This is how I’m rollin’ right now: rooibos tea service at AQ. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Greetings from Hopper HQ, which is currently doing double duty as a quarantine bubble. After being home sick for a week, I’m ready to hose this place down. Am still not sure what to do with myself—maybe a cattle dip would do the trick.
So after posting my annual rant on Tuesday, the bore, I can’t believe how entertaining my email inbox became. Seems there is a lot of frustration out there with everything from restaurants that make their own ketchup (but only provide diners a skimpy serving of it) to servers addressing a mixed table of men and women with “Hey, guys!” to a wonderful email from the inimitable Connie Green herself chiming in on my kvetch about faux-raging. Gold!
But wait, there’s more! (Of course.) Diners are fatigued of seeing “sustainable,” “locavore,” “gluten-free,” “homemade” (versus “housemade”), and, my personal favorite, “farm egg” on menus. No more tea-flavored desserts, charges for splitting/sharing and bread and butter, they decry. In addition to my rant about paninis, readers also chimed in on additional crimes against pluralization: raviolis and cannolis. And here’s a great language lesson for us all: “Also, along the same line as panino and panini—there are tamales (plural) and a tamal (single). Not tamale—no such word. Irritates me every time.” Thank you all for the awesome feedback—I’m already looking forward to next year.
As you may already know, I am busy cranking on a couple SF restaurant guidebooks this month, so I have zero time (or inspiration) to write up any restaurant reviews for tablehopper until these projects are finished, which will hopefully be in a couple weeks. Thanks for your patience with me this month. There are only so many restaurant reviews you can write in a day, let me tell you.
But in case you were thinking of heading up to wine country during these oddly sunny days, the fab Deirdre Bourdet has a couple very useful reports for us in the 707 Scout.
Have a great weekend (can this warm, dry weather be any creepier?). Salutations from the salt mines!
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By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.
Traditionally, January marks the absolute nadir for restaurant business in Napa and Sonoma, and this one is no exception. Lots and lots of places are battening down the hatches for the winter—some for renovations, some for vacation, and others for more mysterious reasons.
In Kellerland, TFL will be closed for its annual vacation for the first half of the month, reopening for service on Thursday January 19th. A few blocks down, BOUCHON BAKERY is closed all month while the team conducts “design improvements” to the retail space. Bouchon, however, will continue to operate as usual all through the wintertime. Further south on Washington Street, AD HOC and ADDENDUM will be closed for “construction enhancements” to the kitchen from the first of the year until late February/early March. Addendum’s website says it will reopen Sunday April 1st.
The three-macaron RESTAURANT AT MEADOWOOD has also closed for the next few months for an extensive kitchen remodel, the addition of a five-seat chef’s counter, and a dining room overhaul by Howard Backen and George Federighi. Think modernized dark woods and finishes, new lighting, varying shades of grey and other natural, “elemental” colors. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen for service (and is taking reservations for) the evening of March 12th, 2012.
Tyler Florence’s ROTISSERIE & WINE in Napa is also closed for a major makeover, which will apparently add fun new firepits to the patio, eliminate the back bar to expand the dining area, and possibly add soundproofing (YES PLEASE!) and booths along the walls where the cabinets were. The official word doesn’t say how long the restaurant will be closed, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. No changes to the restaurant concept have been announced at this point, and the neighboring TyFlo retail store will stay open as usual during the closure.
The historic structure that houses OAKVILLE GROCERY—which quite awesomely has been in continuous operation as a grocery store since 1881—is closed from January 2nd through mid-March 2012, so that its owners can put in a FOUNDATION for the building. Apparently there wasn’t one before (?!), but after 130 years of big bad shakes, you kind of wonder if it’s even necessary. This year’s renovations will also add two restrooms, additional storage buildings, improve energy efficiency, and make the store ADA compliant though, so it does seem like this closure will be for the better.
The main hall of Napa’s OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET is going dark Monday January 9th and Tuesday January 10th for some scheduled maintenance and merchant improvements (note: this means no locals’ night that Tuesday!). Gott’s Roadside, The Model Bakery, and The Fatted Calf will all remain open with regular business hours during the break since they’re in the Annex building, and Todd Humphries’ Kitchen Door just across the walkway from the main hall will also keep on rockin’. The little brown “KaraVan” from Kara’s Cupcakes will be ready and waiting with sweet treats in the Oxbow’s parking lot during the closure, too.
For an absolutely no-frills, uber-practical chart of most of Napa Valley’s restaurants and their winter closure dates, check out the good ol’ Napa Valley Register page here.
By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.
La Toque’s former location in Rutherford’s Rancho Caymus Inn has finally scored a new identity as ALEX ITALIAN RESTAURANT. The restaurant takes its name from Italian-born owner Alessandro Sbrendola and his wife Alessia, who are both trained sommeliers and know a thing or two about Italian eats, too. Executive chef Nick Ritchie—formerly chef de cuisine at Bottega in Yountville—has put together a regional Italian menu with strong influences from Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, but also an unmistakable California bent. I’m intrigued by the sound of their “short-stack” of marinated apples, roasted fennel, and pecorino wrapped in pastry, and I can’t wait to try the oh-so-wintry potato-beet gnocchi in Gorgonzola walnut cream sauce. Alex is presently open Tue-Sat for lunch, Tue-Sun for dinner. 1140 Rutherford Rd. near Hwy. 29, Rutherford, 707-967-5500.
SUSHI HAKU opened last fall in an unassuming strip mall on Jefferson Street in Napa (locals: right near Comcast), filling the void left by the closure of Fujiya in the outlets earlier this year. Every town needs a solid, affordable sushi spot—but Napa especially so. Given all the overfed, overspent gourmands looking for something cheap(er) and healthy before their instant-onset gout prevents them from driving home, a place like Sushi Haku is absolutely essential. From hamachi kama and tuna tataki salad to escolar sashimi to 20 variations on tempura rolls, the place has you covered. And, just as importantly, the restaurant serves continuously all day, every day. 3206 Jefferson St. between Pueblo Ave. and Trancas St., Napa, 707-226-2996.
Last, but certainly not least, Richard Reddington’s new “Napa pizzeria” concept REDD WOOD is on track to open Thursday January 26th at Yountville’s Hotel Luca. Local interior designer Erin Martin has reworked the former Cantinetta Piero space into a contemporary wine country setting, complete with a custom-fabricated wine wall of cut metal tubing, and a “Wappo Hill”-emblazoned mailbox as an homage to the Mondavi family. The menu will be wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and seasonal selections, but the final menu items still haven’t been announced yet. In the meantime, try to make out the tiny print on the wine list in their fancy press photo. 6755 Washington St. at Pedroni St., Yountville, 707-299-5030.