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Jessica Battilana

This Week's Events: Ground Hog Day, Gelato Mania

Try 22 flavors of Naia Gelato

On Thursday, February 4, get your ice cream on at a special Gelateria Naia gelato preview at their Berkeley shop from 6-9 p.m.. Sample 22 (!) new flavors made in collaboration with some of our favorite local business, including Numi tea, Blue Bottle, Recchiuti and Tcho Chocolates and St. George Spirits.

Snacks and drinks for five bucks

Knives at Dawn: The Cooking Competition You've Never Heard About

I just finished reading Andrew Friedman's food geeky book, Knives at Dawn, which chronicles last year's bid by an American team—led by Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller—to win the international Bocuse D'Or cooking competition. Never heard of it? Though Americans seem to have an endless appetite for cooking competitions (witness the success of Top Chef and Iron Chef), this one has largely flown under the radar, though it has a long and storied history and a distinguished pedigree, having been founded by none other than legendary French chef Paul Bocuse.

This Week's Events: Culatello Kings, Punch-Drunk Love

Culatello King Comes to Incanto
Massimo Spigaroli, Italy’s king of culatello, will host a dinner at Incanto with chef Chris Cosentino featuring some of the very best porcine presentations. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. and tickets, including wine but not service, are $80. To reserve your seat, call 415-641-4500.

Coffee Culture Reaches Fevered Pitch

I don't know how many of you remember the great charcuterie tsunami of the mid-2000s, but you have it to thank for the prevalence of mid-grade house-cured meats that you can now find on the menus of nearly every restaurant in or around an urban center. Taken from a distance, this is a fine trend—who am I to begrudge cured meats? But when poorly executed it doesn't matter if it's housemade. I cite this historically relevant culinary event only because I fear it has begun to happen with coffee.

Street Food Carts Get Park Assignments

The word is starting to trickle in that Parks & Rec have begun calling applicants who made a bid for an ongoing, permanent street food space in one of the 219 parks in San Francisco. Though nothing is final yet (applications still have to be approved by the commission and a public hearing will be held for each new addition), chances are good that come spring you'll be seeing Let's Be Frank carts near the Conservancy of Flowers in Golden Gate Park and at Justin Hermann Plaza.

Cheap Date: Chilango

Yes, this city is lousy with Mexican restaurants, but we don’t begrudge the opening of one more, particularly when it is located in the Castro, a neighborhood that sorely needs more good food. Chilango (the name is slang for someone who grew up in Mexico City) replaced Aztec Taqueria back in October, and was opened by former Mexico DF chef-partner Roberto Aguiar Cruz. Handmade organic tortillas, Niman Ranch meat and a menu that emphasizes street food found around the Distrito Federal are now the order of the day.

Bruno's: The Delights of Chicken and Waffles

It happened like this: Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher started serving their version of Southern food from the kitchen of an Excelsior bar called Broken Record. But just as we were falling in love, they up and left us. The duo—who met at Boulevard and between them have worked at some of the city’s finest kitchens, including Range, Quince and Campton Place—packed up their knives and left for a tour of barbecue joints and regional restaurants throughout the South, beginning in Ostler’s hometown of Austin. Says Zacher, “I was struck by how great the barbecue was and how terrible the sides were. Loaves of Wonder bread, bland beans—just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s good. The Californian in me cringed.”

Daniel Hyatt is obsessed with Sandwiches

The great thing about sandwiches is that they can be so many things—it’s just a stack of bread, meat, vegetables and condiments, and the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. When you get a good sandwich it’s like a symphony. Bread is very important—lots of places in San Francisco use toasted sourdough baguettes or Dutch crunch, which just tears your mouth apart.

I go to Charlie’s Deli Café, which is near my house in Bernal Heights. It’s a straight-up deli, and you can get anything you want. Their specialties aren’t any big deal, and I don’t have a particular favorite, but they make a good sandwich, and you can eat it across the street at Precita Park and watch people play with their dogs.

This Week's Top Food Events: Casting Calls and Good Gin

Winter Wines
It’s going to be raining all.week.long, but that’s no excuse to become a hermit. Grab some friends and drop in to the winter wine tasting at 18 Reasons on January 21 from 7-9 p.m.. Bi-Rite Market wine buyer Trac Le will guide you through a tasting of various bottles, all for the nominal fee of $10 ($5 for members).

A Field Guide to Dine About Town

That the Dine About Town is clearly a publicity stunt to drive traffic to restaurants during their slowest months (January and July, when people are in post-holiday literal and figurative belt-tightening or when they're at the beach) doesn't mean that it's not a good idea. But is it really a deal? I have a problem at restaurants, and I know I'm not alone: I like to have cocktails or wine with dinner. I like to leave a nice tip when service is good. So even though a $34.95 three-course meal is a relative bargain, there's no way I'm getting in and out for under $50 bucks.

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