Rainy-day food: a bowl of pho tai chin (sliced eye of round steak and well-done brisket) at Pho Ao Sen. (Yeah, this broth was an oily one.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Whoaaaaa nelly—you ready for an action-packed Friday newsletter? First, hot off the interweb wires is my second video for Hungry In… on YouTube’s Hungry channel! Today, I take you to North Beach, highlighting four of my old-school favorites in the neighborhood. Do you know about the Africano at Caffe Trieste or the Renzo special at Molinari? Have you ever had sacripantina cake? You are gonna get HONGRY, let me tell you. Take a look, and earn bonus-round rock star points if you “like” the episode, comment on it, or hold the phone, share it! Molto, molto grazie!
Next up: today’s newsletter totally (and unexpectedly!) has become an homage to the Iberian peninsula! We have a wino report from Eugenio Jardim of Jardinière, who is on the road and tasting wine in Portugal, plus news from the 707 about the new Bravas Bar de Tapas restaurant in Healdsburg. Even one of our sponsors is about Spanish olive oil. Buen provecho y salud!
Looks like it’s going to be a rainy one tonight. Fortunately I’ll be happily nested at Campton Place for a fun in-city night of staycation. (I know, it sounds simply terrible!) I’m excited to have dinner and then walk upstairs to my room—almost better than a magic carpet. Tomorrow I’m going to swing by and check out the Omnivorious Party, you going? Check out all the details about the weekend’s events here.
Keep toasty and dry—our fall has finally arrived!
Can’t tell arbequina from picual or hojiblanca from cornicabra? Here’s your chance to learn all about Spain’s top olive oil varietals. From tapas at neighborhood favorites Canela and Contigo to high-concept culinary art at Michelin two-starred Atelier Crenn, San Francisco restaurants will feature olive oils from Spain the week of November 12th-18th. Each restaurant will highlight the oils in its own unique way. (For a sneak peek, tips, and more, take a look at this recent post on Cooking with Amy.)
We’ve all gotten a bit too comfortable with the term tapas. Spanish for “cover,” it originally referred to slices of bread, meat, and cheese served atop a glass of wine or sherry to keep the flies out (or so the legend goes). What it has turned into is anything served on a saucer-size plate—from sushi to nachos.
After a recent trip to Spain, Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark decided to bring the concept of authentic Spanish tapas to Healdsburg, opening BRAVAS BAR DE TAPAS this week.
That vision translates to sangria, cider, and wine served with bites of paper-thin Iberico ham and Manchego cheese; fresh anchovy filets with olive oil; roasted leeks with romesco; marinated mussels with chile relish; creamy chicken croquettes; cider-braised chorizo; or tomato- and garlic-rubbed toast. Along with the hot and cold tapas are heartier dishes cooked à la plancha, including local sardines, Monterey calamari, skirt steak with red onion marmalade, and quail with lavender. Most dishes are priced between $8 and about $12 each (Iberico ham and steak are a bit more, but so worth it).
The opening menu is filled with brassy, bold flavors that leave no question you’ll need a breath mint or two before getting familiar with friends or co-workers. It’s a departure from the usual Wine Country lineup, but the basic building blocks of the menu (shrimp, pig ears, fried duck eggs, Dungeness crab, sardines, skirt steak, seafood ceviche) are ingredients the Starks have a proven track record with at their other restaurants (Willi’s Wine Bar, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, and Stark’s Steak & Seafood).
Inside, the former Ravenous space has been updated; the signature orange walls now sport a few dark gray accents. Swirling, psychedelic posters from the San Francisco’s Fillmore deck the walls, which are bound to be extra groovy after a few glasses of cava.
Outdoors, a revamped patio and bar are ready for year-round use. Just look for the neon sign beckoning you with the glowing words, “Jamon In.”
Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St. at Mitchell St., Healdsburg, 707-433-7700. Open 11am-10pm daily.
Brazil native Eugenio Jardim has been the wine director at Jardinière since 2001, and has built a reputation for seeking out the new and exciting wines of the world. His approach to wine is fun but professional, educational and nonthreatening, creating an enjoyable experience rather than an intimidating one. Jardim’s philosophy is driven by his passion for finding little-known wines from small growers with flavors that are drawn from the vineyards rather than manipulated by chemistry.
Eugenio is also the Bay Area ambassador for the Vini Portugal campaign to promote the dry wines of the country. He is currently visiting the Tejo, Lisboa, and Alentejo regions of Portugal, and is sharing with us a few of his notes (and pictures) from the road!
My first day was spent in Lisbon rediscovering this architecturally beautiful city, enjoying its delicious restaurants, and searching for the best spots to hear Fado, Portugal’s hauntingly dramatic music that dates back to the Middle Ages. Comparable to American blues, this music is usually performed live in cavernous restaurants and bars throughout Lisbon’s old neighborhoods of Alfama and Bairro Alto. Beautiful young ladies perform with two guitarists (one acoustic and the other a Portuguese instrument that is similar to a mandolin in sound and shape).
Portugal is the 10th biggest producer of wine in the world, but it remains largely undiscovered. Boasting more than 250 native grape varieties, it seems unbelievable that it hasn’t made a bigger impact in wine and culinary circles. Especially since the Portuguese wine culture dates back to 200 B.C.
In Lisbon I paid a visit to one of my favorite local classics, a restaurant named Gambrinus, which has the most incredible cellar of old Madeiras. After a delicious lunch of bacalhau, the national dish of baked salt cod, I moved to the bar where the bartender, who has worked there for 33 years, took me through a tasting of Madeira wines, all of which dated back to the middle 1800s. I tasted an 1856 bual, 1885 verdelho, 1850 verdelho, very old malvasia, very old bastardo, very old sercial, and 1980 Borges vintage port.
Not a bad first day!
Days 2 and 3
Our second and third days were spent exploring the vast region of Alentejo. Alentejo covers almost one-third of the country, which is not bigger than Indiana, but is the largest wine-producing area of Portugal. The landscape is a beautiful quilt of vines, olive trees, and oaks, used for the production of corks. This is an area where rolling hills give way to occasional ancient hilltop villages that often surround an even older castle. Driving from one winery to another, one cannot help to get lost in the vastness of the land and its sheer rough beauty. Today we saw several wild pigs grazing on the verdant fields among the olive trees.
The wineries in this area are primarily large cooperatives that work with a lot of the native Portuguese grape varieties, such as trincadeira and touriga nacional, along with such international superstar grapes like syrah, petit verdot, and the now obscure alicante bouschet. Even though the area is known for its scorching hot summers, we experienced some beautifully cool autumn days.
Alentejo has some the best cooperatives that I’ve ever visited and they make some great value, everyday drinking wines. Family-owned wineries are also located here, including Cortes de Cima, which is owned by a husband-and-wife team from Denmark and Marin County respectively. It is pretty impressive that under such harsh conditions these wines can retain such delicate varietal qualities and natural acidity.
The food has been extraordinary and we have enjoyed typical Aletejano fare, which include many preparations of rabbit and lamb. These, of course, are always preceded by pata negra ham, Queijo da Serra, and delicious Portuguese olives.
We have now checked in at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, an exquisite eco-friendly resort that also makes some very interesting wines. I will report back!
We know you like food, but how about free food? Which is exactly why you need to know about Explore Oakland, a new offer from Marqeta that gives you 25 percent more money to spend at more than two dozen of Oakland’s hottest restaurants, including Ozumo, Picán, Barlata, and more!
The process is simple: sign up for a free Explore Oakland Card and prepay the amount of your choosing. When your card comes in the mail (in 4-7 days) simply use it at any of the participating restaurants and you’ll have 25 percent more to spend! For example, if you prepaid $40, you would have $50 to spend.
This time around, try the service for free! tablehopper is giving away two Explore Oakland cards worth $100 each! To enter to win, 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 your favorite Oakland restaurants, or why you read tablehopper, or both! Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Sunday November 11th at 11:59pm. We’ll notify the winner on Monday! Good luck!