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Nov 28, 2011 27 min read

November 29, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: bye pumpkins, hello tinsel.

November 29, 2011 - This week's tablehopper: bye pumpkins, hello tinsel.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: bye pumpkins, hello tinsel.                    

A stunning display at the annual McEvoy Ranch harvest party. Photo: ©

So have you made it through your Thanksgiving leftovers yet? I had the last of my turkey stock with some tortellini for lunch today, but thank God the giblet gravy and stuffing is all finished. That sh*t will get you f-a-t in just three artery-clogged heartbeats. Am also thanking the stars for the gorg weather this week—we can run in the park and ride our bikes to our hearts’ content—literally.

Since one of my favorite combinations is bike riding and dining, I wanted to let you know about a special auction item at this Sunday’s Winterfest, the annual fundraising event put on by the SF Bike Coalition! There are many silent and live auction items, but the one to look for is #150, a progressive dinner avec moi (on bikes!). Thanks to the thoughtful donations of Bar Tartine, Foreign Cinema, and Locanda, we’ll have quite the night (and since those restaurants are ridiculously close, it won’t be a strenuous ride from place to place with a full belly). Winterfest will also have music, beer and wine, and other event treats. Hope to see you there!

Now that we’re getting into the holiday swing, I have a bunch of special holiday news and events for you in upcoming weeks, starting with today’s installment of holiday lunches, teas, and a gift bazaar from La Cocina in the socialite, in addition to some great tasting events in the lush (along with some big news!), and a 707 holiday report.

Let’s party!

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Tacolicious II and Mosto: Now Open in the Mission


Tacolicious interior; photo by Tyler Gourley.


Tacolicious patio; photo by Tyler Gourley.


Mosto interior; photo by Tyler Gourley.

PG&E has finally turned on the power for the second TACOLICIOUS II and MOSTO in the Mission, and both businesses are officially open. (Owner Joe Hargrave can officially exhale, and now inhale.) There was a previous tablehopper hardhat feature with many details on the project, but let’s recap the highlights, shall we?

Tacolicious II features barstool and banquette seating at high tables and a bar, with cheerful and colorful cement tile floors (from Guanajuato), lots of natural light, a private dining room for all your fiesta needs, and plenty of warmth from all the wood elements. The flanking 30-seat patio room features a retractable roof with seating in bright orange chairs, and a mural of Dolores Park by Paul Madonna (he did the fab taqueria artwork at the original Tacolicious in the Marina).

The menu by chef Antelmo “Telmo” Faria will be similar to the Marina location—with carnitas tacos, guajillo-braised beef tacos, and shot-and-a-beer chicken tacos, all wrapped up in tortillas from La Palma—in addition to iron skillet-roasted mussels (a nod to Hargrave’s days at LuLu), and there’s the albacore tuna tostada inspired by Mexico City restaurant Contramar. Cocktails are made with fresh juices (check out the vintage juicers), and you can go classic with a margarita or try the spicy Pasión made with passion fruit and habanero-infused tequila. Open daily 11:30am-12am. 741 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-626-1344.

Next door at Mosto, you are going to find a dimly lit bar with candle-lined walls, a banquette with high tables, and a ceiling made of over 3,000 glass Mason jars. There is a simple menu of seasonal botanas (snacks) inspired by Mexico CIty taco stands, and a not-simple tequila bar with over 300 selections. Yup, it’s going to be one of the country’s most comprehensive tequila and mezcal lists; all tequilas will be served with sangrita and a spicy pickle back. The concise cocktail list highlights some classics, like a Paloma, and a tequila sunrise made with housemade grenadine and fresh orange juice. Tequila makes you squirm? Well, there will be a single selection of every other kind of spirit (rum, vodka, etc.) in the “haters” section, all crafted in the San Francisco area, plus wine and beer.

You’re going to be all over the shaved-to-order al pastor tacos ($1.50), banana leaf-wrapped chicken tamales from Mrs. Reyes ($3), pescado del día (AQ), nopal y queso tacos ($1.50), and chicharrones by 4505 Meats. Open daily 5pm-12am. 741 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-346-1966.

All Northern California Café Gratitude Locations (and Gracias Madre) to Close


I Am No Longer Going to be Available. (Maybe.) Photo: ©

Some big news from SFist this morning: “Terces Engelhart, owner of CAFÉ GRATITUDE, just posted the following announcement on her Facebook page announcing the closure/sale of all Northern California Café Gratitudes locations. According to Englehart, some ‘aggressive lawsuits’ from former employees brought him to the decision to shutter his vegan/cult restaurants.”

All Northern California Café Gratitude locations will be closed/sold, including the very popular Gracias Madre (the Los Angeles Café Gratitude location will remain open). A second Facebook post says, “we will be open for at least a few months depending on the sales of our locations.” After speaking with management at Gracias Madre, I learned one hope is that a corporation or group will buy the NorCal locations and keep them open. If you are curious about the “aggressive lawsuits,” the SFist piece has more.

Café Gratitude: San Francisco            - 2400 Harrison St. San Francisco - 415-830-3014

Prather Ranch Opening American Eatery in the Ferry Building


Flickr photo by yipe.

According to this help wanted ad on Craigslist, PRATHER RANCH MEAT CO. is going to be expanding their presence in the Ferry Building Marketplace. While the folks at Prather don’t want to release any details at this time, the ad mentions it will be called AMERICAN EATERY, serving “high quality breakfast and lunch to go, featuring regional American specialties with a focus on burgers, seasonal sandwiches, salads and soups. The Eatery will use only the best available meat and produce.” It also mentions a December opening, so hopefully I’ll have more details very soon.

Ferry Building            - One Ferry Building San Francisco - 415-983-8000

Roostertail Opening December 7th in Upper Fillmore


Moving into the former Café Kati space, ROOSTERTAIL opens Wednesday December 7th as an upscale, fast-casual (seems to be a recurring theme this year) American rotisserie adding their hip, urban feel to Upper Fillmore. Chef-owners Gerard Darian and Tracy Green plan to serve “familiar favorites” from the American and Californian traditions, using local or at least US-grown produce.

If you haven’t already guessed from the name, the restaurant’s emphasis will be chicken, specifically Mary’s free-range, air-chilled chickens raised in Cali and cooked on a rotisserie spit. Crispy chicken wings tossed in Roostertail’s signature green sauce, and a slow-roasted, spice-rubbed beef brisket will also be on the menu. Sandwich options will include pulled-pork with housemade pickles; beef brisket with sweet onion marmalade; rotisserie chicken, bacon, and Pt. Reyes toma cheese; barbecue chicken with caramelized onion and portobello mushroom; and cheesesteak-style beef brisket, all served on Acme bread. The oversized chopped salads sound almost as hearty as the sandwiches when you add a daily protein, with local cheeses to boot. Some examples: Cobb with applewood smoked bacon and Black River blue cheese; Rooster with spiced walnuts, beets, and Laura Chenel goat cheese; and the Daily Chop with fingerling potatoes, hearts of palm, and buttermilk blue cheese dressing. A good salad is a hard thing to find in this town, so I’m looking forward to trying them.

Hot sides include baked beans, warm bacon slaw, crispy onion rings, smashed potatoes with chicken gravy, mac and three cheese, and Brussels sprout bacon hash. Seasonal sides include roasted squash with walnut caper butter, and green bean and mushroom casserole, with more to come as the seasons change. The dessert menu is old-fashioned by design with draft root beer floats with Straus organic ice cream, chocolate chip bundt cake, fruit crisp, and soft-serve ice cream with a variety of dips. The beverages will include local/domestic tap beers and wines, canned beers, wine cooler cocktails made with seasonal purées, and non-alcoholic bevvies like housemade sodas.

The 1,400-square-foot restaurant will seat 49 in the main dining room with a view of the exposed kitchen, and an outdoor patio is coming soon. Expect lots of natural light, warm wooden floors, wainscoting, and a 47-inch TV (yeah, that’s a big ‘un). Choose from seating at walnut dining counters and tables, or at the black granite bar with red bar stools. Eat-in or order for takeout. Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm, closed Sun. 1963 Sutter St. at Fillmore, 415-776-6873.

Upcoming Project Medley: Capos, an Update on Parallel 37, O3, and The Dancing Pig


Pulcinella photo from Adam Martin/Grub Street.

That Tony Gemignani (Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) is always busy working on something. Coming up next is CAPOS, a restaurant he is opening with partners Nancy Puglisi and Bruno DiFabio in the former Pulcinella space in North Beach, according to Inside Scoop. Stand by for more details on what a place called “bosses” serves (besides fish wrapped up in newspaper, ha). He hopes to open in three months—and since the place has three ovens, it should be interesting. 641 Vallejo St. at Columbus.

I received a call from the Ritz-Carlton crew that PARALLEL 37 is opening Monday December 12th (for both lunch and dinner), and Camber Lay (Town Hall, EPIC), will be the lead bartender. Stand by for pics and menus next.

After I reported a while ago that it seemed a “Thai bistro” was moving into the former California Pizza Kitchen on Van Ness, Scoop has more details: it will be called O3 BISTRO & LOUNGE, serving “Asian-Californian fusion” (no comment). Owner Roy Chou has brought on chef Joseph Villanueva (Le Colonial). Look for a January opening. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister.

Grub Street has some additional deets on THE DANCING PIG, opening in the Nirvana space on Castro. Yup, the city is going to have yet another barbecue place. This one is from owner and south Indiana native J.R. Kleysteuber, who will be serving “San Francisco BBQ”—namely, “a mix of styles, including Carolina-style pulled pork and some house-special ribs.” The chef is Michelle Agnew (de Young Museum, Burger Bar). Additional partners are Linda Holl (both Kleysteuber and Holl are bartenders at The Mix), and Larry Metzger, owner of The Mix. And there will be bourbon! Look for an opening in a month or so. 544 Castro St. at Market.

Parallel 37            - 600 Stockton St. San Francisco - 415-773-6168

Open Tonight: Dear Mom, (Yeah, that Comma Is Supposed to Be There)


Artwork from Facebook.

Opening tonight in the former El Rincon space is DEAR MOM, from two Thieves Tavern bartenders, Oliver Piazza and Jay Beaman, working with Thieves owner Paul Bavaro. And today’s opening is a close one: just this morning there was a fire next door, but fortunately everyone is okay (the boys came into the burning studio with their freshly charged fire extinguisher tanks—way to go, guys!).

As previously mentioned in tablehopper, they’re partnering with Laurent Katgely of nearby Chez Spencer, who is helping them with an affordable, all-day, and rotating menu of dishes like baked farfalle with four cheeses, and daily specials ranging from braised lamb cheeks on Mondays to bouillabaisse on Fridays. Even though it sounds “nice,” everything will be priced at $19 and under. The plan is for a casual bar menu—kind of like 15 Romolo—that doesn’t necessarily make it a food destination per se, but more of a fun and friendly bar destination where you can eat. They also hope to offer a “bartender brunch” on Sundays, with brunch items available from 11am-11pm, so no matter what time you roll out of bed, you can still get your brunch on. How civilized.

There will be a whiskey-focused list (they plan on having 80 bourbons, 20 ryes), plus 20 Scotches, and some tequila. Since they literally just got their liquor license, the opening tonight will have some canned beer and a whiskey or two, but look for the shelves to get more stocked up and the beer taps to get going as the week progresses. Hours will be Sun-Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-1:30am. 2700 16th St. at Harrison, 415-625-3362.


Pie! From Three Babes Bakeshop (image from their website).

The Inside Scoop broke the news that over in Cole Valley, THREE BABES BAKESHOP was opening a takeout shop for their pies (they are sharing the kitchen and retail space with the BACON BACON TRUCK) in the former Ashbury Market. Building owner Arnold Eric Wong leased the rest of the space to Ben Robinson of Harvest Hill market, who will be opening a grocery store.

Here are more details: Bacon Bacon is serving coffee, breakfast, and pastries in the morning starting at 7am, and you can pick up slices or entire pies (and hot pie!) from Three Babes (and yes, pie slices will soon be available in the morning, starting at 8am). In a couple weeks (starting December 11th), Three Babes will have chicken pot pies available on Sundays ($44 for a whole pie, which will feed 7-8 people, or $8 for a hearty individual pie, which could feed two). Open until 6pm daily. Follow Three Babes Bakeshop and Bacon Bacon truck on Twitter for updates and specials. 205a Frederick St. at Ashbury.

Over in Noe Valley, the COOKIE TIME TRUCK from Marina Snetkova is serving organic cookies (fresh out of the oven on the truck), as well as Straus milk, Bicycle Coffee, and Five Mountains Tea. Ends up there’s a little neighborhood drama with the owner of Martha & Bros.—hop on over to Eater for more on the kerfuffle (that should be a cookie name). The truck will be parked in a lot next to Haystack Pizza on 24th Street between Sanchez and Vicksburg Streets, and she hopes to join Off the Grid in the very near future. Since hours seem a bit up in the air, just followe the truck on Twitter for schedule updates.

Eater brought word that SOUL GROOVE was opening in the Duc Loi kitchen (where Mission Street Food’s Mission Burger was previously staked out). Well, they’re open and here’s what’s on the menu: a very evil fried chicken and waffle sandwich ($6). Actually, let’s have them tell you more: “a succulent boneless breast wrapped in bacon, battered, southern fried, nestled between two maple waffles, and served with maple barbecue sauce and jalapeno cole slaw. No big whoop.” Yeah, it’s gonna hurt you. Soul Groove will be serving daily from 8am-8pm, and popping up elsewhere in the evenings; follow updates on Twitter.

SFoodie reports FARM: TABLE’s owner Shannon Amitin will be opening a second location: a coffee kiosk in the Warfield Theater Building. There will be some bites available as well. Look for an opening in the end of January or February. 988 Market St. at Golden Gate.

Coco-luxe to Add Coco-vine


Interior of Coco-luxe; photo by Rebecca Kinney. ©

Coco-luxe in the Upper Haight will soon be a coffee bar by day and an urban tasting bar by night called COCO-VINE. Starting at 5:30pm, you can taste wines at their newly expanded bar along with chocolates created especially for each wine. They will also serve small snacks such as Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and Creminelli Fine Meats. Coco-vine will open a retail wine store in the back where you can purchase books, openers, and other merchandise.

The wines are from Markris Wine Group (aka Mark Bright and Kristopher Esqueda), and will all be available by the glass ($7 to $16). You will be able to purchase set flights (five tastes for $12), or create your own from three different wines. They will also offer a chocolate and wine flight (three wines plus three chocolates). They expect to open by December 9th. Hours for now are Sun-Wed 9am-10pm, and Thu-Sat 9am-12am. 1673 Haight St. at Cole, 415-367-4012.

Deals on Meals and Power Lunches for You, Yo!


Cupola Pizzeria interior photo by John Benson.

Swing on by CUPOLA PIZZERIA in the Westfield Centre for their new La Festa di Tutte Le Feste (“the feast of all feasts”) special. For $30 per person, chef Christian Hermsdorf will put together a special meal for your table (everyone has to order it). Anything on the menu is fair game, and the staff will ask if  there is anything on the à la carte menu that has caught your eye (amounts of dishes and portions are dependent upon the number of people at the table). Dessert is included (but not beverages).

POSTRIO has launched a new power hour lunch menu for $13—you get a full sandwich (like a Cubano) or personal pizza and a choice of salad (mixed greens, fruit salad, or romaine heart salad). And you’ll be in and out in 45 minutes. 545 Post St. at Taylor, 415-776-7825.

Over in Sausalito, MURRAY CIRCLE at Cavallo Point has a new power lunch menu as well from executive chef Justin Everett. You get a four-course meal served on one plate for $22. It includes a little gem salad, soup, a choice of four specialty sandwiches served on housemade bread, and freshly made chips with coal-roasted onion dip. You can add a glass of red or white wine for an additional $6. Available Mon-Fri.

Cupola Pizzeria            - 845 Market St., 4th floor, San Francisco - 415-896-5600

Pop-Ups: Salon Bleue (graffEats) and Reform Club


The scene at Reform Club; photo from Facebook.

A couple one-off dinners for your radar. This Thursday December 1st, Blair Warsham of graffEats is co-hosting Salon Bleue: A Feast and Conversation, the Way It Used to Be with SonicSF. A four-course menu inspired by “La Grande Cuisine” of 17th century Paris will be served with wine and beer donated by Coppola and ThirstyBear. Special guests will host each table to encourage conversation, including Adam Savage of Mythbusters and fiction writer Ayelet Waldman. 6:30pm, details and tickets ($125) here.

On Sunday December 4th, Becky Pezzullo (Undercover Supper, Bar Bambino) and Dion Jardine (Slanted Door, Heaven’s Dog) are holding another installment of REFORM CLUB at Specchio in the Mission. They will be hosting a Korean dinner with Seoul Patch (chefs Eric Ehler and Nick Rappoport). The menu includes Korean beef crudo; Korean miso with butternut squash, acorn jelly, and custard tofu; and seared rock cod with braised kimchi, beans, ham hock, and ginger; and more. $40, and wine pairings are $25. Make your reservation here.

Smoke Berkeley Now Open on San Pablo


Yelp photo of Smoke Berkeley’s menu by Ron B.

A tip on Chowhound mentions the opening of SMOKE BERKELEY, which has opened in the “little Mexican restaurant adjoining the car wash on the west side of San Pablo.” Further details mention chef Tina Ferguson-Riffe is from Texas, and she reportedly won the blue ribbon at the Blanco County Fair for her chocolate pecan pie. Also on the menu: Texas slow-smoked beef brisket and South Carolina pulled pork plates, sandwiches, and sliders, along with salads, a feta-leek tart, sides like coleslaw and potato salad, and for those of you who don’t want barbecue, there’s tea-smoked salmon with brown rice or coleslaw. Initial hours are Wed-Fri 11am-2pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm. 2434 San Pablo Ave. at Channing, 510-548-8801.


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the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Scott Beattie and Michael Lazar No Longer at Plum Bar


The front bar area. Photo by Cindy Chew.

Wow, big (and bummer) news: just two weeks after opening PLUM BAR, consultant Scott Beattie and bar manager Michael Lazar are no longer involved with the project. I had a chance to catch up with Beattie, who said their last day was Friday. He couldn’t comment on the reason(s) for the sudden departure, but he did say he was heartbroken over it, and is feeling very disheartened after the months of work he put into the project. He said he was really enjoying the warmth, receptiveness, and feedback of the neighboring Oakland businesses and community, and was meeting some great people. He said he is going to look to the future, and hopefully find a place to relaunch this cocktail program that had him very excited elsewhere.

The Daniel Patterson Group released this official statement about the matter: “Scott Beattie has completed his agreed upon contract with Plum Bar and we wish him well as he moves onto his next project. Plum Bar will continue to evolve its seasonal, classic cocktails in collaboration with the kitchen teams from Plum and Plum Bar, under the direction of Ron Boyd. Some of this winter’s offerings include Hot Brown Buttered Rum with pink lady apple and warm spices; Pomegranate Sour with bourbon and maple; and The San Franciscan with beet juice, Fernet, Meyer lemon and wild fennel.”

Behind the Plywood at Murio's Trophy Room


The current plywood exterior at Murio’s. Photo: ©

A while back, a tablehopper reader sent me an email asking what was going on at MURIO’S TROPHY ROOM, the grotty dive bar in the Upper Haight with quite the pack of regulars, and some of them were not very nice (I speak from experience, meow). Well, persistence pays off, because after numerous visits to the plywooded-up job site, we finally got some contact info. It ends up one of the current owners, Roger Howell, has brought on a new business partner, Edward Sargent; Howell owns The Attic in the Mission, and previously owned Mad Dog in the Fog. They have been busy gutting the space and building it back up, and have brought on a very cool design team, Haleh Cunningham and Bernadette Holmes of Thornbird Styling (this will be their first commercial space project).

I know, I know, some PBR-swilling trustafarian is waving their fist somewhere, and not in a Jah love kind of way. But sometimes things change—and in this case, the bar is going to look amazing, while still maintaining a neighborhood bar vibe. The name will change to just Murio’s. The ladies (one of whom used to work at Wasteland when it first opened and met her husband there, who worked at Villains—how’s that for some Haight history?) described the look as darker and masculine, with tufted caramel-colored banquettes, sexy 70s wallpaper, moody lighting, vintage and mid-century chairs, and organic surfaces, like copper-topped tables and concrete floors that are designed to weather well. Many of the original elements will remain, like the bar top, the pool table, the exterior sign, the newly recovered barstools, and they’re trying to get the jukebox fixed. The trophies from John Murio (who was a pro tennis player in the 1930s, hence the bar’s name and tennis motif) will stay put as “bar jewelry.” Oh yeah, and PBR will remain on the menu. The cocktail list will be straightforward, with quality drinks but nothing too involved, along with local beers and wines.

New elements include the higher ceiling that was revealed once the drop ceiling was removed, some large 15-foot windows in the front, some low-slung seating in the back, along with a DJ booth for DJs to come in and play music (Ed used to DJ at Nickie’s back in the day), and there will be an additional bathroom. The plan is to softly open the week before Christmas—they are working hard to meet that timing. Hours will be 11am-2am. 1811 Haight St. at Shrader.

Mark Your Calendar for Arlequin's Annual Champagne Tasting


The walls of wine at Arlequin Wine Merchant; photo from Facebook.

Ah yes, it’s that time of the year again: the ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT Annual Champagne Tasting is coming up on Thursday December 8th. You’ll be able to taste over 30 Champagnes from small grower-producers, including Jacquesson, Lassaigne, Benoît Lahaye, Laherte Frères, Larmandier-Bernier, Paul Bara, Vilmart, and Agrapart et Fils. And if you fall in love with a few (which you will, so bring your credit card), you’ll be able to purchase them at special event pricing. And how convenient, Absinthe is just next door with their soft pretzel bites. 6pm-8pm. $50 per person; pay at the door.

               Thursday Dec  8, 2011 6pm–8pm $50 at the door more info

Arlequin Wine Merchant            - 384 Hayes St. San Francisco - 415-863-1104

Join Me at the Skrewcrap Holiday Tasting on Saturday December 10th


Blanc et Rouge; photo from Facebook.

On Saturday December 10th, SKREWCAP will hold their second annual Top 40 holiday tasting at Blanc et Rouge wine bar. Yours truly will be there from 2pm-3pm to share my latest thoughts on the best places to eat in San Francisco, answering questions, and signing and selling my book at a special price ($12).

The event, which runs from 1pm-4pm, includes a tasting led by Skrewcap founder Pamela Busch. Sample 40 wines under $40 from 12 countries. Distributors and importers include Blue Danube Wine Company, Joli Vin Imports, Northwest Wines Ltd., Terra Firma Wine Co., Terrell Wines, Valkyrie Selections, Vinos Unico, Wine Appelations Ltd., and more. All the wines will be available at a 10% discount on the day of the event. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Five percent of event proceeds will go to the San Francisco Food Bank. Validated parking at Embarcadero One. 1pm-4pm, Embarcadero Two at Front, 415-391-0758.

               Saturday Dec 10, 2011 1pm–4pm $25 in advance, $30 at the door more info

Three Upcoming Tastings: Wine, Bubbles, and Beer


Event dome at Rock Wall; photo by Rocco Ceselin/BRPACIFIC Inc.

On Saturday December 3rd, ROCK WALL WINE COMPANY will host a Wine Wonderland Open House at their 40,000-square-foot hangar in Alameda. There will be more than 65 wines to try, including new releases from Rock Wall and wines from their co-operative partners. In addition to tasting the wines, a $35 ticket includes music, photos, treats, winery tours, and free parking. 1pm-5pm. 2301 Monarch St. at West Tower, Alameda, 510-522-5700.

18 REASONS has two events coming up: a sparkling wine tasting and a seasonal beer tasting. On Friday December 16th, drop in between 6pm and 8pm to taste some bubbly. Then head over to Bi-Rite to get 10% off your sparkling wines order. $15 for members, $20 for the general public. On Monday December 19th, drop in between 7pm and 9pm to try seasonal beers. Join Jesse Friedman of Almanac Beer Company, Adam Krammer of Lucky Hand Brewing, and more for sipping and menu pairing tips. $10 for members, $15 for the general public.

18 Reasons            - 3674 18th St. San Francisco


the socialite

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

Holiday Tea and Lunching


Crown & Crumpet interior photo: ©


The bonne bouche platter at Jardinière. Photo: ©

Since we’re continuing full speed ahead with the holiday season, keep these holiday tea and lunch options in mind as you make your plans, especially if you want to plan a special afternoon for the kiddos.

Have an elegant, traditional holiday tea service at the WESTIN ST. FRANCIS, Saturdays and Sundays only from December 3rd-18th, 2pm-4pm. Choose from fine artisanal teas by Mighty Leaf or Red Blossom Tea Company, followed by a selection of tea sandwiches, freshly baked black currant scone and seasonal berries with Devonshire-blend cream, preserves, and assorted petits fours. Prices range from $41-$49/adult, $21/child 12 and under. Go for the Royal Tea ($47); it includes a glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine. Book now; reservations are required. 335 Powell St. at Geary, 415-774-0264.

The SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL is once again offering Tea Under the Tree, a holiday tea experience on select dates between December 3rd and 23rd, 1pm-4pm. Guests will have a choice of artisanal teas, plus tea sandwiches, and freshly baked pastries, all under a 20-foot tree. Hand-crafted cocktails and wines by the glass will be available too. $40/adult, $20/child. 450 Powell St. at Sutter, 415-395-8555.

The TOP OF THE MARK is also presenting special holiday teas. Their Holiday Afternoon Tea is available from 2:30pm-5pm on December 5th-8th, 12th-15th,  and 26th-30th. Enjoy three-tiers of tea sandwiches, English scones with Devonshire cream and fruit preserves, and elegant French pastries, and choose from a selection of the fine loose leaf teas and infusions, or iced tea or coffee. $36/person.

As a special treat for all ages, Top of the Mark is hosting a Magical Holiday Tea on select dates between December 9th-23rd, 12:30pm-2pm. The buffet includes quite a selection of traditional and holiday tea favorites, plus kid-friendly items like mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pigs in a blanket. The experience includes magician RJ Owens, face painter Sandra Lethley, and a complimentary children’s gift. $48/person, $2 off with a toy for Toys for Tots; prices exclude tax and gratuity. 1 Nob Hill at Mason, 415-616-6916.

CROWN & CRUMPET has lots of holiday tea options, especially kid-centric ones. The Gingerbread Tea on December 16th, 19th, and 23rd is for kiddos from 2 to 12, who’ll get to decorate miniature gingerbread houses! They also get a kid-friendly holiday tea, and Christmas crackers for all. Adults in tow will be served a light tea and a holiday aperitif. Do expect a special visitor—wonder who that’ll be? 4pm-6pm.

The Ladies Afternoon Tea on December 11th and 18th, 4pm-6pm, is a family-friendly (gents are welcome) holiday afternoon tea service that includes an aperitif (non-alcoholic avail), a Christmas cracker, and a small party favor, plus holiday entertainment and door prizes. Those dates not working for ya? You can always book a Holiday Tea anytime from December 10th-24th for a special menu that includes an aperitif (non-alcoholic avail), a Christmas cracker, and their light tea (assorted holiday tea sandwiches, flavored scones, a crumpet, housemade sweets and treats). Prices range from $38-$48/adult, $18-$48/child, plus tax and gratuity. Look for more details and extended dates online. When you make your reservation, note the 72-hour cancellation policy, after which it’s $25/person to cancel.

Open for lunch on Fridays ‘til Xmas is JARDINIÈRE (that’s December 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd) with a holiday lunch menu. Of course there is the delicious warm bread salad with roasted artichokes and crescenza cheese ($15), and some seasonal highlights are the young escarole salad with fuyu persimmons, hazelnuts, and pecorino Romano ($14); Liberty Farms duck confit with Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, and sugar pie pumpkin ($19); and a trio of holiday treats with Aunt Julia’s fudge, candy cane cupcake, and Linzer cookie ($9). They’re also offering a three-course children’s menu ($24) at lunch or dinner: heirloom carrot crudité with herb crème fraîche; choice of fish and chips with local rock cod, handmade pasta and sauce Bolognese with Parmigiano-Reggiano, or roasted Hoffman Ranch chicken breast, honey-glazed carrots, and potato purée; and vanilla ice cream with milk chocolate sauce and candied peanuts. It’s a good option for a special family meal when you’re in the ‘hood to see the “Nutcracker.”

Up in Marin, THE TAVERN AT LARK CREEK will start serving lunch on weekdays throughout December between 11am-2pm. Lunch menu items include pear and goat cheese salad with Bibb lettuce, honey lavender almonds, and huckleberry vinaigrette ($9.95); day boat scallops with cranberry vinaigrette, sunchokes, chanterelles, and Brussels sprouts ($21.50); and pumpkin-braised short rib with sweet onion, polenta, sugar pumpkin, and autumn vegetable salad ($22.50). Or you can opt for the three-course prix-fixe menu with roasted pear salad, braised short ribs, and classic butterscotch pudding ($32). 234 Magnolia Ave. at William, Larkspur, 415-924-7766.

Holiday Treats with La Cocina


Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas; Facebook photo by © John Ater.


Fans of good food, whether they’re gifting or receiving, will appreciate the selection at the third annual LA COCINA GIFT BAZAAR on Friday December 9th, 5pm-9pm, at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Admission is free to peruse the artisanal and handcrafted food products from La Cocina program participants and select local vendors.

It’s a great place to shop for holiday gifts from a variety of vendors in one place, including new start-ups Sal de Vida (flavor-infused salts, rice and soup mixes), Jarred (seasonal pickles), and Familia del Sol (grandma’s salsas). Other vendors may be old standbys, but they’ve got new products for you to check out, like Clairesquares’ holiday brandy butter and La Luna Cupcakes’ snowmen cake truffles.

Don’t pass up the drinks from local distillers mixed by Rye on the Road, and all the deliciousness to be found in “Tamale Alley” with Estrellita’s Snacks, Chaac Mool, Maite Catering, and others. And don’t overlook all the exciting “experience gift” ideas in the silent auction, which starts December 3rd. 2868 Mission St. at 25th St.

Did the mention of tamales inspire you to learn how to make these masa-filled goodies? You’ve got two upcoming chances, and both benefit La Cocina. On December 14th, La Cocina is hosting La Tamalada: their ultimate tamale-making class with not one but three top Bay Area tamale makers—Alicia of Tamales los Mayas, Maria of Estrellita’s Snacks, and Isabel of El Buen Comer—combining their cooking powers for one class. Learn to make tamales from scratch, with drinks and dinner included, and take home a bag of tamales. You’ll also leave with tips on throwing your own tamale-making party. $65, 6:30pm-9pm. 2948 Folsom St. at 25th St., 415-824-2729.

Chance number two is December 17th, when Alicia of Tamales Los Mayas will teach the art of the tamale at Macy’s Union Square at 2pm. Experience the magic of tamales made with love, and shop the La Cocina holiday gift fair too. Tickets are $20 online. 170 O’Farrell St. at Stockton.

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)

Holiday Goings-On in Grape Land


Gingerbread winery; photo by sarahstierch.


My girl Margrit; photo from Robert Mondavi Winery.


‘Tis the season for Sonoma olives; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


The Big Bottom biscuit, now yours in a variety of fun-filled flavors; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Guerneville vineyard proving California has its seasons; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

With Thanksgiving behind us, wine country is kicking into winter holiday mode in a serious way. The first weekend of December brings with it a flurry of celebrations in Napa and Sonoma to get you in the holiday spirit.

Friday December 2nd is the deadline to turn in your registration form and $25 entry fee for the FIRST ANNUAL GINGERBREAD HOUSE CONTEST, hosted by Michelin-starred La Toque and the Westin Verasa Napa. The competition has two categories—professional and amateur—and entries will be judged on overall appearance, originality, choice and use of materials, difficulty, precision, and consistency of theme. All gingerbread houses must be 100% edible (e.g. no popsicle stick reinforcing), and delivered to the Westin Napa on Sunday December 11th between 10:30am and noon. They will remain on display in the Westin lobby until the morning of Monday December 19th, so keep this in mind as you’re plotting your edible materials. All proceeds generated through entry fees, raffle ticket sales, and donations will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley.

The public can vote for the Viewer’s Choice Award in both the professional and amateur categories on Sunday December 11th from 12:30pm-2pm. The professional judging panel of local chefs, bakers, and pastry chefs from the Napa Valley will announce all of the results (a totally sweet Grand Prize, First through Third Places, plus a Viewer’s Choice in each category) at a formal awards ceremony at 2:30pm that day as well. Registration forms and complete contest rules and details are available online here. 1314 McKinstry St. at Soscol, Napa.

Bringing a food donation for the Napa Valley Food Bank on Saturday December 3rd earns you free admission to Robert Mondavi Winery’s HOLIDAY PARTY AND TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY from 3pm-5pm. Besides the tree lighting at 4:45pm, there will be horse and buggy rides through the To Kalon vineyard, hot apple cider, plenty of Mondavi wines, carolers, Italian cookies, cheese, charcuterie, and a visit from Santa Claus. And, of course, the incomparable Margrit Mondavi will be available for all your holiday photo op needs. 7801 St. Helena Hwy. just north of Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville 707-226-1395.

On the Sonoma side—where wintertime means olive harvest—the ELEVENTH ANNUAL BLESSING OF THE OLIVES also happens Saturday the 3rd at the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma (corner of E. Spain St. and 1st St. E., on the Sonoma Square). Several movers and shakers in the olive world will be speaking after Reverend Michael Kelly delivers the 11am blessing, including journalist Tom Mueller, whose new book Extra Virginity covers the artisan producers, olive growers, and chefs behind Italy’s premium oil industry. Following the speakers, the event (d)evolves into celebratory refreshments and live music. Mueller will also be signing copies of his book at 3pm at The Olive Press, which is offering free tastings and open house all day as part of the Sonoma Valley Olive Festival. If you can’t make the Blessing, check the full calendar of Olive Festival events online here for other olive-y goodness. The Olive Press, 24724 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 800-965-4839.

Guerneville’s BIG BOTTOM MARKET brought NYC chef Tricia Brown on board in September, and she has been expanding the market’s food programs ever since. In addition to daily breakfast and deli menus, catering, and the Wednesday night prix-fixe Market Dinners (a steal at $20 for three courses), the Big Bottom team is now offering holiday gift specials ranging from artisanal cookies, truffles, and barks to savory snacks like truffled popcorn, lentil-walnut pâté, and boxes of their beloved buttermilk biscuits with assorted condiments and butters. These moist, tender little beauties come in a variety of flavors too—look for the brand new bacon-chocolate version with maple glaze.

The Market’s holiday winemaker dinner with Paul Mathew next Sunday (December 4th) is another awesome opportunity to check out Big Bottom’s west county cuisine. The menu that night will feature cauliflower bisque with Dungeness crab, truffled bread pudding with wild mushrooms foraged by the chef herself, duck confit “bourgignon,” farro risotto studded with confit, drunken cherries and hazelnuts, and a hyper-local cheese plate, all paired with—and in some cases cooked in—wines from Paul Mathew Vineyards. Reserve your spots online. 16228 Main St. between Armstrong Woods Rd. & Church St., Guerneville, 707-604-7295.

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