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Mar 14, 2011 15 min read

March 15, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: howdy from Texas.

March 15, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: howdy from Texas.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: howdy from Texas.                    

The hama chili dish at Uchiko (Austin): yellowtail sashimi, sliced Thai chile, and orange supremes.

Greetings from Austin. This city has been blowing my mind (and my waistline). I can’t wait to write up where I’ve been eating—but those of you following my Twitter feed have a pretty good idea. I have just one more day here at SXSW (South by Southwest), so today’s issue is all about letting other people do my job for me: tablehopper editorial assistant Daisy Chow has a hardhat piece about Proxy (the first container is in place!), and Pete Mulvihill writes in with a bookworm about moonshine. Hic.

Oh wait, I have one more thing for you to read while I take today off! My fab book publisher, Ten Speed Press, has let me post a chapter from my book (The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion) for those of you who don’t have a copy yet (ahem). Here’s a link to one of my favorite chapters: Shituations.

To be honest, I’m a bit relieved to not have to write up a column today. Not really feeling it. Then again, all I really want to write about is how to help the poor, poor people in Japan. Of course, you can donate funds directly to a variety of organizations, but here are a few restaurant-related ways to help that have arrived in my inbox:

Nombe will be giving $3 of sales of one food item each day to Japan Disaster Relief. You can also donate directly through the JCCNC (Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California) by visiting their page here.

The JapaCurry truck is donating 10% of sales to the Red Cross.

Ebisu and Hotei are donating portions of profits this week from all their locations to Japan Earthquake Relief and the Red Cross.

The Dajani Group will donate 10% of Japanese sake bottle sales (any size) at Tsunami Panhandle and Tsunami Mission Bay, as well as Japanese whisky bottle sales (for storage) at Nihon Whisky Lounge toward the relief efforts.

You can donate to the Red Cross for tsunami relief efforts this Wednesday March 16th at 7:30pm at the Park Chalet in San Francisco, and you’ll be rewarded with a special movie night happy hour. With a donation of at least $5, the Park Chalet is offering happy hour pricing after 3pm, as well as the free showing of Spider-Man.

This Friday March 18th, Kitchenette is donating proceeds to the Tsunami/Earthquake disaster fund. There will be Dogpatch Millionaires, Carolina-style slow-smoked pulled pork BBQ, lemongrass-grilled eggplant banh mis, and braised duck poutine for lunch.

Samin Nosrat is organizing a bake sale for Japan (with three locations, and gunning for more!) on Saturday April 2nd, and needs help. Are you a baker, designer, cook, publicist, or simply want to volunteer? Please click here; you can follow updates on Twitter.

I have shown the artwork of Rigel Stuhmiller on tablehopper before, so I thought I’d mention that she is donating 100% of her profits from all non-custom sales from her Etsy shop from now until March 22nd to Save the Children’s work to help Japanese tsunami victims. And even better: she found a donor who will match all of her donations to the tsunami relief fund, so every dollar people spend in her shop will have twice the impact. Through working on the Chino farm in San Diego over the past decade, Rigel has met a number of Japanese agricultural students whose hometowns lie in the tsunami-affected areas. She says, “Watching the videos of miles of agriculture and towns being wiped out has been very upsetting. I hope to be able to do some good by donating my artwork profits to help them out.”

The fab folks at Umamimart are donating 10% of every purchase towards tsunami relief efforts. Buy a mug. A gold cocktail shaker. Support Japan!

Do you have a blog or website? Please consider donating space and posting ads from the Red Cross on your website; details and materials here.

Please do what you can to help; I’ll be updating this space with more relief news and events in coming weeks. In the meantime, let’s all count our blessings, and I’ll see you on Friday.


Marcia Gagliardi

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the socialite

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

Toast of the Town Will Be at City Hall on April 7th


Photo from Toast of the Town.

Event Info

Thursday Apr  7, 2011 VIP: 6pm–10pm; Grand: 7pm–10pm $40 off $169 VIP, and $20 off $109 general admission using code TABLEH Info/tickets                        San Francisco City Hall

TOAST OF THE TOWN SAN FRANCISCO is taking over City Hall for the first time ever on Thursday April 7th. Hosted by Wine Enthusiast magazine, Toast of the Town brings together signature dishes from 30 local restaurants and over 500 wines under one roof. You’re invited to make a toast to all things food and wine, and to our fair city.

Here’s the list of participating restaurants and other purveyors of good food: Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bar Agricole; Betelnut; Branches Wood Fired Chop House; Cafe Gibraltar; CC Made; Cheese Plus; Cindy Pawlcyn Napa Valley—Catering and Restaurants; Comstock Saloon; Dosa; étoile Restaurant; Farallon; First Crush; Flora; Grand Café; Half Moon Bay Brewing Company; Home of Chicken and Waffles; Jack & Jason’s Pancakes & Waffles; Limón; Lucero Olive Oil; Mission Beach Café; One Market; PRESS; Saison; Sutro’s at the Cliff House; The Ahwahnee; The Fairmont Hotel; the girl & the fig; The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards; The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco; Twenty Five Lusk; Urban Tavern; and Waterbar.

And the list of invited vineyards and châteaux include: Arancio Stemmari, Batasiolo, Beaulieu Vineyard, Castello Banfi, Clos de Tart, Concha y Toro, Crop Organic Vodka, De Loach, Domaine Chandon, Domaine de la Vougeraie, Dow’s, Emiliana, Feudi di San Gregorio, Francis Ford Coppola Presents, Ghost Pines, Hess, J. Lohr, Jean-Luc Colombo, Jordan, Louis M. Martini, MacMurray Ranch, Michter’s, Mommessin, MontGras Napa Cellars, Pine Ridge, Planeta, Robert Oatley, Rotari, S.A. Prüm, Sandeman, Santa Rita, Sterling, Trinchero, Trivento, Unibroue, W. & J. Graham’s, William Hill, Fulcrum, Hall, Schramsberg, Yalumba, Bodegas Valdemar, Casa Lapostolle, Castello di Gabbiano, Chateau St. Jean, Cloudy Bay, Newton, Penfolds, Sogrape, and Stags’ Leap Winery.

Tickets—regularly $169 for VIP and $109 for general admission—are available online, but tablehopper readers get a special discount: $40 off VIP and $20 off general admission. Use code TABLEH at checkout to receive the discount. 21 and over only.

Root Division's TASTE 2011 is April 14th


 Event Info

Thursday Apr 14, 2011 7:30pm–10:30pm; VIP 6:30pm VIP tickets $125; regular tickets $75 in advance, $100 at the door as available Info/tickets                        Root Division 3175 17th St. at S. Van Ness, San Francisco 415-863-7668

On Thursday April 14th from 7:30pm-10:30pm, Root Division will host its annual spring fundraiser, TASTE 2011, a unique evening of inspired collaborations between food, drink, art, and music where acclaimed local chefs, bartenders, visual artists, and live music unite onsite at Root Division’s gallery and studio space.

Taste 2011 promises an evening of daring culinary delights and a visual feast from the participating restaurants and chefs: Alegrias, Cesar Faedi; Andalu, owner/chef Calvin Schneiter; Beretta, chef Ruggero Gadaldi; Campo de Encanto Pisco, Duggan McDonnell; Cook Club, chef Francisco; Dosa, chef Paul Raj; La Cocina with Tamales los Mayas, chef Alicia Villanueva; Starbelly, chef Adam Timney; and Tacolicious, chef Telmo Faria.

The event will also include a silent auction with gift certificates to Bay Area restaurants, spas, salons, and other venues, and small artworks by local emerging and youth artists. Guests will also have the opportunity to win one of three raffled wine chests, featuring a collection of over 50 bottles of one-of-a-kind, artist-decorated, and collector’s choice wines and spirits.

A limited number of VIP tickets are available, offering early access (6:30pm) to appetizers, artwork, and specialty cocktails, plus a special cooking demonstration by Sharon Ardiana of Ragazza, and a limited-edition screen-printed bag filled with goodies and gifts from venues around town.

VIP tickets are $125; regular tickets are $75 in advance, and $100 the day of the event on an as-available basis. Wine chest raffle tickets are $40 each (2 for $75; 4 for $120). Guests are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance online or by calling 415-863-7668.

Proceeds benefit Root Division’s free after-school art classes for Bay Area youth. Root Division is an art and arts education non-profit located in the Mission District of San Francisco. Its mission is to improve appreciation and access to the visual arts by connecting personal inspiration and community participation.

the bookworm

Book Reviews (another place for your nose)

Chasing the White Dog: by Pete Mulvihill

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

Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine

Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine                        Max Watman (Simon & Schuster)

Last summer, I read a fun book by Max Watman: Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine. I’m surely not the only one who wonders why it’s OK to make your own beer, cheese, wine, or jam, but not liquor. The answer, and so much history, chemistry, adventure, tomfoolery, and even NASCAR, are within.

If you’re at all interested in moonshine, Southern culture, the feds, tax evasion, boutique liquors, or how to make your own hooch, I promise this book is interesting and fun.

And it piqued in me a curiosity, a yen for breaking the law by making my own hooch. I’m not sure it was more for the outlaw aspect or to brag about making my own likker, honestly.

Alas, like many cool things I wish I did, I have yet to try—between four-year-old twins, the dynamic book business, and my crowded, messy garage, I keep finding excuses not to.

But I want you to try. And to that end, here are four books on the shelves now at Green Apple that can help. Again, since I haven’t tried, I can’t say too much about each particular book. Come poke through them yourself.

Moonshine!: Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers * How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin’ the Law * Recoverin’ the Next Day

Moonshine!: Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers * How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin’ the Law * Recoverin’ the Next Day                        Matthew Rowley (Lark Books)

First is a general introduction: Moonshine!: Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers * How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin’ the Law * Recoverin’ the Next Day by Matthew Rowley. The subtitle says it all—this is really entertaining, almost like a coffee table book, though there is also practical information therein.

Moonshiners Manual

Moonshiners Manual                        Michael Barleycorn (White Mule Press)

Next up is Moonshiners Manual by Michael Barleycorn (yea right). This is a reprint of an underground book first printed in 1975. It’s written more to the underground and rural population of the 1970s, but it has its charms.

Modern Moonshine Techniques

Modern Moonshine Techniques                        Bill Owens (White Mule Press)

The modern update is probably Modern Moonshine Techniques by Bill Owens. Mr. Owens is featured prominently in Max Watman’s Chasing the White Dog, holds workshops on distilling, and is something of a leader of modern distillers. (He’s also a highly respected photographer whose 1973 book Suburbia is a classic.) This is probably the most practical book on this list.

The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible

The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible                        Leon W. Kania (Happy Mountain Publications)

And rounding out our DIY hooch section is The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible by Leon Kania. This is a much broader book than the others, with recipes and instructions for a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. Clearly written and laid out, this looks pretty helpful.

If anyone actually follows through, I’d love to try a jar of whatever you make. Maybe you’ll inspire me to finally get started. And won’t my wife be happy then?

Thanks for reading.

the hardhat

Project Sneak Peeks (watch your step)



Hooking up to the crane. All photos by Blair Sneddon Photography.


Ready for lift-off.


Flight of the shipping container.


Coming down for landing.


The crew makes sure everything is in place.


View of Smitten’s interior.


Another view of Smitten’s interior. All photos by Blair Sneddon Photography.


Artist rendering of Proxy project at night, from Envelope A+D.

By Daisy Chow, tablehopper editorial assistant.

For years, a number of city-owned lots along the path of the former Central Freeway in Hayes Valley have languished behind chain-link fences and stalled development plans. Envelope Architecture + Design’s PROXY project will put two of those lots to use as a temporary, mixed-use commercial/community center, with businesses setting up shop in remodeled shipping containers. Look for an April 1st opening (no joke) or thereabouts for Smitten Ice Cream, to be followed by Ritual Coffee Roasters, Biergarten by Suppenküche, 4505 Meats, and Pizzeria Delfina, though not all at once. Hardhat columnist Erin Archuleta gathered details about Proxy from Douglas Burnham, principal and founder of the Oakland-based Envelope.

The two-block Proxy complex will be built out of sturdy yet ultimately mobile shipping containers, modified, outfitted, and some stacked to accommodate the above-mentioned restaurants and food vendors, plus retail shops, an art gallery, and communal spaces. Located on the eastern side of Octavia, between Fell and Hayes, Proxy aims to be an urban playground of sorts, the kind of place where commerce and community will intersect and thrive together, even if only for the three or four years the city has agreed to lease the lots.

The pop-up art gallery will feature a different, local curator’s or artist’s exhibition each quarter over 13 quarters. The space for retail vendors will be containers that are very open, literally opening up to the street with 20-foot-long roll up doors and overhanging roof elements that will have customers feeling like they’re inside and outside. (The used shipping containers are cut in half from their original 40-foot length to make them more portable.)

When it’s fully completed, Proxy will remain in a state of flux with a space for rotating, temporary food vendors—like visiting chefs, or young chefs who are starting out on their own—to come in and open a short-term location, be it for one night, a weekend, or a couple of weeks. It’s part of what Douglas calls the “flexible urbanism” that Proxy represents.

They aren’t hiding the look of the shipping containers, but expect to see a lot of glass, a move that Douglas thinks will attenuate the “macho” exteriors of the containers while at the same time reducing the solid mass of the containers down to the steel frames. Glass also allows passersby a view into the workings of each business.

Because the containers are made of steel, which as a building material acts to intensify heat and cold, all the interiors will be lined with a shallow thickness of wood to form a cavity with closed cell insulation. This will create a thermal break so the containers are not hot boxes in the summer and freezer boxes in the winter with unbearable temperature swings.

After navigating a maze of permits and inspections and having to meet the rigors of a building code designed for more permanent buildings of say, 25 to 100 years, rain and other complications continued to slow down construction progress, with groundwork finally starting January 19th (the Board of Supervisors had voted to grant the lease in September 2009). As of Tuesday March 1st, the first of the remodeled shipping containers were placed atop their concrete slabs by crane.

Smitten by ice cream.

Those first two containers belong to Smitten Ice Cream, slated to be the first business to move into the Proxy complex. Robyn Sue Goldman started Smitten four years ago with an idea for a liquid nitrogen ice cream machine, then two years later took her concept to the streets on a Radio Flyer wagon. Popularity followed instantly. Joined by pastry chef/recipe developer Robyn Lyn Lenzi, and lawyer-turned-“chef de shoppe” Andrew Shaw, the Robyn Sue and the Smitten team will make scoops to order from scratch. Yeah, you heard that right, ice cream, made to order, from scratch—with none of the unpronounceable ingredients in commercial products that muddle up the true flavor of ice cream.

Smitten’s concept for Proxy is to have a walk-up ice cream bar with four Kelvins in place (yes, the ice cream machines have a name) so they can offer four flavors at once, flavors that will change weekly depending on the fruits and vegetables that are fresh, local, and seasonal at the moment. Customers will get some customization choices like hot pepper or cinnamon with flavors like vanilla or chocolate, but other carefully fine-tuned, specialty flavors will be offered only as intended, such as Meyer lemon gingersnap or vanilla quince with nut streusel. In keeping with the community-minded Proxy itself, Smitten is open to flavor ideas from the community and have a suggestion box on their website. If your flavor gets made, there may be some free ice cream in your future.

The shop will feature the stainless steel of the Kelvins and the counters, balanced by warm wood and lots of glass for transparency (floor-to-ceiling on one side). The look will be very clean and sophisticated, yet have the warmth and old-world charm that you want in an ice cream shop. Though the space inside the containers will be employee only, Smitten will have a 12-foot by 28-foot outdoor space for hanging out and enjoying your made-to-order scoop. (It can also be rented out. Imagine serving 4-flavor ice cream flights for your next birthday party—ice, ice, baby.) And don’t sweat the weather, there are plans to tent the space.

Before they had heard about Proxy, Smitten was already looking in Hayes Valley, and just as they were about to give up on finding affordable real estate in neighborhood, Matt Cohen (of the SF Cart Project and Off the Grid) introduced them to Douglas. Robyn Sue and Robyn Lyn carted Kelvin over to Envelope, and a few scoops of ice cream later, they were in. But not so fast—they also worked hard to get approvals from the neighborhood, local merchants, the fire department, and what Robyn Sue said felt like “a million agencies.” Nevertheless, the Smitten team is excited to be part of a project and a neighborhood that is open to their combination of artisan-quality product made with cutting-edge technology.

A family-friendly beer garden.

Though not new to the neighborhood, Hayes Valley mainstay Suppenküche is just as much a natural fit in the Proxy project as Smitten. Suppenküche general manager/partner Aaron Hulme shared more about their upcoming Biergarten project that will occupy about 80% of the lot between Linden and Fell with four shipping containers, from which they will serve German food (like a simplified version of the Suppenküche menu) and beer in a family-friendly atmosphere.

The Biergarten concept was inspired by the ubiquitous beer gardens found in breweries and outdoor spaces throughout Germany—informal places where friends and families can eat, relax, and spend time together outside. The Proxy project is a dream location for Biergarten; it’s the outdoor patio they always wanted to have at Suppenküche but couldn’t. True to the outdoor theme, they want to put in a lot of greenery, maybe have some trees (they’re hoping for a shady California buckeye), and possibly even install a green roof on top of their shipping containers for an herb garden.

Biergarten plans to serve an outdoor-friendly take on the Suppenküche menu, nothing extravagant, grilled meats, sausages, fish, all things can be eaten comfortably outside, with salads and vegetarian options too. They want to stay open to more experimentation than at Suppenküche but within the overall realm of German cuisine. As for beer, they will have about five on tap and more by bottle. All the seating will be outside at re-used tables from a beer garden in Bavaria. Diners will have protection from rain and elements too.

Because their liquor license requires a 10pm closing time, Aaron says they will play the hours by ear to begin with, serving lunch and staying open into the afternoon because, hey, having a beer on a weekday in the afternoon should be a normal thing.

In line with the philosophy of locally-owned and slow-food-oriented food vendors, Ritual Coffee Roasters, 4505 Meats, and Pizzeria Delfina will also join the complex, though the timelines for the latter two are further out. Delfina’s location will include a wood-fired oven, and Ryan Farr of 4505 has plans to run an outdoor cooking and grilling station.

Though the project was originally planned for just a few years, perhaps Proxy will stick around longer since Governor Jerry Brown’s recent proposal to eliminate funding for redevelopment agencies would likely squash any plans to move forward with the affordable housing originally intended for the lots. Douglas acknowledges the experimental and temporary nature of Proxy, noting that the food vendors are paying for the construction of their own containers, so they can simply disconnect the utility hookups and move elsewhere with “nothing going into the waste stream.” So whenever it comes time to pack up, they can take everything and the kitchen sink.

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