Field Notes: Restaurant, Hotel & Food News

San Francisco

The 1920’s Roar Back

making cocktails at The Harlequin in San Francisco
photo credit Kelly Puleio

Embodying Art Deco through design motifs both floral and linear, The Harlequin from owner Phil Chen dropped into The Mosser Building in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood in mid-June. Chef Rodolfo Aguilar is on hand to execute an American menu that recalls the 1920’s era’s dual fascination with embellishments and symmetrical presentations in plates of steak frites and mushroom pappardelle, a raw bar, and shareables like chimichurri-topped bone marrow and pork belly bao.

Interior room at The Harlequin San Francisco
photo credit Kelly Puleio

The black and white rooms are graced with epic chandeliers – check out the gingko flower  chandelier in the above image – and wallpapered rooms that would make a great-grandmother proud. “What’s old is new again,” as my great grandmother Rose never said. It all reminds me of New York – a city packed with post-war stylings – most memorably P.J. Clarke’s on Third and 55th, where I spent many an after-work hour imbibing whiskey cocktails and chowing down on oysters Rockefeller and bubble and squeak.

The cocktails look amazing. I’m all in for the Assumed Identity which pairs by favorites (whiskey and sherry) in one drink, in this case rice whiskey and manzanilla with Dolin blanc, and green apple shrub. No word on whether harlequins in their traditional diamond-patterned outfits are to appear with the entrees.

Hot Licks at a Cool Jazz Bar

Interior at San Francisco's Dawn Club
Dawn Club vibe, photo credit Joseph Weaver

If it is true that Dawn Club has not heard a note played on its stage since 1946, then that is 77 years too long. I am heartened by the return of a jazz presence in San Francisco, even if it is nowhere near Fillmore. (It’s in its former home in SoMa, across from The Palace Hotel.) The newest bar from the Future Bars team and owner Brian Sheehy features rare whiskies and drinks in line with post-prohibition Jazz Era, as well as wine, beer and NA beverages. Nightly live music ranges from classic jazz to swing, soul and bop. There’s even an Ella Fitzgerald cover band. Don’t forget your dancing shoes.

On the Menu: Multi-culti Pork Ribs

char siu ribs as plated at San Francisco's Mamahuhu
char siu ribs, photo credit Erin Ng

Just in time for summer, a new dish has crept onto the Clement Street Mamahuhu menu: char siu ribs. Marinated then cooked low and slow (up to five hours) baby back ribs are rubbed with five-spice, then glazed with a honey and hoisin-based bbq sauce, referencing both Cantonese and American style barbecue pork. Cut into individual ribs, they are served as a half rack with sesame slaw and pickled cauliflower and carrot.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

More Veg Above Little Saint

an array of dishes at Second Story, the new restaurant about Healdsburg's Little Saint
Second Story dishes: photo credit Emily Dorio

With a concept that is more elevated than Little Saint’s cafe and lounge downstairs, Second Story arrives on July 7 with a multi-course menu highlighting the seasonal ingredients available at Little Saint Farm. The menu, from Executive Chef Stu Stalker, keeps the building’s focus on plant-based in visually distinct platings. The opening menu includes dishes like a pea tart with pumpkin seed and nasturtium, barbecue mushroom skewers with pasilla chile and pine, and Æbleskivers with carrot. 

The sustainable, closed-loop ideology extends to the beverage program with nods to herbalism in drinks like tepache – here crafted from carrot skins but more traditionally made in Mexico from pineapple – and the vegan dessert program from Executive Pastry Chef Baruch Ellsworth.

Yanc and McGaughey Are At It Again

C & C cocktail, photo credit Emma K. Morris

You may already know Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey, the husband-and-wife team responsible for Healdsburg’s Quail & Condor and Troubadour Bread & Bistro. In the latest project from owner Jonny Barr, Healdsburg’s Molti Amici, the duo are on board as co-executive chefs with Chef de Cuisine Matthew Cargo on-hand to manage the day-to-day. The menu leans into the Italian ethos of ‘seasonal is best.’ Look for a stone fruit salad with fennel pollen, ricotta, and watercress, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas and entrees, and hand-rolled pastas like raviolo al’ uovo with truffle and sage brown butter.  The outdoor dining area, shaded by a cantilevered roof and populated with pale green and yellow chairs and tables, looks like it would be right at home in mid-century Palm Springs.

Raviolo al’ Uovo, Truffle, Sage Brown Butter
Raviolo al’ Uovo with truffle and sage brown butter, photo credit Emma K. Morris

Doubling Down on Merlot

Across the Mayacamas in Saint Helena, Markham Vineyards recently completed renovations on its tasting room, the first re-do since the ‘90’s. Large windows allow guests to peep  into the hundred year-old barrel cellar, couches and settees create conversation corners, and an expanded patio means more seating outside to taste the  winery’s Bordeaux varietals. Pinotheads be warned: the winery’s commitment to merlot is deep and petit syrah, cab franc and malbec are well-represented. All can be enjoyed in one of the new programs at the tasting bar.

lounge seating at Saint Helena's Markham Vineyard
lounging at Markham VIneyard’s new tasting room, photo credit Alexander Rubin

Marin Magazine New In Town

I also write the New In Town column for Marin Magazine, which includes restaurant openings and more. To keep up with what’s going on in Marin, please head over there.