Posts for November 15, 2012

Get Last-Minute Seats at Tomorrow’s Taste and Tribute Dinner, Benefiting Tibetan Aid Project

The meal also gets blessed, by a monk.

The twelfth annual Taste & Tribute Dinner, organized by chef Laurent Manrique, brings together 22 of the city's best chefs to cook meals for tables of donors at the Four Seasons, with proceeds benefiting the Tibetan Aid Project. The event is unique in that chefs will be cooking tableside, with diners able to interact with them throughout. Manrique himself is a devout Buddhist, and he sees the spirit of the event, with the breaking down of barriers between chef and diner, as fitting with Buddhist philosophy. The list of chefs for this is always impressive, with this year's roster including Fifth Floor's David Bazirgan, SPQR's Matt Accarrino, Gather's Sean Baker, and Piperade's Gerald Hirigoyen. (See their planned menus here.) Tickets start at $350 per person, and can be purchased here.

Bauer Renews Meadowood’s Four Stars, Calls Kostow an ‘Artist’

Meadowood's remodeled dining room.

Michael Bauer made a return visit to Meadowood in St. Helena recently to assess the state of the Michelin three-star restaurant, post-remodel and menu change. Diners are now asked ahead of time if they have any food preferences or dietary restrictions, and chef Christopher Kostow customizes each person's experience, with no menus presented until after the meal. Bauer finds everything still excellent, artful, and "quite a ride." Still, though, he has a few complaints, mostly with the service. They phoned him twice to ask about dietary restrictions, etc., and he's not generally a fan of not knowing what he'll be eating — of course, in today's age of cryptic menus with single-word ingredient descriptions, it's hard ever to know what you'll be eating at higher end restaurants. But he's also a little put off by a too-casual server, and Florence and the Machine playing the dining room. Nonetheless, it's four stars overall. [Chron]

Gitane Reopens After Last Week’s Fire

Fear not, Claude Lane fans. Gitane is reopening tonight, as promised, following last Friday's little blaze. Word has it the team is in high spirits, and chefs Bridget Batson and Patrick Kelly are excited to keep serving the new menus that they were just debuting the night the fire broke out. "Luckily no one was hurt and they were able to repair the minimal damage that was done," says a rep.

Exclusive: First Look at One Up, the New Restaurant at Bar at the Grand Hyatt

Last night marked the opening of One Up, the new bar and restaurant at the Grand Hyatt at Union Square, as well as the reopening of the newly renovated lobby level. One Up replaces the top-floor restaurant, Grandviews, which had lost its luster in recent years, and it's all part of a total remodeling of the entire hotel, 600+ rooms included. Cass Calder Smith of CSS Architecture, the same firm responsible for Twenty Five Lusk — which is widely considered one of the best designed restaurants in the city — redesigned the lobby and added the new, open mezzanine-level eating and drinking space, bookended by big windows onto the street below, and anchored by a floating, wood-lined central walkway with a glass-enclosed wine and liquor library. And we're glad to know there's a new bar with decent drinks near Union Square, which is always handy when choosing a meeting spot in the neighborhood.

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Food & Wine Editor Dana Cowin Lunches at Bar Tartine to Celebrate New Book, Has Dinner at Rich Table

Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, a food celebrity in her own right, breezed through town yesterday for a whirlwind of meals and an event to celebrate that new book we mentioned last week, America's Greatest New Cooks. Among the dozen chefs featured in what Cowin calls "a collection of mini-cookbooks" are Bar Tartine chef Nicolaus Balla, and b. patisserie's Belinda Leong. As it turns out, she hadn't been in San Francisco for over a year, and she's had her scouts recommending places to her. "What ends up happening is if I miss restaurants that end up getting featured in Best New Chefs while they're still new, I just have to move on to the next crop of new places," she tells Grub Street. "I'm only ever here for a short time." Thus, she had never herself eaten some of Balla's dishes in the book, like his Brussels sprouts with lime and cilantro, or his now beloved smoked potatoes. And on her list for this trip were new hot spots State Bird Provisions, Wise Sons Deli, Craftsman & Wolves, and Rich Table, where she had dinner with some of her staff last night.

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Pastry Maestro Bill Corbett Eats Vegetarian, Loves a Good Avocado, Prefers Belgian Ales

Corbett in New York for last summer's James Beard House dinner, with Absinthe executive chef Adam Keough in the background.Photo: Courtesy of Absinthe

Bill Corbett, the award-winning pastry chef at Absinthe and Boxing Room, spends his days developing and testing new desserts for the restaurant at the Absinthe Group's off-site kitchen, occasionally dropping by Absinthe for some of their house-made potato chips, or a grilled cheese with avocado from sister café Arlequin. For his San Francisco Diet, he relays a week of eating that's full of some drool-worthy desserts, but a few smoked apple tarts and chocolate-chicory mousses with cinnamon genoise are all in a day's work for him.

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Legendary Sommelier Larry Stone on Charlie Trotter’s Wine Collection (Which He Built)

Stone.

Tomorrow, Christie's in New York will auction off the top bottles from the collection amassed over 25 years by Chicago's legendary Charlie Trotter's restaurant. (The remainder will be on sale online through the end of the month; you can see the collection catalogue here.) Master sommelier Larry Stone was Trotter's most celebrated wine director, working at the restaurant from 1989 (when it was two years old) to 1993, and then returning for its last few months. But more than that, he was Trotter's collaborator in developing an American way that wine and food could go together in contemporary fine dining, largely responsible for building the restaurant's celebrated cellar and setting the direction that it followed after he left. Stone recently took a new post as dean of Wine Studies at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California; we caught up with him via e-mail in Burgundy and asked him about the collection, which Christie's buyers will be bidding on tomorrow.

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Mama’s Looking to Expand Up the Street at Former Piazza Market

Perennially popular, guidebook-endorsed breakfast spot Mama's in North Beach is finally going to do something about that line. The Chronicle hinted today that they're looking at expanding to a second location in the neighborhood, possibly at the former Piazza Market space at Vallejo and Columbus. And Mama's manager/partner Felicia Sanchez-McDonnell confirms for Grub Street that the family is focused on that 7,000-square-foot space, despite some permitting issues. "We know it has a restrictive conditional use permit, but we're cautiously optimistic about the possibilities," she says. "We'd love to have the space to alleviate the line and take care of the neighborhood folks. We also have some plans to use the additional space to have a specialty shop with take-away items and some of our house-baked treats." [Chron]

Comstock Saloon to Host Mustache Waxing and Whiskey Drinking Competition

We don't entirely understand how this will work, but in honor of Movember, Comstock Saloon is capitalizing on the copious and creative facial hair of many in the bar community with the second annual Whiskey Waxing Beard and Mustache Competition on November 28. In addition to the form and style of their mustaches and beards, contestants will be judged on their ability to sip whiskey or tea as well. Judging from the video of last year's competition, they're mostly being judged on how much whiskey they can throw back whilst still jauntily flipping their beards around in between shots.

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Padma Does Playboy

But don't get too excited, fellas: It's for a Q&A, and the accompanying photo is very tasteful. (The same cannot be said for the ads on the site.) Anyway, topics discussed: Lakshmi's lack of sentimentality ("I’m like a truck driver trapped in this body"), ex-husband Salman Rushdie ("Now there is somebody who has great wit and is a great flirt"), her role in the 2001 box-office bomb Glitter (money job), and attractive people who don't have a lot to say ("A lot of people I see in magazines or on TV bore me"). So it goes. [Playboy]

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Michael Chiarello to Take Lafitte Space on the Embarcadero, Open Spanish Restaurant

The porch/pavilion at the former Lafitte, which will become a new bar area.Photo: via Lafitte

Napa chef, Lady Gaga fan, and familiar face on the Food Network Michael Chiarello has inked a deal for his first San Francisco restaurant, as the Chron is reporting. He's taking the former Lafitte space at Pier 5, vacant since April, with its views and vaulted ceiling, and he'll be opening a Spanish-inspired restaurant and bar. He hinted to us last year that he wanted to do something non-Italian in San Francisco one of these days, and after an extended search he's found a pretty plum spot.

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Top Chef Seattle Recap: David Rees on Personal Branding and Geopolitical Humblebrags

Photo: Bravo

I’d like to apologize for last week’s disparaging comments about soup. After doing a little research, I realize that soup can be, in fact, quite complicated and delicious. I must remember to eat it someday.

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Department of Deportment: The End-All, Be-All Guide to Using Your Phone at the Table

Resist the urge to play some mid-meal Angry Birds Star Wars.Photo-illustration: Konstantin Sergeyev

Look around any hot-ticket dining room and you'll see it: the vulgar, telltale glow of smartphones laid on tables, bars, and laps. iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxies full of Twitter updates and text messages; equipped with cameras ideal for mediocre food photography; even able to, in the most loathesome of at-table scenarios, make actual phone calls. They're a great technological advancement, and an even greater nuisance to both diners and the cooks whose food has to compete for your attention with push notifications. The ubiquity of smartphones in restaurants now has even led to calls for a hard ban — or the invention of odd games involving stacking phones on the table during the meal. But such extreme measures are unlikely to succeed, and the use of phones at the table should be a matter of etiquette, not law, so here is the definitive road map to using your phone at the table.

"A phone left on the dinner table is a shifty kind of power play." »

Guy Fieri Responds to Times Smackdown [Updated]

Guy Fieri didn't say anything yesterday in the wake of Pete Wells's public thrashing of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, but he did show up on Today — increasingly becoming the go-to morning stop for Food Network stars in damage control mode — to address the issue.

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