David and Mary Sperber with children Evan and Amelia, around 1994, in the Town’s End kitchen.
David and Mary Sperber with children Evan and Amelia, around 1994, in the Town’s End kitchen.

Fond farewell to Town’s End; Sexual harassment among sommeliers; Ottolenghi’s ‘Master Class’; etc.

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

The longtime owners of Town’s End Restaurant & Bakery, David and Mary Sperber, are calling it quits. Their last day open will be Nov. 15, weather permitting.

The restaurant, on San Francisco’s Embarcadero near the ballpark, has been a mainstay for organic egg dishes and a few Jewish items like latkes and brisket for 30 years. It also was the go-to caterer for Congregation Sherith Israel’s annual second-night community Passover seder, and often did orders of 500 latkes for Hanukkah events.

“We’ve made a difference to a lot of people, and it’s very heartwarming to see that and feel that, and at the same time, it’s very sad,” David Sperber told J.

Sperber is 77 and has had back issues for years, so he wasn’t working the line much anymore.

“The reality of the situation is I couldn’t have gone on much longer anyway, but Covid pushed the issue,” he said. “If I were 25 or 30 and just getting into the business, it probably would be devastating, but this is a bit of a softer landing for us.”

Telling their staff, however, has been the most difficult, he said. Many have worked there for decades.

“We’re horrified that we had to let all these people go, they’ve been with us so long,” he said.

On a side note, under different circumstances Sperber possibly could have kept going. His father, Reuben, lived to be 100, and his mother, Doris, who became a bat mitzvah at Sherith Israel at 100, lived to be the oldest person in the city, if not the state. She died at 111.

Last year, this column featured master sommelier Rebecca Fineman, who with her sommelier husband co-owns Ungrafted, a wine bar in the Dogpatch. At that time, she was thought to be only the second Jewish woman to obtain the prestigious title.

Last month, the New York Times published a report on the sexual harassment many women have experienced in ascending through the ranks of the Napa-based Court of Master Sommeliers. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fineman has joined with other women sommeliers in demanding changes to the organization. She also took to Instagram to share her thoughts on the article.

“I commend all the women who came forward, but I also know there are more in the sidelines who did not … I became a master sommelier to show them that *they* weren’t any better than I was, despite the way people acted. I was continually put down by my male peers, and yet I achieved a goal that some of them are still vying for. All that hard work and now this? My title is put into question because some men act as if women are only around to ogle and grope.”

Rebecca Fineman at Ungrafter, her wine-focused restaurant in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco (Photo/Alix Wall)
Rebecca Fineman at Ungrafted, her wine-focused restaurant in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. (Photo/Alix Wall)

We are also sad to say goodbye to Schmaltz, a pandemic-era pop-up created by chef Beth Needelman of the Hi Neighbor Restaurant Group. We first wrote about Needelman’s take on modernist Jewish cuisine in May, and then featured one of her recipes in our Rosh Hashanah comfort food story. Needelman told us that with the constant changes and the restaurant group’s transition to indoor dining, it was time for Schmaltz to come to an end. While Needelman doesn’t know what the future will bring, she hopes she’ll be able to resurrect Schmaltz at some point.

The San Francisco-based online platform MasterClass has added a new class to its collection, with restaurant chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi teaching students how to make modern Middle Eastern food.

In the trailer, the Israeli-born chef shows his exuberance with such declarations as, “I’ve had a long-term love affair with lemons” and “I can’t possibly envisage a dish without garlic.”

According to MasterClass, participants will learn how to make a number of Middle Eastern condiments that can be used in various dishes, be shown the art of presentation, and hear stories about Ottolenghi’s childhood in Jerusalem. A subscription to MasterClass costs $180 a year. To check out the trailer, see tinyurl.com/yotam-masterclass.

Chef Aliza Grayevsky Somekh of Bishulim SF, who was profiled in this column last year, will be doing an Israeli street food pop-up at the Hidden Café in Berkeley on Nov. 21 and 22 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. She’ll be collaborating with another Israeli chef, Hilla Kariv. In the morning there will be sweets available with coffee, and then they’ll be offering two pita sandwiches, one vegetarian, one meat, plus salatim and spreads, limonana and desserts. With its location near Strawberry Creek Park, there’s plenty of grass for outdoor eating. To find out more, follow BishulimSF at instagram.com/bishulim_sf. Hidden Café is at 1250 Addison St., Suite 111, Berkeley.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."