About Marcia Gagliardi

Marcia Gagliardi

Marcia Gagliardi is a freelance food writer in San Francisco. She writes a weekly column, Foodie 411 for the SFCVB on their “Taste” site; a monthly gossip column, “The Tablehopper” for The Northside; and regular features for Edible San Francisco. Her first book came out in March 2010: The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion.


Latest Posts by Marcia Gagliardi

The Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

January 26, 2015 by  

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Fileja Calabresi from Bella Italia.

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Savory yogurts from Blue Hill.

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Grady’s cold brew.

Last week, I hit up the Winter Fancy Food Show, which is always a staggering undertaking, with more than 80,000 international food and beverage products displayed in both the north and south halls of Moscone. I only had one afternoon, so I surfed the aisles and cut through the crowds like a fast shark, looking for obvious prey. A few products I enjoyed sinking my teeth into were:

  • The new/about-to-be-released sriracha potato chips (using sriracha “rooster sauce” from Huy Fong Foods), and they’re also releasing a sriracha seasoning (deviled eggs and popcorn will never be the same). And you know about their sriracha popcorn they made with Pop! Popcorn, right?
  • This was kind of mind-blowing: there’s a new buffalo mozzarella made in the U.S., but using milk from water buffalo in Campania. I. KNOW. Angelo + Franco will also be selling the milk soon in small frozen 500-ml blocks (or more)—your mozzarella-making at home, or ice cream, or whatever, is gonna have a whole new level of game.
  • The salumi from New York’s Charlito’s Cocina were new to me—especially enjoyed the dry beer salami and chorizo.
  • Always good to taste the cured meat products from Daniele, Inc.—they do an excellent domestic prosciutto.
  • Holy crap, I saw the biggest chub of ‘nduja at the ItalFoods booth. It’s from ‘Nduja Artisans in Chicago, and this very authentic spicy spreadable pork from the heavens is actually available at The Pasta Shop, and hallelujah, this product isn’t sold in a jar. Bonus: the pork is hormone-free.
  • Also on the Calabria tip: I discovered this line of pasta called Bella Italia, which offers a regional line of pasta shapes, including fileja Calabresi. I couldn’t believe it. They also had cicatelli Molisani, busiate Trapanesi, and more. Not sure who carries this line locally, but it was cool to see!
  • Oh man, someone needs to pick up this line of mustards by Domaine des Terres Rouges imported by HPS Epicurean—their absinthe mustard was beautiful, and I would totally find many uses for their tandoori mustard (it made me want to make an Indian mustard chicken with it). While I typically like a hotter mustard, these had an appealing delicacy and balance. And fortunately they sell them on Amazon (until someone local picks them up).
  • While visiting the HPS Epicurean booth, it was great to see Victoria D’Amato-Moran and preview her new (and complex) line of Cent’Anni Spirit Syrups, coming soon to BevMo and Dean & DeLuca.
  • The enthusiastic guy manning the Pollen Ranch booth—which features hand-harvested pollen—got me hooked on their dill pollen. This stuff is so fragrant (my purse smelled like the small sample they gave me all day), and they have a whole line of fennel-based products, rubs, and salts.
  • I love kefir, and Sierra Nevada Cheese Company has added this new release to their line of grass-fed milk products, plus there’s grass-fed Greek yogurt too.
  • Also on the yogurt side, I tried savory yogurts (tomato, sweet potato, butternut squash) from Blue Hill. I dislike sugary fruity yogurts, so these were kind of rad.
  • No one let me have the Red Clay containers of pimento cheese in my house, they’d barely last a day. I’d spread it on everything. DANGEROUS. Bonus: they use rBGH-/rBST-free cheeses.
  • Of course had to taste some of the products in the new Nancy’s Fancy line: gelati and sorbetti from LA’s Nancy Silverton. Sadly they weren’t sampling the trademark butterscotch budino flavor, but the coconut stracciatella was mighty tasty, ditto the chunky salted peanut butter—both had great mouthfeel.
  • The show was totally dominated with ice creams. Additional shout-outs to the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso from Jeni’s, and strawberry balsamic sorbetto from the Maine-based Gelato Fiasco (their espresso chip was also notable). The inventive flavors from Brooklyn-based Phin & Phebes were awesome (ginger ice cream with ginger cookies with lemon icing filling, and banana pudding ice cream with vanilla wafers, whut?). Oh yeah, and St. Benoit (of the fantastic yogurt) is now making boxed ice milk.
  • These tins from Grady’s contain tea bags of cold-brew coffee that you can just throw into a pitcher of water and have New Orleans-style cold brew 12 hours later! So ingenious. Great flavor. I’m all over it!

 

Photos:  tablehopper.com.

 

Bottomless Dim Sum Brunch at San Francisco’s Chubby Noodle

December 28, 2014 by  

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Image courtesy of Chubby Noodle.

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Chubby Noodle’s jook with hickory-smoked bacon. Photo via Facebook.

Your weekends are about to get dim-summier and rowdier with the arrival of the bottomless dim sum weekend brunch at ~CHUBBY NOODLE MARINA~ in San Francisco, starting Saturday January 3rd.

For $37 (plus tax and tip), you will have 90 minutes to enjoy bottomless dishes and four or five beverages, too, ranging from draft Sapporo to their cold tea to probably some mimosas.

The starting menu will be divided into five sections: dim sum (pork buns, shrimp and cilantro dumplings, shu mai), noodles (expect Hong Kong-style chow mein, rice cakes in XO sauce, wonton noodle soup), soup (hot and sour, crab and corn chowder), rice (their amazing fried rice, and jook with smoked pork and a poached egg), and sides (bok choy, pea shoots, eggplant).

Knowing chef-partner Pete Mrabe, these initial dishes will change up a bit.  He plans to start with 12 the first weekend, and then ramp up with new ones each week, eventually getting the menu count to 25 (five dishes in each section).

You’ll check off on a piece of paper which dishes you want. Depending on the size of your group, you may need to order double—your server will advise you. 

Cook Book Events & Recipe Chatter in San Francisco

December 10, 2014 by  

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If you’re looking for gift ideas for someone on your list, cookbooks are a great way to go. Especially signed, beautifully photographed, locally written ones. On Saturday December 13th from 3pm-4pm, catch Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS in San Francisco.

They’ll be discussing their new cookbook, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes, and signing copies. The event is free, and books will be available for purchase.  Omnivore is also hosting a number of other special book events next week, if you can’t make this one.

3 San Francisco Restaurants for Cosy Holiday Dining

December 3, 2014 by  

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The bar at Bix. Photo from Bix.

Celebrate the short days and cold weather with choucroute garnie at ~LE P’TIT LAURENT~ on Tuesday December 16th.

The classic wintry Alsatian dish is made with sauerkraut, cured pork (including rib, bacon, and sausage), juniper berries, onions, potatoes, and white wine, and will be served along with a selection of wines from the Alsace region, as well. The dinner is $25 per person, and includes all the choucroute you can eat (pace yourself). Beverages can be purchased separately. 699 Chenery St. at Diamond, 415-334-3235.

If anyone knows about the short days of winter, it’s Scandinavians. ~PLÄJ~ is bringing the holiday spirit with their series of Julbord Holiday Dinners every Sunday until Christmas—December 7th, 14th, and 21st from 5pm-10pm. The five-course dinners begin with a traditional glogg, or spiced wine, and also includes a caviar course, as well as cured fish and meats such as gravlax and chicken liver mousse.

The main course offers a pretty astonishing spread of hearty dishes: meatballs, prince sausage, Christmas ham, and a chanterelle and shrimp omelet, to name just a few. The dinners are $65 per person, with pairings available for an additional cost; reservations can be made by calling 415-294-8925.

From now until December 23rd, ~BIX~ will be offering lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm for their Holiday Lunch Club. The à la carte menu includes offerings like the Bix burger (a hopper favorite), braised beef short rib on polenta with winter vegetable ragout and preserved tomato, and a Dungeness crab cocktail.

Meet Rintaro, a New Restaurant in San Francisco

November 26, 2014 by  

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The view of Rintaro from the courtyard. Photo from Facebook.

The former home of Chez Spencer (which was damaged in a fire) has been taken over by Sylvan Mishima Brackett of Peko Peko. Mishima Brackett, who also worked at Chez Panisse before moving to Japan to study the cuisine there, is calling the new restaurant ~RINTARO~, which means “woods boy.”

The space has been completely renovated, with help from Mishima Brackett’s father, who runs a Japanese architecture and design company called East Wind. The front courtyard many will remember from the Chez Spencer days is still there, and the dining room features a bar on one side with open beams on the ceiling and booth seating in the dining room.

The space seats 60 altogether, plus a private dining room that can take additional diners or be rented out for special events.

As for the food, Mishima Brackett is sourcing his ingredients impeccably, as one would expect from a Chez Panisse alum. The menu will change regularly, of course.

A significant portion of the menu is devoted to yakitori (individual skewers range from $5-$6), including many different preparations of chicken (gizzard, liver, and skin are on there, offal lovers), or you can opt for the chef’s choice six-skewer set ($15.50). There is also a section of the menu devoted to vegetables and fried items. For main or “final” dishes, check out the uni donburi, with uni from Santa Barbara, fresh wasabi, yuzu, and toasted nori ($8 for one person or $15 for two).

For now, they aren’t taking reservations, but should be soon. There are also plans in the work to open for lunch, but for now hours are Mon-Thu 5:30pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am. 82 14th St. at Folsom, 415-589-7022.

The All Things Foodie & Drink Guide to San Francisco

November 25, 2014 by  

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One of the many phenomenal dishes at Bar Tartine.

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The start of a perfect meal at Zuni.

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One of the best seats in the city: the kitchen counter at State Bird Provisions.

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Making it rain (white truffles) at SPQR.

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The beauty of Saison.

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You never want to miss the cheese course at Quince.

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Three at a time, it’s how it goes down at Una Pizza Napoletana.

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Brunch at Nopa, one of the city’s best.

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The prime rib at Harris’. Photo: Mathew Sumner.

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Dim sum feasting at Hong Kong Lounge.

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Crab at Swan Oyster Depot, a true SF classic.

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Hot mess: the inside of a (packed) Cancún super burrito.

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Omakase at Pabu is the way to go.

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Geek out at the “top bar” at Sightglass.

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Kin Khao is going to take you on a flavor journey.

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The Cherry Bounce at Comstock Saloon, one of my favorite drinks, ever.

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There are many ways to get things started at ABV.

As someone who has been living in and eating her way through San Francisco for more than 20 years, I have far too many favorite spots that I love and adore to list in a small article like this one.

I also understand what a traveler is looking for when they come to San Francisco. They usually want a seafood experience, some California cuisine, maybe a dim sum feast, and a hidden gem or two.

They want to know what’s good, what are the classics, and some new spots too. And of course some of our fantastic sourdough needs to be eaten. So let’s do this!

New-School Cali
There is an exciting movement of New California cuisine happening in the city, which is a bit freestyle, pulling from different cuisines and cultures.

One of the most inventive places is ~BAR TARTINE~ in the Mission, where chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns do all kinds of pickling, fermentations, dehydrations, and more. Every time I eat there, the menu has some new finds, from Mediterranean dishes to Japanese flavor profiles. And big bonus: you get to enjoy the incomparable bread from Tartine Bakery, some of which is baked on-site. It’s also a popular spot for weekend brunch.

Everyone needs to pay a visit to the inimitable ~ZUNI CAFE~ at least once in their life, and once you have the famed roast chicken with bread salad, you’ll be a customer for life.

The Caesar, anchovies with celery, gnocchi, and oysters on the half shell are other fantastic standards on the menu.

~FOREIGN CINEMA~ in the Mission has one of the nicest sheltered patios in the city and also packs a great oyster list, enticing appetizers, and phenomenal fried chicken. Brunch on the terrace—with their unique egg dishes (and quality Bloody Marys)—is an SF institution.

The Hot Ticket
Everyone wants to eat at ~STATE BIRD PROVISIONS~, and for good reason: there is nothing like the globe-trotting dishes that Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski create—it’s chef food on another level.

It’s also incredibly fun: dishes come by on a dim sum cart, or a server offers something hot from the kitchen on a tray. It’s food for people who have adventurous palates and love appetizer-sized portions.

Don’t miss the SBP classics: CA state bird with provisions, any of the savory pancakes, and the duck liver mousse with almond biscuits. The rest is fair (and very delicious) game.

It’s worth lining up and trying to get a table at their first seating (doors open at 5:30pm), or come by on the late side (9pm) and see if you can nab a spot. They’ll do everything they can to seat you and keep you updated.

(Plan B)
If you couldn’t score a seat at SBP and now you’re starving, you can walk a block up Fillmore Street to ~DOSA ON FILLMORE~ for flavor-packed South Indian dishes made with sustainable ingredients (and there’s a full bar).

Don’t miss the vada pav, a killer bar snack if you’re waiting for a table.

You can also head farther up Fillmore to ~SPQR~ for some of the most exciting soigné Italian cuisine in the city, where you’ll enjoy beautifully made pastas by chef Matthew Accarrino (and there’s a wine bar and kitchen counter where you can perch and taste your way through their extensive wine list).

Never been to ~SLANTED DOOR~? Locals prefer to go to ~OUT THE DOOR~, a sister restaurant, which is also nearby. You can enjoy many SD Vietnamese faves (shaking beef, daikon rice cake, Dungeness crab and cellophane noodles) plus their amazing fried chicken in less of a madhouse and more of an easygoing neighborhood vibe. (OTD is a great breakfast/brunch spot too.)

Big Splurge
Okay, so you came to SF and you want to do it up? Then you need to get yourself to ~SAISON~, which is THE honcho in the high-end game in SF. The tasting menu will put you back $248, but you’ll experience some of the finest ingredients, treated with such creative finesse by chef Joshua Skenes and his team.

You should also pony up for the wine pairings, because Mark Bright is one of the best somms in the city. The custom dishes, glassware—everything is top notch. Enjoy the ride.

Another four-star pick is Corey Lee’s ~BENU~, especially if you are a fan of Asian ingredients and flavor profiles.

The room is quite plain, so don’t expect much in the way of atmosphere, but the food, service, and choice wines will demand and hold your full attention. (Ditto the beautiful plates—they’re as beautiful to look at as to eat off of.)

Italian
If you want to go the high-end route, a favorite is the elegant ~ACQUERELLO~, with choose-your-own tasting menu options (their menus during truffle season are especially smashing) and a very deep wine cellar too.

Another place noted for refined service and cuisine is the inimitable ~QUINCE~, with an eye-catching and très chic dining room that was recently updated, where you’ll find beautiful stuffed pastas and a posh crowd.

If you have a business lunch or dinner, ~PERBACCO~ is your spot (don’t miss the agnolotti dal plin and the excellent salumi).

On the opposite end of the spectrum (i.e., getting more casual here) is the neighborhood favorite ~LA CICCIA~, featuring the cuisine of Sardinia. Downtown is ~54 MINT~, with authentic Roman dishes (their cacio e pepe is a winner) and a patio that’s ideal on warm evenings.

Quince’s casual sister, ~COTOGNA~, falls more into the Cal-Italian realm (their sformato and the raviolo with egg are legendary), as well as the touchstone ~DELFINA~ (best spaghetti in town)—there’s also their Roman offshoot ~LOCANDA~ (there’s a full bar). The hip and casual ~FLOUR + WATER~ (quality pastas) is also in the Mission.

Pizza
San Franciscans loooove their pizza, and you’ll find a variety of styles all over the city.

For those who want to experience an artisan-made pizza napoletana and won’t mind the bare-bones experience, you have to pay a visit to ~UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA~ in SoMa (and be sure to have a cocktail at nearby Bar Agricole before or after). For more of a lively scene, ~TONY’S PIZZA NAPOLETANA~ totally rocks and has so many kinds of pizza on the menu, you won’t believe it. They’re also faithfully researched, like the napoletana and the Jersey tomato pie, a favorite of mine.

If you want true deep dish, head to Tony Gemignani’s other enterprise in the neighborhood, ~CAPO’S~. There are also a couple of ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~ locations in the city, which are always busy and have an excellent purgatorio (with an egg), a clam pie, and the chilled tripe is a killer appetizer (get a cannolo for dessert). ~RAGAZZA~ is a fun neighborhood spot, with beautiful salads and I live for their amatriciana pizza.

Steak
San Francisco has some classic steakhouses, starting with ~HARRIS’ RESTAURANT~, which has some incredible dry-aged beef (get the Harris’ Steak, a bone-in New York, or the porterhouse), but their rib-eye (not aged) is also notable.

If you’re a prime rib fan, then the old-school experience at ~HOUSE OF PRIME RIB~ is over the top. For a more modern steak experience, ~ALEXANDER’S STEAKHOUSE~ sources phenomenal beef (hello, A5 wagyu from Japan) and their wine list is also extremely dialed.

Late Night
For a true slice of SF late night, visit ~NOPA~, which has its kitchen open until 1am nightly. This casual urban spot has a long bar, a communal table, and two levels of seating, which are all usually packed to the gills.

You’ll find California ingredients at their peak of season, and their burger, chicken, and pork chop are justifiably famous. Great wine list. Nopa also serves one of the city’s best weekend brunches.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a party, ~CHINO~ in the Mission has a cocktail-fueled scene, with an eclectic menu of Asian favorites (killer wings, braised lamb noodles, and dumplings). Kitchen open until 1am!

Chinese
If you like Szechuan heat, head to Chinatown to experience ~Z & Y RESTAURANT~, while more sensitive palates will prefer the cuisine (and xiao long bao) at ~BUND SHANGHAI~.

Another Chinatown classic is ~GREAT EASTERN~ (you can get dim sum during the day and Cantonese dishes until late), and one of my favorite dim sum spots on the weekend is ~HONG KONG LOUNGE~ (there are two locations on Geary), but be prepared to wait—trust, the Peking duck is so worth it. If you want to stay near downtown, ~YANK SING~ has quality dim sum, and really good XLB (but it comes at a price).

Seafood
All hail ~SWAN OYSTER DEPOT~, which is the true heart and soul of San Francisco. The Sancimino family will make you feel like an old friend as they shuck fresh oysters.

It’s especially great to come here for Dungeness crab when it’s in season (the season starts in November).

There’s always a line, so come for a very early or late lunch. ~HOG ISLAND OYSTER COMPANY~ at the Ferry Building Marketplace has oysters galore and local seafood, plus a view of the water. If you have to eat at the Wharf, I enjoy the old-school vibe at ~SCOMA’S~ (get the lazy man’s cioppino).

Mexican
You can’t come to San Francisco without experiencing a super burrito. I’m a fan of the al pastor version at ~CANCÚN~, and there’s nothing like a late-night burrito at ~EL FAROLITO~.

The off-menu taco dorado at ~LA TAQUERIA~ is tops (get the carnitas), and the tacos off the ~TONAYENSE~ trucks are always damn good. (Ditto the tacos from the El Norteño truck in SoMa.)

Try the tortas at ~LA TORTA GORDA~ (I prefer the tinga, although they are known for their pierna enchilada version), and chilaquiles at the family-style ~SAN JALISCO~ are a fave (and served all day). A visit to ~LA PALMA MEXICATESSEN~ is another top choice.

For a fun scene, don’t miss the colorful ~LOLÓ~ for dinner in the Mission—and their cocktails are fabulous. Over closer to Golden Gate Park is ~NOPALITO~, serving some of the best-made Mexican food in the city, with epic carnitas (and margaritas).

Sushi
This is one area where SF lags a bit, but fortunately there’s ~AKIKO’S~, which has some of the finest seafood in town, and it’s beautifully handled (ditto the rice). Another downtown spot is newcomer ~PABU~ from Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga, which offers a chic omakase experience at a very long counter.

Don’t miss the Happy Spoon as part of your night, and the sake selection is tops. For a hot and happening sushi experience, head out to Bernal Heights to ~ICHI SUSHI~, which will have hip-hop going and a fun crowd, with quality seafood handled in creative and innovative ways.

Food Trucks and Pop-Ups
If you want to graze on a bunch of tasty bites from some food trucks all at once (mash-ups like a tikka masala burrito from Curry Up Now, and sisig nachos from Señor Sisig), hit up the various truck gatherings around town, like ~OFF THE GRID~ and ~THE SOMA STREAT FOOD PARK~, plus there’s the ~MISSION DISPATCH~ pod. Want to check out a pop-up dinner? ~NAKED KITCHEN~ in the Mission has a rotating roster of quality chefs each week.

Coffee
San Francisco is obsessed with coffee. Like, really obsessed. You’ll find all kinds of third-wave roasters and their associated cafés in every neighborhood. For espresso lovers, a visit to the petite ~LINEA CAFFE~ in the Mission is a must.

Also in the Mission: a stylish location of ~SIGHTGLASS~, the hipster-flooded ~FOUR BARREL~, and for those who appreciate a light roast, check out the new location of ~RITUAL~.

Pay a visit to the ever-busy ~THE MILL~ on Divisadero, where you can enjoy Four Barrel coffee and a variety of house-milled and baked breads by Josey Baker (the black pepper and Parmesan loaf is a fave).

Just Because They Are Totally Delicious…
- ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ makes some crazy-good subs, like their chicken Parm and Italian combo on locally baked bread.
- ~KIN KHAO~ features a completely unique Thai experience since the dishes have a California ingredient spin. The flavors pop, and the cocktails are also fun.
- ~4505 MEATS~ is making some of the best damn barbecue in town (their ribs rock) and their burger has quite the fan club.
- If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to check out the elegant sweets at ~B. PATISSERIE~, while ~TARTINE BAKERY~ is a gold standard for good reason.
- Heading to (or from) the beach? Plan a pitstop at ~MARLA BAKERY~ for breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner, whatever—you’ll find a homey space with excellent baked goods, from bagels to bread.

Cocktails (and Wine)
SF is a boozy town. There are far too many options for excellent drinks, but here are a few I love:
- ~COMSTOCK SALOON~ in North Beach for an authentic saloon feeling (their cherry bounce and Martinez are two of my faves).
- Also in North Beach, ~TOSCA CAFÉ~ is busy busy but the vintage 1930s atmosphere and Trouble in Paradise make it worth it. The late-night menu is also a bonus.
- ~TONY NIK’S~ is a great spot in North Beach for a Boulevardier when everything else feels too busy and new.
- ~TROU NORMAND~ is a handsome new addition downtown, with fab cocktails (and some of the best salumi in town).
- ~TRICK DOG~ in the Mission is absolutely packed all the time, but try to get a table upstairs to eat and enjoy their cocktails throughout dinner.
- I have been going to ~DALVA~ on 16th Street for years, and their backroom bar, The Hideout, has some notably delicious cocktails (try the Gin and Celery).
- Just across the street is newcomer ~ABV~—their lighter to midweight cocktails are great (and priced right), and you can’t beat their fantastic bar bites (served until 1am).
- Tequila lovers have to make a pilgrimage to ~TOMMY’S~ for one of Julio Bermejo’s stellar margaritas, which never stop at just one.

If you want to experience some quality wine bars (with great food!), visit ~LES CLOS~ (especially if you’re a Burgundy fan) or ~LA NEBBIA~ for Italian wine (and Champagne) lovers. ~20 SPOT~ in the Mission has a cozy neighborhood vibe.

This is by no means a totally comprehensive list, and there are many more quirky and offbeat places to visit, but it’s a good place to start.

All photos from Marcia Gagliardi except where noted otherwise.

FallFest Celebrates Fall in Northern California

October 7, 2014 by  

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Bites at FallFest 2013. Photo courtesy FallFest.

San Francisco Magazine’s FallFest 2014 is celebrating fall in Northern California on Saturday October 11th at the Justin Herman Plaza from 12pm-4pm.

The festival, which benefits Meals on Wheels San Francisco, brings chefs from 40 different restaurants together, including Juhu Beach Club, 1760, Merigan Sub Shop, and Farmshop; take a look at the lineup here. There will also be wine, beer, and spirits from more than 30 different wineries, breweries, and distillers like Anchor Distilling, Fenestra Winery, and Paul Hobbs Winery.

In addition to all the eating and drinking, catch live music and a Grill Off sponsored by Cole Hardware and Big Green Egg. Two professional teams and one amateur team will face off with their grills, cooking meats from AgLocal and offering samples to the crowd and judges. There will also be chef demonstrations and a DIY bar station where you’ll learn from the pros how to mix cocktails. Tickets are $110 per person

Justin Herman Plaza, 1 Market Street at Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Wine Country Weekend in Napa for Ramen, Donburi, Wine & More

August 31, 2014 by  

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Ramen Gaijin is a new pop-up in Sebastopol featuring authentic Japanese ramen.

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Zazu will host a spirited dinner with local distillery Spirit Works.

First, we’ve got to state the obvious: there was a whole lotta shaking going on last Sunday. But Napa wants everyone to know it’s still very much open for business. Despite some damage and a few red- and yellow-tagged restaurants in downtown Napa, nearly everyone has reopened.

The good news is that many newer restaurants are in historic brick buildings that have already been retrofitted and thus survived the earthquake with relatively little damage. The vast majority of wineries are also open, despite some of the scary images of wine barrels that toppled like Lincoln Logs.

Sonoma County escaped relatively unscathed other than a broken dish or two, so its restaurants are also open for business.

~WINE COUNTRY WEEKEND~ is the top dog of wine events in Sonoma County and one of the most fun. More than 200 top-notch wineries and restaurants bring out their “A” game for the weekend. It is a see-and-be-seen hoopla that no one wants to miss.

The three-day event starts with winemaker dinners and barbecues throughout the county and a gala dinner at Francis Ford Coppola Winery tonight from 6:30-10pm. Locals know that the poolside stage and million-dollar vineyard views make this Geyserville destination worth the drive. The kickoff to the weekend of indulgence features chef John Toulze of the ~GIRL & THE FIG~ in the kitchen and more than 25 wineries pouring.

Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch is gastro overload with 65 restaurants sampling gourmet bites and more than 150 wineries pouring Sonoma’s best wines. Let’s just say you’ll have to work very, very hard to get to even half of the goodies on hand. Other Saturday events include wine and food pairings with Kendall-Jackson, wine tours with the “Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sommelier Stars,” a self-guided tour of the MacMurray Estate, a Steel Chef competition, and plenty of bubbly in the Bubble Lounge.

So ramen is finally becoming a “thing” in Wine Country, and I almost don’t want to tell anyone about the ramen pop-up ~RAMEN GAIJIN~, happening on selected Mondays at Woodfour Brewing. Almost. But word of mouth is traveling fast and seats are selling out even faster.

In July, chefs Moishe Hahn-Schuman and Matthew Williams quietly started a every-other-week slurp-and-burp shindig featuring incredible bowls of ramen with homemade rye noodles, pork belly, bonito flakes, mushrooms, and pickled veggies.

This week, I got access to the kitchen, where the chefs were prepping for that evening’s dinner—it’s a whirlwind leading up to the first seating at 5:30pm. We absolutely loved the donburi ($11), with a chicken thigh with a six-minute egg, burnt kale, and salmon roe; heirloom tomato salad with creamy tofu and shiso ($9); and both the miso and shoyu ramens ($13 each).

I won’t claim to be a ramen expert, but nearby slurpers seemed totally sold. The shoyu ramen is a heartier and meatier broth that’s topped with a host of ingredients like toasted rye noodles, pork belly, leeks, wood ear mushrooms, and wakame. The vegetarian miso ramen has a lighter, brighter, tangier flavor. Leave room for dessert, though. We swooned over a blackberry sorbet with yuzu curd, coconut and sesame granola, and blackberries. The Woodfour Ramen Gaijin dinners run from 5:30pm-10pm. Come early, because seating is first come, first served, with the waiting list opening at 4:30pm. The next pop-up is Monday September 8th at Woodfour Brewing (6780 Depot St. at the Barlow, Sebastopol, 707-823-3144), with others planned for Sebastopol’s Forchetta and SHED in Healdsburg.

Get ready for a super-spirited dinner Thursday September 4th at ~ZAZU~ with Sonoma County craft distillery ~SPIRIT WORKS~ and Ziggy the Wine Gal. Spirit Works’ founders Timo and Ashby Marshall start the evening with a guided tour and tasting at their brand-new distillery (at Sebastopol’s Barlow), which is followed by a three-course meal at Zazu. Expect plenty of delightful and seasonal surprises on the menu. $89 per person; not including tax and gratuity. Call 707-523-4814 to secure your spot at the table.

Get up close and personal with the harvest at ~GARY FARRELL WINERY~ as they launch the Harvest Tour, Tasting, and Lunch high above the Russian River Valley. Guests get a behind-the-scenes winery tour and a chance to view all the crushpad action before a seated wine tasting and catered lunch on the winery’s woodland terrace. Six of Gary Farrell Winery’s acclaimed single-vineyard wines are featured, and guests can choose from a menu that includes artisan sandwiches and salads or a selection of local foods in a shared picnic basket. The cost is $75 per person and it’s offered at 12:30pm daily by reservation only.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin.  Top photo credit: Heather Irwin, second photo credit: Zazu.

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