Reinventing the Meal

How valet parking cost one high-powered sommelier $26,000

Valet VamooseIt may have been a kinder, gentler grand theft auto, but that doesn't help French Laundry sommelier Keith Fergel, who's now carless after a bar patron swiped his ride from 15 Romolo's valet in North Beach. As Fergel tells it, he dropped off his car and took his ticket; later, as he was raising a cocktail, a cop came in to tell him that a dreadlocked man had jumped into the parked Jeep Cherokee and fled. One valiant valet raced after the thief and opened the passenger door, trying to recover the vehicle, but didn't succeed. Fergel had left his cell phone in the car, and when he called the number the perpetrator had the nerve to answer; he apparently made no comment when the off-duty wine pro declared, "You owe me $26,000." In true French Laundry style, Fergel kept his cool: He returned to the bar and ordered another drink. The valet service graciously arranged for a rental and offered to pay for repairs if the car is recovered -- or a replacement if it isn't.

New NoshWhat was once Golden Gate Brewery at 1326 Ninth Ave. is now Eldo's Grill and Brewery. In keeping with our fair city's penchant for goofy cuisine names, Eldo's (short for El Dorado, legendary land of streets paved in gold) serves what it calls "West Coast Grub." Chef Frank Esser oversees lunch and dinner daily, with a menu featuring such items as rich and spicy posole, eggplant napoleon, and carne asada. Simple remodeling touches and a new color scheme have refreshed the old location. At press time the staff was pouring wine and beer as the eatery awaits the arrival of a full liquor license.

Find Your BlissTwo former employees of the ill-fated Cypress Club have purchased Bliss Bar at 4026 24th St. Pierre Chaltry, former GM and wine buyer, and partner/former bartender Pierre Lepheure took ownership on Jan. 3. Bliss, which opened just over a year ago and became instantly popular with DJs and the young neighborhood crowd of Noe Valley, had been previously embroiled in partnership disputes and stung by employee turnover (under its former ownership). The pair of Pierres have DJs spinning ambient lounge Thursday through Saturday, as opposed to loud house music every night. Needless to say, neighbors of the still-hopping lounge are happier with the new setup.

Ins and OutsStill trying to find its footing, Bruno's at 2389 Mission (near 20th Street) announced new chef Christopher Pastena and an Italian-American menu. Pastena, who grew up with Italian roots in Brooklyn, has taken inspiration from his grandmother's classics, offering traditional meals like rustic white bean soup and veal osso bucco. Prices peak at $14.95. ... At the higher end of the dining spectrum, Campton Place Hotel (340 Stockton at Sutter) is closing its dining room and bar, which opened in 1983, for a much-needed facelift. On Feb. 3 local design team Hirsch-Bedner will begin the remodeling process, slated for completion in April. Chef Laurent Manrique is taking the opportunity to renovate his menu as well. ... The Meetinghouse, at 1701 Octavia (at Bush), also took a New Year's break, closing for 10 days to paint and polish. It's now back up and running in clean and shiny form.

 
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