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Blame Canada

Wednesday, Mar 7 2001
North of the Border Bacar has already had its first battle with the almighty tourist. A Canadian travel group of about 200 negotiated to rent the restaurant on Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for a promised $20,000 in spending. As the event date approached, General Manager David O'Malley sat down with the Canadians' event coordinator, who, to his surprise, asked how the restaurant wanted its payment in Canadian dollars -- which works out to a somewhat less stellar 11 grand in U.S. currency. With some last-minute finagling the parties worked out a $14,000 deal. Meanwhile, Chef Arnold Eric Wong has thrown out all of his Celine Dion CDs and Wine Director Debbie Zachareas will be scrutinizing her Canadian wine selections.

Say What? The new Charlie's at 1838 Union is not only full of Prada and Marina frat boys but it is also so loud that the menu should come with earplugs. That's too bad, because the beautiful food prepared and presented by Chef Garret Martindale, formerly of the Pan Pacific Hotel, is quite good. During one recent visit Harry used his bionic eavesdropping abilities to listen in on the neighboring party's discontent. Upon deciding to skip dessert one patron snarled, "We are going to the Warfield to stand by a speaker, where it might be quieter!" Harry would have joined them, except that he wanted dessert. The lively 14 top (for you non-foodie types, that's a table of 14 people) on this particular Friday night didn't help the noise level. Given the loudness and the restaurant's small size (fewer than 50 seats), owners Michael Schwab and Jeff Silver might want to limit the table size, especially on busy weekend nights; such a big table only adds to the din. Martindale says they're hoping to add quieter courtyard dining behind the restaurant. Harry is holding his breath.

Thai One On Is a maître d' burnout support group forming? If there were, it'd be led by Nick Peyton (Gary Danko) and Doug Washington (Jardiniere), two of San Francisco's top hosts, both of whom fled for Thailand after leaving their posts. Peyton, who called it quits to work on his house with wife Carla, packed a bag and jumped a plane to meet Washington, who had been traveling in Europe since November. And no, the rumors are not true that Peyton is going to work at Masa's -- so quit e-mailing Harry these ridiculous stories!

All Hail the Queen "It ain't easy being queen!" read the invitation for the opening of Annie Gingrass's new cafe, Desiree, at the San Francisco Film Center. But if that's really the case, you wouldn't know it to look at the tiny but glam Presidio pit stop: Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Desiree is the coolest new eatery to open in ages. Gingrass makes the royal treatment easy to come by with great colors, marble, fabric, and furniture -- oh, and a yummy pork cutlet on sourdough with balsamic fruit mustard sauce and chicken salad wrapped in a green onion crepe with soy lime vinaigrette. If you'd like a more expansive setting, here's a recipe fit for a king: Desiree box lunch, blanket, and a picnic spot with a bay view.

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Harry Coverte


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

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    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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