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Fresh Eats: Urban winery in Dogpatch, Farm:Table is small but beautiful 

Wednesday, Aug 18 2010
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An Urban Winery Grows in Dogpatch

By Lou Bustamante

Despite sometimes living up to the grittiness of its name, Dogpatch is becoming one of the best neighborhoods in the city for food. Right off the T line, it boasts some notable residents: Recchiuti's production facility, Piccino, Serpentine, Kitchenette, and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, all within a single-block radius.

Joining the gourmet gang is wine and vermouth producer Sutton Cellars, a one-man show owned and operated by Carl Sutton since 1996. Sutton recently moved from Sonoma to make San Francisco his home.

"Yes it's a winery, but it's not a winery in the sense of Sonoma County or Napa style," he says of his new digs in Dogpatch. "I'd love to eventually have a tasting room, because I see that Oakland is letting their urban wineries have tasting rooms. It not only brings people to the neighborhood, but it improves the profile of the neighborhood."

Don't expect that tasting room anytime soon, but as he settles in, Sutton will host tastings, sales by appointment, and evening and weekend events. Look for neighborhood business collaborations, like the series he did with Michael Recchiuti, part of Recchiuti's tasting series.

Future plans also include a monthly blend of wine for sale in microlots, and more variety of aperitif wines. We were able to sample a luscious dry rosé vermouth in development. A vin de noix, a wine infused with green walnuts (a lighter, French-style variety of Italian nocino liqueur), is also in the works.

Sutton is best known for his exceptional dry vermouth, made with 17 organic botanicals. It's perfect for cocktails, but surprisingly drinkable all on its own, thanks to an herbal and orange-peel freshness.

The winery started with and continues to make delightful rosé, Syrah, Carignane, and fortified dessert wines, including a single-vineyard, single-vintage Banyuls-style wine, all from Sonoma County fruit.

Sutton's wines are unusual for California. They tend to be less oaky, aged longer, higher in acid, and lower in alcohol, all of which renders them very food-friendly. Leaning towards natural winemaking, Sutton Cellars wines and vermouth are wild-yeast-fermented, unfiltered, and vegan, although they do contain small amounts of sulfites, much like European organic wines.

Look for Sutton Cellars wine on tap at Out the Door Bush and San Francisco Wine Trading Company. Find the vermouth at Cask, Bi-Rite Market, and K&L Wines.

Sutton Cellars: 601 22nd St. (at Illinois).


Farm:Table Is a Small, Beautiful Thing

By Jonathan Kauffman

Farm:Table is too small for a review. At 280 square feet, it's too small for a birthday party, too small for Saturday brunch rush — too small for adulation, even. There is one indoor table, square and solid, that fits seven at the most, plus a few cafe tables outside. The cockpit of a tank is bigger than the kitchen and coffee station where three cooks and baristas maneuver around one another. The a.m. and p.m. menus consist of three dishes apiece; the list fits on a chalkboard, as well as a couple of tweets. (The weekend brunch menu has a few extra dishes, I'm told.)

And yet the cafe is a wonder in miniature.

Kate and Shannon Amitin, who opened Farm:Table in May 2009, used to work at Blue Bottle (she managed the Ferry Building kiosk, he was a roaster). They used to live in the Castro, too, but after finding this space, they fell for the TenderNob and moved to the neighborhood. "It feels the most urban of the San Francisco neighborhoods," Kate says. "I can't say enough good things about living here."

Kate's food is precise and lovely without being precious, and most of the ingredients come from either the farmers' markets or Happy Boy Farms. The coffee is from Verve — a favorite — and despite the cafe's significant Yelplove, it isn't too crowded on a weekday afternoon to sit down for an hour and read over a bowl of vegetable soup.

Kate hasn't been a chef, but I've been to the cafe a couple of times, and her modest food tastes accomplished. Take a recent offering of eggs ($6.50): Three hard-boiled halves, perched on slices of whole-wheat baguette and showered in Alison McQuade's curry-gold habanero chutney, fine threads of radish, mild feta cheese, and peppercress microgreens. Hard-boiled eggs can suck the flavor out of any fragile-flavored ingredient, but the toppings were sweet-savory, spicy, and three kinds of peppery. I normally hate hard-boiled eggs. I finished the plate.

Farm:Table: 754 Post (at Leavenworth), 292-7089.


Eat This: Taqueria San Francisco's Al Pastor Burrito

By Jonathan Kauffman

There was a period — basically, the '00s — when I wrote off the burrito as gringo food, snubbing Mission taquerias in favor of Yucatecan restaurants, torta shops, and Oakland's taco truck row. Of late, I've come back around to the notion that the San Francisco burrito is sui generis, worth appreciating in all its majesty and heft.

Which is why I recently paid my respects to the two restaurants that claim to have invented the Mission-style burrito. I laid flowers. I ate chips. And I decided I preferred the al pastor burrito ($5.48) I'd just eaten at Taqueria San Francisco to its ancestors at La Cumbre and El Faro.

In form alone, Taqueria San Francisco's burrito is classic: chewy, tomato-tinted rice; pinto beans simmered until they barely hold their shape; an even layer of marinated pork, recrisped on the griddle to make its surfaces brown and toasty; a wide swath of salsa.

The burrito owes its superiority to scale. Not only is it compact enough to hold in one fist, there are no dead spots, no rice clogs or sour cream sinkholes. There is just enough rice, and it is seasoned just potently enough to compensate for the beans' flavor-sucking tendencies. Every bite sparkles with some new crunch — cilantro-bright onion here, lime-marinated tomato there. I'd been fearing that the future of the species would be dominated by the kind of taquerias that trumpeted their whole-wheat tortillas and (underseasoned) grass-fed beef. It is reassuring that some burritos have evolved just as far as they need to, and no further.

Taqueria San Francisco: 2794 24th St. (at York), 641-1770.

About The Author

Jonathan Kauffman

About The Author

Lou Bustamante

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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.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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