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Tales of extravagance and excess from the restaurant scene

Wednesday, Aug 22 2001
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On the Money Word on the street is that while some folks may be keeping a tighter grip on their pennies, a few patrons are showing off their recession-proof status. During the first week of August, a table of three at Gary Danko spent $5,000 on three bottles of wine. Across town on Aug. 9, a young bar-seeking gent bought his way out of the line to get into the Redwood Room by renting a bed -- at $365 a night. Hotel guests have preferred status, so he was instantly escorted into the same room where Harry had already gotten comfortable for free.

Traci des Jardins, who's restaurant Jardinière is hosting this year's Share Our Strength Fundraiser, doesn't seem to be concerned with diner cost-cutting either. The tab for the Sept. 9 feast is $500 a head, for an evening orchestrated by local chefs and L.A.'s Josiah Citrin, Nancy Silverton, and Joachim Splichal, as well as the SoCal team of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.

The Band Plays On Good news for the recently flailing SLOMA scene: Joanna Karlinsky, owner of the Meetinghouse on Octavia and Bush streets, is buying the infamous funky dive Hotel Utah. Karlinsky's plan? "Bringing the Utah back to its original roots of a live music scene ... offering the best bar food available, and still leaving some of the grit that makes it a San Francisco classic." With a shortage of live music venues around town, the change is welcome. Escrow should close before Oct. 1 with a grand opening around Halloween.

Putting Off the Ritz Don't race for reservations at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. The top-ranking hotel's formal restaurant has closed for four weeks to accommodate the vacation schedules of chef Sylvain Portay and sous-chef Tony Esnault, who is getting married on Aug. 25. "It was a business decision," says Ritz PR Director Angela Jackson, who promises to reopen on Sept. 11. Harry suspects it's also an opportunity to seek respite from a downturn in business.

The Ritz's pastry chef, Murielle Roux, took a more permanent leave of absence and is now using her 10-plus years of classical training at Hayes Valley's Absinthe and its sidekick, Arlequin Food to Go. Her luscious lineup includes a chocolate mousse trio with caramelized hazelnuts, lavender crème brûlée, and French macaroons with fennel ice cream and berry compote -- all served until 1 a.m.

Rock 'n' Spring Roll Thursday, Aug. 2, was apparently music appreciation night at Slanted Door: Mick Fleetwood was serendipitously seated not far from members of Depeche Mode.

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Harry Coverte

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