February 19, 2003

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Without Reservations
By Paul Reidinger

Wag the tongue

IT WAS THAT gilded wag Oscar Wilde who once observed that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. But if you're a restaurant in San Francisco, even being talked about is pretty bad, or at any rate, it's not good enough to stave off oblivion. As someone who regularly writes about restaurants, I naturally like to think that attention paid to worthy spots will help them survive what are fairly long odds even in good times. So news that a restaurant one wrote kindly about in the recent past has gone ahead and died anyway gives pause; news that more than one place has shuffled off its mortal coil causes one to drink a glass of recuperative water.

Stars, of course – favorably reviewed in these pages scarcely more than a month ago – reaches the end of the line later this week, after considerable media coverage and a farewell party. Meantime, Jeff Rosen's Succotash (reviewed here, fairly favorably, in December) seems to have passed on abruptly and with no notice, like a tennis player dropping dead after a good volley.

The passing of Succotash pretty well completes the annihilation of the restaurant scene, once crushingly lively, on Florida Street in what just a few years ago was known as Multimedia Gulch. The Potrero Brewing Company (predecessor to Succotash) failed last year, and Gordon's House of Fine Eats managed a dignified close a few weeks ago. Word is that the Real Restaurant Group retains its lease on the space, while the eponymous Gordon (Sinclair) is now turning out pizzas in the South Bay.

And, for a final dollop of bleakness, Rosen's previous restaurant, the highly regarded Avenue 9, on Ninth Avenue between Lincoln and Irving, still sits dark and empty – a kind of lifeless hole in the midst of what is still a lively neighborhood commercial strip.

Yet (since we are not only about bleakness) Ross Valley Winery patrón Paul Kreider has finally moved his operations from the fabled garage into a public-friendly space, complete with a tasting room. The winery's new address is 343 San Anselmo, in San Anselmo (415-457-5157; www.rossvalleywinery.com).

Ross Valley has long been known for fabulous zinfandels, but Kreider recently told me he's going to start making sparkling wines too – so there's yet another reason to pop in on the new digs.

Other jolly news from Marin: Pat Fusco, in response to one of my fat columns, wrote to say that there is vegetable shortening without trans fats. The product is called Earth Balance shortening and is available at Whole Foods, among other natural-food stores.

Contact Paul Reidinger at paulr@sfbg.com.