The beef tongue buns at Liholiho Yacht Club, truly one of the city’s best bites. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Welcome to the weekend, dollinks! I’m currently packing up my shoulder bag, lacing up my boots, and getting ready to pedal over to Outside Lands. Let the three days of music, delicious food, cocktails, craft beer, and shenanigans with friends begin! Am already humming “Bennie and the Jets.” Happy to see the sun breaking through before lunchtime, although I know Karl the Fog will be lurking nearby, ever-ready to crash the party. #Iseeyou
Today is the last day of the #tablehoppertakeover on Caviar. I hope you got a chance to try one of the Fastbite lunch and dinner dishes I selected this week, and put that $5 off coupon to work (use code: TABLEHOPPER—it expires tonight)! Remember, first-time users can get $15 off your first order! Who loves you?
This week, I had my mind blown (yet again) with a fantastic meal at Liholiho Yacht Club (that place is like the hottest muscle car firing on all cylinders), and really enjoyed checking out the brand-new Petit Crenn—you can read all about it on Tuesday!
Have a fantastic weekend, Marcia Gagliardi
(And since I have been getting “Marsha-ed” a lot lately, it’s Marcia, rhymes with Garcia. Smooch.)
Eat Drink SF is the Bay Area’s premier food, wine, and cocktail festival celebrating our world-class chefs and restaurants. Four days of events highlight the culinary talent the Bay Area is known for. Even if you didn’t win tablehopper’s Sugar Mama giveaway last week for two VIP tickets, don’t miss this fabulous event. Use code: TABLEHOPPER for an extra discount off Grand Tasting and VIP Grand Tasting tickets.
Kick off festival weekend at Taco Knockdown with top chefs competing in the creative battle for the Taco Title. Experience a signature Grand Tasting event at Fort Mason with dishes from more than 35 top restaurants; more than 70 beer, wine, and cocktails; demonstrations by celebrity chefs; wine classes taught by the San Francisco Wine School; a cheesemonger cave; lawn games in our Backyard Bites area; and more!
Get a lesson from the pros in one of our stand-alone consumer classes at the Firehouse in Fort Mason on Saturday August 22nd. There are three outstanding classes scheduled and your very own tablehopper will be co-leading Classic Cocktails: The Art, Stories, and Up the Sleeve Tricks with Leilani Vella from Sipsmith Gin at 2pm. Get 15 percent off the class with promo code SIPGIN.
Don’t miss the most delicious weekend of the year. Get your tickets!
Anyone who has traveled to Italy, lived there, dated an Italian…any of it or all of it, Italy gets under your skin. The fresh ingredients, the old buildings, the natural beauty everywhere, the lightly chilled and acidic red wines, the handsome men, the warmth. And oh yes, the salumi.
Anyone I know who has even a lukewarm feeling about Italy, I feel it necessary to tell them about MONTESACRO, a newly opened enoteca named after a hardscrabble neighborhood in Rome. But I also tell them the caveats: you will have to go to the corner of crack and whack—one of the harder, sadder, grittier blocks in the city that is right along the border between SoMa and teetering into the Tenderloin—walk down the alley behind Dottie’s, and then you step into a Roman-inspired oasis.
The place feels like such a discovery. And it is. The 100-year old history as a bakery, the old tiled floors, the brick walls, the tables and brightly colored vintage chairs, the smell of bread and dough, and then the masterpiece: the baking oven from 1913 or so, sadly no longer in use, but lit up and honored, lending an air of gravitas and presence to the room, an anchor to the past.
Gianluca Legrottaglie of nearby 54 Mint, a Roman, has created a “pinseria romana” (more on that in a sec) and enoteca, one that is unflinchingly Italian, and probably the only nod to California is the kale salad (made with an anchovy vinaigrette and boquerones; $10).
The menu is full of antipasti, from the vegetables cured in olive oil, garlic, and chile for a few weeks (make sure to get the mushrooms), to the cutting boards of salumi or cheese or both, like the extraordinarily simple but delicious prosciutto cotto e bufala ($14), with petals of cooked ham and a knob of buffalo mozzarella in the middle. But Legrottaglie is no jingoist—he admits the mozzarella made by LA’s Angelo & Franco is sweeter and tastes better than what he can import.
The main event, the thing you were smelling before you even walked in, is the pinsa they make here. It’s not a pizza: the dough is made from a flour mixture of soy, rice, and wheat that comes from Italy, an homage to an ancient style of flatbread that was once made outside the walls of Rome. It’s crisp, nutty, and reportedly easier to digest, with an enduring flavor that makes you savor it differently (pizzaioli Claudio Gaetani and Alessandro Delle Rose ferment the dough for 72 hours, and bake it in an electric Cuppone oven for 90 seconds).
The infernetto (smoked buffalo mozzarella, ‘nduja; $17) spoke to my half-Calabrese, spice-loving heart, but the quadraro (tomato, red onion, pancetta, pecorino; $17) is close enough to pasta all’amatriciana that it may be my favorite. Get a couple and share—easy to do with the individual pizza wheel each pinsa is presented with.
Lunchtime means you should also look into the porchetta panino ($14)—the meat is so thinly sliced, with its richness kept in check by the housemade mustard and broccolini, all tucked inside a warm roll made with the pinsa dough. Come by for happy hour, and you’re richly rewarded with two-for-one on wine and beer, reduced prices, and more.
The wine list will inspire you to drink—and linger—at lunch (and certainly at dinner). The list is pure passion, full of more bottles than most restaurants, and three bubbles by the glass, grazie. While it’s predominantly Italian, you’ll see Slovenian, French, and Portuguese selections, and more. Engage Legrottaglie with a couple of questions, or maybe not, and he’ll still pour you something unique, and teach you how to dip your ciambelline biscotti into your wine at the end of your meal.
This place is so authentically Italian—it makes you feel like you were transported to a quick vacation in Rome’s Trastevere for lunch. It leaves you feeling happy and relaxed, even though it’s like crossing the River Styx as soon as you walk back outside—but it’s definitely worth the journey.
This review was based on three visits.
Montesacro - 510 Stevenson St. San Francisco - 415-795-3040
A veggie burger as good as In-N-Out? No one believed me when I opined that the new AMY’S DRIVE THRU—a vegetarian fast-food restaurant that recently opened in Rohnert Park—had a meatless “burger” that could give In-N-Out’s Double Double a run for its money. The laughter was deafening.
Created by the owners of frozen food giant Amy’s Kitchen, the healthy fast-food concept has been in development at the company’s Santa Rosa headquarters for years. A veggie burger (two meatless patties, lettuce, pickles, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, secret sauce—all on a freshly baked bun) that can stand up to giants like McDonald’s and In-N-Out don’t just magically happen.
But by late July, the first Amy’s Drive Thru was ready for prime time, with throngs lined up for a first bite. On the menu: the flagship Amy Burger ($4.29 with cheese), of course, and a burrito ($4.69), with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa wrapped in a whole wheat (or gluten-free) tortilla, which was a surprise favorite. Also available are vegan milk shakes ($2.99), chili fries ($2.99), broccoli mac and cheese (made in an oven, so it gets nice and crispy, $4.69-$4.89), the Super Salad (made with quinoa, hummus, tofu and other goodies, $7.99), vegan and vegetarian pizza ($5.89-$6.50), and homemade lemonade and sodas.
It’s the kind of place where your gluten-intolerant kid, vegan sister, meat-and-potatoes husband, and you, the GMO-concerned locavore, can eat in harmony. Breathe easy because all of the menu is non-GMO, 95 percent organic, and as locally sourced as possible. Every menu item can be made vegan and gluten-free. Why didn’t someone come up with this years ago?
Which leads to the (literally) million-dollar question: Where and when will they expand? Owner Andy Berliner confirmed that more Amy’s Drive Thru restaurants are in the works, but only expect one or two more in the next year or so. Since many communities in Northern California have bans on new drive-thru restaurants, Amy’s can only open where (and when) an existing fast-food locations shutters. Daily 10:30am-10pm. 58 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park, 707-755-3629.
It’s hard to reconcile the fact that Charlie Palmer is the force behind the Wine Angels—acrobatic showgirls who fly around his four-story Mandalay Bay glass wine tower in Las Vegas—and the meditative culinary gardens of HARVEST TABLE in St. Helena, where the only aerial theatrics are in buzzing beehives.
But it’s also not by accident that white-coated kitchen staff can frequently be spotted walking by the dining room with precious handfuls of fresh basil or microgreens from the restaurant’s herb and lettuce garden (one of several gardens on the property that are overseen by culinary horticulturist Laura McNiff). Or that executive chef Levi Mezick and his kitchen are perfectly framed inside a portrait window overlooking the restaurant’s alfresco dining terrace. Or that the extensive wine program includes a match-your-wits game of “blind” wine selections from the sommelier that let the diner guess what’s in the glass.
As you’re seated, all of these things will be pointed out to you. After all, Palmer isn’t afraid of a little entertainment value. Housed inside Palmer’s new Harvest Inn, a picturesque Napa Valley retreat, the 110-seat restaurant feels intimate and friendly, especially when you’re sitting cross-legged on a cozy pillowed corner seat on the sheltered patio.
There’s no doubt, however, that food is the real celebrity here. Noting that St. Helena has played culinary second fiddle to nearby foodie meccas like Yountville and Healdsburg, Palmer sees the restaurant’s focus on hyperlocal ingredients and talented staff as a way to bring back some of the town’s foodie luster.
Most recently hailing from the acclaimed Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, Mezick said Palmer had only one request when it came to planning the Harvest Table menu: shrimp and grits. Raised in Virginia, Mezick’s roots are in Southern cooking, and this signature dish ($14) was a perfect fit for Palmer’s progressive American style of cuisine. Made with Anson Mills grits, shrimp, bacon, andouille sausage, cheddar cheese, and a secret blend of Mezick’s favorite herbs and spices, it’s heartbreakingly good.
Mezick’s burger ($18) is another dish that’s got to be eaten to be believed. This two-patty, brioche-bunned beast is easily one of the best hamburgers in Wine Country, which is saying a lot, since burgers are something of a religion in these parts. You’ll also want to leave room for savory starters that include pommes dauphine ($7) with goat cheese fondue, crispy pork head “tater tots” ($6), petite sashimi of whatever’s fresh (we had halibut) with a sweet-tart cactus pear emulsion ($13), the most pillowy potato gnocchi we’ve ever had, with ramp butter and charred favas ($21), and if you’re there on a lucky day, Mezick’s whole truffled chicken, one of the daily “share” plates for two or more.
Former Dry Creek Kitchen pastry chef Andrew Di Clementi has crossed the mountain, and his signature peanut butter bar is on the menu, along with a selection of housemade ice creams and sorbets.
Service, of course, is five-star—one of the hallmarks of a Palmer restaurant—and the vibe is upscale-casual Wine Country, meaning you’ll find winemakers and winery owners rubbing elbows with tourists and neighborhood customers. “We have an enormous amount of work to do here,” Palmer said, “but we have an amazing situation here, and Levi really embraces what we’re trying to do.” Lunch Wed-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner Tue-Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm, brunch Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm. 1 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-4695.
‘Tis the season to announce THE RESTAURANT AT MEADOWOOD’S annual 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza. Now in its eighth year, the St. Helena resort hosts 11 big-deal chefs from December 4th through December 19th.
The chefs collaborate with Meadowood’s chef, Christopher Kostow, who has earned the restaurant three Michelin stars. Visiting chefs include Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in NYC, Switzerland’s Nenad Mlinarevic of Focus, Copenhagen’s Christian Puglisi of Relae, Jorge Vallejo of Mexico City’s Quintonil, Joshua Skenes of SF’s Saison, Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan in Melbourne, Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan of One restaurant in Chapel Hill, Isaac McHale of London’s Clove Club, locals Kyle Connaughton and his head farmer Katina Connaughton of the upcoming Single Thread (opening in Healdsburg this fall), Atsushi Tanaka of Restaurant A.T. in Paris, and Justin Yu of Oxheart Restaurant in Houston.
Save up your pennies, because this kind of star power doesn’t come cheap. Dinner-only tickets are $495 per guest and chef’s counter tickets (front-row seats to the kitchen action) are $750 per person. Ten percent of every ticket, plus $2,000 per chef, will be donated to Napa Valley charities. For reservations, call 855-304-8986.