Ho ho ho, hello, my dear hopper readers! Yours truly was up hella early Tuesday morning on ABC7 Bay Area talking about tablehopper and the Taste of SF Holiday Gift Box with Feed! Woohoo! Many thanks to Kumasi Aaron for the lively interview—it was wonderful to be able to talk about so many makers in the gift box! (My friend recorded the segment for me, you can watch it here!) Tremendous thanks to my dear and talented PR pal Aaron Wessels of Point-Bl_nk Communications for making all this happen. (And big thanks to the Bay Area Reporter for the mention today as well, so appreciated!)
Guess what? WE ARE SOLD OUT! Thanks to thank all of you for your kind support of this holiday gift box, it means so much to every small business represented in there. And: there’s a donation included with each box sold to the SF-Marin Food Bank, so thanks for that, too.
I’m happy to hit a high note right now, because honestly, the past week has not been the greatest. I can’t believe Fortuna started another FIC (Feline Idiopathic Cystitis) flareup last Wednesday, like that rough patch she had back in September. So, I’ve been home taking care of her (only leaving the house for a special e le ade Test Kitchen pop-up dinner with Brundo Spice Company on the back patio of Cafe Colucci on Sunday evening), but I had to cancel all my holiday outings this past weekend, including seeing Honey Dijon, drat. Come on, baby gurl, please get better! I just started her on new meds today, so here’s hoping my sweet little furry elf turns the corner soon. It’s so hard to see her not feeling well, again, she’s breaking my heart. We are quite the pair over here, I swear to goddess.
This Saturday is my Dad’s birthday, and the next day, our family will be cooking our Feast of the Seven Fishes together for Christmas Eve. I’m so looking forward to it since I had Covid last Christmas and missed out on everything, that was such a bummer! I had fun reading this recent piece by Dan Pelosi about his family’s Seven Fishes dinner for The New York Times, which features a couple recipes/dishes that are a bit similar to ours. Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, to all of you who celebrate.
If you’re looking for things to do for holiday cheer, be sure to catch up on my recent newsletters, because they’re packed with places to go and things to eat and cocktails to drink. I will also continue to update my Instagram stories (@tablehopper) with even more fun, festive things to do—keep checking my highlights! I will be posting some more New Year’s Eve dinners and New Year’s Day brunches, although I have already included some picks in today's issue.
Since holiday gifting can be sooooo last minute, I want to offer you a very special 30 percent discount on a gift (annual) subscription to tablehopper! One size fits and feeds all. There’s nothing like the gift of good food, it keeps on giving! I’m also SO CLOSE to making my end-of-year goal, so let’s do this together! 🥂
I won’t be writing tablehopper next week—I’m taking the week off! Holla! But for fun, I’ll be attending the special mirto dinner at Montesacro on Wednesday December 27th, hope to see you there. It’s going to be a Sardinian feast! I’m also looking at the Saturday Sidewalk Party at The Morris on Saturday December 30th with Sea Stephanie Fish, with sea urchin on oysters and great wine, 12:30pm–2pm, hell to the yes. My New Year’s Eve is going to kick off early with LCD Soundsystem later that night, and a return to the Phoenix Hotel for Mighty Real on the 31st. Can’t wait to see all my party people!
My next issue will be Tuesday January 2nd, with my annual The Bore list, highlighting 10 things I don’t want to see in the new year. I know many of you love that snarky list! I’ll be back on full reporting steam the week after—I really need to downshift and catch up with my damn self since this holiday gift box had me really busy this month. It’s no mystery why I keep getting sick, so I’m looking forward to exhaling a bit. I wish the same for you, as well as good health, safe travels, sleeping in, toasty fires, laughter, strong eggnog, and, of course, a very tasty holiday and shiny start to the new year. I know many of us need the good hope contained in a new year, may it overdeliver (easy, breezy, abundant!).
Grateful for you! Thanks for being with me, many of you for years! Happiest of holidays to you and yours.
~Champers 🥂 the elf AKA Marcia (and Fortuna)
Ritual at Manresa to Become “Creative Playground” for World’s Top Culinary Talent
by Savannah Leone Bundy
Critically acclaimed chef David Kinch (of the three Michelin–starred Los Gatos restaurant Manresa—for seven consecutive years!—which recently shuttered) has teamed up with Juan and Luis Caviglia (the sibling duo responsible for Meitre) to create a pop-up of sorts with their newest brainchild, Ritual at Manresa. Beginning January 17th, 2024, the former Manresa, known for elegant Californian cuisine, will host a monthly rotation of three-week residencies featuring the culinary stylings of Michelin-starred chefs from around the globe. (The concept is similar to what Rupert and Carrie Blease were doing with Turntable at Lord Stanley during the pandemic.)
The all-star lineup (literally, each featured chef has earned at least two Michelin stars for their work) was curated by Kinch—who serves as the program’s Culinary Ambassador—and kicks off next month with Aponiente by chef Ángel León (Spain, three Michelin stars) and continues through 2024 with appearances by chef Alex Atala of Brazil (two stars); chef Julien Royer of Singapore (three stars); chef Paolo Casagrande of Japan (three stars); and many more.
Each dinner has only 48 seats available per evening, operating Wednesday–Sunday for each three-week engagement. Tickets for January/February and March (Atomix by chef Junghyun Park of New York, two stars) residencies can be found here. The program also operates on a membership platform with special perks for members, including the option to book reservations for all ten of the scheduled launches in advance, member-only nights, last-minute seating, concierge service, private room bookings, and chef meet-and-greets. 320 Village Ln., Los Gatos.
Reduxes, Reopenings, and the Return of Lunch Service
Avery may have closed while chef Rodney is off to Edinburgh, Scotland, but opening in its place tonight is RTB Wine Bar, “a modern wine and sake bar hosted by Avery’s former Sommelier, Sean Widger. Sean’s beverage program focuses on rare Champagnes, wines, and sakes with an extensive by-the-glass and bottle list. Some of chef Rodney’s classic dishes from Avery are back—including the tortellini in brodo!—alongside new wine-friendly bites.” Check out the menu here. Open Tue–Sat 4pm–11pm. 1552 Fillmore St.
I know you’ve been following along with my updates on Liguria Bakery (I’ve been calling their phone number every week!), and I mentioned last week that they were finishing up with repairs from a recent fire and were due to reopen this week. Great news: it really happened! The beloved bakery will be open this week Tue–Sun (December the 24th) from 7am to noon. They won’t be taking any special orders at this time. Swing by for some focaccia and to say welcome back, Liguria. Whew, since 1911, and still trucking. 1700 Stockton St. at Filbert.
I’m also happy to see the return of weekday lunch service at Michael Mina’s PABU Izakaya, open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11am–2pm. The Financial District restaurant worked with consulting chef Shotaro “Sho” Kamio to relaunch the culinary experience, and the new menu features a mix of hot and cold small plates, lunch combos (including Jidori chicken with teriyaki sauce, Morro Bay black cod, and Kurobuta pork “katsu”—all served with miso soup, steamed white rice, sesame cabbage slaw, and soy pickles for $24–$27), and a selection of nigiri (including six pieces of nigiri for $29), sashimi (five fish sashimi for $35), and makimono, plus a selection of cocktails and alcohol-free options, like Pineapple Punch with pineapple green tea, turmeric, lemon, and mint. You should also order one of Ken’s Happy Spoons, in honor of the late Ken Tominaga, a co-founder of the restaurant. 101 California St.
New Year’s Eve and Day Special Meals and More
Since New Year’s Eve is on a Sunday, it’s a great day to brunch! Good Good Culture Club in the Mission is hosting a family-style brunch on Saturday December 30th and 31st, reserve on Resy. Bring on the duck congee and fried chicken! 3560 18th St.
Another spot open on the early side will be the splashy new Chotto Matte San Francisco, the Japanese-Peruvian rooftop restaurant in Union Square. The restaurant is hosting Glitter & Gold on Sunday December 31st, starting at 4pm. Why not come in for some bites and Champagne and cocktails at the bar, or on the terrace, weather pending? It’s a show-stopping view from up there.
Dinner will feature a selection of tasting menus created specifically for New Year’s Eve, as well as à la carte specials (don’t miss the o-toro aburi sashimi: five pieces of premium tuna belly, smoked duck butter, Chotto soy, flamed tableside). There will be a live DJ, taiko drum performances, fire breathers, dancers, and a photo booth in the evening. Limited space is available, book a table here. For reservations between 7pm–9:30pm, there will be a required minimum spend of $200 per person, and 9:45pm onward, the minimum is $250 per person (buckle up).
As for New Year’s Eve dinner, pretty much every restaurant is open and serving a special prix-fixe menu, but here are a few that caught my eye:
Lord Stanley has a gorgeous menu ($178), and will indubitably have the perfect soundtrack to match (80s attire requested); they also have an early menu for $100.
Chef Francis Ang will be zhooshing Abacá’s traditional Filipino cuisine with luxury ingredients on a special tasting menu with 12-plus dishes, like uni eclair, wagyu short rib adobo, and squid ink pancit (rice noodles). $150 per person, with wine pairings for $65, reservations through Resy. 2700 Jones St. (inside the Kimpton Alton Hotel, Fisherman’s Wharf).
Another menu that looked great last year (spiny lobster and crab porridge and smoked duck with abalone XO) and will assuredly rock again is at The Morris. They have two seatings (6:45pm and earlier is 5+ courses, $150) and the second seating is anytime after 7pm (7+ courses, $200) and the table is yours for the rest of the night. Added benefits: their sick Champagne list and caviar bumps! Reserve on Resy.
Empress by Boon would be a fittingly swanky atmosphere, $158 for a celebratory tasting menu. Reserve on OpenTable.
If you want to do upscale but not stuffy, I’d hit Anomaly SF in Lower Pac Heights for an 11-course tasting menu ($160/person) from chef Mike Lanham, and you can enjoy bubbles before dinner in their lounge. There’s a caviar supplement ($92), and their beverage pairing includes all kinds of fun picks ($97/person). Reservations on Tock.
Absinthe in Hayes Valley always has a festive atmosphere, and chef Ian Begg is really dialing up the elegance of their dishes of late. There will be a special four-course menu for $175, with rare wine pairings available, and plenty of excellent Champagne, natch—and for the month of December, they’re offering special magnum Champagne service, pouring coupes tableside of Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve. 398 Hayes St.
If you’re looking for a casual party where you won’t be hungry (or sober, LOL), The Monk’s Kettle in the Mission is hosting their annual all-you-can-eat-and-drink New Year’s Eve celebration. For $125 (includes tax and tip), you’ll graze on rounds of heavy passed apps throughout the evening (oysters with sour beer mignonette, Scotch eggs, devils on horseback, crabby patties, Monk’s burger sliders, pork belly skewers, and more) and a dessert course. An open draft beer and wine list will be available and includes a midnight toast. 8pm–12:30am. Reserve on OpenTable. 3141 16th St.
Rise Over Run on the roof at The Line hotel is offering a family-style feast (pork bo ssam!) for $65 per person, with extra caviar options, truffles, and festive cocktails. Tables have a two-hour maximum seating time. DJ THREE6SASHIA is playing from 10pm–1am, Champagne toast at midnight. 🥂 ALSO: book a room and get $100 in credit toward food and drinks at Tenderheart, Rise Over Run, Alfred Coffee, or in-room dining. Sweet!
Nopa is open for NYE, their last service before their winter break!
I also think a Chinese feast at HK Lounge Bistro would rock. I’d think about BYOC (champers), corkage is $25 (the last time I came in, there wasn’t anything to drink). They’re also open for dim sum brunch/lunch on New Year’s Day! 1136 Folsom St.
If you’re down on the Embarcadero to watch the fireworks, La Mar Cocina Peruana will have a street-front stand offering hot cocoa, hot toddies, and empanadas. (They’re also offering a prix-fixe menu for dinner, with a live band, and later seatings will have a midnight Champagne toast.)
As for New Year’s Day:
The Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon will be serving New Year’s Day brunch from 12pm–4pm, featuring a two-course prix fixe brunch menu ($59), along with specials and selections from their oyster cart. Reservations here. 5 Main St., Tiburon.
Keep checking in on my Instagram story highlights for more: @tablehopper.
A Fun Party-at-Home Idea: a Caviar and Bubbly Tasting!
During that week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I love getting together with friends for bubbles and hanging out by the tree (theirs, not mine—all I have is a 18-inch peacock feather tree, ha-ha!). It’s the perfect time to pick up an exquisite and almondy galette des rois from Le Marais Bakery (starting December 26th, although technically you aren’t supposed to eat it until January 6th).
But the big move would be hosting a caviar and bubbly tasting! Last month, I was so fortunate to enjoy a tasting featuring a trio of sparkling wines from Domaine Carneros—one of my favorite domestic producers—paired with roe and caviar from the superlative Tsar Nicoulai.
It was a brilliant pairing for many reasons, partly because Domaine Carneros CEO Remi Cohen and Tsar Nicoulai President Ali Bolourchi are both so sustainably minded in their farming, growing, and production techniques, while being notable artisanal makers of such high-quality and luxury California products.
Since their beginning in 1987, Domaine Carneros has pushed the sustainability envelope (click to read everything they do, it’s impressive). Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, the six estate vineyards total approximately 400 acres, with 150 acres planted to chardonnay, and 250 acres to pinot noir. In 2003, they installed the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world, and their winery process water is reclaimed and reused, among many other sustainable practices they employ. In 2019, Domaine Carneros received the California Green Medal Business Award and the Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award.
Tsar Nicoulai is a pioneer in white sturgeon farming in America, also dating back to the 80s (1984), and are not only one of the world’s oldest sturgeon farms, but also among the most awarded. Did you know Tsar Nicoulai is the only eco-certified sturgeon farm in the United States?! Water is another primary point of focus for them: their method of above-ground tanks and organic pond filtration (thanks in part to Mother Nature’s biofilter: water hyacinth!) is a Green and Monterey Bay Aquarium Best Choice–rated practice. Their system is designed to clean and recharge their well waters so their fish can swim in the most pristine and mineral-rich water. And their roe is cured with fine Pacific sea salt, that’s it!
Those are some fun facts you can share with your guests about why these wines and roes/caviar are so special as you set up this fabulous tasting, whether you just do one or all three: Cuvée de la Pompadour Rosé with Gold Pearl Salmon Roe (such a gorgeous pairing—those peachy colors!—and the perfect party starter); 2019 Traditional Brut and Malossol Estate (these two were so elegant together, the sparkling was textured and structured yet soft enough to let the umami-rich caviar shine); and 2016 Le Rêve blanc de blancs and Golden Reserve (Golden bubbles and golden beads! Le Réve is a favorite of mine, and I loved the minerality of both together, it tasted like caviar from Champagne, with such a fab buttery finish!).
You can actually buy or customize a tasting to be shipped to you on the Domaine Carneros site (they sell these sparkling wines listed above and some of the caviar), and schedule someone to join you for a Zoom education session of the bubbles! You can also visit the gorgeous winery and château for this very special tasting (and other experiences)—be sure to try the cold-smoked salmon from Tsar Nicoulai! 🥂
The Beacon Grand to Reopen Iconic Rooftop Bar This Winter
by Savannah Leone Bundy
After a several-year closure, the legendary rooftop lounge, formerly known as Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, will re-emerge as Starlite in February of 2024.
Atop the Beacon Grand (formerly the Sir Francis Drake Hotel), the newly renovated, Art Deco–inspired bar will boast the same 360-degree views with an updated take on classic San Francisco culture. With an ambiance that is “both intimate and spectacular,” Starlite aims to honor its historic past while creating new and exciting stories.
Starlite’s upcoming menu will feature witty-yet-sophisticated concoctions that are hand-crafted by SF native Scott Baird (creator of award-winning Trick Dog cocktail bar in the Mission) and bites by Michelin-award-winning chef Johnny Spero. The two have come up with offerings that will reflect each one’s artistry and influences, while complementing the other and the natural beauty of the area. Baird’s playful twists on modern classics like the Cable Car (a rum-based cocktail made popular by former bar manager Tony Abou-Ganim) incorporate clever ingredients and techniques—like Chinese five spice syrup and a coastal tree-scented “fog”—giving guests a full sensory experience that interacts with the surrounding geography.
A note from Marcia: Baird also mentioned to me that he’ll be making a cocktail that pays homage to legendary barman Daniel Hyatt, who tragically left us in 2018. He shares: “I am writing long descriptions that will go onto the menu for each drink and I’m doing my best to channel him. It’s a pale comparison, but he is an inspiration and was a mentor for me more than anyone else.” We’re raising our glass.
Expect a really cool soundtrack to go with that cocktail and view: there will be all-vinyl, live DJ sets curated by famed music director and party host Nina Tarr, spanning some deep cuts of soul, funk, glam, disco, and groove.
Starlite is located on the 21st floor of the Beacon Grand Hotel, 450 Powell St. at Sutter, and opens officially on February 2nd, 2024. Hours will be Thu–Sat 4pm–1am, Sun 2pm–11pm.
I had to share this banged-up menu from New Year’s Eve, 1910! It’s extraordinary.