This is what my idea of heaven in the desert looks like (cold beer not pictured). Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Why, hello there. How you durrin’? I’m back from my fabulous desert adventure at Coachella. I can’t even tell you how much a weekend packed with sun and insane music and dear friends and family and warm nights charges my jets. Me, my sis, and dear friend Hilary (just call us the Three Musketeers) ended up catching 55 acts over the three days, not too shabby.
It’s awesome to see so many women rock it out with such panache (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bat for Lashes, Janelle Monáe), and many acts were just so damn fun (like Phoenix, Franz Ferdinand, Pretty Lights, Local Natives, and Tame Impala—and Father John Misty is one hell of an entertainer). Legends like Johnny Marr and Lee Scratch Perry? Epic style. And I now have a pocketful of music to explore more deeply—Disclosure, James Blake, C2C, Alt-J, and FOALS delivered. Of course many of the DJs rocked my sox (DJ Harvey, Jason Bentley, Julio Bashmore, Seth Troxler)—I could have spent far too much time getting my moves on in the Yuma tent. And Major Lazer was as insane as their name. Yeah, I hit it hard.
Monday was spent recovering poolside (thank God for cold beverages) and we had an old-school dinner at Melvyn’s in Palm Springs, where we had a starlet sighting of our own (Tanlines was dining at an adjoining table). Although based on my sister’s bout of food poisoning very early Tuesday morning, we sadly won’t be returning. Seafood in the desert, don’t do it.
It feels like a small miracle that I’m even in your inbox today, but thankfully I have some serious backup, thanks to my 707 and wino writers. I have an overdue review of Capo’s for you (to partner up with the wino piece), and a few other tidbits. And in case you’d like some serious pasta p*rn, hop on over to my guide on Citysearch about the city’s best pastas—I just uploaded that bad boy with a bunch of pics for you.
See you Tuesday, darlings. Marcia Gagliardi
The weekend is here, and there are all kinds of tasty food and drink options for you to consider. Here’s a quick roundup in case you want to squeeze something in:
Tonight (Friday April 26th) is Wine Luxury’s Soirée at City Club of San Francisco, with a bunch of excellent wines, plus hors d’oeuvres and more. Main event tickets are still available at the door, $95. 6pm-10pm. 155 Sansome St. at Bush.
Catching up on my mail, I was sorry to read that Boris Portnoy of Satellite Republic is moving to Melbourne, Australia. But he sure did pick one hell of an awesome city to move to. He is hosting his final pop-up at THE PUNCHDOWN tonight (Friday April 26th). In addition to offering their $50 tasting menu inside the restaurant (make your reservation here), you can experience an à la carte menu at the bar and outside on the patio (first come, first served). Best of luck to you, Boris! I’ll miss your laugh, talented cooking, and always inspired projects. 2212 Broadway at West Grand, Oakland.
On Saturday April 27th, SF WINE TRADING CO. is hosting APS Presents Bovio Barolo from 2pm-5:30pm. Swing by for some fab Barolo, Barbera d’Alba, and more, plus other Italian gems—like Riccardo Bruna Wines from Liguria—and Peter Temkin will be grilling up some Machine dogs. Woof. $10 per person for wine. 250 Taraval St. at Funston, 800-681-WINE.
Also on Saturday April 27th is the BLUXOME STREET WINERY Meet Market, with a bunch of tasty food vendors you can check out like Love & Hummus, Jablow’s Meats, and Bar Jars while drinking some vino. Cheers! 12pm-5pm. 53 Bluxome St. at 4th St., 415-543-5353.
Love homemade pasta? Swing by GOURMET & MORE on Saturday afternoon and stock up on the wonderful artisanal pastas made by Mattarello. I loooove their tortellini sold with a container of brodo ($12), and don’t pass up their ragù ($8) and lasagne ($9). 1pm-4pm. 141 Gough St. at Oak, 415-874-9133.
And just because Monday will get here too damn early, maybe this will help with your transition. Monday is Super Duper Day, which means the first 100 people to fall in line at any of Super Duper’s five burger spots beginning at 3pm will enjoy a free mini burger (four-ounce, all natural Niman Ranch beef patty with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and Super sauce on a toasted sesame bun). Yes, fo’ free! Locations include the Castro, 2304 Market St.; Union Square, 721 Market St.; Metreon, 783 Mission St.; Marina, 2201 Chestnut St.; and Mill Valley, 430 Miller Ave.
Slow Food San Francisco’s 9th annual Golden Glass brings together wine and food artisans in celebration of Slow Food’s work to advocate for sustainability, biodiversity, and preservation of food traditions.
On Saturday June 29th, sip wine from sustainable wine producers, enjoy tasty bites from the Bay Area’s best restaurants and artisan food producers, and bid on epicurean auction items, all while supporting Slow Food San Francisco’s School Gardens Initiative and Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.
Get your tickets now! The event is at City View at the Metreon, and runs 1pm-5pm (trade 11am-1pm).
Are you a cheese slut? You a bona fide fan of tomato sauce? Does pizza turn your fricking crank? Then I certainly hope you have gotten your culo to CAPO’S by now. Anyone who loves pizza in SF (and beyond) knows the name Tony Gemignani well, and I, for one, am happy to see this pizza obsessive tackle a sleepy block in North Beach that needed some neon lights.
The guy lives for pizza, in all its incarnations. Which is why he understood that in order to do justice to Chicago-style pizza, he was going to open a stand-alone spot. Deep-dish pizza takes awhile to bake, so the timing is not like your usual restaurant. Keep that in mind when you come to Capo’s, which only takes reservations for parties of six or more (plus there’s a huuuuge table in the front of the dining room if you have a posse and want to throw a pizza partay).
On a busy Friday night, my friend and I put our names down, scooted over to Tosca for a cocktail, and got our phone call at the end of our first Negroni. Perfetto. So there can be a wait, and sometimes it’s not so bad. If you’re starving and know you just want pizza, you can even place your order when you put your name down so your pie is ready for you soon after you sit down.
The joint is old to the school, from the pressed tin ceiling to the brick walls to the dim lighting to the oxblood tufted booths. Ditto the music and the vintage National cash register (order a Chicago cocktail to hear it ring) and the dishes on the menu. You’ll be served a shiny silver bowl of pasta fagioli, which is very different than how my family does it, but here it’s basically a kicky chicken broth with some beans, veg, and overcooked elbow pasta in it. You’ll eat every drop.
Now, don’t forget why you’re here. You’re here to eat pizza, right? But if you want to go the antipasti route, I’d say order the crisp and cool Caesar ($7) with white anchovies (although I wish the staff would automatically come over with a big-ass pepper grinder), and the wood-fired clams casino ($12) are also damn tasty. Mmm, bacon. I have never had clams casino all jumbled in a bowl like this, but whatever, you can watch yourself start filling up on bread as you dunk it in the white wine and garlicky juice.
Fearlessly hungry? Then you have to go for the baked artichoke ($13.50), which is basically a gooey lake of provolone cream and spinach topped with a couple tender artichoke hearts (and a bit of red pepper sprinkled on top). Watch your monkey brain get ignited as you clear the bowl with the little toasts. Now is when you hear that voice getting louder in the back of your head: “You are filling up. You are gonna pop a flat.” Which is why you should skip the pastas. Well, I will. I tried the wood-fired mostaccioli in meat sauce ($16), and the pasta was falling apart, the sauce loaded with big pieces of underdone garlic. For me, it wasn’t worth giving up my stomach’s precious real estate.
One of the best deals on the menu is the side of three meatballs for $5. They’re made with beef and pork and cream and are just fantastic. (Which is why I’d consider the spaghetti and meatballs, $16.) And if pizza isn’t your thing, you can do some chicken Marsala ($20) with mushrooms, but this is a dish I could easily make at home. But the deep-dish pizza? No, I can’t. Not even close. Which is why I say get the goddamn pizza.
There are four traditional Chicago styles you’ll see: cracker-thin crust (it doesn’t have any fat in it and is served in squares), deep dish, stuffed (which is like deep dish but comes with a partial lid of dough and sauce on top), and cast-iron (the crust is cooked in lard). The deep dish is where it’s at. Tony’s using Ceresota flour (no one else can get it out here), and it has one hell of a crust—it’s the perfect thickness.
So here’s the breakdown. If it’s your first ride, get the Old Chicago ($27). It’s a gorgeous pizza: The tomato sauce is so thick and reduced and herby, there’s a motherlode of provolone and mozzarella (I’m talking cheese-o-rama, people) plus some knobs of ricotta on top, and the Chicago Italian sausage and little meatballs in it make it like the meatball sub sandwich/deep-dish pizza mash-up of your dreams. The flavor and layers of this pizza are just heaven. Mamma mia.
In a similar Franken-sandwich-pizza vein, the Italian Stallion is kind of fun, because you can get Italian beef with horseradish cream sauce and sweet peppers, and Italian sausage for good measure.
Otherwise, stick with the classic combos, like the Frank Nitti (tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone, spinach, ricotta, romano, oregano, garlic). I had higher hopes from the Snap E. Tom (I was warned it was spicy, but it wasn’t.)
You will definitely eat one slice. Two, you are pushing it, buddy. I hope you have a hollow leg. Either way, you will have leftovers for days, and love every single bite.
A few more things: the joint is cash only. I know, it’s a pain. But there’s an ATM in the back in case you forget. There’s also a phone booth where you can make calls for free, kind of fun.
You should try the barrel-aged Made Man if you want a cocktail to start (there’s a ton of whiskey on those shelves, have at it). There are a number of affordable and pizza-friendly Italian red wines on the list—I was given some good tips on a couple of them, but both times I needed the wine chilled a bit. I also laughed how one well-intentioned server kept filling my wine glass to the top. Uh, grazie. So yeah, there are some service hiccups. (For more on the wine, see Alan Goldfarb’s wino piece here.)
You can do takeout if you don’t want to deal—and this is the kind of pizza that holds up. We had a huge timing fail with our meal one night—but it appears the kitchen is working that out. You can swing by for lunch Fri-Sun to order off a limited menu, FYI. In the evening, there’s valet parking, so you don’t have to bitch about how bad the parking is in North Beach. And no matter what, you will walk out of there, assuredly, saying how full you are.
Capo's - 641 Vallejo St. San Francisco - 415-986-8998
News that Santa Rosa’s ZAZU RESTAURANT will be moving to Sebastopol leaked out earlier this year, but now that owners Duskie Estes and John Stewart have officially announced their intentions to reopen at The Barlow, more details are emerging. Their passion for local, seasonal ingredients goes meta with a U-pick garden at the new restaurant, allowing diners to play a role in the creation of their own meal. The couple will also finally have a single kitchen for producing Stewart’s nationally recognized Black Pig bacon and salumi. The new restaurant will also feature a full bar offering farm-artisan cocktails and signature snacks like chicharrones-peanut butter cups and Black Pig bacon caramel corn. Opening is slated for late summer.
In Healdsburg, the combination café, gardening shop, event space, and artisan marketplace SHED has finally opened, and we declare its housemade shrubs the official drink of summer 2013. This old-is-new thirst-quencher gets its kick from the most unlikely of ingredients: vinegar. Far better tasting than it sounds, this colonial-era cocktail combines fresh fruit purée (think rhubarb, strawberries, or raspberries) with sugar and a light vinegar for a tart-but-sweet refresher that’s kickier than lemonade and far more refined than soda. Already, fans are bellied up to Jordan Lancer’s fermentation bar to get a taste of his homemade fruit shrubs in flavors like blueberry red wine vinegar and pear apple cider vinegar ($4). Lancer’s also got kombucha on tap, lemon and ginger kefir water (from Sebatopol’s Kefiry), and hard ciders from Murray’s in Petaluma and Tilted Shed in Sebastopol. There are also dozens of beers and wines on tap and in the bottle (I’m especially fond of the Bodkin Muscat Canelli from Lake County). With plenty of outside seating, folks are already flocking to this hyper-local food and drink hot spot. 25 North St., Healdsburg, 707-431-7433.
Rasta Dwight’s Return: BiteClub’s got word that Sonoma County barbecue legend Rasta Dwight Jones has returned. Old-timers may remember his lovingly crafted Carribean-inspired jerk pork, spare ribs, and tri-tip along with Burn Your Face hot links from the days before his Cotati ‘cue shack closed. He’s set up shop in Rohnert Park at Quincy’s Pub and Cafe (6590 Commerce Blvd. at North St., 707-585-1079) and is currently serving lunches only. We’re jonesing for a bite already!
The 15th Annual Guys Can Cook Too! wine and food extravaganza proves what most of us already know: There is some serious amateur culinary talent in Sonoma County. More than 25 home cooks and 20 restaurant chefs plan to participate in the Rotary Club of Sebastopol’s annual fundraiser. The May 4 event will be held at the Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm in Forestville from 4-8pm. Tickets are $75 per person, details at the event’s website.
Tucker Taylor, a beloved Yountville farmer responsible for the kitchen gardens at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, is bringing his trowel to Jackson Family Wines. Exec chef Justin Wangler hired Taylor to oversee the winery’s growing farming operations at Santa Rosa’s Kendall-Jackson Wine Center (and several other properties), where he grows hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, corn, eggplant, squash, herbs, and other produce. “Within a year I think K-J will have some of the best produce in Sonoma County,” said Wangler. Much of the produce is being used at the winery’s new Healdsburg wine café, Partake, in vegetable-centric dishes like caramelized carrots with guajillo chile; rhubarb sorbet; beet tartare with black sesame; and housemade Cabernet ketchup. Check out pictures of several tasting plates from Wangler and his staff at BiteClubEats.com.
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.
The Wine List at Capo’s? Fahgettaboudit
A restaurant wine list is supposed to be a living, breathing document. At CAPO’S in North Beach—the Chicago-style red sauce speakeasy for Tony Gemignani—the wine list swims with the fishes. Which is a pity, because the food—for this genre—is very good, the portions can choke a horse, and even some of the wines are decent. But indulge me for a moment as I riff on Capo’s Chicagoland gangster theme, the moleskin-bound carta dei vini seems to have a garrote wrapped around its throat.
Thus began an odyssey: I proceeded to order a 2009 Li Veli Primonero. The server brought a 2010. It’s always a good idea to order an older wine, especially one from Italy, because many of those wines drink better with some age on them. So I looked for another ‘09, this time the Cantine Barbera Nero d’Avola. The server brought a 2010. I spotted a ‘07 that was a couple of bucks more, but what the hey, it was still in my price range. I asked of the by now embarrassed server if she could bring me the Tenimenti Angelini Tre Rose Nobile di Montepulciano. You guessed it: it was from 2009.
By now, my two lady friends were jonesin’ for a drink. Just then, the server returned with two bottles, both from the 2009 vintage. But both were higher in price than I’d budgeted. I’d like not to think I was being upsold and the gesture was only to satisfy my perceived need to have a 2009 wine. I finally settled for the ‘09 Tenimenti.
When I finally did get it, the wine turned out to be perfectly good (see What to Look For below), and went beautifully with the big-as-a-basketball wood-fired mostaccioli and the Calabrese sausage with spicy bell pepper sauce. We knew what the gig was when we took it, and happily so. I really like Chicago- and New York-style Italian restaurants, what with their larded portions of endless red sauce and garlic. I was sad when Joey & Eddie’s met its untimely demise (I think they went down with concrete fitted to their shoes).
Back at Capo’s, a manager arrived, unsolicited, to peruse the wine list and exclaimed, “The list was just redone. I don’t know why the vintages weren’t updated.” I wished I’d had a pair of brass knuckles (LOL).
It was a “duh” moment for me. After all, vintage dates are the essence of wine lists. Wines are ever-evolving things that don’t translate necessarily from year to year. For the most part, they’re rendered their lifeblood by the capricious whims of the climate. Failure to update the list—especially vintage dates—is a sign of laziness and/or wine distributors having carte blanche to roll the wines into the restaurant, no matter the change of vintage.
There may also exist a kind of hubris, if the management at Capo’s—which has a goodly number of tourists—believes that most folks won’t notice or care that the list isn’t what it says it is. That, and thinking that the cloyingly cutesy subheads—“You Know How to Whistle, Don’t You?” or “Not So Fast, Copper” and “There Are Three Sides to Every Story: Mine, Yours, and the Truth”—take the edge off is just misguided. And what the heck is a “Slinky White” or a “Nefarious Red”? One offering, under the rubric “Off the Truck,” which would connote a steal obtained in a nefarious manner, is in fact a $40 gamay from Michigan that retails for about $16.
Make no mistake, there are worthy and worthwhile wines here. For instance, there are seven on-tap selections and off-the-beaten path varieties such as a pecorino (not the cheese) from Abruzzo, and a grillo and a ribolla gialla. The list, which starts at $30 a bottle, tops out at $245 for the famous flowered Belle Epoque bottle of the 2004 Perrier-Jouët. This Champagne is just beginning to take on a patina of age with wonderful toastiness. There’s also a Napa Valley cabernet from Romeo Vineyards, the 1997 Sempre Vive, which is a good price at $69. There’s also the ‘04 Produttori Barbaresco ($65) from an excellent vintage (ask for a decanter because it needs time to open); and the ‘06 Damilano Barolo ($64), also from an outstanding vintage, with big acidity and dried fruits. Note, however, there should be an asterisk next to every wine at Capo’s, because one needs to be vigilant when it comes to the listed vintages.
Two other caveats: When our Tenimenti finally did arrive, it was way too warm; and credit cards are not accepted, so bring cash. The latter can be a cause of irritation; and may be a deterrent to many.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: 2009 Tenimenti Angelini Tre Rose Nobile di Montepulciano ($38, about $18 retail)
When the wine finally arrived, it was too warm, which closed in its aromas and flavors; it opened up after spending about 15 minutes on ice at my request. This sangiovese was bright with pretty fruit, some bittersweet chocolate, and was a perfect foil for the rich baked tubes of mostaccioli and with the five house-made spicy sausages. The fruit brought out the sweetness of the marinara sauce over the pasta, and the acidity of the wine held up to the Calabrese salsiccia.
Please feel free to email Alan with your comments and your experiences with restaurant wine. He’d love to hear from you.