This week's tablehopper: we did it.
The ridonkulously good Western Addition oysters at The Anchovy Bar. Hear all about them (and many other incredible dishes) in the upcoming On the Fly podcast episode with chef Stuart Brioza! Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Whooooohoooooo. What a rollercoaster of emotions we’re on. Breaking the waves. Waking up on Saturday to the news of a Biden and Harris presidency brought such joy and deep relief—the best feeling I’ve had the past eight months, that’s for damned sure. You also don’t realize how much you’ve been holding your breath until you can let it go. (I felt like a human Champagne bottle with a cork flying off!)
Over the weekend, a friend asked how I’ve been doing, and I said I had such a strange feeling of exhilarated exhaustion. I feel like I could sleep for fifteen hours every night, no problem, and the time change only supports me in this desire. I know we’re all sorting through a mix of deep and profound feelings that have been kicked up, and looking at the hard work of healing this nation that lies ahead and reversing so much damage. Here’s to blue skies, instead of toxic orange ones.
And then we have this afternoon’s news that San Francisco is rolling back indoor dining, which is ending Friday night. It’s distressing to read in this press release from the city that since October 2nd, San Francisco has experienced a 250 percent increase in COVID-19 cases, and the number of new cases per day per 100,000 people has more than doubled over the last three weeks. We have to do our part to flatten this surge of cases, batten down the hatches, and ensure the safety of our essential workers and citizens.
This is devastating news for so many restaurants that have expanded operations for indoor dining, so please support your local favorites with takeout, outdoor dining, and any other ways you can, from promotion to your friends to big tips to buying gift certificates. The SFOEWD has thankfully announced some additional assistance to small businesses is coming, take a look for upcoming grants and more.
One big adjustment happening this year is around Thanksgiving. Many folks won’t be returning home to celebrate (wise move), and our gatherings need to be much smaller and safer. Thanksgiving is a big culinary undertaking, and one way you can support local restaurants and businesses is to buy Thanksgiving meals, sides, and pies from them. I’m seeing a bunch of incredible meals and offers, and am posting updates to my Instagram Highlights and Stories daily (look for the trio of turkeys). Gobble gobble.
Thanksgiving this year will also be without Dungeness crabs—the commercial crab fishing season has been delayed until December 1st. And for a good reason—it’s to allow space for humpback whales to migrate south safely without getting entangled in fishing gear. We’ll just have something to look forward to next month (if you don’t have any recreational/sport fisher friends).
Now, some exciting news! I’m so fired up about today’s sponsored event announcement with SipSend and JuNi! Next Thursday November 19th, it’s time to treat yourself! We’re going to be hosting a special virtual tasting event, featuring an over-the-top, omakase-at-home sushi box from JuNi, with five beverage pairings (wine and sake). I’ll be moderating the event with SipSend founder Martin Sheehan-Stross and JuNi wine director Justin Chin. I know this one is a bit of a splurge, but let me be the first to tell you that you deserve it, sweetie! There’s an extremely limited number of boxes and pairing kits, so act quickly. More details below. (And if you want to order more than one beverage pairing kit for yourself, go for it!) Look forward to seeing you—virtually—next week!
More treats for you: this week’s upcoming episode of the On the Fly podcast by tablehopper is with chef-owner Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions, The Progress, and the newly opened The Anchovy Bar. You’ll hear some backstory of what it’s like to open a restaurant during a pandemic (yeah, it’s intense), but it’s also going to be such a hunger-inducing episode—I loved taking a deep dive with Stuart about many of the incredible dishes on the menu. You’re going to love it. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts and don’t miss it.
Many thanks to Edible San Francisco for including a mention of On the Fly in their recent newsletter, Eat. Drink. Think., and you really should subscribe to this quality newsletter! Editor Bruce Cole curates some excellent tidbits, articles, and more every week. Tasty stuff.
I also want to thank the Financial Times for speaking with me while preparing their article on outdoor dining in SF. See you on the patio!
Stand by for a bunch of posts on Instagram (@tablehopper) from me in the coming days…between following the election and being out of town in LA for my birthday (thanks to all of you for the kind wishes), I have some serious catch-up to do. I’m working slowly, and feeling so utterly distracted. I’m just trying to take it all day by day, like you. It’s all we can do.
Best wishes. Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
New Openings/Moves Include Aquitaine, Bacco, and Abu Salim from Old Jerusalem
One year ago, at the end of 2019, chef-owner Laurent Manrique (Cafe de la Presse) and business partner Andrew Fidelman closed the Financial District location of their Southwest French wine bar and bistro, AQUITAINE, and put everything into storage until their new Castro location was ready. Of course, the pandemic caused further delays. But now, there’s a new and open business on Church Street, which has been feeling quite desolate lately—the sunflower sign and colorful umbrellas are already cheering up this stretch of the street.
You’ll find an extensive wine list and retail selection (30 percent off all wines to go), while the all-day menu is the perfect format for enjoying a few bites with your wine (like cheese and charcuterie, deviled eggs, prawn tartine, smoked bacon tart), or go full-on with a Gascon burger, mussels, Basque chicken, or a ribeye for two. Take a look at the all-day menu here.
There’s a shared space with tables outside (and the umbrellas). Happy hour is Tue-Sat 2pm-5pm ($6 snacks and beer, $8 wine selections), open until 9pm. They accept reservations by phone or email for now: 415-658-7863. 210 Church St. at Market.
After 27 years on Diamond Street in Noe Valley, BACCO has moved to a new location at 3913 24th Street, previously Savor Open Kitchen (which closed earlier this year, in January). Owner Shari Dominici continues to run the restaurant after the tragic passing of her husband Paolo Dominici in 2009, working with the former co-owner/opening chef and now ongoing consulting chef Vincenzo Cucco (Divino in Belmont), who has updated the menu. You’ll still find their extensive menu of housemade pasta dishes, but they’ve added pizza as well (five different choices). Take a look at their spacious and enclosed patio, nice. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-8pm. 3913 24th St. at Sanchez.
While the new location of OLD JERUSALEM RESTAURANT remains closed in the Mission due to roof and water damage from fireworks (they hope to reopen in a couple months), they just gave us a wonderful surprise and have opened a new business, ABU SALIM MIDDLE EASTERN GRILL in the Upper Haight (in the former Burger Urge location).
The menu includes their classic dishes of hummus with fluffy pita, falafel, shawarma, kebabs, and their awesome wraps and platters with their delicious turmeric rice, plus special Palestinean dishes, like their mosbaha (hummus with garlic, lemon, and whole chickpeas), their musakhan sumac chicken (a fave), and Ramallah-style falafel. Everything always tastes so fresh and handmade, and the price is right. There are also some loaded shawarma fries, which should please any stoners in the neighborhood (LOL). There are tables outside, with takeout as well. Open daily 11am-9pm and until 10pm on weekends. 1599 Haight St. at Clayton.
Restaurant Reopenings (Gardenias!) and Expansions: Lily Starts Takeout Dinner Service, Señor Sisig Vegano
I’m so happy to report that GARDENIAS has reopened in Lower Pacific Heights/Upper Fillmore. Chef-owners Dana Tommasino and Margie Conard (previously Woodward’s Garden) have opened for dining in their new outdoor shared space and on their charming back patio, serving their seasonal magic with dishes like scallop crudo, blood orange satsuma, yuzu salt, ponzu, crispy shallots, shiso, extra virgin olive oil; a pappa al pomodoro (tomato-bread soup) with roasted yellow romas, leeks, and Parmigiano; and ricotta gnocchi, roasted maitake mushrooms, spinach gorgonzola, and truffle zest. Sign me up. Dinner service begins at 5:30pm. They’d love to see you. 1963 Sutter St. at Fillmore.
Over in the Inner Richmond, the recently opened LILY from Lily and Lucy Lieu has expanded to offer takeout dinner service as well. Chef Rob Lam’s dinner menu is as full-on delicious as their daytime chao (you have to try the forbidden rice jook/porridge with succulent rock shrimp, housemade XO with prosciutto and lap cheong, and some of the best century egg I’ve tasted—plus the surprise bonus of youtiao/fried dough) and alllll the banh mi.
The new dinner menu includes braised oxtail bo kho, a tomato-y stew fragrant with lemongrass and a hit of shrimp paste and so rich—once you flake away the tender meat from the bone, you gotta pile it into one of their baguettes (slather on the shallot mayo and housemade pâté for the ultimate, decadent banh mi)—or you can have it with buttery rice. Another wintery dish is the vegetarian curry chay with bamboo heart, cabbage, and fried taro, served with a bountiful mix of herbs like culantro, rau ram, and Thai basil. All the fresh vegetables here really shine.
The bun cha Hanoi barbecue platter features Sakura Farms heritage pork, grilled over binchotan charcoal (and there are also springy herb-studded meatballs), which you wrap up with rice noodles, herbs, and tender sliced onion into fresh Little Gem leaves. And there’s a version of the classic cha ca la Vong, with turmeric-scented fried fish, a bunch of herbs with this dish’s trademark dill, and a one-way ticket to funky town with the pineapple fermented shrimp sauce that you dollop on your lettuce wraps.
Don’t miss the shaking beef salad, available for lunch or a main dish salad for dinner, with the most tender cubes of Creekstone filet mignon, and they’ve added a couple more sinh to yogurt drinks, now made with Alexandre Farms extra-creamy milk, including the bright lime version with salty kumquat. Rob may be a good friend of mine, but I am so obsessed with his food right now—check it out! Takeout hours are Wed-Sun 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm. 225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.
The Señor Sisig crew announced their new Señor Sisig Vegano truck on Instagram, and just had their launch this past weekend. For now, you can find the truck in the parking lot for Cherin’s Appliances at 701 Valencia Street, Sat 2pm-8pm and Sun 11am-5pm; look for additional locations later on. You can read more about the menu and their R&D in this Eater piece. And have a listen to the On the Fly by tablehopper episode with CEO Evan Kidera.
Farewell to Iconic SF Restaurateurs Cecilia Chiang, Sylvie Le Mer, Sam DuVall
The day after I sent my previous tablehopper newsletter, one of our city’s most treasured culinary icons departed this mortal plane, our matriarch of Chinese cuisine, Madame Cecilia Chiang. What a force. She made being 100 years old look youthful—and the way she lived, it was like she packed numerous lives into those rich, deeply textured, experience-filled years of hers. She was a mentor to many, and had an impact on so many chefs, businesses, restaurant industry folks, and fortunate friends. You can read my earlier homage to her here.
The evening she passed, I called a couple of her dear friends to check in: Patricia Unterman, who dined with Cecilia often, and has provided me with so many wonderful recommendations for banquet dinner locations with my friends over the years; and George Chen (China Live), who told me she affectionately called him her “problem child,” who has known her for over 50 years, and even worked for her at her groundbreaking Mandarin restaurant. It was so good to connect with both of them, and hear their stories and love and respect for her. You can read some remembrances in this Eater piece, and I loved some of the pics Hoodline dug up in their post. Cecilia was one of a kind, from an era that can’t be revisited, and her impact on our culinary scene will live on—what a life, what a legacy, what a lady.
Last week, I was so sorry to hear of the passing of restaurateur Sylvie Le Mer, the visionary behind our city’s beloved Ti Couz, which closed in 2011. That restaurant was so unique and was one of my favorite hangouts in the 90s and early aughts. The candlelight, the busy bar, the fantastic crepes, the music, the fun crowd, and it was where I first learned about French cider. I had fun looking at this old menu, reminiscing over old favorite dishes. I loved going there on dates, and always brought friends from out of town there so they could experience a slice of SF I adored, bookended with drinks at Dalva (I vaguely remember servers from Ti Couz would come get you when your table or counter seat was ready). Reading this homage in Mission Local, you read what a true heart of the neighborhood Sylvie was, helping her fellow business owners and more. RIP, Sylvie. Just 60 years old. May she be at peace.
And on Sunday November 1st, restaurateur Sam DuVall passed away at 80. He was known for many atmospheric restaurants, including Elite Cafe, Cafe Royale, The Front Room, and Izzy’s Steaks and Chops. The team at Izzy’s shared this farewell post to him on Instagram (which mentions this website, where people are sharing tributes), and you’ll enjoy reading his career history in this Chronicle piece.
I just realized each one of these precious folks have passed at twenty-year gaps: 60, 80, and 100. Thank you to each of them for contributing to our city’s culture, and condolences to their family and friends and fans.
Special Meals, from Carryout with Cochon555 to White Truffle Season Is Here
Currently underway this week is a special online version of the annual Cochon555 event: Carryout with Cochon555, running in San Francisco from now until Sunday November 15th, with curated carry-out meals, wine, spirits, and a virtual experience. You can order meals from remaining chefs: Thursday, November 12th: chef Lorenzo Caamal (Merkado); Saturday, November 14th: chef Francis Ang (Pinoy Heritage) and Kevin Diedrich (Pacific Cocktail Heaven); and Sunday, November 15th: chef Mark Sullivan and chef Jake Burkhardt (Village Pub, Woodside). The menus look great! And folks in the Peninsula, you can easily access the Village Pub meal!
Guests will purchase tickets ($100 for one; $185 for two—use code COCHON25 for 25 percent off!), which will include a multi-course meal prepared by the featured chef, with most of the ingredients sourced from heritage breed pig farms; a bottle of wine (red or white) from Patz & Hall; and a cocktail kit or pre-mixed cocktail comprised of either Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Wheatley Vodka, Johnnie Walker, or Mount Gay Rum. During a 45-minute live Zoom, the chefs will recreate one of the featured dishes (guests will cook along); the other dishes will be pre-prepared and ready to heat and/or serve. You can choose to pick up your kit at the chef’s designated restaurant or have it delivered for an additional fee. Cochon555 has committed to donating 80 percent of the ticket proceeds to the participating restaurants. Purchasing a “Carry Out with Cochon555” ticket also gets you a 50 percent discount to one 2021 Cochon555 event!
Smell that earthy and expensive fragrance in the air? It’s white truffle season, and I’m seeing some mentions of dishes and dinners pop up at the Piemontese Perbacco (always a classic for the best dishes topped with tartufi!), Mezzaluna in Princeton by the Sea is hosting a festival from November 13th-22nd, and you can always count on Acquerello to do something fabulous. Donato Enoteca in Redwood City has a special menu starting Friday! I’ll be updating my Instagram Stories with more truffle sightings (and sniffs).
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
(Sponsored): Join New Wine Delivery Service SipSend for a Virtual Pairing Event with Omakase Sushi from JuNi on 11/19!
Join SipSend founder Martin Sheehan-Stross (previously Wayfare Tavern, Michael Mina) and JuNi wine director Justin Chin for a special evening featuring JuNi’s new Omakase at Home sushi box and a selection of five unique beverage pairings (four wines, one sake) on Thursday November 19th at 6:30pm (order here).
Each beverage provided in the tasting kit will be paired specifically with top-notch seafood selections in the omakase box. Justin will walk participants through the pairings themselves, but also through the thought process behind each pairing, so get excited for an illuminating evening about how to pair with sushi. This online event itself will be moderated by Marcia Gagliardi (tablehopper), so you can expect a lively discussion of food and wine.
Sushi and beverage tasting kits can be purchased directly through SipSend. There’s an extremely limited quantity of kits for this exclusive event, so act quickly! Deliveries (SF only) will be made just prior to the 6:30pm start time to ensure maximum freshness, or you have the option to pick it up yourself from 5:30pm-6pm.
Can’t make it to this one? Check out sipsend.com for an amazing selection of wines from top SF restaurants offered for same-day delivery, including Birdsong, Gozu, and Decant SF. Follow SipSend on Facebook for updates!