The spread at Old Jerusalem.
Bonjour! Last week was a whirlwind of delicious: dim sum (five places—I know, but I was working!), fat tortas and tall-boy Tecates (at La Torta Gorda), terroir-loaded wine from Bruno de Conciliis at Delfina, scooping up hummus and ful with fluffy pita at Old Jerusalem, Scotch eggs and Manhattans at Wexler’s, a brunch full of goodies from Pâtisserie Philippe (have you tried the little bacon-onion number they’re doing?), stellar falafel from Sabra, a meat-fest at the meatpaper party at Pizzaiolo, cachaca at the Leblon party at Rickhouse on Sunday night… It’s like I’m training for a food marathon or something. Hey, it’s all in the name of research!
Now I understand why I was procrastinating about writing up my trip to India: it was a beast of a trip. Just editing and captioning all my pictures took hours: here’s my photo set of Mumbai on Flickr for those who want to check it out. As for my jetsetter writeup, I decided to just start with Mumbai first, and then I’ll write up the beach towns (Goa, Varkala), Kerala, and our trip to Kumily and the tea plantations in a separate post.
It’s challenging to just focus on my usual “where to eat, stay, and play” format because the trip was so much more than that. Only writing about the food feels shallow. I could write for hours about the cultural things that were so fascinating, and share funny stories, and the challenging moments, too, but that’s not necessarily going to make a useful jetsetter post for someone traveling to Mumbai. Anyway, let’s just say it’s much easier to write jetsetter pieces for places like, say, Healdsburg. And too bad the piece doesn’t come with Smell-O-Vision, because the food was some of the best I’ve ever had.
Got some napkins ready? Let’s tuck in.
This past weekend, while I was cruising around town, I had a chance to visit the new THE GROVE YERBA BUENA, which opened in the former Vino Venue space on Mission Street. The space has been radically transformed by Anna Veyna Design LLC, working in cooperation with Macy Architecture: there is room for 148, with a spacious mezzanine, and quite the reclaimed interior, from the floor from an Amish barn to the towering trunks and branches of three spruce and two pine trees brought in from the Grand Canyon and Utah. It has that Grove “salvaged alpine lodge” style, with a variety of seating options, from tables and chairs to church pews, stools from a 1933 Woolworth’s, and old theater seats. Another 35 seats will be added outside in a month or so.
The menu is similar to the other Grove locations, and is from consultant Jeffrey Saad (he was behind Sweet Heat, for those of you who were around here in the ’90s). Wi-Fi is available with food and/or beverage purchase (a $5 purchase gets you 30 minutes, while $10 gets you an hour). Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-11pm, and Sat-Sun 8am-11pm. 690 Mission St. at 3rd St., 415-957-0558.
Note: The next Grove location will be in Hayes Valley, at the corner of Hayes and Franklin. It should be opening in June.
I had a chance to catch up with the ever-busy Elizabeth Falkner about her plans for the new CITIZEN CAKE location opening on Fillmore Street in mid-March. She described the new look as Victorian-era apothecary-meets-soda fountain (that serves beer and wine, heh). Speaking of beer, she mentioned beer floats, and to that, I say cheers, plus sodas made with gum syrups. She explained the restaurant and pâtisserie will be combined, with 30 seats (including 6 bar seats) open for guests who just want to come in for an éclair and coffee, or a sit-down lunch or dinner (some seats will be held for reservations as well). When you walk in, there will be a big slab of marble acting as the pâtisserie display, and there will be more cakes, pastry items, petits gâteaux, and even ice cream made to order with liquid nitrogen.
New dishes may include a roasted carrot salad with avocado, walnuts, agretti, and a cumin vinaigrette; a mache salad with beets, beef heart, and horseradish; a Cobb chicken sandwich (sounds dangerous); classics like clam chowder and cioppino; mussels and chorizo; a few pizzas; steak frites; chicken Marsala with crispy sweetbreads and king trumpet mushrooms; and pork spare ribs (of course these dishes will feature her trademark twists and layering of flavor). I can’t wait to try the escargots with yuzu-miso butter and fried garlic chips. There will also be smaller bites to nosh on, like arepas (Falkner mentioned one with gravlax, ancho crema, cucumber, and pepitas). Lunch and dinner will be served daily, continuously from 11am-10pm.
Citizen Cake - 2125 Fillmore St. - 415-861-2228
So first, a little backstory. Yon Davis, the former operator of Yats’ New Orleans Original Po Boys at Jack’s Club, has been doing lunch service at Annie’s Bistro for the past five weeks. He has been operating under the name Creole Soups and Such until his new location in Bayview at 4800 3rd Street opens (which is now looking like July). His rotating menu at Annie’s has included dishes like gumbo, Pacific snapper stew, and etouffée, and now he’s offering his popular shrimp and catfish po’boys, available Thursday through Saturday from 11am-3pm. This week’s menu includes candied pecan salad; yam and crab bisque; Gulf shrimp meunière; rustic gumbo; red beans, rice and sausage; pastalaya; yam and crab bisque; and on Saturday only, soft shell crabs with tasso hollandaise (whoa).
In the what’s new department, starting this week, Davis is now going to be offering a few of his lunchtime dishes for dinner from Wednesday through Saturday from 6pm-9pm. I found it a little interesting that he was going to be in the kitchen in the evenings as well, and it ends up he is slowly taking over Annie’s Bistro—it will be his full-time operation in the beginning of April (the name is still TBD). There will also be some wines specifically paired with his dishes, starting this week. Welcome to the neighborhood. 2819 California St. at Divisadero, 415-922-9669.
A few changes are underway on Potrero Hill: first, CHEZ PAPA BISTROT has a new chef (it’s been a whirlwind of hires and departures since October 2009, but hopefully this one is the one): Rodolfo Castellanos Reyes. A chef from Oaxaca, Reyes was a sous at Left Bank Brasserie in San Jose, and was then the chef de cuisine for the French Embassy in Mexico City, and he also worked at Jardinière, and was most recently chef de cuisine at La Mar.
Reyes is not only busy with the new Chez Papa menu, but he is also working with owner Jocelyn Bulow on a new project, PAPITO, a taqueria due to open March 20th in the former Delirious shoe store space (just across the street from Goat Hill Pizza). The menu is going to feature organic ingredients, and a variety of seven tacos, either “new school” like duck confit, short rib, or tofu tacos, plus traditional versions, as well as crudos, tortilla soup, tamales, and since he is from Oaxaca, you know Reyes will insure there’s a good mole on there. There will also be burritos (four kinds), three kinds of quesadillas, five entrées (fish and meat), and three or four special desserts. For bevvies, take your pick of some sangria and six kinds of aguas frescas. Hours will be 11:30am-11pm daily, and there will also be weekend brunch.
Bulow is excited to offer Mexican food on Potrero, which he said he wanted to do in the former Baraka space years ago. He mentioned the Maktub Group is going to be sticking with smaller projects (Papito will only have 17 seats inside, and 12 outside under heaters). He said he was just too busy and over-extended, which led to his recent decision to sell his share of Chez Papa Resto in Mint Plaza.
Papito - 317 Connecticut St. San Francisco - 415-695-0147
Opening in the former La Salsa space on California and Fillmore will be TACOBAR, another new taqueria featuring items made with quality ingredients, but still keeping affordability in mind. Owner Jack Schwartz was born in Mexico City, and after doing the circuit in upscale restaurant kitchens (Maya, Citron and À Côté in Oakland) and managing/developing projects like La Calaca Loca taqueria in Oakland, he is excited to finally have his own restaurant. (Schwartz also lives in the Fillmore neighborhood, and wants to do what he can to serve the locals.)
His culinary training will be evident in the preparations of the various dishes, but he still wants to keep things simple, and true to being like a Mission-style taqueria. Look for potential dishes like a jicama salad with avocado and grapefruit, tortilla soup, classic tacos like carne asada and carnitas plus a Baja-style fish taco with line-caught fish (the same fillings are also available as burros—a relative to the burrito), and there will be four kinds of quesadillas. He is planning to introduce daily specials as well. There will also be a kid’s menu, seasonal aguas frescas, and coconut flan. The space is tiny (about 20 or so seats, plus some outdoor seating), but is going to feature a lot of custom touches by Geremia Design. Take-out and catering are both available. Hours will be Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, and Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, with breakfast possibly opening later. The plan is to open in mid-March.
tacobar - 2401 California St. San Francisco - 415-674-7745
Ruh roh: those evil sandwich-makers at PAL’S TAKEAWAY are now offering delivery to the greater Mission area from 11:30am-2pm on Thursdays and Fridays (they plan to add more days soon). Which means you can have sandwiches like cousin Sven’s big caraway turkey meatballs on an Acme bun with Gruyère fondue, pickled cabbage, and grainy mustard ($8) brought right to your door. They ask for you to allow 30 minutes for delivery, and it’s a $15 minimum order, plus a $5 delivery fee. Which is a fee I wouldn’t mind paying if I was sick, it was raining, and I was hungry. Oh yeah, and if I lived in the Mission. Sigh. Call 415-203-4911 to order.
Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, co-owners of Cowgirl Creamery, are expanding their Cowgirl Creamery space at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace. They are taking over their former neighbor’s space, Lulu Petite, and while it’s a bit soon to know for sure, they are gunning for a May opening. The menu is also early in development, but you know grilled cheese is going to be on there in some way, shape, or form—perhaps many.
The New Year’s celebrations continue: chef/owner Hoss Zaré of ZARÉ AT FLYTRAP is introducing the first Persian New Year’s celebration in San Francisco. On Monday March 15th through Wednesday March 17th, the restaurant will host a New Year’s celebration with communal tables and traditional symbolic dishes served family style.
Chef Zaré will recreate the traditional haft-sin table and serve modern renditions of typical Persian cuisine, reinterpreting traditional New Year’s dishes to reflect modern tastes. A sample of some of the dishes from the five-course menu includes:
Ash é reshteh: winter greens with organic beans, root vegetables Herb kuku: herb omelet with roasted garlic and sumac yogurt Frogs legs fessenjoon with pomegranate walnut sauce Thai snapper with fennel, winter vegetables, and Persian pickle tartar Bell pepper dolma Maast é keysehe: yogurt panna cotta Persian tea and cookies
(The celebration will extend over a two-week period, as it does in Iran, with nightly specials and traditional noodle soup; the noodles symbolizing a life free from worry.)
Persian New Year is the largest celebration in Iran and one that is celebrated multilaterally across all religions and cultures. Falling on March 21st, at the precise moment of the vernal equinox, the holiday originally marked the end of winter and the beginning of a new growing season. In Iran it marks the beginning of two weeks of holidays and festivities and is celebrated with a multi-course meal and elaborate decorations centered around the haft-sin table, or “Table of the Seven Ss,” so-called because seven of the traditional items begin with s.
Monday Mar 15, 2010 – Wednesday Mar 17, 2010 6:30pm reception, 7:30pm dinner $56 per person (unlimited paired wines: $30) more info
Zaré at Fly Trap - 606 Folsom St. San Francisco - 415-243-0580
I was sorry to learn the Bacchus Management Group (which includes Spruce, Pizza Antica, and The Village Pub) has decided, after a long period of deliberation, to walk away from the AQUA space. Due to risk issues, they mutually decided it was best for their company and all others involved. Now, let’s look back on the people and parties who also put some bids in on the space… Hmmm… Based on a juicy (but unconfirmed) rumor, let’s just say what was old may become new again, perhaps as soon as this week. We’ll just have to see who officially signs on the dotted line.
Food Network’s Daisy Martinez is hosting a special Nuevo Latino dinner on Monday March 8th at DESTINO to introduce her new cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon, and Night. Chef James Schenk will utilize Daisy’s vibrant pan-Latin recipes to create a four-course dinner, paired with Argentine wine. The dinner also includes an autographed copy of the new cookbook being published March 16th by Atria Books, and two glasses of wine. A no-host cocktail reception with Daisy at Pisco Latin Lounge (next door to Destino) will kick off the festivities from 6pm-6:30pm with passed appetizers.
Daisy’s dinner at Destino will feature celery root, jicama and red pear salad; risotto with pigeon peas; and Peruvian pork roast with onion and pepper stir-fry, accompanied by a glass each of Torrontes and Malbec wines. The meal’s sweet ending of mango-passion fruit panna cotta comes with coffee or tea.
The first Latina to host a public television cooking show, Daisy grew up learning the culinary arts from her Puerto Rican mother and grandmothers. After attending The French Culinary Institute with Jacques Pépin, and stints as a private chef and owner of a catering business in New York City, she is known for her Daisy Cooks! on PBS, Viva Daisy! on the Food Network, and her cookbook, DAISY COOKS!
Monday Mar 8, 2010 6pm $95 per person; $150 per couple (includes tax/gratuity) more info
Destino - 1815 Market St. San Francisco - 415-552-4451
This event will have no shortage of things to look at: next Monday March 1st, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and San Francisco artist danyol are celebrating the opening of his month-long curated exhibit, “All Creatures Great and Small,” at ANDALU in the Mission. The opening reception will feature a menu of Andalusian-inspired small plates (including boar and bacon meatballs), half-price drink specials, and flamenco artists Andanza Spanish Arts. Dinner starts at 5:30pm, and the opening reception at 9pm.
25% of table and bar tabs will be donated, courtesy of Andalu, to the Sisters’ fundraising efforts for Rainbow World Fund’s Haiti Relief Campaign. 20% of all danyol’s art sales from the exhibit will also go towards the campaign. Mention “danyol,” “The Sisters,” or “Haiti” when you reserve your table at 415-621-2211.
Monday Mar 1, 2010 5:30pm–10pm more info
Andalu - 3198 16th St. San Francisco - 415-621-2211
I was scooting home after a shopping mission at Rainbow and noticed the grand opening sign for CAFEZAZO. Instead of spending time researching the story, how convenient, I’m just going to link to Jonathan Kauffman’s report that he just posted instead. Sounds like the fried-to-order potato chips are the bomb. 64 14th St. at Harrison, 415-626-5555.
SUSHI RAN has started offering a $30 three-course dinner Monday through Wednesday nights in their wine and sake bar. The first course includes a choice of miso soup, soup of the day (when available), or seasonal greens with tahini-miso dressing and sesame wafers; for the main course, a choice of miso-glazed black cod obento with steamed vegetables or tempura French green beans and rice, or Vietnamese shaking beef obento with steamed vegetables or tempura French green beans and rice, or salmon obento with teriyaki Atlantic salmon, salad and California roll, or the sushi special, which includes one maguro nigiri, one sake, one hamachi, plus three more chef’s choice selections, makimono with avocado, and sake uramaki. And you even get dessert, with your pick of Fiorello’s gelato (mocha chip, ginger, green tea, or vanilla) or fresh fruit sorbets (mango, passion fruit, or raspberry). Just ask for the Sausalito Red Elephant menu! 107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, 415-332-3620.
As my plane started its descent into Mumbai, some twenty-five hours after I had left San Francisco, I started feeling a spike of nervous anticipation about the chaos that was looming in the city below, starting with the end of safe drinking water. Then again, it’s definitely a bit jarring to go from the highly sanitized world of business class on a Lufthansa flight (I cashed in all my miles for business class, best decision ever), to landing in one of the largest cities in the world (18 million citizens) at 1:30am.
After waiting for my sister’s flight to land a couple hours later, we both got into our pre-paid cab and rode to the hotel we had reserved before our trip (most flights from the U.S./Europe get into India after midnight, so you want to know where you’re sleeping your first night). A couple airport tips: get your first bundle of rupees from the sole ATM (if it’s working). And in case it’s not, like we encountered, just change a little money at the exchange counters that are each hawking their services—but a weekly trip to the ATM is the best way to get rupees. Book your prepaid taxi voucher at the indoor stand before you walk outside, because there’s no getting back in past security. Out the door, it’s a slew of people and offers and cars—the voucher helped us stride past all the inquiries of “taxi, ma’am?” to our designated cab.
At first we thought our taxi driver was a madman, but no, we soon learned all drivers in India are mad. They don’t stay in their lane, ever (two-lane roads accommodate four cars abreast, with a few motorcycles and a bus thrown in for good measure). They pass on blind turns, they weave, they speed up and then slam on the brakes, and the horn is meant to be used at all times so everyone on the road knows where you are. The streets are filled with the swells of honks, and you are mere inches from the cars next to you at all times. It took me about a week to get used to the vehicular mayhem—I just had to surrender. And for the three weeks I was in India, I didn’t see a single accident, so that’s hopeful.
Nothing prepared me for the surreal arrival into Mumbai. The streets were full of all kinds of activity at 3:30am: carts being unloaded, construction, workmen in the streets… Dogs, dirt, burning piles of garbage lined the road. On the way into the city, you will eventually pass by the slums. I will never forget the realization that the shadowy figures on the side of the street were actually sleeping bodies, with anywhere from five to fifteen people all lined up next to each other, just their bare feet peeking out from under their sheet, if they even had a sheet. Little feet, big feet, medium feet. My heart sank. What were we getting into? The magnitude of the city’s poverty was a hard thing to comprehend, one of the first of many indelible impressions.
Our hotel was in the Colaba District, an area that is close to some major landmarks and has a number of hotels, restaurants, and therefore tourists, so it always has something going on. We happily discovered the next day that our hotel, the Hotel Diplomat, flanked the back side of the Taj Mahal Palace, so it was an easy landmark.
January is the perfect time to be in Mumbai: the weather is hot but not unbearably so, and it’s before the monsoon season kicks in. January is also considered the high season, so accommodations are a bit harder to find, and you’ll pay more. Our hotel was fine—not what I’d call a looker, but it was a decent deal for $85 or so per night. The staff was nice, our double room was clean enough, the location was ideal, and it was secure—really, all we needed. We were traveling on a budget, and fortunately our rooms or coconut huts in other cities on the rest of the trip were more in the $20 range.
Mumbai. I fell in love with this city, and my sister did too. The first day was a bit overwhelming, you’re trying to figure out a lot of things. How do the cabs work? (It was never easy: either you decided the price with the driver first, or you made the driver use the meter and then you’d have to decipher the fare chart, or the meter was broken so you’d have to haggle a price.) And how safe is it? People are everywhere. Is someone going to cut my purse strap and run away with my bag like I heard it could happen? (I loathe money belts, but we wore them while we were in Mumbai.) What about the beggars? What’s a dangerous street? What’s a safe street?
You’re trying to pay attention, but my head was swiveling around like a barn owl, there was so much to look at. I felt like I was on drugs. You see everything on the street: men getting shaved, playing cards, people praying, eating. Heck, we even saw some ear candling, no joke. And there are so many people selling everything from power cords to peacock feather fans to CDs to artwork to jewelry.
I had no idea how much people were going to stare at us. I thought Westerners were pretty common, but it ends up we were quite the sideshow. Our every move was watched, let me tell you.
Indians are some of the friendliest and most curious people I’ve ever met. Without fail, we would be asked daily: “Where are you from? What is your good name? Where are you staying? Do you like India?” I never got tired of the battery of questions, it was endearing to the end. I loved it; people would just march right up to us and ask.
People look you in the eye. They stare. We also got a lot of smiles. I can’t believe how many quick connections I’d feel throughout the day. And it’s quite fantastic that you actually get to speak English with most folks—it felt like a luxury to be able to communicate in a place that was so far from home.
Our first mission was to get some Indian clothes. It was hot and humid, and Indian cotton was going to be the way to go. Besides the little flashes of midriff you’ll see of women in their saris, the majority of women dress very modestly, with covered arms and legs, rarely in tank tops or short skirts. Sure, we saw some foreign women in skimpy tops, but we didn’t want to draw any more attention to ourselves, nor did we want to offend—I purposefully left all of my American sundresses at home. Our favorite store was Fabindia, where we stocked up on brightly colored cotton-silk kurta tops (loose tunics that were either waist or mid-thigh in length, with three-quarter sleeves) and cotton pajama pants.
The streets smelled delicious, heavy with sandalwood, cooking food, fruit, cologne, spices. The amount of street food was staggering. It was everywhere. It was a bit of a shame to be in Mumbai first, because we really didn’t know what we could or couldn’t eat. It’s hard, because you don’t want to get taken out on your first few days in. Seriously. We were told to stay away from anything with water, so the sugar cane stands on so many corners were out, because you could see them cut the freshly pressed juice with water. Damn. Those little bundles of paan? Yeah, the leaves were soaking in water, so those were out. We were also told to beware of anything with chutney, because those were often cut with water. Well, that wiped out more than half of what we saw. It was torture. We joked that India was a country of culinary landmines—you never knew what was going to cause an explosion.
Fortunately we discovered Swati Snacks (248 Karai Estate, Tardeo Rd, Tardeo, 91-22/249-209-94), a slick but casual place that specializes in chaat/street food, but makes everything “hygienically.” I would have eaten at that place every day, what a gem: we got to try the classic Mumbai snack of vada pav (imagine a fried and spiced potato slider on a soft and buttery bun with the texture of a Parker House roll) plus pav bhaji, lovely panki, a lacy pancake steamed in banana leaf, pani puri, and yay, at last, we got to try sugar cane juice. The place was a goldmine of flavors and super cheap. A bit hard to find, but it was pretty close to the Chowpatty Beach street vendors. And our entire meal was less than 500R (about $10).
Speaking of Chowpatty, you have to go by at night and check out all the pav bhaji hawkers yelling “pow bah-jeeeee!” (Here’s a brief video of the setup.) Had we not been totally stuffed from dinner the night we came by, I would have felt safe eating pav bhaji there—it smelled and looked amazing. All kinds of couples and families were sitting on the outdoor mats, and it was quite the entertaining scene.
One of my favorite moments throughout the day was the random appearance of a chai walla. You’ll be hanging out, or walking along the street, or just waking up on the train, and you suddenly hear “chai! chai! chai!” Music to my ears every time since I had subbed out coffee for tea this trip. (When in India…) They carry these metal containers with a handle on top and a little burner underneath, keeping the hot milky tea within piping hot. The chai walla will hand you a tiny paper cup full of spicy tea, and it was always a surprise, like, was this one going to be super sweet? Or kind of weak? Cardamom-loaded? A great little pick-me-up numerous times throughout the day for 20 cents, if that. (Tip: in a cafe or restaurant, be sure to ask for masala chai if you want the spiced kind, otherwise you just get tea and milk.)
Fortunately I got some great recommendations from friends on where to eat, and I gotta hand it to the Frommer’s India guide, they had some spot-on dining recos throughout our entire trip. One was Cream Centre (Fulchand Niwas 25/B, Chowpatty, 91-22-2367-9222), an overly air-conditioned place near Chowpatty Beach that blew our minds with the best samosa we’ve ever had, loaded with perfectly seasoned potato and fresh curry leaves, and their specialty: the fluffy and multi-layered channa bhatura, a puffed-up globe of fried dough deliciousness, served with spiced chickpeas and lentils. A side dish of bright carrots with mustard oil and chili was revelatory. We also noticed how onion and lime were the standard condiments—it was almost always the first thing placed on the dining table in Mumbai.
Mahesh Lunch Home (8D Cawasji Patel Rd., Fort, 91-22-2287-0938) was another great reco, a Mangalorean restaurant that specialized in super-fresh seafood. We adored the tandoori pomfret (so juicy and spicy), and the vegetable gassi, a coconut-based curry. We went for lunch, so we didn’t totally gorge (but the live crab was tempting). The staff was really engaging and kind. Was a bit more on the “pricy” side, but was still under $40 for two.
Probably one of the coolest experiences was at Bademiya (Tulloch Rd., Apollo Bunder, 91-99-6711-4183), a smoky street stand that specializes in kebabs and has a cult status in Mumbai. (It’s located close to the Taj.) Throngs of people and cars were on the street, waiting for a card table or a chair that would open up on the sidewalk, or a few got their order to go, or were eating off the hood of their car. As you wait, just watch the entire scene (here’s a quick video I took), from the guys taking your order in the street, to the fleet of servers expediting food to the tables, to the captivating rumali roti maker making roti so quickly I can’t even imagine how many years he’s been doing it (here’s another video I took), and in case you’re as mesmerized watching him as I was, here’s another, just watch until the end). We ordered the baida roti, an eggy fritatta-like filling with spiced chicken, plus onion and ginger, all sandwiched in the thin rumali roti, and then pressed. It was probably one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. I didn’t even take a picture of it—as soon as my sister and I unwrapped it, we attacked it like jackals.
We also had to try a Frankie from Tibb’s Frankie (we had ours on the Colaba Causeway), a classic Mumbai street treat that is like their version of a burrito (every culture has their burrito, I am convinced). The tender roti wrap (I ordered mutton/lamb) featured a tangy vinegar sauce with onions. Loved. And it was less than $1.
We were also fans of the included breakfast at the restaurant Indus in our hotel, the Hotel Diplomat—every day it changed, from alu paratha, to pakoras, to our favorite concoction, a thin omelet with chili and onion that we would douse with sambar. We had our first lunch there (including stuffed paneer) and also ordered room service for dinner on our first night since we were exhausted—the chicken bhartha was impressively good. Now, I wouldn’t go out of my way for this place, but it was convenient to have good food in the building where we were staying.
We enjoyed a “civilized” break at the Taj Majal Palace in the afternoon—there’s quite a view of the water, and while we didn’t take part in the high-tea buffet (1,000R, 4pm-7pm), we did enjoy our tea and cookies while writing in our journals. The intense security at the entrance reminds you of the terrible tragedy that happened—it’s such a landmark hotel (for many reasons) that I think it’s important to visit.
We carbed up over some beers, biryani, lifafa paratha, and butter roti at Leopold Cafe (Shahid Bhagat Singh Rd., 91-22-2282-8185), a fun international scene packed with locals, expats, and tourists, since 1871. It was where the first shot was fired in the terrorist attacks, so expect some heavy security at the door. I also wanted to visit it since it figured so heavily in the tome I was reading on this trip (the remarkable Shantaram).
We probably had every meal with a Kingfisher beer or two (the “strong” version will catch up with you quick, I’m just saying). I definitely missed having wine with my meals, but beer was the obvious choice everywhere we went. It was freaking hot out.
As for the sights, each day was unique. Just wandering the streets was fantastic—some were tree-lined and quite romantic, while others were packed with people and dusty. The Crawford Market was full of exotic fruits, spices, vegetables, and was extra special with Ramesh, our pocket-sized guide for the day (he intercepted us out front and escorted us through the markets and shopping districts); I enjoyed our afternoon checking out the dhobi ghats (where many get their laundry done), the Jain Temple on Malabar Hill, and the unexpected oasis of Baganga Tank; the Elephanta Island Caves were peaceful and beautiful (and offered an escape from the sun); and be sure to visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, formerly known as VT or Victoria Terminus, a magnificent building from 1887 that positively flows with people and trains all day.
While I enjoyed the other places we visited (Goa, Kumily, Kerala, Varkala), Mumbai is where I want to return to the most—we barely scratched the surface on the real life there. Now, is it a city I recommend for everyone? Not necessarily, but don’t be so quick as to let people steer you away from it if you’re traveling there for the first time—some say you only need a couple days and then you should leave, but I disagree. I’m grateful for every day we spent there, just four short yet oh-so-memorable days. In fact, I am missing it.
JARDINIÈRE continues its affordable Monday night prix-fixe dinners, kicking off a Wines of the World series in March. First up is The Wines of Portugal on March 1st, then March 8th is The Wines of Sicily, featuring DiGiovanna Winery. Come in for A Tasting of Riesling on March 15th, featuring Dee Vine Wines, and on March 22nd, Dinner Down Under—A Taste of Australian Wines. You can look at all the menus here. $45 per person, including wine pairings.
Jardinière - 300 Grove St. San Francisco - 415-861-5555
This Thursday February 18th, OTTIMISTA-ENOTECA CAFÉ is hosting Paolo Cantele of Cantele in Puglia (Cantele is located on the Salento peninsula, which literally forms the high heel of Italy’s boot). Paolo will spend the evening pouring and discussing the latest vintages of his family’s wines (a range of Cantele wines will be available by the glass and half glass, along with a tasting flight of all the wines). The à la carte menu for the evening will feature dishes inspired by the Puglia region. 5pm-9pm.
Then on Sunday February 28th, Ottimista is hosting Roberto Focardi and Andrea Fabbri of La Parrina of Maremma Toscana, a biodynamic farm just minutes from the sea in Southern Tuscany. Six wines will be paired with chef Glen Tinsley’s seasonal six-course menu, inspired by his time last summer in La Parrina’s kitchen. In fact, Glen was so inspired by the Parrina estate and the local cuisine that he will return this spring to run La Parrina’s restaurant for the season. As a special treat, Roberto and Andrea are bringing some of Parrina’s limited production sheep’s milk blue cheese, Guttus, to pair with their equally rare vin santo for a heavenly final course. You can read the entire menu here. 6:30pm aperitivi; 7pm dinner. $65, not inclusive of tax and gratuity. Seating is limited to 30 guests. To make a reservation, call 415-674-8400.
If you can’t make the La Parrina dinner, you can still enjoy the wines! From 4:30pm to 6pm on Sunday February 28th, Roberto and Andrea will be down the block at Ottimista’s sister shop, Spuntino, pouring the full wine line-up. All Parrina wines will be available for retail purchase at 10% off.
Ottimista Enoteca-Café - 1838 Union St. San Francisco - 415-674-8400
In case you’re on the quest for brunch before coming into work, EPIC ROASTHOUSE has launched Bubbles & Sweets, a brunch special for industry folks. Bring in a business card or other proof of industry employment and you’ll get to enjoy complimentary house-made pastries and your first mimosa on the house! Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sundays from 11am-3pm.
EPIC Roasthouse - 369 Embarcadero San Francisco - 415-369-9955
Wednesday Feb 24, 2010 – Sunday Feb 28, 2010 Tickets
Wednesday marks the beginning of the SF|NOIR WINE & FOOD EVENT, five days of food, wine, and entertainment; the event is part of the Ninth Annual San Francisco Black History Month Celebration.
Opening night is Wednesday February 24th, with The Shrimp & Grits Taste-Off. Join David Lawrence of 1300 on Fillmore (San Francisco), Michael Law of the Front Porch (San Francisco), Dean Dupuis of Picán (Oakland), Bryant Terry of Vegan Soul Kitchen, Peter Jackson of Miss Pearl’s Jam House (Oakland), Michele Wilson of Gussie’s Chicken & Waffles (San Francisco), and others. Wine tastings will be featured on two floors, including selections from African-American vintners! Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St. at 3rd St., 6pm-10pm, $30.
The Wine & Food Gala! on Saturday February 27th will feature samples of Caribbean, Creole, Southern, soul food, Cajun, African, and vegan cuisine from the Bay Area’s top restaurants and chefs, along with wine tastings of over 120 wines, including selections from several of the African-American vintners from Napa and Sonoma counties, live jazz, and more! The Atrium, 101 Second St. at Mission, 7pm-11pm, $75.
Other events include: In Defense of Food: A Spoken Word Affair on Thursday February 25th, hosted by the Tony Award-winning poet, Poetri, star of the original Def Poetry Jam on Broadway; a book signing and event with Bryant Terry at Marcus Books on Friday February 26th; and an Oakland Jazz Brunch at both Miss Pearl’s Jam House and Hibiscus on Sunday February 28th.
Be sure to look at the sf|noir blog for profiles on a number of people and places involved in the event as well.
Friday Mar 26, 2010 – Monday Mar 29, 2010 Website/info Sheraton Sonoma County 745 Baywood Dr., Petaluma
Ready for a springtime trip outta town? Sonoma’s fourth annual CALIFORNIA’S ARTISAN CHEESE FESTIVAL returns this year, with even more cheese-packed events, like the Friday Night Barn Dance (March 26th) at Green String Farm in Petaluma, and Curds, Cooks and Cuveés: A Moveable Feast (Saturday March 27th) , with eight chefs teaming up with eight top cheesemakers and eight outstanding vintners for an eight-course interactive tasting event.
The weekend includes a great line-up of top artisan cheese experts, authors, chefs, and winemakers conducting seminars (leave it to Wil Edwards to do a class on pairing cheese and spirits), pairings, tastings, and cheese-filled demonstrations. A full schedule of events, participants, and ticketing information can be viewed here. I’d take a look sooner rather than later since some events are already filling up. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County-Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers.
April 8th-11th brings 60 celebrity chefs and 250 acclaimed wineries to one of the most picturesque strips of coastline in the world. Pebble Beach Food & Wine is the premier, grand-scale, epicurean lifestyle event on the West Coast. Guests can choose from numerous wine tastings, savor various multi-course lunches and dinners, and enjoy the Lexus Grand Tasting featuring 200 wineries and 25 of the weekend’s top chefs.
I have four pairs of tickets to give away for the Sunday Lexus Grand Tasting! tablehopper readers can enter to win by answering all three of the following questions:
1) Name the chefs in the Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs Alumni Dinner. 2) Which (5) chefs are being featured at the 10am Cooking Demonstrations? 3) Share names of (3) wineries and (4) chefs you’ll visit in the Lexus Grand Tasting.
Email your answers directly to me. Deadline to enter is March 1st, 2010. I will be randomly selecting four winners of two tickets each from all correct entries. Winners will be notified by March 5th, 2010.
Betty White came in to SCALA’S BISTRO and had the crab toast, mushroom pizza, and petrale sole. According to my source, “She was here for the Marine Wildlife Rescue in Monterey, she is super fun and sweet. She came in with a Monsignor, they went to the Starlight [Room] after for Champagne, and she loves the Drake, super cute.”
Last Friday night, Mayor Gavin Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom were at WATERBAR for a birthday dinner for her father, Ken Siebel, and seated right across from them was Troy Aikman, Hall of Fame quarterback from the Dallas Cowboys. According to my source, “Mayor Newsom wasted no time in engaging in a friendly banter with Aikman, singing the praises of his beloved 49ers. Aikman laughed and held his own. Managing partner Pete Sittnick sent out complimentary desserts to both tables: one to Ken Siebel that said ‘Happy Birthday!’ and one to Troy Aikman that said ‘Go 49ers!’” Well played, Pete.
A tablehopper reader noted quite the power scene playing out at the BALBOA CAFE: “Nancy Pelosi was having Valentine’s Day brunch at the same time Willie Brown was having it with his daughter, and Gordon Getty was doing a V-day brunch too. Oh yes, so was I…” I wonder who was the better tipper. My money is on the tablehopper reader.
A couple tablehopper readers wrote in some Tyler Florence sightings around town: he was spotted at FRANCES, and another reader writes, “My friends and I spotted Tyler Florence at TAYLOR’S REFRESHER at the Ferry Building today. And he seems to have lost a few pounds!” Good for him, that makes one of us.