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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cochon 555 Brings Porcine Pleasures to San Francisco

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 8:44 AM

Ravi Kapur's game plan includes chocolate blood cake. - JASON HENRY
  • Jason Henry
  • Ravi Kapur's game plan includes chocolate blood cake.

On Sunday, June 5, a sold-out crowd of pig enthusiasts descended upon Cochon 555 to enjoy more than 50 dead pig preparations and crown S.F.'s Prince of Pork. Pig-shaped balloons led the way into the Julia Morgan Ballroom, where guests were treated to an interesting juxtaposition of upscale food and casual atmosphere. Case in point: eating David Bazirgan's brain flan with blood espuma and crispy offal while a Notorious B.I.G. mashup blared from the speakers. Gangsta!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Our Dinner with the Dead at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 9:28 AM

It's a dead man's party, who could ask for food? - SARAH KERMENSKY
  • Sarah Kermensky
  • It's a dead man's party, who could ask for food?

We had no idea what to expect with this weekend's dead-artist dinner party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Would it be a goofy farce, or dreary and overserious? Would it be participatory, or would we be merely spectators? And how about the food?

Opening prelude: a table of small bites from Bar Bambino, including deviled eggs, leek and mushroom frittata, and buffalo mozzarella and tapenade on crostini. Promising!

Leek and mushroom frittata. - SARAH KERMENSKY
  • Sarah Kermensky
  • Leek and mushroom frittata.

These snacks, as well as jugs of lavender water and wild huckleberry and mint tea, bore subtle meanings within the event's highly literary framework. The conceit was that 12 dead celebrities, through an elaborate metaphysical contrivance/wormhole, had ended up at a dinner salon hosted by Virginia Woolf. Over the course of two hours, McSweeney's editor and poet Jesse Nathan held forth with imagined dialogue and dramatic interplay between the guests, told with a coffeehouse spoken-word flow. The words were interspersed with the freeform jazz of musician Chris Janzen.

Lest you think "How dreary," rest assured this was an accomplished piece of artistry. Janzen and Nathan have honed the piece over two years of intense collaboration, improved with the recent addition of a live band. Janzen's prose was sharp, diabolical, accessible, and obtuse, and the result was a moody melodrama for the intelligentsia (Billie Holiday's date is in the kitchen getting frisky with Virginia Woolf: quel scandale!) Though perhaps better suited for a smaller, more dimly lit venue, the piece nonetheless managed to draw you into its bizarro universe, not letting go for the duration.

But it wasn't really a dinner party. SFoodie is no stranger to the arts, and this was primarily an event for the mind, not the stomach. Don't get us wrong: The small bites, savory at the beginning and sweet at intermission, were totally fine. It's just that the actual food was secondary to the playacting, and we were hungry by show's end. Oh, the price of art ...

A vinyl version of the event can be purchased on Chris Janzen's website.

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Tapas, Not Topless: Sneak Peek at North Beach's Txoko

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Ryan Maxey and Ian Begg Talk Txoko. - CARINA OST
  • Carina Ost
  • Ryan Maxey and Ian Begg Talk Txoko.

Last night was the media preview and soft launch of Txoko. Because it's located in the old Enrico's space, we knew we were in for a larger-than-life and somewhat swanky affair. We first reported in February that the Naked Lunch guys, Ryan Maxey and Ian Begg, were taking over the neighboring restaurant. Txoko, which we believe is pronounced choke-oh, is a Basque-style restaurant serving mostly small plates and cocktails. Of course, many jokes were made about the confusion and hilarity that will ensue when you tell your cabbie to drop you at the tapas bar on Broadway.

The neighborhood restaurateurs showed up to support the opening, including staffers from 15 Romolo and Comstock Saloon. Even Dick Boyd, owner of the old Pierre's Nightclub in North Beach and author of Broadway North Beach: The Golden Years, was there. With a location so iconic, the reception was fitting.

Now on to the important stuff: food and drinks.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Pastrami-Free Menus, No-Host Pickle Bowls, Bacon: Berkeley Summit Explores Jewish Deli Trends

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 3:06 PM

From left, Peter Levitt, Noah Bernamoff, Ken Gordon, Evan Bloom, and Joan Nathan. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • From left, Peter Levitt, Noah Bernamoff, Ken Gordon, Evan Bloom, and Joan Nathan.

Noah Bernamoff was irritated. The intense young owner of Brooklyn's Mile End Deli had just been asked how he could consider his restaurant a "real" Jewish deli considering it isn't kosher and many Jews can't eat there. Bernamoff shot back: "Kosher meat is laughable when it comes to quality. It's kind of a scam." As a Jew, he said, he believes in the concept of tikkun olam (a Hebrew phrase connoting social justice) and that kosher meat isn't slaughtered humanely. He continued: "No one should question my understanding of my own Judaism, and if I want to call my deli a Jewish deli, well that's my prerogative."

Such was the quandary on the table at Thursday night's deli summit at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay: How do owners of new-school Jewish delis, where ingredients are sustainable, portions are moderate, and pickle bowls aren't free, please everyone? Answer: They don't.

Ken Gordon of Portland's Kenny and Zuke's: "Portland isn't exactly West Jerusalem. We keep talking about sustainability and, well, the number one thing about sustainability is staying in business. There aren't enough people that care about kosher." To illustrate his theory that "the best food is what people remember and never what they're currently eating," Gordon told a story about an elderly customer who complained that Kenny and Zuke's chicken soup was nothing like her grandmother's. "I couldn't help but think, 'You're 85 years old! How good is your memory?'"

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Bubbly and Bivalves: Charity on the Half Shell

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Gallic charmer from CleanFish. - SARAH KERMENSKY
  • Sarah Kermensky
  • Gallic charmer from CleanFish.

At the end of Bike to Work Day yesterday, SFoodie donned our best biking formalwear and pedaled to Aquarium of the Bay for the Bubbly and Bivalves charity event. A diverse crowd (translation: well-off people of many ages and hairstyles) streamed through the door. We quickly spit-scrubbed the bike grease off our foreheads and headed in.

The event was a benefit for the Watershed Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and restoring the bay's fragile coastal ecosystem. With its aquarium backdrop and ocean-based dinner menu, the dots were handily connected between people and their underwater brethren.

The evening had a bit of funhouse flow, with wine purveyors and restaurants tucked in amongst the starfish and chinchillas. (Note: We did some research and technically, chinchillas have nothing to do with the ocean. We nonetheless support the aquarium's decision to give them an exhibit, because have you seen these things?)

Almost immediately an aquarium employee beckoned from the elevator: "Wanna go downstairs?" "Sure!" we said (It's a good thing no one in a van ever offered us candy as children.) This led to a lengthy, wide-eyed detour straight out of a grade-school field trip. "How do they make those fishies so big?!" Before we completely regressed, hunger set in and we headed back to the festivities upstairs.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Digging the Dirt Dinner at eVe

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Bags of soil from Kenney Cottage Garden were passed among the diners. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Bags of soil from Kenney Cottage Garden were passed among the diners.

Californians love their dirt. Like poets of yore writing ballads to the sea, near-mythological reverence is given to the earthy roots of our local produce. At last night's Dirt Dinner event, local gardeners gave an impassioned discussion of soil nutrients, baggies of dirt were passed from diner to diner, and Lisa Graciano sang an earnest ode to the "Seeds of Life." And following all this dirt worship came a five-course meal, using veggies sprouted from Kenney Cottage Garden's soil.

Kale soup with black eyed peas. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Kale soup with black eyed peas.

It was an evening as refreshing as it was familiar, channeling the long-ago days of the nascent Berkeley food movement. Chris and Veronica Laramie, chef/co-owners at eVe restaurant, prepared a hearty feast using just-harvested Kenney Cottage produce. Though the Laramies' fare typically skews modernist (an immersion circulator and a cold smoker hold prime real estate in eVe's kitchen), last night's meal was simple and rustic. "Typically we're closed on Sundays," said Chris. "This is the type of food we'd be eating at home."

Menu highlights included perfectly cooked spelt casarecce with onions, leeks, and oyster mushrooms; tender rosemary and fennel seed-roasted pork shoulder; a hearty soup of kale, onions, celery, and black eyed peas; and a lightly dressed salad made only of greens ("Nothing to distract you from the taste of the earth," Chris said."). Some menu items were switched at the last minute due to recent Berkeley hail; greens and carrots stole the spotlight from their less hardy garden companions.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Café Marks Lundi Gras

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 5:21 PM

MJ's Brass Boppers, tearing it up at Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Café to mark Lundi Gras. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • MJ's Brass Boppers, tearing it up at Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Café to mark Lundi Gras.

A little rain didn't stop moneymakers from being shaken at Monday night's Lundi Gras celebration at Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Café. With as many band members as there were tables, the festively raucous MJ's Brass Boppers tore up the little café in honor of the less-known little brother of Mardi Gras. Of course, the celebration wouldn't have been complete without a feast, and on top of Queens' storied po-boys, there were specials on fried chicken and jambalaya and free king cake for all. Sadly, SFoodie was too stuffed to dance.

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Morgan Maki, aka Professor Meat, Breaks It Down

Posted By on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Morgan Maki stuffed 2,000 years of meat history into 2 hours. - SEAN TIMBERLAKE
  • Sean Timberlake
  • Morgan Maki stuffed 2,000 years of meat history into 2 hours.

Morgan Maki knows his meat. But Bi-Rite's butcher and charcutier is versed in more than mere technique; Maki is a meat historian, and the depths of his knowledge and passion read through in the finished product.

At last night's session at 18 Reasons, Maki kicked off the first of a series of monthly history lessons, this one focused on charcuterie. The evening started off with a sausage-making demo. Now, I've made sausage, and it's taken hours. Maki managed to produce enough sausage to feed a room full of 25 people in about 10 minutes. The man is made of magic.

After grinding, stuffing, and putting the sausage on to cook, Maki launched into a sweeping yet thorough overview of the roots and evolution of cured meats. While recognizing that cultures around the world have their own meat histories, Maki focused on the familiar European traditions, beginning with Latin roots and culminating in the much-esteemed products of Italy, France, and Spain.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Feasting on Filipino Fusion at Mercury Lounge

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Mercury Lounge's Dominc Ainza turned embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf, into a variation on Spam musubi. - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Mercury Lounge's Dominc Ainza turned embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf, into a variation on Spam musubi.

Last night, Mercury Lounge chef Dominic Ainza showcased Filipino food like SFoodie's never seen before. Think kare-kare dumplings, pinakbet pizza, and tocino truffles ― purists may have been crying blasphemy, but we thought Ainza's menu represented Filipino creativity at its best.

Kare-kare dumplings topped with fermented fish paste. - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Kare-kare dumplings topped with fermented fish paste.

The one-night, 12-course tasting dinner featured classics morphed into playful, inventive dishes that remained faithfully Filipino.

Take Ainza's kare-kare, oxtail stewed in a sauce thickened with ground rice and peanuts. Ainza wrapped savory morsels of oxtail in delicate dumpling skins and served them with bagoong, Filipino fermented shrimp paste.

His embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and andouille sausage, was a playful take on the infamous Spam musubi. His laing, collared greens and black-eyed peas in spicy coconut milk, was a delicious Southern twist on the fiery Bicolano vegetable stew.

Ainza spooned pinakbet ― a kind of ratatouille of long beans, onions, and tomatoes in shrimp paste ― worked surprisingly well served on flatbread, topped with mozzarella and Asiago cheeses. And his tocino truffles, a dessert he collaborated on with Filipino food blogger Jo Boston-KwanHull, were a huge hit. The crunchy bits of sweet-salty tocino (cured pork) were truly delightful.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rosamunde Mission Celebrates Its First Birthday with Beer and Locals

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Rosamunde partner Josh Margolis, far left, with birthday revelers. - MARY LADD
  • Mary Ladd
  • Rosamunde partner Josh Margolis, far left, with birthday revelers.

Yesterday by 5:30 p.m., birthday girl Rosamunde Sausage Grill on Mission was at full-guest capacity. The crowd was a mix of slim young Missionites and serious beer geeks (in Bearded Lady and Toronado gear, natch) of various ages, enjoying 50-cent PBR and Big Daddy specials, dogs, and fries. Music ranged from emo to blues and funk, and samples from Rosamunde Catering ― including tomato skewers and sausage bites ― were quickly devoured. Owner/partner Josh Margolis took a break from hugging guests to open windows to keep the crowd cool. Rosamunde's birthday cake was from nearby Dianda's. "We love to support the neighborhood," Margolis told SFoodie.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow Mary Ladd at @mladdfood.

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