This week's tablehopper: it's fun to play cupid.
The calm before the storm (at the tablehopper singles event). Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.
Ahhh, hallelujah, this insane week is almost done. And hello sunny weekend! Okay, wow, last night’s inaugural (and sold out!) tablehopper singles event was over the top! What a supremely fabulous crowd of people—I was thrilled with the turnout of quality and fun folks in the room. It was a blast—conversation was flowing like a runaway train (ditto the eight Languedoc wines that were poured throughout the evening), and sommelier Josiah Baldivino (visiting from Michael Mina) shared some excellent tasting notes and an overview of the region. Yeah, we rocked Languedoc. Most importantly, it looks like some good matches were made, and I’m not just talking wine pairings, hubba.
Huge thanks to chef Sharon Nahm and her team for the tasty spread (the oxtail dumplings were a big hit), and especially to the E+O Asian Kitchen event team for helping me with all the tricky logistics of this event. (People, if you’re looking for a spacious and stylish private dining room for an event, here’s your spot.) The party kept going late, but it was time for team hopper to pull the rip cord and we headed to Nopa for an unwind session over (more) wine and burgers. Damn, that was one hell of a night. Thank you to everyone who helped promote the event, told friends about it, and especially to those who showed up! There will be more in the future—I just need to recover a bit.
Also wanted to say thank you to the folks who came to the Commonwealth Club panel I moderated Tuesday evening on our local coffee scene—here’s a recap of the night in SFoodie. That could have easily turned into a three-hour talk—I still had so many questions to ask! So did the audience.
Somehow, in the middle of this week’s mayhem, I squeezed in a quick jaunt up to Napa to get away from my computer and check out a few spots—you can read all about it in the jetsetter. Today is all about Wine Country, because we also have Heather Irwin reporting some news and events in the 707 scout as well.
Have a terrific weekend. Personally, I can’t wait to have tonight in. It’s time to catch up on Mad Men. And some sleep.
Ciao! Marcia Gagliardi
Sometimes you gotta clear the head and get the hell out of the city (especially when San Francisco’s “summer” starts giving you SAD, or seasonal affective disorder). Downtown Napa would not have rated high on many people’s radar as a getaway spot even a few years ago, but it keeps on chugging along in its development as a cool place to eat, play, and stay. Here’s my recent 20-hour getaway itinerary:
A pleasant home base is the ANDAZ NAPA, which is right in Napa’s “West End” on First Street. It was formerly the AVIA Napa and is now part of the Hyatt Andaz boutique hotel line. The look is very natural modern—the rooms are comfortable, with hickory floors, lots of gleaming marble in the bathroom (hello, rainfalll showerhead), and some suites have a fireplace and a soaking tub in the room that I affectionately called Mork from Ork. Kudos for the welcoming amenities: anything in the fridge (besides alcohol) is complimentary, plus some snacks, like a build-your-own trail mix. Free Wi-Fi, check. The king-size bed was full of quality pillows of different lofts (although I wish they put a top sheet on the bed with the fluffy down comforter—while I love a cloud of a bed, those comforters get so hot that it’s hard to regulate your temperature).
A brand-new addition to the hotel is the opening of the Mercantile Terrace, an outdoor area with a bar, fire pits, and lots of seating—you can order cocktails and bites from the on-premise restaurant (under the direction of chef Sarah Linkenheil) Thu-Sun from 12pm-10pm (last call is at 9:30pm). There’s an evening happy hour (Thu-Sat 5pm-6pm) for hotel guests in the lobby bar (Mercantile Social) that seemed pretty popular when I checked in as well, and you can grab a coffee at the barista bar downstairs in the morning; another thing to note is there’s an art gallery featuring local artists. You can valet your car or do complimentary self-parking. I really enjoyed my stay here—it was comfy and relaxing and I didn’t have to drive anywhere, score.
Literally just across the street from the hotel is OENOTRI, a favorite of many an industry person in Wine Country and beyond. Chef-owners Tyler Rodde and Curtis Di Fede are doing a bang-up job with their Cal-Southern Italian menu, which features an extensive in-house salumi program (try the chef’s sampler of six [$18] to get acquainted). The pizzas are notable—the imported Acino oven gives them a perfect crispness, and our table was thrilled with our pizza with salame cotto ($16.50), San Marzano tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella di bufala, zippy arugula, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Seasonal appetizers included fried soft-shell crab ($14) with aioli, arugula, and piquillo peppers (that dish disappeared quickly); and alici crudi ($13), raw Monterey Bay anchovies with creamy halves of soft egg, avocado, wood oven-roasted carrots, and borage blossoms—great flavor on the plate. The produce here is all pretty fabulous (they have a garden in the former Copia gardens).
Our server steered us toward the creste di gallo pasta ($17)—a wise reco—with the “rooster crest” pasta coated with a reduced San Marzano tomato sauce and sausage. Our table didn’t make it to the larger plates, and we were drinking too much Franciacorta to order a cocktail, but those things exist as well. The wine list features excellent selections from all over Italy (be still, my beating heart), keeping company with plenty of California wines if you want to go that route, and there’s a list of 30 wines that are less than $30 as well. Cool space, with huge pots hanging above the line in the open kitchen, and there’s outdoor seating too. Service was a little scattered (the place is busy), but the host (Lauren) was the picture of hospitality—even when part of our party no-showed. This place rocks.
If you’d like to explore your one-block radius a little more, back across the street is the newly opened EMPIRE, a splashy cocktail lounge that is part of the Andaz (it’s on the corner of First Street and Franklin). While I found the whole look to be way too Phantom of the Opera by way of Las Vegas and San Jose for my taste (the back bar is dominated by organ pipes, there are wispy curtains and candelabras everywhere, and the furnishings are rather, uh, dramatic), we found the staff to be super-friendly. And they make a mean pisco sour (cheers to beverage director Caitlin Laman). There’s also a menu of small plates and more but we were just in for a nightcap—folks were eating pretty late into the night.
The next morning, after checking out, I scooted over to OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET for some brunch. After fueling up with a macchiato at the Ritual Coffee Roasters counter, I placed my order for some breakfast tacos with C Casa. While waiting for my number to come up, I was able to swing by Whole Spice to pick up some spices (I love that shop), and then I ate outside on the side terrace, enjoying the just-right morning air and view of the mountains (just ignore the parking lot). Ah. Inhale. Exhale. Don’t forget to swing by Model Bakery for their ridonkulous English muffins to bring home, and I also picked up a bigné (cream puff) filled with nocciolata (hazelnut) cream from the Ca’Momi stand for the drive. Uh-huh.
Other spots to consider: you can swing by Morimoto Napa for splashy sushi and cocktails; The Thomas has a tasty brunch (try to get a table on the roof), plus cocktails, lunch, and dinner; if you need a rib-sticking breakfast, Napa Valley Biscuits is famous for their biscuit breakfasts that feature hefty combinations of things like gravy, eggs, and fried chicken (you do the math); the thin-crust pizzas and salads at Azzurro are a local favorite (great if you have kids in tow); and be sure to check out the tasting room at Vintner’s Collective and discover some boutique local wines.
You can also look in my book (you have it, don’t you?) starting on page 182 for some of my favorite tacos and more in the area.
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Dragonfly Farm, Noshing with Criminals, Hog It Up, and a Vineyard Dinner
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
The forecast for this week? Plenty of sunshine and great food in all parts north. Here’s your cheat sheet on all things delicious in Wine Country.
Sunday June 2nd: DRAGONFLY FARM in Healdsburg hosts an open house from 10am-3pm with tasty bites from Ariel Ross (gluten-free Florentines), sweets from Flour Girl, Heather’s Homemade hand pies, farm market phenom the Green Grocer, as well as picnicking, family yoga, industrial art, crafts, and even life coaching. 425 Westside Road at Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.
Thursday June 6th: Craft, kvetch, and nosh away the evening at CRIMINAL BAKING CO. & NOSHERY. I’m a huge fan of Dawn Zaft’s homey cakes and pies, pour-over coffees, and scones at this cozy storefront. She’ll include tea and quiche, a comfy creative space, and plenty of community dishing with the requested $10 donation. Bring your project this Thursday or any first Thursday of the month. 463 Sebastopol Ave. at Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.
Saturday June 8th: Pop-up dinner kings MULLEN & SMITH team up with local butcher Rian Rinn (who plans to open Sonoma County Meat Co., a custom cut-and-wrap butcher shop, in Santa Rosa this year) for Hog It Up at SHED in Healdsburg. The trio will have a live hog butchery demonstration followed by a three-course meal using the aforementioned piggy. Rinn, Ian Mullen, and Jason Smith met at SF’s Fifth Floor nearly a decade ago and have collaborated on this season-inspired menu. Tickets are $110 per person and include a glass of wine with dinner. Details and tickets available online. Can’t make that event? Aspiring fermenters (and those who love them) can check out Jennifer Harris’ kombucha, kvass, and kefir class from 1-3pm on Sunday June 16th, $25. 25 North St. at Foss, Healdsburg.
Saturday June 8th, SEGHESIO FAMILY VINEYARDS’ Chef’s Summer Dinner at Passalacqua Ranch: Sip and sup among the vines of historic Sonoma County properties with a menu prepared by chef Peter Janiak, formerly of SF’s Boulevard and Presidio Social Club. The event features beef carpaccio with cherry tomatoes, grilled prawns with English pea risotto and sea urchin butter, and filet mignon with garlic potato purée and morel mushroom cream. Old-vine zinfandels will be paired with each course. The event is limited to 50 participants, $200 per person, 5-9pm. Details and reservations by calling 707-395-3609.
Sunday June 9th: It’s NOLA at the Windsor Farmers Market as PARISH CAFE’S Rob Lippincott hosts New Orleans Day. The Louisiana transplant brings his family’s French Creole recipes to life with a free chef demonstration at 11am. There will be beignets, live music with Catfish Jack, free cake, and Mardi Gras beads for all. The market itself is open 10am-1pm. 701 McClelland Dr., Windsor.
Still hungry? Check out Heather’s always updated food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.