The stunning view at Brancott Estate Heritage Centre in Marlborough. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Kia Ora! (That’s my Māori hello to you.) I returned from New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon after an action-packed and food- and wine-filled 10 days in that gorgeous country. Seriously, whoa. I had some of the best shellfish of my life, was so impressed with many wonderful wines I tasted (Central Otago is full of incredible winemakers and wines), plus some killer beers and coffees, and was blown away with all the beautiful skies and sunsets and greenery everywhere (including some serious rainbows). And the Kiwi kindness and hospitality is no joke. They are also really funny and sassy people—I got a good dose of banter everywhere I went, from airline pilots to street food vendors.
I’m just about to start editing through my 1,800 images, stand by. (Cue Memories.) Thank you all SO MUCH for the great recommendations you sent before I left—my hosts couldn’t believe all the fabulous tips I showed up with. That’s because my readers rock, plain and simple.
As you can imagine, I am still catching up on emails and news, so we’ll have a pretty packed hopper on Tuesday. For now, I have a few news tidbits on some new openings, plus a wino, 707 scout, and a bookworm for you. I hope you enjoy your afternoon (or weekend) reading.
And I’m not sure what your plans are for this gorgeous weekend, but on Sunday, I’ll be judging at the Cochon 555 event, which is going to be quite the spread. In addition to seven chefs and butchers serving dishes from seven different hogs, there will be winemakers, butcher demonstrations, oysters, a Manhattan bar and chupito bar (mezcals in the house!), plus a cheese bar, beer from Anchor Brewing, pork-spiked desserts, and cold-brewed coffee. Yeah, you will be pummeled.
And just in case you haven’t had a chance to pick up a tablehopper vintage t-shirt, there will be a table where you can check ‘em out! Just don’t get your greasy fingers on that quality cotton, okay? Thanks. See you there!
Enjoy the weekend! With springtime weather like this, it sure is good to be home.
As previously mentioned on tablehopper, there’s another spot to get your baked goods on: this time, it’s FLOUR + CO. from Emily Day, who used to run operations over at La Boulange (that’s in the pre-Starbucks era), and her husband, Ryan. For some cool details on the building and remodel of the space, check out Day’s blog.
The spot is absolutely darling (but not too twee), with turquoise walls, lots of sunshine, and a plethora of fresh flowers. It’s pretty much the perfect place to enjoy a spring afternoon, especially since they’ve got Stumptown coffee and some rockin’ baked goods. Day is all about using what she calls “the good stuff,” like real butter, flour, eggs, and produce, to create simple but delicious pastries. Each of these ingredients has taken on a bit of a personality, which you can see in the graphic design at the location. The wonderful graphics, from Rubber Design feature personifications of milk, eggs, and flour, and appear not only on the walls but also on the to-go cups.
As for the menu, look out for cookies, fruit bars, buttermilk biscuits, and seasonal specials (a recent one was strawberry pie with Straus ice cream, can you say springtime?). There are also sandwiches and salads for lunch, plus a potpie. For lunch, check out granola and yogurt or, for a savory option, try the biscuits and gravy. They’ve also got cakes, pies, and loaves of bread, so it’s a great place to pick up something on your way somewhere fabulous. They’re currently open daily 6:30am-6pm. 1030 Hyde St. at Pine, 415-992-7620.
As mentioned previously on tablehopper, NOIR (music alert on that website) from owner Brian Cassanego is bringing a new place to Hayes Valley. After some chef drama, it softly opened on April 2nd, with Joanna Karlinsky (of Sweet Jo’s Chili and Bicuits) as interim chef. Look out for her chili and famed Meetinghouse biscuits, of course, plus other American-style classics coming soon, like mac and cheese, tater tots, and pulled pork.
The beverage program features a wine list of 55 choices by the bottle and more than 20 by the glass from sommelier Gianna Gaudini. There are also eight beers on tap, including choices from New Belgium, Pine Street Brewing, and Dogfish Head.
The space, from designer Gi Paoletti, includes a screening room in the back for classic noir films, or important sporting events. Now that it’s baseball season, that means you can enjoy Giants’ games with a nice glass of wine, which is always a good thing. The ceilings are arched to give the whole place an Art Deco grandness, with low amber lighting to keep it all, ahem, intimate. There are two bars: the L-shaped one in front, and the back one with a classic noir scene. Both feature sexy backlit amber onyx. The space is set up with modular screens, so different parts of the restaurant can be closed off to accommodate private groups too. There’s a communal table between the two bars, plus lounge areas with tufted seating in addition to tables.
It’s open daily, with a weekend brunch coming in May, though hours are subject to change during the soft opening phase, so a call ahead isn’t a bad idea. Mon-Thu 3pm-10pm, Fri 3pm-12am, Sat 1pm-12am, Sun 1pm-9pm. 581 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-431-6647.
Attention restaurateurs! Don’t miss the Annual Three-Day Super Sale at TriMark Economy Restaurant Fixtures, featuring our lowest prices of the year on restaurant equipment and supplies.
Live cooking demonstrations, giveaways, free valet parking, and thousands of items on sale at ridiculously low prices. Save big on commercial refrigeration and cooking equipment, cookware, china, glassware, shelving, cutlery, sinks, worktables, ice machines, food storage, steam table pans, and more. Factory representatives will be on hand to answer your questions.
Thursday-Saturday, April 18th-20th, 8am-5:30pm daily. More information at TriMarkEconomy.com.
(Sponsored): Dancing with the Somms: Dance the Night Away and Sip Luxe Tastes at Wine Luxury Soirée Friday April 26th
Okay, so our Master Sommeliers won’t be competing in a costumed dance-off per se (wink), but we have heard Peter Granoff can cut quite a rug. Come out Friday April 26th for Wine Luxury’s Soirée, a festive evening of exquisite tastes (30-plus vintners), fashions from a cadre of promising designers, cigar service, luxe hors d’oeuvres, a photo booth, lifestyle auction for Share Our Strength & ACCESS, live entertainment and…yes, dancing. Sip pours from Blackbird, Chappellet, Couloir, Crocker & Starr, Date Night, Failla, Rich Aurilia’s Red Stitch, Ridge, Skipstone, and more. Roederer bubbles, caviar and Point Reyes farmstead cheese can be had in the WLX Luxury Lounge.
And while masks aren’t a must, festive cocktail attire is encouraged! After all, you never know who you’ll meet on the dance floor.
Tickets to the event start at $95 per person, and VIP packages go up from there.
Event Info: Friday April 26th, 2013 6pm-10pm Tickets start at $95 City Club of San Francisco 155 Sansome Street, San Francisco
We’ve got an exclusive peek at the forthcoming menu for CHALKBOARD, the casual dining restaurant that’s replacing Cyrus in Healdsburg’s Les Mars Hotel. The menu will source much of its produce from the legendary Chalk Hill Gardens (part of Les Mars owner Bill Foley’s portfolio), so expect lots of seasonal specialties on the menu like microgreens, squash blossoms, stinging nettles, nasturtium greens, peas, leeks, and asparagus this spring. Chef Shane McAnelly does a mix of low- and highbrow comfort plates that range from warm pretzels with cheddar cheese and “stadium mustard” ($6), pork belly buttermilk biscuits ($8), veggies with Green Goddess dressing ($7), and marinated sardines ($9) to tonier beef tartare with a quail egg ($11), duck confit pasta ($12), and buttermilk fried quail with fava beans ($14). When it comes to his Dungeness crab tater tots with crème fraîche? We’re ready for a taste-testing tot-off with Stark’s Steak & Seafood, who also offer the crabby bites. Chalkboard is slated to open in early May.
BottleRock Eats: Music isn’t the only thing rocking this May in Napa. Valley toque CINDY PAWLCYN’S team will manage the nearly 40 chefs and restaurateurs participating in the 26-acre rock fest slated for May 9-12. On the roster so far: Mustards Grill, Oenotri, ZuZu, Grace’s Table, the girl & the fig, Backyard, La Condesa, Azzurro Pizzeria and Enoteca, Tra Vigne, Fish Story, Farmstead, The Model Bakery, C Casa, BarbersQ, and Gott’s Roadside in addition to chef appearances from Masaharu Morimoto, Todd Humphries, and Ken Frank (La Toque). Pouring at the event (this is Napa, after all) are some 50 wineries and artisan brewers. The event, which has caused massive buzz with the inclusion of top-billed bands including Kings of Leon, Jane’s Addiction, The Shins, The Black Keys, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and the Alabama Shakes. More details at the BOTTLEROCK WEBSITE.
NAPA VALLEY DISTILLERY, the first licensed distillery to open in the town of Napa since Prohibition, will open a retail outlet at the Oxbow Market in June. Owned and operated by the Hartunian family, Napa Valley Distillery is best known for its fruit-based distilled spirits including single-estate and vintage vodka made from sauvignon blanc grapes, barrel-aged cocktails, and liqueurs. The retail shop will also offer bitters, shrubs (an acidulated beverage made of fruit juice, sugar, and other ingredients), syrups, drink mixing condiments, and cocktail-related items such as martini shakers, glassware, and books on distilled spirits.
Don’t forget: the book mentioned below is available at 20 percent off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.
The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learned to Eat Lisa Catherine Harper, Caroline M. Grant
Food and family are obviously inextricably linked, and much has been written on the value of family dinner, on the pickiness of children, and on rich culinary traditions. And as a father of 7-year-old boy-girl twins, I’m particularly attuned to the challenges of cooking quick and healthy meals, modeling healthy eating habits, and enjoying food to its fullest. With all that in mind, gentle readers, meet The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage—True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat.
This anthology offers 29 essays on food and family. Importantly, it is free of polemics and manifestos—this isn’t a bunch of self-serving foodies wallowing in their righteousness. Rather these essays range from sweet to salty, from memory to connection. Above all, they are deeply human.
Here’s a bit about a few of the essays, many of which come from Bay Area writers:
- “It takes a village,” we say about raising kids. Noe Valley Farmer’s Market manager Elizabeth Crane found it takes a market—the farmer’s market. She credits the market, and especially one local peach farmer, for grounding her family in San Francisco.
- Everyone goes into parenting with some ideas about how they are going to raise, discipline, educate, or feed their kids. Some of those ideas actually withstand the arrival of children! Mission District writer Gregory Dicum writes about how his food principles were challenged after becoming a dad.
- Phyllis Grant was a pastry cook at fancy Manhattan restaurants before coming home to Berkeley to raise her kids and write about cooking with them on her blog, Dash and Bella. In her essay for Cassoulet, she writes about one of those awful, everyone’s sick kind of days, and how créme fraîche made it all a little better.
Like in any anthology, some pieces are better than others. But overall, there’s a lot of great writing and plenty of heart. A lovely gift for anyone you know who both has a family and eats.
Thanks for reading.
Alan Goldfarb was the wine editor at the St. Helena Star, where it is said that assignment must be akin to covering Catholicism in Vatican City. He was also the senior editor for AppellationAmerica.com. His work has appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, Wine Enthusiast, and Decanter. He’s the contributor of the chapter “Chewing on Chile” in the Travelers’ Tales book Adventures in Wine. He was also the technical editor for California Wine for Dummies.
He’s a restaurant wine consultant and advises wineries on public relations projects. (For his “Checking Lists” column, he will not promote his clients.) You can listen to his latest appearance on iWine Radio. Have a question or a comment? You can email Alan. He’d love to hear from you.
Duende: A Spanish Emporium That Breathes New Life into Sherry
The ancient wine, sherry, is new again; and it’s hot, hot, hot. That’s why it’s fortuitous for Paul Canales to just have opened his intriguing, handsome, and on-fire DUENDE in the überchic Uptown conclave of Oakland. Whether or not Duende is driving the sherry revival or if it has simply come on the scene on the cusp of the wine’s reemergence doesn’t matter. Sherry, as presented here, is decidedly not your grandfather’s or even your father’s understanding of the wine; and its ascendency to modernity comes at a time when everything old seems new again.
Duende, which was inspired by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, characterizes itself as a “cocina de la claridad y la oscuridad.” I’m not entirely certain how that philosophical expression pertains to its wine program, but allow me to make my own interpretation: If you’re not enamored of Duende’s sherries—of which there are more than 20 (including a flight of three)—you’re still in the dark.
Especially after tasting Canales’ food with one particular sherry, which sent me to a place that has always attracted me to such disparate things as a beautiful woman, a great catch in the outfield, a bite of food, and a magnificent wine. At Duende, it was a tapas of croquetas de brandada and a sherry so deep in color and rich of flavor that, together, stands among my pantheon of great things in the world.
The lightly fried fingers of salt cod and potato (even without the superfluous caper-mayonnaise sauce) were as good as anything I’d had in almost three weeks in Catalunya in September. Croquettes might be a cliché, but they can be delicious. Here they’re elevated to ethereal heights, especially when paired with the earthly González Byass Leonor palo cortado sherry. The name of the wine is a mouthful I know, but that’s precisely the feeling you’ll have in your mouth (see below for more details), particularly after a bite of the brandada.
Palo cortado refers to the style of the sherry that came about as an accident. Before winemakers in Jerez de la Frontera—the sherry zone of Spain—deemed it good enough to sell, they consumed it themselves. Not unlike how hanger steak was known as the “butcher’s cut” before it became hip with a new generation of consumers.
Thus, palo cortados have now become rare and relatively expensive; they’ve emerged as the Audi 8s of sherries. At Duende, there is a quartet of palos, ranging in price from $51 for the aforementioned González Leonor to a whopping $225 for the Añada 1982 by the same producer.
Duende’s wine program is put together by Gerard Maristany, who also sells all the wines on the list from the restaurant’s “bodega”—at a 35 percent discount. In addition to the sherries, Maristany has mined the breadth of the Spanish landscape, including wines from more obscure wine regions such as Catalunya, the Canary Islands, Mallorca, and Toro. Here too are five rosados, a large number for Bay Area restaurants, but why not? Rosés, like sherry, are wines whose time has finally come. Also, you’ll find godellos, mencias, a dichotomous old-vine grenache that has been aged in French oak, and a Cali zin that is described as being oxidized; not unlike, I’m guessing, a sherry.
The list is vast, idiosyncratic, and exciting; the prices are not cheap, but they’re fair. Our server seemed to know his sherries (a prerequisite for employment, I’m sure) and came back a couple of times to engage us in the vagaries of palo cortado, even correcting himself after proclaiming proudly that the sherry was made “by accident,” as was the tradition, to explaining that it is now actually being produced with intention.
There’s even a good bargain at Duende. If you’re a large group, go for the Señorío de Peciña tempranillo blend. That’s because it’s from the great Rioja vintage of 2001 and comes in a magnum—a two-bottle equivalent—and it’s only 129 bucks. Forget that peciña means “sludge” or that I don’t know if the wine, as listed, is a grand reserva, reserva, or crianza (indicators of time spent in barrel) but that it’s a 12-year-old wine from a coveted year.
I do know that Duende has a helluva thing going, particularly its wine program, which is on the cutting edge in one of the more exciting parts of the U.S. It’s time to consider Uptown Oakland in the same conversation as the “new” Brooklyn, Portland, Silver Lake, and the Mission.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: González Byass Leonor palo cortado sherry, NV ($9 by the glass/$51 by the bottle) ($32 in Duende’s bodega, about $20 retail elsewhere)
On the list it’s described as “a bigger kind of sherry” and indeed it is. The copper-amber color is a tell to the desired oxidation that sherry makers seek. The solera process—which transfers the wine from barrel to barrel over the years where it takes on air-infused reductive qualities—lends the wine (from the palomino grape) its complex nutty-honey aromas and flavors. But it finishes dry. It’s big and fruity, and if it were tasted blind, some would take it for a nuanced, dry rosé.