Writer Chris Colin Invites You To a Curious Pop-Up Dinner in His Bernal Heights Home

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Bernal neighbor and celebrity journalist Chris Colin extends this unusual invitation to attend an unusual dinner party at his Bernal Heights home:

A little news, neighbors: I’m starting a restaurant! It launches Friday, Oct. 3, in Bernal. It’s going to be awesome. I’m also closing this restaurant, on Oct. 4. Please come eat at this exclusive, one-night-only affair.

I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll do this under the auspices of a site that arranges similar pop-up restaurants in people’s homes — EatWith.com for instance — or just on my own. Either way, it’ll feature 8-10 people coming to our house, and my wife and me serving our best food and drinks, plus maybe some other fun little whatnots.

We’re not chefs. We’re people who throw decent dinner parties. That’s part of the appeal for me — finding out whether regular people, who cook good food and dim the lights just so, could ever run a successful restaurant. If you’re someone who likes taking chances on weird and larky things, we’d really love to have you.

The fine print: We cannot know each other. Why? Because I’m also writing a magazine story about the experience, and will want to extract your unbiased opinions about it. This also means you’ll have to be okay with being written about, and possibly photographed. Nothing weird or TMZ’ish, I promise.

About us: I’m a writer, my wife Amy is a public radio reporter. I write about food sometimes, and Amy once co-published a magazine about meat. But mostly we’re no more involved in food than your average Bay Areans. We live in Bernal and have two kids, whom we’ll boot for the night. Duh.

Drop me a line if you’re game, or maybe game! It’ll be a fun night and you’ll meet interesting people and it’ll be a thing to remember. We hope it will be delicious, too. Worst-case scenario, well, I guess that’d be a giant meteor. That’d be just horrible.

Thanks for reading. Details below.
Chris Colin
www.chriscolin.com

When: 7pm, Oct. 3, 2014
Where: Bernal Heights, not far from Sandbox Bakery
Price: $55 per person, incl. alcohol
RSVP: cc@well.com

First-come, first-served. Dietary restrictions can’t be accommodated — sorry, too new at this!

UPDATE: In the comments, Chris says this event is now SOLD OUT.  We look forward to the report after the dinner takes place

ILLUSTRATION: Supper with Chris Colin, by Bernalwood

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack Moving to El Zocalo Space Up the Street

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Miss Emmy Kaplan from the eponymous Spaghetti Shack sent Bernalwood a Priority One Urgent Message last night to share some important news: Emmy’s is moving into a bigger location just up the street on Mission, in the soon-to-be-former El Zocolo space. But as the Emmy’s press release explains, it’s all cool:

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, the beloved San Francisco fixture, is moving two blocks north to 3230 Mission St. this November.

Restauranteur Emmy Kaplan, a native of the neighborhood and a fixture in the local culinary scene since opening her original location 13 years ago, is excited about both expanding the restaurant’s square footage as well as helping preserve the character of the neighborhood by remaining at the juncture of the Mission and Bernal Heights.

“The current location of the Shack is over capacity, the lines are long and we’re constantly turning away large parties,” says Kaplan. “I’m really looking forward to sharing more of what we love with the people who love us with more legroom for our regulars and new friends as well.”

Lauded as a “comfort food standby” and known for its heaping portions of pasta, outsized meatballs and “sassy” service, Emmy’s has long been a regular stop for locals and tourists seeking a truly San Francisco experience. The expanded restaurant takes over a location that was originally founded as El Zocalo in 1965 by owner Victoria Reves’ mother.

“I heard that they were interested in selling their business and thought it would be a golden opportunity to expand the Shack and continue serving our friends and neighbors in the Mission,” says Kaplan. Though she fretted finding a suitable location in the neighborhood in light of the increased corporatization of the area, Kaplan’s timing proved fortuitous.

“I decided that it was time for me to retire,” says Reves, who purchased the El Zocalo from her mother in the 70s. Though Reves entertained other offers, she was taken with the prospect of Kaplan moving her restaurant to the address not least of which because it maintains a tradition of women-owned and -operated restaurants in the location. “It was meant to happen and I’m very happy about it. I liked Emmy immediately. I am really excited about the sale.”

Extra bonus: New Emmy’s will also feature some additions to the menu, a bigger wine list, later hours and more to-go items.

Notice also that with the move to a new space, Emmy’s will complete the emergent Bernal/La Lengua Liminal Zone “Bermuda Triangle of Yum”:

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PHOTO: Top, Emmy Kaplan, via Emmy’s

Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Aims for Septemberish Opening

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Anticipation has been building in Western Cortlandia as neighbors look forward to the grand opening of Pinhole Coffee at 231 Cortland, on the corner of Bonview. Bernalwood first told you about Pinhole last November, but opening a business in this town is famously non-easy, so things take time.

Lately, however, we’ve seen lots of construction underway in the Pinhole space, and when we poked our head in last weekend we saw lots of great stuff, including a handsome new coffee bar, a cool new mural (which features Sutro Tower for bonus cool credit), and  colorful wood strips on the walls. It’s going to be a beautiful space.

Pinhole founder JoEllen Depakakibo was onsite too, so Bernalwood posed the question everyone’s been asking: When is the opening date?!?!

Miss JoEllen smiled, laughed nervously, and said, “in a few weeks!”

So, end of August?

She scrunched up her face. “More like September,” she said.

Fair enough. Septemberish! Can’t wait. And in the meantime, you’ll find lots of construction photos on the Pinhole Coffee Facebookplatz.

PHOTO: via JoEllen Depakakibo

Zagat Has Discovered Red Hill Station. You Should Too. Quickly.

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It’s been a few months since Red Hill Station opened.

During that time, your Bernalwood editor has dined at Red Hill Station, the new seafood restaurant on Cortland created by Bernal neighbors Taylor Pederson and Amy Reticker, three or four times. Why so many? We’ve eaten at Red Hill Station three or four times because Red Hill Station is good. Really reeeeeeeallly good. Wonderful food, great atmosphere, attentive and neighborly service, and solid value for the hard-earned Bernalese dollar.

That said, Bernalwood has not yet written about Red Hill Station because a) we rather selfishly wanted to get our fill of the place before word got out about just how terrific it is, and b) it was obviously only a matter of time until professional food critics also figured out just how terrific Red Hill Station is, and c) professional food critics get paid to write proper restaurant reviews (so we don’t have t0).

Well, that time has now come, because there’s a new review on Zagat that talks about… just how terrific Red Hill Station is:

The Gist: Red Hill Station may just be the next great neighborhood restaurant. Open since mid-June, it certainly is a seafood restaurant, although one of their top dishes is linguine and meatballs — or if you prefer, a meatball appetizer — in a hearty, stewed tomato red sauce. If this seems incongruent, it’s not. Bernal Heights residents and owners, Taylor Pederson and Amy Reticker, came from one of San Francisco’s greatest seafood classics, Anchor Oyster Bar. Red Hill reaches for that level of laid back comfort while attempting more ambitious dishes. And, oh, those sizes! We cannot get over the massive portions of food for around $17-$19 a plate.

So much for keeping this a secret. Check out the Zagat kicker:

The Verdict: As mentioned, in two short months, Red Hill already succeeds at feeling like a destination neighborhood restaurant. But they also deliver seafood in ways you have not seen it before — and portions that more than ensure value. What we’ve tried thus far is delicious. We can’t wait to return.

Hurry, neighbors… get thee to Red Hill Station before all the flatlanders come to crowd out us locals.

PS: Red Hill also pulls down an impressive 4.5 stars from the crankypants commenters on Yelp, including this gush by some guy with a mustache named Jeff B.:

If I was one of the the raters at Michelin, and found myself in the outer limits of downtown San Francisco (ie, Bernal Heights), Red Hill Station and its chef, Taylor Pedersen, would wind up with a star or two. It’s that good.

PHOTOS: Top, exterior photo by Michael C. on Yelp. Food photo by Virginia Miller via Zagat’s

Bernal Neighbor Creates Tasty, Disruptive Dried Meat Product (Biltong Fans Rejoice)

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Uber is disrupting the taxicab space. Airbnb is disrupting the travel lodgings space. And right here in Bernal, Neighbor Steve Kerford is working on a product that seeks to disrupt the dried meat space.

Neighbor Steve lives on Gates Street, although he’s originally from South Africa. In South Africa, you see, the locals favor a special kind of beef jerky called biltong. Neighbor Steve reached out to Bernalwood recently with an offer to drop off some of his biltong for us to sample.

The good news is, it was delicious! Most dried meats taste like an old sneaker dipped in BBQ sauce, but Neighbor Steve’s biltong tastes like… meat! Delicious, tender meat! Only, dried.

The bad news is, Neighbor’s Steve’s biltong was so tasty that Team Bernalwood gobbled up the entire bag before I had a chance to take a photo. Oh well.

Anyway, Neighbor Steve’s disruptive dried beef product company is called Cut & Dried Gourmet, and you can get some of his biltong from their website. He also has a Kickstarter campaign underway that’s getting close to it’s funding goal with about a week remaining on the clock:

 We tested our artisanal South African Biltong air-dried beef recipe while working with the leaders in ethical, natural beef production, Niman Ranch and Hearst Ranch. The results were spectacular; making Biltong with premium American beef produced the perfect health and gourmet snack! A paleo, charcuterie delight that is never cooked so it retains unadulterated nutrients and amino acid chains.

Our ambition is to get Biltong into America’s salads, office snack bars, backpacks, lunch boxes and gym bags. Healthy snacking with no sugar or additives, made from the finest American beef.

PHOTO: Neighbor Steve models his biltong, via Kickstarter

REVEALED: Neighbor Darcy Lee’s Sordid, Secret Sha Na Na Salad Dressing Recipe

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As she is with so many things, Neighbor Darcy was into Sha Na Na long before it was cool.

Today, of course, Neighbor Darcy is the proprietress of the fabulous Heartfelt general store on Cortland. Yet many moons ago, she was rather close (wink wink) with a member of Sha Na Na. The salad days did not last, alas. But she did get a gen-u-ine rockstar salad dressing recipe out of the deal — and her relationship with that salad dressing continues to thrive and prosper to this very day.

Now that we are in peak salad season, Bernalwood is proud to bring you this (only slightly sordid) story about how Neighbor Darcy acquired the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing recipe, why it’s still so very tasty, and how you too can enjoy the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing your own Bernal doo-wop greaser den.

Darcy writes:

The best and easiest salad dressing I ever learned to make was from the wife of Scott Simon, a member of the band Sha Na Na.

When I was 20 I worked as a waitress for the summer in Mashpee, Massachusets. Sha Na Na rehearsed for their summer tours there, and I dated one of the members. (oh, geesh) His name was Dave (Chico) Ryan — he was the handsome bass player who sang “Teenager In Love.”

We didn’t go out for long. But he took me to New York when they played in Central Park, and afterwards we partied with Keith Moon, who was a big Sha Na Na fan. (Strange but true.) Keith Moon was insane that night. We ended up at a night club disco with a lighted dance floor, and Keith Moon left the Sha Na Na boys with a huge check to pay.

Later, I met one of the band member’s wives and had dinner at her home in Westchester. She made a salad that was truly delicious. I asked about the dressing. She said, “A good salad dressing is good olive oil, not too much vinegar and salt. Really a lot of salt.”

To me, as a kid totally out of my element, she seemed sophisticated and worldly, in a Mad Men way.

I still use that basic formula, although I like to add ingredients to keep things interesting. I love the reaction my salads generate, and my book club loves them, so here’s how I do it:

DRESSING
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
A big pinch of salt (don’t hold back)
Pomegranate molasses (optional)
Moscatel vinegar (optional, instead of champagne vinegar)

SALAD:
Romaine lettuce
orange pieces
Avocado
Toasted sliced almonds

I think it’s refreshing to get away from Balsamic as a go-to ingredient. I taste more flavors when the vinegar is lighter and not as pushy. In her wonderful cookbook “Root to Stalk Cooking,” Bernal’s own Tara Duggan uses Moscatel vinegar as an ingredient, and that’s become my new favorite. (Don’t think Muscatel the cheap wine; this is a light vinegar from Tarragona, Spain.) If I only have regular wine vinegar in my cupboard, I like to add a whimsy ingredient to the dressing. For instance, with this salad, a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses is great too. I buy mine at Samiramis Imports at 25th and Mission.

I get the packs of Romaine hearts at Good Life, cut the ends off and wash the leaves. After they dry, I chop them roughly, vertically across the leaf. When you slice the oranges, it’s important to get as much as the white pith off as possible. If you are bringing this salad somewhere, wait to add the avocado because it looks really lovely, freshly sliced on top.

Enjoy the sunshine and bring a sweater for that killer breeze!

PHOTOS: via Darcy Lee

Bernal Chefs Organizing Tasty Taco Pop-Up

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Neighbor Jasper is organizing a pop-up evening of tasty taco madness. The event happens on Friday, August 22, but reservations are being accepted now (and are expected to sell out). Neighbor Jasper tells Bernalwood:

I will be hosting the second incarnation of a pop-up dinner in Bernal Heights on Friday, August 22nd.  I am a Bernal resident – currently living just off of Cortland – and I would love for community members to join for the evening.

The first event was a few months ago in lower Pac Heights, and this time around we have secured a space in Bernal for our dinner. It’s a single seating of 40 guests for a multi-course meal at $65.

Here’s some additional detail, from the Tacos Gringas website:

All tacos are good tacos. The worst you’ve ever had was still pretty good. As the great peasant foods from around the world make their way into and out of the spotlight, tacos – and more generally, antojitos – remain an unmovable staple. Simplicity collides with incredible flavors. Modest cuts braised until they become treasures pair with bright herbs and cutting salsas inside humble corn tortillas.

Tacos Gringas pays homage to the drunken nights when greasy mystery meats satisfied a primal craving, and every leaf of cilantro and piece of onion made perfect sense even to the most intoxicated. Ironically, real tacos gringas don’t make sense at all. A flour tortilla stuffed with al pastor and slathered in melted cheese is the bastardized, yet delicious version of the trompo classic slung on the streets of Mexico City.

Tacos Gringas is just that. A delicious re-imagination of traditional flavors. Nothing fancy. Just good ingredients, thoughtfully combined, and expertly cooked.

Reservations are required; make your reservation right here.

PHOTO: Tacos Gringas