What’s Cookin’

Weekly Intro and Updates (Coming in hot...)
August 8, 2018
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One of the four horses on Anichkov Bridge and Stroganov Palace in St. Petersburg. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hi, peeps. Yeah, this week’s column is a day late, but sorting through 1,500 images of Russia can do that to a lady. Looks like I bit off more than I could chew (not the first time).

As promised, this week includes my recap of my three-week trip to Russia with my dad for World Cup. There were some big cultural learnings and observations that happened on this trip while running all over the country for six matches. It was an adventure and an unexpectedly wonderful and memorable trip—it just took some extra work. Russia took me by surprise, and it wasn’t just about how tasty the food was (it’s a good thing I like pickled things and smoked fish and dill).

Today’s piece was written in a bit of a stream of consciousness kind of style—I have so many images and impressions in my head, and I wanted to write them down while they were still bright. It’s not a short piece (maybe save it for the weekend!), and since I didn’t have a copyeditor today, don’t be surprised if you find some errors. I’ll be posting a larger album of my edited photos soon, complete with some fun World Cup pics. What a trip!

You ready for Outside Lands this weekend? I am (I’ll be sporting this fanny pack, say high). I’m sharing my round-up of food and drinks on my hit list for the weekend, be sure to tag @tablehopper on the ‘gram if there’s something you’re really loving that you think I should check out. So ready for Janelle. And Florence. And Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

What I was digging last week was the Wine and Weed Symposium in Sonoma (and the summer dream Terpenes and Terroir dinner from TSO Elevated Events and The Herb Somm at Healdsburg Shed afterward. I’m working on a piece right now, but in the meantime, take a look at this recap from The Herb Somm about what cannabis can learn from wine, and what wine can learn from cannabis.

A couple more posts for you: you won’t want to miss this week’s Table Talk on Bay Area Bites, including a first look at the new Farmhouse Oakland (you want to go), and last week’s column included a recap of some North Bay openings and Lotus SF on Mission Street.

Lastly, I know a lot of folks are making Robuchon potatoes this week. RIP, chef. One of the greats.

One last thing: if you are looking for a way to help victims of the Mendocino and Lake Fires, there is a Wildfire Fund set up with North Coast Opportunities here and a couple more listed here (the CCF Wildfire Relief Fund and Operation USA), along with some resources.

Take good care. See you in a couple weeks.
Marcia Gagliardi

July 24, 2018
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One of the beguiling desserts at White Rabbit (with flavors of burnt hazelnut, sour cream, and wild strawberries). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Heeeeyyyyy now! I’m back from three weeks in Russia, and as you can imagine, it was quite the adventure. My father and I had a blast at World Cup (we saw six matches!), had such a memorable dinner at White Rabbit in Moscow (with some of the most thoughtful hospitality I have experienced), fell in love with St. Petersburg (we were on palace duty like you wouldn’t imagine), we fully enjoyed connecting with locals in Samara and Kazan, and had one of our favorite traditional Russian meals in Nizhny Novgorod. (Da, we were all over the place.) And we ate extremely well! My new obsession is Georgian food, I can’t wait to try some recipes at home.

Russia was full of surprises: we encountered so much unexpected kindness and connection, and some shocking rudeness as well (sometimes it was so bad, all we could do was laugh—same goes for a few horrific restaurant service experiences we had, oh lawdy, really for the books). Full spectrum.

I’m currently sorting through my 1,500 images and notes and thoughts, and instead of running a tablehopper full of news in the next issue, I plan to run my Russia recap instead. Such an incredible place, it really shifted my perception. And there is so much I loved about the food, starting with cold borscht and pickled tomatoes (I totally brought a jar home to enjoy until I have a moment to make my own).

It has been a bummer to return home and come down with a cold (thanks, Airbus full of germy people), but the jet lag has finally lifted, so I’m excited to start heading back out on the town. We have a bunch of cute new openings! I have a number of news briefs in today’s issue, and be sure to hop over to my weekly Table Talk column for news on the new lunchtime incarnation of Duna (Smokebread), the latest chef-inspired cocktail menu at Trick Dog, a Benedict brunch, the new Tappy Hour at Barvale, and read about some of my favorite healthy lunches (or dinners) at Booster Foods, especially after being on the road.

Our local food world is processing some big news, starting with the departure of Michael Bauer from The Chronicle, who is retiring after 32 years. Let’s see who’s next! It’s such an exciting opportunity to bring on a fresh perspective and voice.

And then there’s the heartbreaking news of Jonathan Gold’s tragic death from pancreatic cancer. At 57. Such a shock. There’s no one who chronicled a food scene like he did—you’d learn so much about a place and a cuisine and people and culture in each review. His neverending curiosity, deep research, brilliant writing, keen observations, finely tuned palate, and warm-hearted passion for storytelling (especially the story of the many immigrant populations and their cuisines that make Los Angeles so great) are all why he was the Gold standard for food writing, criticism, and reviewing. Plus so many other reasons, it’s a long list. Be sure to read these tributes by Ruth Reichl and Gustavo Arellano, writers who knew him well and worked with him.

He was taken too soon, way too soon. Condolences to his family and many friends, to Los Angeles for losing their beloved culinary lighthouse and compass, and to future food writers and critics who won’t have his perspective and style at the ready to inspire them to research more, dive deeper, be curious, and become a better, smarter writer (he wasn’t one for faster). Make sure you watch the moving documentary about him (and his process), City of Gold. I’m doing a rewatch this week for sure. Man, such a loss.

Back on our local scene, here’s something for you to look over: as San Francisco moves toward banning plastic straws, there are unexpected ramifications for disabled people and the city’s hundreds of boba/bubble tea shops (many are owned by immigrants)—both issues and articles deserve your attention and consideration. While we can agree that plastic straws are terrible for the environment, it’s good to understand some nuances and facets of what will happen with the ban, and hopefully some solutions will arise soon.

One last thing before we dive in here: next Thursday August 2nd, I’m excited to attend the second annual North Coast Wine & Weed Symposium in Santa Rosa. (I know, California is amazing.) Anyone who’s in the wine industry will want to consider getting a ticket (they are almost sold out!) since the symposium is focused on helping the wine industry examine what impact the legalization of recreational cannabis use in California may have on the wine industry (and what can the cannabis world can learn from the wine industry). See you there?

There’s also a Terpenes and Terroir dinner with The Herb Somm and TSO Sonoma after the symposium at Healdsburg Shed (guaranteed to be a quality experience, these two host fabulous events together). I’ll be mentioning more in mymilligram this Thursday (you subscribe, right?).

It’s good to be home, hope to see you soon!
Marcia Gagliardi