Violet Flower Margarita at La Urbana. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hey there, ho there, hi there. Since I’m leaving for Italy next week (I know, I’d hate me too), I needed to visit some new places before I leave, and man, this week was a tour de force: Tuesday night was a preview/friends and family dinner at Fog City (opening Monday)—it makes me happy to see this SF classic get such fresh air whooshed through it. I am still thinking about the grilled beef tongue dish, and I had no idea how good the combination of pickles and housemade ranch dressing would prove to be. The South has many tasty secrets.
Wednesday night was a visit to 1760, and the hamachi with pluots, yuzu kosho, and puffed rice was what I’d like to call a killer app; I didn’t want the bowl of corn ravioli to end, oh lordy. And it’s worth noting the kitchen is open until 11pm nightly, so if you find yourself in need of a cocktail and a late-night bite, get this one on your radar. (It’s feels like a Nob Hill Nopa.)
Last night I was able to walk two blocks to dinner, to the newly opened La Urbana. It’s already in full swing, and the Acapulco-Manila cocktail was so unexpectedly good, my date and I had it twice (who knew two parts mezcal Agave de Cortés and one part sake would work so well?). I have also found my next hangover cure: The Mexican Dude, made with housemade horchata, vodka, mezcal, and espresso coffee liqueur on ice (although my friend and I were calling it “Dude, Where’s My Mezcal?”). Thank God they are so close (although having their mini Manchego quesadillas nearby is kind of dangerous).
The next two nights, I am happy to be off the track and enjoying some dinner parties. You looking for some things to do this weekend? Here’s a link to some pop-ups this weekend, there are two cool wine events on Saturday (or if meat and beer is more your speed, check out NotOberfest on Friday), you can visit Joyce Goldstein at her book signing in the 510, and you can check out the new “Bad Ass Brunch” at Jasper’s, or at Chambers in SF and A16 Rockridge, and Picnic at the Presidio on Sunday. Yeah, you have plenty to do.
Final notes: I wrote a piece for 7x7.com on the most recent cafés to open (caffeination is serious business in this town), and also on the liquid plan, I wrote up the latest beer halls, breweries, and wine bars for this week’s Beer + Wine issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Cheers! Marcia Gagliardi
It’s fall, and your summer days were too much work and not enough play. Now it’s time to play at Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast—the West Coast’s premier wine and food event held in San Luis Obispo County.
Tickets are still available for cool events such as Sunset in the Vineyard at Vina Robles, which promises to be “brighter than the sun” with an intimate concert by two-time Grammy winner Colbie Caillat, paired with your favorite wines and farm-to-fork delights. Adventure Tours, such as Plant Your Vine in Cambria, Lasso the Wild West with Madonna Inn, and a Chardonnay: From Grape to Glass experience are available. And then there’s the Main Event, where you can meet some of the nation’s hottest celebrity chefs and winemakers, and taste to your heart’s content.
Buy tickets before they sell out!
With tablecloths rapidly disappearing (kind of like good manners) and people trying to wear jeans everywhere, fine dining continues to become an endangered species. But I say thank God we have plenty of special occasions to celebrate in our lives that make us book a reservation at “fancy” restaurants. While we have sleek high-end places serving modern tasting menus (like Benu, Saison, Sons & Daughters), we still have some classic places with old-school style and service, and Campton Place is one of them. Yes, it’s the kind of place that will give you a pillowed stool for your purse. There’s also a Champagne cart, and with Master Sommelier Richard Dean making the selections, you really should consider a flute.
But it also has a little surprise for you. I have had some remarkable dining experiences here (I will never forget my meal by Daniel Humm, with wine pairings by John Regan), and over the past year I had a couple rather fetching meals at the hands of chef Srijith Gopinathan, who has really come into his own over the past few years (he started as chef at the restaurant in 2008).
Anyone who has been reading tablehopper for a while knows how much I adore Indian cuisine, specifically Southern Indian food, which I completely attribute to the once-in-a-lifetime trip my sister and I took to Southern India a few years ago. Our minds were blown.
Chef Sri is from Trivandrum, Kerala, in Southern India, and while you can come to Campton Place and experience his five-course Market Menu (it spans California, French, and Mediterranean influences), the reason I want you to go is his Spice Route menu (both menus are $95).
Back in the spring, my meal started on a fresh note with a frothy mint and English pea coulis with marinated quinoa, followed by bite-size potato and paneer fritters presented on a dark rock with spiced yogurt, and then my palate was sparked again with a spiced ice, with notes of ginger, lime, and extra-virgin olive oil (it was also in the prettiest sherbet-y colors).
And then it was time for what I called the molecular houseplant: a small ceramic plant pot is nestled on a dish with rocks and moss, with waves of smoke spilling out from dry ice. Your table suddenly becomes a little garden scene, the pot filled with an edible springtime medley of poori stuffed with quinoa and edamame, tamarind chutney, chaas-honey yogurt foam, and baby vegetables (including radish) and sorrel on top. It’s like going to Sloat Garden Center and eating a plant pot in a dream sequence (or on an acid trip).
The Spice Route menu continued to rock the spice cabinet, with saffron-infused Dungeness crab in the “potli” (pouch), Malabar chutney broth with the dorade, an oh-so-tender lamb rack that came with soft, spiced pine nuts (it ends up they were pressure cooked—so good, and clever), and a flavor-packed raita mousse wafer (we called it “the host”) with tomato and the spicy kick of serrano.
Your tour concludes with a palate refresher, and then a light finale of mango crémeux with a coconut tuile, kheer ice, a pudding sorbet, crisp bits of basmati, tamarind jam, and jaggery—such an elegant Indian dessert. Oh yes, and they won’t let you leave without some mignardise, and the final touch, a cool Bulgari hand towel. You’ll smell like a pasha.
Sri changes the menu with the seasons, so the current end-of-summer menu is a different story, but if you love Indian flavors and would like to experience them in a fine dining context, this menu should be considered for your next “special occasion” adventure. Request one of the intimate booths if you can, and be sure to allow for a few hours for the whole evening to play out. It’s a Union Square hotel restaurant (a swanky Taj property), so of course there will be some tourists who just happened to stumble in—personally, I enjoy watching the dining room staff, many whom have been there for years. You’re in good hands.
Campton Place Restaurant - 340 Stockton St. San Francisco - 415-781-5555
Eat Sonoma County: Food is taking over at the SHARE EXCHANGE, a locally made marketplace in downtown Santa Rosa. On a recent visit to the store (531 Fifth St., 707-583-7667), we noticed they’ve added a refrigerator stocked with local grass-fed beef from True Grass Farms in Valley Ford, kefir from Sebastopol’s Kefiry, Bella Rosa coffee from Santa Rosa, sandwiches from local caterer Ruthy’s Real Meals, sauces and jams, and even local produce from Singing Frog Farms. Most items have the backstory of the “makers” and a photo posted so you learn about the folks you’re buying from.
Fair Fooding: BiteClub and several lucky food judges headed out for some serious eating (and judging) during the last week for the upcoming SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR (October 4th-6th). You’ll have to wait until October 4th to find out the winners, but we can say that Catelli’s (21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville) 10-layer lasagna, John Ash and Co.’s (4330 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa) raspberry cheesecake, and Ole’s Seafood from Thai Time (402 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa) were among our favorites.
‘Tis the season for ripe, juicy heirloom tomatoes and supple figs. We’re seeing both of these seasonal goodies all over menus around Sonoma County. The next best thing to eating warm cherry tomatoes right off the vine? A good late-summer BLT. BiteClub loved the version at TWIST (6536 Front St., Forestville) with toasted Nightingale Bakery bread, thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, slab bacon, fresh lettuce, and mayonnaise. Because sometimes simplicity makes for the best food. We’re also loving all the fig dishes that seem to be cropping up, including prosciutto-wrapped figs with arugula and melted blue cheese at Catelli’s and, of course, the gold standard, the fig salad at the girl & the fig (110 W. Spain St., Sonoma). Got an excess of figs in your yard? We found great recipes online for homemade fig bars, fig clafoutis, fig brandy, honey-fried figs, and fig crostini. But our favorite? A good sliced fig with a dollop of mascarpone. Heaven.
Mark your calendar for November 5th. That’s slated to be the opening day for the dozen or so restaurants opening at the GRATON RESORT & CASINO in Rohnert Park. Among the chefs, Martin Yan (M.Y. China), former Cyrus honcho, Doug Keane (DK Wings), and world pizza champ Tony Gemignani (Tony’s and Slice House). The casino will also have three bars, natch.
Oktoberfest and the Rest: I’ve never quite understood why so many Oktoberfests are actually in September. But one we’re especially excited about (which is actually in October) is Woodruff’s Oktoberfest Beer Dinner on October 25th. The menu includes housemade soft pretzels with bourbon-honey mustard; potato pancakes; a trio of jagdwurst, bratwurst, and weisswurst with sauerkraut; and apple strudel. Each course is paired with a German beer. $45 per person. Details at 707-829-2141.
Other Oktoberfests: Windsor Lion’s Club on September 28th; Seventh Annual Cotati Oktoberfest on October 12th at La Plaza Park; and BARLEY AND HOPS TAVERN’S Sixth Annual Oktoberfest on October 11th in Occidental. In Napa, they’re celebrating on September 21st at the NAPA SMITH BREWERY (1 Executive Way, Napa) from 12pm-5pm with a bratwurst-eating contest, German polka music, and that famous Teutonic tradition, the chicken dance.
Banshee Wines, specializing in Sonoma Coast pinots (but hey, they’ve also got a tasty chardonnay) has opened its first tasting room in Healdsburg. What’s especially interesting is that there will also be a tasting menu with bites from Shed’s new head chef, Jenna Sprafkin. The decor is nouveau Healdsburg, with plenty of reclaimed wood, vintage communal table, a record player in an old milk crate, and a host of ironic knickknacks (we love the lounging gnome). “The Banshee tasting room really is an amped-up version of our own homes,” said Baron Ziegler, cofounder and director of sales at Banshee Wines. “You don’t have to ask brilliant questions of our winemaking staff. You can come in, hang out, and enjoy time with your friends over a killer glass of wine.”
More Napa News: St. Helena hot spot COOK is now serving Sunday brunch from 10am-2pm. The new menu includes soft polenta with a poached egg and black leaf kale, slow-roasted pork hash with Yukon Gold potatoes, a weekly special frittata along, a seasonal BLT, and the official drink of hangovers, the Bloody Mary. 1310 Main St., St. Helena.