A stunning “insalata di patate” (potato salad, heh heh) dish at SPQR, with three kinds of potatoes, sturgeon, ikura, and more. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
I can’t take credit for today’s title (thanks Steven Oliver!) but we certainly are living it. I’d like to do a shout-out to flannel PJs, my current fave for home office wear (although I have been really embarrassed to receive a couple home deliveries this past week). Whatever, it’s about making it work right now in my insulation-less building that dates back to pre-1906.
One thing that has been going through my mind a lot this week is how people are surviving who are homeless, especially those who choose not to go to shelters, or have to spend a lot of their time outside. I can’t imagine. Which is why I’d like to encourage you in the midst of all your holiday shopping to add one more important person (or more!) on your list: a resident at one of the ECS supportive housing sites. The residents pay for food and rent each month, and often have very little left for basics. Their gift requests are very modest but essential, like a bathrobe, slippers, or sheets. You will be assigned a resident to purchase a simple gift for ($25 and under), and I am willing to bet that gift will hold more meaning than anything else on your gift list. What about that person who’s hard to buy for, or promises you they don’t need anything? A gift for someone in need is the perfect solution.
If you’d like to play Santa and sponsor a resident, please email Mallory Hasick or call 415-487-3300 ext. 1245 by Friday December 13th. You will receive the resident’s first name, housing site, and gift request. Thanks for sharing the holiday spirit!
Today’s newsletter is packed with all kinds of holiday action in it, from a very special event called Top It Off that I’m hosting at the end of December with Louis Roederer Champagne (!), to a hopper gift guide, and some Christmas Eve dinner options too.
Ciao for now! Marcia Gagliardi
Hello darlings. Those of you who are sticking around for the holidays, I have a very special event in store for you! On Saturday December 28th, tablehopper is beyond thrilled to be hosting an exclusive event with Louis Roederer Champagne, TOP IT OFF. We’ll be pouring the gorgeous Brut Premier all night while dining on exquisite bites in Marianne’s, the stylish members-only room tucked behind The Cavalier. (There will be gougères, bien sûr!)
The soirée will run from 7pm-9pm, and will include a special performance from our fair city’s fabulous chanteuse, Veronica Klaus. How’s that for a fun, swanky evening?
Brut Premier is one of life’s affordable luxuries (this Champagne is full of finesse, and shockingly can be enjoyed for less than $50). In that same spirit, Louis Roederer wants you to be able to salute 2013 in style: tickets to Top It Off are only $65, and our hosts at The Cavalier are offering all guests a complimentary membership to Marianne’s. Who loves you? Exactly.
We are releasing a limited number of tickets this week (and more soon!) since the event is truly intimate. Festive cocktail attire is requested (sorry, no jeans).
We can’t wait to celebrate with you. Let’s end the year on a high note and in high style! See you at Top It Off!
Saturday Dec 28, 2013 7pm–9pm $65 more info
Still looking for the perfect gift for some of your favorite gourmands on your holiday shopping list? Here are some ideas for you!
Who wouldn’t love a tablehopper t-shirt? All the shirts are based on designs from vintage bars and restaurants in San Francisco. Oh, and they’re super-soft and flattering too. We have Blue Fox hoodies too!
For the wine lover in your life: the groundbreaking Coravin is a deluxe opener for the person who really has a cellar of gorgeous bottles (or just drinks alone, and doesn’t want to waste an entire bottle). And hey, they’ll probably have to try it out while you’re there.
A Year in Burgundy is a documentary that follow seven winemakers in Burgundy for a year, as they cultivate their vines and harvest them. Cool!
Got a friend who loves to eat out? Of course you do. ShareTable.org and the San Francisco Food Bank have paired up to offer gift certificates in $50 denominations to some of the Bay Areas best restaurants. We’re talking Coi, State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Ichi Sushi, among many other greats. Check out all the choices and purchase here.
IfOnly has collected an assortment of gourmet caramels from 12 Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs all over the country, including Corey Lee, Daniel Humm, Dominique Crenn, and David Kinch. The flavors are innovative and fun.
Speaking of confections, these stunning chocolates from gâté comme des filles chocolats are almost too pretty to eat. But they’re crazy delicious, so dig in. They’re available at Bi-Rite and from Good Eggs. Read more about chocolate maker Alexandra Whisnant here.
Friend who’s a boozehound? They’ll be mixing in style with this super-sexy Goldfinger barware set from UmamiMart. You can find it at their Oakland shop, or in San Francisco where they’re popping up inside the Perish Trust until December 24th. (There are other great barware items too—who wouldn’t love a gold jigger?) Pop-up hours are Tue-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm, 728 Divisadero St. at Grove.
PUNCH magazine is about as cool as a wine, spirits, and cocktail magazine gets. It’s packed with recipes, news, and lore about cocktails and booze culture, plus lots of great stories on wine.
For a bona fide coffee lover, check out the yearly subscription from Andrew Barnett’s Linea Caffe, which delivers locally roasted beans to their doorstep.
Got someone who prefers tea? Nudo gives you the opportunity to adopt a tea garden for a friend, and then delivers first flush tea directly to them from Darjeeling.
If you’ve got a friend who loves to replicate restaurant meals at home, or just a home cook who gets a kick out of sous vide, they would love the newly released Modernist Cuisine at Home app, which has more than 400 recipes and 37 technique videos. They’ve got all the gadgets already, now they can put them to use!
This weekend I headed over to Noe Valley to take a peek at LA NEBBIA, the new enoteca, prosciutteria, and lasagneria from Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan of nearby local favorite La Ciccia. The room has a contemporary and clean look, with some fun overhead lights that look like octopi (one of the best dishes at La Ciccia, ha). Even though there are a lot of hard surfaces, Conti was quick to point out the special noise-reducing ceiling they have installed. He said the place was designed to be unpretentious and fun. There is room for 44 guests total, with 12-13 seats at the counter, plus there’s a communal table and two- and four-top tables. There are also plans for outdoor seating on the spacious sidewalk.
The thing that caught my eye is the large and gleaming double-deck oven, which the kitchen will be using to make pizzas and lasagne. Conti said there will be a traditional pizza on the menu (a margherita), but is excited about offering some different kinds, like one with speck, fresh mozzarella, D.O.P. Gorgonzola, and lemon zest ($15), and another with squid ink, fresh mozzarella, anchovies, sultanas, and pine nuts ($15). You can peek at the preliminary menu here.
Let’s talk about the lasagne, shall we? Uh-huh. There will be three kinds to start: a traditional one with ragù and béchamel; another with ricotta, pesto, and escarole; and an inventive one that Conti said is like a seafood puttanesca ($13-$15). Yes, get in my belly, all three of you.
Conti said not to expect a hard-line and traditionalist Italian approach to dishes—he wanted the food to have the flexibility to include inspiration from other areas. Most importantly, it all has to pair with wine! He is joined in the kitchen by Victor Harvey (previously the chef de cuisine at Padrecito, and prior to that, he was at Slanted Door) and Valerio Martorelli (he was a sous at Farina in 2010, and just came back from Italy).
There is also a fantastic selection of prosciutto, from San Daniele to Parma to domestic picks from La Quercia, and some jamón Ibérico too. Collect all 10! Also on the piggy tip: porchetta should be coming soon. Fresh cheeses range from burrata to stracciatella, all with special accompaniments.
Which brings us to the very important topic of the wine! Conti explained the wines come from the foggy regions of Italy (“la nebbia” means fog in Italian), so expect selections from the Veneto to Piemonte to Montalcino. There will be about 30 by the glass, and 20 sparkling wines or so on the list. Many of the wines are natural and from small producers with an eye on sustainability, and all will be food-friendly.
La Nebbia is soft opening on Thursday December 12th from 5pm-8pm, and will then start daily service that Friday. Hours will be Sun, Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, and until 11pm Fri-Sat, closed Monday. 1781 Church St. at 30th St., 415-874-9924.
Good news for folks who were concerned about the fate of the BIG 4 restaurant at the Huntington Hotel: it will be coming back. The new owners, Singapore-based hospitality group Grace International, have brought on the local Puccini Group to consult on and oversee the renovation, design, restaurant concept, and management services of the Big 4. Some changes will include fresh carpet, paint, upholstery, and the tables will no longer have tablecloths. Fortunately the bar will be kept as is, ditto the live piano. Scoop added the news that chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls will also remain. The Big 4 will close for renovations on January 1st, 2014, and reopen in spring 2014.
Big 4 - 1075 California St. San Francisco - 415-771-1140
The Hotel Palomar’s FIFTH FLOOR is getting ready to close after service on Friday January 17th, according to Scoop and a follow-up press release. The restaurant will be reopening in the spring of 2014, with a new, more casual concept. The new space will include a patio and fire pit, and the bar menu will be revamped to emphasize craft cocktails. Chef David Bazirgan is staying on as executive chef, and bar manager Brian Means is also staying put. The food will stay focused on quality ingredients, but will shift toward small plates to accompany the cocktails.
In the meantime, there are still a few ways to enjoy the end of Fifth Floor. Until the end of the month, a portion of the proceeds from pastry chef Francis Ang’s (who hails from the Philippines) desserts will go toward typhoon relief. The dessert tasting menu is $25, and wine pairings are available for an additional $25. Also, starting at the bar at 5pm every night and in the dining room at 5:30pm, you can get a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne and five canapés for $20. Does that mean bubbles, snacks, and dessert for dinner? Perhaps.
Fifth Floor - 12 4th St. San Francisco - 415-348-1555
As previously reported on tablehopper, Outer Sunset beacon OUTERLANDS is expanding. Well, the time has come, and they will be closing on Monday December 30th for the final step in the renovation project. To commemorate the time they’ve spent with their current space, they’ll be offering a special chef’s tasting menu on Friday December 27th and Saturday December 28th for $65 per person, with beverage pairings available as well. Reservations can be made here.
As for the changes, the additional space will allow the restaurant to add 22 seats, including 6 or 7 at the bar. They’ve got a full liquor license and will continue to offer cocktails, with plans to add a new bar manager. You’ll also be able to order from the full menu at the bar. They’ll be adding a special bread and pastry room to the kitchen, so look out for an expanded availability of loaves from baker David Muller to purchase during the day, plus the addition of morning pastry hour with goods from pastry chef Brooke Mosley. The dinner and lunch menus will stay tight and small, but you’ll find more choices at lunch in particular. Many of the favorites on the lunch and brunch menu will remain (no more eggs in jail would equal revolt), along with some offerings that reflect the complexity currently found on the dinner menu.
Many of the original designers of the space are involved in the renovation, and the plan is to keep the feel of the space while improving flow and adding some important features. Look for seating for large groups, and the new bar mentioned above. The heated outdoor seating will remain, and there is also word that hours will expand. The reopening is slated for February 2014.
Outerlands - 4001 Judah St. San Francisco - 415-661-6140
The recently opened CAFÉ CLAUDE MARINA has had a chef turnover: opening chef Doug DeGeeter has moved on, and RJ Subaba will be taking over December 15th. Subaba was most recently the executive chef at Cin-Cin Wine Bar in Los Gatos, and his background also includes positions at The Village Pub in Woodside, Murray Circle at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, and The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena. He’ll be working closely with Alicia Jenish—the corporate chef for Franck LeClerc’s restaurant group (which includes the upcoming Gaspar, Gitane, both Café Claude locations, and Claudine)—who has been overseeing the menu since DeGeeter’s departure. The new winter menu should be in place with Subaba’s touches by January 15th. Next on Jenish’s to-do list: find a new chef for Gitane. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-292-3599.
Tidbits: Brunch Now at La Urbana, Saiwalks Opens, Illy's Espressamente Bar, Twelve Nights of Chocolate, More
This last weekend, LA URBANA softly started their brunch service. I swung by on Sunday, and tried their chilaquiles with carne asada ($15), while a neighbor’s huevos con chorizo ($15) looked mighty tasty. You can look at a copy of the menu here. The brunch plates are a bit more composed than the usual Mission-style plato, so don’t come here expecting a heaving plate with eggs, beans, and rice (although I did appreciate how perfectly seasoned my carne asada was). Eye-openers include a mezcal Bloody Mary and pear Bellini. I recommend ordering the Mexican Dude off the evening cocktail list, it’s perfect for brunch (housemade horchata, vodka, mezcal, and espresso coffee liqueur). Let the healing begin. Hours are Sun 11am-2:30pm.
We’ve been trying to hunt down info on this place for a couple weeks now after a tip, and last week Eater caught the weekend opening: it looks like SAIWALKS is now open in the Marina. They’ve moved into the former Asqew Grill on Steiner, serving Vietnamese street food with quality ingredients. The owner, Victoria Le, grew up in Saigon and spent the last two years developing her menu. Look for spring rolls and crispy rolls in both meat and vegetarian options, pho, vermicelli bowls, and rice plates. Some of the options include grilled shrimp, nine-spice chicken, and a lemongrass pork chop. All of the meat is grass-fed, and ingredients are organic. You’ll find lots of vegetarian options, too, plus Vietnamese drip coffee from roaster Henry’s House of Coffee. A beer and wine license is pending. It’s open daily from 11am-9pm. 3348 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-549-7932.
Another week, another new place for to get your caffeine on. This week, check out the brand-new ESSPRESSAMENTE ILLY in the Castro. The space boasts a chandelier made of espresso cups, a bar for both espresso and pour-over coffee, and a retail area selling beans. Baristas will be trained not only in making coffee, but also in coaching retail customers in at-home brewing techniques. Joyce Goldstein consulted on the café’s menu, and a back patio should be ready to open in early 2014. Oh, and there’s free Wi-Fi, too. To celebrate the opening, they’re offering a free espresso between now and Saturday December 14th. Hours are daily 7am-9pm. 2349 Market St. at Noe.
Off the Grid alum BIG CHEF TOM’S BELLY BURGERS is bringing a brick-and-mortar location to SoMa, according to Scoop. Tom Pizzica is the owner and “Chef Tom” of the name. The burgers are made completely with ground pork belly, available in a variety of preparations. A few staples will always be on hand (Pizzica calls them “OG”), and rotating specials will also show up on the menu; peek at the choices here. Chicken and vegan patties will also be available, along with sides like crinkle-cut fries, onion rings, and charred greens. The opening is currently planned for early 2014. 1550 Howard St. at Lafayette.
DANDELION CHOCOLATE is keeping the holidays sweet and chocolaty with their Twelve Nights of Chocolate this month. Every evening between now and December 21st, they’re holding a different chocolate event, including a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory screening and two evenings of wine and chocolate pairings. Definitely be sure to check out the party on Friday December 13th, when Delfina’s pastry chef Jessica Sullivan will take over the Dandelion kitchen and prepare a three-course dessert tasting menu. Tickets are $50 and proceeds benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-349-0942.
This holiday season, remember to keep your dollars local and support the amazing artisans and entreprenuers who keep the Bay Area so delicious. One of the best ways to support these businesses is at LA COCINA’s fifth annual Gift Alley on Friday December 13th. From 11am-7pm, downtown’s Crocker Galleria will be filled to the gills with local products for all your gifting and sharing needs, including Clairesquares brandy butter, Wooden Spoons and their delicious rillettes, and seasonings from Sal de Vida. Yeah, the stuff in your stockings just got a lot more delicious. Plus, there will be hot food to keep your shopping energy up, including vada pav from new La Cocina entrepreneur Rasoi, onigiri from Onigilly, and stew and wraps from Eji’s Ethiopian.
There will also be a gift-wrapping station to keep your gifts gorgeous, and a bar. All proceeds from both will benefit La Cocina. It all takes place at the Crocker Galleria, making it a perfect stop for lunch in the Financial District or after work (again, there’s a bar). 50 Post St. at Montgomery.
Friday Dec 13, 2013 11am-7pm Free more info
After many stops and starts and delays, it looks like GREAT CHINA will be opening Monday December 16th. It’s a long-awaited comeback, since Great China suffered a terrible fire two years ago. Well, the phoenix is rising from the ashes in new and much larger digs, with 150 seats and a new lounge area. A full liquor license should be coming soon too.
So, let’s talk about that lounge: there will be room for eight or so at the bar, plus there are three four-tops, which will also be good for solo diners for lunch during the day. Once full liquor kicks in later on, expect some well-executed classic cocktails, some refreshing tiki-esque drinks, and a couple of adventurous drinks as well.
Of course, any oenophile knows how utterly amazing second-generation owner James Yu’s wine cellar was at the previous location (let’s not talk about how much was lost in the fire, okay?). He said the restaurant unfortunately won’t be opening with a beer and wine license (it should hopefully activate within the month), so we’ll have to wait a little for some of his fab selections. But he said there were 20-30 cases of quality wines that were undamaged, with some reserve wines in the bunch, so expect some jaw-dropping wines by the glass when he can pour again. He said there will be some fantastic wines poured at cost to celebrate with those who enjoyed drinking Great China’s wines in the past. Cheers to that.
As for the staff, Yu said he managed to get most key folks back in the kitchen, with a few new players in the mix. He said a couple of his longtime servers are coming back, along with a couple they were grooming before the fire, plus they gained a former captain from Tommy Toy’s, who Yu said has been a great help in ramping up the level of service. Yu also mentioned his parents (who opened the original Great China) will be around to greet regulars and keep an eye on things.
Yu’s brother, Tai, is an architect and is behind the design of the new location. There is now a semi-private VIP table, enclosed on three sides with room for 14. The back area of the dining room has six large tables, and the plan is to partition it off with glass later in 2014 so it could be used as a private room for 50-60 guests.
The menu will remain the same, so I know we all can’t wait to have their superlative Peking duck and the inimitable double skin dish! Such great vegetables too. And lucky us, it’s still crab season, which means we can order the ginger-scallion crab! Hours will be daily 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. Once the bar is up and running, look for hours to extend, with plans for a late-night menu. Welcome back, Great China! 2190 Bancroft Way at Fulton, Berkeley, 510-843-7996.
UPDATE: Great China is opening Monday December 16th at 11:55am.
You. Chocolate. And a special ingredient. Are you up for the Chocolate Adventure Contest?
Bars—you know you love ‘em. From handcrafted candy bars to brownies and seven-layer bars, from cookie-based bars to ice cream bars—the category is large. And it’s waiting for reinvention. So go ahead. Enter a recipe by January 2nd, 2014. The grand prize recipe wins $25,000. 10 Culinary Honorees each win an iPad Mini.
Adventure Ingredients include: bourbon, hibiscus, peppercorns, carrot, and sesame seeds, just to name a few. Get adventurous!
Head to chocolateadventurecontest.com to find out more. Good luck!
Down in Dogpatch, THIRD RAIL is getting ready to open on Thursday December 12th. The new bar from Jeff Lyon and Phil West of Range has a transit vibe, with a long railway shape, a large clock, and booths designed to echo train compartments. We got a preview of the cocktails a few weeks ago; for more details check out our previous piece here. Pictures and more details on the space will be coming on Friday! Hours will be daily 3pm-2am. 628 20th St. at 3rd St., 415-252-7966.
As previously mentioned on tablehopper, Rockridge is getting an outpost of San Francisco wine bar THE BARREL ROOM. The new spot, from sommeliers Sarah Trubnick and Carolyn Johnson, is set to open on Thursday December 12th. You’ll find a selection of 50 wines available by the glass, with 200 choices by the bottle. Regionally focused flights will be available, with the region changing monthly; the first region will be France, with flights from Germany, Austria, and Italy also making appearances.
They’ve signed Sam Paulding on as chef (previously of Oliveto), and will be offering a full menu of both small plates and entrées. The menu will change every eight weeks, with an opening menu of French offerings like brandade with toasts and Brie in puff pastry on the small plates list, with duck confit cassoulet with Toulouse sausage and boeuf bourguignon croustades keeping the entrée list hearty. There is also a selection of charcuterie and cheeses. You can catch happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-5:30pm, with $7 wine specials. Hours are Tue-Sun 11am-10:30pm for the kitchen; the bar will remain open until 12am. 5330 College Ave. at Bryant, Oakland, 510-655-1700.
Ummm, I am not quite sure to make of this post on Tenderlife that the HA-RA CLUB is up for sale. Nooooo! Rick the owner is full of amazing stories. I remember Carl the bartender was as salty and mean as they come, so delightfully cranky until he decided he liked you and would give you a Budweiser mini, but then skip your selection on the jukebox (that you paid for) with his remote as he shouted, “I hate this song!” It was like having Archie Bunker as your bartender. The boxing memorabilia is awesome (the Ha-Ra got its name from the founders, pro wrestler Hank Hanastead and heavyweight boxer Ralph Figari, Rick the owner’s dad). No one picked up when I tried calling for info, so I think I’m gonna have to come by for a drink and see what’s going on before I get sad. 875 Geary St. at Larkin, 415-673-3148.
Last week I received an email (after my column posted) from Michael Krouse of Madrone Art Bar, who wanted to follow up on our post and let us know he was the new owner taking over POP’S BAR in the Mission. In his email he said, “Please let it be known that POP’S is not going away. Pop’s was started in 1947 by Jack O’Connor, after his return from World War II. His father helped him open the bar, hence the name. In my opinion, any bar that has lasted 67 years has earned the right to carry on. There will be changes, however they will be done with a nod of the hat to all the owners that have come before myself.” I followed up with a phone call, and Krouse said remodeling won’t start until 90 days or so after the transfer, and that he’s still figuring out what the renovation will entail. He said he has always liked the bar, and wants to maintain its sense of history and character. And cheap beer will still be available too. 2800 24th St. at York.
There is a very cool new bar project afoot in Fort Mason: the LONG NOW SALON, from the Long Now Foundation, a group committed to fostering long-term thinking. The salon recently signed local bar maven Jennifer Colliau (of the Charles Phan Group) on to run the show, according to Scoop. The salon, which is set to open in early 2014 (or 02014, as the foundation would say), will be designed as a café space with tea service during the day, and a bar by night, with a theme of “time.” Because it’s on federal land, state liquor laws will not apply, meaning they can stay open past 2am (perhaps timeless is a better way to put it). There will also be robots, including one that is responsible for changing the chalkboard specials, a variety of well-considered nonalcoholic drinks, and beverages that focus on time (think aged spirits, and cocktails that have a long history or are near-extinct).
For lots of details on the space, as well as the Foundation’s approach to the salon and to donate to their Kickstarter-like campaign, check out this interview with Colliau on Long Now’s blog. 2 Marina Blvd, Fort Mason Building A, 415-561-6582.
Tuesday Dec 24, 2013
Looking for a spot to enjoy Christmas Eve? Here’s a quick roundup of spots to check out, and don’t forget to look on OpenTable for a more complete list of options and reservations. Of course, Christmas Eve is traditionally the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes (although my family does something like 11 dishes for “Il Cenone”) and lots of places around town are celebrating accordingly, some a bit more traditionally than others—we have never had ahi tuna or salmon, I’m just sayin’.
A16 and A16 ROCKRIDGE will both be offering seafood menus on December 24th. The menus for each will be different, but both include seven courses. Rockridge reservations are available from 5pm-10pm and are $75 per person with optional $60 wine pairing. San Francisco reservations are available from 5pm-10pm and are $80 per person with optional $65 wine pairing.
LOCANDA is doing a five-course dinner, with seatings at 5pm and 8pm. Take a look at the menu right here. Tickets are $90 per person (optional wine pairing available), or $45 for children 12 and under (5pm tickets are almost all sold out, except for bar seats. Get ‘em soon, folks!).
POESIA in the Castro is offering a Calabrese-style, seafood-focused dinner on Christmas Eve, as well. 4072 18th St. at Hartford, 415-252-9325.
If you’re not interested in seafood for Christmas Eve, never fear. Here are some other choices to satisfy everyone.
Elegant SPRUCE is running a special prix-fixe dinner, with entrée choices to keep your whole party happy. Here’s the menu; the dinner costs $95 per person, not including tax and tip. Optional wine pairings will be available.
For a musical feast, head to 1300 ON FILLMORE, where Mickala Cheadle will be singing jazz standards and holiday songs as well. The prix-fixe menu is $60 per person, and an à la carte menu will also be available.
BAYWOLF is also offering a special Christmas Eve prix-fixe menu that sounds delicious, and you know the restaurant will feel holiday-ish. It’s $68 per person, and you can peek at the menu here. 3853 Piedmont Ave. at Rio Vista, Oakland, 510-655-6004.