Smart chefs are always trying to make things different and better. Here's some news from smart chefs we've gotten lately. Is any of it big enough to rate a whole item at Grub Street? Hmm... maybe not. Is it big enough to impact your meal for the better? That we think it is, not least because, it shows that your chef cares enough to keep thinking. Item #1: Phillip Foss tweeted a picture of the often-amusing blackboard at EL Ideas... smashed to pieces. What's up? He's breaking through the walls to add a few more seats to his tiny, 16-seat or so restaurant. (If we recall correctly, that's his office that's biting the dust.) But as he told someone who asked if the expanded EL Ideas would still have the intimate-quirky vibe, "The vibe is non-negotiable."
• Vera has changed around its beverage menu to make it easier to comprehend and to give equal weight to wine as well as to their particular focus, sherry. As Liz Mendez explains, "The new wine, beer and sherry list is now presented as a clipboard. Each selection now has a description and/or story. Sherry has its own page, highlighting styles and pairings. We're also showcasing our house spirits and introducing a few new, rotating cocktails. Guests, especially our regulars, have really been enjoying the new presentation and stories."
• Want Michelin-level takeout? One star Sepia has introduced what chef Andrew Zimmerman calls the Pinto Box, a three-course box lunch, on the lighter side, which lets you enjoy high quality cuisine for an entirely reasonable $20. The three courses change regularly, but a typical menu at the moment would be roasted beet, radish and blue cheese or market inspired soup; lettuces, fried tenders with white balsamic vinaigrette or pasta a la chitarra, confit tuna, black olive, capers, tomato; and cookies or fresh and dried fruit.
• Leopold recently changed chefs, bringing in Michael Dean Reynolds, a veteran of The Gage and Henri, among others. One change that brought is brunch, which they are now offering from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Another is this December's 12 Beers of Christmas, a special beer list featuring seasonal and hard-to-find bottles they've been socking away all year long, ranging from interesting midwest producers like Revolution Brewing and J.K. Scrumpy Cider to lesser-known European labels. There's even a Hanukkah He'brew from Schmaltz Brewing Co. in San Francisco. See the list here.