This week's tablehopper: from taco to Tahoe.
7 of the 16 tacos at EDSF’s Taco Knockdown last night. And one very cute taco shirt (and man wearing it). Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hola, amigos. Last night’s Taco Knockdown—the opening event for this weekend’s Eat Drink SF—definitely fulfilled my taco quotient for the week. As a judge, I had to taste 16 tacos, but we’re talking about tacos made by badass San Francisco chefs, so all of us had to remember to taste and not finish them. Congrats to Trick Dog for winning judges’ choice for their outstanding birria de chivo, and Dosa won people’s choice for their duck vindaloo taco in roti, inspired by a Frankie (an awesome street food wrap you can find in Mumbai). I was sad to come home last night and realize I was out of Brioschi, Italy’s amazing version of Alka-Selzter (the Italians know a thing or two about indigestion).
Inhale, exhale. And tonight begins wave two of Eat Drink SF’s festivities, the grand tastings. There are still tickets for Friday’s and Saturday’s grand tastings (although the cocktail class I am co-hosting on Saturday afternoon is sold out, sorry everyone!)—don’t forget to use code TABLEHOPPER for a special discount. There’s also an Aperol spritz brunch party at Foreign Cinema on Sunday that is going to feature many Italian-inspired dishes.
Today’s issue is the last one you’ll see from me until September 1st. Since I got rained out of my Tahoe vacation six weeks ago, I’m going back up to try for round two this Sunday. Looking forward to a week of grilling and chilling. And crappy cell service. And catching up on my writing, and reading. And avoiding email. And hopefully enjoying plenty of sun. Because Fogust is not my jam, even after living here for 21 years.
Safe travels to all the Burners heading up for TTITD (That Thing in the Desert). I’m missing being out there. Although Burning Man with bugs sounds so strange. Mosquitos? Crazy. But every year, it’s always something out there. Many things.
Bisous! Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Slow Club Closing After 24 Years; The Morris from Paul Einbund Taking Its Place
There was a collective sigh among SF old-timers this week over the news about the upcoming closure of the SLOW CLUB, after a 24-year run in the Mission/Potrero Flats. Erin Rooney, owner of the Slow Club since 1998 (Steve Decosse opened it in 1991), sent out an email saying the restaurant is closing on Sunday August 30th. That’s when many of us started running the tape in our heads: the first dates, the drinks, the late-night burgers, the brunches, the birthdays. So many. Damn. Thanks for all the memories, Slow Club. You were such a cool hangout.
As we noted in tablehopper in June, Rooney is also selling GALETTE 88 downtown, but she will continue to be busy with Serpentine in Dogpatch.
At least that storied location is ending up in good hands: Paul Einbund’s, to be exact (many of you know him as the fast-talking and witty man behind the wine programs at Frances and Octavia). He is partnering with chef-partner Gavin Schmidt to open THE MORRIS, in homage in Einbund’s late father. Einbund met Schmidt then they were both working at Coi (Schmidt was chef de cuisine). Schmidt has also worked at Elizabeth Daniel, Campton Place, Blanca Restaurant in San Diego, and trained under Laurent Gras; Einbund has loved his food for some time. Schmidt enjoys whole-animal butchery and reportedly has quite the hand with charcuterie.
While the menu has not been worked out (there will be time for that), Einbund says that he wants The Morris to still be a neighborhood place, and to feel like a newer, fresh version of the idea of Slow Club. It’s important to him to provide for the neighborhood and existing clientele, so expect a similar price point. And he also knows the legacy of the burger there is an important one. He assures, “Even if we were opening a sushi place, there would be a burger!” It also helps that Einbund is obsessed with burgers.
You know someone is excited to put together the wine, beer, and spirits list. And he is also fired up to reveal some selections from his beloved (and extensive) collection of Chartreuse.
Architect Charles Hemminger and designer Scott Kester (who has designed restaurants for the Daniel Patterson Group) will be working on refreshing the space; Einbund is pleased Kester worked on RN74 with AvroKO, so he understands wine storage well. Einbund’s wife, Vanessa Yap Einbund, will be helping with the design and will also do all the brand identity (she designed the identity for State Bird Provisions and The Progress). It’s a bit tricky to estimate with permits and construction, but they hope to open in winter 2015.
We’ll keep you posted in the coming months as things take shape (here’s The Morris on Twitter in the meantime). And go get that last Slow Club burger and cocktail while you can. Thanks for all the memories!
Slow Club - 2501 Mariposa St. San Francisco - 415-241-9390
New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
I had just finished my first float in a sensory deprivation tank a couple of blocks away*, and was in a blissed-out, easy-breezy, super-relaxed state of mind (no Purple Kush needed). Walking into MIDDLE’TERRANEA, at the new Mina Test Kitchen, it was initially a bit of sensory overload. The gaudy brocade wallpaper that would make a Barbary Coast hooker proud (and don’t get me wrong, I love me some gaudy) from its previous incarnation as Café Claude Marina was still intact, and the low-ceilinged and dimly lit place was positively packed and buzzing with people.
While I was waiting at the bar for our table, a guest’s harissa chicken was served nearby, and I couldn’t believe how remarkable it smelled. Aroma city. My senses were a bit heightened, granted, but fortunately when it was my turn to have that roasted chicken placed in front of me, the earlier encounter wasn’t just a case of a trompe-l’œil, the nose version (trompe-le nez?). That succulent chicken was fricking delicious.
Chef Adam Sobel (of Michael Mina’s RN74) is a talented chef, but in the Test Kitchen, the two of them have created something extra-special together. Culinary alchemy. It’s a style of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food that has been missing in San Francisco, a big step up from from your local hummus and falafel joint, something more like the food you drool over in your copy of Ottolenghi’s Plenty (or his Instagram feed), but brushed with a restaurant kitchen’s elegant and technique-driven veneer. Flavors and ingredients span the favorite part of my spice rack, from Moroccan to Turkish, plus you’ll taste Israeli, Egyptian, and Lebanese influences.
And, of course, the ingredient sourcing is tops. Vegetables are celebrated here, and you’ll have a glimmer of what a really happy vegetarian diet would look like. It would definitely have their Moroccan street corn (with chermoula yogurt) in it, and the salad of lovage, watercress, and mint with melons and halloumi and whisper of orange blossom water. (If you have any dietary restrictions, or want an all-vegetarian meal, be sure to give them advance notice.)
At Middle’terranea, it’s a set menu that you prepay for with your reservation on the website, like a ticket—it’s served family style, and for $45, it’s a screaming deal (exclusive of tax and gratuity). Like, is this SF 2015? I couldn’t believe the generous amount of food they put up. You will walk out of there quite stuffed (I even had to bring some of my food home, and it was the best lunch the next day). You will feel taken care of, and inspired too—and wanting to come back with your friends (pssst, book that big table in the back!). Also worth noting: some seats are available for walk-ins at the bar, so you can try your luck at that if you’re feeling capricious (or impatient for a reservation).
A crowd-pleaser is the warm laffa (flatbread) that you pick up like a taco, containing za’atar-cured salmon, red onion lebneh, shaved Chioggia beet, and the delightful crunch of zucchini chips inside. It was something I loved about the dishes here: texture. They pay close attention to it (and the play of temperature too).
You’ll also note a deft layering of flavors, like in the dish of beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes, elevated with tahini, spicy lime dressing, toasted sesame, coriander blossoms, shaved onion, and then a crunch from the farro. It was a next-level tomato salad, one I’d like to have in my life, often.
My friend and I opted for the supplemental fish course ($14) and split it. A few spoonfuls of that aromatic broth, with a base of grilled lemon, saffron, and tomato, with a medley of herbs poured over the red snapper from a French press pot, and you’re like, yeah, that was a good move. (Go ahead, just pour it into my mouth.)
Sobel is experimenting and swapping in new dishes through fall, which is when this particular pop-up will be replaced with something else, so there are no guarantees that any of these dishes will be on the menu. I’m hoping they open this concept as a permanent location. They’d crush it.
You can go for the $30 beverage pairing, which has some fun picks like mead and a dry-hopped cider, or you can go for a glass of their Raventós i Blanc rosé of pinot noir and call it a day. I found sections of the bottle list to be overpriced—it would be nice to see a few affordable picks nestled in there.
I also wasn’t feeling two of the (almost) smoothie-like cocktails I tried, they needed some lightness and balance. I visited in the beginning weeks, so things like this, and service and flow are going to get smoothed out (we had a few lags in the meal). They’re working out of a galley-sized kitchen, and the menu is full of multiple courses, so I find the whole thing a bit wondrous.
Just get over there.
This review was based on one visit.
*Booking a pre-dinner float at Reboot Float Spa was pretty dreamy. Profoundly relaxing. And it did amazing things for my sore muscles and back too. If you want to check it out, use code TABLEHOPPER for $10 off! Thank me later. Mwah!
Middle'terranea - 2120 Greenwich St. San Francisco
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Fermentation Festival, New Healdsburg Restaurants, Pub Redeemed, Miminashi
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
Farm to Fermentation Festival 2015: Bigger and badder (meaning better) than ever, this celebration of all that ferments happens Saturday August 22nd at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center. Taste and learn about homemade miso, turmeric fermentation, beet kvass, cheese, and chocolate along with VIP tastings of local craft beers and ciders. Tickets are $50 for VIP admission, which includes entry to the Libation Lounge, and $30 for general admission. Special classes range from $18 to $45. More details online. 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-543-3737.
Taste of Petaluma: Eating + shopping = love. Also on Saturday August 22nd is the annual dining stroll through downtown Petaluma. Local shops pair up with more than 60 of Petaluma’s finest chefs, food purveyors, wineries, and breweries for a concentrated taste of what’s great in Petaluma. Best bets to check out: Bistro 100, Wishbone (at the Phoenix Theater), Sauced BBQ, and Seared. More details online.
New Restaurants in Healdsburg: Healdsburg Square is abuzz about the new Southeast Asian fusion restaurant, PERSIMMON, that will be opening this fall. Executive chef Danny Mai, formerly of the Petaluma Sheraton’s Tolay, is still working on the menu, but told BiteClub that it will definitely include a few Vietnamese staples. “Of course, I’ll have pho on the menu. If it’s not there, people will laugh me out of town,” he said, adding that banh mi sandwiches with housemade pâté and “soulful” dumplings are also in the works.
Mai, who was a Vietnamese refugee, has embraced a variety of cooking styles throughout his career, including French food during his stint at La Folie in SF, and most recently…Mexican food. It turns out that Healdsburg’s Oaxacan culinary giants, the Diaz family (Agave, El Farolito, and Casa Del Mole) are the financial backers of Persimmon. “The only way we can grow is to diversify our cuisine. There are so many Mexican restaurants already, and we want to do something different,” said Octavio Diaz, of Agave. Until the restaurant opens, Mai is doing menu consulting for the Diaz family restaurants, which, he said with a laugh, often makes for some funny looks when he steps out of the kitchen. “They’re like, ‘Wait, are you the chef here?’ ” he said. We can’t wait to hear more.
Also noted, BISTRO RALPH will soon transition to Ralph’s Martini House. We’ve seen the menu, which focuses on smaller plates and lots of seafood. Yes, the chicken livers, fries, and chicken paillard are still on the menu, but we’re jonesing for dishes like ahi tartare, sweetbreads with brown butter, foie gras with nectaries, pork tamales, cauliflower steak with salsa roja, and a sundae with vanilla gelato, caramel, chocolate, espresso, toffee, and whipped cream.
“It’s more modern and more relaxed,” said owner Ralph Tingle. “That’s the way we’re dining now and we have to be competitive,” he said. The restaurant will feature a full bar menu to boot, rather than just the classic martinis they’ve served for 23 years. With a few odds and ends to still finish on the revamped restaurant, Tingle said they’re still in very soft launch mode, but will have a grand opening within a couple of weeks. 109 Plaza St., Healdsburg, 707-433-1380.
Former Oenotri co-owner and chef Curtis di Fede is gearing up for the opening of Napa’s first izakaya this fall, MIMINASHI. Announced last week, the forthcoming Japanese pub is a far cry from his highly touted Italian fare, but di Fede is no stranger to the cuisine of the Far East, having worked at London’s Wagamama and with Hiro Sone of Terra restaurant in St. Helena. Miminashi’s menu is still in development, but di Fede said it will feature traditional izayaka-style fare, as well as ramen and yakitori. The chef is headed to Japan for another visit this week, according to his Facebook page. The restaurant will be located at 821 Coombs Street in downtown Napa.
Long story short: HERITAGE PUBLIC HOUSE has great pub grub. Finally. But the story behind the story? In April, veteran chef Josh Silvers took over the kitchen of the Santa Rosa bro-pub, which had great beer but somewhat lackluster dining. With 42 taps and their own recently launched Bloodline Brewing, the food wasn’t really the point. That’s all changed.
After some early fumbles taking over the three-year-old pub’s kitchen and management, Silvers has found his groove. With newly trained staff in the front and back of the house, Heritage Public House is worth a second look. Silvers isn’t a subtle when it comes to big flavors, and the new menu features a lot of them, such as smoked chicken with maple sweet potatoes, fried pig ears with aioli, burrata panzanella with heirloom tomatoes, pulled pork open-face sandwich with crispy onion straws on Texas toast, malt ice cream with peanuts and caramel, mac and cheese with a toasted Rice Krispies topping, pork belly with black lentils, and brewer’s yeast fries.
It’s a rare chef who will admit a stumble, big or small. But it’s their necks on the line, and Silvers doesn’t mince words when it comes to the close shave he got in taking over an existing kitchen and staff. Now, the bugs are worked out, and the food is worth another look. I’ll put my neck out on that one. 1901 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, 707-540-0395.
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
You're So Yeah, Mon and You Don't Even Know It
Last night, a tablehopper reader spotted Vince Vaughn at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena. He reportedly came in with a small group, blended in with the locals and enjoyed the reggae band (yeah mon) before sitting with his entourage at the bar.