A vision of summer: the melon salad at A16 Rockridge with a gaglioppo rosé (Savù) by iGreco. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hubba-hubba, I am back! My brain has almost caught up with my body. Or is it vice versa? Anyway, was fun to be back on the track this week, starting with a beautiful spring dinner at the new A16 Rockridge (just wait until you try the Seventh Circle cocktail, with rye, Campari, Calabrese chile, lemon, and honey, and the oh-so-tiny and tasty cavatelli, and smoky montanara pizza). And I loved seeing all of Kelly Tunstall’s gorgeous ladies lit up on the walls! Great vibe in the restaurant too.
Last night was all about checking out opening parties (swing by my Instagram page to see my tour)—today I’m including a write-up of Mikkeller Bar in the lush, which I got to preview last night (it opens this evening).
There are so many openings this month, so my monthly 7x7 piece on five new restaurants to check out now should come in handy.
I also have my weekly Tablehopping column for the SF Bay Guardian up: just wait until you rest your eyes on that breakfast sandwich at Vinyl. Rawr.
We also have a wino piece from Alan Goldfarb on the wine program at Range (which turned eight this week!), and a 707 scout update from Heather Irwin. And a fun starlet for your Friday entertainment. Yeah, plenty of reading to keep you busy.
Cheers! Marcia Gagliardi
For one night only the Ferry Building is transformed for a fabulous summer soirée: CUESA’s Summer Celebration. This year the focus is on the various “families” that have made the market a success over the years. Star chefs (like Lolinda, Central Kitchen, barbacco) and bartenders (Rye, Bourbon and Branch) will focus their palates and talents on six culinary families—berries, nightshades, grains and legumes, alliums, leaves and flowers, and of course stone fruits—creating original tastes that celebrate the height of the summer harvest.
Feast on unlimited food and drink while providing much-needed support for CUESA’s ongoing education initiatives, including free cooking demos, kitchen skill-building classes, Schoolyard to Market youth entrepreneurship program, and sustainability scholarships for farmers.
Tickets are $125, and there are a few left! Get yours now.
Last night I was rolling deep in the Tenderloin to check out the new MIKKELLER BAR, the first U.S. location of the famous Copenhagen beer bar (it’s a partnership from Chuck Stilphen of The Trappist/Trappist Provisions and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller). The former Crash Nightclub is nicely tricked out, with plenty of blond wood tables, and a spacious horseshoe bar in the center with room for 30 where you can gaze longingly at the 40 taps (plus two cask handles). Add in some pleasant dim light, brick walls, quirky art, and industrial touches (like antique streetlight fixtures from Copenhagen), and it all comes together for a cool, clean look (by Martin Heid Design/Build). There’s also a room downstairs (the Tivoli Sour Room) with space for 36, where lambics and sour beers are served, which will also be used for events and parties.
I thoroughly enjoyed my glass of the Mikkeller Tenderloin Pilsner, which was hoppy and a bit more full-bodied and chewy than your usual pilsner—it was like a love child of a pils and pale ale. Hearts. (There’s also a Mikkeller TenderBrown Ale, Tenderloin Wit, and Spontanale.) The knowledgeable staff (they are all certified cicerones) has you covered: I was also poured (and educated) on two beers from De la Senne, the elegant Taras Boulba and the tropical fruity Jambe-de-Bois. There will be plenty of rare selections on draft and in the bottle to keep you coming back, like, a lot.
There is an extensive offering of beer-friendly food from chef Michael O’Brien (of Church Key in Washington, D.C.). The opening menu includes some cheese and charcuterie options (of course)—and in coming months, look for the charcuterie to be housemade. There’s also housemade sausages, like bratwurst, mettwurst (smoked pork summer sausage), and merguez (you can get them in a sandwich or as a platter with fries or a salad, $14). Bar snacks (like soft pretzel rolls with beer mustard), check. Appetizers include fish and potato cakes with rémoulade ($12) and Korean-style chicken wings ($12), plus some salads too. Sandwiches include house-smoked pastrami on rye ($13), a Reuben ($16), and a smoked “char siu” tofu bahn mi ($12). You can also tuck into some larger plates, like the Mikkeller steak frites ($25) or ling cod with gremolata over “ratatouille” ($21).
Mikkeller Bar softly opens tonight, with grand opening events scheduled for Friday August 9th and that weekend. Follow them on Facebook for updates and more. Hours are Sun-Wed 12pm-12am, Thu-Sat 12pm-2am. 34 Mason St. at Turk, 415-984-0279.
Champagne tastes on a whiskey budget? Hotel Healdsburg and CHARLIE PALMER’S DRY CREEK KITCHEN are collaborating on a new venture featuring craft cocktails, bar bites, and small-batch spirits called Spirit Bar. On the menu: burnt orange Manhattans, a Sonoma 75 (gin, elderflower, and J Brut Rosé), and small plates of pretzel-crusted shrimp skewers, wild mushroom spring rolls, pork belly lollipops, and chef Dustin Valette’s house-cured charcuterie. An extra bonus: fireside sofas to snuggle with your sweetie. Open Mon-Thu 5pm-11:30pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-11:30pm. 25 Matheson St., Healdsburg.
Here in Wine Country, the French independence day (Sunday July 14th) gets almost as much reverence as our own. Not in small part due to the fact that hot dogs and warm beer can’t hold a candle to a nice crusty baguette, a glass of wine, and someone singing “La Vie en Rose.” Sunday’s Bastille Day lineup includes COSTEAUX FRENCH BAKERY’S (417 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg) annual event with a bread guillotine and plenty of other French fêting; the Alliance Française’s free “pique-nique” from 4pm to sunset at Mark West Stables (5421 St. Helena Road, Santa Rosa; RSVP 707-538-7075), as well as Gallic food and wine fests at RESTAURANT CHARCUTERIE (335 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg) and Chateau St. Jean, featuring cancan gals (8555 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood; 877-478-5326).
The long-awaited restaurant lineup for the North Bay’s forthcoming GRATON RESORT & CASINO has been announced, and it’s pretty swell. Among the 12-plus restaurants that are planned for the massive gaming complex: Martin Yan’s M.Y. China (featuring pulled noodles and a wok bar), an outpost of Tony’s of North Beach (from pizza master Tony Gemignani), The Daily Grill, 630 Park Steakhouse, DK Wings (from Top Chef Masters competitor and former Cyrus chef Douglas Keane), as well as Sonoma County’s own Boathouse Sushi, Mexican restaurant La Fondita, Scoops featuring Three Twins Ice Cream along with Habit Burger Grill, Beach Hut Deli, Roadside BBQ, and of course, a Starbucks to keep folks caffeinated. The restaurants are slated to open later this year.
Two Bay Area restaurant alums plan to open a pizza restaurant this fall in downtown Napa. Dan Sarao (formerly of Estate in Sonoma, Ubuntu in Napa, and Yountville’s Bouchon) is teaming up with Lewis Chilton of the Yountville Deli to open an American-style pizzeria with pies sold whole or by the slice (yes!). So far there’s no name for the restaurant, but owners are hoping to enlist Facebookers to weigh in at facebook.com/807mainpizza. The best idea will win 10 free pizzas.
If you’re a fan of Hog Island Oysters, plan on getting your fill at Slurps and Sips on Saturday August 10th at the VINTNER’S COLLECTIVE in downtown Napa. The event will feature Vinoce Vineyards’ wines, along with an oyster bar (and chicken skewers for the oyster-offended). Tickets are $45 for wine club members, $55 for everyone else. RSVP at 707-255-7150.
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.
Adventure in Discovering Range’s Wine
At Range, which is celebrating its eighth year on Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District, wine buyer and sommelier Jon Sillcocks doesn’t have the luxury of tasting every prospective wine on his list with the chef’s food. But Sillcocks has an advantage—the chef at Range is his sister, Rachel Sillcocks. The 33-year-old Jon has known “Rach’s” food forever, and his wine is all that is necessary to complete the “symbiotic” relationship.
Thus, the 100-selection list focuses on bottlings that have a lot of acidity—that key component in wine that most coalesces its relationship to food—because the backdrop of Rachel Sillcocks’s food is acid-laden, festooned as it is with mustards, cherry tomatoes, stone fruits, and pickled vegetables.
So brother Jon goes to energetic lengths to establish a list that’s entirely Northern Hemisphere-based, which means no wines from fruit-forward climes such as Australia or South America. Instead, what Sillcocks has opted for are mostly wines from Europe, with about 20 percent California entries that are not as fruit-concentrated as many of their counterparts.
Therefore, we find an eccentric verdelho from Forlorn Hope or a grenache from the iconoclastic Tom Beckmen. Sillcocks seems to thrive on esoteric offerings, such as a nearly unheard of carricante from Sicily, kerner from the Alto Adige, or an obscure sciacarello-nielluccio red blend from Corsica.
Under another’s egocentric direction, these would seem show-offy and like dalliances, but in Sillcocks’s hands, it seems as though there’s a genuine attempt to bring his guests at Range a real experience that’s steeped in the thrill of the hunt; i.e., there are rewards to be gained by giving yourself over to his discoveries.
I gain insight into the young sommelier, who calls me during his Independence Week holiday, when he tells me that he has his staff taste wines at least three times a month (mostly the wines are undisclosed), where honest reaction is vociferously encouraged and out of which is compiled a database of descriptions for servers to reference. Admittedly the list is a “hand sell.” Meaning, there are bottles that may be unfamiliar to many of Range’s customers, which leaves the explanations, education, and enthusiasm to the staff. Since Sillcocks is not on the floor most days, the servers are his surrogates; they seem to know their stuff, and more important, appear to have genuine interest in the wines.
For instance, I put our server through her paces, inquiring about a 2006 Michaud pinot noir from the little-known and tiny Monterey County area of Chalone, but with which I’m familiar. Though on the job only nine months, she described the wine—which was served at the right temperature (a rarity around these unair-conditioned parts)—nearly perfectly.
The acidity of the Michaud paired well with a braised duck leg with mint gremolata, and a roasted chicken with savoy cabbage also had an excellent affinity to the wine, despite the over-the-top saltiness of both fowl dishes.
A sparkling rosé from the Languedoc from Dom. Colline was steely and minerally and had surprising breadiness for a Limoux. It opened the meal well, juxtaposed with a clam, corn, and diced bacon and potato stew. An ‘06 Hungarian Tokaj from Patricius wasn’t too sweet (it was only a 3 puttonyos) but had that telltale acid underlayment that matched nicely with a tart nectarine and loganberry shortcake and a just-as-puckery buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries. Whatever sweetness was present in the desserts was cleansed on the palate by the acid of the Tokaj.
Jon Sillcocks has something special going here with his well-thought-out wine list, although it does take second banana at the cocktail-centric Range. Me? I would try as I might to let Range’s guests in on the adventure. Sillcocks? “The wine list was always a supporting character at Range, and still is,” he tells me, “and that’s okay. You always wish every table would have a bottle on it…. But I know in my heart, people who come back over and over again appreciate it.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: 2006 Michaud, Michaud Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Chalone — $45 The pinot, from the Burgundian-style producer Michael Michaud, is grown in near-obscurity in a parched, rattlesnake-infested vineyard high above Monterey County. Michaud, the winemaker, is determined to turn out European-like wines from California. With nearly seven years under its belt, it’s tasting perfectly, having shed its harsh tannins and rounding into a beauty with minerally, earthy, and dark-fruit aromas, with dusky, dusty soil qualities with a depth of fruit that can only come from a well-made, aged wine. This is what California pinot noir can achieve.
Please feel free to email Alan with your comments and your experiences with restaurant wine. He’d love to hear from you.
The gorgeous Natalie Portman has been spotted around the city the past 24 hours. Last night she was seen at Contigo with her hubby (Benjamin Millepied) and friends—my spy spotted her dining on the pa amb tomàquet (Catalan tomato toast), cojondongo (gazpacho salad), and patatas bravas.
Then today she was seen with her baby Aleph and husband at Tartine Bakery—a fellow diner tells me they were doing it up with the quiche, croque, bread pudding, and banana cream tart. Nice picks!