Chanterelles, hen of the woods, and trumpet mushrooms with huckleberries at Petit Crenn. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Well look at that, we have some warm weather lined up for Halloween, so all the slutty witches and slutty shirtless bros in short shorts won’t freeze this year. Actually, I am happy for the little kiddies who can go out trick-or-treating and not get their homemade robot costume all rained on.
Since we’re talking about getting rained on, I had not one but two instances of ill-mannered people spilling things on me yesterday. Number one: dude at the StrEat Food Park, poorly managing to balance all of the food he had stacked up, and his salsa container of ketchup falls off his pile, splatters my jeans, foot, and squeezed into the perforated cutouts in my shoe and got all over the inside. I blurted a “shit!” while he could barely muster a “sorry.” I think he’s going to get me a napkin, but no, he gets himself another ketchup and doesn’t pick up the one he spilled and scurries off. Dude, #youredoingitwrong.
Last night, at the (trés fantastique) Hot Chip show at the Fox, Miss Thing is holding two full pints of beer overhead and proceeds to spill her stinky beer all down my neck and back as she clumsily pushes through the crowd. Honey, take a sip before you move through a crowd, and don’t hold beers up overhead like an Olympic torch if you can’t handle them—no one wants an IPA shower. You are not Flo from Alice—you are a klutz. Your chirpy “sorry!” was truly pathetic. And not enough.
What is wrong with people? I’d be horrified if I splattered ketchup on someone or spilled my beer down their back. I’d rush to get them napkins. I would apologize profusely. We all make mistakes moving through this world, but it’s how you handle the cleanup that makes a difference. It says a lot about who you are. Let’s all try harder out there.
(Twice in one day was just too much for me to not vent. Thanks for listening.)
Yours truly’s post (Seven things San Francisco restaurants need to stop doing, like, right now) is #1 on the page, and will hopefully be number one in votes, because the winner gets an apartment rent-free in New York City for six months and will write for Time Out about New York’s restaurant, nightlife, and city scene. Yes, it would be a dream come true for me!
And it would be the best present for my birthday, which is actually this Sunday, so thank you for voting! XOXO
Have a great fall weekend—and don’t forget to fall back (instead of fall down)! Marcia Gagliardi
You deserve three fantastic nights in Wine Country, oh yes you do. And you really deserve to win those nights at not one but three high-end hotels, with dinner included too! And you also need to be driven around to wineries in a Mercedes GL450 SUV and be set up with insider appointments by a top luxury travel firm, right? Yes, you do! So let’s talk details!
The winner will enjoy one night in one of the brand-new Palm View rooms at the recently updated Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga, where you’ll lounge around in one of California’s largest mineral pools and have a fantastic dinner for two prepared by chef Kory Stewart at Sam’s Social Club.
Get ready to explore Healdsburg from your eco room home base at the h2hotel, a LEED-certified hotel that is all about eco-chic, which offers complimentary bikes, a pool, and a fireplace where you can kick back in the evening over cocktails. Dinner is a three-course prix-fixe menu for two at the stylish Spoonbar, where you can explore chef Louis Maldonado’s contemporary American cuisine.
And after renovations are complete on March 15th, 2016, you’ll be able to spend a night in one of the Craftsman-style rooms amid the lush pinot noir and chardonnay vineyards at The Carneros Inn. Be sure to take in the panoramic view from the stunning adult-only pool, and you’ll savor a meal of locally sourced ingredients at the elegant yet relaxed FARM.
And about that ride: you and three guests will experience an all-inclusive six-hour private wine tour, courtesy of Napa Private Tours in a luxurious Mercedes GL450 SUV. Their wine coach will take you and your guests to the tasting rooms at Domaine Chandon, B Cellars Vineyards, and Ehlers Estate for some of the best wine and food pairings Napa has to offer.
You’ll also get the inside line from Azurine Travel, a luxury travel firm that will provide consultation on tailored experiences and access to exclusive wineries and estates in Napa Valley.
Whether you break up the prizes over three weekends, or decide to hop from place to place over a long weekend is up to you! Do note that accommodations and the dinners are for two people (alcohol is not included with the dining vouchers), and there are some blackout dates in the fine print. Good luck from all of us at UpOut, Liquor.com, Drink Me, BlackboardEats, and tablehopper!
Walking into Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn’s new casual restaurant in Hayes Valley, PETIT CRENN, is like a breath of fresh seaside air. The clean lines and chic white palette (which includes glossy artwork by Lucky Rapp, curvy modern chairs, and pendant lights suspended from thick rope) do a lot to make guests quickly feel all easy-breezy. It also has one of my favorite place settings in the city, hitting a delightful note of soigné vintage.
You’ll smell a hint of smoke and feel the heat from the busy grill in the kitchen, especially if you’re sitting at the counter, where they offer an à la carte menu to walk-ins from 5pm-10pm. You can come by for the silky omelette ($18)—given a Japanese touch with a whisper of dashi alongside the fines herbes—or a deeply satisfying poached egg with warm chestnut vinaigrette and burnt bread ($12) and a glass of wine off wine director Courtney Humiston’s mostly French 14-glass list.
The main event is the prix-fixe menu ($79, including gratuity), written nightly upon the blackboard (provoking a swift remembrance of the space’s former incarnation as Bar Jules). Seatings are at 6pm and 8:30pm.
Be sure to get a glass of bubbles in front of you before the gougères filled with clouds of Navarrais cheese and topped with pickled shallot appear. Your palate will be sparked with the different oyster preparations that arrive next, from smoked tomato gelée and sea beans to grains of paradise and candied fennel mignonette.
You won’t find any meat here—the menu highlights seafood and is Crenn’s homage to her seaside home of Brittany (and to the cuisine of her mother and grandmother). Which also means the famous Breton butter will appear on the table, with customized Josey Baker bread, which you will lustily dunk into the leek cream sauce at the base of a huge bowl of mussels.
The main event is a whole wood-fired trout for two from Passmore Ranch, grilled to juicy perfection and topped with cider sabayon—your server will debone and fillet it for you at the table. It’s a welcome touch that contrasts the mostly absent feeling you’ll note regarding service throughout the night—they’re so busy rushing out food to the tables (along with the kitchen crew in their jaunty striped aprons) that some basics can slip through the cracks, like your glass being filled and plates cleared. Timing between courses can also be a little erratic—hopefully you’re dining with interesting people and won’t care too much. (I can see this all getting tightened up as the restaurant progresses.)
What I do love is the family-style format that really brings your tablemates closer together—it feels like you’re having a smashing (and generous) meal at your friend Dominique’s house. For the full experience, there’s also a chef’s table with room for six, $120 each. (Crenn’s executive sous chef, Aaron Thayer, was previously sous chef at Atelier Crenn.)
I also j’adore the vegetable-centric menu, like a blistered cauliflower gratin with Espelette and smoked bread crumbs (or a cheesy/crusty potato gratin), or cabbage with shallots and charred leek vinaigrette, or sweet roasted carrots with sumac, hazelnuts, and yogurt.
At the end of the meal, your table is served a salad of bitter greens, refreshing and crunchy with radish, persimmon, and other seasonal additions. You’ll also be presented with a slice of a sticky washed-rind cheese from Brittany off a platter. The menu is a study of simple things done well and leaves you feeling grounded and nourished on many levels. (You can order additional dishes off the à la menu, but you really don’t need to—you’ll walk out of there very sated.)
I had a diner with me one night who was vegetarian, and the kitchen took such good care of her. Just be sure to alert them to any dietary restrictions 72 hours ahead of time and they’ll make adjustments.
For dessert, a Far Breton aux pommes hit our table with three spoons. It was like a room-temp clafoutis with apples in it—simple, homey, and rustic. (Although I have fonder memories of the bright orange givrée from my first visit.) The mignardises—butter cookies, bitter chocolate truffles, and caramels—are a final flourish, but you won’t linger long with the wave of 8:30pm diners hawkeyeing your table from outside.
The restaurant is now serving breakfast and lunch, making it accessible to those who want to enjoy the chic atmosphere over buckwheat crêpes and trout tartines.
Petit Crenn - 609 Hayes St. San Francisco - 415-864-1744
And…action! The NAPA VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL lights up Napa Valley from November 11th to 15th with more than 120 indie film screenings, plus glittering galas and plenty of food and wine events. This is Napa, after all. Food-centric films, including For Grace, about the opening of chef Curtis Duffy’s dream restaurant, Growing Farmer, the profile of an aspiring young farmer in the Salinas Valley, and City of Gold, a documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold (who will also host a discussion), join the lineup of films competing for awards. A series of vintner dinners and other tony culinary experiences round out the lineup. One- and five-day passes are available online, with prices starting at $95/day. $15 rush tickets to single films will be sold first come, first serve after pass holders have been admitted.
We’ve got an insider’s secret to meeting some of your favorite vintners and tasting some of their wineries’ best recipes: Sonoma’s annual WINE & FOOD AFFAIR on November 7th and 8th. The weekend event is a walk-around, sip-around tour through the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. A bit more sedate than some of the other tasting events of the season, this post-harvest event takes advantage of one of the most beautiful times in the vineyards. Tickets are $70 for the weekend and $50 for Sunday only. Details online.
Arrivederci to TRA VIGNE. After nearly 30 years as one of Napa’s most legendary restaurants, it will close in December. One of its first partners, Kevin Cronin, reminisced about the decades of celebrity sightings, life-changing introductions, and first jobs for many of Wine Country’s elite. A Wine Country institution, it was hub for up-and-coming winemakers in the Napa Valley, as well as a see-and-be-seen spot for celebrities throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
“A lot of big names started their careers there,” he said. Michael Chiarello was the first executive chef, if that’s any indication. But after months of rumors, news officially broke that the restaurant will shut its doors on December 20th after property owner Bill Harlan decided not to renew the restaurant’s lease. And while the restaurant had lost some of its luster in recent years, the closure is a tough one for many to swallow.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Cronin, who left Tra Vigne in 2006 to open Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar with chef John Franchetti (also a Tra Vigne alum), but has kept close ties to the current partners. “It was like Camelot in the early days,” he said. “It was an epic time, and (the closure) is the end of an era,” he said.
The restaurant’s onetime guest list included Robert Redford, Robert Mondavi, Danny DeVito, and Francis Ford Coppola. Even Julia Child made an appearance once, asking to meet everyone in the kitchen and shake their hands. “She had an impact on every person she touched,” Cronin said. “She knew who she was supposed to be for people.”
Stories come easy for Cronin, who describes the property as one of the most beautiful in America. A life-changing moment for him: having dinner with Andre Tchelistcheff, one of California’s most important winemakers, credited with defining the enduring style of Napa wines. “He talked about pinot noir like sex. It was like magic, and one of the most amazing moments in my career,” he said. Rumors are already swirling again as to what’s next for the space, but from what we hear it will continue to operate as a restaurant. A large group of old-timers plan to meet at the restaurant on November 20th, Cronin said.
Barbecue You’ll Queue For: I’ll be writing a whole lot more about the exploding barbecue scene in Sonoma County, but there’s one spot that’s already got lines out the door. KINSMOKE opened on the Healdsburg Square less than a month ago, serving St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, smoked chicken, corn bread, and pulled pork. The former Center Street Cafe has been magically transformed into a Texas roadhouse, complete with rolls of paper towels on the tables and a secret sauce that’s so secret that even co-owner Brad Barmore had to beg for it—from his father-in-law. If the name sounds familiar, it’s the second Sonoma County restaurant for business partners Brad Barmore and JC Adams, who opened Windsor’s KIN restaurant in 2011. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440.
But wait, there’s more. COCHON VOLANT BBQ SMOKE HOUSE is opening in Sonoma this week, offering Texas-style barbecue that’s smoked over almondwood and sliced to order. Chef-owner Rob Larman has been running a mobile barbecue operation for the last seven years, so it looks like he’s already got his stripes. More on this spot after the doors open. 18350 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma.
Recently, I also headed to Guerneville to check out THE JUICY PIG, a new barbecue spot from chef Ruben Gomez (most recently of Corks in Forestville). I’ve been hearing lots of great stuff about Gomez’s barbecue, and as we arrived, the smell of smoked meats was a solid sign. We loved the ridiculously cheesy mac and cheese, and the unbeatable Ruben’s Reuben ($14), with house-smoked pastrami, sriracha Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, and melted havarti and Gruyère on Costeaux’s pumpernickel. Strangely enough, the day’s soup—butternut squash—was one of the best bowls of soup we’ve ever had. I mean, ever.
The slow-smoked brisket and Niman Ranch pork ribs have potential, but seemed like they could have benefitted from just a little more fat and time to be as tender as we like. Sides also show promise, but could do with some additional seasoning. Overall, we’re looking forward to seeing how this one pans out, because West County could use a good barbecue spot. 16440 4th St, Guerneville, 707-604-7120.
LA PERLA, a sleeper Peruvian restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa, was a huge surprise on the 2016 Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list, beating out spots like Sondra Bernstein’s Girl and the Fig and several others that dropped off the list. I stopped by La Perla last Sunday to see what all the hubbub was about and wasn’t disappointed. Though the restaurant has had its ups and downs in the kitchen, Sunday was definitely an up, with authentic ceviches, including prawns with mango, ginger, red onions and lime ($15), and ahi with coconut milk and plantain chips ($16). We also loved the beef heart skewers and papa rellena, a fried potato croquette with beef, onions, raisins, and olives ($10).
It turns out that the chef who cooked for us Sunday—a former Sazon employee—has departed, and the original chef has returned. We’ll have to wait and see how things shake out before giving it a final thumbs-up, but the ceviche is definitely worth checking out. 522 7th St., Santa Rosa, 707-324-9548.