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May 14, 2018 23 min read

May 15, 2018 - This week's tablehopper: tempurrrrrrrrrra.

May 15, 2018 - This week's tablehopper: tempurrrrrrrrrra.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: tempurrrrrrrrrra.                    

Tempura master chef Hitoshi Arai from Tenko in Tokyo, cooking last night at Air Restaurant’s second Bay Area event. Here, he is preparing uni in shiso maki. Have you ever had uni tempura? I hadn’t. (Yes, it was amazing.) Photo: ©

Hey gang! First, I want to say a tremendous GRAZIE to everyone who turned out for the Cento Osteria preopening party a couple of weeks ago—that was a festa! What a spread, from the roasted pig to pizza to pasta—like I said, Donato Scotti and Gianluca Guglielmi are total feeders. The cocktails were flowing, thanks to bartender Casey Carr and team and our sponsor Campari America. And thanks to all of you who came, we raised a nice amount of money for Family House. What a great night. That was a blast. The restaurant is now open, read more in today’s chatterbox!

More reading for you: since tablehopper is now every other week, you can still keep up with weekly news and events in my new column for KQED’s Bay Area Bites, Table Talk. I post them each week on Twitter and Facebook if you want to follow along.

I also wrote this piece on the city’s best steak frites for Blackboard Eats—it’s going to make you want to go eat some, I’m just warning you.

Some of you haven’t heard the news about my new venture, mymilligram, a weekly newsletter I just launched about low-dose and high-quality cannabis products! It comes out every Thursday, and is designed for the canna-curious, the microdosers, the lightweights, and the beginners! There are a lot of amazing products out there which are completely measurable and manageable and can help you feel better and have fun without feeling too high. (I can’t wait to relax tonight when this day is done. I have been working like a beast until 2am the past three nights, and there’s a Level Tablingual with my name on it.)

So, if you want to hang out in person, learn about some of my favorite new products, and hear more about what this low-dose thing is all about, I hope you can join me next Wednesday evening on May 23rd for the first mymilligram educational event.

It’s a non-consumption event, to be clear, which means you could bring your mom and anyone else who wants to learn, but maybe isn’t ready to consume just yet. But since I am the tablehopper after all, there will be lovely wine and some delicious bites prepared by the talented chef Rachel Aronow (formerly at The Alembic). And tickets are just $20. I know! It’s a small gathering, so get your ticket and let’s talk about this amazing plant and fantastic products that are coming out. Let me tell you about Mondo walks! I look forward to seeing you. You can subscribe at and follow along on the gram at @mymilligram.

Thanks for all your support, and take good care of yourselves. Personally, I have been grappling with the loss of beloved barman Daniel Hyatt over the past couple of weeks, and have written an homage to him in today’s column. Sending my love and big, long hugs to everyone who is missing him right now.

Love, ~Marcia

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

The New Birdsong Is Warbling a Lovely Tune in SoMa


The airy and serene main dining room at Birdsong. All photos:


Half of the chef’s counter overlooking the open kitchen.


The downstairs bar and meat locker/aging room.


Fish and chips: a scallop snack with pomme soufflé.


The Birdsong spin on New England clam chowder (with the evil Parker House roll brushed with pork fat lurking in the background).

Last week, I took a break from the madness of my new business launch and event hosting and soaked in the tranquil and chic atmosphere at the newly opened BIRDSONG in SoMa. The former AQ has been given quite the makeover from the design firm SAINT. There’s a handcrafted aesthetic with all the custom woodwork, but it doesn’t feel like something we’ve already seen before. Jeremiah Collection and Max Johnson crafted ash tabletops, Douglas fir flooring, custom cabinets, and more, balanced with pops of sea green. Even the open kitchen is full of wood instead of stainless steel, so diners who opt for the chef’s counter have a view of an enviable kitchen (designed by Alec Bauer from Kitchen Restaurant + Bar Specialists), with a Hestan custom oven suite and hearth.

Below, there are two private dining rooms (with room for 10 and 30), with a fun bar counter with peacock blue seats that look into a custom, walk-in glass meat locker accented by tiles that shimmer like abalone shell. There’s also a comfortable lounge area—the idea is guests will eventually be able to enter the downstairs lounge through a separate entrance on Minna and enjoy wine and bites.

The chef-owner is Chris Bleidorn, whose background includes Saison, Atelier Crenn (where he served as chef de cuisine), Benu, and Alinea. For Birdsong, he is creating a menu that pays homage to the Northwest (although he’s from the East Coast), nature, and employs heritage cooking techniques (like live fire, smoking, dry-aging, and fermenting). His ingredient sourcing is impeccable, as you can imagine, spanning NorCal to Alaska, featuring beautiful seasonal mushrooms, cold-water shellfish, and wild game. His chef de cuisine is Brian Limoges (previously executive sous at Quince and sous chef at Atelier Crenn).

Right now, you can experience the tasting menu for $135, which will go up to $168 on May 29th, when the preview is complete (an à la carte menu is launching soon as well). It includes 13-14 dishes, including playful yet elegant snacks like a fun spin on fish and chips (halibut draped over little puffs of pomme soufflé stuffed with tartar sauce), and their bacon and eggs (little rolls of dried bacon filled with egg yolk, caviar, and crème fraîche and dipped into chives). Inventive and delicious, another round, please.

A stunning dish was a play on New England clam chowder, with geoduck clam in whey instead of traditional dairy, celery, smoked potato, and lardo (its cured flavor beautifully permeated the dish), and on the side were Parker House rolls with a nice brushing of pork fat. Dipping those rolls into the broth, let me tell you, it’s the business. (There are other breads on offer, you should probably get them.) I have never had morels stuffed with spring Sonoma lamb, with a kiss from the fire, so it gives you an idea of the creativity going on here. (I’m posting pics on @tablehopper tonight if you want to see even more!)

Everything is served on custom ceramic plateware, designed by Bleidorn with Korean ceramic company KwangJuYo (taking a page from Benu’s playbook). The Benu connection doesn’t stop there: Bleidorn’s life and business partner is Aarti Shetty, director of operations for Benu, Monsieur Benjamin, and In Situ. The sommelier is Freddy Foot (formerly Gary Danko), featuring lesser-known selections from the Pacific Northwest, along with classic European wines, plus quality craft beers from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

Open Tue-Thu 5pm-8:30pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-9:30pm. 1085 Mission St. at 7th St.

The Stylish Merchant Roots Opens in Lower Fillmore


The Table at Merchant Roots. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


The counter at Merchant Roots. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


The café tables and stunning woven fiber art piece by Meghan Bogden Shimek. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


Now that’s what I call a mortadella sandwich. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.

It kind of kills me that I had to miss the preopening party of this new beauty, because all I want is to head over and spend an evening in one of their spiffy chairs, stat. This long-awaited project (oh, SF, why do you make it so hard to open a business?) is such a cool concept: MERCHANT ROOTS is a specialty food store, wine shop, casual eatery, and fine-dining restaurant, all rolled into one. So whether you want to come by for a mortadella sandwich, glass of wine, full dinner (launching in five weeks!), or pick up a bottle to bring home, your bases are covered. It’s all highly curated and crafted, and everything is made in-house, from the housemade pastries to all the items in the larder.

This project is from life and business partners Madison Michael and chef Ryan Shelton (previously Baumé, Palo Alto). They are quite the power duo: she is a certified sommelier and cheesemonger, and he’s a skilled chef with a passion for all things Italian (hey, it’s in his blood!).

During the day, you’ll find salads and sandwiches (which you can also get to go), daily pastas, and more. And not just any sandwiches: there’s smoked carrot with shaved carrot, Point Reyes Toma, and raisin jam on focaccia ($9), and pasta like ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms, porcini cream, and sage pesto ($11) (check out the menu here). House-baked cannoli, cookies, and more will be there for you when your sweet tooth strikes. Coconut-lime doughnuts in the morning, that sounds good too.

Launching in five weeks is The Table at Merchant Roots, which will be offered three nights a week, featuring a themed tasting menu that will rotate every four to six weeks. There will be room for just eight guests, who will dine at the live-edge Monkey Pod wood table (by woodworker Ian Avidan of Berkeley-based Z&E Slabs). The Table experience will be $110 per person, with the option to add a wine pairing ($70) or partake by the glass.

It’s a petite 1,000-square-foot space, but they also managed to squeeze in quite the larder, stocked with their housemade food products, like salt blends, seasonal preserves, charcuterie (including salumi and uni pâté!), and five kinds of dried pasta, including kale spaghetti chitarra and gnocchetti sardi. (Impressive! They must have elves. Actually, they don’t—you’ll see chef Ryan and his team making pasta at the counter). They also have Eric Miller (Maker’s Common, Mission Cheese) helping out on the cheese selection and in-house charcuterie program, which will need some time.

And then there’s the wall of wine! Madison has selected more than 80 bottles, highlighting rare finds, natural wines, and lesser-known grapes, both locally and internationally. You can grab a bottle for a party, or come by for some daily selections by the glass. The space is so pretty, you’ll actually want to do both. There are live-edge wood café tables with copper wire chairs, and a showstopping 30-by-5-foot custom-made woven wool fiber art piece by local weaver Meghan Bogden Shimek. Obviously so much thought has gone into this place, can’t wait to check it out and soak in the details. And they have some great neighbors (like State Bird Provisions). That little stretch in the Lower Fillmore now has a lot going on.

Open Tue-Sat 9am-5pm. I’ll keep you posted on the dinner launch. 1365 Fillmore St. at Ellis.

Opening Recap: Cento Osteria and Stonemill Matcha


The handsome interior of Cento Osteria. Photo: Nadia Andreini.


The menu is full of housemade and stuffed pasta dishes. Buon appetito! Photo: Nadia Andreini.


The katsu sandwich at Stonemill Matcha. Photo: ©


Trust, you want everything in that case at Stonemill Matcha. Photo: ©


One of Mikiko Yui’s cream puffs (filled with black sesame cream and made with two kinds of dough). Photo: ©

Many of you got a taste of the dishes at Donato Scotti’s CENTO OSTERIA at the tablehopper preview party a couple of weeks ago (thanks for comin!), and now everyone can head over since it’s officially open, right on the Embarcadero. It’s a handsome and spacious room, with enough seats for 110 diners and barflies (if amazing barman Casey Carr is bartending, that’s where you’ll find me!).

The casual but crafted menu spans all the regions of Italy, with dishes from Sicily to the Veneto. You’ll find plenty of antipasti (including unique ones like house-cured beef with Castroville artichoke and Parmigiano), housemade pasta (including raviolo norma with eggplant, almond pesto, garlic, spring onion, ricotta salata), fantastic pizzas from the wood-fired oven, and larger dishes like roast chicken. (Take a look at my Table Talk post on KQED Bay Area Bites for more and some pics too!)

There’s an extensive wine list featuring small-production Italian wineries, plus a house cocktail list (with plenty of amari!). And there’s a nice outdoor patio with room for 30, which is where you’ll want to hang out when Cento Osteria launches predinner apericena, starting this Wednesday May 16th (they’ll open at 3pm). Open daily for dinner Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, Sun 5pm-9:30pm. Lunch and brunch are coming next. 100 Brannan St. at Embarcadero, 415-543-1000.

Last week, I was lucky to get a preview of the newly open STONEMILL MATCHA on Valencia, and it’s quite the charmer. It’s the flagship from a Japanese founder—Eijiro Tsukada—with a focus on quality matcha, so it’s your chance to try the really good stuff, and not what’s usually ending up in those iced matcha lattes you’re seeing all over town. I was a little sad to think that the iconic Bar Tartine space they moved into was no longer, but what can you do, time marches on. And they created a truly tranquil space, well, except for the crowds of people crushing the place right now. I love how they worked out a partnership with Tartine Manufactory, a classy homage to the DNA of the space, creating amazing treats like a matcha croissant and an everything croissant topped with furikake and cream cheese inside.

Pastry chef Mikiko Yui (State Bird Provisions, Coi) has created a lineup of pastries and desserts that is full-throttle delicious, from one of the best chocolate tarts I’ve ever had with feuilletine and sesame, to inventive cream puffs with two kinds of dough (and you can choose matcha cream or black sesame). Her matcha matcha mochi and the “matcharelli” cookies (inspired by Italian ricciarelli) are both studies in fantastic texture and flavor. The lineup is truly fine—it’s like having a dreamy Cal-Japanese pastry shop inside a café.

There’s a savory menu from chef Keisuke Akabori, with a fantastic rice porridge I am so coming back for soon (it’s the perfect all-day kind of dish), a katsu sandwich, and more. Take a peek at more pics (and details) in my Table Talk post!

The list of matcha beverages is extensive, featuring high-quality, stone-ground matcha from Kyoto (the birthplace of Japanese matcha). There are sparkling matcha drinks with yuzu or mint, a matcha latte with ginger, and you can enjoy hand-whisked matcha from the Slow Bar. They are dealing with a crush of humanity right now, so maybe plan a midweek visit if you can while they ramp up! Open daily 8am-6pm. 561 Valencia St. at 18th St.

Coming Soon: Marlowe Opening in Cow Hollow, Radhaus Beer Hall to Fort Mason


The Marlowe burger, with fries of course. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

Some quick updates on the north side of town: coming to Cow Hollow in September will be another location of Big Night Restaurant Group’s Marlowe: COW MARLOWE. Eater reports the popular SoMa bistro is opening in the former Eastside West, and chef Jennifer Puccio will be adding some dishes just for that location. 3145 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

Fort Mason is going to be getting quite the Bavarian beer hall! The beer-lovin’ folks behind Biergarten and Suppenküche are opening RADHAUS in Fort Mason Center by early summer. The Chronicle reports there will be some Cali-Bavarian food and beer and wine. The industrial space (it used to be a U.S. Army machine shop) is 3,700 square feet, offering enough room for a 200-foot ponderosa pine tree to be carved on site and transformed into a bar, communal bench, and tables. Envelope A+D is behind the new design. Stand by for more.

Updates: Palio's Big Redesign, Chubby Noodle Heads to Cabo


The private back room at Palio. Photo courtesy of Palio.


The famed Chubby Noodle pork tacos. Photo: ©

Some big news at FiDi longtimer PALIO RESTAURANT: after making it through some positive lease negotiations, owner Martino DiGrande is going to be closing the restaurant on May 28th for a renovation and refresh. He plans to reopen in August. He’s excited to make it truly his own after taking it over seven years ago.

DiGrande has brought on AnV Architects, and they will be transforming the main dining room from its massive 120-seat capacity to 70, and also adding another private dining room. Another big change: the front dining room on Sacramento will become a bar and lounge. Since it’s a pre-1906 building, there will be a number of behind-the-scenes structural changes too.

They’re also going to take the opportunity to update the menu, focusing on their housemade pasta and pizza. DiGrande has such a dedicated team, with chefs Mauricio and Jose Martinez, who opened the restaurant in 1990, and their pasta-maker Eva has been making pasta with the company since the Blue Fox days—we’re talking more than 40 years ago! And Donaldo at the pizza oven? He’s been working it for 25 years! What a crew. The antipasti cart is also going to get dusted off and come back into service—it used to roam Palio’s dining room in the early years.

The private dining rooms will also get some new AV systems, which the business crowd will appreciate for their lunch and dinner presentations. The largest private dining room will also be getting a private bar. Cheers to all the changes after 30-plus years in business. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

Meanwhile, Mr. Busy, aka Pete Mrabe (of Pete’s on Green, Chubby Noodle, and Don Pistos) is going to be expanding his territory and opening a CHUBBY NOODLE location in Cabo San Lucas by the end of the year. He’s going to be opening in the Medano Beach area of Cabo, and as someone who frequents the area often, he’s looking forward to bringing Chubby’s fun flavas (love those Korean pork tacos so much) and party vibe to Cabo.

A Fundraiser for Salmon (and Seafood) Lovers


My kind of boat: the Salty Lady. Photo courtesy of Ted Wilson.

Many of us love our salmon, so let’s give thanks to the Golden Gate Salmon Association, which helps protect our beautiful Northern California rivers and fights to keep fresh water flowing from the mountains to the oceans—crucial for salmon migration. Coming up on Friday May 18th is the GGSA’s fundraiser event, San Francisco for Salmon 2018. There will be a dinner from WaterBar, Hook Fish Co., Stag Dining, 25 Lusk, Scoma’s, Fine & Rare, and Drakes Bay Oyster Co., plus wine from Seghesio and beer from Lost Coast Brewing. There’s also an auction, and you’ll hear from fisherman, restaurateurs, and advocates that are passionate about seafood sustainability as well. All proceeds benefit the GGSA.

Cocktail hour starts at 7:15pm, followed by dinner. Business casual attire. Tickets are at various prices. TwoXSea, 10 Fishermans Wharf on Pier 45.

Bummer: Schmidt's Is Closing at the End of May


The housemade sausages at Schmidt’s. Photo via Schmidt’s.

German beer and sausage lovers will mourn the upcoming closure of SCHMIDT’S in the Mission, which is serving its last dinner on Saturday May 26th and its last brunch on Sunday May 27th. Eater reports that after eight years in the location, co-owner Christiane Schmidt has decided to close after a difficult rent increase by her landlord (as if dealing with the difficult neighbor upstairs with a penchant for making angry signs wasn’t enough). At least you can visit her over at Walzwerk, while her business partner, David Pierce, is planning to revive the brand in some form, somewhere. 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St.


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This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)

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the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Farewell to Daniel Hyatt, One of the Most Talented Bartenders and Kindest Humans


Daniel Hyatt at The Alembic; photo via Facebook by Claypool Cellars.


You never know when you may be having your last drink with someone. Damn. Photo: ©

Two weeks ago, San Francisco sufferered the loss of one of its finest bartenders and beloved characters, Daniel Hyatt. His death by misadventure was entirely unexpected, utterly tragic, and has left so many of us reeling. It’s a terrible, heart-wrenching loss. He was one of the city’s cocktail OGs, an incredible innovator and mad genius who was so generous with his knowledge and ideas and skills and neverending talent. So many bartenders came up through working for him at The Alembic, and if you weren’t working there, you were drinking there. I miss my time on those barstools, and hanging out with the fantastic people who worked with him—he had a knack for people.

And it wasn’t just about his cocktails—which were in a class of their own, from their sophisticated construction to their clever names—he was truly the consummate barman. He always made you feel so welcome, that he was happy to see you. He had his special kind of hospitality, one that extended beyond knowing what you like to drink. He was a terrific wit, lord, the zingers and one-liners. Mic drops all night. His intelligence, his knowledge about so many subjects. And his kindness. He was a sensitive soul. Salty, but a sweetheart. And just the coolest of the cool. Exhaustingly cool, on so many levels. He struck that perfect balance of not giving a fuck (so punk rock), and totally giving a fuck (he cared about so many things, so many people).

I attended a memorial gathering for him two weekends ago, and wrote these words about him in case people were going to speak about our friend—because if I was going to attend the memorial of my friend and favorite bartender, the one who really turned me on to the magic that a brilliant cocktail could contain, I better come correct. While we didn’t end up sharing formal remarks, we all shared many memories and hugs and tears and stories. And rye.

So, I want to share what I wrote. It’s a bit personal, and profane. Many of us are mourning right now, so I want to pour one out for this beloved human. He touched so many people. My deepest condolences to all his dear friends and family. Daniel is in a very special place in our hearts forever.

Oh, Daniel.

I remember sitting at the bar at Winterland for the first time in, I don’t know, late 2004? Or early 2005? I was looking at the cocktail menu, which was a rare thing to have in a restaurant back then. I was reading it over, and saw the funniest name for a drink I’d ever seen, and is still my favorite to this day: I Lost My Necktie.

I snorted and asked the intruiging-looking man with glasses across the bar from me, “Excuse me, who wrote this menu?” Mr. Blue Eyes looks over his glasses sliding down his nose and replies, “I did.” I said, “Well, that is the funniest fucking name for a drink I have ever seen and I love it. I’ll have one please, thank you.” And that’s where my eternal crush on Daniel Hyatt began. I think we can all say we had quite a crush on this rare and utterly charming and kind and witty man. What a character.

That’s also where I really fell in love with cocktails: at the bar at Winterland. I’d never had anything like the concoctions Mr. Hyatt was dreaming up. I would just go in there and sit at the bar and order as many cocktails as I could handle, which, back then, was quite a lot. I’d never had anything like them—so fresh, and bright, and nuanced, with exotic flavors from deep within a globetrotter’s pantry. A food lover’s cocktails. And all so brilliantly named. Each one had a story to tell, or would invite you to make one up.

The dishes from the wildly talented chef Vernon Morales were so cutting edge and unique, giving us bacon ice cream before anyone else; the desserts from Boris Portnoy, from the famous caramelized brioche French toast to what was one of the most beautiful cheese plates I’ve ever seen, with carrot marmalade, nougat, and hazelnuts. Those three were powerhouses of flavor creativity, and were so damn ahead of their time, that stupid San Francisco didn’t understand the pure level of deliciousness happening there, and Winterland tragically closed in 2006.

I wanted to confirm the date Winterland closed, and found this post from the one and only Mr. Hyatt, on Yelp, dated July 14th, 2006, in response to a typically frustrated Yelper—Frisco J.—trying to order some drinks at a busy birthday party, but what he “really wanted to do was to slap [the bartender] around and piledrive his ass to the ground.”

Here was Daniel’s retort: “Alright, in all fairness, I work for this place. In fact, I manage it. For the most part, I like these postings but take them with a grain of salt. Everyone is allowed their own opinion, it helps all of us in the industry evaluate what is working and what is not, and do our job better. The reason I even bother to post this is that I find the last few posts to be petty, and really just kicking some very accommodating people around.

“As everyone probably knows by now, we are closing at the end of the week due to lack of business in our location.

“Maybe nobody knows, or cares, what is involved with closing a restaurant, and perhaps it doesn’t matter to you. One thing that happens at slow, and closing restaurants, is that you find yourself short staffed. Especially when the volume of business is four times that of a normal Tuesday or whatever.

“Second, if you find yourself standing in a party of 50, waiting for a drink. Hello, you’re in a bar at a birthday party. You are not the only one waiting and nobody is standing around ignoring you.

“Cheap shots may make you feel a little vindicated about the wait for your second round of drinks, but think about the people who walked around the room with your macaroni and cheese, searching for you, as you bounced from seat to seat in that crowd.

“The people that work here care about this place more than any staff I have worked with in years. They have stood through many slow nights, and put in the extra when we needed it. You could find no more knowledgeable or dedicated restaurant staff anywhere, period.

“So do us all a favor and save the complaints for someone that may benefit from them.

“If you want to ‘piledrive someones ass to the ground’… give me a call.”

Boom. Classic Daniel delivery. So much heart, and kindness, and trying to get someone to understand a situation and have some empathy. But also, fuck you and seriously, don’t even fuck with me.

Frisco J, don’t call him.

I found this other gem, from another Yelper:

“The floater (as I thought of him throughout the evening since I couldn’t really tell what his job was) asked us how we were. We replied, Great. We reciprocated, and he said in a very monotone and possibly heroine induced tone, Well. You can’t believe how well I am. We had to stifle our laughter until we were seated. So far, weird.”

Motherfucker! God, he was so droll. It almost wasn’t fair for him to be so funny, like, he took the lion’s share of funny in this world, and now he took it away with him. Snappiest repartee. Comebacks and twists and turns of phrase that would have pleased Henry Miller, with some Bukowski-esque misanthropic observations thrown in, but really, he loved people so hard. I know many of us have been looking back on our texts (comedy gold, I swear), cheeky emails from him, and if anyone has a drawling voicemail from him, I’d really love to hear it.

I’m going to miss his greeting of “Hey mama” or my very favorite, “Hey, lil’ mama” in that trademark lazy twang of his.

He had one of the kindest hearts, a champion of women and his fellow bartenders and misfits and just humanity in general. He knew how to take such good care of people, and connect. It made his already-brilliant cocktails taste even better.

I’m going to miss his smoky-spicy hugs, that hangdog face of his, those electric and piercing blue eyes he’d try to hide under his smudgy glasses and arched brows and mop of greasy hair, those eyes that were all-seeing and didn’t miss a move or a beat. They would sear into you, especially if he looked at you from over them, as he’d tilt his head down. And those eyes were also capable of transmitting the biggest, warmest, toe-tingling smile. If you could make Daniel’s eyes crackle, you’d have quite possibly made a funny joke. Maybe. Perhaps he was just humoring you, because really, he would have said it in a funnier way. But even so, you’d feel love and warmth and connection pour out of them when they’d lock on you. He’d see you. And in those moments of a shared eye lock, I felt like I could see him too.

Our Johnny Cash of cocktails liked to keep his cards close to his chest, the master deflector, but he’d occasionally show you his hand, maybe on a late-night call or at the end of the night at the bar. But really, while at the bar, it was always better to just keep up with the banter, because by the end of a night at The Alembic, you’d have learned about five whiskies, a rare French liqueur, an obscure cocktail book, an unknown blues singer, the origin of some random herb he’d sourced or grown in the back, what goes into his ras el hanout, a great place for dim sum, and then he’d whip up some custom shot just for you before sending you out the door. (In my case, it was The Bone, a spicy whiskey concoction that was always the kick in the ass I needed.)

I loved ordering mint juleps, just to fuck with him. He’d pretend-scowl at me as he’d beat the bag of ice. But it was his fault for making them taste so damn good. Bartender, another faceful of mint, please!

I am so damn fortunate I got to enjoy perching at his bar for so many years. And enjoying some evenings on the same side of the bar too. He was a wicked talent, an inspiration to so many, but also so insouciant, casually downplaying the brilliance of his combinations and inventions and techniques and flavors. Like a jazz musician who made it look easy, although he’d been up chasing a melody for nights. Like a humble rock star…truly a rare breed.

His menus were always my favorite to read, and I’ll be going through my stacks of old menus to find and admire them. Cheeky bastard. He was a bartender’s bartender, a writer’s bartender, a chef’s bartender, and most definitely a drinker’s bartender.

Back in 2013, when Daniel was leaving The Alembic, I wrote: “While many will miss Hyatt’s bluesy cool, quick wit, and wicked dranks, we’ll just need to see what’s next for the man—you can’t keep that kind of creativity hidden away for long.”

And we shouldn’t. Keep making his cocktails, make sure everyone in your life has tasted his Southern Exposure, a proper Vieux Carré. Remember how to treat people, be kind. Take time to talk with them. Check in. Daniel leaves an indelible legacy, one that was uniquely his that was rooted in brilliance and kindness, and it’s up to us to keep it polished and shining bright.

Rest in Peace, friend.

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