About 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
Due to open at the end of December 2012, is RAMEN SHOP, the new spot opening on College Avenue in the former Tachibana Sushi Bar space in Rockridge in the East Bay, across the bridge from San Francisco. The project is from Sam White (previously maître d’ at Chez Panisse and a founder of OPENrestaurant), with partners Jerry Jaksich (he lived in Japan for six years, working in ramen and yakitori places, in addition to some higher-end Michelin-rated spots) and Rayneil De Guzman (who worked at Chez for nine years, and also at Café Rouge).
Their spin on ramen is going to be very ingredient-based, using seasonal produce and top-notch products like Llano Seco pork (there’s a rotisserie in the kitchen, where they will be spit-roasting the pork instead of braising it for the chashu).
The menu will feature three kinds of broths (light: shoyu, medium: miso, and heavy: tonkotsu), plus a vegetarian version. Noodles will be housemade with a machine brought over from Japan, the first of its kind west of the Mississippi! Right now they are still fine-tuning the noodles, trying different flours (like from Community Grains, Central Milling in Utah, and Riverdog Farm), and finding the right balance of the wheat’s flavor.
Some ramen toppings being tasted and tried right now are a variety of mushrooms (chanterelles, porcini, and morels), sautéed nettles from the wok (they have a double wok station in their kitchen) with tonkotsu broth, and crab miso with puntarelle. Yup, seasonality in effect. There will also be appetizers, like fish tartare or fried smelts, and salads, like chicory-persimmon.
The front of the 50-seat space is dominated by a bar area, which is where Christa Manolo (previously Beretta) will be holding court with her cocktails (look for some special offerings from St. George Sprits, and the team ponied up for a Kold-Draft machine for quality ice). The bar is made from raw steel with nosing made from beautiful redwood. There will also be excellent wine selections (cohort Jonathan Waters from Chez Panisse will be helping with the list) and beers (Magnolia, Mr. Tam pale ale, Calicraft, and Dying Vines).
Need a pick-me-up? Coffee and espresso will be provided by Four Barrel Coffee. There’s green penny tile on the backsplash and elsewhere throughout the space, and some custom metalwork shelves by architect Wiley Price (he also did Fatted Calf and Prizefighter). There won’t be any seats at the bar—it’s meant to be more of a drink-and-wait area.
The actual dining counter is a bit further back under the large painting of a smelt by Jessica Niello (she also made the beautiful ceramic ramen bowls). The 16-seat counter is long and looks right into the kitchen (cooks will be able to serve guests directly). It’s made from old-growth Douglas fir and was a 1890s factory floor in Portland—above is a curving, eye-catching shape made of layered lath and plaster. There are also some tables, plus a semi-private back area that has a table with room for 8-10 that can be partially obscured by a curtain. More design details are being added by Kelly Ishikawa from The Perish Trust, and the lighting is by Kevin Randolph. I liked the unique pattern of the soundboard on the ceiling above the bar area, which will help counteract the noise that’s sure to be bouncing off the epoxy concrete floor.
It’s an exciting neighborhood to be in: A16 is opening their new location just blocks away, along with James Syhabout’s Box and Bells—and many will already know the location since Zachary’s is literally just across the street. The best part will be the late hours, open until midnight!
Congrats to the team on their new clubhouse—it’s a beauty. So many people contributed to make this project what it is—it’s very much a shining example our Northern California/bohemian/creative way of doing things. Yup, it takes a village. There is also likely to be some soft opening activity. 5812 College Ave. at Oak Grove, Rockridge in Northern California, USA: 510-788-6370.
Note that photo of ramen in blog post is random shot of ramen, not made in the new restaurant.
San Francisco really does the holidays up well—especially many of our bars around town, offering all kinds of hot, spiked, minty, spicy, egg noggy drinks to get you feeling warm and festive. We went out tablehopping around town recently, hitting up some local spots to get us in the holiday mood.
If you feel like duplicating even part of this tour, it’ll have you feeling elf-like in no time. The rules: one drink per place, and plenty of food in between stops. Oh, and I completely failed in taking pictures of the drinks. I just drank them. It happens.
We started our tour at MARLENA’S in Hayes Valley, famous for its annual display of more than 1,400 Santa Claus’ that take a week to set up. It’s pretty staggering. This bar also has such a welcoming vibe. Within 30 seconds of walking in, we were already making friends and getting recommendations on how to order our hot toddy. Bonus: doggy tricks by Max, whose owner let us feed him treats so he’d show us his “handsome” trick (he’d get on his back legs and wave his paws in the air). Too. Much.
Next, we hit up ELIXIR in the Mission, on a mission for one of their Tom and Jerrys. Alas, they were fresh out, but we did get to try their Kentucky Pilgrim, which was not a bad substitution. At all. Think Wild Turkey 101 infused with cardamom, cranberries, and cinnamon, mixed with hot water, lemon juice, Luxardo maraschino, and demerara syrup to make one hell of a toddy. Perfect if you have a cold.
Next, a quick pit stop at ~ARINELL~ for a slice of pizza.
Since we were less then a block away, an impromptu visit was paid to the ~HIDEOUT~ in the back of Dalva—one of my favorite bars in the city—where barman David Curiel totally rocked one of the best holiday cocktails I’ve had: the Egg Noggy Nog. This creamy combo of bourbon, Campari, maple, egg, allspice, cream, and coffee bitters is a can’t-miss for the holidays. Seriously, whoa. It was hard to just have one.
It was time for a visit to the famous Tom and Jerry 65-foot Christmas tree on 21st Street (off of Church). It’s an annual tradition for me to come by and check out the tree every holiday—usually more than once—to get in touch with my inner kid. Santa is usually out front in the evenings handing out candy canes—and trust, the adults have as much fun as the tykes. It’s one of the most generous displays of holiday spirit, each and every year. Thank you Tom and Jerry!
The ladies caught a chill and were still a little peckish, so we headed back to Hayes Valley for a late-night bite of French onion soup at ~ABSINTHE~. Yeah, it totally hit the spot. Cocktail options here are numerous, but this was more of a food stop.
All aboard for the final destination: the BALBOA CAFE. I haven’t been there in years, so it was a treat to see the place all outfitted by designer Ken Fulk to resemble Martini’s Bar from It’s a Wonderful Life, with plaid walls and snowy windows. We finished with a Peppermint Patty, a total boozy and sweet and chocolaty dessert in a glass (yeah, with Rumpleminze in it). After that, it was time to bid all a good night!
Have fun out there, and remember, there are more than ever-elusive taxis to get around safely at night, from Uber to Lyft to Sidecar to Homobiles!
Photo of Elixir in SF from Trip Advisor.
Chefs from around the country, including several Bay Area notables, are gathering this winter in Yosemite National Park for the 27th annual Chefs Holidays at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a series of eight culinary retreats between January 6th and 31st 2013 at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Each session includes a “Meet the Chef” reception, educational cooking demonstrations and tastings, a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour, and a five-course gala dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room. The gala dinner, prepared by the chefs, also includes wine pairings. If you haven’t visited Yosemite in awhile, here’s a great excuse to get up there and enjoy the park (and the lovely grounds of the Ahwahnee).
The eight sessions will include Bay Area locals like Mark Sullivan of Spruce, Matt McNamara of Sons & Daughters, Annie Somerville of Greens, and Peggy Smith and Sue Conley of Cowgirl Creamery. Other chef participants include Joey Campanaro of the Little Owl in New York, Nyesha Arrington of the Wilshire in Los Angeles, and Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in New York. Here’s the schedule:
Session 1: January 6th-8th
Moderator: Janice Wald Henderson, food and travel journalist
Participating chefs: Douglas Keane (Cyrus, Healdsburg), Victor Scargle (Lucy, Yountville), Peter Armellino (Plumed Horse, Saratoga)
Session 2: January 9th-10th
Moderator: Janice Wald Henderson, food and travel journalist
Participating chefs: Mark Sullivan (Spruce), Annie Somerville (Greens), Ben “Wyatt” Dufresne (Plumpjack, Squaw Valley)
Session 3: January 13th-15th
Moderator: Connie Barney, culinary tour guide
Participating chefs: Joey Elenterio (Chez TJ, Mountain View), Jesse Cool (Flea Street Café, Menlo Park), Brian Streeter (Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley)
Session 4: January 16th-17th
Moderator: Connie Barney, culinary tour guide
Participating chefs: Mark Estee (Campo, Reno), Peggy Smith and Sue Conley (Cowgirl Creamery), Adam Mali (Brasserie S&P)
Session 5: January 20th-22nd
Moderator: Carolyn Jung, food and wine journalist
Participating chefs: Matt McNamara (Sons & Daughters), Daniel Holzman (The Meatball Shop, New York), David Lentz (The Hungry Cat, Santa Barbara)
Session 6: January 23rd-24th
Moderator: Carolyn Jung, food and wine journalist
Participating chefs: Suzanne Goin (Lucques, Los Angeles), Waylynn Lucas (Fonuts, Los Angeles), Nyesha Arrington (Wilshire, Los Angeles)
Session 7: January 27th-29th
Moderator: Andrew Friedman, author
Participating chefs: David Bazirgan (Fifth Floor), Kim Alter (Haven, Oakland), Laurence Jossel (Nopa, Nopalito)
Session 8: January 30th-31st
Moderator: Andrew Friedman, author
Participating chefs: Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto, New York), Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat & The Harrison, New York), Joey Campanaro (The Little Owl, New York)
My first day was spent in Lisbon rediscovering this architecturally beautiful city, enjoying its delicious restaurants, and searching for the best spots to hear Fado, Portugal’s hauntingly dramatic music that dates back to the Middle Ages. Comparable to American blues, this music is usually performed live in cavernous restaurants and bars throughout Lisbon’s old neighborhoods of Alfama and Bairro Alto. Beautiful young ladies perform with two guitarists (one acoustic and the other a Portuguese instrument that is similar to a mandolin in sound and shape).
Portugal is the 10th biggest producer of wine in the world, but it remains largely undiscovered. Boasting more than 250 native grape varieties, it seems unbelievable that it hasn’t made a bigger impact in wine and culinary circles. Especially since the Portuguese wine culture dates back to 200 B.C.
In Lisbon I paid a visit to one of my favorite local classics, a restaurant named Gambrinus, which has the most incredible cellar of old Madeiras. After a delicious lunch of bacalhau, the national dish of baked salt cod, I moved to the bar where the bartender, who has worked there for 33 years, took me through a tasting of Madeira wines, all of which dated back to the middle 1800s. I tasted an 1856 bual, 1885 verdelho, 1850 verdelho, very old malvasia, very old bastardo, very old sercial, and 1980 Borges vintage port.
Our second and third days were spent exploring the vast region of Alentejo. Alentejo covers almost one-third of the country, which is not bigger than Indiana, but is the largest wine-producing area of Portugal. The landscape is a beautiful quilt of vines, olive trees, and oaks, used for the production of corks. This is an area where rolling hills give way to occasional ancient hilltop villages that often surround an even older castle. Driving from one winery to another, one cannot help to get lost in the vastness of the land and its sheer rough beauty. Today we saw several wild pigs grazing on the verdant fields among the olive trees.
The wineries in this area are primarily large cooperatives that work with a lot of the native Portuguese grape varieties, such as trincadeira and touriga nacional, along with such international superstar grapes like syrah, petit verdot, and the now obscure alicante bouschet. Even though the area is known for its scorching hot summers, we experienced some beautifully cool autumn days.
Alentejo has some the best cooperatives that I’ve ever visited and they make some great value, everyday drinking wines. Family-owned wineries are also located here, including Cortes de Cima, which is owned by a husband-and-wife team from Denmark and Marin County respectively. It is pretty impressive that under such harsh conditions these wines can retain such delicate varietal qualities and natural acidity.
The food has been extraordinary and we have enjoyed typical Aletejano fare, which include many preparations of rabbit and lamb. These, of course, are always preceded by pata negra ham, Queijo da Serra, and delicious Portuguese olives.
We have now checked in at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, an exquisite eco-friendly resort that also makes some very interesting wines.
Contributed by Brazil native Eugenio Jardim who has been the wine director at Jardiniere in San Francisco since 2001.
First, anyone who knows me knows what a nut I am for sandwiches. Have you had a chance to try the sandwiches at Machine Coffee & Deli yet? The café/sandwich spot is just next to Show Dogs on Market, and it’s also from the Foreign Cinema team.
The meats by charcutier Peter Temkin are rocking—juicy and full of flavor—from his pastrami to roast beef to roast turkey. I love the Axle—which is almost like a gourmet version of a Philly cheesesteak—made with roast beef, provolone, spicy broccoli rabe, and onion jam, and they make a wicked version of a Reuben, the Drill Press.
What I am currently crushing on is the Crankshaft, a tuna melt with local albacore tuna that is lightly salted and then poached in olive oil until just cooked through. It rests for a day and is then studded with celery, capers, red onion, aioli, lemon, salt, dill, and hand-blended. It’s an insanely good tuna, just beyond, which is then topped with Shelburne cheddar to make one of the best tuna melts in the city. And it’s 10 dolla no holla. Best of all, you can now order delivery with GrubHub. Lunch is served! And Four Barrel Coffee too. 1024 Market St. at 6th St., 415-913-7370.
Another version of a sandwich I am digging is the Sunday night-only special of pork katsu and tofu buns at IZAKAYA YUZUKI. These tender housemade buns come with either katsu pork (fried in panko) with a feisty eggplant-miso-yuzu sauce, or their superlative housemade tofu that is fried up and oh so custardy inside. Just $11 for two—you will gobble these right up, trust. The sake pairings have also ramped up quite a bit with Yoshi (previously of Corkage) in the house.
Lastly, on a chilly and damp night a couple of weeks ago, I completely forgot Yummy Yummy in the Inner Sunset was closed on Tuesdays (wah waaah), and ended up having an impromptu dinner at nearby ~MANNA~ instead. The menu of home-style Korean dishes is cheap cheap cheap (nothing we ordered was more than $9), and totally delivered for the price—you even get six little banchan to start (delicious kimchi, broccoli, bean sprouts, and more).
We ordered a madly bubbling pot of soondubu jjigae (soft tofu soup) that totally hit the spot, followed by an on-point execution of bibimbap (with beef, vegetables, and a fried egg on top that you mix all together and then anoint with some housemade gochujang/hot sauce), and for my gluten-avoiding friend, we had the japchae (clear yam noodles with beef and vegetables—not the best I’ve had, but it still got eaten). For $30, we had quite the feast.
The staff is friendly (example: our server patiently waited for me to finish a loooong slurp/bite of a japchae noodle and shot me a quick grin before placing our bibimbap on the table). For a midweek bite that won’t break the bank and will warm you right up, here’s your spot. 845 Irving St. at 10th Avenue in San Francisco, 415-665-5969.
Photo: Izakaya Yuzuki
One of my favorite annual wine events is coming up this month: Wine & Spirits Magazine will host its ninth annual Top 100 Tasting Event on Wednesday October 17th, from 6:30pm-8:30pm, at City View at Metreon in San Francisco. The 100 wineries from around the world selected for the Top 100 event have delivered the best overall performances in the magazine’s tastings conducted during the past year.
As an exclusive peek for tablehopper readers, editor Josh Greene has handpicked some of his favorites for you to target when you’re at the tasting:
“Here are just a few of the wines I will personally be checking out at the Top 100. There are some amazing selections the wineries will be pouring.”
- Benanti 2007 Etna Bianco Superiore Pietramarina
- Diamond Creek 2008 Diamond Mountain District Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mount Eden 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
- Domaine Leflaive 2009 Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er Cru
- Drew 2010 Mendocino Ridge Perli Vineyard Syrah
- Hirsch 2009 Sonoma Coast West Ridge Pinot Noir
- Louis Roederer 2004 Champagne Brut Cristal
- Podere Rocche dei Manzoni 2005 Barolo Vigna Cappella di S. Stefano
- Marques de Murrieta 2004 Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial
- Moric 2009 Burgenland Alte Reben Lutzmannsburg Blaufränkisch
- Kante 1991 Carso Terranum Selezione
- Niepoort 2009 Douro Charme
- Storybook Mountain 2009 Napa Valley Estate Reserve Zinfandel
Yeah, that’s quite a list. And you won’t go hungry either! Also featured at the event will be the magazine’s new and notable restaurants and bars in the Bay Area, which include: Burritt Tavern, Dixie, Local, Maven, Mosto, Namu Gaji, Redd Wood, and St. Vincent. Each restaurant will serve bites of a signature dish paired with wines featured at the tasting. Additionally, guests will enjoy specialties from local artisanal purveyors, including Hog Island Oysters, Boccalone, Sour Flour Bread, Point Reyes Cheese, and Barefoot Coffee Roasters.
The Blue Angels are hitting San Francisco October 6-7, 2012! And the sailors! Fleet Week is kind of the best. Find yourself a good viewing post, because it’s going to be awesome, especially if this heat keeps up. Here are a couple of places where you can get a bite, a drink, and a view of the action.
OFF THE GRID will be doing a special Off the Pier event all weekend. They have extended the hours of their usual Friday Fort Mason food truck assembly to 12pm-10pm.
Then, on Saturday October 6th, they’ll be at the Fort Mason Center from 11am-4pm, with 14 different food trucks and outdoor bars where you can grab a glass of wine, a beer, or even a cocktail while you watch the Angel action. Then, on Sunday October 7th, catch the inaugural Off the Grid Picnic in San Francisco’s Presidio from 11am-4pm, with more food trucks, drinks, and outdoor fun.
If you’d rather watch the show from above rather than below, ~BRASSERIE S&P~ in the Mandarin Oriental is hosting a Sky-High Party from the hotel’s 40th floor SkyDeck. How glam is that? Bar director Priscilla Young has crafted special cocktails using Blue Angel Vodka, and chef Adam Mali has created some small bites for the event. The event is $40.
I have a group of “lady friends” who gets together for each other’s birthdays, and we’ve been touring the city’s old-school establishments, like Tadich Grill and Le Central. Yeah, there is some drinking that goes on at these lunches, plus some shit talking and tales of dating highs and woes.
It’s enough to make me want to celebrate half birthdays so we can get together more often. These lunches rock.
Our favorite thus far has been Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant, at the entrance of Belden Lane on Bush, and it’s been there way before the French buskers took over the alley.
Sam’s has been in this location since 1946, although its history extends to 1867, back when Michael Molan Moraghan (yes, he was Irish) was selling oysters in an open-air market on California Street.
The Sam in the name is Samuel Zenovitch, a Croatian who purchased Moraghan’s oyster business and restaurant in 1922, and then Frank Seput (another Croatian) took over the business in 1937 when Zenovitch died. The restaurant remained with various generations of the Seput family until it was sold to Phil Lyons in 2005—now back in Irish hands.
You can read all these details and more on your menu—and I’m sure many of the career waiters at Sam’s can tell you what it was like to work there during the Seput years—but I always like to know who a restaurant is named after.
There’s a full bar (natch) where you can get your lunch started with a martini, and you’ll want to snag one of the private and curtained wood booths. There are tables as well, but really, it’s all about the booths.
Upon noticing that the service buzzer in our booth wasn’t working, our crusty server (almost crustier than the Boudin sourdough bread on our table) quipped: “Yeah, I had it disconnected. You ladies would be pushing that thing all day.” And … we were off to the races.
The menu is printed daily, and I was happy to see a small box on it with a mention of their focus on sustainability and quality—which wasn’t on there the last time I came in for my birthday a few years ago. The menu also has the old GArfield exchange phone number on it, love it.
Since I’m so into old-school places, my table pretty much told me to do it up: I ordered the crab Louie ($27), a pile of picked crab over chopped iceberg lettuce with a piece of claw meat like a crown on top; the classic San Francisco dish of celery Victor ($11.50), with anchovies draped over celery cooked in stock and then chilled.
One of the best Hangtown fry ($18) executions I’ve ever had, full of plump oysters and topped with strips of extra-crisp bacon; sand dabs à la Sam ($24), a must-order dish—the plate was tiled with pieces of the delicate and oh-so-fresh fish (the sand dabs are dipped in flour, panfried, then skinned, deboned, filleted, and put on the plate with some drawn butter over the top and heated up for a quick flash); and we said mercury be damned and had some swordfish ($26) off the charcoal grill. All of it was excellent—a terrific feast.
The menu is loaded with seafood choices: other strong picks are the rex sole à la Sam or petrale meunière. (I crack up over the big chunk of boiled potato that comes as a side on all the fish dishes—so very much from another era.) If you want to get something meaty, you gotta do the sweetbreads (there are three kinds, including one version charcoal-broiled with bacon—hello).
The surprise favorite was the decadent baked clams Elizabeth ($19), a dish I had never heard of before (ends up it was named in honor of one of the matriarchs in the Seput clan). The clams are covered in bread crumbs and paprika, a ton of butter, Parmesan cheese, and red wine.
Not the most photogenic item, but man, that sauce was pure evil—it’s like the dish was built to be mopped up with sourdough bread. We did damage. We also had some sides of french fries and fried zucchini—yeah, vegetables.
We didn’t make it to dessert—it was all about sobering up with some coffee (served in vintage diner cups). The all-California wine list proudly includes white zinfandel as one of its seven by-the-glass choices—we opted for bottles of the Mumm brut ($37) to carry us through lunch.
This place is a classic Financial District lunch spot—in fact, it isn’t even open on the weekends (just lunch and dinner Monday through Friday). You can make a reservation for six or more for lunch; otherwise, just come in a little bit on the later side if you don’t want to wait too long.
They can’t guarantee a booth for you, but here’s a tip: if your party is nine or more, you’ll score a booth since they can’t seat you anywhere else. Dinner reservations can be made for 5pm onward, for any size party.
I know Tadich is our San Francisco classic, and I adore drinking and dining at that bar immensely. But the last Hangtown fry I had there was cooked beyond belief with rubbery oysters—and put me back $22.95. Maybe since Sam’s is a little less famous, it has to pull the Avis card and try harder.
Whatever, this piece is not about comparing the two places. It’s about celebrating San Francisco—and simpler times. It’s about our city’s love affair with seafood. It’s about boozy lunches with good friends in curtained wood booths, sopping up delicious buttery sauces with sourdough bread.
And it’s about getting sass from hardworking jacketed waiters who have been working there for 43 years. Yeah, that’s the stuff.
Photo Credit: Belden Place