This week's tablehopper: feeling Fesstive.
The first step in feeling Fesstive is a vintage silver ice bucket full of Fess Parker Winery’s 2014 Fesstivity blanc de blancs! Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Lawdy, this weekend almost did me in. And no, I wasn’t celebrating Mardi Gras early. I came down with some crazy food poisoning Friday evening, oof, and was worried I wasn’t going to be able to rally by Sunday evening for the Academy of Friends fundraiser event and Oscars party. But fortunately things turned a corner and it all worked out! Wow, it was quite an event. What a great crowd! People were DRESSED. Way to go, SF—so snazzy and fun.
I had a busy time with my sis and dear friend Danny pouring three cases of Fess Parker Winery’s 2014 Fesstivity blanc de blancs sparkling wine for all the guests—what a perfect party wine to pair with all the food being served. And thanks to everyone who subscribed to tablehopper that evening, welcome aboard! We also were giving away a $150 gift certificate to China Live. I’m hoping the lucky winner gets back to me soon or I’ll have to choose another winner! Nudge nudge.
It was my first year curating the restaurants for the event, and all I kept hearing all night was how amazing the food was, the best ever—so you rocked it, gang! Tremendous thanks and gratitude to all the restaurants who participated: it was a big ask, with a lot of pieces (I heard Pabu/The Ramen Bar rolled 1,500 temaki hand rolls!), and on a Sunday no less, which is a rare night off for most restaurant industry folks. We all appreciate your contribution so much—proceeds from the event will be donated to six HIV/AIDS service organizations. I also want to thank everyone who donated gift certificates to the silent auction, so generous. I’ll let you all know the final tally once I hear how much the event earned.
You can see pics on Instagram of some of the dishes. I was so busy pouring bubbles at my table that I wasn’t able to snap pics of everything. (And sadly I wasn’t quite up to trying everything either but it all looked so good. My body was like, “Can I just have some toast and water, please and thanks?”) Anyway, your support and participation meant so much to everyone there and involved with the event, mille grazie.
I want to do a shout-out to all the restaurants and partners who served Sunday evening because they so deserve your business and support: Liholiho Yacht Club, Dabba, Mister Jiu’s, Chubby Noodle, Nomica, Motze, Tartine, Dosa, The Saratoga, Mestiza Taqueria, Onsen, Parallel 37, Okane, Salt & Straw, E&O, Perle, Pabu/The Ramen Bar, Jane, Bluestem Brasserie, The Caviar Co., Cypress Grove Cheese, Hot Cookie, and Slanted Door. BOOM.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend and you missed your chance to snag tickets for my preview event at China Live next Saturday (sorry, that wait list is longer than the number of guests we have attending!), I’m happy to announce I’ll be emceeing the Bubbles and Brunch event at Flavor! Napa Valley on Sunday March 26th, see you there? Let’s drink some bubbles, yo.
In case you’re looking for some Mardi Gras options tonight, here’s my post from last week. Another option this week is the reopening of Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center on Friday evening—I’ll have a post about the new lineup, vendors, and dishes for you next week.
All this talk about sparkling wine has made me thirsty. Ciao! Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
China Live Opens with a Firecracker Bang on Broadway
Last week was a preopening party for CHINA LIVE, giving guests a look at the first floor of the mega culinary and cocktail multifloored project opening on Broadway this Wednesday March 1st. The first floor includes the Market Restaurant and Bar Central, Oolong Café, and a carefully curated retail area, Retail Market. Expect the other floors (including the high-end Eight Tables, which diners will access via a back-alley entrance, and a swank bar) to open later this spring and summer.
George Chen—founder and executive chef of China Live—has been working on this project with his wife, Cindy Wong-Chen, for the past few years. Chen hired one of the top concept design firms, AvroKO (who did a stunning job with Single Thread in Healdsburg), to design the 30,000-square-foot space, which some are calling the Eataly of Chinese food. Other key figures on the team are Joey Altman, Director of Culinary Operations, and Quinn McKenna (Lark Creek Restaurant Group), Executive Director of Operations (I also spotted Jonnatan Leiva and pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez helping out).
Let’s take a look. Visitors will first walk in past a flower and plant stand, and then will note the Oolong Café, outfitted with blue and white tiles that reference 14th-century Chinese porcelain. Be sure to take a close look at the wall installation, you’ll see some Bay Area landmarks cleverly tucked in. At the counter, you can order artisanal teas sourced directly from farmers in Taiwan and China (like Dong Ding “Frozen Peak” High Mountain oolong tea), coffee, and grab-and-go Chinese bites, including pastries and jianbing crêpes. There are 25 seats in the café.
The main event is Market Restaurant and Bar Central, with 120 seats, and it’s like the Chinese food court of your dreams, featuring eight stations: dumplings and dim sum, Chinese charcuterie and barbecue, cold salads and starters, noodles and rice bowls, fresh and live seafood, rice bowls, soups and tonics, wok stir-fry and grill, and desserts. You’ll have table service and order off a daily changing menu, which will feature seasonal products and dishes from many regions.
Some signature items include stone oven-roasted duck prepared Peking style with seasonal fruit glazes; sheng jian bao dumplings (SJB), which are juicy pan-fried pork dumplings; mapo tofu prepared tableside (meat or vegetarian); three-cup Taiwanese chicken with basil and seasonal citrus confit; chrysanthemum salad with star fruit vinegar (which you can pick up in the Retail Market, it has such an unusual and appealing flavor); and dan tat (Macanese egg custard tart) done crème brûlée style. Unfortunately I can’t share a menu at this time, but will go over it with you next week. (I’m also going in for dinner with a friend, so will be able to include more details.)
There are four exhibition kitchens with bar and counter seating, so you can watch the chefs in action. The dining room features chairs and huge communal/group tables handcrafted in China from reclaimed Northern Chinese elm, and it has a very clean look, with subway tiles alongside ones made with Shanghai clay. Of course, the kitchen is mega custom and top of the line. Be sure to peek at the stone oven they will be roasting Peking ducks in and the Wa Guan Tang ceramic cauldron for slow cooking.
Director of beverage Duggan McDonnell is crafting a unique program, from international wines and sherries that will pair with the many nuances of the food, to cocktails that will utilize Chinese ingredients—more on his list soon. There’s also a Malaysian-style cold-brew coffee and a custom Marin kombucha.
The Retail Market is full of cookware, cutlery, unique products for your pantry (including spices and condiments like vegetarian XO sauce), and top-of-the-line soy sauces, vinegars, teas, and more. There will also be fresh produce. Education will be a big part of the experience: there will be guides to help explain all the items in-depth, and screens will be streaming videos of Chinese cooking techniques.
The doors open this Wednesday March 1st 5pm-10pm. Stand by for more from me next week!
China Live - 644 Broadway, San Francisco - 415-788-8188
Preview Peek of Hitachino Beer & Wagyu, Opening Very, Very Soon
Back in the summer of 2015, tablehopper was first to report on the opening of a Hitachino-affiliated project in San Francisco, and I’m so happy to see HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU is almost ready to open its doors, the first Hitachino-operated location in North America. The Kiuchi family has been brewing sake since 1823 and is now in its eighth generation. All the craft beers will be served fresh on draft from kegs.
We have been checking in with chef Noriyuki Sugie over the past couple of years, so let me tell you more about him. Some past highlights oh his international career include a chef de partie position at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, working at Tetsuya’s in Sydney, as well as opening his own Restaurant VII. He was also chef de cuisine of Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Sugie has been collaborating with Kiuchi Brewery/Hitachino Nest Beer for the past 10 years, from creating a menu for the Hitachino Brewing Lab (a bar and homebrewing classroom) in Tokyo to consulting on the opening of Hitachino Hong Kong.
As for what he has in store for the TenderNob’s Hitachino Beer & Wagyu, it’s going to be a two-stage process. Opening first will be the bar menu, featuring 10 specialty Hitachino drafts—3 of which are exclusive to and brewed for San Francisco. Take a look at the opening menu here, which includes specialty barrel-aged beer as well. You’ll be able to get a 10-oz. pour, or try a tasting flight of three. No bottled beers will be served. An interesting and future program will invite SF brewers to the brewery in Japan to create special beers. There are also six kinds of Hitachino Kikusakari sakes, as well as Kiuchi umeshu plum wine, yuzu wine, and red wine—and charcoal-filtered water, of course.
To accompany the pours is a menu of bar snacks (both warm and cool) served in glass sake cups/jars and then poured into a bowl for diners to enjoy. Dishes include octopus sunomono; spicy squid and chorizo; meatballs with shiso, ponzu, and oroshi (grated daikon); pork belly kakuni with pickled egg; chicken gizzard with shishito pepper, garlic, soy, and shichimi; and beef suji nikomi with oxtail, miso, daikon, and konnyaku (a funky gelatinous substance made from a type of potato). Most dishes are $8.
The next phase of the project will be launching the Kappo menu, centered on fine-bred Hitachiwagyu beef from Sugie’s home region of Hitachi. It will be cut and grilled at the kitchen’s teppan grill. The inspiration is Kappo style, which is from Osaka, and means “to cut.” While designed to serve with beer and sake, it’s a nicer presentation than izakaya style, served on ceramics and other lightly refined touches. It will be a prix-fixe experience and will include a variety of dishes, including seafood and vegetables.
The cool Art Deco building (previously Kyu Sushi) now has a beautiful door from Japan, more than 100 years old, previously used for a storage area (note the vents on it). Once you walk in, you’re greeted with a long bar made from heavy wood that was used to press rice while making sake, with barstools with bright poppy seats. There are cherry blossom wood cabinets, stocked with pottery from Japan as well as some made in conjunction with a potter in Grass Valley. Throughout the space, there are some displays of ingredients like preserved lemon and pickles, plus spices that highlight the notes in the beers.
In the back of the restaurant are a variety of booths (most for 4) in a gray-blue with one large booth in the back for 5 or 6 guests, and a few tables as well; there are just 26 seats total in the whole space. You’ll note some vintage touches, like the exposed brick walls and Deco window cutouts.
As for the BIG QUESTION: when does it open? Right now they are waiting for the brewmaster to come from Japan, which is any day now. Once they get the okay, they will be opening for bar snacks and pours, and then launching the wagyu menu soon thereafter—be sure to sign up on the mailing list on the site to keep up on the news and prioritize your spot on the reservations-only list. As soon as I hear any concrete dates, I’ll let you know! 639 Post St. at Taylor.
Sharon Ardiana (Ragazza, Gialina) Opening Ardiana in La Nebbia Space
Congrats to Sharon Ardiana (Gialina, Ragazza) and the residents of Noe Valley, who are lucky to have ARDIANA opening in the former La Nebbia space in late spring/early summer. Working with her on the new project is Ardiana’s business partner and Ragazza GM, Greg Hinds (Hog Island Oyster Company, Zuni). She says the menu will be Cal-Med, including vegetable-centric small plates and some heartier entrées, all designed to be shared family style. You can trust she will also be rocking the Marsal pizza oven, offering a selection of pies. Ardiana knows her neighborhood audience and will be making the restaurant kid-friendly.
They will be doing a light refresh of the space—expect a change in color palette, chairs, tables, and lighting. She is honored to pick up the torch from La Nebbia’s Massimo and Lorella, and I can’t think of a better person for the space. Stand by for more.
Rice Paper Scissors Ladies Land a Brick-and-Mortar Location
After popping up for six years (I remember trying their banh mi one night on Divisadero, right on the street) and looking for a space for the past few years, Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu of Vietnamese pop-up Rice Paper Scissors have found a restaurant space in the Mission on Folsom and 22nd (formerly a grocery store called Delicateses La Plaza). They want to bring some Saigon style to the bare space, with bright colors, tropical plants, and pyramids of fresh fruit.
They plan to have a casual neighborhood restaurant that serves lunch, brunch, and dinner. The menu will have their trademark beef pho and noodle soups (bun bo hue, chicken pho), plus rice plates, street food (fried egg sandwiches), and dim sum bites, like handmade lamb dumplings. They are known for making everything from scratch, including oyster and hoisin sauces and shrimp chips. Beer and wine will be served.
In order to make this all happen, they just launched a Kickstarter to raise $35,000. There are some tasty food rewards and some pieces by local artists, too, so let’s help them build this place, bowl of pho by bowl of pho. They hope to open in a year, but the Kickstarter runs until March 31st.
Pop-Ups, Brunches, and Fundraisers
Let’s do a quick-fire round of what’s crack-a-lackin’ around town, click links for more info and details.
This Thursday March 2nd, Francis Ang (Pinoy Heritage, Fifth Floor, Dirty Habit) is popping up at PCH, so grab a cocktail and enjoy à la carte Filipino dishes with his contemporary and Cali spin on things, like asparagus and squash fritters and pear pinakurat; sisig fried rice with poached egg, pickled red onion; Lola’s lumpia with mango coriander ketchup; and longganisa tsukune with sugar cane, quail egg (can’t wait to try it!). For those of you who have always wondered/wanted to try balut, he’s serving duckling balut like you’ve never had it, with chicken skin, black truffle zest, jus. Dishes will run from $6-$12, 5pm-10pm. (He also has upcoming Feastly dinners that are more sit-down/degustation menu affairs, check dates here.)
Farm-to-Fork has launched a series of Sunday brunch talks, Beneath the Surface: Brunch & Lecture Series, featuring farmers, food producers, purveyors, and chefs, with Stephen Satterfield (Nopa, Nopalize) leading the charge. This coming Sunday March 5th features Kitazawa Seed Company (the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds) and Namu Farm at their land-themed brunch. The family-style brunch includes quiche, biscuits, local cured fish, charcuterie, and more from Farm-to-Fork and Fine & Rare, plus an open bar for all the bubbly, mimosas, and/or cider your heart (or head) can handle. Fresh juice and nonalcoholic cocktails provided by Libations Catering. Tickets: $60. The Village, 969 Market St. at 6th St.
On Monday March 6th is Chowdown for Chinatown, a buffet-style community dinner and fundraiser for the Chinatown fire victims (on February 3rd, a two-alarm fire displaced nineteen senior residents and seven businesses on Stockton Street), with 100 percent of proceeds from the ticket and bar sales going to the Chinatown Fire Victim Fund. The event will be at MISTER JIU’S, with food donated from Mister Jiu’s, Black Sands Brewery, Rice Paper Scissors, AA Bakery, Sam Wo, Mission Chinese, R&G Lounge, Liholiho Yacht Club, Namu Gaji, and more! 6pm-10pm, $20, tickets. Attendees can make additional donations to the fund online or at the event. 28 Waverly Pl. at Sacramento.
Service Updates Include No More Mondays at La Taqueria, Changes at Old Bus Tavern
Fans of the taco dorado should know that LA TAQUERIA is now closed on Mondays so that their “employees can get a much needed break.” Effective Monday March 6th.
OLD BUS TAVERN in Bernal has closed for a couple of weeks, and when they reopen on Sunday March 12th, they will be launching a more casual brewpub menu under consulting chef Blair Warsham (The Bird). Fortunately the chili will stay, but will now have a friend in a Frito pie with housemade Fritos. Dinner will also be served nightly, with free live music every Sunday. I’ll keep you posted on the reopening menu.
510 Updates: The Bay Area Loses Bette, Doughnut Dolly Berkeley, and Longitude
Extremely sad news for the many regulars and lovers of the pancakes at BETTE’S OCEANVIEW DINER (and the special woman behind them): chef and co-owner Bette Kroening has tragically passed away at 71 from cancer. Be sure to read this thoughtful piece by Jonathan Kauffman about her important contribution to our local culinary scene, feeding so many of us so well while taking good care of her staff, since 1982! Condolences to her family and many friends and fans.
Sorry to read DOUGHNUT DOLLY is closing her Berkeley shop after failed lease negotiations with her landlord. Fortunately you can still get your naughty cream fix at her Temescal Alley location and in The Market in the Twitter building. 1313 9th St. at Gilman, Berkeley.
And, man, sorry 510 for all the bad news, but I was also so sorry to hear that Suzanne Long is closing her beautiful tiki outpost, LONGITUDE OAKLAND, after three years in business. You need to come in for your last mai tai before this Sunday March 5th. The tiki community, bar community, and many cocktail aficionados are going to miss this special bar. 347 14th St. at Webster, Oakland, 510-465-2008.
Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Out on the Town: What's Shaking at Stookey's Club Moderne
Last week, I had such a swell evening at STOOKEY’S CLUB MODERNE that I wanted to be sure you have this swank little spot on your cocktail radar. Every last Thursday of the month, they have Nick Rossi and his Moderne Men come in, and there’s nothing quite like listening to some acoustic jazz from the early swing era while looking at couples in their vintage finery who occasionally get up from their barstools and do a little fox-trot, Charleston, or other fancy footwork. They start at 8pm and play until 10:30pm, and I got to take in three sets. Mark you calendar for March 30th for the next one (or just sign up for the Stookey’s newsletter for a reminder—link is on their homepage).
Meanwhile, behind the stick, you can’t miss Solario, with his white jacket and dapper and waxed curled mustache, who is doing such a bang-up job with the cocktails, like making his own grenadine for the Clover Club. An updated spring menu is launching this week, with more than 20 cocktails to choose from.
This bourbon lover was smitten with the Liberal, with Old Grand-Dad 114 proof (whooooo), with Carpano Antica, Bigallet China-China, Regan’s orange bitters, served up with a cherry—this one will be taking over my Boulevardier as my new favorite. You can finish the night with the bullshot, a substantive and savory drink with gin, beef broth (!), and fresh lemon, with notes of celery from celery salt and celery bitters, with a little zip of Tapatio and Worcestershire sauce—it soundly gives the Bloody Mary a run for its money.
If you want to hop into a little portal to 1930s San Francisco and forget about self-driving cars running red lights and the Cheeto and other modern-day nightmares, here’s your spot. Although in a funny twist, the bar actually accepts Bitcoin, the first to do so. From Streamline Moderne to modern, here’s to thinking ahead while saluting the past. Cheers. Closed Sundays. 895 Bush St. at Taylor, 415-771-9695.
Girl Scout Cookies Walk Into a Bar and Brewpub... And the Kiwis Are Coming!
It’s Girl Scout Cookie season, and a couple of local places are getting into the Thin Mint spirit of things. First up, this week is THE ALEMBIC’s 6th annual Girl Scout Cookie Cocktail Week, happening through Sunday March 5th! Head Barman Jacob Racusin has created four limited-time Girl Scout Cookie-inspired cocktails, which will be paired with two of the childhood classic cookies for $15. Also, on Wednesday March 1st, 10 percent of proceeds from the Girl Scout Cookie cocktails go to UP Academy.
Featured cocktails include: Apia-Colada (white rum, crème de cacao, coconut cream, and lime), paired with Samoas; The Cookie Monster (Eagle Rare bourbon, Amaro di Angostura, graham cracker, High Water Campfire Stout, and toasted marshmallow), paired with S’mores cookies; Ei Thai Iced Tea (house Thai iced tea and reposado tequila), paired with Tagalong cookies; and The Zinger (Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey, St. George Bruto Americano, Red Zinger, peppermint tea, and mint), paired with Thin Mints.
Since 2013, Woods Beer Co. has brewed their homage beer series inspired by the classic cookies, which will be released on Friday March 10th. The five beers include Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, Coconut Caramel Dubbel, Shortbread Golden Ale, Peanut Butter Cream Ale, and Chocolate Peppermint Porter. Starting Friday March 10th, swing by Woods Polk Station, Woods Bar & Brewery, and the newest Woods brewpub, Outbound, and order a beer, which comes with a cookie pairing, or there’s a Cadette Kit featuring all five beers online.
Okay, cookie monster, put down those Samoas and let’s pick up a wineglass instead. On Monday March 13th, anyone who is curious about New Zealand wines will want to head to a tasting held in conjunction with New Zealand Winegrowers and Farallon. The walk-around tasting includes 40 producers, including Akarua, Astrolabe, Babich, Brancott Estate, Carrick, Cloudy Bay, Craggy Range, Crown Range, Forrest, Giesen, Greywacke, Hillersden, Huia, Loveblock, Mission Estate, Mt. Beautiful, Nautilus, Palliser, Peregrine, Rockburn, Sacred Hill, Saint Clair, Seifried, Sophora, Spy Valley, Staete Landt, Tohu, Villa Maria, Vinultra, Whitehaven, and Wither Hills. There will also be fancy snacks by Farallon Restaurant. 6pm-8pm. $50 per person, available here. Gallery 308, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.
Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Join Roy Choi at CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) Feast This Saturday March 4th
Saturday Mar 4, 2017 6pm–9pm Tickets War Memorial Green Room 401 Van Ness, San Francisco
Coming up this Saturday March 4th is CAAMFeast: Stories, Food & You, an award ceremony honoring Asian American culinary achievement, with a food and drink reception, auction, and short films about CAAMFeast honorees Roy Choi (LocoL, Kogi BBQ), the Asian Chefs Association, and People’s Kitchen Collective. The reception includes participants LocoL, Buffalo Theory, Hodo Soy, Boba Guys, and Socola Chocolatier, with cocktails from Rémy Martin and No. 209 Gin.
All proceeds support CAAM’s legacy and future as the nation’s leading Asian American media arts organization committed to telling the stories of Asian communities. Tickets: $200 general admission (awards ceremony, food and beverage); $300 VIP “In the Kitchen” with People’s Kitchen Collective (tasting presentation in the Green Room kitchen), awards ceremony, and food and beverage; $100 student/nonprofit.
6pm-9pm (VIP reception 5pm-6pm). San Francisco War Memorial—The Green Room (401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco). Cocktail attire.
La Cocina Launches La Cocina Restaurant Week (March 6th-12th)
Monday Mar 6, 2017 – Sunday Mar 12, 2017
Clear your calendar, and loosen up that belt a notch, because it’s the first La Cocina Restaurant Week (March 6th-12th), with seven nights of prix-fixe dinners with La Cocina graduates and guest chef collaborations. They’re hosting the event in tandem with International Women’s Day, and it’s also a damn good time to celebrate the female and immigrant entrepreneurs who make our country what it is.
The first dinner with El Buen Comer is sold out, but here’s what remains on the schedule: -Tuesday March 7th at El Huarache Loco with Three Twins Ice Cream, Belcampo, and Marin Country Mart -Wednesday March 8th at A16 for their Festa Della Donna with El Pípila (this evening requires a standard dinner reservation directly with A16) -Thursday March 9th at Sabores del Sur -Friday March 10th at Los Cilantros with Arguello Restaurant -Saturday March 11th at D’Maize with Smitten Ice Cream and support from Almanac Taproom -Sunday March 12th at Nyum Bai with Sophina Uong of Mestiza Taqueria and Emeryville Public Market
Each ticketed dinner will host 40 diners for one seating. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased in advance via the schedule page. This week-long series was made possible with support from OpenTable and illy Caffé. And tremendous thanks to La Cocina, now in their 12th year of incubating food businesses, for facilitating the opening of 19 restaurants and cafés and 5 production facilities.
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Playing surprise matches with strangers on the Dolores Park courts can really make a lady hungry: Serena Williams was spotted having shrimp and grits early this morning at BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD.