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Monday, March 8, 2010

Tablehopper Restaurant Guide: Solid Advice, Delivered in Gal-Pal Prose

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 9:03 AM

click to enlarge The book officially drops tomorrow, available from Omnivore and other retailers. - TEN SPEED PRESS
  • Ten Speed Press
  • The book officially drops tomorrow, available from Omnivore and other retailers.
Tablehopper-in-chief Marcia Gagliardi drops her Ten Speed-published debut book tomorrow. Over the weekend, we spent a few hours thumbing through an advance copy. Unsurprisingly, it's called The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco ($16). The subtitle ― Find the Right Spot for Every Occasion ― is key. Her tome departs from guidebook convention, cataloging eateries by the reasons you'll choose them, not solely by the cuisines they dish up or the neighborhoods they claim. For example, situated way out in the far reaches of the Sunset, Outerlands Cafe is a prime place to head when you're playing hooky from work, somewhere you can savor good levain and a steaming bowl of soup ― ideal ingredients for a cozy afternoon spent avoiding your cubicle's uncomfortable chair and flickering computer screen.

click to enlarge Marcia Gagliardi. - ANDREA SCHER/SUPERHERO DESIGNS
Likewise she recommends Delfina and Quince to people forced to entertain visiting New Yorkers ― "your Chelsea art gallery-owning urban warrior cousin and his fashionista wife with a penchant for pastis." Hmmm. Our lovably scuzzy Brooklyn-born college buddy with a bustling dog-walking business and a long-standing crush on the white lady would probably be fine with less refined digs, but you get the idea. Gagliardi's book shares her favorite restaurants, and with them, both explicitly and implicitly, her San Francisco stories, those of a woman who arrived 15 years ago, ate obsessively, and found a way to craft a calling out of her favorite hobby. While she leans on some tried-and-true destinations, we like how she encourages tourists to seek out less-traveled gastronomic pleasures ― a T ride over to Dogpatch for phenomenal pizza at Piccino, for example.

We could go on (and we will tomorrow, elsewhere), but for now, let's keep it simple. Gagliardi knows the scene and gives really good advice. Our only problem is how she shares it. Her authorial presence is flamboyant, hyper-sassy, and at times reminiscent of tedious sitcom gal-pals we've occasionally encountered on bleary-eyed channel-surfing sessions. For a few thousand words, that voice won't ruin any appetites, but for the duration of a 200-plus page paperback with tiny type, it can grate like a wedge of aged Asiago. Expressions such as "hells yeah," for instance, have no place in a book, unless they are quotes leaping from the mouths of petulant 14-year-olds. Likewise, "foolio" is a wretched name for a dude your friend should dump. The term should only be employed in order to satisfy challenging rap song rhyme schemes, never for the purpose of describing a place to eat lunch. She could have toned it down (and stuck to her personable yet restrained e-column stylee); instead, she went with more cowbell.

It's cool, though. The book is full of tasty ideas, and we're just grumpy because it's early and we haven't eaten yet.

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Andrew Simmons

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