What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
April 6, 2021

Fully feeling uplifting, “we’re back, baby!” vibes during a recent meal at the new Californios. “Smising” so damn hard.

Hello hello! For those of you who celebrate Holi and Nowruz and Passover and Easter, I hope your recent celebrations have been sweet. This past Sunday’s Easter gathering with vaccinated (!!) family members was especially poignant (I was also looking forward to our family lasagna and roasted capretto and pastiera napoletana from Rulli all week!).

And last week’s sunny weather definitely put spring into my step (dinner on the outdoor patio at Prubechu was purr-fect, file that one on your to-do list!). We’re seeing a bunch of places come out of hibernation with the 50-percent indoor seating allowance, announcing their fully vaccinated staff (yes!), and everyone I know is trying to hire managers and cooks and servers. The hospitality industry is finally able to get off its knees and try standing—a bit shakily, but let’s be there to help steady their stride.

Personally, I felt a huge shift when I dined at Californios a couple weeks ago on their gorgeous new patio—it was such a special (and moving) experience, and definitely heralds a return to visionary and transportive dining, and elevated hospitality. I mean, the dessert course is a rainbow! I floated out of there with a huge smile on my face. You can read more in today’s preview piece.

SF Restaurant Week is returning for a spring run, starting this Friday April 9th through Sunday April 18th. Over 150 participating restaurants will be offering prix-fixe menus for lunch (two-plus courses set at $10, $15, or $25) and dinner (three-plus courses set at $25, $45, or $60). (The La Cocina Municipal Marketplace is now open and taking part, by the way!) AND we have a fun giveaway for you in today’s column: two dinners for two from participating restaurants China Live and Wayfare Tavern!

Next Monday April 12th, is a virtual presentation of the 12th annual TASTE AWARDS, and I am so honored to be named a Special Achievement Award Winner (for the Food Champion Award) for my work with tablehopper and the On the Fly podcast (we did it, Lola!). Meowza! You can tune in at 5:30pm on Facebook and the TASTE AWARDS website (you can set a reminder here). Watch it and see who wins for the most exciting and creative food, fashion, and lifestyle programs, videos, films, series, podcasts, and radio.

I have been on a documentary deep dive over here (those of you who follow me on Twitter have seen my updates). If you’d like some recos on some cool things to watch, I have thoroughly enjoyed The Glorias (an experimental biopic about Gloria Steinem); Everybody Street blew my mind watching street photographers in New York do their thang (nerves of steel, I swear); the recent Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones (this story is beyond tragic—that case needs to be reopened); and I loved watching Westwood about the iconic and punky designer, Vivienne Westwood. Film buffs can’t miss Hal, a portrait of visionary stoner-director Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Shampoo) and his fight to make art while the studios just wanted to make money (typical). (I’m also so proud of my friend who was a producer of this film!) Oh, and Audrey on Netflix ended up dissolving me into a complete puddle of tears at the end. What a lovely tribute to the iconic Audrey Hepburn. That woman had the sweetest heart of gold—if only more people in Hollywood dedicated themselves to charity like she did, using her fame for so much good.

I hope you have a swell week. Some quick ideas on how to make it so: order some food from the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace (like this stellar sandwich!), Cambodian chicken wings from Shlap Muan, Indonesian dishes from Kirimachi, and drive out for Vinny’s Gabagool at Long Bridge Pizza in Dogpatch for lunch! Who loves you?

Buon appetito!
Marcia Gagliardi

March 23, 2021

Yup, another pic of Fortuna. Ha-ha! But seriously, nothing was as cute as Miss Von Chonk giving me a look to hurry up and finish this column so we can get back to mouse fishing. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hello, friends. I hope you have been hanging in there after a really rough week of news—the horrific violence has really been a lot to process. Sending love and solidarity and continued support to our beloved AAPI community. I will continue to post resources, fundraisers, and organizations to support on my social media accounts with ways to help and show up—feel free to tag me on anything that could use some boost. Please look out for each other and take good care.

Spring is here, and San Francisco has moved into the orange tier this Wednesday March 24th. Starting at 8am tomorrow, SF will allow indoor dining to resume at 50 percent capacity (not to exceed 200), and tables will be limited to six guests (from three households max). Also: bars, breweries, wineries, and distilleries that don’t serve food can open for outdoor, seated table service. This post from the GGRA has additional guidelines; stand by for more from the City. We keep getting closer to me not needing to play I Miss My Bar.

Since the SkyStar Wheel is back in action in Golden Gate Park, I wanted to point you to this piece I wrote: Seven Neighborhood Spots Where You Can Grab a Tasty Bite Nearby. Whether you’re picking up a sandwich before your ride, or a glass of wine and a bite with your date after, I have some ideas for you.

Some bright news: the ad hoc Save The Cliff House Collection team managed to raise enough money to save a number of historic Cliff House pieces and memorabilia from being bought by private collectors at an auction a couple weeks ago, so the public can enjoy them in the future! Huzzah! Read more in this KQED piece.

A big “merci!” to the previous issue’s sponsor, Smiirl, who gave away three of their clever social media Counters to SF businesses. They want to celebrate the reopening of our favorite food businesses in the Bay Area by offering tablehopper followers a nice coupon code: use code TABLEHOPPER at smiirl.com to get 20 percent off your own Counter!

This week’s sponsor is something you can eat and share! Check out the Family Meal giveaway from Cassava, designed for you to invite a couple friends to enjoy a three-course meal with you, in person or virtually, with pairings! Tag your friends to enter to win the feast!

I also want to do a mention of the most charming, heartfelt film I just watched last week: The Truffle Hunters. Take a trip to the forests of Piemonte, where you will meet the most eccentric characters, and witness their unique relationships with their beloved hunting dogs. The cinematography and original music are so beautiful, and there are a number of things to meditate on while watching: man’s relationship to nature, greed, aging, and the magic of dogs and animal companions. It’s a wonderful escape into a rarely seen world. It opens March 26th at Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco and AMC Saratoga 14.

So you know that canna-culinary TV show I went to the desert to go work on for a week as a cannabis consultant? Well, the cat is outta the bag: the show is Chopped 420, debuting on Discovery Plus on 4/20! And there’s some Bay Area talent appearing on the show! Can’t wait to watch it. Maybe you’ll see me with my clipboard, LOL.

Can you believe it’s already the end of March? I’m starting to post some Passover and Easter options on my Instagram Highlights in case you’re looking for matzo and colomba di Pasqua and other holiday treats.

Hop hop.
Marcia Gagliardi

March 9, 2021

Excellent backdrop choice, Fortuna! I’m happy to see she loves my Rob Delamater print as much as I do. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Meow! And I really mean it! Those of you who follow me on Instagram already know about the latest addition to Hopper HQ: Miss Fortuna von Chonk! I drove up to Oregon last week to adopt this beautiful and feisty cat—I know, I know, go ahead and call me crazy cat lady, but I knew she was the one. I just can’t believe this absolute love bug was left to fend for herself by her previous owners. Her foster paw-rent took exquisite care of her the past three months, and now we’re settling in (hella snuggles) and getting to know each other (and which toys she likes).

She appears to be a Chausie-domestic shorthair mix, which I’m learning all about, and is guesstimated to be around three-five years old. If you have any tips about your favorite SF vet or raw food diets or whatever kitty intel you feel like sharing, I’m all ears. (So is she—her cute little pricked-up ears keep cracking me up.) I’m so grateful for my new furry sidekick and chonky shadow (although someone is annoyed with my deadline, she wants to play)! I’m so glad she enjoys binge-watching “Call My Agent” with me, ha! More of that tonight. Bella Fortuna!

It was so great to see the American Rescue Plan (finally) pass through the House and Senate, with $28.6 billion in funding for a grant program to support independent restaurants and bars. YES! Release the funding!

I’m also so heartened to see San Francisco ease into our second week in the red tier, marking the return of indoor dining (at 25 percent capacity), and Alameda County, Solano County, and Santa Cruz County have also just moved into the red tier. Some restaurants are waiting until their entire staff is vaccinated before reopening indoor dining (I will not grow tired of seeing vaccination pics, keep posting them!), and others are taking it slow because any tier setbacks are downright devastating for business. Please keep respecting mask guidelines and social distancing so we don’t slip! We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the first stay-at-home order for SF, and I know it’s bringing up a lot of feelings for folx. So much has happened in one year. Stay strong, stay resilient, stay respectful, and let’s keep moving toward that light on the horizon.

A few things to note in SF under the new Health Order: outdoor dining no longer has to adhere to the 10pm curfew, although indoor dining has to cease service by 10pm (customers can finish their meal by 10:30pm); indoor dining tables are limited to members of one household, up to a maximum of four people; and outdoor dining now allows for members of three households, up to six people per table.

One place that could really use your help is Japantown. It’s dire over there. Please visit and support Japantown businesses in any way you can, from takeout to shopping. Thank you for paying a visit.

A big “merci!” to today’s sponsored giveaway, Smiirl, who is giving away three of their clever social media Counters! Check it out and nominate your favorite restaurant or small business to enter to win one! Thumbs up!

I’m going to get back to catching up with my insane inbox, under the watchful green eyes of my new supervisor.

Ciao for meow!
Marcia Gagliardi