This week's tablehopper: this is your captain speaking.
Green papaya salad.
Happy New Year, folks! Hope yours was a blast, and hangover-free (mine, not so much—oops).
Last week was amazing—the highlight for me was definitely the sold-out tablehopper “Pho La La La La” supper at Pot de Pho. The place was packed with 75 charming and friendly and interesting tablehopper readers. I gotta say, I love my readership—what a delightfully social bunch you are. We feasted on chef Khai Duong’s flavorful and fresh Vietnamese cuisine, which paired smashingly with the wines from Pine Ridge. Thanks to all who came, helped, cooked, and poured—it was a wonderful sendoff to the year. I hoped to have all the pics uploaded before I left, but that just didn’t happen. Am looking forward to hosting more suppers very soon!
As you’re reading this, I should be on a plane to Mumbai, hopefully sleeping well and sitting next to someone delightful. And you always have to have a takeoff theme song—this trip’s is “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. Awww yeah. My sister and I are going to convene at the airport, and then we’re traveling around South India for the next three weeks (Goa, Kerala, Bangalore/Bengaluru). Not to sound like a broken record, but I won’t be checking voicemail or email (so please, no calls or emails if possible!), but I do plan to send out occasional transmissions on my Twitter feed.
I’ll have another pre-loaded column going out to you next week, and I will be officially “back” the first week of February! Let’s rock 2010!
Time to Say When in 2010
At the beginning of every New Year I have my annual snark about ten things I think are overexposed, overdone, and, quite frankly, I am over. But when I was writing this year’s list, sure, there are some things we’re seeing a bit too much of, but, for example, do I want to see the end of renegade food vendors with Twitter accounts? Or pizza? No, I certainly don’t. So below is a somewhat couched version, kind of a “rant lite.”
- Handmade pasta. So, I understand if you’re an Italian restaurant. And I’m the first to agree, pasta is delicious—especially the handmade stuff. But must it be on more menus than not? Why does everyone think they can make good gnocchi? I find I’m more disappointed than not. The last strand of linguine for me was when handmade pasta turned up as a course at The French Laundry. Basta!
- And yes, let’s talk about pizza mayhem. Trust, it really is one of my favorite things to eat. And it sure is recession friendly. But it’s getting out of hand and crazy hyped. My rule has been one great pizza place per neighborhood, maybe two if they’re pretty different—and that’s it! Let’s pause on the pies.
- Okay, I have absolutely no qualms to squawk about ultra lounges. Sure, they are somewhat effective in magnetizing the people I don’t want filling up my preferred bars and clubs, but come ON. This is San Francisco, not Vegas.
- The insane line of people at Ike’s. People, WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON? Are they sprinkling some shake on your Backstabber? Or is it the thrill of ordering sandwiches named Menage a Trois or MILF? I like Ike’s sandwiches, some of them are really good, but the sidewalk scene on a Saturday afternoon just boggles my mind. It’s like an Academy of Art jitney bus dropped off a gaggle of starving skinny jean-ed hipsters. I’m not sure when to go to get my sandwiches there anymore.
- I know some people are waaaay over the butchery of an animal carcass as a centerpiece for food events. (Especially the vegans.) But Ryan Farr rocks, I heart meatpaper, and the OPENrestaurant event at the SFMOMA was one of the most intense spectacles of the year. Discuss.
- And here’s another complicated one: street food. There are some mighty talented people in this town, all armed and ready with Twitter accounts, cooking up some good vittles on the fly. And besides, this city needed more food served on carts, trucks, and, uh, bike baskets. But like Ike’s, the LINES of people for some of these vendors is beyond my comprehension—you’ll see people waiting for more than an hour for the novelty of taking a bite of flatbread while outside on the street. Really? I blame the media for the overexposure. Oh right, I guess I’ll need to take some responsibility for some of that. Duly noted. Next!
- Okay folks, we’re officially in 2010. So wassup with all the music that still permeates restaurant websites? Whether it’s loud screechy singing, an accordion, or a circa 1998 easy house track, the only thing music on a website impels me to do is find the STOP button. Immediately. Trust me, visitors who are trying to cruise your site surreptitiously while at work will thank you if you cut out all the racket. Shhhhhh. Leave all the noise for your restaurant, right?
- Wine bars show no signs of slowing down around town. And many of them don’t seem to like serving wine at the proper temperature, or leave the bottles open for too long, and still get away with charging $14 a glass. When I see “we have 50 wines available by the glass,” my eyebrow shoots up. Yup, there they are, just sitting on the back bar getting warm. I’m not one for additional bureaucracy, but I really wish there was a wine bar certification program.
- There are enough places to get a burger around town, can we stop now? Where’s the beef? Uh, everywhere!
- And last but not least, can we all take it easy on the cologne, perfume, and (most importantly) secondhand smoke? This applies to everyone: servers, hosts, chefs, and guests. I may like smoked salmon, but smoky server who just had a cigarette break? Not so much.
Okay, my little annual rant is done. Let’s get ready for a year of sandwiches, porchetta, and bakeries. Love and kisses!
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Rosamunde Due to Open This Week in the Mission
According to a recent Tweet, ROSAMUNDE is due to open their second location on Monday January 11th in the former Cafe Arguello space in the Mission. GrubStreet had these details about the new location: “They plan to keep the existing Rosamunde menu, adding a couple of dishes that [partner Josh] Margolis says ‘won’t be expanded that far off of sausages.’ They’re building out the bar area and adding some 20 beer taps. The rest of the space will stay more or less the same, including those giant windows, but they’ll replace the existing tables and chairs with new communal tables, tall tables, and regular tables with bench seats. They won’t have table service, so you still order and pick up the food and beer at the counter.” 2832 Mission St. at 24th St.
Mission Minis Opening This Friday
After a ton of construction, Brandon Arnovick is happily going to be able to open his MISSION MINIS bakery and retail storefront this Friday January 8th. You’ll be able to swing by for just one (yeah, right) or a dozen of his mini cupcakes, and he will still do deliveries in his golf cart (the Cupcakemobile?). Hours will be 8am-6pm daily, closed Sunday. (Don’t forget, there’s also a kiosk in North Beach.) 3168 22nd St. at Capp, 415-378-7827.
Just In Time for Your New Year's Resolutions
Trying to eat healthier this year? The second BEAUTIFULL location in San Francisco is opening on Saturday January 9th (it’s going in the former Pasta Pomodoro space). There will be both indoor and outdoor seating (24 seats inside and 12 seats in the outdoor patio), and an open kitchen. There are new breakfast, lunch, and dinner items created by chefs Donna Insalaco and Ron Boyd, like baked polenta fries, and seasonal whole grain flatbreads with grilled chicken, pesto, and arugula. There will also be a full menu of coffee beverages made with Beautifull’s own specialty blend of organic Equator Estate coffee. And to finish, there will be freshly baked cookies made with whole spelt flour and flaxseed, or Straus Family Creamery frozen yogurt with TCHO Chocolate, homemade fruit compote, and granola topping options. 816 Irving St. at 9th Ave.
Say Aloha to a New Sandwich Spot in the Marina
I get excited about all kinds of business openings, but when it’s a family friend who has known me since I was a baby, well, let’s just say I’m extra excited. Hank Minkey, AKA Jack Lucky, is opening THE SANDWICH SPOT in the Marina, after working for too long for THE MAN. The space was formerly a Three Day Blinds space, so it was quite the build-out: the ceilings were raised to 12 feet, walls were knocked down, and some serious Aloha style was unleashed. (His family has a lifelong relationship with surfing and Hawaii.) Their Motto is: “Love All, Feed All” and you will see it hand carved into the handmade counter tops across the front windows, as well as Hank’s kids’ names, their cousins, some of their family and friends, and Hawaiian surf spots they love. The front “bar” or sandwich counter was handmade in hand-cut and hand-nailed bamboo, plus there are hand-carved nine-foot tall totem poles of solid redwood tree trunks (naturally fallen), carved by their friend “Tiki Bosko.” There are also a few antique surfboards, a variety of surf and hot-rod art, and super-friendly staff. And outdoor seating to boot! There is always plenty of parking in the big garage across the street.
They will hand slice the meat and cheese daily, bake the bread fresh daily (and throughout the day as needed), offer almost 30 original specialty sandwiches and house specials including a “secret sauce” (a garlic and olive oil blend) or “bomb sauce” (spicy!). $10 will get you a sandwich, chips, and a refillable drink! Beer and wine coming soon. They hope to open by Thursday or Friday of this week! Open daily 10am-9pm (hours subject to change).
The Sandwich Spot - 3213 Pierce St. San Francisco - 415-829-2587
Update on Bistro Aix
I had a chance to catch up with owner Jonathan Beard of BISTRO AIX, and it looks like the opening will be at the end of February (fingers crossed). Will update you on the renovation changes as the opening gets closer.
Bistro Aix - 3340 Steiner St. San Francisco - 415-202-0100
Barbacco Opening Soon
Alas, I wasn’t able to get an opening date before hopping on my plane, but BARBACCO should hopefully be opening over the next couple weeks (check their Twitter feed to keep up with the news). This casual lil’ sis of PERBACCO is an “eno trattoria,” serving lunch and dinner. Chef-owner Staffan Terje created the menus, and chef Sarah Burchard (previously the sous at Perbacco and a big contributor to the fantastic salumi program) is co-creating and executing the menu. Lunch will have a seasonal and rotating selection of sandwiches, salads, baked pastas, salumi, and entrées that will also be available to go. Some examples include a roasted porchetta sandwich with grapes and grilled radicchio agro-dolce; fried ribollita; and a whipped salt cod sandwich with roasted tomato and arugula (I guess we’ll have to wait until the summer for that one).
For dinner, you can just swing by for a bite, like ascolane (fried olives stuffed with pork garnished with grated pecorino stagionato), or a more fulfilling meal, with dishes like Sicilian meatballs with braised chard, tomato and pinenuts, or hen egg occhio di bue (bullseye) on braised rapini, tomato, and ‘nduja. You’ll also be able to buy house-cured salumi and two-week-old olive oil imported directly from Italy.
Perbacco’s wine director, Mauro Cirilli, has chosen 100 wines by the glass, half of which will be available by the taste, glass, quartino, and mezzo, and all are going to be stored in temperature-controlled cases (hallelujah). The selection will focus on viticulturists embracing the philosophy of producing wine in a natural way—almost all of the wines will be biodynamic and will hail from Italy, its surrounding countries, as well as the North American West Coast, from California to British Columbia. There will also be draft beers from Anchor Brewing Company, 21st Amendment, and Magnolia breweries. The 66-seat eatery was designed by Cass Calder Smith (CCS Architecture), and includes a rich black marble bar for counter seating, a bright yellow wood beverage case, dark grain walnut deuces, and smaller communal tables. Lunch will be served Mon-Fri from 11am-3pm, and dinner Mon-Sat from 5pm-10pm. Take-out will also be available.
Barbacco - 230 California St. San Francisco - 415-955-1919
Zazil in Westfield Has Closed
ZAZIL RESTAURANT in the Westfield Centre closed over the first weekend of the New Year. They will continue to focus on their sister restaurant, Colibri Mexican Bistro.
I received this casting call and thought I’d pass this along for all you awesome home chefs: “Gordon Ramsay and the producers of The Biggest Loser are now casting amateur chefs for a new inspirational cooking show! Can you cook well despite never having been formally trained? We are currently searching for budding chefs from all walks of life—amateur chefs, passionate foodies, the ultimate dinner party hosts/hostesses… Now one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, Gordon Ramsay, is giving you the opportunity to become a MasterChef!
“MasterChef is a show that celebrates great people who make great food. The show will give contestants the opportunity to develop their cooking skills while being encouraged, mentored, and celebrated by the industry’s best and evaluated by world-renowned judges! If you are passionate about cooking and ready to change your life then audition for MasterChef, an inspiring cooking show from the producers of The Biggest Loser!
- We will NOT be considering professional chefs who work in professional kitchens!
- Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and either a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident with the unrestricted ability to work in the U.S.
“For more detailed nationwide audition information and to download the application, click here. All casting call applicants MUST bring one prepared dish to be served at room temperature. You will be able to plate your dish at the given casting location. You will be responsible to bring any utensils or other materials you may need.”
There are many casting locations, but here’s the one in San Francisco below.
Sunday Jan 24, 2010 11am–4pm more info
New Chef at Piccolo Teatro
PICCOLO TEATRO in Sausalito has had a chef change: chef Travis Flood has departed, and taking his place is Amey Shaw. Her extensive background includes her start at the Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley under Mark Miller and Paul Bertolli; five years at Bentley’s Seafood and Oyster Bar (she says it’s where she really gained her knowledge about seafood); and she was a co-owner of the Alta Plaza (oh, the days), plus she’s had a take-out business and does a lot of consulting. She has made some changes to the lunch menu, adding a variety of piadine, like one with soppressata, Fontina, roasted cherry tomatoes, and an egg on top. The lunch menu now has a special of a piadina or panino for $10, with soup and salad included, and one of her new dinnertime dishes includes pumpkin ravioli with chive butter and ginger. No word on what Flood’s next move is—he was considering working a restaurant in the city, but it didn’t work out.
Meatless Monday: Cooking and Eating More Plants
18 REASONS is hosting a plant-based cooking demonstration and tasting. Whether for your physical health, the health of the planet, or the health of your bank account, eating more plants has a lot of perks. This class is especially good if you identify as a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, flexitarian, or human (har). In this two-hour demonstration class you’ll learn: how to meet your protein needs with only plant based foods, simple and quick dishes that can be made and enjoyed any day of the week, and how to make hearty meals that will satisfy even the hungriest of eaters. Chef Trudy Schafer will lead you through the preparation (and tasting!) of a layered dish of Squash Polenta, White Beans, and Greens and a warm and comforting Coconut Curry Stew. Trudy is a natural chef who brings a holistic healing approach to the kitchen using organic whole foods. She runs the personal chef business The Healing Hearth.
Monday Jan 11, 2010 7pm–9pm $20 18 Reasons members; $30 general more info
18 Reasons - 3674 18th St. San Francisco
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
(Sponsored): Register Now for the Fancy Food Show
Start off the New Year by attending the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show—the largest specialty food show in the West Coast.
It’s happening this month, from January 17th to the 19th at the Moscone Center. The Show features over 1,500 exhibitors and showcases more than 80,000 food and beverage products. It is also regarded as one of the best ways to uncover new trends, tastes, and products.
Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Fish 'n' Flicks
“Imagine an ocean without fish. Imagine your meals without seafood. Imagine the global consequences. This is the future if we do not stop, think and act.” —The End of the Line
Details were still getting assembled on these upcoming sustainable seafood restaurant dinners, but I wanted to get them on your radar. The producers of the international documentary The End of the Line are partnering with some of America’s most renowned and ecologically conscious chefs to host Fish ‘n’ Flicks dinners. All menus will feature sustainably sourced, mostly local, and totally delicious seafood, and will feature a 26-minute version of the film.
Jan. 12th 6:30pm screening, dinner immediately following Yankee Pier 3593 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette Mercantile Building, Lafayette, 925-283-4100 Price: TBD
Jan. 15th 7pm five-course tasting menu of local seafood prepared by Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish Market; the screening between courses two and three 18 Reasons 593 Guerrero St., San Francisco Price: $85 general/$75 members Buy tickets/view the menu
Jan. 20th 6:30pm screening followed by tasting menu of local, “small boat” seafood Oliveto 5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356 Price: $45
More dinners will be posted here as they’re finalized. And anyone who wants more information can contact Anna Ghosh directly.
2010 Wine Dinners to Benefit Open Hand
Tuesday Jan 26, 2010 – Wednesday Mar 24, 2010 $75 Tickets
Angove Family Winemakers, one of Australia’s oldest family-owned wine producers, is continuing its monthly San Francisco-based dinner series in the new year. Co-host Vivien Gay, a prominent leader within the Bay Area’s gay and lesbian community, has partnered with some San Francisco chefs to create diverse menus highlighting the Angove Nine Vines wines.
The four-course dinners will be paired with Nine Vines wines from South Australia: 2008 Grenache-Shiraz Rosé, 2008 Viognier, and 2008 Shiraz-Viognier. Each of these wines are sourced from Angove’s own Nanya vineyard and premium growers in the Murray Valley of South Australia, 150 miles northeast of Adelaide.
A limited number of tickets are available for $75 per person. Tickets are now on sale for the first three dinners in 2010.
Tuesday January 26th Orson Restaurant Bar & Lounge 508 4th St., San Francisco Featuring chef Elizabeth Falkner
Wednesday February 24th Betelnut 2030 Union St., San Francisco Featuring chef Alexander Ong
Wednesday March 24th Scala’s Bistro 450 Powell St., San Francisco Featuring chef Jennifer Biesty
Angove is a continuing sponsor of Project Open Hand, and a minimum of 30% of ticket sales for the 2010 dinner series will benefit the local San Francisco charity. Project Open Hand aims to meet community nutrition needs through programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, the homebound/critically ill, and seniors.
Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)
A Spirited 2010 Ahead
Jerry Cooper owns Swirl on Castro, a wine/spirits retail store and wine bar in San Francisco’s Castro district, and is an active participant in the wine and spirits world. He judges for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Panel, The SF International Wine Competition, and the SF World Spirits Competition.
A Spirited 2010 Ahead
Eff 2009. Global warming, recession, swine flu, health care diatribes, Kylie tour … I NEED A DRINK. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” is over, and I don’t know about you, but the only thing that could make January more depressing is to completely forgo my favorite adult beverages. A bit of moderation will do the trick. Quality, not quantity. Grab a good friend and head to your favorite bar stools and try something new to welcome in the New Year. Let’s call it the Spirit of 2010—greet the new Y2K with your heads held high. It’s going to be a good year.
DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND.
Every now and then a product comes along that catches our eye—and martini glass. Although wary of glitzy-glam packaging, I always keep an open mind. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to DIAMOND STANDARD VODKA from Poland. Each tall, slim, perfume-grade Saverglass bottle is appointed with a round-cut 25mm Swarovski crystal from the crystallized elements collection. This rye-based vodka is handmade to a high standard, and comes with the tagline, “This is what diamonds taste like.” One would assume this to be true, as Diamond Standard is distilled four times and filtered through thousands of De Beers diamonds. Really. Diamond Standard is produced by the master distiller from Chopin, who also happens to own Belvedere Vodka, so it comes with pretty good credentials. It certainly is uncommonly smooth, with ephemeral hints of citrus and grassiness, and finishes with the barest hint of thyme. Yes, it’s true, I like a little VEGAS with my vodka. Try it straight up or on the rocks with a twist. $78.00 btl (750ml)
GIN IS IN for 2010.
Gin has been an up-and-coming spirit for several years, and we are seeing some super high-quality gins hit the market. Peak Spirits is producing one of the most interesting gins we have had in ages. History shows that when I start talking about organics or biodynamics, people quickly slump into a doze. But it really is the true-to-the-earth-green way to produce anything that grows from soil. CapRock Organic Dry Gin is grown, fermented, and distilled at the Jack Rabbit Hill Biodynamic Farm in western Colorado’s North Fork Gunnison Valley, along with CapRock Vodka and a few brandies and eau de vies. This organic dry gin is a unique blend of fruits, buds, seeds, and spices infused and distilled in a base spirit made with organic Jonathon and Braeburn apples. Try it, it is uniquely delicious. And like it says right on the bottle, “This is not your grandmother’s gin.” $39.50 btl (750ml)
TRADITION IS BACK.
The Willett family distillers brought the age-old techniques from England in the early 1600s—and today’s Willett Single Barrel Estate Reserve Bourbon (okay, that’s a mouthful) sets the standard for all of you bourbon drinkers out there. This gift-worthy sleek, tall-necked bottle is hard to miss; a reproduction of a glass pot still decanter. More importantly, inside the bottle is balance and elegance—this toasted amber elixir is tinged with vanilla, cinnamon, soft mint, coconut, and crème brûlée. Try it neat, or with a splash of Vya Sweet Vermouth and a cherry. $55.50 btl (750 ml).
Let the good times roll in 2010—Happy New Year.
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Comedy Summit in MIL(F) Valley
From a cheeky tablehopper reader: “spotted holding forth center table at Piazza d’Angelo’s main dining room post-Tuesday night stand-up comedy night, comedy legend Mort Sahl, along with disciples Mark Pitta, “Yid Vicious” Bobby Slayton, and (Oscar owner) Robin Williams.”