Cobb salad, salmon BLT, fried chicken sandwich, and grilled meatloaf sandwich, plus various pasta dishes. Open for lunch daily at 11am (weekend brunch starts at 10am). 2100 Market St. at Church, 415-503-0333.

I was happy to hear of another benefit dinner for victims of the Abruzzo earthquake. Tonight, Tuesday April 14th, ~A16~ is hosting a benefit dinner, with the evening’s profits sent directly to help the victims. Chef Liza will be offering some Abruzzo-inspired dishes and many of A16’s wine friends have donated wines for the occasion. Even if you don’t get a reservation, there are always tables set aside for walk-in guests. 2355 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-771-2216.

Tax Day Relief

Yeah, April 15th is not a favorite day of many. Blergh. Here are a few ideas on how to numb the pain:

~COFFEE BAR~ is hosting their monthly film night (second Wednesdays) and will be screening Raising Arizona. For your snacking pleasure there will be some trailer park gold standards: $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon, Hamm’s, and Miller High Life, plus mac and cheese, tater tots, chicharrones, and more! The screening starts at 7pm, so come early and get your seat and snacks. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa, 415-551-8100.

ImageI was reading on the SF Weekly food blog about ~DEEP FRIED NOT BOMBS PART TWO~, when folks are invited to bring vegetables and other vegan items to plunk into the provided hot oil. (Are Peeps vegan?) 5:30pm. United Nations Plaza at Civic Center.

There will be another cookies and milk happy hour from 5pm–8pm at ~WINE BAR & SHOP~ in Embarcadero Two. Cookies from CMBSWEETS will be $1 and the milk is free. 2 Embarcadero Center (Front St. between Sacramento and Clay).

How about some meal deals?

~1300 ON FILLMORE~ has kicked off a $28 Monday night fried chicken prix-fixe special. You get your choice of a mixed green salad or spiced pumpkin bisque, a serving of black skillet-fried chicken with buttermilk whipped potatoes and pan gravy, and apple cobbler à la mode for dessert. 1300 Fillmore St. at Eddy, 415-771-7100.

Gotta love this thread on Chowhound, outlining ~WHERE TO GET $1 OYSTERS AROUND TOWN~.

Here are some cool culinary events:

Yup, pickling is hot. Those of you with a taste for the sour, you’ll want to check out ~SAUERKRAUT MADE SIMPLE~, a cooking class at La Cocina on Wednesday April 22nd. Here’s more from the event announcement, “The folks at Farmhouse Culture will lead you into the secret, scintillating world of sauerkraut; they will teach you the history, science, and health benefits of lacto-fermented goodies. Then, you'll get to try your hand at making sauerkraut. By the end of the night, you'll have a jar full of cabbage and bacteria (the good stuff, promise), ready for some fermenting in the comfort of your own home.” 6:30–8:30pm. $30. Buy your ticket here. BYOBeer and BYODinner (snacks provided). 2948 Folsom St. at 25th St.

I also thought this event sounds like a winner: ~RENEWING AMERICA’S FOOD TRADITIONS: GARY PAUL NABHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH ASHLEY ROOD~ on Wednesday April 29th. Here’s more: “Gary Paul Nabhan may be best known by farmers’ market fans for the pioneering Southwestern locavore experiment he described in Coming Home to Eat. He founded the Renewing America’s Food Traditions alliance (RAFT) and edited the book by the same name. Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods is a journey across our continent’s 13 distinct food nations that details over 90 endangered plant and animal foods and brings them to life with cultural histories, folk traditions, and historic recipes. In this conversation with sustainable agriculture advocate and contributing writer Ashley Rood, Nabhan will offer tidbits and tales of renewal from the book, discuss biodiversity in California, and remind us how our food choices can support a region’s distinct culinary identity.” The presentation will take place in the Port Commission Hearing Room, second floor of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The presentation is followed by a tasting of heritage foods from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Tickets: $10 (plus $1.24 service fee); order here. 6:30pm–8:30pm.

And in caImagese you feel like getting your bohemian groove on and heading out of dodge for a unique event, ~NEPENTHE~ is having their 60th celebration on Friday April 24th (it’s in Big Sur, 28 miles south of Carmel). There will be readings by Romney Steele from her forthcoming book, My Nepenthe, live music, belly dancing, fire dancing, and more. You can read the event schedule on the site. You can finish up the day with an Ambrosia burger or Lolly's roast chicken, and their three-berry pie. 48510 Highway #1, Big Sur, 831-667-2345.

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

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Be sure to catch the THE SEAFOOD ISSUE, Spring 2009:

San Francisco chefs tell how the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Food Watch guide has affected their purchasing decisions.
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When it comes to saving sushi for future generations to eat, Bay Area restaurants employ different strategies... or none at all.
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fresh meat


Photo by eviloars/flickr.

No Restaurant Required

There is an explosion happening in San Francisco of irreverent and inexpensive places for food, whether it’s delicious bites in bars (like Broken Record, Taco Shop at Underdogs, 15 Romolo) to curry and crème brûlée from carts. Here’s a little recap of five places you can go scout. Wait, seven. Anyway, have fun go-karting!

Mission Street Food
This is the one that really seemed to start all the street food buzz, first operating out of a taco truck, and then moving into the dingy Lung Shan restaurant in the Mission on Thursday and Saturday nights. Guest chefs and cooks prepare affordable dishes (often less than $10 each), the servers are friends of the kitchen, the crowd is eclectic and friendly, and a chunk of the profits go to a charity of the guest chef’s choice. Did I mention the price is right? Kudos to Anthony Myint, formerly a cook at Bar Tartine, for putting this all into motion. Subscribe to the site’s feed to keep up with the roster of guests (and their rotating menus). Here’s more on Yelp.

Magic Curry Kart
It feels like a Burning Man project that was released on city streets. Brian The Magic Curry Man will cook your Thai curry to order, but since the word is out, the line can be long (one man, two burners, you do the math). He pops up on the Linda Street Alley and 19th Street in the evenings and has been making appearances in Dolores Park. You can follow the Magic Curry Man’s whereabouts via his twitter feed, and read some reviews on his Yelp page. Get it hot, while it’s hot!

Crème Brûlée Cart
Who knew the Magic Curry Man has a brother, Curtis! And he’s here to ply you with little crème brûlée treats, with flavors like vanilla bean, chocolate Grand Marnier, and Bailey's Irish Cream. For just $3, yo. And here’s a man who knows his audience: look for the Big Lebowski-inspired White Russian brûlée on 4/20. Seems like he is also open to considering special appearances for events: email your party info to thecremebruleecart [at] gmail [dot] com. Here’s more on his Yelp page, and a video and pics from the SFoodie blog. Fire up the torch!

Edible San Francisco

Da Beef
Let’s hear it for Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef with giardiniera! And how about carts with a happy hour? No joke: $1 off all sandwiches from 4pm–5pm. The last time I was as Da Beef, I had a fully loaded Vienna Beef dog, topped with feisty sport peppers, celery salt, atomic green relish, mustard, onion, and some honking pickle wedges ($5). Good Polish dogs too. The stand is open Tue–Sat 11am–5pm. Read the raves on Yelp here. 300 7th St. at Folsom.

Kitchenette SF
This little roll-up garage spot in Dogpatch is a lunchtime offshoot from caterer Living Room Events. You can swing by to pick up a sandwich from Monday through Friday, 11:30am–1:30pm. What’s on the menu? Check out the site each day for a full-tilt slobber-inducing update (the menu is posted online the night before), from porchetta to fried chicken to knockwurst ($8). Ingredients are organic and top-notch. Cash only, and supplies are limited, so when the vittles are gone, they’re gone. Just look for the garage door at 958 Illinois Street in the American Industrial Center.

Oh yeah, there’s also Sneaky’s BBQ (can you say BBQ delivery?), but they are experiencing growing pains, so I don’t want to get you too fired up on them. Well, just order early as soon as they announce the smoker is getting fired up (like this weekend!). To order Sneaky's BBQ or receive Sneaky's weekly email, email sneakysbbq [at]

And here’s one classic for you:

Dona Tere
A friend tipped me off to the street stand a while ago—Dona Tere holds it down with a variety of flautas, tamales (take it easy on the hot sauce!), tacos, corn on (or off) the cob loaded with mayo and cheese and cayenne, tostadas, and mango with chile. Get a medley of stuff, you can’t go wrong. In the mood for something new? Try some champurrado (a hot chocolatey drink). Oh, and if you have dietary needs, bring your Spanish dictionary because you’ll need it—minimal English spoken here. Look for the blue tarp and van, usually serving around lunchtime until 9pm or so. Corner of 21st and Alabama.

the regular

Ten Spots for Tasty Cheap Eats

Sure, the economy is the pits, but there is no shortage of delicious meals that can be yours for $20, give or take a little. All of the places below (in no particular order) are linked to the original tablehopper reviews, full of tips on what to order, plus the address, pricing (always subject to change), hours (ditto), and cheeky commentary (a constant). Have fun out there.


~SPICES! AND SPICES! II~ will have me enslaved forever for the numbing and incomparable beef tendon, the cumin lamb, the filling and meaty twice-cooked bacon, and the cucumber dish. Plus about ten other dishes. The vibe is as quirky as the food is delicious (read: very).

Go hit ~GOOOD FRIKIN' CHICKEN~ for open flame chicken (order it extra crispy) and the mosakhan, almost like a Mediterranean chicken burrito. This joint really does live up to its name—it’s frickin’ tasty.

Get a bunch of your friends together and order a Shanghai banquet menu (see my review) at ~FIVE HAPPINESS~ in the Richmond. You won’t believe the amount of elegant dishes you’ll get for around $25.


Go stuff yourself with a sandwich at ~MORTY’S DELICATESSEEN~ (I heart the messy Reuben here)—and they’re big enough to share. Be sure to check the board for special offers and daily deals like this one: a Reuben and PBR on Tuesdays for $7.

You can eat savory Thai at the Tenderloin’s ~SAI JAI THAI~ or order delivery, but however you eat it, don’t miss the kor moo yang (pork shoulder). (Lers Ros Thai at 730 Larkin is another place getting a lot of buzz lately for its authentic fare.)

A monster bowl of noodles at ~KATANA-YA~ is one of the city’s better deals—and gotta love the late-night hours.


El Salvadorean
The pupusas at ~THE NEW SPOT~ are my favorite, but if you can’t make it out to the Dogpatch, the combo plates at ~BALOMPIÉ~ in the Mission are a great deal (under $10).

Dim Sum
I just can’t shut up about the dim sum deal of ~S&T HONG KONG SEAFOOD~. I should shut up, because they’re going to raise their prices if I’m not careful. Go eat your heart out for about $20, and you’ll still end up with an array of leftovers.


Korean-Chinese Hybrid
Yeah, ~SAN TUNG~ is a madhouse, and it’s not mind-blowing fare, but damn, their dry-fried chicken wings are the bomb. Fun with a group o’ froodies (food-obsessed friends). Don’t forget: this place is closed on Wednesday. Or you can go hit the chicken garage, AKA ~TOYOSE~ in the waaaaay Outer Sunset.

You’ll leave ~LAHORE KARAHI~ smelling like a fire pit, and the location is lacking in certain charms, but it’s all worth it upon your first bite. Get ready to get your spice on. And viva BYOB.

the lush

Vini PortugalAPRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Don’t blame me if you come back to the office toasted, but here goes: ~PALIO D'ASTI~ is offering $1 martinis (Stoli or Hendrick's) from 11:30am–2pm throughout the month of April. At half the price of iced tea, it becomes the most rational choice. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-362-6003.

~CORTEZ~ is offering 50% off of most of their wine list on Monday nights with a new promotion called Cellar Select Mondays. They also have a selection of bar bites paired with a signature cocktail for just $13 (offered in the bar and lounge). 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

Yo winos, on Friday April 24th, the ~VERY VERI VINI~ wine tour comes to SF. The wines of Louis/Dressner Selections, presented by Farm Wine Imports, will be featured at three locations from 6pm–8pm. There will also be 20 winegrowers present!

Arlequin Wine Merchant will feature Catherine and Claude Maréchal from Burgundy, Pierre and Pierre-Marie Luneau of Luneau-Papin in Muscadet, Eric Texier from the Rhone Valley, François Pinon of Vouvray, and Claude-Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoît Desvignes from Beaujolais. $15. 384 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-863-1104.

Biondivino Wine Boutique will feature Mauro Vergano of Chinati Vergano, Alessandra Bera of Vittorio Bera in Asti, Arianna Occhipinti from Sicily, Silvio Messana of Montesecondo in Tuscany, Cristiano Guttarolo from Puglia, and Francesca Padovani of Fonterenza in Montalcino. $10. 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.

Bi-Rite Market is hosting their event at 18 Reasons, featuring Christine and Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière in Jasnières, Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées in Beaujolais, Franck Peillot from Montagnieu in the Bugey, Christian Chaussard of Domaine le Briseau in Jasnières, and Evelyn de Jessey of Domaine du Closel in Savennières. $10 public/$5 members. 593 Guerrero St. at 18th St., 415-241-9760.

Now here’s a way to gear up for Earth Day: a number of restaurants will be participating in ~CELEBRATE EARTH DAY WITH GREEN VALLEY~, featuring Iron Horse by the glass for the week of Thursday April 17th–Wednesday April 22nd (actual Earth Day). Iron Horse has pledged $1 a glass to go to the green non-profit of the restaurant's choice. Some are featuring the 2006 Estate Chardonnay, the 2005 Wedding Cuvee, or the 2003 Blanc de Blancs. So far, the list includes: Ame, Epic Roasthouse, Farmhouse Inn (in Forestville), Farallon, Jack Falstaff, Luce, Silks, Scopa (in Healdsburg), Sonoma Mission Inn, Urban Tavern, and Zazu (Santa Rosa). Cheers.

the sponsor

Wines of Portugal

Wines of Portugal invites you to their 3rd Annual Wine Tasting in San Francisco. It’s a stellar tasting where you will truly discover the diversity of Portugal, tasting over 250 wines from all of Portugal's main wine regions. Light appetizers will also be served. This is an ideal event to help you start your weekend early, right after a hard day's work.

Not only will you get to taste fabulous wines, you will also be doing your part to support WomenHeart, the only national organization dedicated to promoting women’s heart health through advocacy, education, and patient support. 100% of all proceeds from ticket sales will go to WomenHeart to improve the health and quality of life of women living with or at risk of heart disease.

Tickets: only $35 if purchased at least two days before the event date; $50 if purchased at the door. RSVP early—tickets cost less, and this event will sell out. RSVP here.

Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St., San Francisco
Consumer Tasting: 5:30pm–8pm
RSVP here.

the socialite


Dine Out for Life
Thu. Apr. 30th, 2009

Various locations


APRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO ~DINE OUT FOR LIFE~ and 25% of your food bill (and at some places are including alcohol sales too) will benefit the HIV prevention programs of the STOP AIDS Project, a non-profit organization providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS. Choose a restaurant and dine out with your friends on Thursday the 30th! Whether you're in the mood for fancy French dining or a homey Italian meal, there are options for everyone, with a little something for every taste and budget. Some participants include Acme Chophouse, Farina, Fifth Floor, Foreign Cinema, Mission Beach Cafe, and if you’re trying to save some money, you can even go to Custom Burger Lounge, Memphis Minnie’s, or Dottie’s.

Wherever you go, be sure to check out the raffle envelopes at the restaurant. If you can't attend, you can still participate through the raffle by buying tickets online. little t


Wok On The Wild Side
Fri. Apr. 24th, 2009

City College of San Francisco
Statler Wing
Ocean/Phelan Campus
50 Phelan Ave. SW156
San Francisco, CA 94112



$80 per person

APRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO This year is the ~11TH ANNUAL WOK ON THE WILD SIDE BENEFIT~ for CCSF’s Culinary & Hospitality Studies Program. The evening is prepared and presented by the students, chefs, and guests of City College of San Francisco Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies program. Four kitchens, eight chefs, and a bunch of students. Sweet, spicy, savory. An international taste tour! Raw, grilled, roasted, and toasted. Enjoy California wines paired with culinary treats. There will be a live auction with nice prizes, and music from the Berkeley High Jazz Combo.

This fundraiser enables the CCSF to provide scholarships as well as kitchen and building facilities for the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Department with the goal of educating talented, well-trained professionals ready for careers in hotels and restaurants nationwide. CCSF’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality program is the oldest public two-year degree program in the United States with a 74-year history.

Their alumni are a who’s who of successful people in the culinary arts and hospitality industry today, with folks like Nick Peyton (Cyrus), Jeff Hanak (NOPA), Maggie Pond (Cesar), Sean O’Brien (formerly of Myth), and Sue Conley (Cowgirl Creamery). The new generation of grads includes Roshan KC from Metro Kathmandu, Corey Nead at NOPA, Daniel Leong at Bix, Sam Mogannam at Bi-Rite, Kara Forman and Jen Rudd at FineFoods@home, and many more.

the sponsor


Photo: Ira Fox, Gramercy Park Photo, (from ASA website).

Michaël Engelmann is currently a sommelier at restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. He has worked in high-end restaurants in France and England, including Georges Blanc and Chewton Glen. A native of a small village in Alsace, France, he has lived in the U.S. for three years. He won the title of Best Sommelier in America last week.

Michaël Engelmann on Becoming the Best Sommelier in America

I have an intense story to share with you. Last weekend I decided to go to New York City to put my skill and knowledge towards trying to win the title of Best Sommelier in America 2009 in a competition organized and hosted by the American Sommelier Association (ASA). This contest is the wine world equivalent of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And, coming into it, I was a 16 seed going up against a field of number ones. For me to win, in the words of Bill Murray from the movie Caddyshack, would truly be a “Cinderella story.”

Upon arriving in New York, I was in total awe of its size. I was raised in a town with a population of about 5,000 people and an overall area that could be fit into two standard NYC city blocks. Walking the streets of this goliath city, I became acutely aware of the difficulty of the task ahead of me and of my place as a tiny fish in a very large pond. The competition would be a great challenge, but for some reason I felt calm because I believed in myself and I really had nothing to lose. 

Vini Portugal

The contest began at 9am Sunday morning at the historic Jumeirah Essex House. I arrived early, knowing of many of the talented sommeliers from across the country who were there to compete. They all knew each other as well, but none of them had any clue who I was. After standing around by myself for several minutes staring at the floor and the ceiling, I approached the group nearest to me to introduce myself.

The group consisted of a Master Sommelier from Chicago and a sommelier who presides over arguably the finest restaurant wine program in New York. Okay, I thought, now things get interesting. Before I could get completely spooked, an announcer mercifully cut in to welcome us and go over the rules and format of the competition.

There would be two rounds in total. The first would whittle the field of nearly 25 contestants down to four. The next day the “final four” would compete for the championship. For round one, each contestant would complete a written exam covering general wine knowledge, grape growing, winemaking, and specifics of the many vineyards of the world. This would be followed by a series of written and oral blind tastings, food pairings, and wine service challenges critiqued in front of a panel of judges.

After the overview we were ushered to a few long wooden tables. I was seated in the back with two full table lengths separating me from my nearest competitor. Everyone knows the kids in the back always get the worst scores, right?

We were given 90 minutes to complete the written exam. I felt good after the first five questions, but five questions later I became less comfortable when they asked us to name a minimum of three coastal wine regions of China. That’s a tough one to bluff your way through.

The rest of the day had its series of ups and downs but overall I was happy with my efforts. We finished at 5pm, and celebrated the close of the semifinals with a glass of Champagne provided by one of the sponsors: Pommery Cuvée Louise.

The results of day one’s competition would not be announced until the following morning, so several of us with more modest expectations decided to hit the town. Be advised New York City stays open way later than San Francisco or my hometown in Alsace (the alarm clock very rudely informed me of this fact the next morning).

Bleary eyed, I arrived at the Essex House at 9am to hear the announcement of the four finalists. As they made the announcement for fourth, then third, then second place my heart was threatening to beat right out of my chest. I thought, “Who knows, why not me?” And then I heard them call my name. I had actually finished first in the semifinal round. I had made it to the finals.

For the finals they separated the four finalists from the rest of the competitors. We each had to go into the main ballroom one at a time in to perform in front of all the other semi-finalists, judges, and spectators.

I was the last candidate to go, and had to wait three and a half hours in a room with nothing but a view of Central Park to entertain me. It was pouring rain which made it seem dark as night outside. The solitude turned my thoughts to the efforts of my family, friends, and mentors that led me to this point in my career. If it all ended with just winning the semi-finals, I would already be proud of my accomplishments. Maybe because I was so tired from the previous night’s festivities or because the finish line was clearly in sight, I started to become acutely focused on the task ahead. I wanted to win the whole thing—and when it was my turn to compete, I charged into the event poised and confident.

The first challenge was a blind tasting of four wines and four spirits. The panelists fired questions relating to the wines’ color, aromas, flavors, age, and origins. The spirits were served in black glasses and we had to answer questions about them without the use of our eyes. My confidence surging, I even felt good enough to make jokes with the panel.

For the second test we were asked to create a seven-course food and wine pairing, choosing a different wine from a different country for each course. This went well and my confidence continued to build. There were no more questions about Chinese wines to scare me.

The focus then shifted to service. We were graded on proper Champagne service, decanting and serving a red wine, and cigar service. I was hopeless during the cigar service. Thank you, California, for your anti-smoking laws.

The contest ended with two final challenges. In the first challenge, we had to correct an error-ridden wine list and identify, by color and origin, a list of obscure grapes (including such oddities as romorantin, fer, and bastardo). The second challenge was to pour a bottle of Champagne into 12 glasses without having anything left in the bottle at the end and without going back to top off any glasses. Throughout all the tests there were time limits and traps designed to see how we would react.

Like the day before, the final round finished at 5pm, and we celebrated with more Champagne. That night we were treated to a gala dinner and had to wait until 10pm when the evening concluded to hear the judges’ decision. I knew that I had a very good day and performed well but when they called my name I couldn’t believe it. In that moment I was on cloud nine and was so grateful for all the people who I met through my career, but also my beer companions from the night before.

the starlet

APRIL 14, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Anna Gastayer from past seasons of Saturday Night Live was spotted at Perbacco.

And I loved this saucy sighting from a tablehopper reader: “I saw Curtis Stone, aka the Take Home Chef, at South Wine Bar on Friday at about 5:30pm. He's quite fetching in that Aussie sort of way and I'm disappointed to say that I did not take him home!” Amen, sister. Amen.


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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