40th birthday oysters and Billecart-Salmon. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Welcome back from your holiday weekend. How wonderful to have a couple of extra days off, I swear. Am currently enjoying a huge batch of jook I made with our leftover turkey, a simple and warm dish I will enjoy this week as the temperatures drop. Brrrrr.
So December is here (seriously, how the hell did THAT happen) and it’s time for some holiday cheer. I had fun as a guest of KRON4’s Vicki Liviakis in this special Dine and Dish holiday episode—I mention downtown places where you can grab a festive drink while shopping, plus holiday teas, and who is serving a seven fishes dinner for Christmas Eve this year (always one of my favorite meals of the year).
Just a little reminder: This week Quince is celebrating 10 years with a bunch of very special anniversary dinners from now until December 10th. There are available spots here and there; check out the amazing lineup of guest chefs here. I had a phenomenal meal there last week, and tried the new Quince tasting menu—the option to taste wine director Chris Baggetta’s wine pairings blind is a lot of fun, I recommend it.
Today, the culinary world has a heavy heart with the knowledge that our beloved Judy Rodgers, chef-partner of Zuni Café, has tragically left us. She was only 57 years old, and had been suffering from a rare form of cancer. I was discussing with a friend last night, as Alice is to Berkeley, Judy was to San Francisco. She gave us perhaps our most quintessentially San Franciscan restaurant, one that continues to bring us so much pleasure. A touchstone of quality, and style, and soul. Simplicity done right.
When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I made sure I was going to be at Zuni at the exact time of my birth, sitting outside in the sun, eating a half-dozen oysters and later some shoestring fries, with a glass of Billecart-Salmon in my hand, the smoky tinge in the air from the brick oven. I was happily by myself, just wanting to properly honor my own little landmark moment. I had so many memories in that space already. Dinners with past loves, drinks with past lovers. Where else would I go but Zuni?
All of us have such indelible memories of eating at Zuni—the silky ricotta gnocchi, the trademark anchovies and celery, the epic Caesar, and of course the famed roasted chicken with the warmed bread salad, a dish many San Franciscans would say would be one of their last if they were leaving the city. I know it’s one of mine. And yes, there’s that burger. Even watching Judy in this video making the Zuni burger with Martha Stewart, she is so full of information and tips. She has influenced so many cooks, and so many diners. Her legacy will live on, but right now, her death is such a terrible loss. Deep condolences to all her family and dear friends and colleagues, to everyone she touched. May they find some comfort in the fact that the gift of her many talents to our city is eternal.
Sunday evening I attended a friends and family dinner at the soon-to-open ALTA CA, the latest project from the Daniel Patterson Group. I had an extensive interview a couple of months ago with chef Yoni Levy, and after one bite of his cracked wheat porridge topped with hen of the woods mushrooms, you’ll agree he is one to watch. Alta’s Mid-Market location is pretty ideal: It’s kitty-corner to the new Twitter building, and just a few doors down from the groovy Ma’velous café. And then there’s the Hotspot, but that place is great for its own reasons.
When you walk into the 65-seat restaurant, the first thing you’ll notice is the completely innovative floor-to-ceiling open shelving along the entire back wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room, but still allows for an open kitchen experience. The 17-foot shelves are stocked with vintage pottery, books, and other objets, with a backdrop of the busy kitchen. It’s pretty genius, and sure to be copied.
Patterson had his architect of record for DPG projects, Scott Kester, design the space, and the room’s front angle reminded me a bit of Plum in Oakland. There’s a horseshoe bar made of alder wood, plenty of two- and four-top tables, and yes, there is a strip with working outlets along one wall (you know those are going to be in use for lunch meetings). Patterson’s wife Alexandra Foote has been sourcing the vintage art on the walls; look for more items to be added soon. The boyish music is like something you’d hear hanging out at a friend’s house. The overall feeling is warm and Californian, with plenty of wood (the wood tables feel great, along with the comfortable vintage Danish chairs) and pleasing-to-touch porcelain and flatware too. I also dug the aprons the friendly (and talented) staff are sporting.
So, the menu. You can start with a cocktail (the bar manager is Ashley Miller, most recently at Hakkasan) and some dill-pickled deviled eggs ($5), and there’s also Yoni’s pastrami ($13) and bialys ($6). Or you can go for the chicharrones of beef tendon ($6), which I was calling fatty lace. Or lacy fat.
You can ramp up with bigger plates, like a prettily (but not fussily) composed warm root vegetable salad ($13), with a medley of vegetables like kohlrabi, parsnips, carrots, and more. I already mentioned the stunning porridge, so rich with earthy flavor ($19). Additional plates include confit chicken leg ($18), a spot-on Pacific black cod ($25) with broccolini and the punch of Meyer lemon, and a fully loaded burger ($16) with thick slices of bacon and cheddar cheese. Everything we tried tasted so well prepared and balanced, with a nourishing sensibility. It’s food to admire for a split second before you want to dig in—tweezer food, this is not. Satisfying, yes. Chickpea and oxtail fritters ($16), I am talking about you (which are next are on my to-hit list). And I am sure the lunch menu is also going to be fab (there will be takeout options too). You Twitter folks are lucky.
DPG pastry chef Matt Tinder is behind the daily selection of two ice creams that are an evolved spin on soft-serve with toppings (he’s calling the project The Malted), which will also be available to go during the day, as if you were in an ice cream shop. The wine list is pretty rocking (put together by GM Ben Hetzel and Mark Mendoza), and the 10 bottles of quality bubbly definitely caught my eye. Cocktails include three barrel-aged selections, and four of the draft beers are hyper-local, including Cellarmaker, Almanac, and Faction.
Alta CA opens for dinner on Wednesday December 4th, and lunch this Friday. Hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-2am and Sat-Sun 5pm-2am.
Alta CA - 1420 Market St. San Francisco - 415-590.2585
Executive chef Ronnie New (Magnolia Pub and Brewery) updated the menu, which now has a raw bar (think Drake’s Bay oysters and peel-and-eat Louisiana Gulf shrimp), a Comstock burger served on a Marla Bakery bun, and more. One thing that is staying put is the Saloon’s Free Lunch Friday (purchase two alcoholic beverages and you receive a free lunch—the offering changes weekly). And don’t forget, the kitchen is open Mon-Sat 4pm-12am and Sun 4pm-10pm, now serving a full menu (the bar is open daily 4pm-2am).
The dining room features a gorg old-growth redwood and mahogany bar restored by partner Jonny Raglin, and look for the antique tap handle that dates back to 1880. There are also high-top marble tables, so the “dining room” feeling has been tweaked to feel less formal. Some fun trivia: The bar is a historic homage to Abe Warner, who was the proprietor of the Cobweb Palace from around 1860 until 1893. Since he believed spiders should never be harmed or disturbed, you can see how his saloon earned its name. Old Abe also kept live monkeys and other animals as an attraction for visitors, so keep your eyes peeled for some monkeying around in the design details. You’ll also note an entrance into the dining room has been added.
Comstock Saloon - 155 Columbus Ave. San Francisco - 415-617-0071
Haighteration has news that a new French bakery is coming to the Lower Haight. The new bakery, called CHOUX, comes from owner Laura Athuil, who hails from Nice, France. She’ll focus on cream puffs with different flavors, and may add some other menu items as well. Right now, opening is planned for mid-February. 248 Fillmore St. at Haight.
There’s a new taker for the Noe’s Bar space in Noe Valley: Ivor Bradley, who is also a partner at The Creamery in SoMa. The new spot will be called HORNER’S CORNER after John Horner, a historical figure who purchased the area in 1850, according to Noe Valley SF. The plan is to keep the bar friendly to sports fans and local residents, with a menu that includes burgers, pizza, and salads, plus a happy hour menu. 1199 Church St. at 24th St.
I have been trying to get information for a couple of months on ARCHIVE BAR & KITCHEN, but after awhile you just gotta give up on people who don’t respond to emails, texts, and calls. Eater has the details: it’s in the old Mondo Caffe space in SoMa, serving craft beer, wine, charcuterie and cheese, and pizza. Edison bulbs, check. Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm. 602 Mission St. at 2nd St.
Fillmore Vietnamese sandwich slinger BUN MEE is opening a Financial District location soon. Scoop reports that the new location is going to be almost twice as big as the Fillmore one, and will offer additional catering options. The plan is to open in January. 660 Market St. at Geary.
HI LO CLUB (the bar) is throwing a party on Wednesday December 4th: Bacon and Bourbon Happy Hour. That evening, ordering any bourbon of your choice also includes a side of thick-sliced apple-smoked bacon to go alongside your beverage. You’ll also be able to get bourbon-braised pork belly—available from 6pm until they run out. 1423 Polk St. at Pine, no phone.
Russian Hill’s STONES THROW is now serving brunch on Sundays from 11am-2pm. The menu changes seasonally; current options include egg dishes, sweet choices like brioche French toast, and snacks like oysters or doughnuts. Take a look at the menu here. 1896 Hyde St. at Green, 415-796-2901.
Hayeswire reports that Hayes Valley institution MOISHE’S PIPPIC closed yesterday after 26 years in business. A note on the front door said “We all would like to thank you so much for your patronage and your loyalty. It is hard to say goodbye and we will miss you all!!!!!” Some folks totally loved this friendly and no-frills spot, and others dismissed it, but the one thing you can’t deny is Moishe’s was one of the last little funky neighborhood spots in Hayes Valley. I had my first Chicago dog there (I have chef Jamie Lauren to thank for the reco—otherwise I wouldn’t have learned what sport peppers were until much later in life). Feeding people for 26 years—awww, we all thought it was too legit to quit. 425 Hayes St. at Gough.
Changes are coming to another SF stalwart, but this one has been around for quite a bit longer (try 120 years). Financial District German and sudsy outpost SCHROEDER’S has new owners, Andrew Chun and Jan Wiginton of Press Club—they are taking over for owners Stefan Filipcik and his wife, Jana, who are retiring. Scoop reports Schroeder’s is closing on January 1st; look for a reopening in spring 2014. Many elements will remain the same, from the name to the murals, but some new elements will include a private dining area, more windows, and wood floors. Stand by for more details about the menu once they lock on a chef. 240 Front St. at California, 415-421-4778.
Bayview’s POP-UP COMMUNITY MARKET is back, but they’ve moved to the Bayview Opera House. The next market is on Thursday December 5th from 5pm-7:30pm. Vendors include Earl’s Bread, Gratta Wines, Yvonne’s Southern Sweets, and sauces from Radio Africa. You’ll also find activities (like a class on how to make yogurt), live music, and a fresh fruit and produce stand, something very important to the neighborhood. 4705 3rd St. at Mendell.
It’s crab season, and to celebrate, Slow Food San Francisco is throwing its sixth annual Slow Crab Dinner on Saturday December 7th from 6pm-9pm. The delicious Monterey Fish Market crustaceans will be served alongside salad, Baia pasta from the fellows at Hillside Supperclub, and bread from Acme. Oh, and there will be wine and beer from Speakeasy and Magnolia too. Tickets are $80 per person and include food, dessert, and two beer tickets. Wine will be available for $20 a bottle. And just for tablehopper readers, enter promo code slowfood2013 at checkout for $10 off the ticket price. Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. at Lapidge.
It’s December, and yes, the holidays are coming, which means there’s no better way to support local artists and food producers than buying some of your gifts at a local fair or market. Here are a few with a food angle to check out.
Be sure to stop by the holiday extravaganza from NEW TASTE MARKETPLACE on Saturday December 7th. From 11am-5pm, locally made food products will fill St. Gregory’s Church in Potrero Hill. Look for rillettes from Wooden Spoons, actual wooden spoons from Lydali, and soulful sauces from Keena’s Kitchen. You’ll also find beer from Almanac Beer Co. and wine from Periscope Cellars, food (to eat there), and live music. Proceeds from the event benefit The Food Pantry. 500 De Haro St. at Mariposa.
Check out the Holiday Food Fare at FIREHOUSE 8 on Sunday December 8th from 10am-3pm. Savage Flour, Common Fare, and ToliverWorks are just a few of the vendors who will be slinging their foodstuffs, along with coffee from Contraband, wine, and beer. 1648 Pacific Ave. at Polk, 415-890-4800.
KPFA Radio is hosting the 43rd Annual KPFA CRAFTS FAIR on Saturday and Sunday December 14th and 15th from 10am-6pm at the Concourse Exhibition Center in SoMa. In addition to work from local artists, including jewelry, photography, and furniture, they’ve added the “Edible Tastings” section to the event. You’ll find local purveyors with lots of free samples and goods available for purchase, including items from Happy Girl Kitchen Co., Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey, and Bitchin’ Baklava. Because this is the last year the fair will be held at the concourse, there’s a two-for-one offer on all ticket sales: $10 a ticket. And every ticket gets a guest, which works out to $5 per person. Oh, and proceeds benefit KPFA too. Children under 17 and seniors over 65 get in free. 635 8th St. at Brannan.
Do Good This Season: Eat Russian Honey Cake and Chicken Wings for a Good Cause. Yep, You Read That Right
This holiday season, ShareTable.org is partnering with the San Francisco Food Bank to offer $50 gift certificates to some of the city’s best restaurants. For every gift certificate sold, $5 goes to the Food Bank, and participating restaurants include Coi, State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Ichi Sushi, among many other greats. The certificates can be ordered online now, or you can go buy them on Thursday December 5th at a special event at 20TH CENTURY CAFE. From 5pm-7:30pm, if you buy a gift certificate during the event you’ll also get a free slice of Michelle Polzine’s Russian Honey Cake. That’s right, free cake just for buying a gift certificate to a great restaurant.
Can you eat a lot of chicken wings? Or are you just someone who likes to watch others eat a lot of chicken wings? Either way, you’ll want to hit up the WING WINGS SECOND ANNUAL CHICKEN WING EATING CONTEST on Saturday December 14th at El Rio. The party goes from 1pm-5pm, and there are two contests: a timed event and a “hella hella hot” event. They’re currently seeking contestants (bwok!) and donations for the raffle; more information is available on the event’s Facebook page. Just attending the event is a $5 donation at the door; drinks and wings will be available. The event is raising funds for Casa de las Madres. 3158 Mission St. at Cesar Chavez, 415-282-3325.
20th Century Cafe - 198 Gough St. San Francisco - 415-621-2380
Berkeleyside Nosh caught the news back in August that Korean barbecue and hot pot restaurant GOGI TIME is moving into Oakland. Now, according to a Facebook post, the restaurant will be soft opening on Wednesday December 4th and Thursday December 5th, starting at 5pm. They’ll be serving a limited menu at 20 percent off, with a full menu and lunch to come later in December. 2600 Telegraph Ave. at 26th St., Oakland, 510-834-5757.
On Saturday December 7th, ARTÍS COFFEE is opening its doors in Berkeley. The new coffee shop is offering something beyond the usual pour-over coffee choices: they are actually roasting on-site, in front of their customers, from raw beans that you select. So, you go in, pick your raw beans, and they’ll roast them right there while you wait. They’re using a new roaster called the “Java Master”. SFWeekly has a lot of details on the concept and roasting technique, if you’re curious, plus some details on their fancy new brewing machine, too. 1717B 4th St. at Virginia, Berkeley, 510-982-6063.
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A new bar is opening in early 2014 in Uptown a couple of blocks from The Fox and near the Flora/Duende corner: DREXL, which is all about becoming a neighborhood hangout. I spoke with partner Demetrius “Deech” Chapin-Rienzo (a partner in Vintage 415), and he is opening the bar with a friend from their days at Berkeley High School, Adi Taylor, who has lived in Oakland for a long time.
The 1,500-square-foot space (it previously housed a deli, Belly Roll Ben’s, which closed a couple of years ago) is currently under construction. Sam Strand, who did some spatial and interior design for nearby Duende, is designing Drexl. The high-ceilinged space is split in the middle by some pillars, so to the left will be the darker/edgier bar side, and to the right will be a more easygoing and lit area with booths, cocktail tables, and banquette seating. There will actually be two doors into the bar, so take your pick. In the back is a mezzanine, which will have Skee-Ball; shuffleboard is also being discussed. There is also talk of having some special DJ nights, but more on the loungy tip. Cocktails will be straightforward but good, and there are also plans for some food, too, which is TBD at the moment. They are aiming for a February opening; I’ll keep you updated. 382 19th St. at Franklin, Oakland.
On Wednesday December 4th, catch a bubbly tasting at WILLIAM CROSS WINE MERCHANTS, featuring pours from Billecart-Salmon and some other winners, like Ettore Germano. The tasting is from 6pm-9pm, and flights include five pours. Cost is $20 per flight.
Then, on Thursday December 5th, head to ARLEQUIN WINE MERCHANT for its annual holiday Champagne tasting. This fabulous event offer pours from more than 30 Champagne producers, and is always a great way to discover some new bottles to enjoy over the holiday season. We’ve been fans for years; check out our coverage from last year. Entry is $75 per person at the door. 6pm.
Arlequin Wine Merchant - 384 Hayes St. San Francisco - 415-863-1104
Sunday Dec 8, 2013 5pm–9pm $55 per person 54 Mint 16 Mint Plaza at Mission
Did you hear about Cyclone Cleopatra, which hit Sardinia last month? It hit the island quite hard, and local restaurants A16, La Ciccia, and 54 Mint are teaming up to throw an SF LOVES SARDINIA benefit dinner on Sunday December 8th from 5pm-9pm at 54 Mint. Tickets to the dinner are $55 per person and include as much as you can eat and drink. There will also be live music and a raffle, and proceeds go to help Sardinian relief efforts. 16 Mint Plaza at Mission, 415-543-5100.
True Hollywood royalty Anjelica Huston was spotted at EPIC Roasthouse last Tuesday night. She was with a group of eight friends, and they enjoyed wine, cocktails, and a cheese plate. She was in town for a book signing of her new memoir, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, which should probably be at the top of your list for Santa.
Actor Sean Penn was spotted at Ame a couple weeks ago (who has two thumbs and forgot to publish this entry?). According to a Tweet, the Prime Minister of Haiti was staying at the St. Regis, so perhaps to two were meeting (Penn is an ambassador at large to Haiti). While in the lounge, the star also got quite angry with a guest who took a photo on his phone; SFist has the video. Grrrr.