table of contents This week's tablehopper: sometimes you feel like a nut.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met

the lush

put it on my tab
the socialite

the sugar mama
get some
the starlet
no photos please

the sponsor
this round is on me

Hot restaurant space

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AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Talk about a tour de force. I feel like I just got out of the Trang—well, an urban and epicurean one. I was deep in the culinary and cocktail jungle, four days filled with the rapid fire of bites of food from some of the City's finest chefs, the rat-a-tat of sips of wine, and a veritable bombing of cocktails. (Good thing I love the smell of napalm in the morning.) In fact, they were excellent cocktails—every day they kept verging on stealing the (USO) show. Although I did a terrible job documenting them—and a commendable job of drinking them.

imageOh yeah, and to further the jungle vibe, the tent was its own hair-curling and sweat-inducing humid microclimate—at least my hair liked it. I set up a flickr photo album so you can see some highlights (of the event, not my hair, hello). The line-up includes pics from the Rising Star Chefs event Thursday night, Friday night I was at the Out of the Fog Event at Orson (but oops, I left my camera in my car), I also hit up Saturday's Grand Tasting and the Urban BBQ (plus moderated a panel, and was a guest on another), and wrapped it all up with Sunday's Grand Tasting and the "View from the Top" afternoon session.

Big props to event organizers Dominic Phillips Event Marketing and Andrew Freeman & Co., plus the GGRA and VISA for making it all happen. For a first-year effort, I was really impressed, and I know I'm not alone. Of course there are tweaks and things to be adjusted, but overall it was pretty darned cool to be in the middle of Union Square and eating bites and drinking cocktails and wine from some of the most talented people in the country. It was also nice to see everyone hanging out and working together and trying each other's food and drinks.

That tour of duty may be all done, but really, there's no rest for the wicked, because I already have my next assignment: my Alfa is washed and shiny, all primed and ready for my drive down to Los Gatos to check out Dio Deka (hello halloumi), and then off to Santa Cruz for an overnighter, and a visit to the Cellar Door Café at Bonny Doon. With lots and lots of exercise in between. And some sunbathing. And manuscript editing.

Oh, and since some of you set your Tuesday clock or coffee break to tablehopper coming out at 3pm, next week's issue is going to be arriving a bit later in the day, FYI.

Lock and load.


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the chatterbox

Hot restaurant spaceAUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Over at ~THE ALEMBIC~ in the Haight, co-chef Jordan Grosser has departed—co-chef Ted Fleury will now be running the kitchen solo. In an email, Grosser mentioned making some fresh goat or sheep cheeses (perhaps turning up on restaurant menus around town soon?) and is looking to take part in a variety of local food-oriented events. The man can cook, so I hope to see his name pop up somewhere soon. 1725 Haight St. at Cole, 415-666-0822.

Also heard executive chef Mauro Pando is no longer at ~GRAND CAFÉ~ as a result of a position elimination; executive sous chef Sophiane Benaouda is now heading up the kitchen. 501 Geary St. at Taylor, 415-292-0101.

~STARBELLY~ is on track to open in the former Asqew Grill space by next Tuesday August 18th. To recap, chef Adam Timney's menu will be focused on affordably priced California comfort food for brunch, lunch, and dinner, offering late-night dining until 12am, plus beer and wine-based cocktails. Open daily Mon–Fri 11am–12am, and brunch Sat–Sun starts at 10am. Wanna check it out before it opens? Take a look in the sugar mama for details on how! 3583 16th St. at Market, 415-252-7500.

Looks like some new folks will be taking over the Quince location on Octavia when the Tusks move over to Pacific Avenue: according to liquor license permits, Lori Baker and her husband Jeff Banker are moving in, and the license says it's called ~BROWN BUTTER~. It's actually fitting, because part of their extensive resume includes time at The Meetinghouse, which used to be at that location. Baker was also the pastry chef at Home restaurant for four years while Jeff Banker was the executive chef. They have worked all over SF for the last 10 years, including Postrio, Bix, Acme Chophouse, Gordon's House of Fine Eats, Bizou, Fifth Floor, and Slow Club. They have been looking for a space for some time, so I look forward to hearing what they have in store now that they have their spot. Also stand by for an upcoming hardhat piece on Quince and Cotogna, with a sneak peek and details on the when and what of those projects. 1701 Octavia St. at Bush.

Found out at the last minute that the ~PARKSIDE TAVERN~ is supposed to open this week (Wednesday?) in the former ~RICK'S ALOHA CAFÉ~. A while back I mentioned Larry Doyle, the chef at Johnny Foley's Irish House in Union Square is behind this "food-driven" neighborhood tavern. Didn't get the details in time for my deadline, so look for more next week. 1940 Taraval St. at 29th Ave.

And now, some closures: sadly ~CORTEZ~ in the Hotel Adagio near Union Square and ~PRES A VI~ in the Presidio have both been taken down this past week by this challenging economy. And… scene.

Thanks to a tip from a tablehoppin' reader, there's a new place to get crepes in SoMa in the morning: ~CREPERIE SAINT GERMAIN~. It's a small crepe trailer next to Temple, run by owner Zee Aynaci. On offer: both savory and sweet crepes made with organic buckwheat and seasonal ingredients, plus waffles too. You can follow the trailer's tweets here. Open from 6am–9pm, and until 4am Fri–Sat. There's an "opening party" this Friday at 7pm—not sure what it entails, but I can imagine some tasty bites will be involved. 546 Howard St. at 1st St., 415-948-7348.

imageMission Mission mentioned a Thai/Vietnamese pop-up brunch happening at Doc's Clock on Sundays called ~THREE PAPAYAS~. Entrées include Vietnamese crepes and papaya salad, reportedly $8 and under. 12pm–4pm. 2575 Mission St. at 22nd St., 415-824-3627.

More sweet treats: ~PACIFIC PUFFS~ is now open in Cow Hollow, serving six kinds of fresh-baked cream puffs made from an old family recipe. Open daily 11am–8pm. 2201 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-440-7833.

As Eater noted, it looks like ~CHAPEAU!~ has moved homes and is now in the Clementine space—we'll have to see what owner Philippe Gardelle decides to open in the original space (one rumor is a wine bar). 126 Clement St. at 2nd St.

imageThings are close for the ~NEW PEOPLE COMPLEX~ in Japantown, due to open this Friday August 15th. There will be a Japanese movie theater in the basement showing anime movies, Japanese fashion stores (like Sou Sou and Japanese Lolita brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright), art galleries, and the Viz Cinema Café, serving Blue Bottle Coffee and bento boxes and curry dishes from Delica rf-1. 1746 Post St. at Webster.

According to some posters on Yelp, ~SUSHI TONI~ is officially open in the former Sushi Man space. The reviews so far mention rolls like the Hanukah (salmon skin, smoked salmon, ikura), the Swamp Roll (wakame salad and spicy tuna), and the Philly Roll (yup, with cream cheese). (If those kinds of rolls turn your crank.) 731 Bush St. at Powell.

And here's more sushi-related news: a contact at La Cocina told me that there's yet another new sushi restaurant in town, but this one's got a twist. Serving a very specific clientele, and to be located in the Financial District, sushi chefs straight from Hastings, Japan will be creating crazy rolls like The California Bar (crab meat and avocado in a square roll), Tortes and Appeals (smoked salmon and watercress with wasabi-ginger-yuzu dressing), and more. Anyway, sounds a little random, but who am I to judge? The name of the place? ~SOSUMI~.

Also in the random file: for those of you trying to plan a group party, if you just want to do drinks and bites, ~ANDALU~ is offering a special group set menu of small plates for parties of six or more for $19.95 per person. You can also request all-you-can-drink sangria or beer on tap for $15 for two hours (but you have to "pre order" that when making arrangements). Don't blame me for your sangria headache the next day, that's all I'm sayin'. 3198 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-621-2211 .

More random-ness: if you're going to the de Young for the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit, you might want to know on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, there is a special program, ~TUT AT TWILIGHT~, offering a special prix-fixe menu as well as discounted admission to the exhibition. The local and seasonal menu includes a trio of warm summer tomato soup, cucumber garbanzo salad, and tabbouleh, plus an entrée of grilled Marin Sun Farms beef tenderloin skewer, and a strawberry and rhubarb tart. The menu is $14, or $21 with a glass of wine; discounted Tut at Twilight admission is $20 for adults, seniors, students, and groups, and $15 for youth 6–17 and FAMSF members. Now through September 30th. For more information, visit Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive.

Coming up this Saturday August 15th is ~YBCA'S WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? LATE-NIGHT PARTY~, and farmerbrown's Little Skillet will be serving food, like three kinds of sliders (pulled pork, goat cheese with fig-onion jam and arugula, or goat cheese with heirloom tomato and arugula), fried chicken, mini pecan pies, and more. There's also live music, art, cocktails, and more. 9pm–2am.

Lots of seasonal events around town, including a local, sustainable, organic ~TOMATO DINNER~ on Sunday August 16th with chef Liz Bills (California Table) and Melissa Axelrod (Melissa Claire). It will be held at Mercedes Hair of the Dog on Commercial Street. Guests will be greeted with bubbles and passed appetizers. The meal will then be served family-style (except a few dishes that get their own plate). The dinner is a prix-fixe menu at $55 a person, with optional wine paring (all local wines!) for an additional $30. There will also be a cash bar at the dinner for those who opt to purchase wine by the glass. 5pm. Check out the menu and purchase tickets on the website. 653 Commercial St. at Montgomery.

imageThere is also a ~FIG FEST~ at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday August 15th from 10am–1pm, with a fig education booth, you can pick up a handmade fig bar ($1 donation), a talk with an urban gardener, and fig-focused cooking demonstrations. (Photo from

imageFeeling crafty? Monday August 24th is a pickling workshop through ~URBAN PEASANT~ on quick, canned, and fermented cucumbers with Michelle Feurst from 6:30pm–8:30pm. (Michelle worked as the pickles curator for Slow Food Nation last fall.) $45. Buy tickets here. Hands On Gourmet, 2325 3rd Street, No. 330, at 20th St.

~URBAN KITCHEN~ is hosting a slew of events, including a kombucha brewing class on Tuesday August 18th; Butchery with Dave the Butcher of Marina Meats and Avedano's on Tuesday August 25th; Growing Food in Containers: the new Victory Garden and urban edible landscaping on Thursday August 27th; Jamming with Happy Girl Kitchen Co. and CUESA on Friday August 28th; and Vermi-composting (love your worms!) on Saturday August 29th. Dates, times, locations, and prices vary.

The renovated ~TAVERN AT LARK CREEK~ is now serving Sunday brunch from 10am–2pm, with dishes from chef Randy Lewis like a Southern Benedict over biscuits ($13.50); lunch items like shrimp and grits ($14.50); and special brunch cocktails like the Tavern Fizz with vodka, lemon, orange, egg white, sugar, cream, and seltzer. 234 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415-924-7766.

On Thursday August 20th, Jude Becker of Becker Lane Organic Farm in Iowa will be the guest speaker and guest of honor at a dinner at ~CAFÉ ROUGE~ featuring his organic pork. A sixth-generation hog farmer, he produces 6,000 humanely raised, organically certified pigs each year at his family-run farm. His organically raised, farm-milled grains are the feed for his exceptional product. On this evening, Café Rouge will add liverwurst, headcheese, spit-roasted leg of pork, meatballs, cured pork chops, and other dishes to its usual menu. Jude will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on his Berkshire and Chester White breeds. 1782 4th St. at Hearst, Berkeley, 510-525 1440.

There are some changes at ~GARIBALDIS ON COLLEGE~: the restaurant is closing on August 17th, and when it reopens, half of it will be like the San Francisco Garibaldi's (sexy vibe, narrow space, 80–90 seats, dark woods, smaller bar area), while the other half (the bar area) will transform into a second Marzano location. Garibaldis will also reopen with a new (and more affordable) menu—executive chef Scott Sasaki has been working with Marzano's exec chef, Rob Holt, on the new dishes. The Marzano part will open first on August 24th, while the Garibaldis side is scheduled for September 1st. 5356 College Ave. at Bryant, Oakland, 510-595-4000.

Some folks have been asking me about the timing of the second location of ~BAKESALE BETTY~ in Uptown/Franklin Square; I spoke with Alison Barakat, who said things have gotten delayed, so fingers crossed they open the second location in six months or so. 2228 Broadway at West Grand Ave., Oakland.

Carlos Altamirano of Mochica and Piqueo's is opening a third Peruvian location, ~COSTANERA~, in Montara this October. It's opening in the former Chart House, a three-story, 10,000-square-foot restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean that will be redesigned by Michael Brennan (Miss Pearl's Jam House, Marinitas, Cortez). Brennan will use natural elements, creating a more romantic atmosphere. The menu will feature up to ten ceviches from the Cevicheria Bar, and as many as 30 Peruvian dishes, plus the full bar will feature handcrafted pisco cocktails, Southern American wines, and quality beers. 8150 Cabrillo Hwy., Montara.

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

the sponsor

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the regular

Beggar's Chicken (before)

photos: Sasha Wizansky

Beggar's Chicken (unveiled)

Cha Ca La Vong

2030 Union St.
Cross: Buchanan St.
San Francisco, CA 94123


Sun–Thu 11:30am–11pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–12am

Apps $7.25–$14.88
Entrées $9.45–$25.88
Desserts $8.88

AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love it when a restaurant proves me wrong. I'm rather optimistic as a diner (and most definitely as a person), usually hoping the food will be pretty good when I go check a place out. I am always seeking surprises and secrets, whether it's an authentic or I've-never-seen-that-before dish, a totally passionate chef, or simply a good story of how a restaurant came to be.

So I'm the first to admit I had not been to ~BETELNUT~ in years—I had somehow written it off as an Asian fusion place I went in my 20s to eat hoisin pork and minced chicken in lettuce cups and the famed Szechuan green beans, but no more… I mean, really, why go eat Asian food in Cow Hollow when I can get authentic dishes elsewhere instead?

Boy, was that reasoning flawed. Chef Alex Ong is kicking some serious culinary booty, so please, learn from my mistake. I went to check out the Tuesday night "Pig Out" menu, featuring roasted suckling pig from Vande Rose Farms in Iowa, served with sugar snap peas that pop right in your mouth, and jasmine rice ($24.99 for two). It's a laborious three-day process to cook the 40-pound pigs, including a one-hour hot bath in a wok (that is some work!). Wait until you take a bite of the smoky and candy-like lacquered skin.

Whoa, was that goat belly on the menu of specials that night? Yup—a ridiculously delicious braised turmeric goat belly ($14.88) from Marin Sun Farms. It was less mouth coating than pork belly, with a pleasant gamey flavor sporting a bite from some accompanying sweet and spicy jalapeno vinegar—I also liked the squirt of acidity from the wedge of lime that the goat belly is served with. (This dish is not always on the menu, but it's on there often—you gotta get it.) There was even more meaty exotica on the specials menu: the Sri Lankan "black curry" mutton ($14.88), rich with cinnamon, cloves, and coconut milk, and so tender, with a prickle of spice.

The meat fest continued with the tender cumin lamb skewers ($11.88), feisty with the flavors of fermented black bean, coriander, and chili paste. These were followed by the glazed pork short ribs ($11.88), covered in a finger lickin' sauce that makes you forget your table manners–you don't want to lose one bit of delectable garlicky sauce to the hot towels. The ribs are twice cooked (braised, then fried), so the texture is that sublime combo of tender yet crunchy.

Don't pass up the dumplings either—there are four Cantonese ladies who make them each day, and the "newest" dumpling maker has been working for the restaurant for just shy of four years. Being the spice lover I am, I went for the "shui jiao" pork-chive-ginger dumplings ($9.75) that rest in a hot bath of fire-breathing/numbing Szechuan-peppercorn broth. Rawr.

My friend and I went nuts for the "Cha Ca La Vong," ($15.88), a famous dish from Hanoi's Old Quarter that dates back to 1871. Pan-seared white bass with turmeric, fish sauce, and garlic is served over rice noodles with fresh dill, peanuts, chiles, scallion, and cilantro. It totally did our heads in—what a dish. The dill elevates it on an entirely other level. I want to go back for it right now. Yes, right NOW. And it's prepared tableside, a nice touch.

Pssst, wanna know a cool secret? Every night there are only a few off-the-menu beggar's chickens ($27.88) available; it's a unique preparation of a Poulet Rouge chicken stuffed with lap cheong sausage (sweet Chinese dried sausage), mushrooms, and artichokes, all wrapped in an enormous lotus leaf and clay, and then baked.

The bird is presented to you at the table, and you take out your aggressions with a mallet and crack that clay exterior open. That's it—hit that plucker, hard! Then your server removes the broken clay pieces, and unwraps it. Awww, there it is! The bird almost looks like an unswaddled baby Jesus in the manger, all naked and shiny. Just wait until you take a bite of this tender, fragrant, savory chicken. It falls off the bone and right into your eagerly open maw. It's magic.

If you can make it to dessert, you can finish with a trio of refreshing sorbet and ice creams, like coconut or pineapple, or the creamy and cool coconut tapioca pudding with adzuki beans and crème anglaise (both $8.88).

The dining room is like the City's rumpus room, full of families (with teens or younger), dates, double dates, birthday groups of 20-somethings… It has a comfortable din, and the carpeted floors help absorb the sound. There's a definite upbeat soundtrack, an eclectic mix of smooth chill tracks to house-y beats, so don't bring grandma here unless she likes a younger scene. The mood is evocative, with a red and brown color scheme and dim lighting that make it right for a date, and the counter seats are perfect if you're flying solo. There's always a packed bar scene, with folks jockeying for drinks and the coveted sidewalk seating under heat lamps.

Service is friendly and skilled, and most impressively, Ong's kitchen crew has been working there a long time, many for the ten years he has been there. You should meet chef Ong—he has lots of stories, and is happy to share information about how things are prepared—and where in his many travels did he discover a particular dish.

So are you ready to go? Sure, you can do the usual fusion-y favorites here, but I really think the "road not taken" will yield more culinary wow moments—thank me later. How? You can bring me that Cha Ca La Vong fish, for starters.

the lush

Hot Valencia Restaurant SpaceAUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO This Wednesday August 12th, ~CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN~ and Quintessential Wines are hosting a complimentary wine tasting including selections from Spain, Italy, and Australia chosen by wine director Pamela Busch. The free tasting is limited to the first 50 attendees, so come early. (There will be additional discounts on these wines throughout the evening.) 6pm–9pm (or when the wine runs out). 1666 Market St. at Gough, 415-437-1770.

And not too far away, also this Wednesday the 12th, ~CONDUIT~ is hosting a little tasting with JAQK Cellars (from winemaker Craig MacLean). Chef Justin Deering will prepare some appetizers to accompany the wines being poured that evening. $20 for the public, and free for industry folks. 6pm–8pm. 280 Valencia St., at 14th St., 415-552-5200.

Next Monday August 17th, ~SPRUCE~ is putting on a Turley Winemaker Dinner ($140 exclusive of tax and gratuity). 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-931-5100.

On Saturday August 22nd, ~NEW ZEALAND WINE BY THE BAY~ will be at the InterContinental San Francisco, featuring over 200 wines from 40-plus New Zealand wineries like Spy Valley, Nautilus Estates, and Brancott Vineyards (plus bites from Enrico's, La Mar Cebicheria, and Chaya Brasserie). 12pm–4pm. Tickets are $40 in advance (buy tickets here), $50 at the door. Proceeds will go to the San Francisco Food Bank and the Doug Wisor Scholarship Fund. 888 Howard St. at 5th St.

Just a heads up that things are getting close for ~EVE~, the new female-oriented lounge in SoMa. The soft opening is currently slated for Saturday August 22nd of this month. You can read the past hardhat article here for project details. 575 Howard St. at 2nd St.

the socialite


San Francisco Natural Wine Week
Mon. Aug. 24th–Sun. Aug. 30th, 2009

Various locations


AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Another excuse to hit the bottle is here: ~SAN FRANCISCO NATURAL WINE WEEK~. Various locations around town will be featuring organic and biodynamic wines on their lists. No tickets are needed, just show up (but keep in mind normal reservation policies apply at both Uva Enoteca and Nopa). Follow the event website for more details on who is doing what at each location, but here's how it's mapping out thus far:

8/24 Monday – Terroir

8/25 Tuesday – Biondivino

8/26 Wednesday – Uva Enoteca

8/27 Thursday – Arlequin Wine Merchant

8/28 Friday – Nopa

8/29 Saturday afternoon (Italian whites) – The Jug Shop

8/30 Sunday – Natural Wine Symposium hosted at Terroir (2pm)

Tickets for the symposium are $15 and can be purchased directly through Arlequin Wine Merchant. Please call 415-863-1104 or email ian [at] arlequinwine [dot] com to purchase a ticket.

Flickr photo by xbluegoox.

Sun. Aug. 30th, 2009

801 22nd St.
Cross: Tennessee St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


12pm–until the food runs out

AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Now, ~FERRAGOSTO~ is traditionally held in Italy in mid-August—everyone goes to the beach or holds a picnic in the hills. Piccino decided to do their own little party, and let's just say a La Caja China roasting box will be figuring prominently. They plan to slow-roast a whole butterflied pig in this baby, while grilling Padron peppers, sausages, and whatever else catches their fancy at the market the day before over the top coals. They'll also have a few fun wines on hand, plus their current line-up of pizzas, salads, and desserts. No reservations required, just gather a few friends, don your casual duds, and come on down to the sunny Dogpatch.

the sugar mama


AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Starbelly is opening Tuesday August 18th (read all about it in the chatterbox), but they are hosting a few test meals before the launch. Whatcha doing on Sunday August 16th at 11am? I have two spots to give away to a test brunch for one winning tablehopper winner with a guest. It's free; you just need to bring cash for a gratuity for the server. (Starbelly, 3583 16th St. at Market, 415-252-7500.)

tablehopper readers can enter to win by forwarding this week's tablehopper newsletter to two buddies, but even more would be so very fabulous. Just tell your friends why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (not a blog!), or point out an event or happening that you think your friend would like. Simply CC or BCC luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com so I know you sent it—I promise I won't use anyone's email address.

Deadline to enter is midnight Thursday August 13th—I'll notify the winner on Friday. Good luck!

the starlet

AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO I was told Kerry Walsh (U.S. Beach Volleyball Olympic Champion) was at Brix in Napa for her sister's wedding.

At the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. event this past week, Rachel Dratch/"Debbie Downer" was in the mix, but most everyone was busy watching Thomas Keller (or "God," as one chef called him) move through the tasting tent.

On Friday, Isabelle Allende had lunch on the patio at the Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur.


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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