A rockin’ off-the-menu pizza at La Nebbia, with ‘nduja, stracciatella, garlic confit, and tomato sauce. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Gigantes!!! What a team. After frowning and steaming and getting downright sad over the ignominious closure of the San Francisco Bay Guardian all week, last night’s pennant win was the kind of SF good news I needed. And here’s one more (small but important) piece of good news: the SFBG website is back up, so take some screenshots of your clips, awards, reviews, posts, and more while you can—who knows how long the archive will stay up. (And you can find the paper’s 2014 voter endorsements here.) Stay updated on missives from the SFBG team on their newly launched Facebook page, Guardian in Exile.
Tonight I’m fired up to head to the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace (haven’t been since I was a little girl), will be fun to see some cowboys. Yeehaw. If you’re a beer lover (and 4505 Meats fan), don’t forget, tonight is NotOberfest! And East Bay folks, if you were excited to head to the about-to-open gastropub, Growlers’ Arms, please note we have updated our post to have it reflect an opening date of Wednesday October 22nd.
The weekend, always a good time to go out and enjoy some coffee somewhere. Here’s my post for 7x7.com on five new cafés to check out.
Today, let’s take a look at Causwells, which has a burger I will travel across town for without hesitation, and Heather Irwin has some 707 scout updates for us. Also, don’t miss today’s starlet, it’s a fun one.
Cheers gang! Marcia Gagliardi
Everyone wants the perfect little neighborhood spot, and some neighborhood joints are so good that we’ll leave our own neighborhood to go to someone else’s. And in the case CAUSWELLS, a place that’s over the hill and in the Lululemon thicket of the Marina that inspired my two gay male pals who live across town near the Swish Alps to declare, “Oh, we’re coming back to this place,” you know it has to be good.
Business owners Alvin Garcia (previously GM at Delarosa, Lolinda) and Tom Patella (previously California Wine Merchant)—along with the design assistance from Bon Vivants Design+Build—did a solid job transforming the former Bechelli’s, with its charming Art Deco details but challenging diner layout, into a new kind of hangout.
You can grab a glass of wine at the bar with your gal pals (guys, there are a lot of ladies up in this joint, jus’ sayin’), small groups of dudes hanging out at the high-top tables, and dates and diners will find slightly quieter seats in the side dining room (although the bright light that comes streaming in from the theater needs some mitigating). There are also sunny tables outside, and since Causwells serves brunch and lunch, those are coveted tables to land.
Chef Adam Rosenblum (previously a sous at Flour + Water) has crafted an American menu that is almost Mediterranean in its freshness—there aren’t a lot of fried or overly decadent items. (Well, there’s the burger, but we’ll get to that beast in a second.) The plating also shows some thought and care, but it’s not fussy. The food is designed to share, which fits with the easygoing and social vibe of the place.
Start with the trio of deviled eggs ($6.25), topped with a feisty paprika, another with avocado crema and puffed farro, and my favorite, smoked trout. The creamy housemade ricotta ($9.75) comes drizzled with rosemary honey and crisp lavash, a good pairing with the roasted beets ($11) in a pistachio vinaigrette (the beets and baby garnet yams come on a pool of gribiche). The menu has a nice array of salads, including a simple but well-executed Little Gem ($10.75) number with a Champagne vinaigrette and almonds, grapes, and avocado mousse. I wanted a touch more finishing salt to make a couple of these dishes really pop, but alas, there isn’t any on the tables.
Heartier starters feature one of my favorite dishes: grilled octopus ($15.75) with fennel prepared two ways (raw and cooked), garbanzos, chile, and a strong citrusy zip. Octopus has been done to death on every menu in town, but this balanced execution stands out. The hickory-smoked and then steamed pastrami ($14.75) has rotated off the menu, which is fine, because I needed it to come with much more mustard (especially if you were going to follow your server’s suggestion and tuck it into their rye Parker House rolls, which I find to be a slight misnomer—they just feel like a dense but tasty rye roll).
I’m not one to go for chicken breast for dinner, but their pilsner-brined Hoffman Farms bird ($18.50) is so juicy and cooked just right (they flatten it)—the earthy side of dirty rice mixing with the pilsner jus is very satisfying (and pushing the sodium levels juuuuuust a bit).
I laughed over the nomenclature of the grilled teres major steak ($22.50) on the menu (you know the servers always had to explain that one), but now it’s a bavette, with salsa verde and baby potatoes (fingerlings and Yukons).
A couple of other choices include a seafood option and a vegetarian summer squash and farro dish, but I see you eyeing their Americana burger ($14.50). It’s like your dream Big Mac: two thin patties are seriously seared (I’m a rare to medium-rare burger lover, but the way the kitchen does these well-done patties is on point), layered with Kraft American cheese (truly one of the best melty burger “cheeses”), paper-thin onion shavings, and lacto-fermented pickles, and then sauced up with their zippy Thousand Island-inspired Causwells sauce (featuring housemade Worcestershire sauce). Grilled sesame bun, but of course.
After a couple of bites, this burger has implanted itself in my brain as a kick-ass mofo burger I am going to crave hard when it’s burger time. Notable beefy flavor (there’s some dry-aged fat in there, and they are having Marina Meats across the street grind the Five Dot beef for them daily). It’s a juicy, cheesy, slightly sticky (delightfully so, thanks Kraft!), saucy bite and the only thing they need to fix are the flaccid housemade chips on the side. There’s also a brunch burger, take note.
So, the desserts have not really captured my affection, I found them all to be too sweet. But for novelty’s sake, you have to try the buttery and browned All-Star doughnut bread pudding ($8.25)—although after you have a couple of bites, you are pretty set. Don’t attempt it alone. It’s so rich, especially with the eggnog-like spiced milk it’s served with. They are still loyally using All-Star doughnuts, although it’s from the other location in the Richmond since the Marina location closed (sad thing, that).
I just have to say the entire staff they have hired here is quite wonderful—they are so friendly and helpful and—bonus—cute too. They really help elevate the neighborhood bistro sensibility. Servers also make informed suggestions on the wines, depending on what you’re looking for (you’ll find 20 wines by the glass, and many are small-production, family-owned, and good value wines). I liked their crémant (J. Laurens), which tasted of ripe pear. I just wanted a couple more interesting lighter reds, and not pinot—the reds read a bit heavy to me. And I’d also like to see a cooler serving temp. Craft beer options, check.
The place gets busy—you can call ahead to put your name down on the list (always appreciated), or there’s always that thing called reservations. The music can be bumping, and with the concrete walls, yeah, it can get loud. The late hours (open and serving food until 1am!) make this a place to keep in your back pocket (because, that burger). They really aim to please here, and it shows. Welcome to the neighborhood, even if it isn’t my neighborhood.
This review was based on two visits.
Causwells - 2346 Chestnut St. San Francisco - 415-447-6081
Upcycling Tomatoes: What do you do when life gives you 1,500 pounds of ripe, slightly bruised tomatoes? Make a whole lot of tomato sauce, Bloody Mary mix, and tomato jam.
That’s the idea behind WIND & RYE KITCHEN, a start-up imagined by pastry chef and farmer Laci Sandoval. In just a few months, with nothing more than a truck, a borrowed kitchen, and a willing local chef, she’s transformed, literally, tons of produce headed for the compost pile into shelf-stable products. That’s a whole lot of tasty spaghetti sauce.
It seems the bounty of Sonoma County is sometimes a bit too bountiful, with up to 30 percent (!) of farmers’ market produce going to waste because of minor bruises and blemishes. Working with nearby County Line Harvest in Petaluma and Backyard Kitchen in Forestville, Sandoval has rescued and upcycled these well-worn tomatoes into bottled deliciousness.
The Wind & Rye Kitchen project this summer has offered just a peek at what Sandoval envisions: a large shared commercial kitchen, food incubator, classroom, and gathering spot that would be within the financial reach to the average Sonoma County eater. (It would also be a spot to bake her astounding wedding cakes.) And BiteClub’s all about that kind of thinking.
Sandoval launched a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign this week with the goal of converting an old barn on her property into a commercial kitchen. With the dearth of affordable shared commercial kitchens in Sonoma County, it opens the door to small farms that may want to test a prepared product without a steep financial investment.
In addition to the kitchen, Sandoval hopes to host reasonably priced farm dinners, cooking classes, and events that focus on local foods. “Wind & Rye Kitchen was created to celebrate our personal relationship with food through the ritual of eating on special occasions and in our daily lives. Whether you’re looking for the perfect wedding cake or a memorable meal shared with friends under a starry night sky, we welcome you to feast with us,” said Sandoval. Contribute to the Wind & Rye Kickstarter campaign here.
Bistro Ralph Closing, Long Live Ralph!: For months there’s been speculation about the future of the popular BISTRO RALPH, on the Healdsburg square. BiteClub’s got the scoop that owner Ralph Tingle is selling the eponymous restaurant; the last day of service is slated for Saturday November 8th. “Twenty-two years inside these walls in enough,” said Tingle. But don’t expect him to be off the radar for long. Tingle plans to open a roadhouse-style restaurant with a full bar and beer garden in Healdsburg next summer. “I’m reinventing myself,” he said. As for the fate of Bistro Ralph? Tingle said the new owners (who he won’t yet name) are planning to continue operating the restaurant as Bistro Ralph until the end of the year; they plan to remodel and rename the restaurant in 2015. Big names involved? We suspect so, as Bistro Ralph is on some prime downtown H-burg real estate.
It’s Michelin season! As a preview to the big stars that will be announced Tuesday, the restaurant rating guide has announced its San Francisco Bay Area Bib Gourmand Awards. It’s a huge feather in the caps of moderately priced restaurants (i.e., the places most of us can actually afford) and a definite pathway to the stars. This year’s Bib winners for Wine Country are: Backyard (Forestville), Bistro Jeanty (Yountville), Bistro 29 (Santa Rosa), C Casa (Napa), Chalkboard (Healdsburg), Cook (St. Helena), The Farmer & the Fox (St. Helena), The Girl & the Fig (Sonoma), Glen Ellen Star (Glen Ellen), Grace’s Table (Napa), Hot Box Grill (Sonoma, under new ownership), LaSalette (Sonoma), Monti’s Rotisserie (Santa Rosa), Oenotri (Napa), Redd Wood (Yountville), Risibisi (Petaluma), Sazón (Santa Rosa), Scopa (Healdsburg), Willi’s Wine Bar (Santa Rosa). Falling off this year’s list: Cucina Paradiso (Petaluma) and Boon Eat & Drink (Guerneville), which was a bit of a shocker.
Burnt Ends (The Tasty Bits): Was that chef Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen + Farm making BLTs on Simply Ming last Friday? You bet. Watch for future broadcasts on KQED Life.
Chef Michael Chiarello hosts Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin at his Yountville restaurant, BOTTEGA, on Wednesday October 22nd. Cowin will be introducing her new book, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. The book lays bare her many kitchen mishaps (including an infamous bout with a blender), with course-correcting techniques from 65 of her chef buddies, including Eric Ripert (lobster sauce), Ming Tsai (pot stickers), Thomas Keller (chicken), and Jonathan Waxman (turkey). Presented in conjunction with Book Passage, the $140 prices includes a meal with wine and a signed book. Details online.
After their dramatic win against the Cardinals, the World Series-bound San Francisco Giants reportedly partied down and celebrated at The Tipsy Pig. A member of the Tipsy crew shared this quote from one of the team members (but they wouldn’t tell me whom): “It’s tradition we come here after we win the NLCS…and hope the tradition of what happens next continues!”