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Fresh Eats: Urban winery in Dogpatch, Farm:Table is small but beautiful 

Wednesday, Aug 18 2010

An Urban Winery Grows in Dogpatch

By Lou Bustamante

Despite sometimes living up to the grittiness of its name, Dogpatch is becoming one of the best neighborhoods in the city for food. Right off the T line, it boasts some notable residents: Recchiuti's production facility, Piccino, Serpentine, Kitchenette, and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, all within a single-block radius.

Joining the gourmet gang is wine and vermouth producer Sutton Cellars, a one-man show owned and operated by Carl Sutton since 1996. Sutton recently moved from Sonoma to make San Francisco his home.

"Yes it's a winery, but it's not a winery in the sense of Sonoma County or Napa style," he says of his new digs in Dogpatch. "I'd love to eventually have a tasting room, because I see that Oakland is letting their urban wineries have tasting rooms. It not only brings people to the neighborhood, but it improves the profile of the neighborhood."

Don't expect that tasting room anytime soon, but as he settles in, Sutton will host tastings, sales by appointment, and evening and weekend events. Look for neighborhood business collaborations, like the series he did with Michael Recchiuti, part of Recchiuti's tasting series.

Future plans also include a monthly blend of wine for sale in microlots, and more variety of aperitif wines. We were able to sample a luscious dry rosé vermouth in development. A vin de noix, a wine infused with green walnuts (a lighter, French-style variety of Italian nocino liqueur), is also in the works.

Sutton is best known for his exceptional dry vermouth, made with 17 organic botanicals. It's perfect for cocktails, but surprisingly drinkable all on its own, thanks to an herbal and orange-peel freshness.

The winery started with and continues to make delightful rosé, Syrah, Carignane, and fortified dessert wines, including a single-vineyard, single-vintage Banyuls-style wine, all from Sonoma County fruit.

Sutton's wines are unusual for California. They tend to be less oaky, aged longer, higher in acid, and lower in alcohol, all of which renders them very food-friendly. Leaning towards natural winemaking, Sutton Cellars wines and vermouth are wild-yeast-fermented, unfiltered, and vegan, although they do contain small amounts of sulfites, much like European organic wines.

Look for Sutton Cellars wine on tap at Out the Door Bush and San Francisco Wine Trading Company. Find the vermouth at Cask, Bi-Rite Market, and K&L Wines.

Sutton Cellars: 601 22nd St. (at Illinois).

Farm:Table Is a Small, Beautiful Thing

By Jonathan Kauffman

Farm:Table is too small for a review. At 280 square feet, it's too small for a birthday party, too small for Saturday brunch rush — too small for adulation, even. There is one indoor table, square and solid, that fits seven at the most, plus a few cafe tables outside. The cockpit of a tank is bigger than the kitchen and coffee station where three cooks and baristas maneuver around one another. The a.m. and p.m. menus consist of three dishes apiece; the list fits on a chalkboard, as well as a couple of tweets. (The weekend brunch menu has a few extra dishes, I'm told.)

And yet the cafe is a wonder in miniature.

Kate and Shannon Amitin, who opened Farm:Table in May 2009, used to work at Blue Bottle (she managed the Ferry Building kiosk, he was a roaster). They used to live in the Castro, too, but after finding this space, they fell for the TenderNob and moved to the neighborhood. "It feels the most urban of the San Francisco neighborhoods," Kate says. "I can't say enough good things about living here."

Kate's food is precise and lovely without being precious, and most of the ingredients come from either the farmers' markets or Happy Boy Farms. The coffee is from Verve — a favorite — and despite the cafe's significant Yelplove, it isn't too crowded on a weekday afternoon to sit down for an hour and read over a bowl of vegetable soup.

Kate hasn't been a chef, but I've been to the cafe a couple of times, and her modest food tastes accomplished. Take a recent offering of eggs ($6.50): Three hard-boiled halves, perched on slices of whole-wheat baguette and showered in Alison McQuade's curry-gold habanero chutney, fine threads of radish, mild feta cheese, and peppercress microgreens. Hard-boiled eggs can suck the flavor out of any fragile-flavored ingredient, but the toppings were sweet-savory, spicy, and three kinds of peppery. I normally hate hard-boiled eggs. I finished the plate.

Farm:Table: 754 Post (at Leavenworth), 292-7089.

Eat This: Taqueria San Francisco's Al Pastor Burrito

By Jonathan Kauffman

There was a period — basically, the '00s — when I wrote off the burrito as gringo food, snubbing Mission taquerias in favor of Yucatecan restaurants, torta shops, and Oakland's taco truck row. Of late, I've come back around to the notion that the San Francisco burrito is sui generis, worth appreciating in all its majesty and heft.

Which is why I recently paid my respects to the two restaurants that claim to have invented the Mission-style burrito. I laid flowers. I ate chips. And I decided I preferred the al pastor burrito ($5.48) I'd just eaten at Taqueria San Francisco to its ancestors at La Cumbre and El Faro.

In form alone, Taqueria San Francisco's burrito is classic: chewy, tomato-tinted rice; pinto beans simmered until they barely hold their shape; an even layer of marinated pork, recrisped on the griddle to make its surfaces brown and toasty; a wide swath of salsa.

The burrito owes its superiority to scale. Not only is it compact enough to hold in one fist, there are no dead spots, no rice clogs or sour cream sinkholes. There is just enough rice, and it is seasoned just potently enough to compensate for the beans' flavor-sucking tendencies. Every bite sparkles with some new crunch — cilantro-bright onion here, lime-marinated tomato there. I'd been fearing that the future of the species would be dominated by the kind of taquerias that trumpeted their whole-wheat tortillas and (underseasoned) grass-fed beef. It is reassuring that some burritos have evolved just as far as they need to, and no further.

Taqueria San Francisco: 2794 24th St. (at York), 641-1770.

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