Time. For. Spaghetti! At The Family Meal. Photo: Wes Rowe Photography).
Howdy. I’m sure I’m not the only one craving a hot toddy with this wet weather. Yay! I was already at Arlequin Wine Merchant last week stocking up on some holiday bubbles, but last night was my annual (and personal) holiday kickoff, their Champagne tasting event. Forty-five gorgeous Champagnes, from Pol Roger to Philipponnat to Paul Bara (another thing that begins with “p”: purr). If you want to pick up something special to bring to a party, they’ve got you covered. (Pssst, I think one of the best deals I tasted is the Rare Wine Company “Le Mesnil” blanc de blancs grand cru—if you like a richer style—for $45; the Moncuit 2005 was another luxe one, disgorged this year, with seven years on the lees, $62.)
An impromptu feast with friends afterward at Monsieur Benjamin felt so decadent, with an overflowing plateau de fruits de mer, and their stunning quail à la chasseur, and Époisses toast for dessert (don’t forget they just started brunch service!).
If you’re going to be doing some holiday shopping downtown this weekend, here’s my piece on where to eat and drink near Union Square (in case you missed it earlier this week). I also have my monthly post on 7x7.com on five new places to eat at this month. And for SF Travel, I have a roundup on some of the city’s best cheap eats, a post written in conjunction with tablehopper associate editor Dana Eastland. Enjoy.
And TGIF! Marcia Gagliardi
Nope, it’s not every day you get to throw your dream party. This past Tuesday evening (December 2nd, 2014), I was so honored to co-host a special event with Sosh called The Family Meal. Sosh approached me about throwing a special event for chefs, and we wanted to do it before the holiday season as a big thank-you to all our chefs who work so hard to feed us during the holiday season (oh so many dinners!). Fortunately Sosh loved the idea I’ve been keeping in my back pocket for at least the past five years: holding a spaghettata.
When I lived in Italy, I (hazily) remember these late-night spaghetti feasts after a night of drinking with my friends. We’d all sit (and stand!) around someone’s kitchen, inhaling steaming bowls of hot spaghetti. Spaghetti never tasted so good, trust. So who better to host a spaghettata than the man himself, Delfina Restaurant Group’s Craig Stoll, who has wooed so many diners with Delfina’s classic spaghetti al pomodoro over the years?
We actually held this chefs-only after-hours party in the chic back room at Locanda, and with wingman Anthony Strong also behind the menu, things got ridiculous. They set up an abundant raw bar, complete with a kilo of Mote Caviar, chilled SKYY vodka shots (a generous donation to the chefs from Campari America, grazie!), and at least five kinds of shucked oysters. There were passed apps like arancini with black truffles and others with Dungeness crab, foie gras torchon on warm gingerbread (whoa), uni, and fried coppa di testa.
Passed Negronis, carafes of Sbagliatos, and a punch bowl of Boulevardiers made with Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon and topped with Cinzano Prosecco got the party going, plus beverage director Sally Kim pouring prosecco and Italian wines en magnum.
At 10pm, the room started to fill with some of SF’s finest chefs just getting off service, from the old guard to the up-and-comers, including Daniel Patterson and many chefs from the Daniel Patterson Restaurant Group, the Frenchies (Roland Passot, Hubert Keller, Dominique Crenn, Gerald Hirigoyen!), Charles Phan, Melissa Perello, Jason Berthold, Bruce Hill, Evan and Sarah Rich, Ravi Kapur, Suzette Gresham, Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, Mark Dommen, Hoss Zare, Mark Sullivan, and more. It was great to see everyone milling around, talking, eating, doing caviar and vodka shots, and not having to work for a change! The event was designed to be chefs only, and it easily could (and should) have been twice its size, but room size limitations were in charge. And of course some chefs were still working too late to make it (we missed you!).
Eventually it was time to sit down (“Tutti a tavola!”), so the next wave of food could come out: radishes and anchovy butter, puntarelle “Californese” salad, plates of La Quercia prosciutto, charcoal-grilled shrimp “in porchetta” (so outstandingly good), and Locanda’s famed (and fried) Jewish-style artichokes. The main event, the famous spaghetti, came out piping hot and gorgeous, and Craig was running around the room grinding Parmesan over everyone’s bowls.
The showstopper for dessert was a croquembouche, lovingly made by pastry chef Jessica Sullivan, who filled the profiteroles with chestnut cream. Magnificent! I also made sure everyone got a digestivo shot of Averna or Cynar before their way out the door (so good with a little lemon rind and a couple of espresso beans in there). Everyone also got a “hangover helper” takeaway bag stuffed with chicken pho from Turtle Tower, a bottled Negroni for a little hair of the dog, and Advil (thanks Sosh!).
This event was a rare one for chefs, because they didn’t have to work an event first before going to the after-party. More than anything, it was so great to see a room of happy people hanging out, eating family style, laughing, and being taken good care of. It’s so important for any community to get together and break bread, and it was long overdue for this particular industry. As Acquerello’s Suzette Gresham so poignantly stated in a Facebook post: “Way too much fun! Makes me wonder why it’s taken us so long to actually gather like this? Imagine how enhanced our culinary community could/would be, if we simply spent a little time together.”
Mille grazie to Sosh, the Delfina Restaurant Group, and Campari America for letting me throw one hell of a party—here’s hoping there will be more in the future. I think I see a new holiday tradition forming.
A donation was made to CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), our local organization championed by many of the chefs in attendance. Here’s a photo album of the night on Sosh’s Facebook page (pics by the talented Wes Rowe). Baci a tutti! And Happy Holidays!
Dry Creek Chef's New Healdsburg Restaurant, Winter Closures Announced, Palmer's New Venture, and Meat Pies!
New details on Dry Creek Kitchen chef Dustin Valette’s yet-unnamed restaurant in Healdsburg. Turns out it’s a bro-fest, as Valette is partnering with his brother, Aaron Garzini, a front-of-house vet who has done stints at John Ash and Co., SF’s BETELNUT, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Rustic.
“We dreamed about this when were were little kids playing in the yard,” said Valette (the two are half brothers). The boys grew up in the Sonoma County restaurant business and will be paying homage to many of their favorite local farmers, winemakers, and grape growers. The restaurant will be full of thoughtful details, such as furniture that will be hand hewn from a 750-year-old redwood stump. “I bumped into that stump recently and memories came flooding back,” said Valette, of the tree that was milled by his father.
“Everything in the restaurant will have a story,” said Valette, including the menu. Look for a parade of Sonoma County’s bounty, with a tasting menu, fresh pastas, local meats, housemade charcuterie, bespoke cheeses from a local cheesemaker, and of course, Valette’s signature scallops en croûte.
The vibe will be upscale casual, with entrées in the $20-$30 range, and no white tablecloths. There will be an extensive wine list and a cocktail program. The brothers say they’re hoping for a late February 2015 opening.
Of course, there’s always another story behind every restaurant opening and closing. For months, news that Valette was looking for a space of his own after six years with Charlie Palmer was one of the worst kept secrets in Healdsburg.
Most bets were that Valette would take on the Bistro Ralph space, which was quietly for sale, so it came as a surprise when Zin’s Jeff and Susan Mall abruptly announced their closing.
No one is speaking publicly about the reason behind the couple’s departure, but suffice it to say, the restaurant will be much missed and there’s plenty of push for the Malls to continue cooking for the community. “The spirit of Zin will live on with…Valette,” said the couple. Zin’s last day will be December 30th, 2014.
Bistro 100 Coming to Petaluma: Local chef Garrett Adair is planning a new restaurant in downtown Petaluma, slated to open in early 2015. The focus of BISTRO 100 will be on ingredients, beer, and wine that are all sourced within 100 miles of the restaurant—hence the name. The restaurant will be opening in the former Blu space in Theatre Square. More news as it develops.
Shop Tawk: ROSSO PIZZERIA AND WINE BAR has hired a new wine director, Paul McBratney. Cheers!
Announcing some winter closures: SOLAGE’S SOLBAR in Calistoga will shutter for a revamp in January, and the FRENCH LAUNDRY in Yountville will also be closing to start a massive renovation in the end of December, according to sources. Look for it to be closed for many months into 2015, we’ll keep you posted on the project. There’s buzz about another high-profile Napa restaurant undergoing some major changes in early 2015, but so far no confirmation.
FISH STORY in downtown Napa is on “winter hiatus,” meaning it’s closed, at least temporarily. Part of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, officials say there will be a new concept in the space come spring, but for now, the lights are out.
Finally, news has just broken that Charlie Palmer (Dry Creek Kitchen) will be rehabbing St. Helena’s Harvest Inn (which he purchased last winter) to make way for a new restaurant in his ever-growing hospitality empire: HARVEST TABLE. The 110-seat restaurant will showcase (you guessed it) ingredients sourced from the surrounding area and the property’s own culinary gardens. There will also be a Napa-centric wine list, housemade tinctures and syrups for seasonal cocktails, and Northern Californian brews and ales. We’re digging the inn’s new culinary horticulturist, Laura McNiff, who will be the green thumb shepherding various herbs, berries, greens, and fruit from garden to table. Look for a 2015 opening.
BurtoNZ Bakery Opens: Meat pies for everyone! I’m a sucker for all things Kiwi (i.e., from New Zealand). So short of a rugby team showing up in my living room, the opening of a proper New Zealand-style bakery in Windsor is cause for celebration.
Seems about 400 other people had the same reaction on the opening day of BURTONZ BAKERY, overwhelming the couple, and pretty much clearing out the bakery case by noon.
Owned by native New Zealander and master baker Warren Burton and his wife, Bobbi, the newly minted bakery is a labor of love for the couple, who raised nearly $40,000 on Kickstarter for their new business. The bakery offers authentic meat pies—flaky-crusted mini pies with steak and potatoes, cheese and mushrooms, or bacon and eggs—along with sausage rolls and Wattie’s sauce (a sort of spiced ketchup), custard pies, breads, and other traditional baked goods.
Burton’s effusive Down Under personality, longtime ties to the wine industry, and, let’s be honest, killer breads and pastries have made him a familiar figure in the Alexander Valley. As he loads baguettes into an oven that costs twice what I paid for a new car, Burton chats with customers, friends, and me, neglecting to slice steam vents into several loaves. As they come out of the oven a few minutes later, he tosses one of the imperfect loaves at me. “See what you made me do?” he chuckles. “Now you have to eat it!” Usually open from 5am-5pm, but call ahead to make sure. 9076 Brooks Road South (near the Safeway), Windsor, 707-687-5455.
The wildly successful ramen pop-up RAMEN GAIJIN gets a permanent home at the former Forchetta in Sebastopol starting later this month (we hope).The noodle fest is slated to be open four days a week (Wednesday through Saturday) for lunch and dinner. The rotating menu, according to co-founding chef Matthew Williams, will include ramen, Japanese donburi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, and yakitori made with plenty of SoCo produce and meats. Stay tuned for opening dates. P.S. Asian fusion restaurant Bastoni will still be operating in the space. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol.
Want a cookie? The results of the BiteClubEats Holiday Cookie Contest are online.
My wife and I have an ongoing battle. I see almost every new cookbook that comes out, and they make me drool and inspire me to cook more frequently and cook better food. I bring them home. They sit on the shelves. The shelves sag. We run out of room. I let a few go, then bring more home. So this Christmas, I was resolved to bring home only one cookbook, and I knew it would be Phaidon’s Mexico—the combination of prettiness, breadth, and “do-ability” are just irresistible. Then I wrote this darn column, and now I need to purge again.
Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are 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.
Mexico: The Cookbook Margarita Carrillo Arronte
Let’s start with what I think is my favorite: Mexico: the Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte (Phaidon, $49.95). As I said, it’s comprehensive: 600 recipes from every region of Mexico in 700 pages. And it’s beautiful, from the papel picado cover to the lush full-page photos. And its biggest selling point, for me, is that any modest home chef can nail almost any recipe here. Recipes are well organized and clearly written (in both ounces and grams). Singling out just one recipe to make your mouth water is folly. Suffice it to say that they’re all in here, from street food and snacks through dessert and drinks. This is a really lovely marriage of form and content and well worth the money.
Prune Gabrielle Hamilton
I had planned on skipping Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, $45). I read her memoir and enjoyed it, but I didn’t need a recipe for Butter and Sugar Sandwiches, did I? Then I started looking through the appetizers and sent out invites for a dinner party so I could show off. I love that there’s a chapter for “lunch dessert” and another one for “dinner dessert.” They’re different, right? And all my favorite cocktails were in the back, but none that I don’t like. And the book is dripping personality, like she’s a pal in the kitchen with you. Recipes range from super-easy and light (½ ripe avocado with olive oil and Meyer lemon juice) to those that require a little more time or precision (like the Muffuletta Salad or Alda’s Zucchini Tian). So don’t dismiss this one. It’s delectable.
Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns
On the local front, there are lots of fresh releases, all with their own strengths (Slanted Door, Flour + Water: Pasta, Brown Sugar Kitchen). But the one that stands out for both its depth of technique and crazily high “yum” factor is Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns (Chronicle, $40). They take salads seriously, for example, like the tomato and pickled green bean salad with whipped feta or the cauliflower salad with yogurt and chickpeas. And there’s not a lot of Scandinavian food around here, but many of these recipes come with such an accent, like the beef tartare toast with bottarga. And the whole first half of the book focuses on techniques to best stock your larder, from alliums to drying fruits, from making kefir to sprouting various foods. Overall, it’s a lush, dense book that will further educate anyone looking to take their cooking to the next level.
Plenty More Yotam Ottolenghi
On the vegetarian front, don’t miss Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ten Speed, $35). This is the follow-up to his wildly successful and well-used-at-my-house Plenty. It contains more than 150 vibrant, bold recipes with, of course, gorgeous photos and clear instruction. The twist to this book is that you may have to go a little farther afield for certain ingredients. It also delves a bit further into technique than the last book, from roasting lemons to braising lettuce and other unexpected moves. But at the very least, these are 150-plus dishes you want to eat now.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible Karen Page
Staying on the veggie front, check out The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page (Little, Brown $40). This, too, is a sequel of sorts to The Flavor Bible and one of my favorite reference books, What to Drink with What You Eat. It’s an encyclopedic reference guide on pairing flavors, herbs, plant ingredients, spices, etc. From açai to zucchini blossoms, it’s all in here, with a flavor profile, its peak season, its nutritional value, and what it pairs well with. It is NOT a recipe book, but it’s inspiring and could lead you to rely less on recipes and more on intuition and experience. It also contains an interesting time line of vegetarianism, strategies for maximizing flavor, and a few photos. It’s a lovely gift for any vegetarian food lover or developing home cook.
Liquid Intelligence Dave Arnold
And I can’t ignore the cocktail front in this town, right? The most serious and technical book we’ve ever seen is Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence (Norton, $35). The knowledge comes from Booker & Dax, New York City’s high-tech bar, and the book is chock-full of it, plus 450 color photos and 120 recipes. From getting clear ice cubes at home to nitro-muddling fresh basil to prevent browning, this is serious business. Liquid nitrogen, a centrifuge, refractometers—if you have access to any of these, please buy this book and fix me a drink. For anyone less serious, this is fascinating science reading (like Harold McGee’s classic On Food and Cooking). And there are a few recipes any beginner can make at home. For all but the pros, this is an “aspirational” book for sure. For the pros, there is nothing else like it out there right now.
I’m skipping so many worthy titles, but I hope this gives you a taste of the gems that await you in the current world of food books. We have thousands more in the store; drop by if we can help you. And may your holiday season be peaceful and delicious.
Don’t forget: Green Apple has recently opened a second location in the Inner Sunset (on 9th Avenue at Lincoln): Green Apple Books on the Park. We’ve shacked up with Le Video; they’ve moved upstairs and preserved their collection of 100,000 movies. We remodeled the ground floor to offer 25,000 new and used books in all subject areas (including cookbooks, of course!). The kids section is especially vibrant, and the space was designed for events, so expect literary hootenannies on a regular basis.