Chicken salad in a biscuit from Wing Wings.
I love virtual emails: when you receive this, I will hopefully be on Highway 50 by that point, tooling along in my freshly tuned-up Alfa on my way to Lake Tahoe, probably with some 60s classic rock on (it’s all I like to listen to up there). Suite Judy Blue Eyes, I will be singing along to you! My goal is to make it to the lake in time for a late-afternoon glass of my dad’s homemade wine while on the beach with my parents and sister, and maybe a dip in the lake if it’s not too late in the day. The rain clouds in the forecast, however, might have other plans for me.
I am definitely jumping into the big blue on Saturday—gotta have my annual baptism, and feel it down to my tippy toes. I also can’t wait to see the full moon tonight. Arrrrooooooooo! And hello, am so excited about a weekend of home-cooked meals off the grill.
Last night I was signing my book at the Forks & Corks event at Fort Mason. Whoa, what a blast to meet so many of you readers there! Thanks for coming, and saying hi. (And now some of you know my name is Marcia, rhymes with Garcia.) And to those of you who are new subscribers, welcome aboard.
So, last night was a bit more about Sonoma than celebrating Bastille Day with, say, my preferred poison (Champagne). Not like I don’t drink enough of the stuff already. Did you go out for Bastille Day? It’s funny to think back on my twenties, when I wouldn’t miss that huge crazy party in Belden Place and a chance to flirt with all those Frenchie boys all at once. I also remember ending up in a speakeasy bar one night with one of the waiters from Plouf, and for some reason I vaguely remember seeing Lars Ulrich in a corner booth. Those were the days.
And this is Friday.
How many times do I pedal my bike up Market Street, just across the street from DESTINO? Weekly. I look over at the restaurant, noting that I haven’t been there in yeeeeears. It’s funny how places can slip off your radar or rotation. In this world of checking restaurants off of lists, always visiting what’s hot and new and where everyone is talking about, sometimes we have to remember to circle back around to those spots we visited and liked long ago. My job is all about trying new restaurants, and I can eat only so many dinners a week, so I was happy to have an assignment for another publication to return to Destino, incidentally one of my very first reviews on tablehopper back in 2006.
The style is billed as Nuevo Latino, but there’s a strong bent toward the Peruvian here (executive chef/owner James Schenk’s mother is Peruvian). Of course you should consider starting with San Francisco’s cocktail, the Pisco Punch (Schenk’s Pisco Latin Lounge next door has done a lot to revive our native cocktail, and has the largest selection of pisco in town). They make a mean Pisco Sour (you have a choice of pisco), but I was a bit taken with my refreshing Volador, with pisco, lime, agave, muddled cilantro, and ginger (cocktails are all $9). So taken that I drank three of them. And let me tell you, it’s not like the old martini/breasts adage (one is not enough, three is too many)—the glass is a bit on the smaller side (especially with ice in it, so go for a non-rocks drink if you want more booze for your buck).
This is not really food you want to eat all to yourself—the menu is really designed to share, so don’t come with people who are all, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the salad and the lamb shank.” We started with the ceviche a la Peruana ($9), with red snapper, red onion, cilantro, sweet potato chips, canchas (fried kernels of that honking Peruvian corn that’s on steroids), and a boost of heat from aji amarillo. We followed the server’s suggestion and ordered a side of the plantain chips with serrano-cilantro salsa ($4.50), and everything played very nicely together. Balanced flavors and good textures. No sand throwing. Although I did make a bit of a mess with the chips and salsa. Marcia, keep it on the plantain chip or in the bowl or in your mouth, but not on the table.
And then things took a turn for the dirty. Like … items in the oozing cheese department. Yeah, baby. There are three empanadas to choose from, and we went for the palmitos y queso empanada ($6) with hearts of palm, New York cheddar, Grana Padano, and aji amarillo. The dough (made in house) has the visual texture of a fried wonton, all bubbly and undulating, and is not the pastry-style empanada with the crimped edge I have become a fan of. I didn’t expect it to taste so good—I was like, cheddar? Really? And after my first bite, I was like, okay, they can do whatever they want here. Surrender to the fusion! You get two petite fried bundles, and can opt for the more traditional filling of beef with olives and sultanas, or chicken with queso fresco and Andean black mint.
The arepas de queso are some other mischief-makers in the cheese aisle: they are Venezuelan cornmeal pucks filled with Fontina cheese (perfect marks in the melty department, that cheese) with ropa vieja ($11, Cuban pulled pork shoulder) on top, or there’s a vegetarian version with pineapple ($7.50). The pork was juicy and flavorful (tasted kind of like a really good pozole), rich with notes of citrus and spices. There’s also some pineapple on top, reduced with ginger, bringing a bit of an al pastor vibe to the dish (Schenk says he was inspired by the al pastor stands in Puerto Vallarta) along with some beans mixed in. And when you taste the cornmeal and cheese combo doing a Marinera dance together, you’re in the zone. Hold me.
I have to comment on how appetizing all the food looked. The kitchen does some quality garnish action, and I’m not talking the phone-it-in parsley kind. Pickled onions, microgreens, grated cheese … the food looks pretty and colorful. And the overall flavors pop with acid and chile, plus freshness and seasonality.
How many places mess up octopus? Yeah, a lot. Not here. The pulpo al olivo ($9) featured tender tentacles of grilled octopus that were halved and then presented over savory sliced potatoes, with a purple frothy and light sauce of olive aioli. The featured garnish: dehyrdated pieces of Serrano ham. Gracias. (Sadly this dish has been rotated off the menu for a bit.)
We demolished the churrasco ($12.50), a plate of sliced Angus bavette (one of my preferred cuts of steak) cooked to a perfect pink, and then topped with chimichurri sauce and a perfect amount of finishing salt. For a small plate, it felt like a steal. You can also ante up for the classic (and hearty) lomo saltado dish ($21), but we were sticking with the tapas mode.
The menu is super accommodating—you could be a double date, a large birthday party, a couple, whatever, and you will be able to size your meal accordingly. The prices felt really fair for the amount of food we got, if not generous. And the ingredients are good, with organic items featured prominently. And vegetarians will eat heartily here.
Dang, dessert ended on a thud: the chocolate rum tres leches cake ($7). It looked like it was teleported from 1987, with a squiggle of chocolate sauce on the plate, raspberries, and the requisite sprig of mint, the works. And it was mushy and sweet. The Debbie Gibson of dessert. The real star is the alfajores ($12), a fave of mine. You get a packet of 12 butter sandwich cookies with a dulce de leche filling; and score, you should hopefully have enough to bring home as well. Unless you horked them all at the table.
So, as of 2011, the restaurant is 11 years old. It kind of shows. The textured walls feel dated, the menu and check presenters are a little tired, the décor isn’t very au courant. Some things need a bit of a dusting. But it’s comfortable and easygoing, with rich colors, and when the evening light through the stained glass spills into the room, it creates a warm atmosphere. I will credit the restaurant with updating the menu—even though some standards remain, many new dishes get rotated in. And they just added a communal table in the front that seats eight, and there’s a two-top as well.
While I felt like our server was initially just going through the motions with us (hello, customers, I have waited on hundreds of you people), she made a very nice gesture at the end of our meal, seeing we were disappointed with our dessert and didn’t finish it like every other plate we had (cough). We were getting up from the table and she invited us to have a drink on her in the neighboring Pisco Latin Lounge to make up for the clunker dessert. Those are the touches that make a difference, and keep me returning to places—I just won’t let it be another five years this time.
Destino - 1815 Market St. San Francisco - 415-552-4451
By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.
Fresh off her win at Aspen’s Food and Wine Classic, Queen of Porc Duskie Estes is back in Sonoma County and cooking for a tasty cause on Saturday July 30th. She’s teamed up with local event management company From Farm to Table to host a dinner at CANVAS RANCH in west Petaluma, benefiting Family Farms of the Coastal Valleys.
On the menu: ultra-local, artisanal products from Tresch Dairy, Valley Ford Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, McClelland Dairy, Della Fattoria Bakery, Hog Island Oyster Co., and of course the host of the dinner, Canvas Ranch. Rumor has it there may be Barlas goat tostadas, Gleason Ranch chicken, and an assortment of Estes’ Black Pig charcuterie in the mix, as well as plenty of creamy delights from the participating cheesemakers.
In addition to the four-course alfresco feast, guests will enjoy passed hors d’oeuvres and local wines at a welcome reception, and tour Canvas Ranch with the farmer. Keep an eye out for the resident cashmere goats, Araucana chickens, and (my favorite) miniature Babydoll sheep, the cutest little farm mowers around.
Family Farms of the Coastal Valleys is a new nonprofit program from the Education Foundation of Sonoma County, formed for the purpose of supporting the sustainability of family farms, ranches, and fisheries through education. The event on July 30th begins at 5pm, and costs $160 per person; reserve your spot through BrownPaperTickets.com. For more information, visit From Farm to Table’s website, or call 707-256-9409.
This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Sushi. Outside of the food world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC BREWING is set in what could have been described as the “brewing district” of San Francisco at the turn of the century. They’re located on the site of a massive machine shop tucked away behind John O’Connell High School (which was built atop of an old brewery site itself.) Bottle caps from the long-defunct Enterprise Brewing Company and Broadway Brewery nearby can still be found when digging up Folsom Street. In naming their brewery for the former train tracks running through the Mission, friends Anthony LaVia and Chris Lawrence want to evoke the history of the place. In fact, while the guys were digging, they found an old railroad sign three and a half feet down. And, another fortuitous sign: they found the footing for old brew tanks! Southern Pacific Brewing Company (on the site of the old Broadway Brewery) wanted to keep that industrial feel that made the Mission District what it was so many years ago. And they get it right; they’re keeping all the production here in SF.
You could almost miss the brewery—it’s tucked away at 620 Treat Street (near Folsom and 19th Streets). Crazily enough, Anthony was a neighbor, and hadn’t realized that the massive, close to 10,000-sq. ft. machine shop warehouse was there. When they found it, it didn’t take long for them to decide this was the right fit. They only checked out a couple of other sites before realizing the opportunity that this mixed-license warehouse space offers them—the ability to be a restaurant, bar, and full production brewery with distribution.
In contrast to that quick decision, their elaborate build-out is a labor of love and a saga of permitting with the city two and a half years in the works. Boor Bridges is the architecture firm behind the transformation. (You might recognize the work of architects Bonnie and Seth at the new Four Barrel parklet on Valencia Street.) A major must for the Boor Bridges duo was bringing the light in with generous skylights and a stunning, custom-built glass front wall framed in galvanized steel for the gigantic, metal-wrapped, formerly dark edifice. The concept is centered on creating an indoor/outdoor feel no matter where you’re dining. There’s patio seating in the front, a lengthy bar along the right wall as you enter, and a dining room both downstairs and upstairs under the high ceilings. To the left is the giant roll-up door from which all that great beer will roll out into SF. Behind the downstairs bar area and bar-height dining area, the kitchen is housed under the mezzanine bar above. The mezzanine level has a stunning view through the glass front wall and will be available for private parties. (Think: best bachelor party ever.) And in the back is where all the brewing will take place.
All throughout the space, one of San Francisco’s horticultural darlings, Flora Grubb, will be doing up the landscape. On the patio and creating a little bit of green in betwixt all that elegant steel and glass will be a full spectrum of Flora’s work. In the middle of the dining room, two trees will grow up. Other elements warming the space include large reclaimed lumber from a 100-year-old redwood barn from Mendocino for the back bar and the face of the bar, as well as reclaimed wood pieces that were actually the joists from Anthony’s old house in Noe Valley, also about 100 years old, as accents in the bar and dining room.
And, in a favorite move for all those ladies who hate to wait in line: there’s a communal sink between the bathrooms. No waiting with legs crossed while someone ahead of you takes fooooorever to reapply her lips. Thank you very much, once I’m my third beer in. And, that’s pretty much a guarantee, as Anthony and Chris plan to produce all types of beer with some initial styles including IPAs, pale ales, and lagers.
When I met up with the guys, they were in the process of framing out the walls and getting up the sheet rock. HVAC was being installed, and the last bits of the machine shop were being removed.
In a stunning kitchen touring moment, this author found herself standing in the largest walk-in structure she’s ever seen (and I’ve been in some pretty huge warehouse kitchens…). The walk-in was 17-ft. wide x 31-ft. long x and 18-ft. tall. That’s a lot of precious beer to keep chilled for the Bay Area folks who will be drinking ‘em.
The kitchen will be full-service and will feature a pizza oven. The guys are still seeking a chef, and anyone interested can reach them by email. There’s a 15-ft. hood, and a pretty standard kitchen with a couple of fryers, grill burners, and whatever else the chef decides on. Plus, in your most favorite of Scooby Doo dreams, the kitchen staff will regularly use a dumbwaiter to run food up to the mezzanine level.
The guys have a long history in the beer business, Chris at Speakeasy as a sales manager and at Matagrano as a wholesaler. Anthony owned Cafe La Onda before turning it into Gestalt Haus, then sold that and bought the Arrow Bar at 6th Street, turning it into Matador and then selling it, as well. It’s clear that these guys know their way around a perfect pint. They are planning not only to brew and sell their own beer in-house, but to distribute it themselves, too. They say they’ll start locally in the Mission and then expand organically. Being able to keep the beer moving keeps it fresh.
The tanks, three fermentors and seven brights, are repurposed from the old Potrero Brewing Company. They’re beautiful showpieces (in fact, they’re the sister system to 21st Amendment), which are going to work hard to produce up to 2,000 barrels back behind the restaurant. The dry storage area in the back will allow for barrel aging in the cool, insulated section of the building.
The building being zoned as mixed-use made the build-out a bit easier for the guys, who have been managing the massive construction project themselves. Obtaining a Small Beer Manufacturer license made their vision possible. Other spaces they looked at that had Wholesale or On-Sale Beer and Wine Eating Place licenses were close, but not quite the right fit. The mixed-use license was perfect because it allows for in-house production, beer and wine sales, and distribution. With the other license types, the guys would have had to develop their brand in-house and then open another brewery. Chris and Anthony will also have a full liquor license for the bar for those of you who just need that shot of Jamie or Jack or Jim to go with your brew.
One positive aspect of a long build-out was the ability to source just the right equipment. They were able to watch for the best barrels from all over. This allowed them to save money and do some good for the planet by scouting great reclaimed materials and giving themselves the opportunity to be choosy.
The guys are excited to be adding their brewery, restaurant, and bar to a neighborhood full of other large and lively projects, like Southern Exposure’s arts space and the upcoming bowling alley project. Missionites are cheering the arrival of another tasty and outdoor option in the ‘hood, and are prepping their budding beer guts for the opening slated for late summer/early fall.