Fresh Eats: Our weekly roundup of SFoodie news

The Summit's Short-Rib Sandwich
By John Birdsall

Desi Danganan's week-old all-day hangout on Valencia aims to be, well, whatever you want it to be: morning coffee, daytime port for Facebook updates, dinner place, dessert salon. On a recent afternoon, the crowd skewed Mission professional, guyheavy, all cardigans and plastic rims, baldness mitigated by close cuts and flaring sideburns.

Walk to the loo, and you can sense Danganan's dream of an essential neighborhood hub (the not-yet-open game room, the private dining/conference room used as kitchen storage spillover). And there's i/o ventures, the tech-business consultants who share the loft here, the ultimate geeky flatmates. There's an overarching impression of important work being negotiated on laptops, fueled by Blue Bottle drips and fed, of course, by Eddie Lau's cooking.

Lau's "28-hour" short rib sandwich ($8.50) kept its meat to a minimum, unselfconsciously fatty cubes with a springy texture and meaty breath. Two slices of yellow-marbled, green-seeded tomatoes dominated the sandwich, but not as much as Jared Nash's house-baked roll (tagged "weck"), thick and densely textured as a good bialy. I got the roasted beet salad ($7), too, baby ones, with cubes of ricotta salata and marinated green beans in pluot vinaigrette that walked a sweet-tart line. The geeks and style freaks could do worse than caf food like this, though, a week in, neither dish would make me log off and pay full attention to the plate. Maybe that's the point.

The Summit: 780 Valencia (at 19th St.), 861-5330.


Real Apple Cider
By Jonathan Kauffman

Fall in Indiana began with the start of school. Then came the heavy jackets, the leaf mounds and rake-blistered hands, and the weekly trips to the orchard to fill up our jugs with fresh-pressed cider. For two or three months, we drank our fill: Movies were always accompanied by popcorn and cider, parties with Crock Pots of mulled cider that filled the house with cinnamon and cloves. I'd drink the stuff until my stomach hurt, then wait until the next day, and be at the jug again. By the time winter came, the Kauffmans would be so sick of cider that the jugs would sit in the fridge until they got fizzy and sour, not alcoholic enough to get us buzzed but well on the way to becoming vinegar.

The cider days disappeared when I left Indiana — any unfiltered apple juice I found in the store was pasteurized, which stripped out the flavor, rendering it innocuously sweet. For a spell, jugs of unfiltered cider would occasionally appear at Rainbow Grocery in the fall, but the 1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak seemed to end that.

But recently, at the Inner Sunset farmers' market, I stopped by the Rainbow Orchards stand and found jugs of murky brown cider. Yes, it was unpasteurized and unfiltered. Yes, it tasted like the real thing — with a honeylike, almost floral sweetness and enough spice to prickle my tongue.

As San Francisco's neighborhood farmers' markets have proliferated, Rainbow Orchards, based in Camino, has become a real player. Its stands show up at close to two dozen Bay Area farmers' markets. The jugs it sells range from Odwalla-size to gallons, and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks before starting to go hard.

According to Betty, the woman I spoke to at the orchard's bakeshop in Camino, Rainbow Orchards presses apples three to four times a week during peak apple season; after the bakeshop closes in December, the farmers' market stands continue to sell cider pressed from cellared apples all the way through April. The orchard follows FDA guidelines for maintaining a still room and disinfecting its equipment. (The FDA still permits small orchards and juice bars to sell unpasteurized cider directly to consumers.) Right now, Betty surmised, the apples in the cider would include Jonagolds, Galas, and Goldens, plus whatever else they have on hand. Granny Smiths will soon be added to the mix, which may tart it up — not a bad thing.

So: a fall ritual, restored after all these years. Until I called the orchard, I had no idea the cider season would last so long, so I parsed out the quart into dainty glasses. Come Sunday, I plan to lug home twice as much — one quart for chugging now, one to store in the back of the fridge for a couple of weeks. Just to see what might happen.


Mission Chinese Food Wants To Buy a Dragon
By John Birdsall

Say what you want about Lung Shan, pretty it's not. Still, the home, first of Mission Street Food, now of Mission Chinese Food, has pretty much defined the scuffed-up urban Chinese cafe: acoustic ceiling panels, steel-frame chairs that don't look nearly as cool as that sounds, and walls papered in ripply posters.

All that's changing — sort of. Mission Chinese Food's Anthony Myint has been busy giving Lung Shan a makeover that aims to brighten up the place without going totally Betelnut. Lung Shan's walls wear a new veneer of blond wood-grain wallpaper, and the posters, which Myint says owners Sue and Liang Zhou put up in part to mask water damage to the walls, are staying, though they're now framed with reclaimed wood. The room's focal point: a nearly 60-foot-long Chinese dragon New Year's costume, snaking along the ceiling, to serve as chandelier. To pay for it, Myint is turning to a familiar resource: the community microlending site Kickstarter.com: He wants to raise $2,750 by Oct. 19.

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