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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For Bookish Foodies, It's a Busy Week of Author Appearances

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 10:19 AM

It's a big week for bookish San Francisco foodies interested in sustainable farming, vegetarianism, and foraging.

• Tomorrow, Wendell Berry -- writer, farmer, and godfather of the organic farming movement -- appears at Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness at McAllister) in conversation with Michael Pollan for a City Arts and Lectures event. The utterings of both are often quoted (Berry: "Eating is an agricultural act"; Pollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Perhaps tomorrow's talk will yield more gems. (The event is sold out, but in the past, we've had success buying extra tickets from attendees outside Herbst.) In any event, it should be altogether more civilized than Wednesday's equally booked appearance by David Chang (with Chris Cosentino, among others) at Cafe du Nord.

Foer: Overthinking the porkchop? - TORRE.ELENA/FLICKR
  • torre.elena/Flickr
  • Foer: Overthinking the porkchop?
• On Thursday, Nov. 5, super-committed foodies might want to attend two high-profile events. Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, appears for a free discussion at Omnivore Books (3885 Cesar Chavez at Church) at 6 p.m.

• Then, at 8 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center (3200 California at Presidio), there's an appearance by Jonathan Safran Foer. The birth of the author's first child first child precipitated the comic novel Everything is Illuminated. A serious examination of the ethics of eating flesh resulted in his new nonfiction book, Eating Animals (the one-word response to the implied question of the title is No, by the way. Tickets are $10-$18 -- or wait till Friday, Nov. 6, and you can hear Foer for free at 7 p.m. in the Multicultural Community Center at U.C. Berkeley's Student Union (Telegraph at Bancroft, Berkeley).

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Three is a Magic Number: S.F. Restaurant Closures in October

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 3:35 PM

We're no fans of the optimistic predictions that the recession is over. But October saw the fewest closures of San Francisco restaurants in the past six months. And for the ones that did close, new tenants were generally already in line.

You still got roughly two months to get to Two. - YUICHI.SAKURABA/FLICKR
  • yuichi.sakuraba/Flickr
  • You still got roughly two months to get to Two.
After changing Hawthorne Lane to the more casual Two a couple of years ago, David Gingrass announced that, along with the end of his lease at the close of this year, he'd be vacating the premises while pondering his next move. French Laundry vet Corey Lee has already secured the space for the upcoming Benu. Two (22 Hawthorne at Howard) remains open through December.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile San Francisco Brewing Company will become the Comstock Saloon, a new venture from the owners of Absinthe.

No plans have been announced for the next incarnation of the space atop the Embarcadero Center that spent two decades as Chevys. Nor for the storefront next to Lupa, whose owner -- Stefano Coppola -- tried out Bistro 24 for three months (Coppola's City Grill previously occupied the space for only six months). Got a sec? Read the short list of the 86ed (after the jump).

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Fresh Truffles to Shine in Special Menus Throughout the Next Two Weeks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Fit for a pig: White truffles shaved over Poggio's house-made tajarin pasta. - POGGIO
  • Poggio
  • Fit for a pig: White truffles shaved over Poggio's house-made tajarin pasta.
Ah, truffles. Seasonal white truffles are now arriving from Alba in the Piemonte region of Italy -- same with black truffles from the Périgord region of France (they're also found in Spain, Italy, and Slovenia) -- and local chefs are celebrating the annual harvest of the gnarly lumps with special dinners and dishes.

Earthy, fragrant truffles are among the most expensive and rewarding of rare ingredients. The hard-to-find fungal tubers often grow at the base of trees, to be snuffed out by truffle-hunting pigs and dogs. Pungent in a way that's frankly sexy, they enhance everything from scrambled eggs to more complicated preparations.

• At Americano in the Hotel Vitale (8 Mission at the Embarcadero), executive chef Paul Arenstam references the annual Fiera del Tartufo Bianco d'Alba with his own White Truffle Week, Nov. 2-6. Truffles will be featured all day long, on all of Americano's menus (even room service), simple preparations that allow the aromatic truffles to shine. They include breakfast eggs with shaved truffles (served all day); risotto al tartufo bianco; pizza bianco con tartufo; and buttered fettuccine with truffles. All dishes are $45, and include five grams of white truffle shaved at table.

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At the Commonwealth Club Last Night, a Diverse Panel Chews on Street Food's Challenges

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 12:11 PM

Mission Street Food's Anthony Myint (left) with Magic Curry Kart's Brian Kimball. - M. BRODY
  • m. Brody
  • Mission Street Food's Anthony Myint (left) with Magic Curry Kart's Brian Kimball.
A full house celebrated San Francisco's street-food scene at last night's panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club, The Street Food Movement: SF Hearts the Cart, moderated by SFoodie blogger Tamara Palmer. In fact, a number of the 250 in attendance were so inflamed by the prospect of sampling street-food wares at a companion tasting at nearby gallery space 111 Minna., they cut out of the auditorium early to go stand in line for treats.

Charles Phan: Thinking about production is key. - M. BRODY
  • m. Brody
  • Charles Phan: Thinking about production is key.
We were among the stalwarts who stayed to the end of the Q&A session, which -- predictably -- ended with the hopeful Q, "Any brilliant ideas for carts?" Brian Kimball of Magic Curry Kart, who's working towards becoming a licensed psychotherapist, responded, "Make what you're good at." The Slanted Door's Charles Phan, in his role as elder statesman and practical guy, said, "You have to think about time and salability. Production is really important."

The four panelists were collegial but wildly different. Soft-spoken professional cook Anthony Myint of Mission Burger and Mission Street Food was serious about making charitable donations (in his case, to organizations fighting hunger) part of the business plan. Gobba Gobba Hey's Steven Gdula, who turned to baking gobs when the recession made his freelance food writing career difficult, started baking a dozen pastries at a time in his home oven and has transitioned to being able to turn out six dozen in eight minutes in a commercial kitchen.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Free Chocolate at a Handful of BART Stations Tonight

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 1:07 PM

Promise you won't smudge the handrail of your BART car.
  • Promise you won't smudge the handrail of your BART car.
UPDATE: The locations for the chocolate giveaway have changed. Find the current locations here.

Didja get your free Bay Bridge broken hot dog yesterday at Zog's? Still hungry for schwag? This evening, samples of Divine Chocolate will be handed out at a number of BART stations: from 4 to 8 p.m. at Montgomery in S.F., and from 5 to 7 p.m. at 24th Street in S.F. and at the Ashby and Rockridge stations in the East Bay.

Turns out October is fair trade month, and Divine Chocolate is fair trade-certified, co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Cooperative in Ghana, West Africa. We think it's only fair that your unfair commute is improved by bagging a bite of fair-trade chocs. For free.

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Melissa Perello of the Castro's Long-Awaited Frances: The SFoodie Interview

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 11:28 AM

Melissa Perello was born in Nutley, N.J., lived in Houston, and went to cooking school in upstate New York, but San Francisco is where the 32-year-old chef formed her restaurant bones. She arrived here fresh from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., to gig with mentor Michael Mina at Aqua. She later moved to Aqua's sister eatery, Charles Nob Hill, to work alongside Ron Siegel, eventually moving up to executive chef.

Perello: Not feeling S.F.'s raging pig cult.
  • Perello: Not feeling S.F.'s raging pig cult.
It was at Charles that Perello's California-inspired French cuisine won her a trophy case worth of accolades; 2002 Chronicle Rising Star Chef, three James Beard Rising Star nominations (2002, 2003, and 2004), and a spot on Food and Wine's list of best new chefs for 2004. She joined Fifth Floor as executive chef, and snagged a Michelin star in 2006. And yeah, that was Perello (with friend Anna Wankel) racing across San Francisco this summer in the hometown episode of Food Network's Chefs vs. City, battling Chris Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez.

Mondays, Perello's been drawing foodies to Sebo in Hayes Valley, for ingredient-driven menus with a whiff of American rustic. But these days, she's in the final throes of opening her own place in the Castro, Frances (3870 17th St. at Pond) -- look for it to open around Thanksgiving. It's named after her grandmother, with whom she spent summers cooking in Northern Texas. After the upscale settings of Aqua, Charles Nob Hill, and Fifth Floor, Perello is eager to offer seasonal American cooking, showcasing artisanal products from Northern California farmers, in a neighborhood setting.

SFoodie: What definitive moment made you realize you had to be in the kitchen?

Perello: No true definitive moment, really. I was just always a very strangely focused kid -- knew I wanted to go to culinary school by the time I started high school. My mom has a story she loves to tell of how she came home from work one day to find me boning out a leg of lamb. I was like 10 or something. I would watch cooking shows 24/7 (such a dork!) and try to re-create them for dinner. My grandmother Frances (the restaurant's namesake) was a big encouragement. I would spend summers with my grandparents and she was always cooking, me at her side, peeling, rolling, cutting, etc.

Flavors, ingredients, or techniques you have an irrational attachment to?

I'm big on braising or roasting almost anything you throw at me. If all else fails I love to throw it in the oven with a fair hand of seasoning, a little olive oil, and cook until the flavors of a slow oven make the ingredients shine.

Most overrated ingredient in S.F?

Pork everything ... not that I'm not a fan, a huge fan, cuz I am! And I cook much of it myself. Just a little oversaturated with hog exposure.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Burger Bar Sort of Sucks, But the Dessert Burgers are Adorable

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 4:43 PM

The chocolate ganache burger -- the bun's a hole-less doughnut. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • The chocolate ganache burger -- the bun's a hole-less doughnut.
We still think the best thing about Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in Macy's (170 O'Farrell at Geary) are the sweeping views over Union Square. But, credit where credit is due, the two dessert burgers on the menu are cute, especially the chocolate ganache version, an exact simulacrum of a cheeseburger, down to the translucent sheet of jellied passion fruit doubling for American cheese. And at $5.75, they're bargains.

The pineapple burger, with mint-leaf "lettuce." - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • The pineapple burger, with mint-leaf "lettuce."
Special glazed donuts (sans holes), serve as buns (no longer warm as promised when they reached our table). The chocolate cheeseburger boasted mint-leaf "lettuce" and strawberries. There's a cheesecake version (for vegetarians?) enhanced by a round of caramelized pineapple -- much more substantial than the almost invisible pineapple wafer that failed to enhance a savory jalapeño bacon, Swiss cheese, and pineapple burger ($16.35, with onion rings).

Extra points for the swirls of strawberry sauce "ketchup" and the adorable mouse garnish composed of a puff of whipped cream, almond ears, and infinitesimal chocolate dots for eyes and nose. Excellent work, Burger Bar pastry chef! Minus points for Keller's insanely complicated Web site, complete with weird clicks and annoying techno music we could only manage to turn off on certain pages.

By the way, Keller now offers a FleurBurger at Fleur de Lys, inspired, apparently, by the ones at Burger Bar. The menu describes it as "lightly spiced dark chocolate ganache, home-made Beignet, cherry-flavored milk shake, & frozen fennel ice cream 'Pommes Frites.'" The prix-fixe menus there range from $72 to $95. But that whipped cream mouse is priceless.

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Today Only: Show Your BART Ticket, and Score a Busted Bay Bridge Dog from Zog's

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM

Something tells us they'll run out long before the bridge reopens. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Something tells us they'll run out long before the bridge reopens.
So maybe Caltrans rushed it a little with that Labor Day fix. Forced onto BART with the teeming hordes? Emerge from your sardine can at Montgomery station, walk over to the little yellow stand huddled near the One Post Street building, and claim your prize. Until they run out, Zog's Dogs will be giving away a free Bay Bridge Dog -- broken in half! -- to anyone who shows a BART ticket. (Print out a coupon from the Web site and you can score a free lemonade, too.)

Zog's Dogs One Post (at Market), 391-7071. Free dogs today from 10 a.m. until supplies run out.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Forget: Commonwealth Club's Look at S.F. Street Food is This Thursday

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 3:29 PM

It was the summer of love for S.F.'s food carts. - MARKEVNIC72/FLICKR
  • markevnic72/Flickr
  • It was the summer of love for S.F.'s food carts.
A reminder: SFoodie's Tamara Palmer is moderating a panel of high- and low-end contributors to S.F.'s street food scene this Thursday at the Commonwealth Club's The Street Food Movement: SF Hearts the Cart. Speakers range from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door and Anthony Myint of pop-up restaurant Mission Street Food to micro-moguls Brian Kimball, who operates the Magic Curry Kart, and Steve Gdula, baker of Gobba Gobba Hey. The panel will discuss what's coming up as well as what's going on, and will answer audience questions. "We'll discuss the very different paths and motivations that led our panelists into street food as well as the challenges of legitimacy, both in terms of licensing and technique," Palmer told us. "And then, we'll feast!"

Which means that after the discussion, everybody will take to the streets, walking over to 111 Minna Gallery (111 Minna at Second St.), where they can sample some freebies and purchase full-size treats from such heroes of the movement as Bacon Potato Chips, Bike Basket Pies, Crème Brûlée Cart, Gobba Gobba Hey, Magic Curry Kart, Mission Street Food, Soul Cocina, Sweet Constructions, and Smitten Ice Cream. "It should be a great snapshot of our local scene, especially for those who have yet to run around the streets looking for vendors," Palmer said.

The Street Food Movement: SF Hearts the Cart Commonwealth Club, 595 Market (at Second St.), 597-6700. Thursday, Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $12 for club members, $20 for non-members, and $7 for students with a valid ID.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

We Totally Scored at Last Night's 18 Reasons Book Swap

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 2:12 PM

The books nobody wanted -- even as freebies. Sorry, Guy -- and Gourmet. - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • The books nobody wanted -- even as freebies. Sorry, Guy -- and Gourmet.
We made out like a bandit at 18 Reasons' cookbook exchange last night. We're slightly embarrassed about it.

We already have a sister and two friends we regularly give castoff food books to, and we're pretty attached to the ones that remain. So we scrounged around and came up with a couple of paperbacks: Havana Salsa and The Bad for You Cookbook, plus a hardcover copy of Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books -- who co-presented last night's event -- greeted us at the door and placed our books on the proper tables, without scoffing. Rachel Cole of 18 Reasons served up wine and told us about two book clubs starting in January, one devoted to food writing and another to cookbooks.

Seriously? That's it? - M. BRODY
  • M. Brody
  • Seriously? That's it?
There were several hundred books to choose from, food-themed games, even a couple of recipe boxes. We ended up with a beautiful copy of L'Atelier of Joël Robuchon; Mark Kurlansky's brand-new The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food -- Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal (whew!); Eat My Words: Reading Women's Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote; and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements. Thanks to a surfeit of books, we were all allowed to take one more than we brought, a haul considerably better (and cheaper) than the one we got at the massive Friends of the Library sale last month at Fort Mason.

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