Delfina’s Craig Stoll Gives the Finger to Fox News


Apparently Craig Stoll of the James Beard Awarded Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco was scheduled to appear on the Fox News morning show but walked out after hearing what the hosts – presumably quoting disgruntled Yelpers – had to say about his pizza. As reported earlier this month by local magazine 7×7, Stoll & Co. recently made t-shirts quoting negative Yelp reviews, and then gave them to staff to wear during service.

Here’s one of the shirts (via 7×7):


And now to do something I never thought I’d do: Post a clip from Fox News!

Wine Rumors: SF Restaurants Going Retail

Well, not exactly, but in the course of doing a little field research last night I learned that a hot, newish SF restaurant is planning to develop a wine program where all of their pricing is retail. Yep, retail… no 10% nor even 5% markup, but straight up retail. Signs of the times to be sure, but also a populist approach to restaurant wine pricing that I hope catches on.

In other news…


One of my favorite East Bay haunts for South Indian food, Vik’s, is moving next month. The new location is just around the corner from the original, and rumor is that it won’t change all that much. I wonder, though, if the move will increase or decrease the competition for street parking with the patrons of nearby Steamworks?

The Best Fish Tacos on the Central Coast

Playing hooky is something I learned the value of a long time ago. It often brings new perspectives through serendipity, which is exactly what happened this past Saturday during the annual World of Pinot Noir festival in Pismo Beach. Before the grand tasting started, a small group of us headed over to the charming hamlet of Avila Beach where we’d heard there was a good fish shack at the end of the pier, some place called Pete’s Pierside Café.

So off we went thinking, hey, beers and fish tacos, what could be better? We got that, but we got so much more.

pete's menu

As you can see from the menu of specials above, this was no ordinary pierside taco shack. Chanterelle enchiladas smothered in a vibrant green sauce, housemade chips, halibut tacos, wild salmon tacos (I raised an eyebrow at this, given the collapse of the Pacific salmon run), an array of pickled vegetables and salsas, and, seen below, pescado entero, a whole, crispy fried fish served with rice and beans and steaming corning tortillas. Shred with a fork, build your own taco.

whole fish

Note to Tyler: We talked about food and wine pairings here, but really, Tecate in a can is where it’s at! And yes, that’s a 22-oz can…

*We felt like copying the local seal population after lunch but as the little guy in the water can attest, there just wasn’t any room on the dock under the pier.


(NB: For another Central Coast hole-in-wall Mexican seafood experience, it’s hard to beat El Lugarcito in King City.)

The Beat on the Street

We all hear it these days. You work in the trade and there’s a constant refrain of consumers trading down in their wine purchases, especially at restaurants. The silver lining is that people aren’t abandoning wine altogether, they’re just spending less. Which makes sense: Wine prices were until recently ever so inflated. When things eventually settle down, look for more savvy consumers — people on the hunt for honest wines at fair prices.

Which leads me to a recent article in what’s left of the Los Angeles Times, by my friend and colleague Patrick Comiskey. Patrick’s report shows some of the challenges sommeliers and buyers face in today’s climate. The meat of the article I feel, hits at the oversupply in the distribution channels, especially at the high end:

Indeed, slower restaurant sales (nationwide, but especially in Las Vegas) coupled with a generally large vintage in 2005 and the huge proliferation of luxury brands from California and elsewhere have led to an unprecedented oversupply of high-end wine in the pipeline.

All of this has led to plenty of synergy between buyers and sellers. “Everyone got the memo,” says Eduardo Porto-Carreiro, the wine buyer at Grace. “The producers, they lower their prices and say to the distributors, ‘Here are the deals.’ The distributors go to the restaurants and say, ‘Here’s what I can do if you move this,’ and we pass it on to our customers. It’s trickle-down, but it works back up. Wineries need to move wine, distributors need cash flow. Everyone has to work together for it to make sense, and for now, it is.”

Go here to read the entire thing.

*Note: For a look at the downturn’s effect on the restaurant world from a server’s perspective, this post on the downspin of tipping is quite fascinating.

Lunch Fix: Vietnamese Sandwiches in Murray Hill

Had a quick run over to Baoguette in Murray Hill today for banh mi, or delicious Vietnamese sandwiches typically filled with pork, bbq chicken or even fish.

(Thanks to a tip from the new Tasting Table, both my colleague Chris and I had the skinny on this new place. Apparently so did many other lunching New Yorkers because the place was packed when we arrived.)

Baoguette opened recently in a former Blimpie’s and is no doubt already cranking out much better sandwiches. I had a mix of terrine, pork and pate this afternoon that rocked ($5), and I’m eager to return for either the barbeque chicken ($5) or the spicy catfish ($7).

Baoguette, 61 Lexington (btw 25th & 26th), 212-518-4089.

The main question to keep in mind when ordering is: How spicy?

Value For Winegeeks: Restaurant Edition

Who needs a prix-fixe horror show when there’s Friday the 13th?

We decided to bag the traditional Valentine’s Day shitshow celebration this past weekend in favor of the far more interesting (and sinister?) night before, Friday the 13th. There was also a break in northern California’s recent rainy weather, so it seemed like a good idea to walk the length of Valencia Street to one of San Francisco’s better neighborhood eateries, Blue Plate.

Blue Plate was popping, and for a brief second it seemed inconceivable that restaurants in the Bay Area and beyond are suffering so much now, but then again it was the Friday night of Presidents’ Day weekend, with Valentine’s Day thrown in for good measure.  Casual, simple in concept and with a menu that’s easy to execute, not to mention a long track record and loyal clientele, Blue Plate — and others like it — are likely to survive the economic downtown.

That seems more evident with a quick glance at the wine list: Et violà!, it’s Marc Ollivier’s Côt “La Pépiè”.

cotOllivier is sort of the master of Muscadet and this feisty, juicy wine sort of behaves like a red Muscadet might, with cheerful fruit and refreshing acidity. I easily finished the first glass before the first course, and was ready for more. And I know that malbec — aka côt in the Loire Valley — is, like, totally popular these days but this version is hardly the jampot that seems common to Argentina and, increasingly, California. While no secret among winegeeks, La Pépiè — like much of the Louis/Dressner portfolio — seems to hit a magic price point ($14-$16 retail; $28-$30 restaurant list) that makes it sort of the vinous equivalent of a restaurant like Blue Plate: Delicious, affordable and, most importantly, friendly and honest. Qualities to look for no matter what’s going on with the economy.

Happily, too, the label is irresistibly cute.

Eating & Drinking on the Barbary Coast Trail

barbary-coast2A few Sundays back – before this freakishly warm weather dropped in to send everyone to the beach – we decided to follow the Barbary Coast Trail, developed and maintained by the San Francisco Historical Society.

The trail starts at the Old Mint down on 5th and Mission and then meanders through Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill, before dropping down to the Bayfront wharfs and eventually Ghirardelli Square.

From there you can wait in line for the Hyde Street cable car and admire the view while playing a game of matching country (or state) to the accent of your fellow line-waiters. Or you can say fuck it and walk the two blocks to catch the 47 Van Ness.

The Historical Society has a handy map (available here) that can be printed beforehand; there are also markers embedded in the cement indicating direction. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to explain the significance or various landmarks along the way (the marker in front of the Old Mint is the only one we found). There are tags on the map, but it shouldn’t hurt to produce some sort of podcast to accompany the route. Historical Society?

But the Barbary Coast Trail is also lacking something else, notably where to eat and drink. As an itinerary, the Trail wanders through some of San Francisco’s best neighborhoods for memorable food and drink. (Well, things get a little dodgy after North Beach…) Without putting too much thought into it, I made this shortlist. And there’s an accompanying Google Map (my stab at such a map anyway). Take a look, and feel free to add to this list or directly to the map — it should be public.

(More after the jump…)

( Continue reading

2009 Trends: Cabernet Franc tops Pinot Noir?

Okay, maybe not. Although I’d put money on a substantial cooling of the California pinot noir market in 2009. But that’s not really so surprising, is it?

linecook415, written by Richie, one of cooks at NOPA in San Francisco, is a blog I enjoy reading for my back-of-the-house-the-kitchen-is-my-life fix. Say what you will about shows like Top Chef or Iron Chef, or even Anthony Bourdain: If you’ve spent time working anywhere in a restaurant, chances are good that you secretly covet a cook’s life. Parts of it anyway.

So back in December just before the holidays, Richie posted this end-of-night tally of items sold in the restaurant — and one of the guys on the line set a new record of 78 burgers (and that NOPA burger is damn good, btw). Check it out:

(image via linecook415)

But what’s also impressive here, at least from a wino’s point of view, is that cabernet franc outsold pinot noir 42-25. (I presume that’s by the glass.) How ’bout them apples?

Sustainable Seafood, Hipster Street Food & More

Faced with a lack of creativity or inspiration at the moment, I’ve decided to do what blogland does best and link to stuff by other people! I know, hardly original, but whatever.

Iwashi – Best Choice Sushi

Last week, Peter Liem mentioned the release of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new guide to sushi from its Seafood Watch program. If you aren’t familiar with Seafood Watch, it’s an excellent program that publishes a series of guides to help consumers make the best choices regarding sustainable seafood. Given the popularity of sushi — especially here in California — it’s nice to see this new guide added to the program. Sadly, some of my favorites are on the list: Bye bye, tai, toro and unagi. Fortunately, iwashi (sardines) and aji (spanish mackerel) are in the ‘Best Choice’ category. Check out the new guide to sushi here.

What’s the fastest way to open your own restaurant in San Francisco? Start with a taco truck!

San Francisco has some pretty killer street food, a lot of which gets overlooked but that’s just fine. More for the rest of us who don’t mind ordering food from a kitchen or refrigerator with wheels, often parked next to a sleeping bum. Anyway, this past October saw the street food concept taken to an entirely new level (I don’t know why somebody didn’t think of this sooner; also, watch for copycats). Anthony Myint, a line cook at Bar Tartine, rented an Antojitos food truck every week on Thursday night to dish up delicious flatbread sandwiches to hungry SF foodies lined up at 21st and Mission (check out past menus here). After a few weeks and a number of hiccups, it seems that Myint and crew are migrating from the truck to an “actual restaurant“:

To make this change possible, we’ll be moving from the truck into an actual restaurant. We’ve been talking with some local restaurants about sharing space, and we’ll announce the details in a few days. We’ll be closed this week for planning and will re-open somewhere in the Mission on November 6.

The new format will also feature guest chefs/contributors. No word yet as to where Mission Street Food will relocate, but it will be well worth checking out!

How to open a bottle of wine using only a clothes’ hanger, a spoon and a Bible

Boozehound and writer Camper English shares a funny little anecdote about trying to open a bottle of wine while suffering from jet lag at his hotel in London. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably got some idea of how he eventually got the cork out. For the full story, click here.

And Camper, one word for you: screwcap.

Speaking of London:

‘Action’ by St. Etienne, from their 2002 album Finisterre.

No Skating of Any Kind: Restaurant Prohibitions

References to farms or other suppliers on menus notwithstanding, restaurants often employ some creative signage. Bi-Rite Market, which obviously isn’t a restaurant although there’s plenty of great shit to eat, has a hand-written sign up at the butcher counter informing customers that they can now get “Bill Niman’s Goat” at the store (according to this article from Wednesday’s New York Times, Niman, who founded the meat company Niman Ranch, can no longer use his own name in conjunction with any ranching business; his products are labeled simply BN Ranch). Bill Niman’s goat is delicious, by the way.

But restaurant signage is more often than not about what patrons can’t do in a restaurant. No entry. Don’t touch. Kitchen staff only.

Or, as in the case of Kreuz’s, the mothership barbeque joint in Lockhart, Texas, no roller skating or skateboarding, as seen below:

I don’t know about you, but when I eat smoky barbequed ribs I just want to bust out a pair of roller skates and get down!

And then last night we went for deep dish at the Mission branch of San Francisco’s Little Star Pizza. Great pie, sort of a California version of Chicago deep dish — the crust feels somehow lighter; polenta? — and killer beers on draft (Blue Star, Racer 5). Wine list needs work, althought they carry Quivira, a biodynamic grower and winery from Dry Creek Valley. But it’s not the food or beer I remember most. It seems Little Star has had some issues with bathroom graffiti, and they’ve issued a plea to patrons and would-be taggers, below:

“Honestly we rather you give us the finger on the way out than destroy our mirror, garbage can, or walls.”

Now them’s fightin’ words!