This week's tablehopper: pleased to meat you.
Yuk hae (beef tartare) and banchan at To Hyang. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Well then, is it rainy enough for ya? I am kind of loving it. Since you won’t be heading to the beach or on a bike ride this weekend, why don’t you come visit me at a couple of cool gift fairs! Reminder: I’ll be at Bluxome Street Winery on Saturday and The Bold Italic on Sunday, along with some other fab food and lifestyle vendors selling cool local gear. There are a bunch this weekend; hit up more than one!
I had an early morning meeting in Oakland on Wednesday, which gave me a chance to finally hit up Stag’s Lunchette in Uptown Oakland for a sandwich—check out my review in today’s fresh meat. I also had the honor of interviewing the fabulous Dita Von Teese this month; here’s a transcript of our fun little chat. We also have a bunch of 707 news.
Lastly, a little weekend viewing for you: my third video in the Hungry In… San Francisco series aired today on YouTube’s Hungry channel. This time I take you to Chinatown, showing you some of my favorite spots, from jook at Great Eastern to the delicious baos and green onion bun at New Hollywood Bakery. Can you do me a big favor and like the video/comment/share it if you like it? Would be SO appreciated. Help a hopper out? Thanks!
OK peeps, have a good weekend—keep toasty.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
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New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
A dear friend, who is also a cook, told me I needed to meet his friend Alexeis “Lexi” Filipello—he was right, we all spent a night talking sandwiches over drinks. It’s nice when you meet fellow sandwich obsessives, and it’s even better when they open their own shop! STAG’S LUNCHETTE is a gem of a place in Uptown Oakland—the amount of handiwork that goes into each sandwich here is notable. It matches the rustic interior, which features a lot of ironwork and woodwork from local crafty badasses. (The place was a total dump before. Even the bathroom here is better than many restaurants.)
So, the sandwiches. I am so loving this trend of house-cured meats made from animals that were raised in a cruelty-free fashion. Go people go! On your first visit, you’re going to have to try the pastrami, one of the very, very best I’ve had in the Bay Area. Filipello cures the top-quality beef brisket for two to three weeks, and then smokes it for 10 hours. She also does a couple of other cool things, like cut most of the fat cap off so it doesn’t become a gratuitously fatty sandwich.
You’ll want to try the Stag’s play on a Reuben. The juicy pastrami is thinly sliced and wonderfully seasoned, with a peppery kick. It will make you pause after your first bite, trust. The next thing you’ll notice is a spicy boost from the housemade kimchee-like kraut inside, spiked with caraway. For this spice-loving woman, it was a genius touch. There’s also a little of the piquant house dressing in there for extra zip.
Next, instead of using rye, Filipello opted for levain—she thought the rye took away from the flavor of the pastrami. The final touch is thin and melting slices of a nicely pungent Gruyère. This sandwich is really something special, and for $10, it’s kind of a steal considering everything that goes into it. For those who like their Reubens piled high, there is also a double-meat option. And the side slaw with celery root (and some browned caraway!) is one of the few side slaws I actually wanted to finish.
The lineup of sandwiches changes often (peep the menu board here), from the thinly sliced harissa-lamb sandwich (from the rotisserie!) drizzled with tahini to a chicken melt with their utterly SICK house-cured bacon, Swiss cheese, and grilled radicchio and onions on focaccia. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tartines, check. There are also a variety of salads, a daily soup, and seasonal vegetable sides (this is the kind of deli that has a delicata squash salad). They make all their sauces in house, including a couple you’ll see on each high-top table.
Stag’s is also open in the morning, serving a delicious dark roast coffee and espresso custom made for Stag’s by RoastCo, a killer breakfast sandwich (um, hello olive oil-poached egg on a brioche bun with aioli, Swiss cheese, bacon, and mizuna), and chewy artisan bagels made by Baron Baking (check these beauties out). There’s some talk of starting Saturday brunch—all my fingers are crossed on this one.
Stag's Lunchette - 362 17th St. Oakland - 510-835-7824
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
West County Dominates North Bay Food Scene, Again
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
Unlike a thousand other restaurants with twee Mason jars and artisan farminess slathered all over their menus, Forestville’s new BACKYARD RESTAURANT gets its dirt-cred authentically.
Sourcing, literally, from chef-owner Daniel Kedan’s own backyard gardens and those of his ranching and farming neighbors, the alum of Ad Hoc and Peter Lowell’s opened his small community-focused restaurant in October. The relatively simple menu relies on seasonal produce, foragers, and whole-animal butchery as its foundation.
Suffice to say that Kedan and partners, chefs Seth Harvey and Marianna Gardenhire, can actually tell you the name of the person who grew the restaurant’s lettuce, raised its chickens, and made the hemp oil on your steak. Kedan also happens to document many of his adventures in local fields, pigpens, and foraging jaunts on Facebook in case you care to see your pork chop in development.
With nods to the diverse palates of Sonoma County, which are something akin to microclimates around these parts, you’ll find a seared steak accented with hemp oil or buttermilk onion rings next to gluten-free vegan gnocchi with wild mushrooms so unctuous and rich you’ll swear its loaded with butter and beef stock. Also on the menu are local-water kefir, coveted Green Valley wines, greens with nutritional yeast, and flatbread with arugula and lemon oil—literally something for everyone.
Every Wednesday the restaurant serves a simple family-style fried chicken dinner, but also regularly features dishes like blanched broccoli rabe with delicate purses of burrata, butternut squash flatbreads, or steaming potpies throughout the week. I also had one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten—an ice-cold plate of baby romaine, torn croutons, pork belly, and herbed dressing. Honestly, however, it seems almost unfair to suggest any particular dish because chances are that Kedan’s menu will have moved on to whatever’s at its height of perfection this week. And that’s exactly the point of eating at Backyard. Often.
Like any restaurant, not every dish is perfect. But even when it misses the mark, each bite feels too wonderfully real. And quintessentially Sonoma County.
The restaurant will serve a special Hanukkah dinner on Saturday December 8th featuring brisket, vegetables, potato latkes, and applesauce with sour cream. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 9am-9pm; closed Tues. 6566 Front St., Forestville, 707-820-8445.
Sonoma’s West County continues its North Bay restaurant domination with news that BAR CRUDO’S Tim Selvera will be opening a new seafood and oyster bar in downtown Guerneville in spring 2013. According to reports, the restaurant will be called SEASIDE METAL, in reference to the rusting boats on the nearby coast, and is expected to highlight, well, oysters, a raw bar, fish stews, and other briny goodness. Apparently the story broke in a recent FOOD & WINE article. Meanwhile, a pop-up Korean American diner launches Saturday December 1st at 16236 Main Street, also in downtown Guerneville. Details are still sketchy on exactly what’s on the menu, but the newly dubbed Hi Five will be collaboration between two BOON EAT + DRINK alums and sounds promising. More details should be popping up on their Facebook page.
Also popping up over the next ten weeks in Santa Rosa is BUTCHER & COOK, a Sunday night walk-up kitchen featuring fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, greens, biscuits, and pie. Chef collaborators Berry Salinas of Revolution Meats and John Lyle co-opt a local breakfast spot on Sundays from 4:30-8pm—or until they run out of food, which is likely to happen. It’s a casual, family-friendly affair with cop-a-squat dining (meaning no table service) or takeaway. A full supper for four (eight pieces of chicken, three sides, four biscuits, and half a pie) runs $58; a half supper for two is $35. Making reservations online is highly recommended or by calling 707-695-2169. Located at Don Taylor’s Omelette Express, 112 Fouth St. at Wilson, Santa Rosa.
Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)
Dita Von Teese on How to Live (and Drink) Well
The incomparable Dita Von Teese was in town for the exclusive launch of La Maison Cointreau and, lucky me, not only did I get to see her perform, but I was granted an interview with her as well. I hope you enjoy this little chat we had (I sure did). I have to admit, I was utterly distracted while interviewing her. She’s as charming and kind as she is gorgeous.
Marcia Gagliardi: So a gentleman would like to order you a cocktail. What would you request?
Dita Von Teese: Well, my favorite drink is a margarita, as long as it’s made properly. I can’t stand margarita mixes or simple syrups. It has to be fresh lime juice, silver tequila, and Cointreau on ice; no salt.
MG: Done. Who makes you a proper one in Los Angeles?
DVT: Me. Unfortunately I always find that I’m the one making the cocktails for my gentlemen friends. But, you know, that’s just because I’m savvy at it, I’m used to it. I’ve been working with Cointreau; I know how to make cocktails. Most men only know how to pop a cork. (Both laugh.) That’s OK.
MG: (Laughs.) You’ll show them a few new tricks.
DVT: Yeah, yeah that’s for sure.
MG: So you’re readying your Trav-L-Bar for a weekend jaunt in the Packard. What would we find in the travel bar?
DVT: You would find Cointreau, tequila, lemons and limes, rose liqueur, and spicy fresh-ground chipotle pepper, and I’d make the MargaDita.
MG: Lovely. Do you have a preferred hangover cure?
DVT: I believe in mostly—well, I drink my green smoothie first, that usually sets me right. And then I have something greasy for lunch, you know, like Mexican food or something like that. That usually works. First I try the green smoothie; if that doesn’t work, then I go for a heavy meal.
MG: Well done. I call mine the green menace.
DVT: Oh yeah? Does it do the same thing?
MG: I have “Green Vibrance,” but I drink it in the morning and if it doesn’t work then it’s time for Excedrin and eggs. (Laughs.)
DVT: (Laughs.) Right, exactly.
MG: Sooo, it’s been said that martinis are like breasts: one is not enough and three are too many.
DVT: (Laughs.) That’s true! I never heard that before.
MG: Would you say the same about sidecars?
DVT: (Laughs.) Definitely! That’s definitely—I would definitely relate the two. (Both laugh.)
MG: You are quite the international dame, and I would love to hear some bars that have really captivated you while traveling.
DVT: Well, the Hemingway Bar, which was in the Ritz in Paris, was a really spectacular place. It’s closed right now. I also love the Fumoir, which is at Claridge’s in London. Um, let’s see, I’m trying to think of where else. God, there was this one bar I went to in New York that was so great and I can’t remember the name of it, I wish I could. What about LA…in LA I like the Good Luck Bar.
MG: Mmmm, uh-huh.
DVT: You know it?
MG: I have matches from there still by my jewelry box.
DVT: Oh, it’s my favorite, it’s so good.
MG: It’s funny because I read an interview with you once and you talked about going to raves back in the ’90s.
DVT: Yeah. (Laughs.)
MG: That’s when I was in Los Angeles as well, and I remember that’s when Good Luck Bar was really really hot, ooh, between that and the Formosa, to have those beautiful chinoiserie bars.
DVT: Yeah, I love that style; can’t get enough.
MG: Quite! So if you could have a cocktail with anyone living or dead, who would it be? And you can pick a few that come to mind too. Maybe it can be a party with a little corner booth.
DVT: Gosh, that’s so tough, I’m trying to think of who’s, like, wild and fun, you know? (A bystander suggests Mae West.) She didn’t drink, she was totally sober. (Bystander: Creepy.) I know…
MG: Gypsy Rose?
DVT: She didn’t drink either.
MG: Oh, ladies, how interesting.
DVT: I know.
MG: Way to turn it around. Well, at least you’re having a drink. You’re drinking for them!
DVT: I know. Somebody’s going to come to mind, like right after I’m done. I don’t know, I guess I wouldn’t mind, like, having a drink with Marilyn Monroe would probably be pretty good, as long as she was, like, naked in bed, as she was known to be. Sounds fun, like, hey, two girls in bed, drinking cocktails.
MG: (Laughs.) All we’re wearing is Chanel No. 5!
DVT: Yeah, hi! (Both laugh.) I would have liked to choose a guy, but I have to think about it, a lot of the men in the ’40s were really heavy drinkers and probably not very, you know…
MG: You’d have to cut them off at a certain point.
DVT: Yeah, I mean, maybe Clark Gable, I bet he was… Clark Gable, let’s go with him. Because maybe, like—remember when he was drinking, and he throws Scarlett O’Hara over his shoulder, he’s like “You’re not putting me out tonight.” You know, that’s like, that’s how you want your man to be.
MG: (Laughs.) I love it! OK, one final question. Is there anything that’s next for you and Cointreau that you can talk about?
DVT: Well, I have a little, like, Travel Bar that’s coming out with them, that we have. It’s in the U.S., right? Yeah, that is. It looks like a little ladies’ handbag and it has a recipe book and Cointreau and all the accoutrements for mixing a cocktail and little jars of spices for making spicy cocktails, and even tea bags for infusing the cocktail.
MG: That’s sounds fabulous, I love it. I was wondering if they were going to throw in some like, bubble bath. Cointreau bubble bath!
DVT: Well, you have to bring your own bubble bath, but I do love a cocktail in the bubble bath.
MG: Oh, cheers! Ms. Von Teese, it has been such a delight and a pleasure to be able to speak with you.
DVT: Thank you, thank you so much.
MG: And thank you for coming out to San Francisco tonight; it’s always such a pleasure to have you here.
DVT: Thank you, and go have fun.