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Feb 1, 2010 27 min read

February 2, 2010 - a passage from India.

February  2, 2010 - a passage from India.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: a passage from India.                    

A Chowpatty beach night vendor.

Namaskar! After three remarkable weeks in Southern India, I am back! Well, almost: I am still making my way through 1,300 emails and 2,500 RSS feed headlines, but I’m getting close. And this jet lag is no joke: I’ve been falling asleep stupidly early and waking up at 6am, which is the polar opposite of the usual Marcia: I feel like I’m a mom, or I’m a working stiff with a long commute somewhere. There is no espresso strong enough to keep me awake past 10pm. WTF. Just call me grandma.

It’s funny how many people have asked me, “Why India?” And to that I say why on earth not? True, it’s not for everyone—things can be a bit grotty, cramped, crazy, and heart breaking, but for me, this was the most important trip I have ever taken in my life thus far. I met some of the most curious, kind, lovely, and warm people ever; the food was incredible and revelatory (we only had a couple “meh” meals, and my sis and I didn’t get sick until my last day, huzzah); and almost every place we went to was quite fascinating, if not totally beautiful. It was heaven to go away and get a blast of heat and beach time in the middle of our winter. And Mumbai? I can’t wait to write to you about it—it was my favorite.

I have never felt so far away from everything—well, except Burning Man (those of you who have been know what I’m saying). And in a weird Burning Man parallel, it’s definitely been an adjustment since I’ve come home—things are quieter, more orderly, concrete-covered, and less colorful here. I guess I got used to having lots of people around me at all times. I’m also trying to sort through a lot of Western guilt that came up while I was there—I am so blessed with my comfy and healthy life here, I can’t begin to count the ways. But I’m going to try to, because this trip away gave me one hell of a perspective on how much we have. America can be such a strange bubble. It was good to leave it so I could be reminded of that.

India was indeed a life changing experience, and I am so pleased I was able to take this trip with my fabulous sister—we had such a great time together. We laughed a lot. I am cranking to edit and upload my slew of photos by next week, so stand by! Let’s just say there are 1,100 images I’m trying to pare down and caption, whew. And there will be a writeup of the trip as well! I’d love to encourage people to go—I can’t believe it took me this long to go there, and I’m already plotting my return. Although next time I will bring some 750ml bottles of wine in my bag—I was craving some vino something fierce out there (it was all about Kingfisher beer).

And so … now it’s back to my San Francisco life. It was exciting to come home to an advance copy of my book in the mail, that’s for damned sure! The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion comes out March 9th, which is coming up fast. I’m lining up a bunch of fun events and signings all over the Bay Area—I’ll have a calendar and updates on a few events for you next week.

You ready for a beast of a column? Rawr, here it is.

Looking forward to seeing you on the town,

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

The End of the Line

T.S. Eliot may have said, “April is the cruellest month,” but for the restaurant industry, it has to be January. With the end of holiday parties and a typically slow beginning of the year, plus looming taxes, it’s when a lot of places decide to throw in the towel and call it quits. I was sorry to come home to such a long list of restaurant closures, including POLENG LOUNGE (damn damn damn); VIVANDE PORTA VIA (heck, no more of my favorite eggplant sandwiches—I loved that snack); CAFE MARITIME (I’m hoping Mark Micheltree pops up elsewhere as promised with his chowder and coconut cream pie); CONDUIT (here’s wishing the talented team all the best); SHANGHAI 1930 (although it seems George Chen is potentially opening a project at 101 California); COTE SUD in the Castro (replaced by a place called Curry Boyzz, cough); MI LINDO YUCATAN (I was a fan of their cochinita pibil); and CARTE415 has also been parked.

And then there’s the news that the truly infamous 24-hour PINECREST DINER has its windows papered over—I was wondering if it was truly kaput, because the number is still connected, but I didn’t get a call back. (This just in: Eater reports it’s just closed for a quick remodel.)

Citizen Cake Moving Across Town

have cake.JPG

After ten years on the corner of Grove and Gough, Elizabeth Falkner is closing CITIZEN CAKE on February 23rd, and will be reopening in the Vivande Porta Via space on Fillmore Street in mid-March. She said she is sad to leave their wonderful Hayes Valley customer base, but she’s looking forward to having more foot traffic, and is excited to be working on the new lunch and dinner menus. Citizen Cake’s fabulous brunch is going to be moved to ORSON, and is kicking off the first weekend in March. I’ll have more details on everything next week; this was just a little amuse bouche, if you will.

Pizzaiolo Jon Darsky "Peels Out" of Flour + Water


One of Darsky’s pizza margheritas.

I returned to SF to learn the much-lauded pizzaiolo at FLOUR + WATER, Jon Darsky, has left. We had a chance to talk, and the departure was amicable and respectful—he is leaving so he can start focusing on his own project, which is hard to do while working full-time in such a busy kitchen. He says of his departure, “Not to say the experience wasn’t great, but working all those hours wasn’t going to get me closer to building my dream.”

Darsky, a New Yorker whose background also includes Pizzaiolo and Pizzeria Delfina, is currently scouting neighborhoods where he can open a pizzeria with a wood oven, turning out Neapolitan-style pies made with American ingredients. (The dough-obsessed Darsky is proud to use American flour.) He would also like to offer sandwiches during the day, made on fresh-baked bread. He is going to be working with his brother on the project, who will be coming out from New York to work with him. As for Flour + Water, chef and partner Thomas McNaughton is running the show, with staffing adjustments being made in the kitchen as needed.

Beer Lovin' Chefs on the Move

Ronnie New, the former chef of MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY is now at THE REPUBLIC in the Marina, and taking his place at Magnolia is Matt Kerley, whose track record includes Myth, Zinnia, Slow Club, and One Market.

Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery            - 1398 Haight St. San Francisco - 415-864-7468

A New Soul Food Place Unveils... the Burger Dog!


Another project I have been tracking for a while is FRISCO FRIED, a new soul food joint that opened up on January 16th after months of work and preparation. It’s a family affair: owner Marcel Banks and his uncle-chef Geeto, who have both grown up in Hunter’s Point, are working with the rest of their family to get the project going. And so far, the neighborhood is reportedly loving it. The menu includes chicken and waffles (with two pieces of chicken, only $5), all kinds of seafood (like the popular garlic-roasted crab and noodles), oxtails, and get ready for this: the burger dog. Chef Geeto’s creation is either ground chuck or turkey that’s seasoned and then rolled up like a link, and served with condiments in a hot dog bun. I am all over it—will report back soon!

Frisco Fried            - 5176 3rd St. San Francisco - 415-822-1517

Closures at the Ferry Building Marketplace


The Ferry Building. Photo courtesy of Ferry Building Marketplace.

Changes are happening at the Ferry Building Marketplace, with some grumbles that tenants are reportedly moving on due to challenging lease negotiations/higher rent. The casualties: Tsar Nicoulai Caviar closed (Heath Ceramics is moving into their space), and additional departures include LuLu Petite, and Mastrelli’s Delicatessen  is closing in March. Read some reports on what’s happening here and here.

Heart Now, Uh, Beating in the Mission


Photo: Judy Parker.

A while back I mentioned the wine bar-gallery-restaurant called HEART opening in the Mission. Well, it’s now open, and there are all kinds of additional details to share. The menu is not just your usual wine bar cheese plate or charcuterie spread, no sir: Kitchenette is actually behind the menu, ranging from offerings like chopped liver to a crudo of scallops (both $8) to heartier small plates, like cider-braised Marin Sun Farms goat shank ($14) or a Berkshire pork blade steak ($12). It’s a wine bar that’s trying not to take wine toooooo seriously, so when your Gaglioppo turns up in a Mason jar, don’t freak out (you can read more on the owner’s reasoning for the quirky glassware here). You can also buy bottles to take home. And then there’s always craft beer. Or cider. Or sake. Or sherry!

Hours are 12pm-10pm, closed Tuesday, and dinner is served Wed-Mon 5pm-10pm; lunch service is slated to kick off February 10th (here’s hoping for some of the insanely delicious Kitchenette sandwiches!!), and brunch is also in the works. One more thing to look forward to later in the year: Arizmendi Bakery will be opening a location in the building, hopefully by the fall.

Heart            - 1270 Valencia St. San Francisco - 415-285-1200

New Frenchie Spot in the Panhandle Opens


Exterior pic during the opening party.

Well, it’s official: the old burnt-out Cafe Organica space in NoPa is gone gone gone, and in its place is a brand-spanking-new building, with BISTRO CENTRAL PARC now open on the ground floor, and residential units upstairs. The owners are Jacques Manuera and his wife, Claude Belliot, who formerly owned BAKER STREET BISTRO for 17 years. Chef Nicolas Jardin’s menu features French bistro classics, with appetizers like a frisee salad with lardons, a gravlax tart, French onion soup, and escargots, and main dishes like duck confit with lentils, Cornish game hen with black pepper sauce, fish ragout, and homey dishes like a lamb shank or pasta of the day (all under $22). There is also a set early-bird menu from 5pm-7pm for $17.50, which includes an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Hours are Wed-Fri 5pm-10:30pm, and Sat-Sun from 9am-10:30pm, with brunch from 9am-3pm, light fare from 3pm-5pm, and then dinner service begins at 5pm. The interior is simple and spare, with contemporary wood tables and chairs, a wall of windows, and an open kitchen. 562 Central Ave. at Grove, 415-931-7272.

More Openings...

Just a little listing of places I’ve mentioned before that officially opened while I was away: BARBACCO and CREDO in the FiDi; CURRY VILLAGE in the Sunset; TACOLICIOUS in the Marina; and PASSION CAFE in SoMa on Cracker Street, aka 6th Street.

Put a Cork In It

cork exterior.jpg

Exterior; photo by Daisy Chow.

A while back I was wondering about a wine bar called CORK opening on Market Street in the Castro. Thanks GrubStreet for doing research while I was gone so now I don’t have to: “owner Maarten Bon went before Planning and scored his permit to convert the space from what was the former Alliance Title Company at 2111 Market Street (remember when mortgages and title companies were big business?) into a cozy, adult wine haven with a small food menu. In contrast to the just opened Heart wine bar in the Mission with its Euro-centric list, and CAV down the street with its international focus, Cork will feature only California wines with an emphasis on boutique wineries in Napa and Sonoma.” The targeted opening date is June; you can read more on the project here.

Two Tidbits About Quince


Photo by Sara Remington.

While I am a huge fan of William Werner’s desserts (heck, the guy made me like white chocolate), it looks like I’m going to have to enjoy his sweet treats elsewhere, because QUINCE has hired a new executive pastry chef, Joel Reno. Reno comes from the nationally acclaimed Everest in Chicago, where he was executive pastry chef for the past five years. Prior to that, he was pastry chef at the classic French Les Nomades, and the North French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Lan, both Chicago institutions. Meanwhile, stand by for more news on what Werner is up to next.

While I missed the first two events in the new Quince “In Residence” winter program, an informative Italian wine and dinner series, there are two more remaining in the season. Coming to town this Sunday February 7th is guest chef Benedetta Vitali of Trattoria Zibibbo in Florence, and Italian wine expert and journalist Filippo Bartolotta. Quince will be opening its doors on Sunday (a rarity) for a semi hands-on cooking class with Benedetta for 16 students in the stunning kitchen at 5pm.

Following the cooking course, Quince’s doors will open to an additional thirty guests and Filippo will kick off a fun and engaging wine tasting. Filippo will share his knowledge of some of the finest (and a few rare) Italian wine labels while guests sample prosciutto from Parma and taste balsamic vinegar from Modena.  The evening culminates in a four-course meal, prepared by Benedetta with help from the Quince kitchen, paired with Filippo’s wine pairings. Both Benedetta and Filippo will be available to speak to diners during the meal. (Coming on March 9th is Martin Foradori of Hofstätter winery in the Alto Adige; six-course dinner for $195, excluding tax and gratuity.)

               Sunday Feb  7, 2010 Cooking course at 5pm. Wine tasting at 7pm. Dinner at 8pm. Cooking course followed by wine tasting and dinner: $185 per person; wine tasting and dinner only: $150 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. more info

Quince            - 470 Pacific Ave. San Francisco - 415-775-8500

A Meaty Round-Up


Dario Cecchini at Nopa. Photo: ©

There are all kinds of meat-tastic events happening this month: starting today, POGGIO is hosting its annual Bollito Misto dinner through February 6th. You get a plate piled with tender oxtail, brisket, veal breast, tongue, cotechino sausage, and house-made sauces, all served tableside, for only $19.

OLIVETO in Oakland is hosting its annual Whole Hog Dinners this week from Wednesday February 3rd-Saturday the 6th, but from what I hear, the dinners are pretty full. However, here’s a little insider tip for you: the normal Sunday menu will feature many of the Whole Hog dishes. Oink.

Later this month, meatpaper is hosting a Meat & Greet party at Pizzaiolo on February 21st, and is doing a Devil’s Gulch rabbit-centric dinner on February 22nd at Bar Tartine; look for a full event write-up next week, but here are some details in the meantime!

Lastly, Cochon 555 is returning, and is hosting a “5 Chefs, 5 Pigs, 5 Winemakers” in Napa Valley on Sunday February 28th with Christopher Kostow, Meadowood of Napa Valley; Devin Knell, The French Laundry; Peter Pahk, Silverado Resort; Dennis Lee, Namu Restaurant SF; and John Stewart & Duskie Estes, Zazu Restaurant. Buy tickets here.

More Vroom in Your Morning

John Quintos, the coffee and Lambretta fanatic behind Cento on Ritch Street and Vega at Langton, has now opened a third coffee kiosk in SoMa: SPECIAL XTRA. Yup, it’s another fueling station where you’ll be able to get your Blue Bottle caffeination on. You’ll find it right behind Salt House, tucked in the smoker’s lounge at the bar Harlot (which is obviously closed during the day, so don’t fret about having to deal with the Marlboro man while enjoying your macchiato). Hours are Mon-Fri 7:30am-4pm. 46 Minna St. at 1st St.

A Catalan Feast That Won't Break the Bank


Sardine toasts with avocado.

As if the food at CONTIGO wasn’t delicious enough, now they’re offering a new “Menú del Dia” that will keep you coming back—it’s a great deal. Come into Contigo Sunday through Wednesday nights and you’ll be able to order a four-course dinner for only $35. Guests will be able to choose any primer plat (Catalan for first course), segon plat (second course), acompanyment (vegetable dishes), and postre (dessert) on the menu. While the menu changes nightly, first course choices always include fresh salads, roasted or fried sardines, calamares, albóndigas, and dishes like piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail (uh huh) or gambas al ajillo. Second courses always include a vegetarian coca (a Catalan flatbread), plus more substantial seafood and meat dishes, like scallops with arròs negre, fried chicken, and pork belly with butter beans, trotters, and fried ears. The vegetable choices include greens with pine nuts and raisins or patatas bravas. For dessert, tuck into some chocolate con churros or burnt caramel flam (that’s the Catalan spelling for flan). Yup, see you there.

Oh, and in case you’re trying to find an affordable and delicious Valentine’s Day dinner, they’re offering one for only $55. And contigo means “with you”—awwww!

Contigo            - 1320 Castro St. San Francisco - 415-285-0250

A Brief Break from Spaghetti and Spicy Cauliflower

Don’t fret too hard, but both DELFINA and PIZZERIA DELFINA in the Mission will be closed from Monday February 1st through Thursday February 4th, reopening on Friday February 5th. Nothing dramatic—they are just redoing their floors and taking care of some general restaurant maintenance. In case you need a pizza napoletana fix, the California Street location will be open!

Pizzeria Delfina            - 3611 18th St. San Francisco - 415-437-6800

Yeast Affliction! All-Out Artisan Bread Bakedown & Craft Beer Tastiness

SF Food Wars Bread 122.jpg

Photo by Daisy Chow.

As reported by Daisy Chow, tablehopper intern extraordinaire:

Amateur bread makers, pastry students, and professional bakers came out swinging in Yeast Affliction!, last Sunday’s artisan-bread bakedown hosted by SF Food Wars at ThirstyBear Brewing Company. The San Francisco Baking Institute, a school dedicated to the craft of artisan baking, co-sponsored this fourth installment in the SF Food Wars series. Attendees eagerly gorged on 20 different scratch-baked breads ranging from grandma’s naan to healthy sprouted grains to the whole gamut of sourdough possibilities. Though plenty of butter and olive oil was on hand, you hardly needed any for these tasty breads. Add ThirstyBear’s organic craft beers, and you had one serious carb fest. You can view pics of the event here.

Every freshly baked loaf was lovingly crafted by dedicated bread enthusiasts, but they couldn’t all win. The judges gave top honors to SFBI student Jen Rosa’s perfectly-shaped rosemary sourdough loaves. Team Fire in the Fornix! won the People’s Choice award with their “Hurricane” loaf, an umami-laden sesame seaweed bread with whole wheat and brown rice. If this last sold-out event was any indicator, the chocolate cookies event coming in mid-March is gonna be down-right chocolicious!

Let's Have a Little Chaat

vada pav.JPG

Pic of vada pav at Swati Snacks, Mumbai.

This was definitely something I was looking forward to coming home to, in an effort to assuage my acute Indian food cravings: VIK’S CHAAT CORNER has opened in a new and larger space just a couple blocks away from its original location. Can’t wait to get my Mumbai street food fix of pav bhaji and lamb baida roti. RAWR. Open Tue-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-8pm. 2390 4th St. at Channing, Berkeley, 510-644-4432.

I also got word about this place now open in Fremont called BOMBAY EXPRESS/VEGETARIAN CHAAT CAFE, also rocking a menu of chaat and a casual vibe. There are some new inventions on the menu (read: wraps), but there are plenty of classic street food numbers, including vada pav, a variety of dosas, and cholle bhatura. The owners are behind Sakoon in Mountain View and four Bombay Garden restaurants in the Bay Area (San Mateo, Newark, San Rafael, and Santa Clara). Open daily for lunch and dinner, and brunch on the weekends. 5029 Mowrey Ave. at Blacow, Fremont, 510-713-0155.

Molecular Gastronomy Comes to Shallow Alto

After chef Bruno Chemel’s abrupt departure from Mountain View’s Chez TJ, he has now opened his own place, BAUMÉ in Palo Alto. Named after French chemist Antoine Baumé, the contemporary French menu is going to give your wallet a workout (five courses for $78, ten for $108, fifteen for $178), but I guess some Silicon Valley folks won’t even raise an eyebrow. There are only 22 seats, with two seatings each night, open Thu-Sun. The website also mentions lunch is coming February 18th, and will be served Mon, Thu, and Fri. 201 S. California Ave. at Park, Palo Alto, 650-328-8899.


the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)

(Sponsored): Roses with a Capital R

Farm-Grown Roses at Whole Foods Market

Something tells us you’ll be buying a dozen roses this weekend or next. If you pick up those dozen roses from Whole Foods Market, they will be bigger and stronger than the others you could buy. Whole Foods Market carries ethically raised roses. They also help the farmers and environment, so they will say a lot about you. You will love what SHE says about them. Plus they smell better than a text.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Lacroix Says Au Revoir to the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room

ritz photo 6.jpg

Photo: Mark Johann Photography.

This one’s a biggie: after ten years as the wine director of THE DINING ROOM AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, Stephane Lacroix is resigning and moving to New York. He is going to be the GM at Gilt, the luxe restaurant in the New York Palace that earned two Michelin stars this year. While Lacroix is sorry to leave, he is looking forward to the challenge of a new position in a new city. His last day at the Ritz is February 20th. His wife Estelle, who many may remember from Myth, is excited about the move to New York, and is currently interviewing for a position. Best of luck to this lovely couple; thank you for all the years of your oh-so-classy hospitality.

The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton            - 600 Stockton St. San Francisco - 415-773-6168

John Colins Completes Its SoMa Shimmy

JOHN COLINS has finished its move from its Natoma address to a new location in SoMa on Minna (the Transbay Terminal construction inspired the new address). The vibe and offerings are the same, so the only significant change is that it’s a couple blocks away from where it used to be. Is it happy hour yet?

John Colins            - 138 Minna St. San Francisco - 415-512-7493

Another Adjustment to Your Bar Landscape

Just in case you’re wondering about the new bar called THE RESIDENCE, it’s the latest incarnation of the former Amber space. The cozy-eclectic look is more study than smoking lounge (that’s right, no more puffing away while at the bar, darlings), with a refreshed cocktail list, comfy seating, and clever sconces made from old globes, plus wallpaper and wood paneling. But one thing remains the same: it’s still cash only.

The Residence            - 718 14th St. San Francisco - 415-797-8866

Updated Happy Hour Treats at Waterbar


Photo by Val Atkinson.

WATERBAR has updated its popular happy hour offerings, renaming it the “Come Unhinged!” Happy Hour. It runs every Monday through Friday from 3pm-6pm, with $5 specialty cocktails, $5 glasses of La Marca prosecco and Nick’s Cuvée pinot grigio, and $3 bottles of Session Premium Lager, plus the featured oyster of the day for $1 (available from 11:30am-6pm daily). There are also some new items on the bar menu, like smoked sturgeon chips and dip ($9); Van’s shrimp taco with handmade tortillas and fire-roasted salsa ($7 each); and a wood oven pizzetta with oven-roasted tomatoes, balsamic onion, and arugula ($11).

Waterbar            - 399 The Embarcadero San Francisco - 415-284-9922

Prepare for a Sea of Suds: SF Beer Week Pops Its Top This Week


Upon my return home from India, I took a peek at the lineup of events for SF BEER WEEK and was completely blown away. The schedule is hefty—read it and prepare to get thirsty. And hungry. There’s a lot to choose from, but here are some that caught my eye: the Beer & Nosh dinner at Scala’s Bistro (check out the menu here); Humphry Slocombe beer ice creams all week; 4 Chefs, 2 Breweries, 1 Dinner: Magnolia & Dogfish Head at Bar Tartine, with some Chez Panisse crew joining Chris Kronner in the kitchen; A Beer vs. Wine Valentine at Bar Crudo, a five-course dinner facing off beer and wine pairings for each course; the Beast + Bavaria dinner at Orson; and the Oyster Fest at Magnolia, featuring oysters that have been shucked, BBQ’d, Rockefeller, in chowder and a Hangtown Fry, and even rocky mountain oysters—and there’s also a beer and pastry tasting at Thorough Bread. Seriously. Buckle up.

               Friday Feb  5, 2010 – Sunday Feb 14, 2010 more info

Tenuta San Guido: Sassicaia
 Dinner at Spruce


Mmmm, Sassicaia. Here’s more from SPRUCE on this sure-to-be-super (Tuscan) dinner: “Sassicaia translates to ‘a place of many stones.’ The rocky vineyard is located at 80 meters altitude and is the label responsible for creating the Super-Tuscan movement. For the first time in Italy’s history a DOC was created solely for one estate. Bolgheri was formed in 1994 to recognize the planting of Bordeaux varietals in Tuscany.

“The Incisa della Rocchetta family is responsible for running the estate. Their history dates back to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, yet the wines are a much more recent phenomenon. The first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted in 1840, but the wines were not released into the market until one hundred years later when the Antinori family and the Incisa della Rocchettas, who are cousins, became business partners. Today, the family business stretches East into Umbria and South to Sardinia. This dinner will showcase the entire portfolio including past vintages of Sassicaia.”

The menu:

Nantucket Bay Scallops and Dungeness Crab / Citrus Fumé Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Salviano di Salviano, Umbria 2007

Savory Roasted Duck Breast / Caramelized Winter Vegetables / Cassis Gastrique Agricola Punica, Barrua, Sardinia 2006

Oxtail Agnolotto, Seared Spiced Foie Gras, Black Truffle Tenuta San Guido, Guidalberto, Bolgheri Tuscany 2007 Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Bolgheri Tuscany 2005

Farmstead Cheese Tenuta San Guido, Guidalberto, Bolgheri Tuscany 2006

               Wednesday Feb 10, 2010 $160, exclusive of tax and gratuity more info

Spruce            - 3640 Sacramento St. San Francisco - 415-931-5100


the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)

Make-A-Wish's Wine and Wishes Is This Saturday


 Event Info

Saturday Feb  6, 2010 Food & Wine Tasting: 5pm–7:30pm; Winemaker Dinner: 8pm–11pm Info/tickets                        Treasure Island

This is always a nice event: MAKE-A-WISH’S WINE AND WISHES. The event is held on Treasure Island in one of the historic Art Deco structures originally built for the Golden Gate International Exposition. The evening begins with a walk-around Food & Wine Tasting, featuring 60 restaurants and wineries, and it’s quite the lineup! You’ll be able to taste bites from A16, Citizen Cake/Orson, Delfina, Masa’s, Piperade/Bocadillos, Town Hall, and many more, along with numerous wineries that will be pouring tastes.

Plus, for the first time this year, they are featuring eight notable chefs at the four-course Winemaker Dinner: first course: chef Charles Phan (The Slanted Door) and chef Roland Passot (La Folie); second course: chef Staffan Terje (Perbacco) and chef Laurence Jossel (NOPA); third course: chef Dominique Crenn (Luce Wine Restaurant) and chef Richard Reddington (REDD); dessert course: chef Emily Luchetti (Waterbar) and chef Patti Dellamonica-Bauler (One Market Restaurant). There will also be silent and live auctions featuring coveted wine, culinary, and travel lots.

Valentine's Day

red heart.jpg

Photo by Darwin Bell.

Event Info

Tuesday Feb  9, 2010 – Sunday Feb 14, 2010

Lurve it, hate it, VALENTINE’S DAY has its permanent place on the calendar, so there’s no way around it. You gotta get through it, somehow, whether it’s by gorging on chocolate, or hibernating for 24 hours. And of course my inbox is always crammed with a ton of event announcements. Rather than highlight a bunch of restaurant dinners around town (hey, only you know what places you and your honey like), I thought I’d mention a few other kinds of V Day/D Day options instead.

Let’s start with chocolate, shall we? Let’s. Fog City News has booked a pretty extensive collection of guest chocolatiers and chocolate makers at the store. Normally, only the store’s chocolate club members are invited to these events, but Fog City News wants to share the wealth. Meow. These events are a great way to begin the process of Chocolate Enlightenment. All events are 12:30pm-2pm, and they’re all free. Here’s the upcoming schedule:

Tue Feb 2nd: Lloyd Martin Thu Feb 4th: Ginger Elizabeth Tue Feb 9th: Michael Mischer

Dinner à la Heart is on Tuesday February 9th. This has been a San Francisco event for more than 20 years: a group of SF restaurants offer a prix-fixe three-course meal, and most or all of the proceeds go to the Institute on Aging, a non-profit that benefits low-income elders. There are a number of participating restaurants—your dinner options range from $60 to $175, depending on your restaurant choice.

Want to impress your sweetie with handmade truffles? NeoCocoa, Kika’s Treats, and La Cocina have joined forces to offer a truffle-making class on Wednesday February 10th from 6:30pm-9pm. And not just any truffles: we’re talking smoked sea salt, cinnamon, and spices galore. And you get fed some dinner, and wine! All for $65. Or for $85, you can take the class and bring home an additional NeoCocoa 10-piece truffle box and 5-pack of Kika’s Treats ($27 value) in case your truffles suck (kidding). And, don’t forget, 75% of the fee is tax-deductible!

Elixir is hosting a trio of cocktail-making classes: Drinks Guys Like is on Wednesday February 10th (7pm-9pm), and Thursday February 11th is Woo Her with Cocktails (7pm-9pm). Both classes are $85 per person and include four cocktails and class; cocktail tools and books are available for purchase. And then on Sunday February 14th is Cocktails for Couples, a side-by-side cocktail class where you’ll make and drink cocktails together. The class will cover drinks he likes, and drinks she likes. You’ll be welcomed with a Champagne cocktail for each of you and a surprise Valentine. Tickets are sold in pairs for $170 and include three drinks each, class, and treats. 4pm-6pm. Click for more info/tickets.

Parties That Cook is hosting a few Valentine’s Day cooking class parties: there’s a Gourmet Dating Class for Singles on February 11th ($75), as well as Date Night—A Course for Couples, on Friday February 12th, Saturday February 13th, and Sunday February 14th at various Bay Area locations ($190 per couple). No cooking experience is required for participants, and each class includes an expert culinary demonstration, an interactive cooking session with guidance from professional chefs, and a gourmet meal, followed by digital photos and copies of the recipes post-event.

The seventh annual Food from the Heart is at the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace on Friday February 12th from 5pm-8pm, with proceeds benefitting Slow Food’s Terra Madre and Slow Food San Francisco’s school garden projects. Napa Valley Vintners will pour wines by the glass and Marketplace vendors will offer small bites of their specialties, plus there’s tango and salsa dancing to live music. No admission fee; wines by the glass $4; small bites $2-$6. is hosting his second official Anti-Valentine’s Day Dinner on Saturday February 13th at 7:30pm. Single or attached—doesn’t matter—come dine and celebrate. Let’s just say there will be chorizo, burrata, chicharrones, pasta alla Bolognese… it’s quite the menu. Oh, and chocolate Neapolitan bittersweet pudding to finish, ha! Cost is $95/person (BYOB). Space is limited.

In love with suds? (Hic.) Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley is hosting the closing party for San Francisco Beer Week on Valentine’s Day, with 30 local breweries, barbecue, and music to support the California Small Brewer’s Association. Bonus, there are free shuttles from the downtown Berkeley BART to the Brauerei—they will run every half hour beginning at 3:30pm, and the last shuttle departing will leave at 8pm. $40 advance, $50 door (tickets include unlimited 4oz. pour beer tasting, full BBQ dinner, and free shuttle). Tickets and info. 4pm-8pm. 1404 4th St., Berkeley, 510-526-1160.

This Valentine’s Day I thought “Dinner and a Flick” looked clever: 5 Courses paired to 5 Short Films, from graffEats Guerrilla Dining. $55 to dine; $75 dinner and pairing. Cocktails from 5pm-7pm; dinner 6:30pm-10pm. Located at Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (55 Taylor St.). And they will be donating proceeds to the charity Street Poets.

And here’s one restaurant on Valentine’s Day I do want to mention: one of my favorite neighborhood gems, LA CICCIA, will donate 25% of food and wine sales on Valentine’s Day to UNICEF’s Emergency Response to Haiti fund. The restaurant will serve the regular menu plus specials for the romantic occasion.

the hardhat

Project Sneak Peeks (watch your step)

Bar Agricole


Erin Archuleta.

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The courtyard fence features solid and screened metal panels.

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A garden courtyard will grow herbs for the bar.

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Skylights will be designed by artist Nikolas Weinstein.

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (coming soon to 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights). For updates, follow @ICHISUSHI on Twitter. Outside of the foodie world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

Bar Agricole, or “Farm Bar,” as Thaddeus Vogler refers to his rustic and casual tavern, is set in the heart of a building whose exterior is a futuristic, stark contrast to this casual eatery that will be offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. The 4,000-square-foot space is being renovated as a part of an enormous project to maintain a visual reference to the original exterior of the historic corrugated metal building at 355 11th Street. This sleek box of a building filled with top-notch cocktails and coffee couldn’t be more different from its youthful punk rock neighbor Slim’s. Thad believes his tavern in this SOMA outpost will truly uphold a San Francisco tenet: the intersection of urbanity and agriculture in our daily lives.

Aidlin Darling Design are the architects behind the massive project, and have created San Francisco’s first LEED-certified Gold building using the city’s accelerated permitting process. While adhering to this rigorous building standard, the building will maintain its historical status, yet tip its hat to post-industrial revolution good looks. The modern look of the perforated zinc exterior finish will complement the original corrugated metal front as it takes on a new 2010 kind of sheen. The crews and Aidlin are eagerly anticipating the possibility of having the first LEED platinum-certified commercial interior. This would make it the first of its kind in the country. That’s right New York; we’re doing it first.

One aspect of the project that’s getting folks both in the bar community and in the neighborhood buzzing is the addition of a 1,200-square-foot garden and patio. The project’s gardener, Mark Ellenbogen (better known as the wine director at The Slanted Door), said that the space will allow guests to step in off the street, and be hidden behind the walls covered in vines and aromatic blossoms to enjoy coffee drinks made on a Slayer espresso machine, or cocktails made with fresh culinary herbs, like a variety of unusual mints, from the very garden they’re gabbing with the girls or reading the paper in.

The interior of the space is a split-level bar and dining room. Up top, about 2,000 square feet offer two bars crafted from salvaged whiskey barrels and seating. Having two bars is a bartender’s dream, and they will offer bar star Thaddeus Vogler an opportunity to develop a labor-intensive drink menu using Mark’s herbs and locally farmed ingredients, with the support of three other bartenders on the floor. Elements of the rustic will pop up again on the reclaimed oak tabletops, and by serving Brandon Jew’s (formerly of Magnolia, Quince, and Zuni) seasonal fare on cozy ceramic plates from Sausalito’s Heath. Brandon’s kitchen will house a small hybrid gas and wood burning Beech oven, which will offset some of its environmental impact.

Other artisan investors and stakeholders have come to the project, like Mark Rogero of Concreteworks (the gang that has made Twitter’s conference tables so fancy on the inside, and who recently debuted a concrete wood burning oven for Scribe Winery). As an investor, Mark is contributing materials, labor, and design services by creating custom concrete floors. Chris French’s custom metal work investment can be seen in the sleek window frames and aluminum portals in the building. And glass artist Nikolas Weinstein is creating three skylights with custom glass extensions reaching downward to diffuse light. He’s been focused on larger commissions in Asia, so this project will be one of his first major public San Francisco installations.

Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders, Inc. owns the building and has already moved its headquarters into the office space adjoining Bar Agricole. Another big boon for these building owners is a substantial amount of San Francisco’s ever-coveted parking. 15 spaces are available for the restaurant, and there’s the adjacent Costco lot, where patrons can pay for parking. That’s right, DPT, at least you won’t get me here.

Right now, Thad and the builders are on schedule, but he reminds me that he’s only five weeks into a five-month project. The process, though, with the support of so many talented friends, appears to be coming together seamlessly for this bartender-turned-restaurateur. It’s easy to compare this tavern to its name; like a farm, it will start as one thing for the SOMA neighborhood, and ultimately with the seasons, will continue to grow and evolve until the unusual building disappears into the visual mental map we already have of SOMA, simply growing into a part of things.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Kevin Dillon and His Own Entourage on the Town

Kevin Dillon (aka Johnny “Drama” Chase of HBO’s Entourage) dined at EPIC ROASTHOUSE last Friday night with a group of six, dining on steaks and scallops (Kevin had the filet). (He was reportedly in town for the one-year anniversary at Infusion Lounge. Can someone say appearance fee?)

The Governator Visits Los Altos

With a promise of “I’ll be back,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger left behind a pleasantly surprised lunch crowd at Zitune, the modern Moroccan restaurant in Los Altos. No one knows what the gov, a friend, and staffer were doing in the area, and the restaurant refused to say what kind of tip he left, but Arnold did have his request for “something healthy” fulfilled: a brussels sprout salad and branzino/Mediterranean sea bass with olive gremolata, farro, and saffron sauce.

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