The Tablehopper

Fun springtime events at the Presidio; a new chef for Elite Cafe

Head to the Presidio and bring a picnic blanket (photo: offthegridsf.com)

After a winter hiatus, Off the Grid returns to the Presidio (Main Post Lawn) with both their Sunday Picnic at the Presidio and their Thursday Twilight at the Presidio. On Sundays from 11a.m.–4 p.m., you’ll find both food trucks and local restaurants serving from food stands, including Wise Sons, Del Popolo, and Nopalito. A roving cocktail bar offers drinks “blanket-side,” and you can also buy all the important picnic supplies you’ll need, like croquet, kites, and, yes, extra sweaters and blankets.

As for Thursday evening, Twilight at the Presidio runs from 5–9 p.m. and includes cabanas lit with lanterns, fire pits and Adirondack chairs, and live music. Cocktails are also available, served either right at your cabana or fireside. You’ll find a rotating lineup of trucks, including The Boneyard, Red Sauce Meatballs, and Fins on the Hoof.

MARINA

San Francisco’s celebration of all things comestible, SF Chefs, has changed its name to Eat Drink SF, and moved from its Union Square location to Fort Mason. The festival has become so well attended that it has outgrown the smaller Union Square location. Look for more chefs participating, as well as more culinary tours and dinners happening all around the city.

The festival will continue to focus around the tasting tent, though now it will be called the Tasting Pavilion. You’ll still find chefs serving bites, and great wines and spirits on offer, and of course lots of special dinners and demonstrations. Tickets to the July 27–Aug. 3 event will go on sale May 15.

A little more than a year after a fire damaged Castagna (2015 Chestnut Street, 415-440-4290), the restaurant and wine bar from co-owners and brothers Jerome Meloni (general manager) and Stephane Meloni (executive chef) has reopened. The new chapter brings some changes, including a more upscale look by Jeon Design, and includes more banquette seating, wood floors, and stone accents.

The menu is inspired by Provençe, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera. For dinner, look for ratatouille served in socca, a fennel-crusted Mediterranean branzino, daube à la Niçoise, and fried squash blossoms. At brunch, you’ll find egg dishes, including an omelet, eggs en cocotte, and quiche Lorraine. The brothers are also adding bar seating, outdoor seating, and a happy hour Tuesday–Friday 4–6 p.m. (For more details on Castagna, see New and Notable, page 13).

PACIFIC HEIGHTS

Some changes at The Elite Cafe (2049 Fillmore Street, 415-673-5483): Owner Peter Snyderman has brought on a new chef, James London from New York. He was most recently at CO-OP at the Hotel on Rivington, opened La Fonda del Sol (modern Spanish in Midtown Manhattan), and consulted on the relaunch of The Crow’s Nest in Montauk; he also explored Japanese cuisine at Niko in Soho. But at heart, London is a Southern boy, having spent his childhood in South Carolina, and he rolled out his new Southern-inspired menu last month. The Elite has been around since 1981, and the Cajun- and Creole-inspired menu has not changed for the past eight years, but there are some favorites on the menu that will stay put: the deviled eggs, jambalaya, and Meetinghouse biscuits.

RUSSIAN HILL

Love brunch? If you’re a true San Franciscan, you do. Verbena (2323 Polk Street, 415-441-2323) on Polk Street is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, offering seasonal dishes, many of them with a twist on the usual selections, including a pork trotter terrine with fried quail eggs and chile oil, and poached eggs with duck ragout and peas. They’re also pouring brunch cocktails, like the Verbena mimosa with orange bitters and Cocchi Americano, and of course a Bloody Mary. Brunch is served from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., and you can enjoy outdoor seating on sunny days.

MID-MARKET

Speaking of street food vendors, Azalina Eusope, the hardworking and crazy-talented woman behind Azalina’s Malaysian will finally be opening her brick-and-mortar location — and it will be in the lobby of the Twitter building, aka Market Square. She has catered meals for the Twitter office, and like most other people with good taste in this town, they love her food. Eusope is mulling over the name, and is thinking of calling it Azalina (sounds right to me!). There will be an open kitchen, and both communal and bar seating, with 45 seats indoors and about 30 outdoors. Her good friend Edward Ngiam is designing the space. The vibe will be informal, an easy place where you can swing by for a meal or get it packed up to go. Both lunch and dinner will be served, with snacks in between and brunch on the weekends. Eusope also wants to keep everything at a very fair price point that’s accessible to many income brackets. “After all,” she says, “I am [a] fifth-generation [Mamak] street vendor, making accessible street food of my culture. I simply pray I do justice to my community, culture, and the four generations before me with this opportunity.”

The location is along the back wall at 1355 Market Street at 10th Street; one of her walls is made of two huge windows that can slide to open up onto the back patio garden area, which will also have a roof. Eusope plans to do some fun things there, from outdoor events to movie screenings to bonfires — people spend their time outside in Malaysia, she said, so she hopes they will feel a little transported here. The targeted opening date is September 2014. In the meantime, you can enjoy her delicious food at her stand at Off the Grid on Fridays at Fort Mason, where she is currently serving dishes like flower crab tamales, vegan laksa with her famous hand-pulled noodles, chicken curry bombs, spinach yam dumplings, sweet banana donuts, and fresh-spiced pineapple tea. September can’t come soon enough.

Stay tuned for next month for details on Palm House, which is taking over the former Nettie’s Crab Shack space on 2032 Union Street and will feature Caribbean-inspired cuisine.

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Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.

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