French for a Day On July 14 various Bastille Day bashes brought out the Francophile in everyone, including a modern-day Marie Antoinette who kept her head as she worked the Grand Cafe (501 Geary) passing out champagne and cake. New chef Paul Arenstam has breathed fresh culinary life into the genuinely grand restaurant. Far more frenetic was the scene in Belden Alley, which was packed from noon to midnight with a guesstimated 4,000 revelers from around the globe, many of whom bounced from the outside wine-and- beer bars to the food stands and grooved to techno sounds spun by DJ Frankie Boissy.
Circle Gets the Square Union Square restaurants like Postrio, Farallon, and Scala's are preparing to celebrate the reopening of Union Square's park with a dining promotion that should be palatable both to the taste and to the pocketbook. The "Circle the Square" program invites customers to dine on prix fixe menus for $18.50 per person July 25-28. The price honors the year 1850, when Col. John Geary deeded Union Square to the city. A complete list of participating restaurants (19 of them at press time) can be found at http://www.sfvisitor.org/visitorinfo/html/us_dining.html.
Campton Races Union Square's boutique luxury hotel Campton Place has reopened its restaurant after a much-needed renovation. It's been 19 years since the dining room off the lobby had a facelift -- and the old dame was due. But now she's sitting pretty, with gold crushed-velvet banquettes, cream and brown accents, well-spaced tables, one wild glass-art centerpiece, and a spiffed-up bar. Chef Laurent Manrique has also gussied up his classic French menu, which accents cuisine from the Gascony and Basque regions. Now if only they'd dim the lighting.
Glass Half Empty Yes, Bacar closed for lunch July 12; no, it's not in financial trouble. According to partner/Wine Director Debbie Zachareas, "We basically had to do a minimum of 100 covers per lunch per day. Thursday and Friday were great, but ... we needed that every day."
The Chicks Are Cookin' Two women chefs have recently returned to the Bay Area to step into local kitchens. At Le Colonial at 20 Cosmo Place, Kellie Nguyen-Rabanit -- back from L.A. -- brings her Vietnamese heritage to bear in her new, seasonal Vietnamese/colonial French-inspired menu. Meanwhile, Kuleto's at 221 Powell introduced Sharyl Seim, late of Mustard's in Napa, who's busy forging a path with the Italian menu.