Hello, my fellow hoppers. I hope you’ve been feeling festive, finding fun moments with friends and family, admiring how pretty the City looks adorned with lights and holiday displays and so many twinkling windows, and enjoying some tasty treats, from latkes to peppermint bark! Having people over? Making cookies? You can put on this holiday playlist I made 10 years ago for a Champagne party I hosted.
As you may have noticed, I have been a very busy elf with the return of this year’s tablehopper’s Taste of San Francisco Holiday Gift Box with Feed! Now in its fourth year, the gift box is packed with 12, oh-so-delicious, small-batch, gourmet products from local SF Bay Area restaurants, businesses, and makers. From hot mustard from Chinatown stalwart Sam Wo Restaurant to cult classic granola from b. Patisserie, every item has a flavor story to tell (click the link to see them all). Most items are from people of color, queer, and women makers, as well as small businesses that have been hustling to stay afloat.
I couldn’t be doing this again without the help of new partner Feed, and new this year: they can 🚀 deliver the box all up and down the West Coast 🚀, from Seattle to San Diego, as well as to Phoenix, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, and beyond! You can ship a Taste of SF as an amazing gift to an SF food–lovin’ friend!
Thanks for supporting the makers, independent restaurants, and craft food businesses featured in this annual gift box. You can order it for yourself, split up the gift box into stocking stuffers, and share one with a friend. And there’s a donation included to the SF-Marin Food Bank.
I’m really trying hard to sell this out this week, so thanks in advance from all of us for any support and signal boost you can give to the gift box, whether you forward it to a friend, share it on social media, or include it in your publication. (Many thanks to Eater SF, SFist, Nob Hill Gazette, Juanita MORE!, and Broke-Ass Stuart for the mentions so far!) We also got this great mention in 48 Hills today! I have been posting ways to enjoy all the ingredients in my Instagram Stories, check it out.
In addition to supporting the SF-Marin Food Bank with the gift box this holiday season, I wanted to share this GoFundMe for two brothers who work at Fatted Calf, Hector and Miguel. Even though they have insurance, they need help with expenses related to Hector’s kidney transplant—which is being donated by his brother Miguel (how’s that for brotherly love)—and the surgery is happening today (best wishes!!). Let’s help make their recovery over the holiday a less-worrisome one.
One more thing I wanted you to note: if you’re going to be around during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, there’s a special mirto dinner on December 27th at Montesacro Marina mentioned in today’s column that I will be attending, I hope to see you there! Let me know if you’re coming! I love going out during that week, it’s a great time to catch up with friends and is something fun to do if you have family in town.
Champers the elf (moi) is getting excited for her third Hanukkah dinner this week, this time at One Market. Lucky us, their Festival of Latkes is through December 23rd, so don’t miss it.
It’s a great week for caftans.
~Champers the elf
Get Ready to Hop Down The Rabbit Hole, Opening in La Lengua (Bernal-Mission) Later This Month
A tablehopper reader pointed me to the new signage for The Rabbit Hole, opening in the former Old Devil Moon location on Mission Street in La Lengua (Bernal-Mission). While I was waiting to hear back from the owner, Mission Local picked up the story, but I have some more details to share. Owner Joanie McCollum has lived in San Francisco for 30 years (in Bernal for the past eight years), and has been working as a designer in tech. Her kids are off to college, and she decided she definitely wants to stay in San Francisco, so she started thinking about her next step. When the Old Devil Moon space became available, she decided to add restaurant and bar owner to her résumé.
As a longtime San Franciscan, McCollum sees how there are fewer affordable places for people to go out to, and nothing stays open late. She also wants a place that will be really accessible to people who don’t drink alcohol, but who still like to go out. Add in her love for Chinese breakfast and her Taiwanese background (her Mom immigrated to the U.S. on her own and landed in L.A. in the 1960s), and she has created a concept that will feature Americanized Asian small plates, like sesame noodles, an Asian-style burger (think about a spin with the pickles), Taiwanese fried chicken, and perhaps will run classic dishes like beef noodle soup as a special. It’s a small kitchen, so they’re going to start with dinner, and then hopefully add brunch soon.
The bar program is going to focus on Asian spirits and local producers, which is where the “rabbit hole” part of the name will come into play, because McCollum wants it to be a place of discovery. Get excited, because the bar manager is none other than the talented and creative Simone Mims (Nico, A16 Rockridge, The Battery). I ran into her at an industry party on Sunday, and she mentioned a baijiu-based Negroni on tap. OK! I know she’s going to bring in some exciting ingredients with the cocktails, as she is known to do. Low-ABV and no-ABV drinks will also be featured, and McCollum is excited about them being really delicious.
The space was pretty turnkey—they’ve been refreshing the décor, and plan to have the back patio in action as well. There are 40 seats inside, with 20 at the bar. It’s designed to be a chill spot, and they plan to open in a couple weeks (I’ll keep you posted). Hours will be Wed–Sun 3pm–12am to start, with the kitchen open until 10pm. 3472 Mission St. at Cortland.
Some Restaurant News, Updates, and Closures
Great news! I’ve been calling Liguria Bakery’s phone number every week, and their outgoing message was updated to say repairs from the fire in August should be done this week, and they’re hoping to reopen on Monday December 18th! Holla! A Christmas miracle. Call to confirm before heading over—I will definitely update you next week! 1700 Stockton St. at Filbert.
Another miraculous comeback: Stonemill Matcha is reopening Wednesday December 20th at 10am! Wow! It’s time for a katsu sando and slice of matcha cream pie. Such great news for a struggling Valencia Street. 561 Valencia St. at 17th St.
I was surprised to see chef Sean Thomas has left Buddy in the Mission, but he wanted to pump the brakes a little on that restaurant kitchen life, and is back to doing consulting for a bit. One of his current gigs is at Palm City Wines Lower Haight, working with Dennis Cantwell and Monica Wong on their new and upcoming location—they said they’re excited to be working with him and to stand by for more details in the new year.
Buddy’s new chef is Chris Mendoza, who has been working closely with chef Thomas over the past year (in addition to Bird Dog Palo Alto and Duo Restaurant in Denver). The gougères are in great hands, and he’s adding some new dishes to the lineup. 3115 22nd St.
Some unfortunate news about two closures just rolled in: Kagawa-ya Udon Noodle Company announced their final day of service will be next Friday December 22nd, from 11am–2pm. Over seven years, the husband-and-wife duo have served udon to over 250,000 customers to date. Their post says, “The dining landscape has changed so much since 2020 and our fast casual udon concept no longer thrives in this space. Sean and I will be taking some time off to re-conceptualize and hopefully come back stronger than ever!” 1455 Market St. at 11th St.
And over in Oakland, Sister has announced they are closing, with their last day of service on January 27th. From their post: “We are heartbroken to announce that the last service at Sister Restaurant will be January 27th. It has been a great pleasure and honor to host your dates, family gatherings, solo dinners, and coffee outings. We are grateful for the team we’ve put together here – the most hardworking and talented group of folks anywhere. Unfortunately, we have not been able to make the revenue necessary to keep our doors open, so we will be here to serve you just until the end of January. We hope to see you all a few more times before then. Reservations for dinner service are highly recommended – and we still have a few dates available for private dining.”
Messaging with co-owner Richard Clark (who opened Sister with his wife, Jen Cremer, in 2018), he shares that it’s heartbreaking to close, but also a relief, to be honest. He says they kept waiting for things to get better, but they couldn't keep holding on. He added: “I know a lot of similar small businesses are in the same boat right now.” 3308 Grand Ave., Oakland.
So, please go out to dinner this week if you can. And next. Go eat at a small neighborhood restaurant you haven’t visited in a long time. Folks are barely hanging on. January is going to be rough. Thanks for showing up however you can.
A Downtown Holiday Visit
Sis and I donned our gay apparel and hit up Union Square on Saturday evening, and in all my years of living here, I couldn’t believe how busy it was (no, it wasn’t because of Santacon). People were OUT and it was pretty wonderful to see, except the traffic jam at Post and Powell is really something to avoid.
The elves arrived too late to catch the SPCA kittens and puppies in the Macy’s holiday windows (until 6pm), but we were right on time for Champagne o’clock. We popped by the POP Lounge at the Westin St. Francis, which is a holiday lounge they’ve set up with Moët & Chandon where you can take a load off in comfortable padded bar seats or sofas and enjoy some bubbles and bites in a festive room. They offer an all-California cheese plate (including Humboldt Fog, Pt. Reyes Toma, and Fiscalini Purple Moon) with quince paste and crackers, and caviar service from California Caviar (their royal white sturgeon is pure class), with blini and accompaniments. Granted, the disposable and boxed presentations were a bit like being in business class—and you order at the counter, so it’s a fast-casual experience—but we enjoyed the people-watching in the midst of the holiday hubbub.
Here’s my annual holiday cheap thrill...
After admiring pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdré's annual Sugar Castle in the lobby, we checked out the Union Square tree, had a cute stroll down Maiden Lane, and watched the Let’s Glow SF projections on the Hobart Building (I’ll be posting a Reel on @tablehopper about all of it). We also swung by the Palace Hotel to admire their beautiful tree in the Garden Court, and if the Pied Piper wasn’t so packed, we would have stayed for a Boothby cocktail.
Some other options for downtown would be cocktails and a jazz show at Dawn Club; the pedestrian-only Winter Walk on Stockton Street starts December 15th, with food trucks, adult beverages, and an indoor marketplace hosted by Sunset Mercantile (Mon–Wed 12pm–7pm, Thu–Sun 10am–9pm); and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco’s enormous 17-story atrium lobby has “snow” falling from the ceiling onto hanging stars and a 30-foot-tall tree (“snow” fall happens Mon–Fri 5pm and 7pm; Sat–Sun 9am, 11am, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm) and splits of Champagne will be available for $15 from a stacked bottle Sip Tree.
I was looking at next week’s forecast, and it’s full of rain starting Sunday, ugh, so try to head out for your holiday lights and cheer this week if you can.
It’s Definitely Peak Prime Rib Season
After being home sick for 3+ weeks, I finally headed out for my first restaurant meal, and what a night it was! The best kickoff to the holidays! Have you ever been to Harris’ during the holidays? It’s really something.
Put your name down for a table in the lounge (I adore the green booths and vintage SF murals and roller chairs) and sit at the beautiful wood bar while you wait. If you’re lucky, the pianist and bass player will play a few Vince Guaraldi Christmas songs while you sip your Black Manhattan (this smooth, barrel-aged cocktail of Averna and Garrison Brothers “Small Batch” Texas Bourbon is aged for a month—you’ll spot the barrel as you walk into the lounge). I always love the little sidecar on ice here. Order their excellent Dungeness crab cakes with beurre blanc—more crab, less filler—while you wait.
Hopefully, a table has opened up before your main course. Now, I know everyone deems HOPR the best prime rib in the City, and it’s certainly a VIBE and the biggest show, but the elegant presentation here is my favorite. (Also: better wine list.)
You can order the regular cut (14 oz. for $62), and I recommend English-style (thinly sliced), or there’s the executive cut on the bone (22 oz. for $74). You’ll drizzle even more jus over the rosy slices of perfectly medium rare roast prime rib, and wait until they come by with the nose-clearing horseradish cream (I actually had tears after a couple dollops of it). The scalloped potato is THE MOVE (it’s a stack of the thinnest layers, it’s a wonder) and there’s a massive spoonful of creamed spinach. (I ended up having the best leftovers the next day, ask for extra jus and make a French dip.)
The classic style of service here is top-notch, Harris’ treats their guests exceedingly well. Be sure to walk through the main dining room, their holiday decor is so fab and festive. Even if you just come by the bar for a Black Manhattan, Harris’ will remind you what it’s wonderful to be in the City for the holidays.
A bunch of you posted about how much you love Harris’, which made me happy to see, because I think that spot is excellent, with such classic SF vibes. Since prime rib and the holidays really go hand-in-hand, I wanted to be sure you knew one of my other favorite prime rib dinners is at One Market, normally served on Thursday and Friday nights only, but for December, they’re open and serving it on Saturdays as well. And: there’s valet parking at dinner! (A rarity in this town.)
Chef Mark Dommen serves a spectacular spit-roasted prime rib with creamed spinach, the creamiest mashed potatoes, horseradish cream (yeah, that’s a lot of cream!), and a popover, all for $59. They also have prime rib available on their Christmas Eve menu.
Additional Holiday Sweets and Treats, from Pan de Jamón to Panettone
I already shared a bunch of my holiday favorites with you a couple weeks ago, but here are some updates on even more treats that I’m seeing people making.
Last year, I picked up a pan de jamón from Yo Tambien Cantina, a collaboration with Day Moon bakery, and me and my friend who I split a PDJ with are beyond thrilled to see them doing it again this year! “Picture a brioche-style dough, rolled up into a hefty log of smoked ham, salty stuffed green olives and juicy raisins, baked to perfection to achieve a caramelized coat.” Yeah, it’s special. You have until December 14th to preorder for pick-up this Friday December 15th at the shop.
I spotted this wonderful news after my column went out to supporting subscribers last week, so I wanted to share this with you now: the Miers of La Canasta (who were sadly evicted earlier this year, after 32 years, ugh) are popping up at Grand Lake Kitchen in Oakland every week with homemade tamales for the holiday (and into the new year)! You can pre-order by Sunday for next Wednesday’s pickup here. Red pork and chile verde and black bean tamales, Mexican wedding cookies, and more—I’m picking mine up tomorrow. I’m so grateful to May Seto of GLK for helping the family out like this, what a good egg. Who’s going to host them next?
It’s totally the season of panettone for breakfast, and one of my very favorites is the Veneziana from Emporio Rulli. The dough is so flavorful and fluffy and feathery, and if you don’t like the candied fruits and raisins in a classic Milanese panettone, this one is for you. This Venetian panettone is studded with candied orange zest and topped with almond paste, coarse sugar, and toasted almonds (which makes a crumbly spectacle every time you eat it, so there’s no hiding any late-night snack sessions). You have to try this at least once.
Baker Gary Rulli also makes a traditional Milanese-style panettone, plus his paradiso version with chocolate and candied orange peel, and he makes killer stollen. Check out the entire holiday lineup here, order now for delivery before Christmas! You’ll get a jar of his amaretti cookies in the tablehopper’s Taste of SF Holiday Gift Box with Feed!
Another fresh and locally made panettone is the slow-fermented panettone from Starter Bakery in Oakland, either traditional or filled with Italian candied orange peel and 64% extra-bitter Guayaquil chocolate. The delicate texture is extraordinary. (There’s stollen as well. And a million other baked goods to enjoy.)
One of the most elegant panettone presentations is from Loison in Vicenza, imported by local Italophiles Casa de Case. These panettone are the perfect host/ess gift or way to say grazie. They all look like a present—some even come in a hat box, or with the cutest little stuffed koala with a mini panettone inside, I am not kidding. I tried the pistachio this year, soooo squisito, and there’s also one with Bronte pistachios and matcha. You can also order cream-filled pandoro, oh yeah. Check out all the options. (And snag some olio nuovo with your order.)
I’m a fan of the panettone from Rustichella d’Abruzzo, which you can find on sale on the virtual shelves at Feed right now (they have the orange and chocolate flavor, use code MARCIA20 on your first order!) and they are also stocked at Market Hall Foods in the East Bay (along with Pasticceria Filippi, and more!).
I just tried the new traditional Milanese panettone from Eataly, which is delicate, eggy, and has a lovely vanilla scent—the raisins are plump and sweet. It’s gorgeous when you warm it up a little and enjoy a golden slice with a cappuccino (or as a late-night snack). They also have different flavors and a pandoro on offer.
Le Marais Bakery always gets into a holiday baking frenzy—have you ever had their apple tarte Normande, a French apple Calvados custard tart with a pâte sablée crust and housemade shortcrust pastry? They are also taking pre-orders for December 22nd for two kinds of Bûche de Noël, either joconde (sponge) with homemade raspberry jam and lemon mousse with a madeleine base, covered in gold glitter glaze with mini raspberry macarons, or chocolate.
Maison Danel is making two kinds of Bûche de Nöel: there’s l’Oihana: pear purée, praliné croustillant, gianduja mousse, and hazelnuts dacquoise, or l’Imperatrice: white chocolate cream, chocolate pearls, raspberry mousse, and pistachio dacquoise. Pre-order by midnight on Friday 12/22, for pickup or delivery on 12/24 or 12/25. They also have holiday tea service this month if you’re looking for a place to indulge in the afternoon.
Did you see Humphry Slocombe is doing “A X-MAS Story” ice cream cake? The six-inch or nine-inch cake has a layer of Madagascar vanilla cake, a layer of malted milk chocolate ice cream, and a layer of X-MAS Story ice cream (Tahitian vanilla with peppermint bark and shortbread cookies), all topped with a layer of housemade peppermint bark! Of course, there’s also their duck fat pecan pies—don’t forget some vanilla ice cream to go with ’em.
Last-Minute and Affordable Gatherings
Did you lag on planning a holiday gathering with coworkers or friends, or don’t think you can afford to do it? I gotta tell ya, I have seen the taco bar buffet parties and tastings and classes Merkado hosts in their spacious location in SoMa, and the price is right (taco bar buffet for $40/head, classes start at $45, and tastings start at $55). You can even do a taco lunch with the gang. (Yes, they also have a chile en nogada on the dinner menu right now, and it’s vegetarian!) And keep Merkado in mind if you’re going to Cirque du Soleil (Jan 17th–March 17th), it’s nearby. 130 Townsend St.
Another idea for you: did you know Tenderheart at LINE SF continued to offer their SF Restaurant Week prix-fixe menu throughout the remainder of the year? For $45 per person, guests can enjoy a three-course, prix-fixe meal, starting with three starters for the table, a choice of entrée (like chicken roulade with jus and hot mustard), and a choice of dessert; you can add on additional wine pairings for $25. Chef Joe Hou will change up the menu each week with his twists on American Chinese cuisine (check out the holiday tasting menu here). If you’re downtown shopping, here’s a fabulously priced dinner to enjoy. 33 Turk St.
I also think a dim sum lunch is a fun and affordable way to get the gang together—I have been doing it with team tablehopper over the years. From Yank Sing, to Palette Tea House, the new HK Lounge Bistro, the classic Hang Ah or Great Eastern in Chinatown, to the new City View, all of those spots are winners.
Have Friends Over: A Fab Holiday Meal at Home
Last week, me, sis, and a couple dear friends got together to try a Moveable Feast, which are dinner parties created by fantastic chefs and restaurants (like Kim Alter of Nightbird and Compère Lapin of New Orleans) that are shipped to you, and you unbox, assemble, prepare, and feast at home. We were so excited to receive a Hanukkah-inspired feast from the talented Jeremy Fox of Birdie G’s in L.A., and it ended up being a lot of fun with all four of us in the kitchen tackling different tasks and dishes. We strategized our meal over bites of cultured butter and caviar from The Caviar Co. on matzo brei and a bottle of bubs.
Sis plated the pickled beets with smoked trout roe and deli flavors (a favorite), while one of our hosts was in charge of warming up the matzo ball soup with carrot miso and chicken broth.
We would all confer on when we thought something was done or ready, we could set the pacing of the meal, and decide what we wanted to enjoy next, like the koji-creamed greens with the corned tri-tip with smoked tomato gravy. We were all pretty blown away with the quality of the food, how well it all came together, and all the nice touches, from the suggested wine pairings you could read ahead of time to how compostable and eco-minded everything was. Some of the overall preparation instructions were a little scattershot and confusing, so it was good to have a kitchen posse keeping track of who was making what.
It was a long and fun and interactive dinner party, and a totally different experience instead of just one person preparing the meal (which you could also do, but the group effort was much more engaging). It would have been $385 for four (shipping is included), and felt totally worth it, especially considering how abundant and delicious the meal was (they use seasonal and quality ingredients)—sure, you have to do the dishes, but you also would have easily spent $165 per person on the menu in a restaurant, plus tip, tax, and pairings, so figure at least $290.
Every month, you can reserve upcoming feasts, which sell out, but you can become a member and get early access. Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy in New York is behind January’s feast, and they’re launching two-person dinners in the new year. They also have dinner parties for larger parties (8 or 12). The feasts are shipped nationwide every week in time for a weekend dinner party. Check it out.
Celebrate the Essence of Sardinia at a Mirto Day Dinner on December 27th at Montesacro Marina
The first Mirto Day is here! Immerse yourself in the beauty and history of Sardinian mirto from Bresca Dorada, as founder and producer Paolo Melis walks guests through a guided tasting of his unique expression. Mirto, the classic liqueur and digestivo, is made from an infusion of myrtle berries in alcohol. Bresca Dorada’s mirto berries are harvested by hand in the inland parts of Sardinia.
On Wednesday December 27th, Montesacro Marina (3317 Steiner St.) is hosting a dinner dedicated to Sardinian dishes, from traditional malloreddus (thin ribbed, shell-shaped pasta made with semolina and water, cooked with fennel seeds, sausage ragù, and pecorino) to the traditional roasted pig.
Guests will be welcomed with an aperitivo drink designed by Montesacro’s mixologist Jacopo Rosito. Before the dinner starts, there will be a live cooking segment with a Sardinian cook who will make traditional culurgiones, ravioli-like stuffed pasta.
The cost is $120 per person, including aperitivo drinks, a four-course dinner, and a wine pairing (tax and gratuity are not included). Guests can book directly through this link. The event is from 5pm–9pm. Your very own tablehopper is going to be in the house, she hopes to see you there!
Mirto Seminar (Press and F&B Only)
If you’re in the food and beverage industry or are press and interested in learning more about mirto, Montesacro Marina is hosting a seminar dedicated to this unique liquor and its history on December 27th at 3pm. Please reach out to email@example.com for more details!
More Holiday Spirits for You!
I ran my big post of where to go for holiday cheer a couple weeks ago, but here’s a super-fast holiday drinks update—I wanted you to know some neighborhood bars are also doing extensive holiday drink menus.
The Evil Eye in the Mission has some great-sounding festive cocktails, like the Evil Nog (rum, brandy, egg, pandan, sherry, sesame, peanut, amaro, nutmeg; $17); Hot Buttered Rum (aged rum, evil spiced butterscotch, salted amaro whipped cream; $16); and Abuelita (green chartreuse, Mexican hot chocolate, mezcal, chili peppers, cinnamon, coconut milk, served hot; $17). I’m gonna try to head over this week, so yum. Mon–Thu 5pm–11pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–12am, Sun 2pm–9pm. 2937 Mission St. at 25th St.
If you’re in Noe Valley, Mr. Digby’s Bar & Restaurant has created a menu with seven new specialty holiday cocktails available throughout December, including Holiday Nog (bourbon, pumpkin, house mix; $12) and Santa’s Secret Barrel (rum blend, Nocino, Benedictine, bitters; $16). They’re also doing a toy drive brunch for December—bring a toy and receive complimentary French Toast sticks (one per table). Toys will be donated to the SF Firefighters Toys Program. 1199 Church St.
Charming Top Floor Private Office, Heart of the Castro—Amazing Crew and View
We have the perfect spot for you to grow your creativity and business. It’s in a charming Victorian (top floor) near the corner of Market and Noe. Steps away from SF Fitness and Muni, your future office is 12x18, has large windows (tons of natural light), and a view of Sutro Tower (photos here). It’s the perfect perch for a single occupant or small crew of up to three. Best of all, the master tenant is delightful (lease is month to month) and you’ll be sharing the floor with a dynamic community of creatives, entrepreneurs, and LGBTQ activists. Unfortunately, this space won’t work for medical professionals or massage. In your response, tell us about your business, why the Castro would be an ideal location for you, and anything else you'd like to share. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for the Nob Hill Gazette about Schroeder’s, celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. I hope you can take a moment to read it and learn more about the oldest Bavarian-inspired beer hall on the West Coast. It always has a festive feeling during the holidays, swing by for some schnitzel or sauerbraten and a stein with friends! 🍻