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Jan 2, 2012 22 min read

January 3, 2012 - This week's tablehopper: start strong, finish strong.

January  3, 2012 - This week's tablehopper: start strong, finish strong.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: start strong, finish strong.                    

The fabulous mignardise cart at Masa’s, at the end of my last meal out in 2011. Photo: ©

Happy New Year, gang! Did you have a fabulous, celebratory weekend? I hope your holidays were grand. Mine had a bit too much work in ‘em, and I can’t believe this heinous cold I started the year with is still kicking my butt, but I am fired up for 2012. I just need to get through writing these two guidebooks this month—my workload is a bit (too) intense right now.

Those of you who have been reading tablehopper for a while know I have a little tradition at the start of each year: it’s when I run the bore, my annual rant of 10 things in our local dining scene I don’t want to see more of in the new year. I normally like to keep things positive in my column, but the bore is definitely an exception. I hope you have fun with it—you know I did.

I’m sure your voicemail and email inboxes are exploding today with everyone coming back to work (mine sure are), so let’s hop to it.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year—let’s rock it.

Marcia Gagliardi

the bore

No More... (my annual kvetch)

In 2012, It's Time for These Things to Be Shelved


Flickr photo by Mr. T in DC.

Yup, it’s another year, which means it’s my annual opportunity to gather some grist for my cranky mill. Nope, no 2011 recap of my favorite meals here, nor a hot trend prediction recap (“This year is all about MARSHMALLOWS! And flax! And Peruvian food (again).”). It’s time to talk smack!

And before you start wondering where are my rants on food trucks, pizza, pop-ups, or cupcakes, you’ll probably find them in previous installments of the bore.

  1. My, my, there sure is quite a bit of foraging going on out there. A little too much. Going out to your restaurant garden and cutting some rosemary isn’t foraging. That’s faux-raging. Picking up ingredients at the farmers’ market? Nope, not foraging. That’s called shopping. Unless someone at your restaurant is out in the forest or fields or seashore pulling some Connie Green-esque culling and getting some dirt under their nails and poison oak on their person (hopefully not in the bathing suit area, oy), let’s take it easy on touting the foraged ingredients.
  2. Farm to fork. Farm to table. And the winner: farm to glass cocktail program. You know when McDonald’s starts (ab)using “farm to fork,” it’s time to quit. Can we all agree to make these little Farmville catchphrases stop before I scratch my eyes out? Thanks.
  3. Let’s take a look at one of my ongoing menu language peeves: “Organic ingredients used whenever possible.” Look, it’s actually possible all the time. Seeing that on the menu immediately makes me visualize the Sysco truck pulling up in the back of the restaurant instead of the chef having Om Organics or GreenLeaf on quick dial. Unless the menu gives the diner an actual percentage (“85% of our ingredients are organic!”) or name-checks the organic purveyors, it’s better for all of us if that murky line is taken off the menu.
  4. Okay, let’s continue with the menu ranting. This is a can of worms for me to even bring it up, but let’s just say I’m tired of all the Healthy San Francisco surcharges and percentages on menus and receipts. Yup, it’s a complicated issue, and it’s still being figured out. I’m glad our city’s workers have access to healthcare. I understand why restaurateurs are angry that it’s cutting into their already compromised bottom line. But I am not going to engage in a discussion with my server about the topic, nor call over the GM to discuss tableside (unless I’m being charged tax on the surcharge). Can’t we just bury that cost somewhere like a mafioso with a body in their trunk?
  5. Is it 1986? Based on the lines of “food cocaine” I keep seeing on plates (salt, seasoning, pepper, sesame, etc.), I guess that’s our new cheap (and legal) thrill. But wait, I’m still hungry. And I actually feel kinda sleepy. What the hell was the point of that line?
  6. How many more times do we need to see Edison bulbs in restaurants and bars? Here’s a bright idea: figure out some other cool lighting options.
  7. Paninis. I cringe every time I see this. It’s time for an Italian lesson. A panino is one sandwich. Panini are two or more. Panino, panini. Va bene? No more paninis! Or I’m going to fit you for some cement shoeses.
  8. Food writers! Bloggers! Yelpers! Can we plllllllease stop with the mouthgasms? The foodgasms? The orgasmic food? Describing a dish as an orgasm in one’s mouth doesn’t particularly make me want to swallow.
  9. Everyone needs to slow the eff down with all the izakayas, ramen, and barbecue. And pizza continues to be a runaway train. Yes, these are things that were missing from our dining landscape, but does everyone have to do it? I guess it’s all gonna come down to survival of the fittest. In the meantime, why the hell don’t we have a decent souvlaki space in this town? Anyone? PLEASE EXPLAIN! Le sigh.
  10. Can one of these online reservation sites please come up with an alternative to the phone callback reservation confirmation? I just love having to access my voicemail, call back the number that is invariably NOT the number my cell phone registered, and getting stuck in some endless restaurant automated voicemail phone tree for three minutes until I can leave a message and say, “Yes, my ass is coming tonight! I am not flaking!” My dentist and my seven-person hair salon have an email confirmation system. It’s flawless. No phone calls. Let’s get it together out there.

Did I forget a big one? Do you feel like bitching too? Feel free to email me your additions. (Unless it’s about Healthy SF—like I said, can of worms.)

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

The New Year Brings a Slew of Closures


Photo from The Moss Room.

It’s a new year, which always brings a bunch of news about post-holiday closures. Inside Scoop broke the news that Loretta Keller’s THE MOSS ROOM abruptly closed January 1st, and Charles Phan is taking it over. Phan, who runs the Academy Café at the California Academy of Sciences, is reportedly “going to do something completely different in the space, but hopes to revamp and have it back open within ‘a month or two.’” No word on chef Michael Morrison’s next steps.

Over in the Mission, THE SUMMIT (aka LAPTOP CITY) released the news that it’s closing on January 31st, 2012. The plan is to reopen elsewhere soon; we’ll have to see what chef Eddie Lau does with his Dux dinners in the meantime. No word what I/O Ventures has in store for the space. 780 Valencia St. at 19th St.

Over in Chinatown, bad news for dim sum lovers. Chowhounders posted news that GOLD MOUNTAIN has closed. Yelpers mention Gold Mountain’s lease ended, and so the owners decided to close up and travel. 644 Broadway at Stockton.

After 16 years in the Castro, 2223 RESTAURANT closed after service on New Year’s Day, and now the transformation into JAKE’S ON MARKET with chef Erik Hopfinger will be underway. Jim Maxwell of Architects II is leading the remodel, adding booths, a marble bar top, a new color scheme, and more. The opening is scheduled for the end of January. 2223 Market St. at Sanchez.

Scoop reported MISSION ROCK in China Basin is closing for a remodel, and new owner Peter Osborne (MoMo’s, Pete’s Tavern, Pedro’s Cantina) will be opening Mission Rock Brewery and Oyster Bar in its place, potentially by the summer. 817 Terry Francois Blvd. at Mariposa.

Over in North Beach, Scoop announced owner Scott Holley has closed STEPS OF ROME TRATTORIA (not to be confused with Steps of Rome Caffe, which remains open). 362 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.

Changes at Criolla Kitchen in the Castro


Interior photo by John Glenn.

Grub Street noted some ownership and menu changes at CRIOLLA KITCHEN in the Castro, and one of the new partners in the venture got in touch with me to share an update. One of the original managing partners is moving on, and Hans Purohit (Ristobar) and Adam Wilson (Beretta, Zeki’s) are joining chef-partner Randy Lewis in the venture. Lewis and Purohit are old friends from their days at Mecca down the street, and have always wanted to do a project together but the timing was never right, until now.

Criolla will be closing very briefly for a quick facelift, potentially at the end of the month (the timing depends on permits). As for what’s in store for the menu, the intention is to take Criolla into the direction that Randy originally wanted: a neighborhood restaurant showcasing his Southern roots and time spent cooking in wine country, while using local ingredients. Click here to see the interim menu, which includes Natchitoches meat pie ($7), grillades and grits ($16) with stone-ground grits, and the chicken and waffles ($15) remains on the menu. There are also daily specials.

Some examples of dishes that Randy is working on for after the remodel include smoked ham hock rillettes, pickled okra, Creole mustard; New Orleans barbecue shrimp, slow-poached hen egg, speckled whole grain grits; and olive oil-poached tuna and “muffuletta” bread salad. Stand by for updates in coming weeks. 2295 Market St. at 16th St., 415-552-5811.

Criolla Kitchen            - 2295 Market St. San Francisco - 415-552-5811

New Year, New Openings


Pineapple bun from Sheng Kee; Yelp photo by Denise W.

Just before the holiday break I received an email from Manhal Jweinat, the owner of MANZONI in Glen Park, telling me he was due to open at the end of the week. Poor guy, I tortured him for months with check-ins and questions about his opening (since 1998, to be exact). This family-style Italian place is now open in the old Bird & Beckett bookstore location. 2790 Diamond St. at Chenery, 415-334-2251.

A tipster informs me the former Beautifull! location in the Inner Sunset is becoming another location of SHENG KEE bakery, which has locations all over the Bay Area. It’s slated to open this Thursday January 5th. Hours will be daily 8am-9pm. 816 Irving St. at 9th Ave., 415-242-9200.

And in Oakland, FAZ OAKLAND opened on New Year’s Eve. Faz is open for lunch and dinner; you can peek and the dinner menu here. Open Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 5pm-10pm. 1111 Broadway at 11th St., Oakland, 510-272-1111.

Big Nate's BBQ Closes and CatHead's BBQ Moves In


The Big Nate’s BBQ location. Yelp photo by Toro E.

The day after Christmas, local pop-up CATHEAD’S BBQ announced they are moving permanently into the Big Nate’s BBQ space, opening on Wednesday January 4th. The space is getting a remodel, with new touches like reclaimed wood and fresh paint. On the menu: owners Richard Park and Pamela Schafer’s own take on barbecue, with dishes like sweet tea BBQ chicken, Coca-Cola smoked brisket, and for the non-meat eaters, cornmeal-crusted BBQ tofu. Hours will be Sun-Mon 11am-8pm and Wed-Sat 11am-9pm. 1665 Folsom St. at 12th St., 415-861-4242.

Local Mission Eatery Expands with Two New Projects


Local Mission Eatery dining room. Photo: ©

Exciting news from the LOCAL MISSION EATERY crew (Jake Des Voignes and Yaron Milgrom): Grub Street broke the story that they are expanding in the neighborhood with Local Mission Market and Local’s Corner. The market will feature handcrafted and local products, and the Local newsletter shares more: “Every pasta, jam, pickle, spread, bread, cracker, hot sauce, spice rub, extract, marinade, cured meat, smoked fish, sausage, and more would be made on-site, in an open kitchen, using the same ingredients—and only the ingredients—available on our shelves. By ingredients, we mean local vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, meat, cheese, beer, wine, and spirits.” Grub Street adds there will be a “cheese counter, butcher, dry goods, and fresh produce, all either made in-house or sourced from Northern California farmers and producers.” Construction is beginning in February in a historic industrial building on Harrison Street (at 22nd St.), just a few blocks from the restaurant. The plan is to open in the summer.

Local’s Corner (2500 Bryant St. at 23rd St.) is two weeks into construction, and the plan is to convert a Mission corner market into a restaurant (pending approvals by the city) with outdoor seating and serving beer and wine. Breakfast will be served, and the evenings will feature a menu dedicated to local, sustainable, head-to-tail fish and seafood, plus several draught beers and wines by the glass. Stay tuned for more details—the current targeted opening is spring.

Local Mission Eatery            - 3111 24th St. San Francisco - 415-655-3422

18 Reasons Launches the 18th Hour Café, a Wine Bar


The communal table awaits you. Photo from 18 Reasons.

Slated to open in the new 18 REASONS space on 18th Street is the 18th Hour Café, happening every Thursday evening. From 5pm-9pm, you’ll be able to swing by for wine, beer, cheese, charcuterie, and other snacks (like Tartine bread and butter), all chosen and put together by the Bi-Rite team (the cost will range from $3-$16). Guests will be able to gather around the communal table, whether they are waiting for a pizza at Pizzeria Delfina or just want a place to hang out. There will also be music and rotating art exhibits. All proceeds from the café will support 18 Reasons’ programming and community service work. The opening is planned for Thursday January 12th, come on by.

18 Reasons            - 3674 18th St. San Francisco

Chef Shift at Bluestem Brasserie


Bluestem dining room; photo by Angie Silvy.

I received word from the BLUESTEM BRASSERIE team that executive chef Sean Canavan has left the restaurant. He is going to pursue a new opportunity that will allow him to spend more time with his family. The Jeds are in the final interview stages and will be announcing the replacement in a few weeks. James Ormsby will be staying on as consulting pastry chef.

Bluestem Brasserie            - 1 Yerba Buena Lane San Francisco - 415-547-1111

New Late Night Bites


Bar at Dobbs Ferry. Photo by Rebecca Kinney. ©

A few bites for you nightowl types: DOBBS FERRY is serving a $5 meal-in-a-bowl inspired by the daily staff meal. Past meals have included pork confit and an apple-Brussels sprout salad, or fish and chips with fries. It’s served from 10:30pm-12am (Sunday starts at 9:30pm). Updates on the daily dish can be found on the Dobbs Ferry Facebook page. FYI, the bar is now open until 1:30am nightly, and there’s a late night snack menu from 10:30pm-12am.

Eater brings word QUICK FIX has opened in the Little Bird space, serving 4505 Meats sausages in Acme rolls, chili, Frito pie, and more. The project is from Jeff Pytel (a bartender next door at Whiskey Thieves) and former Little Bird employee Sam Enciso. Look for more items to be added in coming weeks. And yes, you can eat your bite at Whiskey Thieves. Open Sun-Mon 5pm-10pm, Tue-Thu 5pm-11pm, and Fri-Sat 5pm-2am.

Pop-Ups and Special Dinners


Dixie logo from Facebook.

A few cool dinners for your radar: first up, while chef Joseph Humphrey gets ready to open DIXIE in the Presidio very soon, he is hosting a series of sneak peek pop-up dinners at Guest Chef in Oakland from January 3rd-15th. It’s a simple two-course prix-fixe menu, with choices for each course plus a few extras for $35 per person. The menu will change every few days, so take a look at the menus here and decide when you want to go. There will also be wine pairing available, selected by Dixie’s wine director Matthew Turner. 5337 College Ave. at Manila, Oakland.

REFORM CLUB is back on Sunday January 15th, with new chef/partner Eric Ehler working with Nick Rappoport. Look for more of a Korean-inspired direction; you can check out the menu online ($40), along with the wine pairings ($25) from Becky Pezzullo and Dion Jardine. Reservations are between 6pm-10pm, and guests can book through their website.

Don’t forget: JUHU BEACH CLUB pops up this Thursday at La Victoria!

The fine folks at THE PIZZA PLACE ON NORIEGA are hosting their next Farmer’s Market Dinner on Wednesday January 18th at 7pm. There will be three-four courses with fresh-from-the-market ingredients; no substitutions, so this isn’t for fussy eaters (although there is a vegetarian option available). Limited to 20 people. $50 cash, $65 with wine. Email to reserve your spot here.

And on Tuesday January 24th, chef Greg Dunmore of NOJO, sea forager Kirk Lombard, and TwoXSea will be putting on a dinner to celebrate local seafood that is underutilized and underappreciated. The goal of this dinner is to raise awareness for these wonderful (and obviously delicious) creatures and to showcase their potential on Bay Area menus. The four-course menu includes rock crab fritter, chawanmushi, agedashi monkey-faced eel, and the famous Nojo sundae, plus wine pairings for each course. $125 all inclusive; tickets here. Dinner (6:30pm-8:30pm) will be followed with a musical performance by Rube Waddell at 8:30pm. F.O.C.B. Educational Center, 350 Harbor Dr. at Gate 5, Sausalito.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

You Don't Want to Miss This: Speed Rack San Francisco!


Speed Rack LA competitor Mia Sarazen; photo from Facebook.

Ready, set, go! SPEED RACK SAN FRANCISCO is looking for the fastest female bartender in the city on Sunday January 8th—be there to see who takes home the title of Miss Speed Rack San Francisco. A national cocktail competition with stops in 10 cities, Speed Rack promotes women in the spirits industry while raising funds for breast cancer research and prevention. Boozin’ it up for boobs? Anytime.

Competitors will each make a round of cocktails from a list of 50 accepted industry standard recipes, and judges will rate each drink based on prep time and accuracy. The lovely ladies repping our fair city are Victoria Damato-Moran, Belden Taverna; Rhachel Shaw, Rye; Brooke Arthur, Wo Hing General Store; Tina Ross, Rickhouse; Jennifer Colliau, Slanted Door/Small Hands Foods; Gabrielle Barnes, Cantina; Jennifer Embleton, Rye; Yael Amyra, The New Easy; Jessica Maria, Hotsy Totsy Club (Albany); Claire Sprouse, Rickhouse; Jill Webster, Laszlo; Lauren Steele, Rickhouse/Bourbon & Branch; Melissa Boyd, Beretta; Lucia Creed Gonzales, Prizefighter (Emeryville); Keli Rivers, Hotsy Totsy; Kim Rosselle, Flora/Doña Tomas; Gail Izaguirre, Laszlo; and Danielle Marchant, 222 Hyde. Good luck to all!

The lucky judges include Julie Reiner (Flatiron Lounge, Clover Club, Monkey Bar), Charlotte Voisey (William Grant & Sons), Camper English (, and Josh Thomsen (executive chef, Meritage at The Claremont). They’ll choose the local winner, who’ll receive $500 and compete in the May 2012 finals in New York.

Get your ticket to witness this fun and unique competition, and you get complimentary punches, cocktails, Trumer Pils beer, and food from Beretta too, plus a chance to win raffle prizes. Tickets are $25-$35 online, or $25 at the door (cash only). 21+ only, don’t forget your ID. 3pm-7pm. Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St. at Duboce.

               Sunday Jan  8, 2012 3pm–7pm $25-$35 more info

Honor Bar, Grill & Cocktails Opening in Emeryville


Photo from Honor Bar.

Due to open tonight (maybe?) in Emeryville is HONOR BAR, GRILL & COCKTAILS, with bar manager Alex Smith (Gitane) and chef Jordan Grosser (Stag Dining Group). The press release mentions cocktails like the Guy Fawkes (gin, PX sherry, Amaro Montenegro, maraschino, acid phosphate, and absinthe), Porfiriato (tequila, guajillo-infused mezcal, Cocchi di Torino, Licor 43, and cinnamon bitters), Bleeding Monarch (bourbon, passion fruit, orgeat, Campari, and balsamico amaro), and The Von Teese (vodka, St-Germain, Mathilde Poire, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, and lemon).

Grosser’s menu includes barbecued Texas mop pork ribs, housemade merguez sausage, short rib sliders, and fried chicken (Grub Street posted a copy of the entire menu here). There’s a communal table, pinball machines, vintage art, antique ice boxes, and a red granite bar top. Kitchen hours Tue-Thu 4:30pm-12am, Fri-Sat 4:30pm-1am. The bar will be open until 12:30am Tue-Thu and 1:30am Fri-Sat. 1411 Powell St. at Hollis, Emeryville, 510-653-8667 (currently inactive).

Oakland Openings: The Night Light, and The Parkway Returns


Upcoming flocked wallpaper and chandelier action at The Night Light. Photo from Facebook.

Two new Oakland projects to watch: opening in the former Sweet Jimmie’s on Broadway is THE NIGHT LIGHT, from owners Douglas Kinsey and John Nackley (they both worked at Radio and Ruby Room, and have known each other for more than 20 years). The lounge is going to have an eclectic look spanning the turn of the century to the 1940s, with flocked wallpaper, French empire chandeliers, low lighting, and lots of wood. There will be a cabaret vibe, with DJs, dancing, and bands playing indie rock and Americana. Kinsey said to me, “It’s going to be relaxed, fun, and safe” (as in no more shootings, which is what closed Sweet Jimmie’s). The cocktails will feature new takes on classics, without being too heavy on technique. The lounge will start on the ground floor of the two-story space for now; look for an opening at the end of February. Hours will be daily 4pm-2am. 311 Broadway at 3rd St., Oakland.

According to the East Bay Express, THE PARKWAY theater-pub will be reopening in Oakland’s Uptown Art Murmur district. The location is “a 7,800-square-foot former sheet-glass factory currently used for special events.” There are many more details in the article, but highlights include plans for two screening rooms, a café and bar area, and hopes to open by the summer/fall. 474 24th St. at Valley, Oakland.

the socialite

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

Dining Deals with Dine About Town


 Event Info

Sunday Jan 15, 2012 – Tuesday Jan 31, 2012 Info

Now in its 11th year, DINE ABOUT TOWN starts Sunday January 15th and continues through the 31st with dining deals at over 100 San Francisco restaurants. You can get a two-course prix-fixe lunch for $17.95, and/or a three-course prix-fixe dinner for $34.95.

Maybe you wanna try some newcomers, like Bottle Cap, Claudine, or Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen—or see what the new chef at Bushi-tei is doing? Or maybe you need a good excuse to return to an oldie but goodie, like Foreign Cinema, Town Hall, or Destino? Just check out the list of participating restaurants here. The deals are all over town, and downtown worker bees especially will find lots of choices for a weekday lunch or dinner close to the office.

Here’s a sample Dine About Town lunch menu from One Market. First course: choice of little gem salad with radish, fennel, cara cara orange, or butternut squash soup with ras al hanout, spiced pumpkin seeds, yogurt cloud; second course: choice of pan-seared cod with chickpeas, Savoy spinach, saffron, or housemade merguez sausage with green lentils, or sunchoke tortellini with black trumpet mushrooms, Parmesan emulsion. For dinner, a spit-roasted Rocky Jr. half chicken with “boulangère” potatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, and thyme jus is a second-course choice, and desserts include duo of mango and pineapple sorbet, fresh fruit, and almond tuile, or pear brown butter tart.

The fine print: dates and times of participation vary by restaurant, prices are per person and do not include beverage, tax, or gratuity. And don’t forget the resos!

Ready to kick it all off? Join the Dine About Town launch party on Thursday January 12th at City View at Metreon. Starting at 6pm, enjoy sips and bites from Bisou, Chaya Brasserie, Chouchou, È Tutto Qua, Garçon!, Garibaldi’s, Luce, Oola, Plouf, Scoma’s, ThirstyBear, TRES, Black Star Beer, Chateau Montelena Winery, JAQK Cellars, Republic of Tea, Treasure Island Wines, The Winery SF, and more, all for a $40 donation to Meals on Wheels of San Francisco. Plus there’s music by DJ Jamon Iberico, and you’ll get a keepsake SF wine glass. Tickets online only; 21 and over only. 101 4th St. at Howard.

Chefs' Holidays at The Ahwahnee Start January 8th


The Ahwahnee’s pastry chef Paul Padua. Photo from Facebook.

Event Info

Sunday Jan  8, 2012 – Thursday Feb  2, 2012 $665 and up Info                        The Ahwahnee 1 Ahwahnee Dr. at Village Dr., Yosemite National Park

Chefs from around the country, including several Bay Area notables, are gathering this month in Yosemite National Park for the 27th annual CHEFS’ HOLIDAYS AT THE AHWAHNEE, a series of eight culinary retreats between January 8th and February 2nd at The Ahwahnee Hotel. Each session includes a “Meet the Chef” reception, three educational cooking demonstrations and tastings, a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour, and a five-course, candlelit Gala Dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room. The Gala Dinner, prepared by the chefs, also includes four wine pairings.

The eight sessions will span the range of American culinaria with 25 chefs and culinary professionals participating. Bay Area locals heading to Yosemite include David Bazirgan of Fifth Floor, Ryan Scott of Brunch Drunk Love and 3-Sum Eats, Jen Biesty of Scala’s Bistro, Annie Somerville of Greens, Emily Luchetti of Farallon, Sean Baker of Gather, and Peggy Smith and Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery. Other chef participants include Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in Las Vegas, Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop in New York, and Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans. Here’s the schedule:

Session 1: January 8th-10th Moderator: Connie Barney, culinary travel consultant Headliner: Kent Rathbun, Abacus, Jasper’s and Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, TX Demonstrators: Annie Somerville, Greens, San Francisco; Brian Streeter, Cakebread Cellars, Napa.

Session 2: January 11th-12th Moderator: Connie Barney, culinary travel consultant Headliner: Suzanne Goin, Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern, Los Angeles Demonstrators: Mark Estee, Campo, Reno; Donald Link, Herbsaint, New Orleans

Session 3: January 15th-17th Moderator: Andrew Friedman, author Headliner: Peter Chastain, Prima, Walnut Creek Demonstrators: Emily Luchetti, Farallon, San Francisco; Sean Baker, Gather, Berkeley

Session 4: January 18th-19th Moderator: Andrew Friedman, author Headliner: Rick Moonen, RM Seafood, Las Vegas Demonstrators: Jimmy Bradley, The Red Cat/The Harrison, New York; Jesse Ziff Cool, Flea Street Café, Menlo Park

Session 5: January 22nd-24th Moderator: Barbara Fairchild, food journalist Headliner: David Bazirgan, Fifth Floor, San Francisco Demonstrators: Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop, New York; Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes

Session 6: January 25th-26th Moderator: Barbara Fairchild, food journalist Headliner: Christopher Lee, Eden, South Beach, FL, and Huntington Social, Huntington, NY Demonstrators: Chris Prosperi, Metro Bis, Simsbury, CT; Robert Anderson, The Golf Club at Boulder Ridge, San Jose

Session 7: January 29th-31st A collaborative dinner featuring the men of Top Chef Moderator: Janice Wald Henderson, food and travel writer Host Chefs: Percy Whatley and Paul Padua, The Ahwahnee Guest Chefs: Ryan Scott, Ryan Scott 2 Go, 3-Sum Eats, Brunch Drunk Love, San Francisco; Tre Wilcox, Marquee Grill & Bar, Dallas; Brian Malarkey, Searsucker and Burlap, San Diego

Session 8: February 1st-2nd A collaborative dinner featuring the women of Top Chef Moderator: Janice Wald Henderson Guest Chefs: Jen Biesty, Scala’s Bistro, San Francisco; Ariane Duarte, CulinAriane, Montclair, NJ; Antonia Lofaso, Black Market, Studio City, CA

Two- and three-night packages at The Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls start from $896 and $665, respectively, including lodging and admission for two to the Chefs’ Holidays events. Tickets for the Gala Dinner are available for $199/person, including gratuity. Tax not included. More info and reservations online. The Ahwahnee, 1 Ahwahnee Dr. at Village Dr., Yosemite National Park.

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)

(Sponsored): The Ultimate Culinary Getaway at Yountville's Moveable Feast


The culinary capital of the Napa Valley, Yountville will ring in 2012 with its third annual Moveable Feast promotion. As part of Moveable Feast, participating restaurants, wineries, and hotels will offer food lovers the town’s world-famous culinary and wine experiences at a special value. Available January 1st through February 29th, 2012, the offerings will include special prix-fixe menus, wine tastings, and travel packages that offer luxury hotel accommodations paired with wine country’s best food and wine. For more information and to find all the Moveable Feast offers, please visit

Exclusive to tablehopper readers, Yountville and tablehopper are giving away a dinner for two at the Moveable Feast participating restaurant of their choice.

All you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (but even more would be so very fabulous), and add a note to your friend(s) about which Moveable Feast restaurant you’d like to visit. Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: so we know you sent it—we promise not to use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Sunday January 8th at 11:59pm. We’ll notify the winner on Monday.

You must be 21 or older to enter; value of dinner voucher is dependent on restaurant selected (max. value $125) and does not include tax, gratuity, and alcohol. Winner will also receive a complimentary bottle of wine courtesy of the Yountville Chamber of Commerce, to be picked up at the Yountville Visitor Information Center.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Meow! Michelle Pfeiffer Spotted at Bi-Rite Market

Well, this isn’t a restaurant or bar sighting, but when it’s Michelle Pfeiffer, I will make big exceptions. Bi-Rite Market owner Sam Mogannam tweeted she was in the market on New Year’s Eve!

Going Far Afield for James Franco

This is a little far afield for my usual coverage, but again, for James Franco, exceptions must be made. He had dinner at Calafia Café in Palo Alto with his mother and brother. (Yes, just like his collection of stories, Palo Alto.)

Adrian Grenier and Entourage at AQ

Just before Christmas, Adrian Grenier came in to AQ for dinner and hung out in the downstairs whiskey lounge with his group—my source says he was “with his ‘model girlfriend’ and a group of friends including one of the Twitter founders.”

Ben the Bachelor Spotted at Cotogna

A tablehopper reader spotted Ben Flajnik at Cotogna, the Sonoma winemaker who is starring in the latest season of The Bachelor (it just started last night). Yup, the same guy who was turned down by Ashley Hebert on The Bachelorette. My spotter says, “It looked like a late lunch meeting, and he was at a table with seven other people (mostly women and one other man).” A little more sleuthing reveals he was having a meeting with a local PR firm.

No, I Won't Reenact the Cheese Shop Skit. I Just Want Breakfast!

John Cleese came in to TRACE for breakfast; the gluten-free actor/writer tucked into the market omelet, with maitake mushroom, melted leeks, and Gruyère.

Put a Bird on It

A tablehopper reader spotted Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and his Portlandia costar Carrie Brownstein (she was also in the band Sleater-Kinney and now Wild Flag) dining at BAR TARTINE last Thursday evening. A check-in with the restaurant confirms the sighting, and fortunately the insanely delicious langos potato bread was one of the items they ordered, along with a number of seafood dishes (but no chicken paprikas since they couldn’t get a birth certificate and dossier on the chicken, har). The duo was in town for their Portlandia traveling show at Mezzanine.

Red Heat, Part Two at DOSA

James Belushi came in to DOSA on Fillmore with a friend. He sat in the lounge and seemed to especially like their new version of the lamb chops (which are spice-crusted with a cranberry-chutney glaze). He thanked the restaurant on the way out.

Power Greeks

Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty were spotted having dinner at Kokkari the day after Christmas.

Duuuuude! Check Out That White Truffle! Yeah, Man! Sweet.

Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives came to La Toque at The Westin Verasa Napa on Christmas Eve to source a special ingredient for the holiday (no, it wasn’t more hair bleach). Ends up Guy was in need of fresh white truffles for his family’s Christmas Eve dinner and because chef Ken Frank is a truffle aficionado, he knew just who to call for the goods. (You can see a pic of the truffle trio here.)

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