Appetite: Txistorra burgers, ultimate bar food and a new Date Night

Welcome to Appetite, a new column on food and drink. Long-time San Francisco resident and writer, Virginia Miller, is passionate about this incomparable city, obsessed with finding and exploring its best spots, deals, events and news. She started with her own service and monthly food/drink/travel newsletter, The Perfect Spot, and plans to pass along up-to-the minute news to us. View her last installment here.

New restaurant openings

Flavors of Spain delight Noe Valley at Contigo

Noe Valley’s tastebuds awaken to the flavors of Spain as chef Brett Emerson shares his passion for and knowledge of Spanish cuisine in this week’s debut of his long-awaited Contigo. This isn’t your usual tapas joint. The gorgeous, sleek room, wood-fired oven, and charming back patio with emerging vegetable garden, set the stage for warm service reminiscent of a welcoming neighborhood hangout in Spain.

Conversing with friends over a glass of Cava, Sherry or Rioja, order fresh Anchovies straight from Spain, intriguing Oxtail Fritters, a salted Rock Cod and Orange Salad or the Txistorra Burger with manchego cheese and fried onions. If the sneak preview I attended is any indication, this will be many a local’s regular go-to for finely-crafted food that comforts as well as challenges the palate.

1320 Castro Street
415-285-0250

Pickles opens in FiDi serving gourmet burgers under a retractable roof

The closing last year of Myth, one of our better upscale restaurants, was a sad one. But Myth alum chef Matthew Kerley has resurfaced in an unexpected place: the former Pickles (the new owners kept the name) which, prior to that, was Clown Alley. I personally am happy to see creepy clown motifs and circus colors gone. The place has gone upscale, or as upscale as a burger joint can, with brown tones and wood, a fireplace and a retractable roof in the shadow of the Transamerica Building. The menu entices with bacon burgers, mini corn dogs, beer-battered onion rings, sundaes and favorites from the also-shuttered Cafe Myth menu, like deviled eggs and Brussels sprouts. I’ve heard about long lines and service issues still to be worked out, but give ’em time… gourmet burgers are the right idea for the Financial District set by day or North Beach crowd at night (Pickles will soon be open till 3am; it’s lunch only until April 1st).

42 Columbus Avenue
415-421-2540


Bar news

North Beach’s 15 Romolo re-invents itself with premium cocktails and crispy hot dogs

15 Romolo is back. The North Beach fave re-opened a few days ago, reinvented by bartenders from Coco500 and Rye. It’s in an alley, and there’s a still that speakeasy air about it, but the aqua-colored interior is gone, with a more understated look and neutral tones. $8 cocktails, like the Yellow Bicycle (St. Germain, Yellow Chartreuse) or a classic Corpse Reviver #2, are made with premium liqueurs, while there’s also a wealth of top shelf pours and gourmet beers, like local Speakeasy’s Hunters Point Porter. A kitchen is the biggest addition, with two deep fryers frying up tortilla-wrapped Crispy (hot) Dogs, Pork Sliders and Savory Funnel Cakes. Now that’s what I call the ultimate bar food.

Happy hour daily, 5-7:30pm
15 Romolo Place
415-398-1359

Events

Tre Bicchieri, Slow Food’s Italian Wine Awards, comes only to N.Y., L.A. and S.F.

Only coming to three cities – New York, L.A. and yes, S.F. — Tre Bicchieri (i.e. “three glasses”) is the Italian wine event of the year with some big names hosting. Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Nation are showcasing wine producers honored with the Tre Bicchieri award. Tickets are available through K&L Wine Merchants at $50, which includes a complimentary copy of Gambero Rosso’s “Italian Wines 2009” (a $40 value and guide to all things Italian wine). Sounds reasonable for the added bonus of being able to taste more than 100 wines at the event.

4:30-7pm
Fort Mason Center, Herbst Pavilion
415-441-3400

Deals

Cafe Maritime impresses your date with free champagne and cream pie


Cafe Maritime
is one of those underrated gems that’s been around for years but many locals still don’t know about. One reason: it’s tucked in the midst of cheap motels and chain restaurants on Lombard Street, where a few unexpected spots reside (hello, the ultimate, Zushi Puzzle ?) Maritime is one of those cozy New England seafood houses serving buttery lobster rolls, crispy fish and chips and creamy chowders. Wednesday nights are now “Date Night Special” with a free glass of champagne with dinner and a free coconut cream pie to share afterwards. On top of that, there’s a new prix-fixe every night with three courses for $33, starting with New England Seafood Chowder or a salad, moving on to your choice of four entrees, ending with dessert.

2417 Lombard Street
415-885-2530

Classes

Go whole hog with Meatpaper mag’s butchery class at UC Berkeley

The Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology starts the series, “Meet your Meat,” with “The Art of the Butcher,” a class at UC Berkeley hosted by Meatpaper magazine. The meat panel is all-star: Ryan Farr, formerly of Orson, now Ivy Elegance, A16/SPQR/Urbino’s Nate Appleman, Avedano’s Melanie Eisemann and David Budworth, Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch and moderator, Marissa Guggiana of Sonoma Direct and Meatpaper. Ryan Farr demonstrates how to break down an entire carcass into cuts of meat, while the panel discusses getting whole animals from local slaughterhouses to more humanely, economically use all meat instead of buying plastic-wrapped grocery store meats.

7pm
UC Berkeley Campus, 105 North Gate Hall
Berkeley
510-536-5800

www.agrariana.org/speakers

RSVP: agrofoodecology@gmail.com