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Where to Take 60 French Winemakers in March

sbp Oct 23, 2007 01:53 PM

I'm arranging a Sunday dinner for about 60 French winemakersthe day after a major wine event. They don't do spicy, or overly adventurous, but I'd like to go with something they don't see much at home. Not fancy -- this is a casual night for them, and not touristy.

In the past (NY), we've done Chinatown banquets and Barbecue. Looking for about $25/pp. Any ideas?

  1. Ruth Lafler Oct 23, 2007 02:30 PM

    Vietnamese? Some place like Bodega Bistro might work.

    Bodega Bistro
    607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler
      sbp Oct 23, 2007 07:33 PM

      I'd love Vietnamese -- but have to consider whether it's "old hat" to the French given their history in the region.

    2. m
      ML8000 Oct 23, 2007 03:37 PM

      Sounds like a tough call given the price and size of the group.

      I know you can get Afghani food in France but Helmand might be nice.

      1. maria lorraine Oct 23, 2007 07:29 PM

        Where is the event and to which city in the area will you be heading to after the event?

        5 Replies
        1. re: maria lorraine
          sbp Oct 23, 2007 07:34 PM

          It's at the St. Francis, though we'll be taking a tour bus up to Napa (or maybe Muir Woods) Sunday during the day.

          1. re: sbp
            maria lorraine Oct 23, 2007 07:59 PM

            This is just my opinion and experience, but I've found the Italian winemakers I've hosted HATE Italian restaurants in the US, with the possible exception of a few restos in NYC. I can think of a specific example of a Winebow event with Italian winemakers that was hosted at a fairly well-respected SF Italian resto that was a disaster, with mutterings all around that the food was "horrible," "awful," "inedible," "terrible."

            What it came to is this: Italian food prepared in America was a pale comparison to Italian food prepared by Italians in Italy.

            I've heard much the same from French winemakers when taken to French restos in the US -- American-prepared French food is a huge letdown when you're used to French food in France.

            My tendency instead is to take Europeans to a quality resto with a cuisine that is outside their normal experience. I've found that Californian-Asian cuisine -- especially seafood -- works fairly well. It's different; it's one of our "indigenous" cuisines, and not a pale imitation of what they're used to at home.

            Personally, I would back away from Vietnamese cuisine because of the sheer number of good Vietnamese/Indochine restaurants in France. Likewise, Moroccan food -- lots of good Moroccan food in France. If going for Chinese food, choose very carefully. I love Sichuan, but know most French people don't like hot, spicy food.

            Perhaps a place like Ame in San Francisco (California-Asian). Or some resto that uses the best of our fresh California ingredients in a creative way. Let them taste THAT.

            Your group is large, so it's best to do your reseach now and lock in a reservation, perhaps taking over an entire (smallish) resto that Sunday evening. Try to avoid the "banquet food syndome" -- a large amount of the same, non-descript, non-flavorful food pumped out in assembly-line style.

            Perhaps check out possibilities in Napa. I'm in the wine business in Napa, so I'll try to think of some possibilities. You can email me at the address on my profile if you wish.

            1. re: maria lorraine
              sbp Oct 24, 2007 06:59 AM

              Thanks for the tips. Yes, I think either California Asian or non-spicy South American would fit the bill. As noted below, I do know to avoid the banquet drill of Peking Duck, sweet and sour pork, beef with broccoli, etc., but I'm open to Chinese restaurants that aren't tourist traps.

          2. re: maria lorraine
            Melanie Wong Oct 23, 2007 07:34 PM

            Sounds like La Paulee of San Francisco, http://www.danieljohnnes.com/index.html


            How about Farmer Brown?
            Still, I think that a Chinese banquet in SF will be much different that what you've offered them in NY.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              sbp Oct 24, 2007 06:56 AM

              Yep, that's it. How is Chinese in SF different that NY? We went to 6 Chatham Square. It's not on the "tourist corridor", and I selected the menu so it wasn't the same-old same-old (braised pork shoulder in 5 spice, gai lan, crab baked with sticky rice).

          3. w
            wanderlust21 Oct 23, 2007 11:15 PM

            That's a tough one. I understand why they did Chinese and BBQ. For that budget, I think a Chinese banquet is easiest. Maybe Town Hall would do a special deal for you? Otherwise, with your budget you might consider one of the Peruvian places or Mexican. Mamacita's is on the way back from Napa if you are taking 101.

            In case something might be "overly adventurous", you might vet your selection with Michelin. I don't agree with all of its ratings, but one of the main criticisms is that it tends toward the French palette, so this might be one of the few times it would come in handy. Good Luck!


            The House
            1230 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            Town Hall Restaurant
            342 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105

            2317 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            5 Replies
            1. re: wanderlust21
              maria lorraine Oct 23, 2007 11:47 PM

              Did the OP indicate the budget?

              1. re: maria lorraine
                Melanie Wong Oct 24, 2007 12:24 AM

                Yes, $25 per person.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  maria lorraine Oct 24, 2007 12:47 AM

                  Didn't see that, thanks Melanie.

              2. re: wanderlust21
                sbp Oct 24, 2007 07:01 AM

                Peruvian sounds interesting. In NY, there are lots of Salvadorean and Colombian in Flushing, so this was always a possibility. It's not spicy, very casual, inexpensive.

                1. re: sbp
                  wanderlust21 Oct 24, 2007 12:25 PM

                  Some Peruvian possibilities below. Fresca on 24th St. might be less crowded and willing to do something special for you, but it seems far from your general vicinity. Fina Estampa might be convenient, though I haven't been in years, so I can't attest to the food.

                  Fresca Restaurant
                  2114 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                  937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                  Limon Restaurant
                  524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              3. b
                bruno89 Oct 24, 2007 12:31 PM

                a nice bbq style restaurant they love simple tasty food, ribs pork or beef and some legs well seasoning

                1. w
                  whatsforlunch Oct 24, 2007 01:45 PM

                  How about a Brazilian steakhouse like Espetus? It's all you can eat. At $35 it's just above your budget, but if you talk to them and I'm sure you can negotiate a better price.

                  1686 Market St, San Francisco
                  (415) 552-8792

                  1. t
                    Trevallon Oct 24, 2007 10:07 PM

                    How about Carribean? You could rent out Primo Patio on Townsend. Great jerk chicken and the atmosphere - well it's not France.


                    1. s
                      SteveG Oct 25, 2007 12:03 PM

                      What about Mexican? I've heard the French love avocados, so a place like Colibri with its table-side made guacamole and respectable tortillas might be fun. $25/pp is doable with thoughtful planning and ordering, but it's also easy to go way past that. 60 people might be enough to rent out the whole restaurant.

                      Colibri has some of the better upscale Mexican food in my opinion in the city, and most of the dishes aren't particularly spicy. They offer 2 or 3 salsas, one of which satisfies the chilihead, one of which satisfies the meek, and one that's not too hot and not to tame.

                      Colibri Mexican Bistro
                      438 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

                      1. s
                        sassygirl Oct 25, 2007 12:08 PM

                        Call Eric Rubin at Tres Agaves - they have a really fun back room that they could set up, you could do a tequila tasting, and come up with a menu (I've done about 5 private dinners there) to pair that is totally reasonable. And it is lively and fun and casual

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sassygirl
                          sbp Oct 25, 2007 01:47 PM

                          Thanks. I'll check out the Mexican. No need for upscale -- they'll have had plenty of that by the time Sunday rolls around. I need to be careful with spicing, because even though I eat habaneros raw, many French draw the line at paprika.

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