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Mar 21, 2011 27 min read

March 22, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: spring for it.

March 22, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: spring for it.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: spring for it.                    

Foie gras bonbon at Commonwealth.

Holy cow, did I have a lot of catchup after my week out of town: there was a ton of news, star sightings, gossip… I need a nap. But, there’s no rest for the weary, because next week my sis and I are heading to New York for a long weekend! We’re going to see LCD Soundsystem’s last show at Madison Square Garden (crappiest seats EVER, but no matter, we’re going!), and the Gagliardi girls are going to be eating their way through town (yup, our love of food is hard-wired in our genetic coding).

On my list: Torrisi, Eataly, Harold Dieterle’s Kin Shop, Xi’an Famous Foods (gimme that lamb burger!), and if the gods are willing, I’m gonna try really hard for two seats at Ko. Oh, and I’m fired up to take my sis to Prune, especially since I’m nose deep in Gabrielle Hamilton’s delicious memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter. Haven’t figured out the booze circuit yet. I haven’t been to NYC since last May’s James Beard Awards, so if you have any hot tips, of course I’m all ears.

Speaking of the James Beard Awards, congrats to all the nominees announced yesterday! Strong showing from SF chefs, writers, winos, and more—check it all out here.

Lastly, have you checked out the Tip Please! forum on Deep Dishing? Each week I’m going to ask “what was the best thing you ate this week?” (Which reminds me, I need to post some dishes from my weekend meals at Plate Shop and Commonwealth.) Check out everyone’s answers from last week here—there were at least three things that made me hungry, including the lion’s head meatball casserole at Shanghai Dumpling King. Come again? Rawr.

Speaking of lions, isn’t it about time for March to turn into a lamb? (Am drumming my fingers.)

Have a swell week, see ya Friday.

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

A Six-Lane Bowling Alley/Restaurant/Bar Is Coming to the Mission


Floorplan for the bowling alley.

There has been some talk lately of some bowling alleys coming to San Francisco, including the Lucky Strike Lanes opening in the former Borders location in SoMa, and rumors of New York’s Brooklyn Bowl coming to the Mission. But there’s a third project in the mix: the ladies of mini bar on Divisadero are opening a SIX-LANE BOWLING ALLEY in the heart of the Mission.

Sommer Peterson and Molly Bradshaw’s project will also include a restaurant and full bar at the location (the cocktail program will be creative and down to earth). Plans are in the works to lease the kitchen to a seasoned professional or restaurant ready to expand (check out the listing in this week’s Matchmaker!). Peterson explains the food concept they’re looking for: “Take the tired and bad-for-you bowling concession-style food and turn it on its head with quality ingredients and healthy options.” The design will be comfortable (no 60s kitsch) with warm furnishings and plush seating at the lanes. There will be a sunny outdoor patio for dining, which will also provide a generous area of covered bike parking. With only six lanes, the owners look forward to being a personal neighborhood business. They hope to launch in early Spring 2012. (I can’t release the name and exact address at this time—but hopefully soon!)

Mission Bowling Club            - 3176 17th St. San Francisco - 415-863-BOWL

Owner of Don Pisto's Opening a Noodle/Raw Bar


A tuna ceviche on one of the earlier menus at Don Pisto’s.

Chef-owner Pete Mrabe of DON PISTO’S is going to be launching a second business in North Beach (because he’s just not busy enough, ha), a noodle/raw bar. He tells me he’s going to focus on Southeast Asian dishes, but look for some Mexican ingredients to make their way in there, too (the guy loves his chiles). The menu will consist of three-four noodle dishes, like pho, ramen, and wok-tossed noodles, while there will be five-six raw selections (he said look for combinations of fish, chile, lime, and salt). Mrabe, who previously worked at Betelnut, said he’s looking forward to working with flavors beyond what he’s doing at Don Pisto’s. The format will be counter service, with no servers, and should be open for dinner in about three months. Mrabe asked me to hold on the project’s name and exact location for a few weeks, so I’ll reveal those when I get the all clear/thumbs up/go-ahead.

Nick's Moving Into the Kasa Marina Space


A couple of Nick’s insane tacos.

I was asked to keep the new tenant for the Kasa Marina location under my hat, but it looks like the cat got way out of the bag. Meow! It’s Nick Fasanella, the original founder of Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Polk Street—while he’s no longer involved in that project at all, his numerous fans have been able to enjoy his kick-ass tacos at The Taco Shop at Underdogs in the Sunset for the past few years. As for this new venue, of course he has plans for a taco joint in this location. It’s going to be called TACKO, a play on the ACK airport code for Nantucket, which is where he’s going to be opening a second location in 2012, according to the Inside Scoop. The new look is also going to reflect an East Coast sensibility; look for a May opening. 3115 Fillmore St. at Filbert.

Update on Bar Bambino's Pronto Café and Bakery


Bar Bambino interior (photo from website).

BAR BAMBINO will be opening their nearby PRONTO BY BAR BAMBINO café, bakery, and kiosk at the newly renovated ODC Theater (at 17th and Shotwell Streets in the Mission) on May 22nd. The café will have 20 seats inside, plus room for an additional 25-30 guests outside with heated seating. Aidlin Darling Design—the architects behind Bar Bambino’s design—will also be designing the café.

The menu will include baked treats, panini, bruschette, salads, soups, egg dishes, and many items on the current lunch menu at Bar Bambino, along with their boxed lunches to go (currently $12 for a panino, salad, and cookies). Wine, beer, and other beverages will also be available, plus coffee service using Sightglass coffee on a Kees van der Westen espresso machine (fan-cy!). Pronto will serve breakfast (with pastries from Bar Bambino’s pastry chef, Alyce Shields—she will also be doing treats for the theater), lunch, and a light dinner daily from 7am-8pm.

And now for the bad news: in order to prepare for the expansion, Bar Bambino will be discontinuing their lunch service, effective today, March 22nd. (But you can still order their box lunches.)

Bar Bambino            - 2931 16th St. San Francisco - 415-701-8466

Greenburger's Now Open in Lower Haight


Photo from Haighteration.

GREENBURGER’S is now open in the former Bistro St. Germain space in the Lower Haight. The menu includes salads, a variety of burgers, wings, and homey entrées like meatloaf, “Thanksgiving dinner” with turkey and mashed potatoes, and barbecue short ribs (all items $14.95 and under). Oh, and there’s a milkshake and ice cream sundae bar. (Trouble.) Husband and wife Matthew Nudelman and Stefanie Greenberg Nudelman are committed to using local and sustainable ingredients, but have managed to keep things nicely affordable for the neighborhood. Haighteration has a very detailed report about the details of the space, check it out. Open daily Wed-Mon 11am-10pm, with plans to launch brunch later. 518 Haight St. at Fillmore, 415-829-2491.


Test meal photo from Bun Mee’s Facebook page.

A while back, I mentioned a Vietnamese place was moving into the Tango Gelato spot on Fillmore Street. Here’s an update for you: it’s going to be called BUN MEE, and true to its name, will be serving banh mi-inspired sandwiches, along with appetizers, rice bowls, salads, sides, and desserts. Owner Denise Tran worked with a few consulting chefs from Culinary Edge and, of course, her mother, Mama Tran, to pull the menu together. A preliminary peek at the menu includes nine kinds of banh mi, from five-spice chicken to pork belly, plus smoky eggplant and sardine variations—most hover around $6. (And fortunately one of them includes pâté.) While the menu reads to be pretty lunchy, it will be open for both lunch and dinner (11am-10pm). The opening is slated for early April. 2015 Fillmore St. at Pine, 415-800-7696.

Closures: Temporary and Permanent


On March 24th, FLOUR + WATER is temporarily closing for a refresh of the interior (refinishing, fresh paint, and the like). When it reopens on Monday April 4th, here’s some carb-tastic news for you: chef Thomas McNaughton will be upping the number of daily pastas from five to eight.

Are you a fan of the lounge at COI? Well, you have until April 2nd to swing by for your last bowl of udon off the à la carte menu, because according to the Scoop, chef-owner Daniel Patterson is converting it into a second dining room. When the restaurant reopens on April 7th (its fifth birthday), only the tasting menu will be available throughout the restaurant.

And in the permanent closure department, SFoodie noted that PUDONG, the Shanghaiese brasserie that opened in the former Mecca in the Castro, has closed after just three months of business. Don’t even get me started on the unfortunate name.

Forage SF Underground Market Returns to Public Works


Photo by Robin Jolin.

The Forage SF Night Market is returning to Public Works this Saturday March 26th, offering international food, music, performances, and a full bar. The event will run from 11am-2am, with everything from chicken and waffles from Angry Man Eats, to grilled cheese from Grilled Cheese Guy, to Vietnamese imperial rolls from Little Knock. You can check out the full list of food vendors here. Music will range from scratch guitar to Genie Love to Hard French DJs hitting the decks later into the evening. Woot woot. There will also be free workshops on topics like fishing, whole hog butchery, and homebrewing.

The event will be split into two shifts: the first (11am-4pm) will be focused on “take-homeables” like jams, produce, soaps, desserts, etc., although hot food will also be available.

The second shift (6pm-2am) will be mainly hot food that’s ready to eat (and a crowd that’s ready to party). The workshops will be in one room, a dance party in another, and there are two full bars. The last market reportedly drew over 3,000 folks, with all the vendors selling out by 10pm (yeah, bummer). This time they’ll have two whole floors filled with more vendors and food.

In order to enter the market, everyone has to sign up for a free membership to the SF Underground Market. If you’ve signed up in the past, no need to reapply.

               Saturday Mar 26, 2011 – Sunday Mar 27, 2011 11am–2am $5; $10 after 11pm more info

Devil's Gulch Ranch Dinner at Baker & Banker


Exterior photo by Craig Lee.

Remember when I told you guys about the amazing Devil’s Gulch rabbit my dad and I prepared at home a couple months ago? Well, here’s your chance to try a variety of ingredients from Devil’s Gulch Ranch, when Jeff and Lori Baker of BAKER & BANKER host a dinner with rancher Mark Pasternak on Tuesday April 5th. Proceeds from the evening will go back to support Devil’s Gulch Educational Services, whose most recent project focuses on aiding those in Haiti.

Beginning at 7pm, the evening will include a four-course menu paired with wines by Scherrer Winery (Fred Scherrer will also be in attendance). The menu includes: pork charcuterie plate, rhubarb and strawberry mostarda, grilled housemade bread; rabbit and black truffle sausage, shaved asparagus salad, deep-fried farm egg; lamb pot au feu, broth raviolo, roasted baby artichokes and carrots, preserved lemon; and peanut butter blondie with bacon brittle ice cream. $75 per person. Call 415-351-2500 to make a reservation. 1701 Octavia St. at Bush.

Baker & Banker            - 1701 Octavia St., San Francisco - 415-351-2500

James Syhabout (Commis) Is Opening the Casual Hawker Fare


Commis kitchen Flickr photo by star5112.

While I was in Austin eating my body’s weight in BBQ, Grub Street was busy breaking the news about a new project from chef-owner James Syhabout of Oakland’s Commis. He’s opening a new casual, Southeast Asian street food restaurant called HAWKER FARE in the former Manyda Thai location, where (charmingly) his mother previously ran a Thai restaurant for seven years.

Everything will be $10 or less, ranging from rice bowls to spicy fried chicken wings and the like, all made with local and organic ingredients. The chef is Justin Yu, who has been at Commis, but has also worked at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York and Quince. The music will be lively, and the vibe will be casual. There will be 60 seats, and lunch and dinner will be served. It’s about a month out. 2300 Webster St. at 23rd St., Oakland, 510-832-8896.

Bar Bocce Now Open in Sausalito


Photo from UrbanDaddy.

Kim Alter’s PLATE SHOP isn’t the only new thing to open in Sausalito: just around the corner is the new BAR BOCCE from the Real Restaurants Group. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the executive chef (and partner in the venture) is Robert Price (Buckeye Roadhouse, Bungalow 44). You can check out the menu here, although the font looks like “crackhead” or “crazy ex-girlfriend” instead of an easy-to-read Helvetica. The sourdough pizzas include one with potato, egg, and smoked bacon, and another comes with meatballs, while there are also some, uh, creative pies, like Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon, avocado, and crème fraîche. There are plenty of snacky items, salads, sandwiches, and winesicles for dessert (adults only on those). The patio dining and outdoor bocce court are sure to be popular once this rain blows outta here. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 1250 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415-331-0555.

Locanda Positano Opening in San Carlos


Owner Enzo Rosano and chef Antonio Verdicchio.

Down in San Carlos, my dad’s Calabrese buddy, Enzo Rosano of San Mateo’s AcquaPazza, is opening LOCANDA POSITANO in early April. The chef is Antonio Verdicchio, an award-winning pizzaiolo from Naples (he was most recently at Gusto in Barcelona). Yup, the Peninsula is getting authentic Neapolitan pizzas, although the oven is a custom-built gas oven (a Vesuvio) instead of a wood-burning one, an environmental decision. The oven can still reach 800°F, cooking a pizza in just over a minute. There will be some seafood dishes from coastal regions, along with some featuring Tuscan ingredients, like ricotta al forno with seasonal wild mushrooms, pappardelle al cinghiale wild boar ragu, and crostini toscani e olio nuovo (crostini with Tuscan beans and arugula). The former bakery is being converted into a 70-seater, with an open kitchen, a bar in the center of the restaurant, and banquette seating along one wall. It will be open Tue-Sun 11:30am-10pm. 617 Laurel Ave., San Carlos, 650-591-5700.

Oh, and Peninsula residents, take note: AcquaPazza is hosting a fundraiser dinner for the San Mateo Public Library Foundation on March 31st, details here.


the sponsor

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

(Sponsored): Get Your Ticket to Taste Over 150 Portuguese Wines

Taste a world of difference with Wines of Portugal in San Francisco on Wednesday April 6th, from 5:30pm-8pm. A unique tasting of 150-plus wines—from the dry reds of Bairrada to the delicious whites of the Minho, and from the newly renamed Tejo and Lisbon regions to the progressive offerings from Alentejo and Duoro. Wines are paired with Iberian appetizers, and a Master Class by Master Sommelier Keith Goldston at 6pm has spaces available.

All proceeds from ticket sales go to Meals On Wheels of San Francisco. Tickets are $35 online for the Grand Tasting only, and $50 online for the Master Class AND the Grand Tasting (what a deal!). Buy your ticket here.

The tasting will be held downtown at the One Leidesdorff Building, 344 Pine Street (between Sansome and Montgomery), San Francisco.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Sounds Like a Win-Win to Me


Photo from The Tenderblog.

While trawling through some liquor license changes a while back, I mentioned the Future Bars/Bourbon & Branch chaps were in escrow to take over a dive in the TL, Club 441. Well, it’s a go because they’re slinging drinks. Right now it’s called MISTER LEW’S WIN-WIN BAR AND GRAND SAZERAC EMPORIUM, which started off as a joke (all nicely recapped here on Eater). So for the moment, it’s all about classic cocktails at a nice price in a dive setting—which sounds like heaven to me. The Tenderblog has more details on the drinkies here. Time will tell what the Future Brands crew has in store for the place (concept, renovations, timing are TBD). Open Wed-Sat 6pm-2am. 441 Jones St. at O’Farrell, 415-474-2284.

And now, let’s move up the street. I mentioned a year ago that BOURBON & BRANCH was expanding into the neighboring Bang San Thai location at 505 Jones Street. Meet their new addition: THE WILSON, a new reservations-only annex with room for 20, serving a nightly three-course cocktail tour (read all about it on Alcademics and UrbanDaddy). Grub Street mentions the opening is Friday March 25th. Open Tue-Sat. 501 Jones St. at O’Farrell, 415-931-7292.

A New Lounge, Monroe, Now Open in North Beach


Photo by Anna Hiatt.


Photo by Anna Hiatt.

Now open in the former Dragon Bar space on Broadway is MONROE, a new, upscale bar and lounge that has bailed on the bottle service and velvet rope B.S. found elsewhere around town. The space looks rather fantastic; designed by Mr. Important (Charles Doell)—who also did Gitane—the look is very Hollywood glam. (Grub Street has a nice slideshow of the swank interior here). There’s also a smoking patio.

Cocktails are hand-crafted with fresh ingredients, and there are also wines on tap, local and regional beers, and small bites. To celebrate their grand opening, Monroe is offering half off their entire beer and wine list Mon-Fri from 5pm-9pm through April 1st. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-close. 473 Broadway at Kearny, 415-772-9002.

Three Places Offering Killer Wine Specials

On Monday nights, CITIZEN CAKE is offering selected bottles of wine (many of them from Kermit Lynch) at 50% off during dinner service (starting at 5:30pm).

From now through April 15th, AMERICANO at Hotel Vitale is trying to take the sting out of tax season with half-off bottles of wine and no corkage with its month-long “Tax Relief” promotion. You can order “Tax Relief” Mon-Fri for lunch and/or dinner.

You a fan of nebbiolo? (I can imagine your answer would be yes.) Then you’ll be pleased to know BAR BAMBINO is spotlighting the wines of Produttori del Barbaresco from now through Saturday March 26th. So here’s the deal: seven of Produttori del Barbaresco’s single vineyard riserva offerings from the 2004 and 2005 vintages will be offered at 50% off the regular wine list price. Score.

There is also a special à la carte menu with a Piemontese/Alpine theme, including dishes like a fonduta ($12), a fricassee of snails and wild mushrooms ($13), and tajarin all’albese ($15), rich homemade pasta threads tossed with an earthy sauce of chicken liver.

A Couple Happy Hours to Get You, Uh, Happy


Photo from Anchor & Hope.

Swing by ANCHOR & HOPE on Wednesday evenings (starting at 4:40pm) for a half-dozen oysters (chef’s choice) and a pint of stout for $10. Don’t ask me what’s up with the 4:40pm start time—only goes until 6pm.

Over in Cow Hollow, EASTSIDE WEST has updated their look and feel, offering a new menu of small plates served family style. But here’s the special: from Tue-Fri 4pm-7pm, you can get $2 beers, $4 glasses of sparkling wine or wine, and snacks like smoked salmon bruschetta, Beausoleil oysters, and housemade pigs in a blanket for $6 or less.

Whiskies of the World Returns This Saturday


This Saturday March 26th is the 12th annual WHISKIES OF THE WORLD EXPO & ARTISANAL SPIRITS FEST. From the biggest brand names to whiskies that are not even available for sale, there will be whiskies from the U.S., Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, Australia, and more. There will also be handcrafted vodkas, gins, liqueurs, and other varieties of distilled spirits, over 200 in all.

The Expo is back at the San Francisco Belle Yacht (docked) with its three ballroom-size tasting decks, and an open roof Whisky and Cigar Pairing deck. There will also be a full buffet dinner, seminars conducted by world-famous master distillers and brand ambassadors, a live pipe and drum concert and other live music, mixology demonstrations, Celtic craft and whisky gear booths, artisanal food pairings with exclusive whiskies, and more. You can get a $10 discount on the $110 WoW general admission tickets using an exclusive discount code for tablehopper readers: simply use code TBLHPR on the checkout page. 6pm-10pm. The SF Belle Hornblower Yacht, Pier 3 Embarcadero at Washington St.

               Saturday Mar 26, 2011 $110; use code TBLHPR for $10 discount more info

Three Upcoming (and Special) Winemaker Dinners


On Wednesday March 30th, LOCAL MISSION EATERY is launching their monthly series of winemaker dinners, to be held on the last Wednesday of each month. This one will feature Natural Process Alliance’s winemakers Hardy Wallace and Kevin Kelley, pouring their 2010 wines. Details here.

On Thursday March 31st, FOREIGN CINEMA is hosting a winemaker dinner with Eric Sussman of Radio-Coteau. Four courses (highlights include warm truffled popcorn; spring vegetable velouté; roasted chanterelles, squab, and mache toasts; Dixon California lamb and Llano Seco pork belly, mint-rose petal sauce; and apple-huckleberry crostata); starts at 6:30pm. The intimate event is limited to 27 guests. $100 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Call 415-648-7600 for reservations.

On Wednesday April 13th, 1300 ON FILLMORE is hosting both Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji and winemaker Celia Tejada with a five-course prix-fixe menu paired with wines from Kemiji and Tejada’s public and private collections. Both Kemiji and Tejada will be on hand to share their stories and insights, and answer any questions. 6pm cocktail reception; 7pm dinner. $95. Click here to make your reservation or call 415-771-7100.

Fourth Annual Passport to the East Bay on Saturday April 2nd


Photo from EBVA.

On Saturday April 2nd, 21 urban wineries in the East Bay are coming together for the 4th annual PASSPORT TO THE EAST BAY. Six tasting rooms in Oakland and Alameda will pour the many different wines of the EBVA (East Bay Vintner’s Alliance). Guests will be able to sample EBVA wines at any of the six tastings rooms listed below, all within eight miles of each other:

Dashe Cellars/JC Cellars* 55 4th St., Oakland 510-452-1800/510-465-5900 *also featuring Aubin Cellars, Eno Wines, Prospect 772 Wines, Stage Left Cellars, and Tayerle Wines

Cerruti Cellars (Tudal Family Winery) 100 Webster St., Oakland 510-550-2900

Periscope Cellars/Linden Street Brewery 95 Linden St., Suite 7/8, Oakland 415-655-7827

Rock Wall Wine Co.* 2301 Monarch St., Suite 300, Alameda 510-522-5700 *also featuring Andrew Lane Wines, Blacksmith Cellars, Carica Wines, Ehrenberg Cellars, JRE Wines, and R&B Cellars

Rosenblum Cellars 2900 Main St., Alameda 510-865-7007

Urban Legend* 621 4th St., Oakland 510-545-4356 *also featuring Adams Point Winery, Stomping Girl Winery, and Urbano Cellars

Tickets can be purchased for $40 in advance or for $45 at the door. (Designated drivers only pay $10.) Each ticket purchased supplies a wristband that guarantees free access to each of the six tasting rooms from 12pm-5pm, an assortment of appetizers, and also a souvenir glass. Designated drivers will receive a complimentary coffee mug.

               Saturday Apr  2, 2011 12pm–5pm $40 in advance; $50 at the door more info


the sponsor

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

(Sponsored): "Get Your Green On" With Celebrity Chefs at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Who cares about the rain when it’s bloomin’ spring inside at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show this Wednesday through Sunday, March 23rd-27th. Wine tasting pavilion, beer and jam making in the Edible Garden, top chefs cooking demos, 200 vendors selling everything from plants to cool vintage posters. Perfect for a girlfriends’ day out, time with Mom, or a chill late afternoon or weekend date.

Stay dry while strolling 20 indoor installations from cutting edge designers that epitomize “Life in the California Garden.” Check out the latest in flower arranging and exotica, or take off early on Friday to preview the new documentary Symphony of the Soil at 6pm. It’s worth the short ride for this annual Bay Area tradition with something for everyone. Tix online or at the door; kids under 16 free.

the socialite

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

Numerous Ways to Help Japan Right Now


Before we dive in here, I’d like to encourage you to take 15 minutes and look at these recent images of the destruction in Japan. They are powerful, heartbreaking images that will inspire you to do whatever you can to help. And since the restaurant community is one to quickly rally in times of need, there are a bunch of fundraisers that are being planned—there are some below, but look for more in coming weeks.

Through the end of this week, CHOTTO is donating 100% of sales from their bacon mochi and draft Sapporo to aid in Japanese relief efforts.

LUCCA DELI is matching all donations placed into the donation jar up front, up to $500, then it will all go to the JCCCNC. 2120 Chestnut St. at Steiner.

On the evening of Wednesday March 30th, Bacchus Management Group and its family of restaurants—Café des Amis, Mayfield Bakery & Café, Pizza Antica, Spruce, and The Village Pub—will be donating a portion of their sales to the American Red Cross to help the children and families affected by this tragedy.

OZUMO San Francisco (as well as Ozumo Oakland) are also contributing to relief efforts through the Red cross, donating 100% of sales of their specialty cocktail Kibou No Hana, meaning “flower of hope” ($12, served all day). Donations will be made through the end of March. 161 Steuart St. at Mission, 415-882-1333.

One that is happening in multiple cities (with many Bay Area locations) on Saturday April 2nd is Samin Nosrat’s BAKESALE FOR JAPAN. They could use your help, whether you are a baker, designer, cook, publicist, volunteer, or simply a hungry customer. Follow updates on Twitter.

SUSHI RAN and many other local restaurants (Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant, Kyo-Ya, The Cliff House, Urban Tavern, Ozumo, Seasons, XYZ, E&O Trading Co., Kirala, Sanraku, Gonbe, Shabuway, Anamandara, and We Be Sushi) are supporting Hope to Japan, a fundraising event on Tuesday April 5th to benefit the Japanese Red Cross. The event is 6pm-9pm at the Hotel Nikko; tickets are $150 per person.

Also on April 5th, all four locations of PATXI’S PIZZA (San Francisco and Palo Alto) are raising funds for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, established by the JCCCNC. 10% of all proceeds at lunch and dinner will be donated, whether the purchases are from dining, delivery, pick up, or gift cards. It’s all part of Patxi’s ongoing “52 Weeks of Giving” campaign.

The owners and staff of E&O TRADING COMPANY San Francisco are donating the entire evening of Sunday April 10th, 5pm-9pm, to host a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami via Give2Asia. That means that 100% of all proceeds from this event will go directly to the fund, and nothing will be taken out to cover expenses. Plans include live music, a DJ, and other entertainment. Tickets will be $75 and will include three drinks. 314 Sutter St. at Grant, 415-693-0303.

Last but certainly not least, Sho Kamio of YOSHI’S SAN FRANCISCO, and Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra and AME, who all have close family ties to the region directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami, are organizing two special events with 100% of proceeds going to charity.

At PROSPECT on April 3rd, Sho, Hiro, and Lissa will be joined by Bruce Hill (Bix, Picco, Zero Zero), Ravi Kapur (Prospect), Paul Canales (formerly of Oliveto), and Staffan Terje (Perbacco and Barbacco) for the Chef’s Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami Farm Aid Dinner, starting at 6pm with sparkling wine, sake, and passed appetizers. At 7pm, a six-course, wine- and sake-paired tasting menu will be served. The participating chefs visited Sendai and parts of Miyagi prefecture in Japan two years ago; their eye-opening adventure, exploring culinary traditions and visiting local oyster farms, gave them all a special connection to the area. Please help the local farmers and growers rebuild by purchasing tickets ($300) here.

At YOSHI’S SAN FRANCISCO on Saturday April 9th, the trio is hosting a Japan Relief Benefit from 1pm-4pm for an afternoon of eating, wine and sake tasting, and rockin’ music. All the chefs from the April 3rd event will be there, joined by Ken Tominaga (Hana, Go Fish), Chris Cosentino (Incanto, Boccalone), Joseph Manzare (Hecho, Globe, Zuppa), Hoss Zaré (Zaré at Fly Trap), and Michael Morrison (Moss Room, COCO500). Look for the silent auction full of unusual items and a couple surprises. Please get your tickets to join these chefs in supporting the hard-working growers, farmers, and fishermen in the Miyagi area. Tickets are $75 per person in advance, and limited to 400 people.

Sip & Savor: A Benefit for the Mission YMCA


Photo by Kristen Bagwell.

Event Info

Thursday Mar 24, 2011 6pm–9pm General $80;  VIP $140 Info/tickets                        San Francisco Mercedes-Benz 500 8th St. at Bryant, San Francisco

This Thursday March 24th is the third annual MERCEDEZ-BENZ SIP & SAVOR EVENT, where talented San Francisco chefs and exceptional, award-winning wineries come together to support the thousands of local San Francisco families served by the Mission YMCA.

From 6pm to 9pm, you’ll be savoring the the cuisine of CHAYA Brasserie San Francisco and chef Srijith Gopinathan of Campton Place, plus small bites from TCHO, Just Desserts, Whole Foods, Boccalone, Cheese Plus, and La Boulange Café and Bakery. And you’ll be sipping exceptional wines from participating wineries, including Arnot Roberts, Realm, Ladera Vineyards, Von Strasser, Yates Family Winery, JAX Vineyards, Rocca, Bohème Wines, Clouds Rest Vineyard, Palmaz Vineyards, Demuth-Kemos, Ehlers Estate Winery, Page Wine Cellars, Porter Family Vineyards, Ramey Wine Cellars, Rombauer Vineyards, Tofanelli Family Winery, Via Pacifica, Roessler Cellars, and Yorba Wines. A silent auction will also take place throughout the night.

General tickets are $80 per person; VIP tickets are $140 per person, and include a special etched glass that allows access to reserved wines, as well as an event gift bag.

All proceeds benefit the Mission YMCA, which works with more than 3,000 local families to provide quality before- and after-school care, healthy and safe youth and teen enrichment programs, summer camps, and social and recreational opportunities for older adults. The YMCA is continually working to strengthen vital community resources since 1953.

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Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)

Two Teds, Wine Pairing, and the Future


My girl Margrit; photo from Robert Mondavi Winery.


Get your taxes done early this year, kids, because you need to be in wine country the weekend of April 16th and 17th.

The sixth annual Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour kicks off Saturday April 16th at the ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY itself, hosted by the incomparable Margrit Mondavi and Food Network star Ted Allen. Visitors can hop on the Wine 101 and Discovery tours every half hour with a complimentary glass of Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc, and (for an additional charge) participate in a slew of special experiences, like a To Kalon vineyard tasting, a food and wine pairing seminar hosted by Ted Allen and winery chef Jeff Mosher, and a special six-year vertical tasting of Robert Mondavi Winery’s famous cabernet sauvignon reserve led by director of winemaking, Genevieve Janssens. At noon, Margrit and Ted will share a few choice words about the art of food and wine pairing, which—knowing Margrit—are sure to be both impassioned and inspiring.

Check the full schedule and buy tickets online. Discover Wine Day runs 10am-5pm. 7801 St. Helena Hwy. (Hwy. 29), just north of Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville, 888-766-6328.

On Sunday April 17th, trek over to Green Valley in Sonoma County for the fifth annual Earth Day celebration at IRON HORSE VINEYARDS. This year’s theme is “Our Common Future,” and will feature a curated art exhibit on historical visions of the future (think Jetsons), as well as a conversation between National Geographic’s Boyd Matson and media mogul Ted Turner at 2pm.

General Admission tickets score access to both attractions, plus a walk-around wine and food tasting featuring seven Green Valley wineries, Rocky Mountain Natural bison steak (in honor of Ted Turner’s own buffalo herd), spring veggies, local cheeses, breads, and desserts. VIP ticket holders get all of the above, plus the chance to schmooze with Ted at a private sparkling wine and sustainable caviar reception hosted in the Victorian home of Audrey and Barry Sterling (they also go home with an engraved Riedel flute and a one-ounce jar of tasty fish eggs).

Tickets are available online. Net proceeds from this event benefit The Captain Planet Foundation Ted founded in 1991 to empower and educate youth about ecological issues in their communities. 12pm-4pm. 9786 Ross Station Rd., Sebastopol, 707-887-1507.

Springing Forward With New Restaurant Concepts


EDK’s wild mushroom and goat cheese pizza; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Ubuntu English pea and fig leaf soup; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

Sonoma’s EL DORADO HOTEL has re-opened its former pastry and coffee kiosk as the EL DORADO CORNER CAFÉ. The all-day menu, local wines on tap, and hands-off service inspired by the casual cafés of France and Italy make this an ideal spot to while away an afternoon. The EL DORADO KITCHEN team produces all the Café’s savory menu items, which include EDK’s famed wild mushroom and goat cheese pizza, truffle fries, and tarragon-steamed mussels, as well as some new hot sandwiches and a superb version of (now-trending) spicy duck wings. Grab a marble-topped table in the main café area, or abscond with your prizes to the sexy lobby lounge. In either space, the enormous windows looking out at the Sonoma Square supply top quality people-watching for those who left their manuscripts at home. Did I mention the duck wings are amazing? 405 1st St. W., Sonoma, 707-996-3030.

In Napa, Michelin-starred chef Aaron London of UBUNTU is celebrating the arrival of spring vegetables with a bundle of new prix-fixe options. If the six-course, individually plated chef’s tasting menu at $65 per person sounds too formal, you can select your own six-course meal from the à la carte menu for only $50 per person, with each course served family style. The restaurant has also kept its three-course prix-fixe option at lunch and dinner ($35 per person), which offers an astounding value and worthy choices from the regular menu for each course. New additions to the wine list (like a brut rosé sparkler from Sicily and gewürztraminer from the Sonoma Coast), and experiments with infused sake have freshened up the libation options, as well. Beginning March 28th, Ubuntu will be serving dinner seven nights a week, with lunch on Saturdays and Sundays only. 1140 Main St., Napa, 707-251-5656.

Cheese Meets Wine, Sparks Fly


Brin d’Amour; photo by Victoria Pearson.

Cheese aficionada Janet Fletcher is starting a monthly series of cheese and wine pairing classes in downtown Napa, hosted by my friend Dan Dawson’s fabulous wine shop, BACK ROOM WINES. Each 90-minute class will feature six lesser-known artisanal cheeses in their prime, and four wines chosen from Back Room’s international selection of small-production gems. Since you’re in a wine store, you can also pick up a few take-home bottles (or cases) of whatever wine catches your fancy.

“Cheese-and-wine marriages are like real-life marriages sometimes,” says Janet. “There can be clashes and conflict, but also some really sweet moments when soul mates meet. I choose the wines to make sure students have some epiphanies, but they learn from bad matches, too.” Life lessons through eating more cheese and wine? Janet, you’re officially my hero.

“Cheese Meets Wine” is the first Thursday of every month beginning May 5th, making it a tasty entrée to your weekend in wine country. Class size is limited to 12 people, though, so book early to be sure you get the date you want. Janet’s website has all the details and reservation equipment you need. 5:30pm-7pm. 1000 Main St. at 1st St., Napa.

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Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Where Clive Owen Was Caffeinating, and More

A barista at Contraband Coffee on Larkin writes “Clive Owen was coming on a daily basis for a while; he hasn’t been in a few days. I think I wasn’t making his cappuccinos hot enough.” Grub Street (by way of Leah Garchik and a tweet from the Dapper Diner) mentioned Clive was also spotted at Frances and A16.

And Susan Will Have the Lobstah Salad, Thanks.

Actress Susan Sarandon was spotted at Rigolo Café in Laurel Heights at lunch, dining on their lobster salad.

Eat, Forrest, Eat!

Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had lunch at Poggio, and were reportedly “extremely gracious.” They also had dinner at Waterbar, enjoying sardines and jelly roll dessert, while their son tucked into half a Maine lobster.

Keith Urban Being, Uh, Urban

Robert Duvall, who is starring in Hemingway & Gellhorn, dined at Café des Amis last week. He dined with another gentleman, had a drink or two before dinner, and was laughing a lot and appeared to be having a good time.

He must have told the crew about his meal, because singer Keith Urban (imaginably in town to visit wifey Nicole Kidman while she’s on set for the same film) had a solo lunch there as well. He reportedly sat outside at a bistro table and enjoyed the 24-layer crêpe cake and coffee.

Keith has also been spotted two days in a row dining at at the bar at Roam Artisan Burgers.

A Giada Luck Charm


According to this tweet, Tyler Florence had a special guest visit his kitchen on El Paseo’s opening night this weekend: Giada De Laurentiis.

Gail Simmons on the NorCal Cuisine Circuit

Cotogna continues to draw a high-profile crowd: a reader spotted Top Chef/Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons “getting the tasting menu treatment.” (Gail even tweeted a picture of an amazing-looking raviolo). She was also up in wine country, visiting Ad Hoc (“Would’ve taken a dip in this if i could: Poached apples, vanilla ice cream, sugar cookies.”) and Fremont Diner (“Sonoma’s Fremont diner = my kinda place: brisket hash+eggs, maple bread pudding, fried pie! Serious country cookin”) with Food & Wine’s editor, Dana Cowin.

Incanto Hosts the Voltaggio Brothers for Dinner

A tablehopper reader writes in that the “non-smiling Voltaggio brothers” (in town for Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot event this past weekend in Healdsburg) dined at Incanto last night. Chef Bryan Voltaggio tweeted: “The tuna was sick, check the marrow!” Chef Michael Voltaggio had the same reaction: “tuna marrow, really man? So good.” and “tuna was insane! One of best things I’ve ever tasted.”

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