This week's tablehopper: the fempire strikes back.
And so it begins… The initial table setting at Single Thread. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Did you have a nice weekend? Mine started with a preview of the new vendors and offerings at Off the Grid, check out my recap in the chatterbox. I was invited to attend CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) Feast on Saturday, honoring The People’s Kitchen Collective, Roy Choi, and the Asian Chefs Association for their important contributions to the community. It was also a kickoff to CAAMFest, running March 9th-19th—be sure to check out all the films and documentaries that are a part of it.
Also in media land: did you see the trailer for the Jeremiah Tower documentary, The Last Magnificent? Can’t wait for that one!
When your friend who is in town asks if you’re free to join her on Sunday at Single Thread, the only reply is “What time?” What delight to be able to experience that magical place again, I couldn’t believe it. Have you made your reservation yet? I’ll be posting more in a Healdsburg recap for you!
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, a day I always look forward to spending at A16 for Festa della Donna. This year, the celebration is part of La Cocina’s (first) Restaurant Week, cooking in concert with El Pípila and female winemakers (Joy Sterling with her Iron Horse Rainbow Cuvee and Michela Montanari of Villa Crespia Franciacorta). See you there?
Tomorrow, many women and their allies will be taking the day off to act together for equity, justice, and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity, A Day Without a Woman. Expect to see many wearing red, and if possible, avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women-, and minority-owned businesses). #daywithoutawoman
In solidarity, Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
A Closer Look at What's on the Menu at China Live
Mega project CHINA LIVE is shifting into higher gear, and it looks like they are going to be starting Market Restaurant and Bar Central’s lunch service on Tuesday March 14th at 11am, which means they will then have continuous hours every day until closing. For this week, Market Restaurant and Bar Central are open Sun-Wed 5pm-10pm and Thu-Sat 5pm-11pm. (Remember, no reservations.)
You can look at last week’s overview of the project; I went on opening night to dine with friends, and I now have a menu to share with you. (The menu changes daily depending on what they’re finding at the market, so this is yesterday’s.) Founder George Chen’s team is led by Joey Altman, director of culinary operations, and chef de cuisine Chi-Feng Lin (previously at high-end restaurants in Taiwan), with Jonnatan Leiva and Ivan Tam.
Some highlights from our dinner: the chashu bao (baked pork buns) with their sweet crumble topping; and the lightly crisp sesame pockets for the Peking duck with kumquat glaze, which are something different than the usual pancake or steamed buns/bao presentation we usually see in SF. The sheng jian bao (pan-fried juicy dumplings) are a must, just eat them carefully. The Sichuan “working hands” boiled wontons reminded me of a Chinese version of large and loose cappelletti, such a fine wrapper (ditto the XLB).
Our table enjoyed the three-treasure bao zai fan claypot rice with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), la rou (cured pork belly), and la wei fan (cured duck), and the flavorful Taipei beef noodle soup will warm you right up. The vegetable dishes were a particular highlight, like the winter radish, the chrysanthemum salad, and pressed five-spice bean curd with celery and green peppercorn. There’s plenty of live seafood to choose from, and overall, the kitchen had a light touch.
Dessert is from pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez, who is adding some contemporary and elevated touches. Our table was particularly taken with the sesame soft serve topped with mango shaved ice. Look for some pastries and more, which will be coming from him at the Oolong Café.
Be sure to take a look at the wine list and cocktails by director of beverage Duggan McDonnell. And for those of you joining us this Saturday for the sold-out tablehopper preview event, I hope you’re coming hungry.
China Live - 644 Broadway, San Francisco - 415-788-8188
20th Street Haps: A New Bakery (Kahnfections) and New Chef at 20 Spot
While it was sad to have Green Heart Foods close a couple of months ago, a new business is taking its place: KAHNFECTIONS, a bakery from Judy Kahn. She was working with Sandbox Bakery for a number of years, and then went out on her own. Now she’s opening her first brick and mortar, where she will be baking and serving biscuits (classic buttermilk, cheddar bacon, dill Swiss, and possibly egg sandwiches down the road), croissants, and scones, plus dessert items and comfort food favorites, like cookies and carrot cake. The opening will be in a couple of months or so. I’ll keep you posted. Hours will be 6am-3pm. 3321 20th St. at Folsom.
Also on 20th Street: wine bar extraordinaire and neighborhood clubhouse 20 SPOT has a new chef, the talented Joyce Conway from Zero Zero. She begins March 15th and will keep the classics, like the deviled eggs, oysters, and cheese plate, but the remaining dishes will be inspired by what’s at the market. Expect some comforting American/Californian dishes, with Italian and Asian influences. And since she will just be coming back from Spain, you’ll see some Spanish touches as well. Some hints at what’s to come: hand-filled pastas, porchetta, crudos, poke, ceviche, hand-pulled mozzarella, fresh ricotta, “all cooked with love,” as she says. 3565 20th St. at Lexington, 415-624-3140.
Closures Include Shorty Goldstein's and Loló Cevichería, Rancho Gordo
There are some emails that I really hate to receive, and I got a couple of them this past week regarding the closure of two businesses, from really great people. Closing this Thursday March 9th is Jewish deli SHORTY GOLDSTEIN’S in the Financial District, home of my favorite corned beef in the city. Chef-owner Michael Siegel opened Shorty’s four years ago, an homage to his heritage and family recipes. (Shorty was his grandmother.)
When listening to him explain the what and why, I couldn’t help but think it sounded all too much like what happened to Merigan. Both delis had owners with a strong commitment to using quality ingredients, making a great deal of items by hand, and ultimately there was too much of an imbalance between all the hours and labor and effort against the final numbers. He said it was an incredibly hard decision, but at a certain point, they realized they just wouldn’t ever be able to get ahead. Siegel said he didn’t want to sound like every other restaurateur closing a business right now saying, “San Francisco is so hard,” but it’s true. As an example, he explained his cost for meats has doubled since he opened Shorty’s, but his sandwich prices didn’t. He said it’s so hard to explain to people, and it’s a constant battle with people’s expectations and sense of value, and not knowing everything that goes into the making of that Rachel sandwich. Add in escalated rent, minimum wage, and food costs, and it’s all really hard for a small business like his to survive.
He said he hasn’t had two weeks off in more than 10 years, so he’s going to take some well-deserved time to regroup. Siegel will potentially look at opportunities closer to Sonoma, which is where he lives with his wife. While he won’t miss the three hours of daily commute time, he is definitely going to miss all their regulars, who have become family. Expect a heartfelt closing party this Thursday. Best wishes, Michael. Thanks for all the care you took in feeding all of us so well. 126 Sutter St. at Montgomery, 415-986-2676.
The other sad closure news was from the Loló team, who let me know they were closing LOLÓ CEVICHERÍA, after 10 years in the location (it’s where they opened the original Loló, which is now on Valencia). Their lease was going to end at the end of March but they just decided to close ahead of time—their last day of operations was this last Saturday. Loló of course remains open and buzzing on Valencia. 3230 22nd St. at Mission.
One more item to note: heirloom bean maestro RANCHO GORDO is closing the Ferry Building shop at the end of the month, on March 27th. Fortunately the Napa shop will still be open, offering classes and demos (and is actually going to be expanding). And, of course, you can still order online and find them at various markets.
What's New at Off the Grid: Fort Mason (and Presidio Picnic Returns)
Last Friday, I got to check out some of the new vendors at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center, which just started back up. A few highlights: fans of Cuban cuisine who just can’t find a decent Cubano in this town (raises hand) will definitely want to swing by the Cuban Kitchen tent. Founder Lynna Martinez makes a really good one, and I really fell for her fritas: little pork burgers with a smoky, chorizo-like heat from the pimenton she uses, with housemade habanero pickles and crispy little french fries tucked in there. You want this.
You can also try the Chinese street treat jian bing from Tai Chi Jianbing—it’s like an eggy crêpe with fun fillings inside, and they care about using organic ingredients. El Porteño is back with their empanadas, and Pretzelina is serving authentic Bavarian-style pretzels with beer cheese. You can stay hydrated with a fresh coconut from CORE Kitchen, or bring it over to neighbor Rye on the Road and have it spiked with some booze. (Or you can go for one of Rye on the Road’s boozy hot toddies—it hits the spot on a chilly and windy SF night.) And of course a bunch of regulars will be returning, from Johnny Doughnuts to Curry Up Now, and don’t miss the wood-fired pizzas from A16—check the schedule for the latest.
Music will also continue to be a part of the event, with live bands from 8pm-10pm. Every Friday 5pm-10pm through October.
Mark your calendar and get ready for Presidio Picnic to start on Sunday March 19th, returning for its fifth season with The Presidio Trust. Food, drinks, music, lawn games, fun with the kiddies…the bases are covered. Plus groups can pre-order food this year (check the site).
New to Presidio Picnic this year are A’repa, Belgian Frites, Bi-Rite Creamery, Farm Stand Lemonade, Hookt Mini Doughnuts, Jackrabbit, Falcon, Marla Bakery, Ocean Oyster Company, Senor Sisig, and True Jerky. Returning vendors include Ceviche & Co., Cochon Volant, Del Popolo, DUM Truck, Early Bird Tacos, El Sur Empanadas, Fine & Rare, Grilled Cheez Guy, Little Green Cyclo, Nopalito, Sam’s Chowder, Slightly Skewed, Tex Mex, The Whole Beast, and Wings Wings. Main Parade Ground, Sundays through October, 11am-4pm.
510 Updates: Mockingbird's New Nest, Drip Line, Old Kan, Lunch at The Wolf
Some exclusive news for you: MOCKINGBIRD is reopening at the end of March in their new (and expanded) location in downtown Oakland (they originally opened on San Pablo Avenue in 2013, and closed in 2016). Melissa Axelrod and William Johnson are confirmed for an opening by late March. The bistro format will continue, serving sophisticated yet approachable seasonal cuisine (think Nopa and Zuni Café). Menu items include duck liver mousse with local strawberry rhubarb jam and grilled Firebrand bread; fried Brussels sprouts with lemon-garlic confit aioli, blue cheese, and saba; and slow-cooked pork sugo with manchego cheese and crispy rosemary polenta.
There’s a full liquor license, so they will focus on classic craft cocktails and local beers and wines (with an emphasis in Oakland producers). While dinner will feature table service, lunch will also offer quick counter service for those who are on the go. The 4,200-square-foot space features a 20-seat bar, booths, round tables, and a mezzanine that can accommodate large parties. Note the original exposed red brick walls and refinished antique Douglas fir floors.
They are starting with lunch first, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, then happy hour and dinner service will be added. It will be an ideal spot for a quick drink or bite at the bar before a show at the Fox Theater. Breakfast and brunch will be coming later. 416 13th St. at Broadway, Oakland, 510-290-0331.
West Oakland has a new café and restaurant, DRIP LINE, which opened in a renovated and light-filled warehouse which was previously a cookie factory. The project is from architects Carrie Shores and Josh Larson (their firm, Larson/Shores Architecture and Interiors, sits above the restaurant) and chef Nora Dunning, who is highlighting her Singaporean roots with dishes like housemade sambal shrimp and coconut grits, congee with bird’s-eye chile kosho, and rendang (Indonesian-spiced slow-braised beef)—look for hyperlocal ingredient sourcing. She also has some serious baking skills, making housemade breads and pastries, and she was most recently head kitchen manager and culinary operations manager for Blue Bottle Coffee. Breakfast, coffee service from Four Barrel Coffee, and lunch are served Mon-Fri 7am-5pm. 1940 Union Street #21 at 21st St., Oakland, 510-612-6952.
Also in West Oakland, the former Dock has finished its transformation into OLD KAN BEER & CO., a brewery and beer garden from Linden Street Brewery founder Adam Lamoreaux and chef James Syhabout. There’s a 35-seat dining room, a 60-seat patio, and a private dining room that fits 48. The first three beers are Old Kan Original, Old Kan Dark, and Old Kan Light, which are currently being produced in San Jose until they get their license. There will also be guest beers on tap, serving 10 beers in all. The pub-style menu includes a burger, meatball sandwich, and salads, plus buttered noodles and more. And if you like fun facts, the name is an anagram of Oakland. Open Wed-Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm, Sun 12pm-6pm. 95 Linden St. at 3rd St., Oakland.
If you want to grab some lunch, THE WOLF is now serving Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm. The menu is here—duck banh mi, check. 3853 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-879-7953.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
(Sponsored): Trade and Media, Save the Date: Washington State Wine Is Coming to Oakland
Attention wine trade, restaurant industry, and media! Join us on Thursday April 6th when Washington State Wine comes to Oakland for a Trade and Media Seminar at Sunset Magazine’s Headquarters in Jack London Square from 11am-12:30pm, with lunch provided.
This is a global comparative tasting of riesling, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon led by Bob Betz, MW, the founder of Betz Family Winery. Panelists for the seminar and tasting include Sara Schneider of Sunset Magazine, Greg Harrington, MS, of Gramercy Cellars, and David Rosenthal of Chateau Ste. Michelle. This seminar is sure to fill quickly. Open to qualified trade and media only. Email (mention you saw it in tablehopper) or call 707-938-9703 with any questions. Don’t miss this amazing event.
New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
Some restaurants just aren’t like the others. They may have a challenging name to pronounce (Coi comes to mind), or serve hard-to-classify food (e.g., The Progress), or just have such a quirky format that you surrender and roll with it (like the early days of Mission Chinese Food). And in the case of MOTZE, they have all three of those bases covered.
The culinary powerhouse that is Nick Balla and Cortney Burns started ramping up in wattage during their time cooking at Bar Tartine together (since 2011). We saw the menu fluctuate from Eastern European to Japanese to Mediterranean and many spaces in between, from à la carte to family-style feast.
Then, at the end of 2016, they launched a temporary side project, Motze (say “mo-tzu”—in honor of a Chinese philosopher from fifth century BC), a few blocks away in the former Herbivore. And then they stepped away from opening their upcoming concept, Crescent, in the Bar Tartine space and closed the restaurant on New Year’s Eve of 2016 (Crescent is in a holding phase at the moment).
Yes, these two are mercurial. Pinning them down is like caging the wind. They are about flow, improvisation, and being open to inspiration. They are two chefs who are in concert with nature, rolling with whatever the daily offering is from the many purveyors and farms they source from (including their dedicated relationship with Full Table Farm). You go for lunch and one week later, half the menu has been changed, tweaked, refined, edited, and updated. Every time I have been at their counter or their table, I’m like, “Just hit me with what you’ve got.” It’s always an adventure. I have given up even writing down notes of what’s in each dish—I have to record them talking instead, or I will have a small novel written by the time I’m done with my meal.
There’s so much ingredient sorcery going on—their dishes feature layer upon layers of flavors and ingredients, from a swab of Rangpur lime and chile paste to a drizzle of housemade grape syrup, and some fermented this and dehydrated that. Nothing goes to waste. Their creativity is boundless as they find solutions and pairings and keep building up one of the city’s most impressive pantries and larders.
So, what is Motze? Well, here’s where it is at this very moment in time: the menu is based around small plates (okazu) that are meant to pair with rice. You’ll see some Japanese-rooted ingredients, but it’s like they spent some time smoking out in the back of their California hippie friend’s vintage Volkswagen van. Example: there’s a salad made with Hodo Soy yuba noodles ($7), with sunflower sprouts, sunflower tahini, and seven spice, a bright and fulfilling and just perfectly spicy salad I wish was in my life every week.
Another gorgeous salad of Little Gems, beets, and sunflower sprouts came loaded with sesame seeds, with a dressing of tahini thinned with kombu dashi and lemon juice, with burnt chile and honey. The flavors are so haunting—it keeps you nibbling away at their dishes, trying to pin down the ingredients, what it is you’re tasting… I always order their pickles ($3), which range from lacto-brined green tomato and beets to kohlrabi and turnips. And make sure to get the wild nori rice ($3).
And then there’s the chanko nabe, a Nick and Cort creation, a homey and fulfilling rice stew (the name is inspired by the rich stew sumo wrestlers eat) that features a fun assemblage of ingredients, like sunflower seeds, oyster mushrooms, cabbage, seven-spice garlic, grilled rib-eye, and delectable little bites of beef tendon—like bad hippie luxe. But if you’re a good hippie, there’s a vegetarian version as well, with sprouted black bean miso, squash, and avocado—their vegetarian dishes are so good they could easily coax a carnivore over to their side with one wink ($14-$16). And even though their flavor-forward cuisine is captivating enough, if you feel like dialing things up to 11, there are some new hot sauces you can order on the side.
The desserts are from another world, like hoshigaki (dried persimmon) with creamy butter tucked inside, or peanut butter truffles—no, you don’t come here for banana cream pie. It’s about drinking something hot and creamy and vaguely cacao-like and then getting an education that it’s bay laurel that they made into a hot drink with sorghum. Yeah, that’s how they roll.
I love that they still offer the “let Nick and Cortney cook for you” option, which is $40 per person and a full spread and really the way you should show up the first time here. You can also make up your own Motze lunch box for $15. The space is designed for you to easily swing by (and to be honest, it hasn’t been as busy as it should be), but if you want to book a table and reserve the set menu ahead of time, you can buy tickets via Tock.
Since this is a temporary and freestyle project, they didn’t want to sink a lot of cash needlessly into a space they know they are vacating April 1st, 2018, so you’ll still see some artifacts from Herbivore, which make the space feel a bit dated. But they keep adding natural and crafty and artsy touches that feel more like their aesthetic, and just wait until you see the bathroom, which makes you feel like you found the portal to the Upside Down in Stranger Things.
I know they’re trying to make the vibe feel fun and late night, but the music has really been too loud and front and center for me, especially at lunch, even though a lot of it is from my post-college music collection and makes me feel lots of reminiscing things.
You’ll find a few well-selected wines and beers, and they always have some unique sodas, like an elderflower and eucalyptus spritzer—so much more interesting than most nonalcoholic options out there.
These two work damn hard, and they are driven to make food that makes you feel good, with whole and fresh and lovingly grown ingredients, and leave you feeling nourished. You can show up with all your diet needs and concerns and they will not bat an eye. In fact, they show loving respect for how you need to eat to feel good. I have so much respect for how these two cook and work, and how they treat their staff and customers. It’s soul food, and uniquely theirs.
This review was based on three visits.
Motze - 983 Valencia St., San Francisco - 415-484-1206
Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Cultivar San Francisco Wine Bar Opening in the Marina, Cider Summit, Brandy Par-tay, New Spirits Shop
The Marina will be getting a wine bar this spring featuring small-production and coveted Napa Valley wines—with some European selections as well—called CULTIVAR. Siblings Jody Harris and Gingy Harris Gable are SF natives. Their family started Caspar Estate in Napa, and Jody created Cultivar Wine. There will be 65 producers on the list, including Azur, Matthiasson, Relic, and Failla, along with Cultivar’s estate wines, which can be enjoyed on tap. Also on offer: wine by the bottle or keg for sale (Cultivar’s cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, merlot, or rosé), plus their estate-brewed beer.
There will be seasonal small plates, with a focus on vegetables and products from Caspar Estate’s one-acre certified organic garden—chef Kyle Young also oversees the garden. The 36-seat space is being designed by Sutro Architects and will feature a brass-top bar, walnut tabletops, and chocolate leather seating; it will double as a private event space for industry events. There are also temperature-controlled wine lockers for Caspar Estate and Cultivar wine club members. Expect a mid-March opening. 2379 Chestnut St. at Divisadero, 415-962-4200.
Tickets are now on sale for Cider Summit SF, returning to San Francisco on April 22nd. This will be the fourth year of the region’s largest cider festival, with top cidermakers and nearly 200 ciders from around the world. There will also be cider cocktails and apple spirits and food selections from vendors (at additional cost), including Whole Foods Market Truck and Slow Hand BBQ. Tickets: $35, and $45 for VIP tickets. Beginning April 1st, general admission tickets will be $40 in advance and $45 at the door, cash only, and VIP tickets will be $50. Civil War Parade Ground, adjacent to the Main Post, Presidio. 1pm-5pm.
Wednesday March 8th is a brandy party, Copper & Kings: Live at BAR AGRICOLE on their patio. If it sounds like a rock show, it’s because these distillers from Louisville use sonic aging, playing rock and roll to their barrels while they age. There will be unlimited food and drink, $50. Tickets. 6pm-9pm.
I was driving by LONDON MARKET on Divisadero Friday evening and noticed something very different—lots and lots of bottles. Ends up it’s now CORBEAUX’S LONDON MARKET, a wine and spirits shop from Kyle Nadeau, who reportedly worked at D&M Liquors on Fillmore for nearly a decade, and his partner, Evan Krow. They’ll also be adding a deli in the back with cheese, charcuterie, and caviar. [Via The New Fillmore.] 2901 Sacramento St. at Divisadero.