This week's tablehopper: fantasy island.
What I wouldn’t give to be sitting on the terrace at Mudbrick (on Waiheke Island) for happy hour right about now. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Howdy, amigos. Nothing like a sunny afternoon to get you into a weekend state of mind, right? Another way to get into a weekend state of mind is editing a bunch of a pictures of Waiheke Island, let me tell you. No, not our local Waiheke Island Yacht Club (which is with us on the waterfront until the end of the year!), but the place that inspired its name: the gorgeous Waiheke Island east of Auckland. As you may be guessing, here’s my second jetsetter installment from my trip to New Zealand! I hope you enjoy reading about the day trip I took to that magical place. Put it on your list.
For an easier jaunt that won’t require airfare, I just wrote up these three food-and-wine experiences north of San Francisco on 7x7.com, featuring fun places to get out of town—maybe you’ll get inspired to check ‘em out. We also have a 707 scout today from Heather Irwin—pork and pickle lovers will especially want to pay attention.
Was very sorry to hear from a friend early this morning that Maverick in the Mission suffered a fire—fortunately no one was injured. I’ll have an update for you on Tuesday.
And just a little reminder: tomorrow morning (Saturday!), I am going to be appearing on KRON4 this with my first tablehopper hot list segment at 9:15am. Yeah, I am going to need to work on a strong “buon giorno!”—a little tough for this night owl. Hoot!
Enjoy the weekend! Marcia Gagliardi
Waiheke Island, New Zealand
I was on Waiheke Island for less than an hour, and I realized I had made a great mistake: I should have stayed on this stunning island for at least one night during my Auckland stay. It’s quite remarkable: after a 40-minute ferry ride east of Auckland, you end up at this dreamy island that’s full of wineries (some are a bit more Sonoma in style, some are a bit more Napa, take your pick). But here’s what’s crazy: there are all these gorgeous beaches. And olive groves. And farms. And a bright blue sky, and calm waters, and sailboats. Gentle sea breezes. Winding roads. Pinch, pinch. This exists? Yes.
The realization of my mistake happened as I was looking at the jaw-dropping view from the terrace at Chris Canning’s Clifftops B&B overlooking the Onetangi Bay. The light off the water was shimmering. My blood pressure immediately fell to a slow, peaceful pulse. And then Canning handed me a glass of 2012 Jules Silk rosé (named in honor of his lady)—it was bone dry, made from syrah, cold fermented for three weeks. I was ready to grab the bottle and run to the beach.
Canning is the CEO and winemaker for The Hay Paddock (his business partner is Bryan Mogridge), and their award-winning winery is known for its cool-climate syrahs—they targeted a spot in the Onetangi Valley for their single-vineyard estate, which has 15,000 vines. It ends up Waiheke is good for Bordeaux blends, chardonnay, and now syrah is on the rise, thanks to the clay-rich soil and dry, moderate, maritime climate. Labels for their syrah include the Harvest Reserve, The Hay Paddock (you can cellar it up to 10 years), the Harvest Man (an earlier drinking style), and Row 104, which is their top-tier anniversary wine and available on-site only (no restaurants carry it). We tasted the 2008 Hay Paddock, a complex blend (with petit verdot), sporting good tannins, fruit, and minerality; after barrel aging, the wine is cellared in bottle for two years.
And now, a little Waiheke history for you. The first vines were planted on Waiheke in the late ’70s, and the ferries started coming in the mid-’80s, bringing with them a rise of vacationers and tourists to this idyllic island. It’s a pretty dramatic population shift, with the island count of 8,000 dwellers swelling to 40,000 in the high season (obviously come midweek if you can). There are about 30 wineries now (mostly boutique), and many of them are designed to cater to the tourist trade (Canning described one of the bigger ones as a “daytime nightclub”), with spacious restaurants and buzzing tasting rooms. Some, obviously, offer a better experience than others.
The Hay Paddock operates a B&B (Clifftops) with casual-luxe suites, and oh, that view. They also offer wine education on the terrace for $25 (book in advance), pouring three to four wines (yes, you want to do this), as well as offering winemaker tutorials. Canning is a humble, smart, and very fascinating person to talk about wine with—don’t miss the opportunity for his insight. (For some much better pictures, check out my wingman Nathan Branch’s account of the day, and photo album here—his lush images make me look like I’m shooting with a Kodak Extralite 400.)
Another place we visited was the relatively new Oyster Inn in Oneroa village, which has three cute, cabin-y rooms available. The place has a fun, beachy vibe, with an 80-seat restaurant that’s conveniently open all day and evening (they also have DJs and music for summer weekend shenanignas). The space was renovated by a delightfully welcoming couple (Kiwi Jonathan Rutherfurd-Best and Hong Kong-born Andrew Glenn) who met in London, but fortunately decided to leave their swish London life and targeted Waiheke as a place to open their stylish outpost.
The menu (from chef Cristian Hossack) is full of fantastic New Zealand seafood, like Stewart Island oysters, which were flat and Belon-like; Orongo Bay oysters (Pacifics); and if you’re there in May, you can get lucky with some wild Bluff oysters (a Kiwi obsession—the season starts around March 1st). There were also Tuatua clams from Cloudy Bay. Fortunately the gents know what’s up, because there’s quite a list of bubbles to go with it all. I went bonkers for their green salad (it has 13 ingredients in it), and you can also get fish and chips, and check their specials. The restaurant has tables in the prettiest ’50s turquoise, with vintage metal chairs and cutlery from Paris, and a sunny view of the water. I was ready to move in—everything about this place made me feel happy.
One of the most well-known spots to visit on Waiheke is Cable Bay, perched on a hilltop site overlooking Hauraki Gulf where some folks helicopter right in on the chopper pad (and whip grass onto people dining nearby). Or you can enjoy a less dramatic entrance with a 12-minute walk from the ferry, which will help you make some room for the feast you’ll find here. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace, and there’s a contemporary dining room, good for breezy days and for dinner (I would totally come here for dinner if I were staying on the island). Our hosts for lunch were owner Loukas Petrou and winemaker Neill Culley—you couldn’t ask for better company.
Cable Bay has five vineyards on the island, and they have quite the portfolio, with chardonnay, viognier, pinot gris, malbec, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, plus they make some wines from other non-Waiheke vineyards (Central Otago and Marlborough). Culley explained how the northern slopes on the island are hotter, so you’ll find more syrah, while the southern slopes are cooler, with more chardonnay appearing. Culley is on his 30th vintage as a winemaker (he even spent a harvest in California at Simi), and his wines for Cable Bay are all about small-lot production, low yields, hand-harvesting, and sustainability. The place is state of the art—the site opened in 2007 (although the vineyards were planted in 2004).
We tasted through quite a few wines over lunch; some favorites included the feminine and French-inspired 2012 viognier, the aromatic 2012 rosé (made from merlot and malbec), the 2010 reserve syrah, and for dessert, the 2011 late-harvest viognier, Sweet Gloria, a beautiful topaz that wasn’t too sweet or showy (and named after the Van Morrison song). Culley’s wines show a lot of restraint and elegance.
While the restaurant highlights Cable Bay’s wines, I liked that they also feature other wines on their list—everything was very well paired. The chef is Sam Clark, who spent some time at Clooney in Auckland, Becasse in Sydney, and Attica in Melbourne.
Our lunch was impressive—not only were dishes beautifully presented (the colors!), but Clark really let seasonal ingredients shine, with just enough fuss paid to them (the kitchen builds the flavors with all the accompaniments). We started our lunch with a silky duck liver pâté, and housemade ciabatta that we dunked into Cable Bay’s peppery olive oil made with leccino and koroneiki. The restaurant is a total showcase for New Zealand ingredients, like our appetizers of cured Ora King salmon and smoked wild venision with pickled vegetables. So utterly delicious. Of course I had some lamb, and the presentation with carrots, dates, wheat, and sheep’s yogurt was one of the best of my trip. Dessert also rocked, with peaches and custard (with jasmine rice sherbet!), and one with poached apricots with olive oil cake (one of many advantages to traveling to New Zealand in May—you catch the tail end of their summer!).
Our final destination for the day was supposed to be at the distant Man O’War, but due to a transportation snafu, my wingman and I paid an impromptu visit to Mudbrick since we had a little time until our ferry. It was like we knew it was going to be the perfect spot for a sunset (we didn’t), and it was like we already knew the gentleman pouring the wines for us in the tasting room (Bob Scott) was related to SF’s own Anna Weinberg (of Marlowe, Park Tavern, and The Cavalier)—fate is funny that way. You couldn’t ask for a better person to pour wines for you—Bob spouted off some fantastic bons mots (“spankingly drinkable!”) and I appreciated all the food pairing ideas he suggested (he made me wish I could manifest a bite of tagine while he described the minerally 2012 reserve viognier).
Owners Robyn and Nicholas Jones did their first plantings in 1992, and currently grow chardonnay, viognier, merlot, malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. Their new winemaker is Patrick Newton, who came on in 2011, so it will be interesting to see where he takes the wines—he is very focused on purity of flavor.
We can see why Anna had her wedding at Mudbrick—the grounds are mega dreamy, full of herbs and vegetable gardens (“potagers”). There is an airy 160-seat restaurant (the cold-smoked duck breast is recommended), although we posted up in the alfresco bistro, enjoying the tranquility of the gardens while drinking a glass of 2012 reserve chardonnay at our outdoor table. It would be easy to while away the early evening over a bottle, but we had a ferry to catch! Next time, I won’t make that mistake—I will have a room with a view booked, that’s for damn sure.
Note: I have a bunch of photos on Flickr for you to check out. And don’t miss Nathan Branch’s fabulous images!
Some tips from locals:
Be sure to rent a car or a moped, and check out the Saturday Ostend market and Sunday farmers’ market.
Other wineries to visit:
The view at Te Whau can’t be beat, visit Obsidian for syrah, and Bordeaux lovers should seek the Larose at Stonyridge (although it can be quite a scene there).
More places to eat:
Poderi Crisci Am told it’s a bit expensive, but great for views and a long Sunday lunch (Kiwis are fans of the “long lunch”) with ingredients from their garden.
Fenice Inventive Italian in Oneroa (from the Mudbrick folks), with beet and chorizo risotto, and was told not to miss the rabbit pappardelle. Open late.
Casita Miro Loved the greenhouse/pavilion-style look for this airy dining room. A Spanish menu (both tapas and raciones). The Miro vineyards are 20 years old, with syrah, Bordeaux blends, and viognier. Was told to check out their French-style rosé, pinot gris, albariño is coming, and don’t miss the Madame Rouge fortified wine.
Charlie Farley’s A Kiwi pub, super-casual, right on the beach at Onetangi.
Wai Kitchen Cool spot for breakfast/brunch in Oneroa.
Spice Cafe A local hang for good coffee.
More recos for accommodations:
The Boatshed Luxury accommodations, but still casual and charming.
The Moorings Studio apartments with a view, and conveniently close to the ferry.
The Courtyard An affordable apartment (no seaview, but was told it’s quaint).
Lavender Hill Tuscan villa style, on Waiheke!
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Pigtastic New Zazu, Bouchon Chef Opening WHW Bistro, Cutthroat Winner
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
A quick hit on the new ZAZU at the food- and wine-centric Barlow Center in Sebastopol. If you haven’t been since their summer opening, it’s worth putting on your to-do list. The expansive dining room and outdoor seating area have been custom-built to owner Duskie Estes and John Stewart’s growing needs. There are 30-foot ceilings, lots of nouveau barn and brushed steel details, and a giant pink pig’s head (made of recycled oil cans and other refuse, natch, by local artist Patrick Amiot) overseeing the operation. Because what else would you expect from the king and queen of pork?
The menu and hours have also expanded; now lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner have an all-star lineup of everything but the squeal, including plenty of salumi and bacon from the Stewarts’ Black Pig Meat Co. For noshing, don’t skip the bacon caramel popcorn or chicharrones flavored with apple cider vinegar or rosemary. We missed out on the pig’s face “poutine” (fries slathered with piggy parts, Tabasco gravy, and blue cheese) and the pig’s heart, but loved the pimento macaroni and cheese with bacon salt and truffled salumi. The dinner menu includes more meaty slabs like pork belly, beef shank, and lamb, along with roasted bone marrow and a snout-to-tail sampler.
From 3pm-6pm, you can grab a happy hour drink and a mini bacon burger or pizza. Or hit “after-hours” from 10pm-midnight on Friday and Saturday for wings and waffles, salumi and pickles, and cocktails from the full bar. The “bacon and eggs,” a honey whiskey sour with bacon bourbon and an egg, is a midnight tipple I can get behind. Open for lunch and dinner Wed-Sun, brunch from 9am Sat-Sun, and dinner only on Mon; closed Tue. 6770 McKinley St., #150, Sebastopol, 707-523-4814.
Wondering what happened to the old Zazu space? Nearby WALTER HANSEL WINERY is lifting the curtains on the Walter Hansel Winery Bistro, a full-service bistro and wine bar, next week. Heading the kitchen is chef Philippe Colasse, who’s toqued at several Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas. He was most recently winery chef for Foley Family Wines in Healdsburg. Expect news of the official opening in the coming weeks.
Are pickles the new bacon? Gastronomers from around the world (most notably the Japanese and Northern Europeans) have long known the value of pickled vegetables as both sustenance and solid foundation at the morning repast. Though Americans tend to wrinkle their noses at such savory fare before noon, local chefs are serving up their own kitchen-pickled veggies throughout the day. And I, for one, am a fan. A recent fave: SPINSTER SISTERS’ (401 South A St. at Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa) Seasonal Pickle Plate ($7) includes pickled cukes, daikon, cinnamon-infused beets, tiny radishes, and spicy, garlicky kimchi. I’ll be sussing out lots of other pickled goodness around town (‘cause it’s that time of year), so suggest your fave local fermented goodies.
Other Tidbits: We’re loving kopanisti, a yummy Greek dip made with whipped feta and peperoncini. It’s hot and creamy and full of goodness, like any dip should be. Sofia Petridis-Lim, of Healdsburg’s TAVERNA SOFIA (244 Healdsburg Ave. at Center, Healdsburg), is selling six-ounce containers Saturdays at the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market, along with several of her other Greek sauces and pita chips.
New Tasting Spots in Healdsburg: Ferrari-Carano’s Seasons of the Vineyard Wine Shop—along with Scharffen Berger—have teamed up to create unique pairings for wine and chocolate lovers. The store also offers a full range of Scharffen Berger’s artisanal chocolate, created with a winemaker’s attention to craftsmanship. 113 Plaza St., Healdsburg.
Rosenblum Cellars’ new facility offers a primary tasting room, an event and educational space, a lounge for locals and club members, and an outdoor patio. The Tasting Lounge provides wine flight tastings, wine-based cocktails, “bites & flights,” zinfandel ice cream, wines by the glass, and nonalcoholic beverages for designated drivers. A calendar of educational offerings will provide a forum for local growers, food and wine pairing seminars, and seminars with local artists and artisanal food producers. 18 Matheson St., Healdsburg.
Finally, Wine Country can’t seem to get enough of chef-lebrities. In St. Helena, LA CONDESA’S head toque, Chris Mortenson, won the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. The elimination-style competition hosted by Alton Brown pits chefs against each other, using sabotage and food challenges, to see whose kitchen skills come out on top. Mortenson walked away with $9,800 in prize money in addition to bragging rights. 1320 Main St., St. Helena.
the sugar mama
(Sponsored): All That and a Bag of (Seaweed) Chips!
Top local chefs have been taking seaweed to new heights with a crispy texture that has us craving more.
Enter Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Chips, a brand-new, totally delicious, crunchy seaweed chip crafted by three Burlingame dads. Ocean’s Halo bakes sustainably harvested seaweed to the perfect crunch, dusts it with sea salt and other all-natural flavors, and puts it in a compostable bag so we can take all that umami and nutrient-packed goodness with us.
And so can you: Ocean’s Halo is now available at Mollie Stone’s Markets throughout the Bay Area. Look for us this weekend at the CarveSF sand sculpting competition in the Presidio.
To celebrate the launch of Ocean’s Halo Seaweed chips, we’ve put together a prize package: 10 lucky tablehopper readers will receive a gift bag of Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Chips. Plus, we’re going to give away one grand prize: one case of Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Chip, two tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (so you can learn more about the amazing powers of seaweed!), and an Ocean’s Halo Hoodie Buddie (super-soft hoodie with built-in headphones).
To enter to win, all you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (but even more would be so very fabulous) or a link to this piece, and add a note (or haiku!) to your friends about Ocean’s Halo and/or seaweed’s amazing super powers. Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Saturday November 2nd at 11:59pm! We’ll notify the winners soon thereafter and get your Ocean’s Halo package in the mail to you! Good luck!