Darkness at Noon
If you blinked, you missed the Cosmopolitan Grill, whose six-week run across the street from the Moscone Center ended abruptly after lunch Nov. 14. That's when the owner, Peninsula restaurateur Robert Fischer, complaining that he was "hemorrhaging" money, unceremoniously shut the place.

Fischer also owns the highly successful Peninsula Fountain and Grill (aka the Creamery) in Palo Alto, and the swift demise of the Cosmopolitan Grill had a lot to do with Fischer's lack of city savvy, says a source close to the restaurant.

"It's the difference between the burbs and the big city," the source says. "All you have to do in the suburbs is open a restaurant and people will come to it. In the city it's a harder fight."

Nobody was ready for the restaurant's breathtakingly fast extinction -- certainly not KPIX-TV's "Fresh Grocer," Tony Tantillo, who did his live remote spot for the station's 5 p.m. newscast from the grill the night before.

"He can't be very happy," says the source.
The saddest thing is that the restaurant had promise: a modish art deco design in which Dick Tracy and the Kid would have looked entirely at home, a decent California menu, a good SOMA location, and attentive, knowledgeable service. Fischer has said he won't do any more "soft openings" of restaurants in the city -- meaning, presumably, that if he tries again he will attempt to organize a bigger PR blitz to get the place launched.

But after ignominiously cutting and running from the Cosmopolitan Grill without giving it the barest chance to thrive, he might find that his reputation will make it difficult to open a new venture, no matter how mightily he pushes.

Mushroom Fever
Autumn's rains mean (apart from traffic accidents and desperate calls to roofing companies) mushrooms, and on Sunday, Dec. 8, the Mycological Society of San Francisco will present its 27th annual Mushroom Fair at the Hall of Flowers (Ninth Avenue and Lincoln) in Golden Gate Park. A recurrent theme of the fair is education, specifically how to tell edible mushrooms from toxic ones when gathering them in the forest; last year there were 12 West Coast poisonings from one lethal variety alone. Another theme is cooking up those (edible) wild mushrooms into something delectable. Look for Oritalia's chef, Bruce Hill, in that connection; he'll be demonstrating recipes. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; call 508-6155 for details.

To get you in the mood, 36 local restaurants -- including Zuni Cafe, Stars, Greens, Millennium, and Chez Panisse -- will spend the preceding week filling their menus with wild mushroom dishes.

By Paul Reidinger

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