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Jan 16, 2012 25 min read

January 17, 2012 - This week's tablehopper: flipping on the afterburners.

January 17, 2012 - This week's tablehopper: flipping on the afterburners.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: flipping on the afterburners.                    

Tuna tartare with slow-cooked Jidori egg in dashi broth with sea urchin, buckwheat, and okra at Ame. Photo: ©

Hello there! Um, wow, who put this carnival ride into fifth gear? I can’t believe how much writing I’ve been doing the past three weeks. Total finger cramps over here. My brain is cramping, too. My calls to Calgon remain unanswered.

Was sorry to miss the Fancy Food Show and Good Food Awards (check out the 2012 winners here). Fortunately I was able to escape the keyboard for a little bit and jump into a recording studio last week. I’m happy to announce today was the launch of my first and brand-new weekly feature for KGO 810, called “You Gotta Eat This.” Every Tuesday, I will be focusing on wallet-friendly bites that are big on flavor, from wonton soups to killer sandwiches to Monday-night specials at nicer restaurants to dim sum. This week I highlight bar bites at three upscale restaurants around town: Jardinière, Parallel 37, and Twenty Five Lusk. Have a listen here—and since it’s only a minute and 30 seconds, it’s a quickie.

I was also happy to have my first article published in Condé Nast Traveler this month. Here’s the online version of the article, which focuses on the latest hotspots for cocktails on Valencia.

Okay, I need to keep slogging away on these guidebooks. Every minute counts these days.  I’ll pop back up when I can! I’d like to believe the fugu-fin sake I had at Ame this weekend gave me superhuman strength! It certainly gave me a blast of umami. And the dish pictured? One of the best things I’ve eaten all month, wow.

Ciao ciao!

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

My Souvlaki Dreams Will Be Answered: With Souvla!


Photo from Souvla.

I love how I was complaining in my annual rant, the bore, just a few weeks ago about the lack of a decent souvlaki place in this town. Well, well, well, what have we here? A new concept called SOUVLA from Charles Bililies, which is going to make its debut in San Francisco! The “souvla” is literally the rotisserie rod/roasting spit—and will be playing a major part in this modern take on a souvlaki/gyro joint. Bililies explains Souvla is going to have a Bay Area approach to ingredients, and mark the end of “the mystery cone meat and out-of-season tomatoes—the gyro hasn’t changed in America since the 1970s!”

For about $9, you’ll be able to have pieces of spit-roasted “lamb porchetta”—which is lamb loin wrapped in lamb belly—plus spiced yogurt, salad, Greek cheese, and a variety of sauces to choose from, all tucked into a pita. There will also be some other larger cuts of meat available, from goat to chicken to pork—just depends what’s on the spit that day (larger entrées are also possible). There will be a vegetarian option with roasted vegetables as well. Sides will include a few dishes like roasted potatoes and a dessert or two.

The restaurant will be fast casual (you order at the counter and take a seat or get it to go), but there will also be some tap-based beers and wines (Greek and domestic) that you can have by the glass or carafe. Bililies explains it’s going to be a bit like a Greek taqueria, serving lunch, dinner, and late into the night. And no white walls and blue accents here—Souvla is going to be a modern adaptation of a Greek concept, not a direct facsimile of something you’d find in Crete.

Bililies, a Greek American, has quite the impressive background: an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales, a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, then culinary assistant at The French Laundry, followed by a position as manager of Bouchon. He then moved to the Michael Mina Group, working for Michael Mina restaurant and eventually as operations manager for RN74.

Now, here’s the catch: Souvla is still seeking investors and a first location. The concept is intended to be scalable, with locations throughout the Bay Area (I’m sure we’d all like that). Interested in getting on board? Check out the site for more information, and I’ll of course keep you posted on how this is taking shape! Color me excited.

New Spots for Your Radar


Rainbow salad at Burma Superstar. Photo from Facebook.

According to some exciting liquor license application activity, BURMA SUPERSTAR reveals plans to open a location in the Mission in the former Bodhi (very close to Zeitgeist). Stand by for updates on timing and more. 211 Valencia St. at Duboce.

Over in North Beach, Gianni.TV confirms GEPPETTO is opening later this week, possibly tomorrow. To review, a couple weeks ago I mentioned this new salumeria in North Beach is from the owner of Trattoria Pinocchio (which is just next door). Details via Gianni are good: a Sicilian focus with dishes like marinated octopus, scungilli (conch), and other prepared dishes, plus imported salumi, cheeses, and other products. He also mentions the GM and man behind the counter, “Steve” Leone, spent 17 years at Molinari. 658 Vallejo St. at Columbus, 415-291-8811.

Ice Cream Bar Opening in Cole Valley


The exterior. Photo by Paul Dyer Photography.


The back counter. Photo by Paul Dyer Photography.

After an original post on Chowhound followed by many delays (including a shattered gelato case that had to be re-shipped from Italy), the ICE CREAM BAR is finally due to open in Cole Valley on Saturday January 21st. Owner Juliet Pries says the mostly organic menu will focus on sweets at first and savory items will follow after they open. There will be a dozen ice cream flavors such as roasted pineapple.

If the thought of eating ice cream in this weather gives you the chills, not to worry. The Ice Cream Bar is seeking a beer and wine license to warm you up with a little alcoholic refreshment such as raspberry lambic floats, prosecco sorbet floats, and caramel ice cream floats with lager. As reported in Eater, Pries brought on Russell Davis of Rickhouse to help develop the drinks. Bartenders will be behind the soda fountain creating daily specials and custom drinks from more than 75 herbs, spices, and tinctures. In addition to traditional milkshakes and malts, Ice Cream Bar will serve an old-fashioned drink made with cream, flavoring, ice, and a whole raw egg—but no ice cream!

Pries (who received her first ice cream maker at age six) studied pastry at the California Culinary Academy. So expect to see candies, cookies for ice cream sandwiches, and ice cream cake by the slice. Her savory menu will include items such as grass-fed hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches made with local cheeses. Take a look at Ice Cream Bar’s beautifully remodeled interior—it’s like stepping back into the 1930s (Eater has some fun details about the history of the bar). Open daily 12pm-10pm. 815 Cole St. at Frederick, 415-742-4932.

Tidbits: Canteen's Remodel, Dumplings & Buns New Menu, More


Canteen’s interior. Photo courtesy Charles de Lisle Workshop.

The next time you walk into Dennis Leary’s CANTEEN on Sutter, you’re going to do a double-take. Designer Charles de Lisle of Charles de Lisle Workshop has given it an extensive remodel, which includes a lot of floor-to-ceiling plywood. He explains, “We started with the idea of sheathing the room in plywood, to make the character of the space still feel humble, but add some depth and pattern to bring it to an even more intimate and cozy level.” Noting the apple-green counter was gone, he wrote to me, “Dennis was looking three-five years down the road and felt that, just like the style of the ever-changing menu, the interior should have a bit of flexibility to it.” You’ll notice a big “carnival light box” over the counter, with a bright red, powder-coated, perforated steel trough—and now a matching maroon counter. The tables were refitted with cherry red, high-gloss laminate and thick metal banding, plus plywood wine racks were installed, and instead of the bolted-down diner stools at the counter, you’ll now find simple workroom stools from Grainger Industrial Supply. Looks like the kind of place where I’d like to go to work on some of Leary’s eggs Benedict and Parker House rolls.

DUMPLINGS & BUNS in Pacific Heights has expanded its menu with a new section of entrées, soups, and combination plates, like 24-hour Kwan pork sliders, Pau Pau Lee’s tomato beef plate, teriyaki beef skewers with rice, and spicy and sweet “XO” dragon wings made with Cognac, plus three kinds of soup (wonton, Burmese-style chicken noodle, and egg drop), salad wraps, and more. Don’t forget some dessert dumplings to go. Open Tue-Sun 11am-8pm. 2411 California St. at Fillmore, 415-292-6209.

In the Sunset, Eater mentions there’s a new café called DRIP COFFEE BAR across the street from Sunrise Deli. The house coffee and espresso is from Sightglass, and there are some items to eat, plus free Wi-Fi. 1916 Irving St. at 21st Ave.

LiveSOMA reports a third location of PALIO CAFFÈ will be opening today. There are panini, soups, and more. Hours are Mon-Fri 5:30am-6:30pm. 163 2nd St. at Natoma.

It’s that time of the year, when POGGIO’s bollito misto is back! Offered Mon-Wed in the evenings, the bollito carello (cart) will wheel up, serving slowly simmered meats such as housemade cotechino sausage, beef tongue, brisket, veal breast, and oxtail, all carved tableside. $19 (dinner only) and available until spring.

Poggio            - 777 Bridgeway Sausalito - 415-332-7771

Comebacks: Rice Broker, Jasmine Tea House, and More


Rice Broker’s panko-breaded chicken. Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

Spork may have closed last month, but after a couple tweets I learned RICE BROKER has opened in its place. It’s a temporary concept from Neil Jorgensen that’s built around rice bowls topped with combinations like panko-breaded chicken breast, shaved Brussels sprouts, and Korean-style barbecue sauce (check out the menu here). You can follow updates on Twitter. Open Wed-Sun for dinner; cash only. 1058 Valencia St. at 21st St.

Tipster Jason B. let me know downtown’s Crêpe o Chocolat has closed, and BIO has opened in its place. Nope, no more crêpes, although there is housemade yogurt in the mornings and sandwiches for lunch on the menu. 75 O’Farrell St. at Stockton, 415-362-0255.

Weird, after closing in August, it looks like JASMINE TEA HOUSE in Bernal is reopening—according to ABC files, there is some new activity with the permit (the licensee and officers are new, so maybe there are new owners). A couple Yelpers report it’s reopening. 3253 Mission St. at 29th St.

More Chinese restaurant mysteries: a tablehopper reader wrote in, asking what was going on with BIG LANTERN in the Mission after espying a sign in the window that said “closed for remodeling.” A Yelper has this to add: “Closed for remodeling until January 27th they told me when I called on January 15th.” 3170 16th St. at Albion, 415-863-8100.

The Richmond notices YET WAH has gone from closed to remodeling, based on a sign in their window. 2140 Clement St. at 22nd Ave.

And in SoMa, you’ll be able to make kinky jokes about your coffee grind since WICKED GROUNDS has reopened, according to a post on LiveSOMA. 289 8th St. at Tehama, 415-503-0405.

Format Changes: The Moss Room and Txoko


Photo from Txoko.

Looks like Charles Phan has already reopened THE MOSS ROOM for lunch, according to Scoop. It’s open from 11am-3pm, and you can look at Slanted Door chef de cuisine Justine Kelly and Phan’s new menu here, featuring salads, imperial rolls, and some larger dishes like fried chicken with sriracha butter and a burger on focaccia. Expect more changes and news in coming weeks.

Scoop also brings word of changes to the menu at TXOKO. Chef Ian Begg’s new menu has shifted to more of a traditional appetizer/entrée format, although you can still order his small bites/pintxos at the bar. I really enjoy Begg’s refined food and flavors but had some issues with the original format, so I never reviewed Txoko for tablehopper. Am happy to see the menu additions and changes—I think it’s going to help fill that big space up more (and diners’ bellies). Can’t wait to try the wood oven-roasted chicken.

Txoko            - 504 Broadway San Francisco - 415-500-2744

Expanded Hours: Park Tavern and Mr. Pollo


View into the dining room from the café. Photo: ©

After a tip-off from this job listing on Craigslist, I learned PARK TAVERN will be launching brunch soon. Owner Anna Weinberg confirms brunch will served on Saturdays and Sundays, with savory dishes like wood-fired eggs. Weinberg and chef-owner Jenn Puccio just finished a whirlwind brunch trip of New York for inspiration, hitting something like four brunches a day—go ladies! Look for a soft launch the last weekend of February (the 25th-26th). I’ll have a menu for you soon.

And Mission Loc@l resports MR. POLLO is now open for lunch. Yeah, Manny’s amazing arepas can be yours during the day! Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm. 2823 Mission St. at 24th St., 415-374-5546.

Park Tavern            - 1652 Stockton St. San Francisco - 415-989-7300

Fun Event at Bespoke with Bar Bambino


Spuntini, Bar Bambino-style. Photo from Facebook.

Food and bikes? Of course I’m all over it. On Friday January 27th, Bespoke bicycles (who make custom bikes by hand) and Vélo Classic Tours are hosting A Night of Cycling/A Taste of Italy with food and wine provided by Bar Bambino. Swing by from 6pm-9pm at Bespoke’s sleek new showroom in Pacific Heights. It’s free, all you need to do is RSVP by Monday January 23rd to attend. 2843 Clay St. at Scott.

A Couple Events with a Vegetarian and Vegan Focus


Take meatless Mondays a step further to Tuesdays with either of these vegetarian/vegan-focused events. The MUSEUM OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA invites you to a book party to celebrate Bryant Terry’s new book, The Inspired Vegan. You’ll be celebrating the author’s birthday too! Enjoy entertainment from The Marcus Shelby Trio, Renee Wilson, and DJs Max Champ and Ellen Choy, and food and drinks by Roger Feely and Soul Cocina, featuring recipes from The Inspired Vegan, and SLO Down Wines. Tuesday January 24th, 7:30pm-9pm. $15, or $30 with signed copy of the book. Tickets online. 685 Mission St. at 3rd St.

And for another inspired vegetarian event, food tour startup DISHCRAWL is hosting a tour they’re calling Vegetarian for Carnivores in the Mission. On January 31st, 7pm-9pm, explore four Mission restaurants famous for vegetarian offerings (not all restaurants are vegetarian). Restaurant locations are secret until 48 hours before the event, but you can get hints on Twitter. $39; only 9 spots left.

Oakland and Berkeley Updates


Photo of Caña from Facebook.

CAÑA in Oakland, a Cuban-Cali café to the right of the Grand Lake Theater, has now opened the Parlor side to their business, a full-service restaurant. You can check out the Parlor menu here, with dishes like plantain-crusted fish and asopao (Cuban risotto with braised ham hock, chorizo picante, green peas, and carrot), and there are also rum and agricole cocktails, plus an in-house cane press and boutique Spanish wines. Dinner 5pm-9:30pm. 530-2 Lake Park Ave. at Grand, Oakland, 510-832-1515.

Folks wondering where the Oakland location of UMAMI BURGER is opening can now look forward to it opening at 2100 Franklin St., just around the corner from the Paramount. Scoop reveals the location will have about 100 seats. The rep for Umami Burger says timing for the opening of this location has not been determined yet, but it will be before the end of the year. 2100 Franklin St. at 21st St., Oakland.

A post on Chowhound mentions BABETTE CAFE has moved into the Remedy space at the Berkeley Art Museum, serving breakfast, housemade pastries, lunch items, Ritual Coffee, and snacks. Open Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 2625 Durant Ave. at Bowditch, Berkeley, 510-717-8984.

Industry Comings and Goings


Manresa interior photo by Michael David Rose.

MANRESA in Los Gatos has announced Bobi Adle as the new GM—diners who frequent Frances will recognize him (he has been there since the opening).

Grub Street reveals chef Max DiMare has left WOOD TAVERN for a gig in Los Angeles. Owner Rich Wood has promoted Yang Ping to chef de cuisine—she has been working with DiMare the past four years and since the beginning of the restaurant.

North Bay News: Sweetwater, Terrapin Crossroads, and Blue Barn


Terrapin Crossroads; photo from Terrapin Crossroads website.

Lots going on north of the city: first, after 40 years when it first opened, the new location of the historic SWEETWATER MUSIC HALL is opening Friday January 27th, thanks to investors that include Bob Weir, famously of the Grateful Dead. It’s a state-of-the-art nightclub and café opening in the first floor of the 107-year-old Masonic Lodge No. 356 in Mill Valley; after an extensive renovation, it now has a cutting-edge Meyer Sound system and streaming video technology to broadcast live events. There’s a full-service restaurant led by Gordon Drysdale (Pizza Antica, Café des Amis). Diners will order at a counter and will be served by staff, but subsequent orders can be placed tableside. Look for breakfast, lunch, patio dining, and musical Sunday brunches in the spring. 19 Corte Madera Ave. at Lovell, Mill Valley, 415-388-3850.

One more project from our dear Deadheads: bassist Phil Lesh is behind TERRAPIN CROSSROADS, a restaurant and concert space opening in February in San Rafael in the former Seafood Peddler location. The Bay Citizen reports it will “double as performance space featuring music, poetry and lectures covering everything from ‘cosmology to history to environmental issues to building team spirit.’” Dood. Entertainment is due to begin in March. For many more details, check out this piece in the San Anselmo-Fairfax Patch. 100 Yacht Club Dr. at Francisco, San Rafael.

Eater notes BLUE BARN GOURMET is going to open a location in Corte Madera in the now-closed Bryan’s Market in Town Center Corte Madera. There will reportedly be around 30 seats and room for 10 at the bar, where there will be wines and beers on tap. Partners Sam Josi, Nate Valentine, and Stryker Scales plan to open in October. (And for those wondering about the upcoming Polk Street location, timing is still TBD.)


the sponsor

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the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Ceri Smith of Biondivino Planning to Open an Enoteca on Russian Hill


Ceri Smith; photo provided by Ceri Smith.

After reading this blog post that Ceri Smith of BIONDIVINO was opening a second business in Russian Hill, I heard a rumor that Boulette’s Larder was involved, so of course I had to give her a call. It ends up she is not planning to open a wine bar as reported, but more of a true enoteca, serving espresso in the morning, along with some choice items to eat throughout the day and evening, and of course fantastic wines to enjoy as well. She is currently waiting for approval on a conditional use permit to convert a boutique (Eco Citizen) at 2255 Polk Street into her new (and presently unnamed) concept.

Ceri said it’s going to have a very Euro-centric and sophisticated style that is upscale without being uptight, and will be geared more toward the 30-and-over crowd (i.e. not a boisterous wine bar). Of course the wine list will be fab—she said imagine being able to swing by a casual but beautiful place with a deep list à la Quince or Acquerello, without having to sit for a five-course meal. She is meeting with Boulette’s Larder this week about ideas and plans for the menu, so the food component is TBD, but you know it’ll be spot-on.

The enoteca will be open in the mornings for really good Italian espresso service and a breakfast item or two, before transitioning into afternoon and evening offerings. While her focus is Italian wines, she also said there will be esoteric wines, smaller producers, some old California vintages due to a source she has, in addition to European selections like some Austrian rieslings, and even wine cocktails by Duggan McDonnell of Cantina.

Ceri said it’s going to have a very clean look, very modern and European. There will be 24-26 seats (at tables and chairs), and hopefully 4 outside. She stressed that service will be of the utmost importance, and guests will note thoughtful details like purse hooks and throws. She’s charmingly calling it “the smallest restaurant in San Francisco.”

While she has over 300 signatures from neighbors in support of the project, her hearing is on February 2nd, so even more positive letters would be appreciated! Feel free to send a letter in support to Kevin Guy via email or to the Planning Department, Attn: Kevin Guy, 1650 Mission St. Suite 400, San Francisco, CA, 94103. The case number is 2011.1233C, re: address 2255 Polk St.

Tidbits: Hires, Bar Stools, Deals, and Honky-Tonk Sundays!


Photo from Barbacco.

Last week I reported on the departure of Mauro Cirilli from Perbacco and barbacco, but I just learned that Becky Pezzullo (Bar Bambino, Reform Club) has been hired as the general manager and wine director for BARBACCO. Current general manager Maria Eugenia Armando will be working side by side with Becky for the next three weeks until she leaves on February 7th for Argentina (when Maria comes back she will work on opening her own business). Becky said she’s “very excited to be in an Italian space again, really really Italian, with a rocking wine list that matches my philosophy and ethos 100%.” Cheers to that!

TWENTY FIVE LUSK is launching a new wine offer on Mondays, offering 50% off all bottles of wine that are $100 or less. This offer will be available to diners in the upstairs dining room as well as the downstairs bar and lounge from 5pm to close.

I was laughing hysterically over some posts and pictures on Facebook announcing that WO HING GENERAL STORE finally got some bar stools. Yep, it’s true, not many people want to stand around when they drink. Now if they could just get cushions for that damned metal bench. Olle Lundberg, please stop with the metal benches—they look cool but that’s also what they’re doing to our butts. I know I’m not the only one who wants a pillow every time I dine out at Out the Door on Bush, and now Wo Hing.

Looking for something fun to do on Sundays? COMSTOCK SALOON has decided to open on Sundays, and is hosting Honky-Tonk Sundays, starting at 4pm. There will be some serious vinyl getting played, like Hank Snow, Charlie Daniels, and Waylon Jennings (starting at 7pm). Sous chef Abe Sanchez will offer a weekly Blue Plate Special of southern-inspired comfort food dishes like his famous chili, fried chicken, and barbecue. Executive chef Carlo Espinas will also offer the full dinner menu of turn-of-the-century saloon fare, so you can still get your beef shank and bone marrow pot pie. And don’t forget, there’s happy hour from 4pm-7pm daily, featuring 2-for-1 snacks, $6 Derby cocktails, and $6 shot and beer combos: Boot to the Head (bourbon and Anchor Steam), Cabezazo (tequila and Tecate), and Headbutt (Bols Genever and pilsner).

Upcoming Events to Further Your Wine Education


Photo of Cellar360 from Flickr.

When it comes to wine, there’s always more to learn. Pick up some more wine knowledge with these fun ‘n’ educational wine events. CELLAR360 at Ghirardelli Square and Courtney Cochran—author and certified sommelier—are hosting HIP TASTES: Blind Tasting Bootcamp on Thursday January 19th from 6pm-8pm. You’ll be guided through the essentials of blind tasting with six different wines, then wrapping up the class with a taste-off between teams. $50. 900 North Point St. #F301 at Polk.

On Sunday January 29th, HEIRLOOM CAFÉ is holding not one but three back-to-back tasting events. Start at 10am with a gnocchi demonstration, then enjoy brunch with truffles at 11am (gnocchi with sunny-side eggs, chive butter, Périgord truffles), with a glass of bubbles (Montagnieu Brut), of course. $40 (limited to twelve). At 1pm, join the Wine Fundamentals Tasting Seminar: they promise two hours, six wines, and a start to a lifetime of wine appreciation. $30. Then stay for the 4pm-6pm Heirloom Groovinet: a casual tasting event with one-ounce pours for  $1, $2, or $3 so you can taste lots of different wines, including a special bottle or two. They’re also supplying munchies. $10. Tickets online.

For those with a professional interest in wine, GRAPE EXPERIENCE offers Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certification classes geared to different levels. Their new Foundation/Sommelier Course is a two-day workshop Sat-Sun February 4th-5th, 10am-4:30pm, at Premium Port Wines (280 Utah St. at 16th St.). Active sommeliers teach how to apply wine knowledge and skills in a restaurant workplace—good for anyone who needs basic skills in wine service (i.e. get your feet wet), and/or wants to start a career as a sommelier. $395, includes all books/materials, wines, and exam. They also offer WSET Intermediate and Advanced Certificate Courses. More info online.


the socialite

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

Beyond the Blaze Fundraiser This Friday for Fire Victims


 Event Info

Friday Jan 20, 2012 6:30pm–10pm $15 door, $12 presale Tickets                        St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church 2097 Turk St. at Lyon, San Francisco

Give a neighbor a helping hand this Friday January 20th at BEYOND THE BLAZE, a fundraiser to help 60 Western Addition residents who were displaced by the five-alarm fire last month.

Haighteration reports that neighbors, local businesses, and Scoutmob are working together to put on the benefit, which will feature food from nopa, Nopalito and, Bi-Rite; beer and wine from Speakeasy Brewery, Rolling Rock, and Green Barrel; coffee from Matching Half; and more. Live music will include Gaucho Gypsy Jazz Band, Even Taylor, Conspiracy of Beards, and The Sundance Kids. Look for a raffle too.

6:30pm-10pm. $15 at the door; $12 presale online. 100% of proceeds go to the displaced residents; you can also donate online. St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk St. at Lyon.

Celebrate the Lunar New Year--Release the Dragon!


Photo of Chinese New Year Dragon by Daisy Chow.

Event Info

Monday Jan 23, 2012 – Tuesday Feb  7, 2012

Lunar New Year starts next Monday January 23rd, celebrating the Year of the Dragon! Get your dragon-sized appetite ready for all the good eats that will be available over the 15 days of festivities.

Here’s a totally cute treat: ARIZMENDI BAKERY will have dragon-shaped almond cookies, as well as sesame, green tea, and plain shortbread, all starting January 20th.

Chef Rob Lam of BUTTERFLY is offering a Dungeness crab tasting menu, featuring two-pound crabs, from January 21st to February 3rd. The menu includes crab and sea urchin hand rolls, yuzu kosho vinaigrette, toasted nori; crab roe and soft tofu “ma po style,” poached egg, tofu crackers; salt and red chile crab, crab fried black rice, Buddha’s hand hollandaise; long life noodles, brown butter crab, caramelized daikon, lime leaf; and mandarin orange shaved ice, almond tofu, candied kumquat. $59/person.

You’re not gonna see this menu anywhere else: LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA is ringing in the Lunar New Year with a special chifa menu beginning January 23rd through February 10th. Per Wikipedia, chifa is “a style of Chinese cooking in which ingredients which are available in Peru have been substituted for those originally used in China” and originated with Chinese immigrants who settled in Lima. Check their Facebook for more updates.

And if you want to go more traditional Chinese-style with the whole banquet-menu shebang, there are always plenty of choices in and around the city. Try traditional stand-bys like Koi Palace, R&G Lounge (websites with music, don’t say we didn’t warn you), Hong Kong Lounge, and Yank Sing, or go more fusion-style (in a good way) at Betelnut.

Update: DELISE, the North Beach dessert café, is reopening on Tuesday January 24th (the owners have been taveling in Asia) with a whole host of goodies, while supplies last. Don’t miss the Peking duck scones—they’re making these savories a Lunar New Year tradition. On the sweet side, they’ll have mandarin orange lemon bars with a walnut crust, “fried sesame ball” macarons (black and white sesame seed macaron with white chocolate and adzuki bean ganache filling), tangerine sorbet infused with Red Blossom’s jasmine tea, toasted white sesame ice cream with black sesame candy, and candied kumquat and walnut brittle ice cream.

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)

Sneak Preview of Pigs & Pinot 2012


Charlie Palmer talking vino during the mini media Pinot Cup; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Succulent prosciutto-wrapped tenderloin with violet mustard droplets and cascade of béarnaise; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

Last week I had the delicious privilege of attending the media preview of this year’s PIGS & PINOT extravaganza at the Hotel Healdsburg. Our hosts had put together an express version of the event’s Friday night Pinot Cup competition led by its creative mastermind Daryl Groom, as well as a spectacularly porky luncheon coordinated by chefs Charlie Palmer and Dustin Valette. The day began with mixed housemade charcuterie paired with the Aureole Cuvée (made in partnership with Iron Horse Vineyards), followed by an earthy porcini velouté with julienne of crispy coppa (beautifully accented by the sweet cherry of the 2009 Rochioli Three Corner being poured), succulent pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of shredded braised shoulder, with violet mustard béarnaise (ideal for the floral, earth-driven silkiness of the 2008 Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs), and a chocolate peanut butter butterbomb that brought out all the rich cocoa notes of the 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard.

In addition to all this piggy goodness, we blind tasted through 14 of the 60 pinot noirs entered in this year’s Pinot Cup, guided by the irreverent humor and infectious grin of Daryl Groom (former head of Penfolds’ winemaking program and current winemaker for Groom Wines and the inspiring non-profit Colby Red). The competition was very stiff, but in the end we media types voted as our winners two first-time entrants to the Pinot Cup: a 2009 Graton Ridge from the Russian River Valley in our top spot, and the 2007 Kings Mountain pinot from the Santa Cruz Mountains as runner up. Everyone agreed that we would have happily drunk just about any of the entrants we tried, so the professional judges will have it pretty hard picking their own winners from the field of 60 on March 23rd.

Charlie Palmer himself popped in to chat about his obsession with pinot noir (he has his own vineyard), his excitement about this year’s event, and the local provenance of the porcine stars. The man is disarmingly passionate, funny, and down to earth. Keep an eye out for him in SF this spring as he redevelops Union Square’s Crescent Hotel into a boutique, “chef-driven” haven from which to enjoy fresh, local cuisine.

If you can’t score a ticket to the seventh annual Pigs & Pinot event (the highly prized à la carte tickets are available beginning January 17th for Visa Signature cardholders, and January 20th for everyone else; check website for details), it’s still worth heading up to Healdsburg before or after for a meal. Dry Creek Kitchen will be offering some of chef Valette’s favorite pork creations and pinot pairings in February, March, and April. Plan a Thursday night visit to score the “20 for $20” discount—20 specially selected bottles of local wine discounted to $20 per bottle for the night—or just bring your own favorite bottle of Sonoma wine to enjoy free corkage, anytime. Dry Creek Kitchen, Hotel Healdsburg, 317 Healdsburg Ave. between Matheson & North Sts., Healdsburg, 707-431-0330.

the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)

(Sponsored): Golden Glass Returns to Fort Mason February 4th


Slow Food San Francisco’s eighth annual Golden Glass brings together wine and food artisans from around the world in celebration of Slow Food’s work to advocate for sustainability, biodiversity, and preservation of food traditions.

Taste wine from over 200 hand-selected wine producers, and enjoy tasty bites from San Francisco’s best restaurants and artisan food producers, all while supporting Slow Food San Francisco’s School Gardens Initiative and Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.

This Golden Glass will also mark the publication of the English edition of Slow Wine, Slow Food Italy’s new, comprehensive, and meticulously researched guide to Italian wines.

tablehopper is giving away one pair of tickets (two tickets total, a $160 value). 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 the event. Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Sunday January 22nd at 11:59pm. We’ll notify the winner on Monday. Good luck!

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Susan Sarandon Seeks Protection from Vampires

Susan Sarandon  was seen dining at BISTRO BOUDIN on Sunday afternoon with what looked like a couple associates. The group was seated at one of the restaurant’s large marble tables that overlooks the bay with a view of Alcatraz. Susan ordered an Irish Coffee (atta girl), dined on the linguine and clams for her entrée, and here’s the best part: she asked the chef for a generous amount of garlic to be added. Not afraid, that Susan. Besides, when you’re that gorgeous, you can have the worst dragon breath in the world and people will still want to make out with you.

More of the Mustachioed Man


Photo of John Waters avec fans via Mission Mission.

After last week’s sighting of John Waters at Rebel, now Mission Mission shares a sighting (and picture!) of him catching the Micro Mtns show at The Knockout. Way to hit the local hangouts, John!

Food Royalty

According to some buzz on Facebook, Ruth Reichl (in town for the Good Food Awards) and Alice Waters dined at Locanda on Friday night for dinner. As co-owner Annie Stoll commented, “So much fun to have them in. They are both such lovely joyous people!” (I love that comment, what a great impression to leave.)

Spotted at Boulevard

A couple sightings at Boulevard: Peter Coyote and author William C. Gordon (and husband of Isabel Allende) both came in for lunch separately.

Date Night with Michael Franti

Michael Franti (Spearhead) had a quick dinner with his girlfriend at One Market (he even cozied up next to her on the same side of the table). He was reportedly “super friendly” with the staff and introduced himself as Mike. Mike?

Wino Weekend

A tablehopper follower on Twitter let me know Sophia Bush (Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill) was spotted at Ram’s Gate Winery, the swank new winery that’s on the way to Sonoma.

Joe, Can You Pass Me a Croissant?

According to a tweet, Joe Montana had lunch at Café de la Presse last week.

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