Fantastic lager-steamed mussels (and fries!) at Ferry Plaza Seafood’s new North Beach location. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Happy Friday, pals! Fleet Week has buzzed into town, bringing a bunch of hottie military men in uniform along with it (North Beach has been full of ‘em this week). I think I know where I’ll be having a drink this weekend. Also on tap: Saturday is FallFest, an alfresco shindig at Justin Herman Plaza, so you’ll see the Blue Angels flying around while chomping on bites and drinks from local restaurants (there are still tickets available, and code tablehopper gets you $10 off!).
Last night I attended a launch party for the brand-new and quarterly Gluten-Free Forever magazine—I’m happy to have contributed an article for the inaugural issue on the best gluten-free eats for visitors to SF! It’s beautifully produced, check it out.
Today I have a review of ABV for you, and we have some 707 Scout news too. I have a couple of 7x7 articles to point you to as well. One is a piece I did on the new ways you can find and experience home-cooked meals and dinner parties in people’s homes—some of the chefs are semi-pro, and it’s a fun way to meet new people. (There are also a couple of home-cooked or home-baked goods delivery services I mention!) And I just did my monthly post on five new places to check out, your cheat sheet on what’s new!
Lastly, I want to thank everyone for all the interest in my tablehopping dinner with Cover! I’m sorry the guest list (and waiting list) is all full, but don’t forget, you still get $25 off your first meal with Cover with code tablehopper! Check it out, there are some great restaurants you can try, both in SF and NYC.
Have fun out there. Oh yeah, and MALALA! Marcia Gagliardi
After living in the city for 20 years, you can bet I have done my fair share of drinking in my 20s and 30s along 16th Street (especially at Dalva—and now, in my 40s, I’m so happy to graduate to the Hideout). And eating: I remember when Tokyo Go Go was THE place to go with my friends for a fun night out, complete with tuna tartare in martini glasses. Oy.
So, now the Tokyo Go Go space was totally gutted and made into a bar with a late-night kitchen, ABV, and it happily and totally fits into my current 16th Street playbook. ABV is a venture by Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (who owns Dalva/Hideout), Ryan Fitzgerald (who worked at Beretta and as the brand ambassador for Del Maguey mezcal), and Todd Smith (a Bourbon & Branch alum who could also be found at Hideout). Yeah, they’re seasoned chaps.
Let’s return to the cocktail talk in a sec. First, I’d like to focus on the gratuitously good bar menu by Kevin Cimino (St. Vincent, Commonwealth, Bar Tartine). Like Trick Dog, this is a place that offers a notable drinking and bar dining situation, with a kitchen that’s open late (until 1am!). Cimino’s dishes are really inventive, with fun spins on international street food, Americana faves, and Cali seasonality—and everything is less than $10. You won’t have any utensils; it’s all finger food, served on small pizza pans.
One of the most creative executions is the falafel lamb dog ($8), a link-shaped merguez meatball that gets fried with a burnished falafel coating, and is served like a corn dog on a stick (with tzatziki sauce for dipping). The filling is juicy, the seasoning is lively enough to stand up to whatever cocktail you may be drinking, and you don’t even have to put your drink down to eat it. Success!
Cimino’s North Carolina upbringing shines through in his collard green dolmas ($7), the tender leaves encasing a filling of dirty rice, with Carolina Gold rice and chopped chicken liver and hearts. The flavor on these little bundles runs deep (they are braised in a rich chicken stock), and the ripple of black sesame tahini adds even more dimension. Yet another cross-cultural play is the chicken potpie empanadas ($8), the flaky half-moons encasing a warm and homey American favorite.
The dish I want to order each and every time is the kimchi fritter ($8), which Cimino said was inspired by a squash fritter he used to have at home as a kid, but the version here does a do-si-do with Korean kimchijeon and Japanese okonomiyaki. The pancake is made with kimchi and seasonal vegetables (right now it’s sweet potato and spaghetti squash, but in the summer it even had cherry tomatoes and charred scallion in it). The kitchen deep-fries it and cuts it into four, and serves it with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) on top. You’ll bite into a satisfying crisp exterior, containing the creamy and piping hot goodies inside.
Another tasty study in texture (and flava!) is the burger ($9), a compact quarter-pounder that is more tall than it is wide, tucked into a housemade and oh-so-lightly dulcet sweet potato bun, topped with such savory pimento cheese and pickle slices. This well-seared burger hits all the notes: I adore its juicy squishiness with the roll, it’s like when you have a burger that has been wrapped in paper for a few minutes and gets a good steam. Cimino cares about using quality beef (right now it’s Mindful Meats), and he also wants to overdeliver for the price (he does, in spades). I think it’s one of the best bar burgers in town. And if you want to split it (but WHY?!) the kitchen is happy to cut it for you.
Probably one of the cheffiest bites on the menu is the mapo sloppy joes ($7), two bao-esque buns stuffed with a reduced sloppy joe filling that took a trip to Chengdu (Cimino uses some cool techniques on this dish). The meaty combination of beef and pork (which can also include lamb, tripe, and more) gives a Szechuan tingle to your lips that will snap you out of your cocktail-induced haze. Chef Cimino and I shared our love of the spicy beef tendon at Spices! II, which is a partial inspiration for the dish (or at least the little pieces of tendon on top).
There are meat and cheese boards too (although I found the salumi to be cut too thick), and the pulled pork in corn tortillas ($8) won’t knock any of these previously mentioned dishes out of rotation for me. Vegetarians have plenty to choose from here, more than six vegetable dishes, like the griddled radicchio with chickpeas and pepper jam ($6).
The dimly lit space is pretty big (with room for 75 or so)—and that’s a fortunate thing because it’s damn popular. You’ll see some seats outside, and there’s a long bar inside with a parallel counter that runs along the wall. There are long communal tables in the back and upstairs on the mezzanine too. One pet peeve is the stools—the footrest on them isn’t at the right height (either your legs hang too low or get bent way too high), so you’re constantly shifting your position on them.
It’s swell to come by in the early evening (did you know the place opens at 2pm?), when the windows are open and the light is still coming in. The crowd skews all age brackets, from young ladies who can’t quite hold their booze yet to some more experienced barflies to the inevitable tech bros. Big points for the very efficient table service—the servers know the drinks inside and out and can make great recos. You can tell the place is run by some pros—it’s pretty smooth (read: your drinks will come out pretty quickly) considering how many people are piling in there.
The cocktail list is divided into different categories: whiskey, agave, gin/vodka, rum/brandy, 0% ABV, and beer and wine (Matthiasson on tap, score). A light start is the fragrant Tarragon Collins ($10, gin, lemon, tarragon, soda) or the vibrant Mumbai Mule ($11, saffron vodka, lemon, ginger, mint, soda), the kind of mule I can get behind (it’s spicy!).
As a sherry lover, the Casino Perfecto ($10, blanco tequila, cappelletti, amontillado) speaks to me, and fizz fans can go for Lefty’s Fizz ($13, mezcal, lime, grapefruit shrub, dry curacao, egg white), or then there’s the Jackal ($10, rye, lemon, pineapple gum, cardamom, egg white)—whiskey and pineapple can be a little tricky to pull off but it comes together, and the cardamom is a fun note.
I appreciate seeing well-made drinks for $10—with fresh juices and quality spirits, the whole shebang—thanks gang. But a couple of the more spirituous drinks taste a touch unbalanced to me and don’t disappear as quickly (I’m looking at you, Whisky in Church and Fogerty). The menu has some fun references and nods (the Land’s End was found in the original Trader Vic’s book, and lovers of the Lonsdale at Bourbon & Branch will dig the next iteration here, the Dartmoor). I’m curious to see the next release of the menu since some of us have already drunk our way through it. Hic.
This review was based on five visits.
ABV - 3174 16th St. San Francisco - 415-400-4748
Eat and Drink to the Coast: Far from civilization and high above the fog line is the coastal Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area, or wine region. Homesteaded by hippies in the 1970s, the remote mountainous area, roughly between Healdsburg and Fort Ross, is home to one of the newest AVAs—and also one of the most up and coming. With just 27,500 vineyard acres and about 18 commercial vineyards, the cool coastal region has become a mecca for chardonnay and pinot noir. Among the top-tier wineries sourcing from this high-altitude AVA: Flowers, Martinelli, Pahlmeyer, Siduri, and Williams Selyem. Nope, not too shabby. So it’s worth the drive to the Fort Ross Historic State Park on Saturday October 18th for the 2014 Fort Ross-Seaview Wine and Harvest Festival.
On the docket: a wine tasting of recent vintages from local growers and winemakers and a luncheon featuring chefs John Ash, Barbara Hom (executive chef of Fort Ross Vineyard), Richard Whipple (executive chef of Sea Ranch Lodge), and Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire of BACKYARD RESTAURANT in Forestville. The Harvest Festival includes cheeses, apple cider, and baked goods from local growers, buggy rides, and Russian communal dances. The cost is $35 for wine tasting, $125 for the luncheon, and $20 for the festival. More details and tickets online.
Williams-Sonoma has finally come home to Sonoma: As we reported last week, nearly 60 years after its founding, entrepreneur Chuck Williams’ original WILLIAMS-SONOMA store has reopened just off the Sonoma town square. “We’re celebrating our roots and coming back home,” said Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand. First opened in 1954 at 605 Broadway, the kitchenware store was among the first to bring French copper pots, Le Creuset bakeware, and high-end culinary tools to American home cooks. In fact, if you’ve ever used a KitchenAid stand mixer, Wüsthof knife, or poured cream from a little porcelain cow, you have Chuck to thank.
Ironically, since the store’s move to San Francisco in the late 1950s, there’s been no Williams-Sonoma in its namesake town—or anywhere in Sonoma County. In a stroke of luck, however, the original storefront (which had served as catering kitchen and frame shop among other things) came up for sale recently, and company officials knew they had to snap it up. Included in the sale was Williams’ home, which he shared with his mother for many years. After a massive renovation, the store has much of its original essence—from the original sign to Williams’ own collection of copper pans and French cooking molds—along with the crisp, luxe feel of the modern W-S vibe.
Food Network chef and Marin resident Tyler Florence was at the opening, and reminisced about his first meeting with Chuck in 2006. “I had a real connection when meeting Chuck at my own kitchen store. He brought the first copper and paella pans to home chefs. He brought all these new vehicles of expression,” said Florence. “What Steve Jobs did for computers, Williams did for cooking,” he added. We couldn’t have said it better.
The new store, at 605 Broadway, Sonoma, will be open daily from 9am to 6pm. A professional kitchen on-site will offer hour-long cooking classes that include:
- Chef-owner Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen & Farm - 10/14
- Chef and culinary instructor Jason Kupper - 10/20
- Chef Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen - 10/21
- Executive chef Todd Thompson of the Red Grape - 11/3
- St. Francis Winery Wine Pairing Dinner - 11/11
- Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill - 12/12
Down on the Shone Farm: Santa Rosa Junior College’s SHONE FARM (a working farm used for agriculture, viniculture, and culinary students) celebrates fall with a festival that includes U-pick pumpkin and vegetable harvesting, apple pressing, wood milling, and hayrides on Saturday October 11th from 11am-3pm. It’s family-friendly old-timey fun with a rotten tomato slingshot, forest walks, and plenty of animal petting. The Nellie’s Oysters food truck will be on site, along with plenty of delish lunch options from the farm. 7450 Steve Olson Lane, Forestville. Free.