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Dec 7, 2009 20 min read

December 8, 2009 - hey fruitcake.

December  8, 2009 - hey fruitcake.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: hey fruitcake.

Yo yo yo (or should that be ho ho ho?). Thanks to everyone for the nice notes about the new tablehopper newsletter format and website—so glad you dig it. Things will continue to be tweaked and fine-tuned and super-charged in coming weeks, but I’m pleased you liked the first look! And to clarify for some of you who were confused: the “new house” was a metaphor for my new site—I’m not leaving my beloved and rent-controlled apartment in this economy, are you kidding me? Hells no. Just look at that view.

And many grazie to all of you for the thoughtful messages and well wishes for my recovery—my surgery went really well last Monday (and no, I wasn’t having my stomach stapled, although I do have a less-than-charming incision currently healing up, ow). I’m now nestled back in my apartment in SF after being at my parents’ home for most of last week, and am slowly getting back to my regular life. Let me tell you, the three-meals-a-day-cooked-by-mom meal plan was mighty fine indeed. Plus visits with the cats. And a daily cappuccino from my dad the barista. My parents rock. Now my poor sister is my heavy package and grocery delivery slave until I can carry things over 10 pounds.

Today I have a petite hopper for you. Frankly, I am still pretty darned tired and sore, and staying up until my usual 3am writing this thing is just not happening. But I did want to get some restaurant news and events on your radar, a roundup of holiday gift ideas to you, and there’s a holiday-oriented bookworm for you, too.

Keep cozy out there (I’m in bed so I am definitely toasty), and I’ll catch you next week.

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Tablehopper Holiday Gift Guide

You can’t deny it: the holidays are coming on, full steam ahead. Fortunately I am surrounded with food-lovin’ family and friends, so it makes holiday shopping easy. Below are ten ideas for folks on your list, or perhaps you want to give Santa a hint about what you’d like (wink wink).


Let’s start with an item on my list: the Herb Keeper from Cuisipro. I always remember to put my basil in water, but what about my sage, marjoram, and mint? The small size means you get your herbs out of the casket (i.e. your vegetable drawer) and someplace where you can see them, preserve them, and use them! $20? Nice.


‘Tis the season for olio nuovo. I eat way too many eggs when I have the grassy-green olio calling my name from my kitchen counter. It goes swimmingly on everything, from soups to salads to bruschetta. You can go local and get some of the peppery liquid gold from McEvoy Ranch (pick it up at the Ferry Building or order online—$25 for 375mL), or go affordable and get some from California Olive Ranch ($15.97 for 500mL; order online). And then there’s the magical imported Italian olive oil from Casa de Case (pictured), a favorite of chefs around town (Quince, Delfina, Bix, A16)—and even chef Jonny Leiva who is now in New York gets it shipped to him. The oil arrived two weeks earlier this year, and is full of the heady aroma of freshly cut grass, but it’s not astringent—instead, it’s creamy and suited for many uses. It’s $38 for a .75 liter bottle, or check out the great gift boxes. Order here.


More olive oil goodness: Nudo: Adopt-An-Olive Tree is a family-run cooperative of olive groves dotted around a small hilltop village in the Marche region of Italy. You “adopt a tree,” and get to choose a specific olive variety. You can follow the progress of your tree for one year, and will receive a personalized adoption certificate and booklet that describes the tree, four 500ml tins of first cold press extra virgin olive oil from the tree in the spring (mid-April), three 250ml tins of infused extra virgin olive oil (i.e. lemon, chile, orange) in the fall, and an open invitation to visit your tree (awww). Among the many sustainable practices, Nudo farms organically, picks by hand, uses recycled material for the tins, ships by sea, and has even set aside a portion of the home estate as forest to offset the team’s carbon emissions. It’s a mellow and light olive oil—so it doesn’t pop in your mouth the way a Tuscan oil would or have a strong grassy flavor (if that’s a style you like). The adoption, products, and shipping are $150.


You liver isn’t the only thing that’s pickled this year: there are some local folks making pickles, like Boozelys. Brad Boozely is a waiter at Florio and a cyclist and pickle-maker inspired by his grandpa, who was a great pickler. Boozely offers some garlicky and snappy dill pickles, to bread and butter, to some of the best pickled string beans I’ve tasted (you may have admired the savory string beans in your Bloody Mary at Zeitgeist? Well, he makes ‘em.). You get a big 32 oz. jar for $10—$12. And here’s the best part: they’re delivered by bicycle. It’s the new elf style, yo. And as Brad told me, “Women love things that are pickled.” Except their husband, but yes, I’d have to agree.

And they’re not local, but I am crazy for the pickled beets from Pick-A-Peck Pickles in Yuba City. They’re tangy and just a touch sweet (the clove and cinnamon notes are an inspired match)—a perfect afternoon snack with goat cheese on crostini. And yay, they’re not mushy. You can find them at a variety of local markets around SF, and online.


Who doesn’t love a nice-smelling soap? Well, for the sustainably livin’ friend in your life, hook them up with some lard soap from Marin Sun Farms! Their tallow soap is made with 100% grass-fed beef fat that has been rendered into tallow and scented with natural citrus oils. It’s an old artisanal practice that dates back to pioneer times, and even earlier in history, when soap was made from animal fats. It’s good to see Kelly Smith of Rubber Ducky Soap Company is putting that practice back into rotation. This soap rocks—it smells lovely, lathers up like a dream, lasts a long time, and is putting all that leftover beef fat to use! 
This product can be purchased for $6 at the Marin Sun Farms butcher shop in Point Reyes Station, at the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market on Thursdays and Sundays, or through retail stores who also carry MSF meats, like Woodlands Market in Kentfield. You can also find the soap through the Rubber Ducky Stand at the Oakland Grand Lake Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and at Body Time in Berkeley. Great stocking stuffer.

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More meaty presents: our local man o’ meat, Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats is offering a holiday season gift basket during the month of December. You get to choose one of Farr’s limited edition letterpress posters made in conjunction with Hatch Show Print in Nashville (will it be Frisco Pig, Chicharrones, or Pork, The Noun?), a choice of one of the sassy t-shirts, and the new 4505 apron stating “Bacon is the New Black,” plus some crunchy chicharrones. The gift set is available for $50 plus tax and shipping; orders can be placed online. And tablehopper readers get a little something extra: anyone that says “the tablehopper sent me” at the 4505 booth at Thursday’s Ferry Building Farmers Market will get a free ‘Zilladog with the purchase of any merchandise (yup, even one poster). And in case you can’t make it to the market, buy all three of the Hatch Show Print posters from the website and receive a voucher for a free ‘Zilladog to redeem at the market anytime. Word.


More on the local art tip: check out these beautiful chicken block prints from Rigel Stuhmiller, a Berkeley-based artist. She has a new project called Chicken a Week: each week she makes one hand-carved, hand-pulled block-print portrait of a chicken and posts it to her website, along with a story of the chicken, the chicken’s owner, and any other interesting facts/links that the owner might want to supply. Chicken stars include Olive the Weather Hen (who helps do the weather forecast for a rural NY town), a rooster who sings the blues along with a harmonica, an urban hipster chicken, and a community outreach chicken. Because of their very handmade nature, no two are alike. These bwok-tastic prints are perfectly sized for a kitchen (8” x 10” on 9”x12” paper) and are only $45.


Here’s a good one for the stocking of any aspiring gourmands in your life: this handy little tip guide, the Essential Etiquette Dining Guide. It has 25 dining etiquette tips inside, from the correct way to eat soup to how to pass food properly. Heck, I even learned something new. Let’s all do what we can and keep manners alive, shall we? Only $3.


Who doesn’t love chocolate? Exactly. Recchiuti has released their annual holiday chocolates, from the snappy Peppermint Thins (10-piece box $8/24-piece box $18), to the Burnt Caramel chocolates with images of stockings (8-piece box $19), to the third edition of the Creativity Explored series called “Toys” by San Francisco artist Vincent Jackson. $2 from each sale goes to Creativity Explored, a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art (an 8-piece box of burnt caramel chocolate is $19). Swing by the San Francisco Ferry Building retail store or buy online.

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And last but certainly not least, I’m also a strong proponent of buying holiday gifts from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, which features more than 100 different products, projects, and services that help hungry children and their families around the world. You can buy two chickens for a family that will provide a daily supply of eggs for only $25; seeds, tools, and training in improved farming methods in Africa for only $30; all the way up to a dairy cow for $500 or a traditional water well that provides safe water for up to 150 people for $2,600. If there’s someone who is hard to buy for on your list or has everything they need, why not give something in their name to someone who is so desperately in need?

Yamasho Now Open in the Lower Polk

Looks like YAMASHO is now open in the Lower Polk. I was trying to scout down details for months, including going to the owner’s other place of business in Japantown (Izumiya), to no avail. But, now it’s open, and in addition to the usual sushi bar offerings, there are lesser-seen items on there too (complete with ESL translations on the menu). The main point of differentiation, however, is the ten themed karaoke rooms downstairs, ranging from the Osaka room to the New York room (the cheapest is the Hokkaido room, $45/hour for three—four people). The rooms also have their own set menus for snacking while you belt out Hooked on a Feeling. Yamasho is open from 5pm until 2am nightly, with sake, beer, and wine on offer.

Yamasho            - 1161 Post St. San Francisco - 415-346-2222

Sandbox Bakery Open in Bernal


Photo from

After the usual annoying amount of delays and setbacks that opening a business in San Francisco entails, Mutsumi Takehara’s SANDBOX BAKERY is now open as of yesterday, December 7th. Mutsumi’s background includes three years at the La Farine bakery in Oakland, and learned classic French pastry at Chez Panisse. She also worked at Rubicon, and was at the Slanted Door for 10 years. You’ll find small-batch and fresh-baked pastries made with the best quality, local, and organic ingredients possible, like a variety of croissants (savory and sweet), muffins, scones, biscuits, and cookies. Plus there are some items that integrate Japanese ingredients and style, like the kashi pan (challah) filled with negi (green onion) and miso paste. You can drool over the entire menu here. Speaking of drooling, Mutsumi, a mother of two, made sure there are some kid-friendly items to eat and play with. You can also perk up with single drip coffee from Ritual and De La Paz. Coming soon will be the addition of more lunch-y items, like English muffin sandwiches, salads, soups, pizzettas, rice burgers, and more. FYI, seating is limited: there’s an espresso bar, and benches outside. Hours are 6am—3pm daily.

Sandbox Bakery            - 833 Cortland Ave. - 415-642-8580

Gracias Madre Opening Delayed to 12/26


The much-awaited 100% organic and vegan Mexican taqueria from the Cafe Gratitude folks, GRACIAS MADRE, is now delayed until December 26th. The menu is full of handmade items, from tortillas to tamales, all made with heirloom corn grown on the restaurant’s organic and biodynamic farm in Pleasants Valley, the Be Love Farm. The menu also includes chile rellenos, enchiladas, and more. Appetizers are $5—$8, mains $10—$14, and desserts $7—$8.To drink, there’s Eel River organic beer on tap, a full organic wine list, Four Barrel espresso drinks, and organic fresh juices. There are 70 seats, and hours are 11am—11pm daily.

Gracias Madre            - 2211 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-285-7550

Here's Johnny

CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN has a new executive chef, John Maher. He was previously a sous chef at Aqua, and was chef de cuisine at Dry Creek Kitchen, and has trained at The French Laundry. His menu includes dishes such as crispy pig trotters with sauce gribiche ($12), and braised and pressed beef short ribs with Yukon gold pomme purée and vanilla-glazed Tokyo turnips ($25). Tonight also marks the kickoff of CAV’s annual fall mushroom menu, from December 8th—10th.

CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen            - 1666 Market St. San Francisco - 415-437-1770

Awfully Good

Anthony Myint and Danny Bowien of MISSION STREET FOOD are offering an offal menu this Thursday December 10th. And since they know industry people are usually the biggest fans of the stuff, they will stay open late for an industry happy hour from 11pm—midnight. All I can say is check out dessert at the end.

Here’s the amazing-sounding menu: charcoal grilled tripe: preserved melon, salmon roe, sweet herbs, shallot pickles, bitter greens; crispy sweetbreads: spicy scallop, pear and elderflower soubise, pea leaves, white soy; country-fried chicken livers: cornflakes, brussels sprouts, buttermilk dressing; roasted bone marrow: fresh dill, tomato toast; braised beef tongue: blackened grits, spicy mustard greens, pickled anchovy; trotter flatbread: ham hock rillette, cornichon, sauce gribiche; foie gras sundae: vanilla ice cream, huckleberry compote, shaved foie, corn pops.

Remember that MSF is now accepting reservations (email your name, time and party size any time before 3pm on the day of)! I also hear they are planning on taking MISSION BURGER to the streets, possibly Saturday evening at the 16th Street BART station from 10pm onward. Maybe. The plan is to serve burgers out of a taco truck, just like back in the beginning. So if you’re gettin’ your party on in the Mission, swing by!

               Thursday Dec 10, 2009 more info

Mission Street Food            - 2234 Mission St. San Francisco

Nutcrackin' Lunch


Are you taking the little one in your life to The Nutcracker? Maybe you are meeting up with a friend for a holiday lunch. You’ll be pleased to know Friday lunches are back at JARDINIÈRE for the month of December, offering lunch service from 11:30am—2pm on Friday December 11th and 18th. Jardinière will also open early at 4pm on days when there are Nutcracker matinees. On the menu: a 5 Dot Ranch hanger steak salad, with smoked blue cheese, and crispy onions ($18), and I am salivating over the Liberty Farms duck pastrami, with whole grain mustard aïoli, and watercress ($19). (Photo: © 2007—2008.)

Jardinière            - 300 Grove St. San Francisco - 415-861-5555

It's Gonna Be a Biryani Party at Curry Village

It ends up my favorite Indian chef, Kamar U. Barbhuyan, and his wife, Nimmie (they used to be at Little Delhi) have a “newer than the last new” location than I last reported. Once escrow closes later this month, it appears they will be taking over the second Cha-Ya location in the Inner Sunset, instead of Tasty Curry (apologies to Tasty Curry for posting incorrect information). And they have a new name, too: it will be CURRY VILLAGE (and not Loucknow Biryani House). Anyway, the projected opening date is December 15th—20th, will keep you posted.

Curry Village            - 1386 9th Ave. San Francisco - 415-731-2388


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Bi Rite Wine Blitz

Holiday Wine Blitz: Part Two

Despite its small size, Bi-Rite Market has one of the best wine selections in town. Wine buyer Trac Le’s selection of artisan wines includes great organic and biodynamic producers from California, Italy, France, Spain, and beyond, with more than 50 hand-picked wines under $15, a selection of great food wines at all prices, and bottles from cult producers like Quintarelli, Pegau, Huet, and Radio Coteau.

During Bi-Rite’s Second Holiday Wine Blitz (December 10th—13th), all wines are 20% off when you purchase any 12 or more bottles. The sale includes every wine in the store, and delivery is free in San Francisco! For more details, click here.

Bi-Rite Market, 3639 18th St. between Dolores and Guerrero, in the Mission District. For more information, call the store at 415-241-9760 or email

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Take a Break at Bar 888

BAR 888, the bar adjoining Luce in the Hotel Intercontinental, is offering a tasty evening break: a plate of farmstead cheeses and a sparkling wine flight from Domaine Chandon for $20. Sounds like my kind of way to unwind after a day of shopping, or catching up with a friend after work. The offer is available from 2:30pm—8pm daily until December 30th, 2009.

More Bubbles

william cross interior.jpg

This week’s Wednesday tasting at WILLIAM CROSS WINE MERCHANTS is a bubbly one! You’ll get to taste six different kinds of sparkling wines and Champagnes to see what you may want to be drinking and giving this holiday. On the docket: Domaine J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux; 2005 Domaine Carneros Brut Sparkling Wine; Serge Mathieu Blanc de Noir Champagne; Raventos I Blanc Brut Rose Cava; Taittinger La Française Brut Champagne; and Alfred Gratien Cuvee Brut Classique Champagne. (Photo by Mathew Sumner.)

               Wednesday Dec  9, 2009 6pm–9pm $15 more info

William Cross Wine Merchants            - 2253 Polk St. San Francisco - 415-346-1314

An Extra-Tasty Tasting


Broc Cellars winery is hosting a tasting of their “Naturale Series” this Sunday the 13th, and chef Ian Begg of NAKED LUNCH will be serving light bites to pair with each of the different varietals. It’s shaping up to be quite the lineup, here’s a peek: ‘08 Rose, “Naturale” Series with chevre mousse, persimmon, balsamic, basil; ‘08 Pinot Noir, “Naturale” Series, Tondre Grapefield Vineyard with wild mushroom, sea beans, thyme, puff pastry; ‘08 Grenache, “Naturale” Series, Eagle Point Ranch Vineyard with grilled pork belly,  scallions, apple glaze; and ‘07 Mourvedre, Luna Matta Vineyard with braised lamb, pomegranate, arugula.

               Sunday Dec 13, 2009 1pm–5pm $15 more info

Naked Lunch            - 504 Broadway San Francisco

18th Hour: Holiday Champagne Tasting

Celebrate the holidays at 18 REASONS with a very bubbly 18th Hour. Bi-Rite’s wine buyer, Trac Le, will pour 6 Champagnes from the region’s well-known and cult producers. The lineup will include: Larmandier Bernier “Terre de Vertus”; Agrapart ‘7 Crus’; Jacquesson ‘Cuvee 737’; Alfred Gratien Champagne; Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve; and Billecart Salmon Rosé. Yeah, you saw that right—they’re pouring some Billy. Please note the Champagne supplies are limited to the first 50 people to arrive.

               Thursday Dec 17, 2009 7pm–9pm Donation at the door: $15 members, $20 general more info

18 Reasons            - 3674 18th St. San Francisco

This Holiday, the Sound of No Corkage

METRO CAFE 311 is offering no corkage/free BYOB this holiday season until the end of December 2009 (except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve). Also by popular demand from their loyal regulars, they are offering a “Metro Kathmandu Daily Special,” such as their delicious momos, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, and saag paneer during the holiday season.

Metro Cafe 311            - 311 Divisadero St. San Francisco - 415-552-0903

Bullitt Is Now Catching Air on Polk Street

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The Tonic owners are in the midst of opening BULLITT in the former Bar Johnny space on Russian Hill. They have already put up fresh paint, installed some TVs, and in the coming weeks, look for a few communal tables, new tabletops, and new barstools, plus a mini dancefloor in the back which should get going after 10pm. The menu is all about affordable pub fare, with a variety of burgers named after 60’s personages, from the Miles Davis (blue cheese and bacon) to the Charles Manson (sautéed jalapenos, Sneaky’s BBQ habanero sauce, Tapatio, and grilled onions)—and they’re almost all under $10, including a choice of a side (five kinds of fries, mac and cheese, onion rings, etc.). You’ll also find bar-friendly food like wings and nachos, plus a variety of salads. Weekend brunch will feature an all-you-can-eat buffet for $9.95 from 10am—3pm, and they are also continuing the weekend bottomless mimosa mayhem for $15. Or you can get a Bloody Mary and a half pint of beer for $10. During the week, hours are 4pm—2am, with the kitchen open late, until 1:30am.

Bullitt            - 2209 Polk St. San Francisco - 415-268-0140


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the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)

The Holiday Bookworm: by Pete Mulvihill

Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.

Well, it’s that time of year again—I get to present a few new food-related books to you tablehopper readers. The hard part is paring our 14 cases of cookbooks to a manageable handful. But here goes.

I Love Macarons

I Love Macarons                        Hisako Ogita

First is our surprising fall bestseller: I Love Macarons by Japanese pastry chef Hisako Ogita. My co-worker Aeri swears by the simple step-by-step instructions with clearly written text and plenty of pictures. What better gift to whip up for friends this season than a few of these cute and buttery gems?

The Best Soups in the World

The Best Soups in the World                        Clifford Wright

Next up is another seasonally appropriate book: The Best Soups in the World by James Beard Award winner Clifford Wright. I tried the Turkish lentil and mint soup first, and it was simple, scrumptious, and healthy. The hearty and filling paparot (a spinach and cornmeal soup from northern Italy) was also easy and delicious. With 247 recipes from all over the globe for all seasons, you can’t go wrong with this one.

What We Eat When We Eat Alone

What We Eat When We Eat Alone                        Deborah Madison

For a narrative, I recommend What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison (the founding chef of Greens restaurant). The title is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the tone and variety of answers to the title’s implicit question that make it so compelling. This charming collection of stories, essays, and recipes is whimsically illustrated, too. It’s part memoir, part cookbook, and pure fun.

Vefa's Kitchen

Vefa's Kitchen                        Vefa Alexiadou

Next up is Greece’s version of the Joy of Cooking: Vefa’s Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou. Vefa has been the best-selling cookery writer in Greece for 30 years, and this book is billed as the bible of authentic Greek cooking. The recipes are mostly simple and pretty healthy, and the book is rife with mouth-watering photographs of both food and Greece. A hefty, colorful tome of 700 pages, this is sure to please any lover of Mediterranean cuisine.

Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes

Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes                        Thomas Keller

To round out this month’s cookbook selection, I offer Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes. The publisher calls this “the uncomplicated Thomas Keller as he’d cook at home”—no sous vide or intricate garnishes here. Just iconic American dishes with clear instructions, useful tips, and lush pictures. A gorgeous book you’ll actually use.


Momofuku                        David Chang and Peter Meehan

Finally, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the Momofuku book again (I reviewed it last month), as it’s our best-selling cookbook right now besides I Love Macarons.

Bon appetit and thanks for reading.

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the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Danko is All About Stars

Now, this is what I call some star powah: Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck dined alone at GARY DANKO on Sunday night. They were reportedly very nice. (Personally, I keep holding out for a story when a star is really nasty and demanding.)

See, Everyone Goes to the Farmers Market

A couple tweets announced Julia Louis-Dreyfus was at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

God Visits the Embarcadero

tablehopper reader Patti M. spotted Thomas Keller having lunch at LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA.

Warming Things Up at 1300

Super hottie Shemar Moore, originally from SF, stopped by 1300 ON FILLMORE. He was in town to celebrate the holidays with his mom who still lives in SF. He played Malcolm Winters in The Young and the Restless, was a former Soul Train announcer, and plays FBI special agent Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds.

The Black Crowes and Brasseries

Adam MacDougall, the keyboardist of The Black Crowes (which had five sold-out Fillmore concerts last week) was spotted at FLORIO for dinner before the show on Friday.

No, He Won't Spit Water on You

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and his actress girlfriend Connie Nielsen ate at Tiburon Grill at The Lodge at Tiburon—they were with friends and some kids. A few young’uns in the restaurant came up to Lars to have him sign autographs, but were too shy to ask, so Connie told Lars about it and he turned around and chatted with them and signed some autographs.

Busy Nights at Picán

PICÁN restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown district hosted quite the slew of special guests: singer, dancer, and actress Rita Moreno dined with her husband and two friends, and in the sporty category, Randy Winn, outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, was in with his family celebrating his wife’s birthday. And then Devean George, forward/guard for the Golden State Warriors was in with a friend. Looks like playing ball works up quite the appetite, because Devean had two entrées: the Corvina sea bass and the black pepper-crusted salmon.

And Now, the Ken Burns Effect... at Dinner

I’m impressed a tablehopper reader knew what Ken Burns looked like. Reader Zach B. spotted him at NOPA. Burns reportedly “has the hair of a thirteen year old and he definitely seemed to be enjoying his dinner with a huge smile on his face.”

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