It’s always the right time for cocktails at Trou Normand. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Um, excuse me, I’d like a do-over on this weekend’s forecast! We can do better than a high of 65. Of course I just wrote a piece for 7x7.com on the city’s new restaurants with outdoor seating. So, grab your scarf and enjoy yourself. And in case you’d like to tempt yourself with a gorgeous dessert (I know you would), take a peek at this beautiful Paris-Brest at the newly opened Gaspar (you can read about some other new openings in that piece as well).
Speaking of breasts (I have never had the opportunity to make that transition, let’s go with it), today’s review of Trou Normand has all that and then some. We also have a bunch of 707 scout news for you from Heather Irwin, and Pete Mulvihill is putting the worm into the bookworm this week.
I want to do a shout-out to all the cyclists who will be taking off on Sunday for the AIDS LifeCycle ride. You are all so inspiring, have a fantastic journey. You can cheer the riders along the route, and it’s not too late to donate. I really hope to do it next year, Team Hopper!
Also on Sunday: a bunch of folks will be at the sold-out, 27th annual Meals on Wheels Star Chefs & Vintners Gala, always one of the top events of the year. How much will they raise this year? It’s always fabulously staggering.
If you’re bummed you didn’t get your ticket, there’s another wonderful fundraising event coming up on Friday June 6th, the annual Summertini at the Bently Reserve. This event is a fundraiser for ECS and the CHEFS program, which you all know is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart—they do so much to help the homeless population here in SF. The lineup is looking great, with bites from A16, Nopa, Park Tavern, Heartbaker, and Foreign Cinema, plus cocktails from Trick Dog and Cantina. Oh yeah, and fab auction items.
Breaking news: tablehopper readers can buy tickets at a $30 discount off the $130 ticket price. Just use code tablehopper14. I really hope to see you there—it’s a great event, and a crucial fundraiser for their many important programs.
Have a swell weekend, mwah! Marcia Gagliardi
Walking into TROU NORMAND—hopefully in the early evening so you can capture the soft light streaming through the enormous windows—you feel that slight shift in your brain, and soon your demeanor, as when you’re in a place of beauty and presence. I have always had a soft spot for this building (the 1925 Pacific Telephone building), San Francisco’s first significant skyscraper, and my introduction to the architect Timothy Pflueger and his Art Deco-influenced style when I moved to the city 20 years ago.
I so respect and appreciate how owner Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole) obviously cares a great deal about art, architecture, and aesthetics. For Trou Normand, he hired a New York team to curate and art direct the space (all the art is by women artists). Everyone murmurs about (and photographs) the enormous and now-iconic nude above the bar on the plastered wall by Ebecho Muslimova, in her languorous, “La Grande Odalisque”-like pose. She’s gorgeous.
Whether you manage to snag a coveted seat at the crowded marble bar, or you tuck into one of the precious oblong booths of tufted tobacco leather, hopefully you get a seat in the front room. The back room has a walnut communal table, but the cold Tolix stool-chairs are so uncomfortable, there’s nowhere to hang your purse, and it’s pretty lacking atmospherically (except for the cool concrete floor tiles by Concreteworks, and the peek into the kitchen).
However, there’s a pretty 48-seat patio out back that just opened. It’s under a glass canopy with heat lamps, and architect Boor Bridges is also installing some curtains to block the evening chill. Trou Normand is the kind of place you want to walk in to, and all the extra seating out back will help allow it. (Although if you have a group, you’ll definitely want to reserve one of the booths or back patio tables ahead of time.) And since the restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch during the week, the patio will be a sweet spot to enjoy your mortadella sandwich.
I’m gonna say it: I think chef Salvatore Cracco is doing some of if not the best salumi in town, and his charcuterie is also pretty stellar (he learned his craft at Adesso). His finocchiona ($6) and mortadella ($6)—always a tough one to nail—were seasoned by a deft hand and had such a pleasing, just-fatty-enough texture. It wasn’t until I took a bite of the silky, unctuous coppa ($7) that I realized a huge difference in play here: the meats were all served at a perfect temperature, and not too cold, which forces the fats to stiffen up (he’s using Mangalitsa pigs bred by Csarda Haz Ranch and Suisun Valley Farm for his salumi, and their sweet fat is something very special). The salumi have excellent moisture too—none were dry. Cracco also does some inventive salumi, like a captivating duck salami ($6) with blood orange and star anise, and an exotic dry merguez ($6) with lamb, chile, cumin, and cinnamon. There’s a rotating selection of about 14 in all—taste the rainbow.
The charcuterie section (10 items and counting!) has an herbaceous and rosy pink chicken salami cotto ($10) with chive, parsley, and tarragon, and the decadent tongue and cheek terrine ($6) is like a thick piece of stained glass piggy parts. Maybe it was the warm evening, but the little bowl of aspic we only took a bite of didn’t fare well for long—it melted quickly. The charcuterie section is an international meat fest: there are at least three kinds of pâté, and Italian selections like ciccioli, and German bierschinken, which may tempt you to order a Stiegl lager, farmhouse ale, or French cider as well.
You can try a chef’s selection ($19/$38), or go nuts like we did on our own and you’ll be served a huge wooden plank layered with your meats. My kind of heaven—walk the plank! A glass of the 2012 Niklas schiava ($9) is a fabulous salumi-friendly wine. Although I think the kitchen can do better than the epi bread they’re serving the meats with.
Interestingly, with all the kitchen’s charcuterie skills, the sausage plate ($20, featuring a fennel and basil sausage and a bratwurst) was completely underwhelming—the texture was off, and the salty meat felt dry and overworked. Another clunker was the bucatini all’amatricana ($14)—the pancetta-rich tomato sauce was fine, but the overdone bucatini nosed this dish into the penalty box.
For as much femininity there is on the walls, the menu is decidedly masculine. The meaty, simple mains are served à la carte, but the portions are hearty enough to share. There’s a roasted and grilled half chicken ($27) served with a juicy roulade of the thigh drizzled with a tasty jus—the chicken had a delicious kiss of the grill, although it we had to send it back for a bit more cooking time (pastured birds can be tricky that way). Because the kitchen is working with whole animals, one night we had thick slices of roasted pork leg ($14), and another night was all about the pork chop ($25), rubbed with fennel and cooked beautifully—it was enough for three people (even after you cut some of the excessive fat off). There’s a nightly fish option as well.
To round things out, get a side of the cheesy polenta ($6), and there are a variety of extremely simple vegetable sides, like grilled spring onions ($7), or peas with guanciale ($10). I liked the salads better—they featured a bit more attention, like different cuts and kinds of carrot ($9) with dried apricot, almond, orange, and parsley, or the lardo with thinly sliced radishes ($8) and arugula (please watch the salt on that one, kitchen crew).
The dessert section is a desert: you can get an affogato ($5), or a spendy slice of Mission Pie ($8). While I appreciate the restaurant supporting this local organization, the “slice” we had was like a sloppy cobbler on the plate, and five bites at that.
A better option is to drink your dessert. You’re in the capable hands of head bartender Eric Ochoa and his crew, who have quite the curated and extensive list of cocktails (most hail from “Cocktail” Bill Boothby’s 1891 American Bartender, who worked on New Montgomery street in the late 19th century). So salute the man with the Boothby (all mixed drinks, $11), with bourbon, sweet vermouth, curacao, and lightened up with some cava. You’ll also want some of their meaty arancini ($6, a total steal for four) to go with your drink, a swell bar snack. Something I really love is the simplicity of the back bar—all the bottles are out of sight and below the bar.
You’ll see guests sipping on little glasses of brandy, which is how the restaurant got its name: Vogler was on a buying trip in Normandy, and it’s a tradition to throw back a shot of Calvados in preparation for or during a big meal to make room (“a Norman hole”). The list of full of exclusive Armagnacs, Cognacs, and Calvados that the team has hand-selected from small-batch producers. Cheers to that.
This review was based on two dinner visits.
Trou Normand - 140 New Montgomery St. San Francisco - 415-975-0876
There’s plenty to cheer about as the sleepy Glen Ellen emerges as one of Sonoma County’s culinary destinations. In addition to the popular Glen Ellen Star, Olive and Vine, Fig Cafe, and Glen Ellen Inn, Hollywood’s popular AVENTINE (run by three Alioto brothers) is preparing for an early June opening. We got a sneak preview of the food, dining room, and incredible new outdoor seating at the former Grist Mill and Jack London residence.
The press dinner included black truffle popcorn, ahi tuna tartare and Spanish octopus, Superior Farms lamb chops with candied kumquats, and our favorite dish: the Aventino—a large veal, pork, and beef meatball stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served on a bed of polenta with golden raisins and pesto sauce. I’m drooling just thinking about chef Adolfo Veronese’s signature dish.
The boys of Healdsburg’s insanely popular Moustache Baked Goods are about to have another hit on their flour- and sugar-covered hands. Twentysomethings Ozzie Jimenez and Christian Sullberg opened NOBLE FOLK ICE CREAM & PIE BAR last week with curious flavor combinations like black sesame and coconut, cardamom, blackberry rosemary, and Japanese purple yam ice cream, along with pies such as strawberry ginger, blueberry plum thyme, walnut maple, and apple caramel. Noble Folk puts a twist on the traditional by using unusual ingredients like farro, bolero, and buckwheat flour from nearby Front Porch Farm. They even offer a “single-origin pie” that is crafted entirely from the Alexander Valley farmstead’s leaf lard, fruit, and locally milled flours. Expect to pay about $5.50 for a slice and $3.50 for a scoop. This isn’t Baskin-Robbins, after all. Open daily 12pm-9pm. 116 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 707-529-2162.
With all the recent bad news about local meat processing, it’s heartening to know that a new generation of local butchers and processors are coming up through the ranks. SONOMA COUNTY MEAT CO., which opens tomorrow, on Saturday May 31st, is a small USDA- and state-approved processor, butcher shop, and meat CSA run by meat and culinary rock stars Rian Rinn and Jenine Alexander. Unlike most commercial butcher shops, the couple can take in beef, chicken, rabbit, goat, lamb, pork, and game for processing as well as cut-and-wrap (breaking down USDA-approved animals slaughtered at places like Marin Sun Farms) and package it for sale at their store or for farmers’ markets and commercial sales. Suffice it to say, it’s a pretty big deal. They will also offer a meat CSA. Details online. 35 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa.
Heading to BottleRock Napa Valley this weekend? We know that jamming to the Cure can work up a hearty appetite. Fortunately there are plenty of snarf-worthy eats throughout the event grounds representing a cross section of Bay Area restaurants and food trucks. From Sonoma County and the coast: Nick’s Cove, Gerard’s Paella, Ultra Crepes, Three Twins Ice Cream, and Sprenger’s Tap Room. From Napa (and elsewhere): Angele, Morimoto Napa, La Condesa, The Thomas, Tarla Grill, Napkins, Villa Corona, Smoke Open Fire Cooking, Eiko’s, Jax White Mule Diner, Q Restaurant, Il Posto, Fume Bistro, Bui Bistro, Ca’Momi, Oakville Grocery, Ristorante Allegria, Kara’s Cupcakes, Bacon Bacon, Curry Up Now…okay, my fingers are tired. Just check out the gotta-get-there lineup online.
Last week, PIZZANDO AT HOTEL HEALDSBURG resumed its late-night “Snack Shack” hours on Saturdays from 10:30pm-12:30am. On chef Louis Maldonado’s menu: beef quesadillas with guacamole, radishes, pickled carrots, and jalapeño; pepperoni pizza; and fried fish tacos with marinated slaw and salsa fresca. Bar manager Tara Heffernon serves up gin and tonic, tall boy beer specials, and a rotating house cocktail. Saturdays through Labor Day. 301 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-922-5233.
Kozy Kar North? While most of us were watching the former John and Zeke’s Bar in Healdsburg for some signs of life from new owner Sam Young (Scout was supposed to open in March), he quietly opened KOZY KAR BAR in Santa Rosa. Now, that was a surprise. If you haven’t been to the sibling Kozy Kar Bar in SF, you’re in for a, well, new experience. It’s a ’70s and early ’80s-themed nightclub, complete with waterbeds, shag rugs, bad lighting, pinball machines, 8-tracks, and Penthouse pinup “wallpaper” from that freewheeling, all-natural era. 707 Scout hasn’t been inside the new North Bay Kozy Kar, but folks who have say it’s got more than a few adults-only features (we’ll leave it to your imagination). The SF version has been both cheered and chided for its tastelessness. We’ll see what Santa Rosa thinks. 404 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.
FIVE DOT RANCH COOKHOUSE will open at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa this June, making it one of a dozen food stalls and restaurants in the ever-expanding space. Five Dot Ranch has long tempted casual marketgoers with its sustainable cuts of beef, and they are planning to add a restaurant, on-site smokehouse, and to-go menu. Coming soon: breakfast rib sandwiches on a pecan waffle, corned beef hash, Reuben sandwiches with housemade pastrami or corned beef, tri-tip sandwiches with tomato salsa, a “you pick it, we grill it” steak with bone marrow butter, burgers, barbecue…and the list goes on. They will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 644 First Street, Napa, 707-224-5550.
Don’t forget: the book mentioned below is available at 20 percent off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.
The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, Marcel Dicke
The time has finally come for me to review a cookbook without actually cooking anything from it. I know, bad journalism. But I’m a bookseller, not a journalist. And if you gave me one of the wontons pictured on page 48 and didn’t tell me what was in it, I’d gladly eat it, and probably like it, and even after you told me what was in it, I’d eat another. But I can’t fire up the stove for this one.
What the hell am I blathering on about? The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet by Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke (Columbia University Press, $27.95).
Need I go on? You probably either know you want it already or would never crack the spine, so what more to say?
Well, it’s an interesting read in and of itself, not just a recipe book. In fact, from the Kofi Annan piece focused on educating Western eaters to the analysis of health benefits, this book is thought-provoking at the very least. It’s also beautifully done, with lots of full-color photos—a great value at only $27.95. And yes, there are notes on sourcing (though they’re minimal).
As for the recipes, some put the insect front and center, like the pizza with grasshoppers and mealworms or the hopper kebabs (NOT tablehopper, but grasshopper, of course). Others hide the protein a bit, like insect burgers or the ravioli. If anything, I’d note that most of the recipes rely on grasshoppers and mealworms (the crunchy tarantula recipe notwithstanding). I mean, what am I supposed to do with these termites? Oh yeah, page 30…
Thanks for reading.