This week's tablehopper: Carmel-ized.
Michael Tusk of Quince’s springy dish at the Taste of Italy lunch at GourmetFest 2014. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Whooosh, this past week has been a mega whirlwind. Last Wednesday a friend took me to see Venus in Fur at the ACT, don’t miss it! Super sexy and smart. On Thursday, I was busy emceeing the Taste of the Nation event, which raised more than $230,000! Impressive! Thanks to everyone who attended, bid on silent auction items, spun the restaurant roulette wheel, and more. The caliber of chefs and cocktails (and wines and beers) at the event was notable—thanks to everyone who donated their time and product, especially on a Thursday night. Even if you weren’t able to attend, you can still donate to Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign here.
Friday morning, I was up and at ‘em early to pack and hop in my car to head down to Carmel-by-the-Sea for Relais & Châteaux’s GourmetFest 2014. The weekend was completely over the top, with lunches and dinners featuring chefs from Relais & Châteaux properties from around the world. From the Taste of Italy lunch to the Grand Cru Bordeaux dinner, the ingredients, dishes, plating, and pairings were definitely luxe. Here’s my photo album recap of the weekend. (Oh, and Carolyn Nugent of Quince wrote this quick missive about her GourmetFest experience and her dessert.)
It was also a wine collector’s dream event: the two tastings I attended (Richebourg with Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and Krug with Olivier Krug) were some of the best in my life. To learn about these wines from these two gentlemen—coupled with the commentary from collectors and writers in the room—offered rare and fascinating insight. The wines they chose for the tastings: also remarkable. My brain the entire time was something like this: “Duuuuuude. Dude! Duuude. Whoa. Dude.”
There was an after-party each night at Cantinetta Luca, and it reminded me a bit of the last years of the Masters of Food and Wine at The Highlands Inn, featuring a small and intimate scene, with the chance to mingle with chefs and people in the wine industry and big-game collector guests who shared some ridiculous wines. By the end of the weekend, you have new friendships with some really interesting people because there are so many chances to hang out and talk. I also got to hear some awesome stories around the dinner table each night (Brian Canlis of Canlis in Seattle wins for his Dick Cheney story), and scored some faboo tips for the upcoming family trip to France I’m planning for this September.
And then there’s the magic of being in Carmel-by-the-Sea. What a place. I was put up in the charming La Playa Hotel, just a couple of blocks from the beach. The grounds are beautiful—full of flowers everywhere—and I loved the vintage feeling of the place (it was built in 1905 and recently restored—my dreamy bed was all modern, thankfully). You can see why I didn’t want to leave my beach cottage with its garden view. And the friendly staff did a bang-up job handling so many guests over the busy weekend.
I look forward to seeing how the event evolves next year (hopefully the timing won’t be so close to Pebble Beach Food & Wine). Huge thanks to all the organizers for the hospitality, I was very much in awe of my lucky life this weekend. (You can take a look at my pictures of the weekend here.)
I also came home incredibly tired, so this piece on three new cafés I wrote for 7x7.com feels apropos.
Enjoy the rainy weather, see you Friday (unless you’re coming to Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen at the JCC, in which case I’ll see you tonight!).
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Castagna Reopens This Week
A little more than a year after a fire damaged CASTAGNA in the Marina, the restaurant and wine bar from co-owners and brothers Jerome (general manager) and Stephane Meloni (executive chef) is reopening sometime this week. The new chapter brings some changes, including a more upscale look, with a menu inspired by Provence, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera. The space’s new look is by Jeon Design, and includes more banquette seating, wood floors, and stone accents.
On the dinner menu, look for ratatouille served in socca, a fennel-crusted Mediterranean branzino, daube à la Niçoise, and fried squash blossoms. At brunch you’ll find egg dishes, including an omelet, eggs en cocotte, and quiche Lorraine. They’re also adding bar seating, outdoor seating, and a happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm. Hours are dinner Sun, Tue-Thu 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm, brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-5pm (closed Mondays). 2015 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-440-4290.
Verbena Now Serving Weekend Brunch
VERBENA on Polk Street is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, starting April 5th. The menu offers seasonal dishes, many of them with a twist on the usual selections, including a pork trotter terrine with fried quail eggs and chile oil, and poached eggs with duck ragout and peas. Take a look at the current menu here.
They’re also pouring brunch cocktails, like the Verbena mimosa with orange bitters and Cocchi Americano, and of course a Bloody Mary. Brunch is served from 11am-2:30pm, and you can also enjoy outdoor seating on sunny days.
Verbena - 2323 Polk St., San Francisco - 415-441-2323
The Other Guys, a New Pop-Up at 20th Century Café
Here’s a new pop-up for your radar: The Other Guys from friends Nathan Holden, Stephen Thorlton, and John Thurmond. The first one will happen on Sunday April 6th from 6pm-9:30pm at 20TH CENTURY CAFÉ, and will hopefully be the beginning of a regular series. The menu will be available either as a tasting menu for $58 per person, or you can elect to order à la carte.
The options include starters like oyster with crisp fish skin, seaweed, and sesame, or artichokes with miso, lemon, and herbs. For entrées, check out a roasted pork jowl with potatoes, spicy sour cabbage, and shellfish, or lemon zest and peppercorn chicken wings. The tasting menu also includes dessert from 20th Century Café, along with some additional dishes not on the à la carte menu. Reservations can be made here.
20th Century Cafe - 198 Gough St. San Francisco - 415-621-2380
Just Truckin': Off the Grid Returns to the Presidio
After a winter hiatus, Off the Grid is returning to the Presidio on Sunday April 6th, with both their Sunday Picnic at the Presidio and their Thursday evening Twilight at the Presidio. On Sundays from 11am-4pm, the Picnic includes both food trucks and local restaurants serving from food stands, including Wise Sons, Del Popolo, and Nopalito. A roving cocktail bar offers drinks “blanket-side,” and you can also buy all the important picnic supplies you’ll need, like croquet, kites, and, yes, extra sweaters and blankets.
As for Thursday evening, Twilight at the Presidio runs from 5pm-9pm and includes cabanas lit with lanterns, fire pits and Adirondack chairs, and live music. Cocktails will also be available, served either right at your cabana or fireside. You’ll find a rotating lineup of trucks, including The Boneyard, Red Sauce Meatballs, and Fins on the Hoof. Main Parade Ground, Lincoln Blvd. at Montgomery, The Presidio.
Tidbits: KitTea is Funded, Dol Ho on a Break
Meow! Remember when we told you about cat café KITTEA in January? Well, their crowdfunding campaign has succeeded in surpassing their $50,000 goal. Apparently there are a lot of cat lovers out there who wanted to see the project happen (not surprising)! Can’t wait to share more information about this one as it gets closer.
Intrepid Chowhounder Melanie Wong reports that Chinatown’s DOL HO is closed for a break. According to a sign on the door, they’ll reopen on April 28th. 808 Pacific Ave. at Stockton, 415-392-2828.
Nancy Silverton at Macy's Showing Off Her Mad Skills
On Saturday April 5th, chef Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, will be at Macy’s Union Square giving a free cooking demonstration at the Macy’s Flower Show. She’ll be sharing several of her recipes from her Mozza Cookbook from 2pm-3:30pm, and offering samples of the dishes.
Plus, if you spend more than $35 at the Macy’s Home Department that Saturday, you’ll get a copy of the book for her to sign, a $10 Macy’s gift card, and a Flower Show gift. Just be sure to RSVP here. 170 O’Farrell St. at Powell, lower level kitchen.
Saturday Apr 5, 2014 2pm–3:30pm **Free** more info
Some Very Cool Classes Coming Up at 18 Reasons
There’s always something groovy going on at 18 REASONS, and here are a couple of April classes that caught my eye. First up, the fabulous Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano from Umami Mart will be teaching a cooking demo, The Power of Shiokoji , on Tuesday April 22nd from 6pm-9pm. You can learn all about koji (Aspergillus oryzae), a rice mold used in Japan to produce sake, miso, and shoyu, and shiokoji (koji mixed with salt), a miracle cooking ingredient that pumps up the umami factor of any dish, sauce, or dressing. Tickets are $35 for members, $45 for the general public.
Some of my favorite earrings are some beautiful bone earrings I received from the captivating Haven Bourque, who is going to be teaching a class called Wool, Leather, Bones on Friday April 25th, from 6pm-8pm. She will be leading a discussion of how discarded “ingredients” can be brought to life through craft. Joining her are Claire Herminjard, who plans to use discarded cowhides to make bracelets and other wearables, and Joe Pozzi, who works to find uses for “trash” wool from the sheep of Pozzi Ranch. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for the general public.
18 Reasons - 3674 18th St. San Francisco
Putting the Fun in Fundraiser: The SF Pie Social
Love pie? Good, because it’s the best! On Sunday April 13th, check out the second annual SF Pie Social from 11:30am-3:30pm at the Verdi Club. It’s also a competition, with a panel of illustrious bakers, dessert experts, and food gurus judging the entries: Elisabeth Prueitt (Tartine), Jessica Battilana (Tasting Table), Jake Godby (Humphry Slocombe), Anita Chu (Sated Magazine), and Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos (Three Babes Bakeshop).
You can purchase a ticket to attend for $15 (only $5 for kids) and eat all the pie you can stomach, or you can enter one of your own creations for $25. Of course there are prizes for the winners, along with serious bragging rights. All proceeds benefit the San Francisco Community School, a K-8 public school in the Excelsior. 2424 Mariposa St. at Hampshire.
Sunday Apr 13, 2014 11:30am–3:30pm $15 to attend ($5 for kids), $25 to enter a pie more info
Bad News: Drivers Smashed Into Dogwood Bar and Joey and Pat's Over the Weekend
It looks like two local drivers made some really bad decisions this weekend. Very early Sunday morning, cars crashed into and damaged two local businesses, BAR DOGWOOD in Oakland and JOEY AND PAT’S bakery in the Mission, according to The Chronicle. Fortunately, no one was injured in either crash, and all drivers and passengers fled and have not been found. According to their Facebook page, Dogwood will reopen tonight, which is pretty amazing.
Mission Local reports that the building on Folsom and 21st Street that houses Joey and Pat’s may have to be vacated entirely, since the car destroyed a major support beam. We know how difficult an incident like this can be for a small, locally owned business, so here’s hoping everyone can get back on their feet soon.
510 News Nibbles: Clove & Hoof Coming Soon, A Second Project from the Comal Team, Giin Thai Canteen Open
East Bay Express reports that a new restaurant with a whole animal focus (and a retail butcher shop!) is coming to North Oakland, and it’s called CLOVE & HOOF. The new project comes from Analiesa Gosnell (previously a butcher at Cafe Rouge) and chef John Blevins (previously at Gather and Lalime’s). The shop will sell cuts of meat from responsibly raised whole animals that will be broken down in-house, while the restaurant will focus on lunch offerings. There will be about 24 seats for those wishing to dine in, but the focus is on takeout.
Sandwiches will be made utilizing lesser-known or challenging cuts of meat that are paired with housemade condiments. Blevins is also planning to install a smoker in the kitchen and has been studying charcuterie in France, so you’ll find both European-style offerings alongside dishes that are rooted in Southern barbecue traditions. One such dish is a pork confit stew with garlic sausage (smoked in-house), brisket ends, and Tarbais beans, which marries a cassoulet-style dish with American pork and beans. To start, they won’t be open for dinner, though there are plans to offer whole-animal dinners and prepared dishes to take home. Right now, the hope is to open in the fall, though there is still an extensive build-out to get through until the space is ready. 4001 Broadway at 40th St., Oakland.
In Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood, COMAL’s owners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman have been working with the city to get approval to open a new restaurant in Elmwood for months, and they’ve finally succeeded! The new place will be in a former garage that has been vacant since at least 2007, when an organization called the Elmwood Neighborhood Association blocked a different restaurant from moving in. The same group opposed the new project, as well, but after lots of community outreach and support from many others in the neighborhood, they got the green light. Berkeleyside Nosh has lots of details on the process, so check out their coverage for lots of great information.
They are still looking for a chef to run the kitchen at the new place (Comal’s Matt Gandin will stay where he is), but they’ve got the basic concept in place. It will be neighborhood-focused, “approachable and comfortable,” as Paluska says, with “Northern California” food, including flavors from Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. The space will seat 100, including 12 seats at the bar. Once they have a chef, more details will emerge about the food. They’re targeting an early 2015 opening. 2635 Ashby Ave. at College, Berkeley.
Berkeleyside Nosh reports that there is a new Thai place in town. GIIN THAI CANTEEN comes from the same people behind Gecko Gecko, and offers thai cuisine that is spicier, less sweet, and more flavorful than the average Thai-American options. The menu includes many Thai restaurant staples, including curry and pad Thai, as well as some more unusual choices, like a whole fried fish of the day and spicy sausage with sticky rice. 3278 Adeline St. at Alcatraz, Berkeley, 510-547-4446.
Springtime Menu to Welcome the Season at Oliveto
It’s springtime, and though the weather might not feel like it, you can still celebrate on your plate. Lots of wonderful produce is popping up at the markets, including asparagus, fava beans, spring onions, and peas. OLIVETO is saluting spring from Tuesday April 8th through Friday April 11th with a special Dinners from the Field menu. This first annual feast features lots of vegetable-driven (and mostly vegetarian) dishes, all of them fresh and exciting.
Look for dishes like a ragù of braised baby artichokes with wheat berries, strawberry gazpacho with mint and green almonds, and a sformatino of asparagus. You can peek at a preliminary menu here; just be aware that it may change, depending on what is freshest that week. Pray for morels! There will also be some meat options, and everything will be available à la carte.
Oliveto - 5655 College Ave. Oakland - 510-547-5356
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
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Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Hogan's Goat in Dogpatch to Become the Sea Star on April 8th
Next Tuesday, April 8th, the former Hogan’s Goat Tavern in Dogpatch, which closed at the end of last year, is reopening as THE SEA STAR. It comes from Chris Lawrence and Brad LaMotte, the pair behind Southern Pacific Brewing Company in the Mission. It’s still a neighborhood dive bar, the pair says, with a pool table, jukebox, and 12 beers on tap. They’ve also got some classic cocktails, but don’t worry, nothing fancy. They’re opening softly on Friday April 4th, with a grand opening on Tuesday April 8th. Hours will be 2pm-2am daily; they’ll open an hour before all Giants home games too. 2289 3rd St. at 20th St., 415-552-9144.
Alchemy Bottle Shop Now Open in the 510
ALCHEMY BOTTLE SHOP is now softly open in Oakland, selling a variety of high-end and hard-to-find spirits for boozehounds of taste. The new project comes from Tova Herman and Peter Mustacich, and the pair has stocked a selection of excellent spirits from the likes of St. George Spirits and Bummer & Lazarus, along with bitters and other mixers from small-batch producers. The space is open and airy, with an art gallery on the second level. They’re only softly open now, but in the future, they’re looking forward to offering weekly classes on cocktails and spirits, as well as tastings. Current hours are Wed-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. 3256 Grand Ave. at Valdez, Oakland, 510-488-3637.
The TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting Returns on Sunday April 27th
Comes to the seventh annual TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) Grand Wine Tasting on Sunday April 27th to experience the most extensive tasting of domestically produced tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines. Trade and consumers will be able to taste tempranillos, albariños, garnachas, verdelhos, tourigas, and many other varieties, with nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners pouring. Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small-lot wines that are not widely available (many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event).
The event is 2pm-5pm. Get discounted advance tickets here for $35, or with the seminar for $65. (Sorry, it’s not clear how long these discounted prices are going to be available, so get them now if you’re interested!) Ticket prices will go up to $60 and $95. Golden Gate Club at the Presidio.
Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
CCSF's Wok on the Wild Side Is Coming on April 13th
Sunday Apr 13, 2014 4pm–7pm $75 per person City College of San Francisco, Statler Wing, Ocean Campus 50 Phelan Ave. at Judson 415-239-3152
City College of San Francisco’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies program is a huge contributor to making San Francisco the driving force it is in the food world. They’ve been educating chefs and restaurateurs since 1935, and on Sunday April 13th from 4pm-7pm, you won’t want to miss their 15th annual Wok on the Wild Side fundraiser. Students, faculty, and alumni will all be in attendance to show you around the campus and show off the program’s facilities. You’ll also be able to taste samples from alumni, including the likes of Belinda Leong (b. patisserie), Ben Coe (Box & Bells), and Francis Ang (Fifth Floor), along with teams of chefs from Nopa and Bar Crudo and, of course, current students.
There will also be lots of wine, plus an auction with some great prizes like a whole hog cooking class, Giants tickets, wine, and lots of restaurant gift certificates. All proceeds from the event will go to support the school’s scholarships and student programs. Tickets are $75, and it all takes place at the Ocean Campus. City College of San Francisco, Statler Wing, Ocean Campus. 50 Phelan Ave. at Judson, 415-239-3152.
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
It Was Oh So Quiet at La Movida
Icelandic princess of all things strange and wonderful, the fabulous Björk was at La Movida in the Mission on Saturday night. She dined with a group of eight, and they had an almost entirely vegetarian dinner of zucchini spaghetti, mushroom flatbread, and Brussels sprouts salad.
Punk'd at Pera
Famous goofball Ashton Kutcher (and father-to-be) dined at Pera with a party of five last Tuesday. They enjoyed the small dipping platter, flaming cheese, and gigante beans as an appetizer and he had the restaurant’s signature thinly sliced skirt steak. Everyone cleaned their plates too!
Broadway Sparkle at Swig
Broadway star Taye Diggs, who also appeared in movies Chicago and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, was spotted at Swig last Tuesday night. He reportedly left a very generous tip. Which is always a cool thing to do.