table of contents This week's tablehopper: farewell to the stairwell.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the lush
put it on my tab
the wino
in vino veritas

the socialite

the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

CUESA Thursday Market

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Zojo Media

imageJUNE 23, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO This book is putting me into overdrive, packing my calendar full of restaurant revisits and fab tastes around town (I will admit, I love what is "research" for me right now), including the divine hummus and baked-to-order pita at Terzo, a totally authentic Thai feast at Lers Ros in the Tenderloin, ridiculously decadent A5 Wagyu beef at 5A5 Steak Lounge, properly made mint juleps at The Alembic, a warm banh mi from Irving Café and Deli, a cozy brunch at Olea, and a balmy Sunday night dinner of cebiche, causas, and anticuchos de corazon on the back patio at La Mar. I am just itching to write so many of these meals up—but darn, it'll be another four weeks. (Photo: Eggs in a cazuela from brunch at Olea.)

The most memorable happening of last week was the closing dinner at Postrio on Wednesday night. I swung by with a friend after our Thai feast to have some dessert and a drink and watch the final night wrap up. The dining room was a swirl of activity and color and flash—society ladies in brightly colored dresses, gents spiffed up with polished teeth and shoes, tables full of wine glasses and temporary tablehopping guests. Denise Hale was tucked into a power booth with Tatiana and Serge Sorokko, all looking so chic and smiling even more broadly as the night (and wine) wore on.

It was quite the who's who of chefs, either in the kitchen (Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal, Craig Stoll, Richard Reddington, Quinn Hatfield, who flew up from Los Angeles, David Gingrass, Anne Gingrass-Paik, Jordan Grosser, and Janet Rikala), to Kim Beto pouring wine and working the floor, plus chefs dining, from Roland Passot to Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, to chefs hanging out in the kitchen after service in their own restaurants, like Jan Birnbaum and Chad Newton. Say what you will about Postrio; what is irrefutable is so much local talent has come from its kitchen. Everyone was raving about the food, doubly delicious since the restaurant had kindly chosen to roll back to 1989 prices (so classy, I thought).

And, of course, the ever-ebullient Wolfgang Puck was making his way around the room, kindly greeting everyone, shaking hands, and signing last-meal menus. There was so much warmth in the room—it made me reflect on what a close-knit city we really have. Here's a Flickr photo album I took of the evening.

It truly was a bittersweet night; I spoke with Mitch Rosenthal for a moment, who said, "20 years, man. It's been such a night of good memories, and a fun one too, but it's also really, really sad. So many people are losing their jobs, people who have been here a long, long time." (Here's hoping they all land in good places—chef Seis Kamimura is very talented, and the restaurant that snaps up the ever-gracious GM James Minch is one lucky business.)

I have to hand it to Willie Brown, who was beaming like a proud papa (with a huge table of guests, natch). He led such a fitting and fantastic toast, with one of my favorite lines I've heard in a while: "Here's to Postrio, a San Francisco icon, like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pyramid, and me!" (The room exploded in laughter.) I also took a video of Wolfgang Puck's final toast if you'd like to watch it (please excuse a couple bad orientation moments, I forgot my screen and the video have zero relation to each other, oops—I blame the wine).

So, as for the immediate fate of the restaurant, the bar and café will continue to be open from morning through the evening hours, keeping the pizza oven fired up, churning out Puck's famed pizzas. Once the Prescott Hotel's renovation is underway, the café will close. We'll see what Puck's new concept is soon enough. It's slated to reopen in late 2010.

A sincere cheers to 20 very special years.

As for this week's issue, a big thanks to Evan Goldstein, who wrote an interesting piece on non-native/"expatriate" grapes for the wino. You'll also find plenty of other reasons to raise a glass in this week's lush.

Here's looking at you, kid.

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the chatterbox

Green ZebraMAY 12, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO What is touted to be the City's greenest café, ~THE PLANT CAFE ORGANIC~ will open this Thursday June 25th in Pier 3 on the city's waterfront, just north of the Ferry Building. It's a spacious one: 4,600 square feet, and 112 seats. CCS Architecture/Cass Calder Smith designed the space (La Mar, Perbacco, Delica rf-1, Terzo, Restaurant Lulu, and the Plant Cafe Organic's Steiner Street location are other CCS-designed spaces). There will be plenty of natural light, views of the Bay, natural wood furnishings, a private patio on the waterfront, and a live-fire pizza oven. Flora Grubb will also design and install a living green wall, made with air plants in the dining room. The south space will feature quick-service organic coffee, pastries, lunches, dinners, and grab-and-go items (like soba noodles, quinoa, etc.), while the north space will provide a full-service lunch and dinner menu (items are $20 and under). Both spaces will be lined with sidewalk seating on the Embarcadero.

For those who aren't familiar with the Marina location, The Plant Cafe Organic (formerly known as lettüs) serves an almost purely organic (95%) and primarily locally sourced menu—but to clarify, it's not just vegetarian. There will be fresh juices and smoothies, soups, salads (like one of avocado, ruby red grapefruit, arugula, and creamy black pepper and macadamia nut dressing), and sandwiches (like BBQ chicken or tempeh with chipotle BBQ sauce, roasted red onion, cheddar cheese, and garlic aioli), plus organic appetizers (how about some oysters, or spicy fava bean and cherry tomato bruschetta?), entrées (including my favorite vegetarian burger), pizza (there's one of roasted chicken, caramelized onion, Point Reyes blue cheese, fennel soubise), organic beer and wines, cocktails (like the honeycomb colada with coconut milk, organic pineapple juice, rum chilled with local honeycomb, garnished with toasted coconut flakes), and house-made desserts.

Here's more on how green the project is: the sustainably designed restaurant space utilizes non-toxic, natural, and in many cases recycled building materials plus solar panels on the roof; take-out packaging is either recyclable or biodegradable; all paper materials use recycled paper; and all biodegradable waste will be composted. The Plant also serves free, filtered water (both flat and carbonated). Café hours are 7:30am–10pm, with the sit-down menu served from 11am–10pm. Pier 3, at Jackson.

This just in: ~CANE ROSSO~, the project from Daniel Patterson and Lauren Kiino at the Ferry Building Marketplace (in the former Mistral space) has an opening date: Monday July 13th. They are just finishing construction this week, and it's reportedly looking pretty darned good. The chef is Doug Borkowski, who was most recently a sous chef at Google. Before that, he worked together with Kiino for five years at Delfina. I will share more details about the concept, hours, etc. next week. 1 Ferry Plaza.

According to some liquor license permit changes, looks like the gents from Tonic on Polk (Ben Bleiman, Duncan Ley) are taking over ~BAR JOHNNY~. I didn't hear back from either party by post-time, so I will have more details about the fate of Russian Hill's late-night burger next week. 2209 Polk St. at Vallejo, 415-268-0140.

imageA few more details about the place I mentioned last week that is opening in the now-closed City Grille: ~BISTRO 24~ (site not live yet). (This is a project from Stefano Coppola of Lupa.) The chef is Pierre Mangé (how's that for a last name for a chef?), formerly an opening sous at Contigo, a lead line cook at SPQR, and a sous at Chow. The new contemporary American comfort menu (with some international and Mediterranean influences) will include 10–15 small plates ranging from $5.50–$11, plus main dishes. Look for a rotating menu of dishes like lamb sliders, grilled oysters, and mac and cheese, all made with quality and sustainable products. The wine list is getting revamped, with up to 50 international wines, and 15–20 by the glass. The place is also getting repainted, with new artwork, and candles on the tables. The opening should be around July 1st or so. 4123 24th St. at Castro, 415-285-2400.

Also in Noe Valley: a ~LA BOULANGE~ will be opening in the Noe Valley Pizza space, probably late this fall. No word on when Noe Valley Pizza will close since it's hard to tell when permits will go through. I spoke with Bay Bread's Thomas Lefort, who mentioned they are going to be putting some outdoor seating and benches on the sides of the corner building. 3898 24th St. at Sanchez.

After that unfortunate (but fortunately contained) fire three-and-a-half weeks ago, ~E & O TRADING COMPANY~ is back open. 314 Sutter St. at Grant, 415-693-0303.

Lunchtime in SoMa just keeps getting better: yesterday ~TOWN HALL~ kicked off their first lunchtime BBQ in the courtyard flanking the restaurant, serving fried chicken sandwiches for $9 (they do some of my favorite fried chicken in SF), a smoked and grilled andouille po' boy for $8 (look for other kinds of sausages in the future), and their St. Louis spareribs with sides, plus cookies and Town Hall's famous butterscotch pot de crème for dessert. In the future, Mitch Rosenthal said to look for some quirky specials, like BBQ baloney or a Taylor pork roll, a Jersey-style sandwich he remembers from his childhood. (Follow menu updates on their Twitter feed.) The Town Hall folks have been trying to work out a take-out concept for a while, so it seems they have found it. The first day was all hands on deck, since over 150 people showed up. You can enter the courtyard either off Fremont or Howard—it's just north of the restaurant. Hours are Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm, and there are high hopes to do a happy hour in the future (maybe… and with grilled oysters, can you imagine?). 342 Howard St. at Fremont, 415-908-3900.

Zojo MediaMeanwhile, over at their sister restaurant, ~ANCHOR & HOPE~, it looks like the already-popular beer selection is seriously ramping up. They brought on Eric Cripe from The Jug Shop to consult on the list, and are putting in 16 taps, plus they will have a beer engine to hand pump beer from casks (how British), and eventually will have 60–80 bottles. The menu is already quite beer-friendly, so this is going to be a fun program to see take shape. The new beer list will be in place on July 8th, when Anchor & Hope kicks off a happy hour with $1 oysters, and chef Sarah Schafer is making some sausages (she's actually using the first smoker Town Hall bought since they are now on their third). 83 Minna St. at 2nd St., 415-501-9100.

John Quintos of Cento (the awesome alley café next to Little Skillet) just opened an offshoot kiosk on Monday, ~VEGA AT LANGTON~. There is Blue Bottle Coffee espresso and a drip bar (and the wonderful New Orleans iced coffee), but no French press. The Little Skillet/330 Ritch kitchen is baking some sweet baked goods for the kiosk, like bread pudding, scones, and other goodies, some with a little bit of a Southern bent. Hours are currently 8:30am–3:30pm, and they may extend until 6pm or so later on. 1246 Folsom St. at 8th St.

Speaking of Cento, looks like both Cento and Little Skillet will be open on the weekends, starting July 11th. Cento's hours will be Sat–Sun 8am–4pm, and Little Skillet will be open on Saturdays from 9am–3:30pm. Mmmmm, fried chicken and waffles and breakfast po' boys and coffee weekends are imminent! 330 and 360 Ritch St. at Townsend.

While we're on chicken and waffles, ~GUSSIE'S~ keeps getting closer: now we're looking at July 6th. More on this soon! 1521 Eddy St. at Fillmore.

Say prost over this good news for ~SCHMIDT'S DELI~: after some tedious delays, their beer and wine license is in effect! Dinner service will be kicking off on July 7th. Hours will then be Tue–Sun 11am–11pm (no more lunch service on Mondays). 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St., 415-410-0200.

Looks like ~GOOD EVENING THURSDAY~, the weekly secret steakhouse upstairs at Bruno's in the Pussycat Lounge, is wrapping up at the end of July as OPEN Restaurant prepares for an event at SFMOMA in October. So get your booty over there soon if you want to experience it! Every Thursday from 7pm–2am. 2389 Mission St. at 20th St. For reservations, contact goodeveningthursday [at] gmail [dot] com.

After 20 years in business, the owners of neighborhood fixture ~NEW SAIGON RESTAURANT~ are retiring, and a place called ~MATCHA SUSHI~ is taking its place. Look for the change to happen in July or so. 915 Kearny St. at Jackson, 415-982-3853.

Pizza news: according to permits, a pizza places called ~PI BAR~ is coming to the Mission in the former Suriya Thai space. More details coming atcha if and when the owners (Richard Rosen and Jennifer Garris) get in touch with me. Anyone? Bueller? 1432 Valencia St. at 25th St.

imageIn three or four months, Hayes Valley's ~PATXI'S PIZZA~ is going to be opening a location for their deep-dish pizza in the Marina. The spacious location is opening in a new building, and will have a large zinc-topped bar (25 feet long), plus room for 40 seated in the dining room, with banquettes and a communal table, and a mezzanine that will be the perfect party spot, with room for 20. There will also be 16 outdoor seats with heat lamps, and it's on the sunny side of Fillmore, bonus. There will be 30 wines, and 10 beers on tap. Lunch and dinner will be served daily. 3318 Fillmore St. at Chestnut. (Photo from Patxi's Pizza.)

FYI, ~COI~ will be closed from June 28th–July 8th or so for a kitchen upgrade. 373 Broadway at Montgomery, 415-393-9000.

The tablehopper tipster Jason B. writes: "In Embarcadero 5, Saigon Deli Express (not sure who used to be here) and Rosanero Pizza (used to be Parkway Pizza) opened, and Mediterranean Fresh (kebabs, platters, the usual) has taken over Mama Lucy's" in SoMa (1 Gilbert St. at Bryant, 415-252-9464).

imageThe Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale (it's for charity) is on, running from June 20th–28th. Thanks to tablehopper reader Susan W. who tipped me off about the ~VIOLET SWEET SHOPPE~. A variety of 100% vegan baked goods made with organic, local, and fair-trade ingredients were available at Little Otsu over the weekend, and at the Hemlock on Monday night. Not sure about any future Violet Sweet Shoppe bake sale locations—check the website for details. Here's the menu, which includes items like cupcakes, peanut butter cookies, and gingerbread sandwich cookies. You can make special orders on the site. (Photo from Violet Sweet Shoppe.)

And this Saturday June 27th, the writers behind SF blogs The Urban Housewife and Vegansaurus! are putting on ~TWO MORE VEGAN BAKE SALES~ for the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. There will be cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pie, whoopie pies, and more. There will also be gluten-free options and treats for dogs. Additionally, a selection of cupcakes will be provided by local vegan bakery Sugar Beat Sweets. Sales will benefit Animal Place (a sanctuary for abused and discarded farmed animals) and East Bay Animal Animal Advocates. Saturday June 27th from 11am–4pm at 3506 16th St. at Sanchez, in front of Ike's Place, and Sunday June 28th from 11am–4pm in the 800 block of Capp St. near 24th St.

More sweets: MenuPages had the scoop on ~SWEET~ on Church, "a new confectionary … in the tiny space between Sparky's and Crepevine, the Small Potatoes [Catering] off-shoot deals in cakes, cookies, candy, and other tooth-rotting things. There was a chalkboard out front advertising cupcakes, but the last one had just been sold minutes before our arrival. We did manage to sample the house-made spiced caramel (caramel laced with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon), which was a lot like eating a caramel apple without the annoying apple part. They also had regular caramel apples on the shelf (if that's your thing), along with rocky road, and fresh marshmallows." The website also mentions root beer float or Mexican red chili chocolate cupcakes, and a peppered peanut brittle. I also wanna know about their "I F***ed Up" gift box, hilarious. (I just don't want anyone to eff up with me so I get it.) Open Sun–Thu 11am–7pm, Fri–Sat 11am–8pm. 218 Church St. at Market, 415-552-8992.

imageAlso this Thursday June 25th, Fran Gage is coming to the ~THE TYLER FLORENCE SHOP~. Fran, who owned Fran Gage Patisserie for 10 years in San Francisco and is a noted food writer, will be signing her new book, The New American Olive Oil and conducting an olive oil tasting from 6pm–8pm. 59 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley.

I wouldn't delay on getting tickets for this event on Tuesday July 7th, the latest in the ~A MOVEABLE FEAST~ series to benefit CUESA. At Aziza restaurant, join executive chef Mourad Lahlou and James Syhabout, formerly chef de cuisine of Manresa (and opening Commis in Oakland later this year) as they highlight farmer Jesse Kuhn's produce from Marin Roots Farm. $80, or $100 including wine, inclusive of tax and gratuity (a percentage of each ticket cost will benefit CUESA). 7pm. Aziza Restaurant, 5800 Geary Blvd. at 22nd Ave.

A couple all-you-can-consume meal deals (consider yourself warned):

Why stop at all-you-can-drink mimosas, when there are still wines and beer to consume? ~CIRCA~ is kicking off Pink Wednesdays: for $19, you can take your pick from a couple salads, and for an entrée, you can choose from a half-pound hamburger or turkey burger and French fries, or a roasted half-chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables, or fish and chips. Oh yeah, and you get bottomless wine (white or red) or beer (Coors Light, hmmm). Dinner seating starts at 5:30pm, and a DJ will be coming in at 8pm. Once you're good and heated, you can continue your buzz at the bar, which is where 10% of all sales from 8pm–12am will be donated to the Komen San Francisco Race for the Cure, which is on September 27th. Pink Wednesdays will be happening every Wednesday until the race. 2001 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-351-0175.

This isn't really helping our seafood population in our oceans, but here goes: ~OZUMO RESTAURANT IN OAKLAND~ has announced the introduction of Sushi Mondays with an "all you can eat" menu priced at $30 per person, offered every Monday night from 5pm–10pm. The special is available only at the restaurant's sushi bar and includes rolls, nigiri, and select appetizers prepared by master sushi chef Ido Kiyotaka. Guests who choose to make reservations are asked to mention that they will be coming in specifically for Sushi Monday; walk-in diners are also welcome. 2251 Broadway at Grand, Oakland, 510-286-9866.

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

the lush

Zojo MediaJUNE 23, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Thanks to our city's electronic ABC permit system, yesterday I noticed what the location of Martin Cate's ~SMUGGLERS COVE~ is going to be, and I didn't even have to suffer through the brain teaser (or hurter) Cate has been hosting (it was designed to reveal the location to those who solve the online puzzle). Since Eater and MenuPages let the cat out of the bag, I'll just link to their sites with the news about the Hayes Valley location since there may still be some folks playing the game who don't want to know the answer. The good news for those still playing the game and who do know the location: per MenuPages, "The location reveal won't affect the contest, Cate said. People still have to solve the online clues in order to win." I'll share more details about the where and when soon.

Starting this Wednesday June 24th, Ronaldo Colli (Americano's bartender who won this year's U.S. Bartenders' Guild Association contest during Cocktail Week), is presenting customers with the opportunity to learn his tricks of the trade. Every Wednesday, Colli will show guests at ~AMERICANO~ how to make his famous $6 cocktails, providing pointers on preparing the Kama Sutra, a margarita, and a daiquiri, just to name a few. Guests can also enjoy $3 antipasti, like marinated mushrooms. Come to Americano between 6pm–7pm each Wednesday and you will receive a complimentary cocktail (based on the week's cocktail). Wednesdays until August 26th. 8 Mission St. at Embarcadero, 415-278-3777.

Want more free drinks? Of course you do. This is why you're even reading the lush section to begin with. A tablehopper reader wanted to point out this little promo at ~TROPISUENO~: bring in five friends for drinks at the bar in the evening, and you (the host) get to drink for free for the entire evening. (Does not apply to parties with dinner reservations.) Time to round up your buddies—and I hear Manuel's margaritas are pretty dang sabrocito. 75 Yerba Buena Lane at Market, 415-243-0299.

It's almost the end of the month-long promo, but I thought you'd like to know that next Monday at ~APERTO~ in Potrero Hill, all of their wines by the glass are half-off. 1434 18th St. at Connecticut, 415-252-1625.

Every Tuesday at ~PISCO LATIN LOUNGE~ is La Escuelita (the "little schoolhouse") with musical host Juan Data showing you the ropes about retro Latino, pop sintetico, old school, and dance nostalgia music from throughout the Spanish-speaking world. There will also be cocktails using Lotus Vodka (with a portion of proceeds donated by Lotus to charity), including a $7 cucumber martini and pom-mojito with vodka, pomegranate juice, lime, and mint. There's also a brand-new parking lot for only $7 all night at the corner of Buchanan and Market Street, a little over a block away. 6pm–11pm. 1817 Market St. at Guerrero, 415-874-9951.

the wino

Photo:Wine Review (Korea)

JUNE 23, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Evan Goldstein, MS, and President and Chief Education Officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions Inc., is one of the nation's most prolific food and wine industry veterans. His food and wine career started at age 19 in Paris, and in 1984 he joined his mother, chef and author Joyce Goldstein, in opening Square One, where as sommelier his wine lists received a myriad of awards. In 1987, he became the eighth American and youngest ever at the time to pass the Master Sommelier examination. Since 1990, Evan has created education programs, wine training and service hospitality schools with Seagram Chateau & Estates Wines Company, Diageo, Allied Domecq, and most recently, as the Vice President of Global Wine & Brand Education at Beam Wine Estates. In addition, Evan continues to train and examine candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers as a Founding Board member.

Evan is the author of Five Star Service: Your Guide to Hospitality Excellence and Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food (University of California Press). His sequel wine and food book for the University of California Press, Daring Pairings, is planned for release in Spring 2010.


The American Heritage dictionary defines an expatriate as "one who has taken up residence in a foreign country." Most all of us have a few expats in our lives and would likely agree that we are better off and more interesting people for knowing these individuals of diverse backgrounds. They enrich us, bringing with them their culture, values, social attributes, and indeed enhance the surroundings in which they choose to live.

There are many foods that we take for granted today that are, in fact, expats. The origins of such modern staples as chocolate and tomatoes from Mexico, oranges and lemons from China, potatoes from Peru, or eggplant from India indeed demonstrate what a small world it really is.

In the big picture, the impact of grapes emigrating is less dramatic on our day-to-day lives when compared to foods moving through ambitious migrations, such as the Silk Road and other Asian spice routes, or the back-and-forth movement of new ingredients on ships returning from the New World in the times of Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and Vasco da Gama. That said, grapes have made their way around the world from the times of the Romans and the Etruscans—and in many cases, modern viticulture and the end-consumer are the proud beneficiaries of these emigrations from native lands.

A number of these immigrants have found inviting homes, great happiness, and even some have found greater success than they had with their indigenous origins. Others have thrived a bit less, while a few have proven themselves to be malleable and adaptable to many surroundings and are as happy traveling as they are being domestic. Let's explore a few.

Better on the road than at home!

It's hard to imagine that some grapes needed to simply move to flourish, but there are a few varietals that have clearly made better wines in foreign lands than they have at home. On the white side of wines, it's hard to imagine gewürztraminer as coming from anywhere but France's Alsace or perhaps, given the name, Germany. Such dense and rich wines redolent of lychee, pear, and sweet citrus set off by aromatics of freesia, rose petal, and narcissus is about as varietally correct as it gets. And similar wines can be found in as disparate locations as Gisborne, New Zealand, and the Anderson and Edna Valleys of California.

Yet this flavorful and forward grape actually was born in northeastern Italy, in a little town called Tramin. And while it makes tasty wines in that corner of the world, they pale in comparison. Such intriguing disparity can also be found arguably with viognier (at least as interesting in places like America and Australia as it is in its native France).

With red grapes, we can find several grapes that have taken better to foreign lands. It would be hard to dispute the amazing success of malbec in Argentina. Amazingly multifaceted versions emanate today from Mendoza (concentrated ripe black fruit, zesty acidity with balanced but ample tannins), San Juan (equally ripe fruit, more plush tannins and a rounder smoother texture), and beyond: Patagonia, and the northern extremes of Salta's Colomé. While your preference may be subjective, many of those interpretations are more complex and pleasing than French counterparts in Cahors and the Loire Valley.

This could also be said about carmenère (better in Chile than Bordeaux), tannat (more often better in Uruguay than Southwest France), and zinfandel (clearly more interesting in California than in its now-proven home of Croatia).

Happy travelers

Some grapes have shown to be extraordinarily malleable and capable of producing amazing wines in a multitude of locales and countries. These grapes are among the most noble and complex (despite their origins), and that popularity is demonstrated on restaurant wine lists and store retail shelves daily. For white grapes, the most evident example would be chardonnay, whose success originates in France's Champagne and Burgundy, but has not been limited to those two areas. Amazing and thought-provoking chardonnays are found in Australia (especially in regions such as Margaret River and the Adelaide Hills), California (Sonoma's Russian River Valley and the Central Coast's Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez counties being exemplary), and Chile's Casablanca.

I find that while in a more-limited production context, both riesling, with its origins in Germany, and sauvignon blanc, which finds its native roots in France's Loire Valley and Bordeaux, have also proven themselves away from home. Indeed, riesling today can be found in small quantity (but very high quality) in places as divergent as Australia's Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand's Central Otago, or New York State's Finger Lake district. World-class sauvignon blanc is readily available to us in New Zealand's Marlborough, Chile's Central Valley, and Israel's Golan Heights.

With reds, there are so many. The clear and obvious front-runner would be cabernet sauvignon. While originally from France's Bordeaux-Medoc peninsula, where its deep cassis-scented wines are set off by notes of cedar, cigar box, and tobacco, very credible bottlings of cabernet come from locations as far flung as California's Napa Valley, Australia's Barossa Valley and Limestone Coast, Argentina's Uco Valley in Mendoza, and Washington State's greater Columbia Valley region. And while each appellation maintains signatures that are expressive of their local terroir, all are capable of producing complex and layered wines.

This same diversity of style with successful results worldwide can be found with syrah—native to France, but equally delectable from California (Paso Robles, South Central Coast), Argentina's San Juan and Mendoza, South Africa's Coastal region and, of course, throughout much of Australia with stunning examples emanating from the Barossa and Yarra Valleys, the Adelaide Hills, and Mudgee to name a few.

And while it may still be a frustrating grape in many places, pinot noir's ability to make great wines in places as far ranging as New Zealand's Martinborough, Central Otago, and Marlborough, to Oregon's Willamette Valley, to California's Russian River Valley, to Argentina's Patagonia land it on this list which also includes the very globally-flexible grapes merlot and grenache.

Should have stayed home

Finally, there are a handful of grapes that have moved with aspirational thoughts, but have never really proven the same level of success on the road as they have in their 'native lands.' These so-called 'native strangers' are complicated in that they should be able to happily acquire new foundations abroad but, for the occasional rare exception, have had minimal success. Intriguingly, the varietals seem to come (mostly) from a small number of countries. In whites, Italy's native grapes of arneis (Piedmont) and cortese (the grape of Gavi) make wonderful wines locally, but efforts outside their native land have provided challenges.

In Spain, verdejo (of Rueda fame) and albariño (from Galicia's Rias Baixas) have had initial trouble transcending borders, though the wines are improving, especially in California. Finally, and though it's still early, grüner veltliner outside of Austria seems, at this point, only a dream. Okay, maybe not to Rudy Von Strasser, but to most!

Several great red grapes have had equal problem with their vinous visas. Two of my favorite all-time grapes from Italy, Piedmont's nebbiolo (responsible for those breathtaking Barolos and Barbarescos which are among the world's greatest reds) and Tuscany's sangiovese (the grape of Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico, among others) have yet to find a spot outside of their homelands where they thrive as well.

Spain's most famous red grape, tempranillo, has had a battle not only getting out of Spain, but finding more than limited local success once it does. Throughout Spain itself, one needn't go far to find terrific bottles from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Navarra to name just a few regions that excel with this remarkable varietal. Just not much anywhere else.

Other grapes that you don't find much of out of their homes include France's gamay (of Beaujolais fame) and Portugal's touriga nacional (the complex red grape that provides the foundation for the Duoro Valley's great ports and dry red table wines).

So next time you pull the cork out of a bottle, think about its genealogy. Like most of us, a little research on the family tree may provide some interesting insights, and maybe a surprise or two as well.

the socialite

Photo: bluePantone292

Fourth of July
Sat. July 4th, 2009

Various locations

JUNE 23, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Any San Franciscan knows the ~FOURTH OF JULY~ is a foggy joke of a night, with colored fog and barbecuing while in mittens and fleece. Here are a few dining options around town where the wind and fog won't matter:

By popular demand they're hosting a BBQ with ribs and all the fixings again. Vegetarian dishes will also be available. $35 per person. To make a reservation, please go to or call 415-437-1770.

La Folie
For the first time ever, La Folie will be open to celebrate the 4th of July.

Red, white, and blue tablecloths will be out, with family-style dining and a Jardinière take on the quintessential Fourth of July BBQ. The prix-fixe menu is $55 per person and includes:

Pickled watermelon
Lobster rolls
Potato chips with onion dip
Pigs in a blanket (house-made sausage baked in brioche)

Hoffman Ranch fried chicken
Berkshire pork ribs

Accompanied by
Coleslaw, potato salad, mac-n-cheese, corn on the cob, corn bread, buttermilk biscuits

Cherry pie a la mode
Root beer floats

the starlet

JUNE 23, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO A tablehopper reader was at brunch at Foreign Cinema on Sunday and saw Neil Patrick Harris. He was brunching with his partner, a producer, and another female.

Another reader wrote in: "Gavin Rossdale of Bush and married to Gwen Stefani fame was having dinner at Orson this past Saturday with what I presumed to be his band mates. They enjoyed a bottle of red wine in at the bar and then moved upstairs for dinner." Elizabeth Falkner confirmed that Rossdale and his band mate were dining with Joe Haller and Ian Hannula from Nice Collective.

Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go's and her family came in to dine at Absinthe. They shared a variety of dishes, including crudo, stuffed chicken, and my fave, the pork confit. It ends up it was a mutual love-fest, because Wiedlin and chef Jamie Lauren are both fans of each other.

Chef Alex Ong of Betelnut had quite the night last week: Sean Penn, and Chuck Williams (of Williams Sonoma) and culinary doyenne Cecilia Chiang were all in the house on the same night. A tablehopper reader spotted Penn at the "chef's bar just at the corner around the back. About an hour into dinner they moved to a booth. He was pretty much left alone by other diners. A bachelorette party in the back requested he stop by (via the waiter). But he declined (can't blame him for that choice)." He ordered spring rolls, minced chicken with lettuce cups, rib eye, Maojitos (Betelnut's version of mojitos), and two shots of Fernet.

As for Chuck and Cecilia, a little fun back story for you: they are really close friends from way back when Chuck opened his first shop on Sutter Street. (They come in to Betelnut quite often and always have the beggar's chicken—what a dish!) Chuck and Herb Caen used to dine at the original The Mandarin Restaurant, which was Cecilia's first restaurant on Polk Street.


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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