When Ireland native and second-generation bartender John Lillis decided to open a new watering hole to complement his popular Irish Times sports bar, he invoked the history of Irish immigrants who came to San Francisco by way of Australia. Before it was the Barbary Coast, the area at the base of Telegraph Hill was called “Sydney Town,” in reference to residents who emigrated from Australia in the 1800s. Some were laborers who had fled the Great Irish Famine, but many were convicts from Australia’s British penal colonies. Read More
I told a winemaker friend of mine I was writing about New Zealand sauvignon blanc this week and his response was not uncommon: “Cat pee on a gooseberry.” But don’t let that turn you off or make you turn the page.
Sauvignon blanc is the grape that put New Zealand on the wine map. Other varietals like pinot noir have staked a claim, especially in the coldest areas, but sauvignon blanc still accounts for more than half of all vineyard space. Officially, this grape is celebrating its 40th year on New Zealand’s soil. Read More
Recent rants from a well-known restaurant critic could have one easily believing that San Francisco’s Chinese food scene is nearly dead, confined to costly dim sum and lettuce-cup chicken served only in downtown office buildings or on tony shopping streets.
Not true, say I.
Exhibit A: Beijing restaurant. Wedged into a horseshoe-shaped plot of concrete across from a Midas and a 76 gas station, Beijing is anything but tony. Unconcerned with glitz and glamour, the chef here focuses on the action-packed flavors of Northern China. Read More
This is cocktail heaven — a place where there is no menu, just bliss. At Big, cocktail artisans craft drinks based on your mood; your spirit of choice; or what kind of funky goblet, coupe or crystal you’d like it poured into. It’s part art, part science, part telepathy. And it’s a throwback to the glory days behind the stick. “That’s exactly what we’re doing here: pouring what makes people happy,” said bartender Christian Clark. The warm, candlelit bar with white marble countertops is anchored by a plethora of fruits and herbs at each end. Read More
Like flowers, rosé wines are starting to bloom. Yes, it is the season, and producers know that there has been a growing demand. I’ve tasted some really good stuff, but the prices are rising.
The $10 rosé is not totally gone, but is much more scarce, I’m afraid. And as I write about different types of rosé over the next few months — and for those who are fans, there is a trove of jolly pink wines waiting for you — be prepared, as it is no longer uncommon to see rosé in the $20 price range.
Today, though, is all about value.
First, here are a few general tips: Read More
At Hard Water, Charles Phan’s whiskey bar on The Embarcadero, the whiskeys are arranged high up a 20-foot wall and there’s a ladder for the bartenders to reach the highest ones. It’s a towering shrine to brown liquor, one that outshines the accompanying food.
That’s not to say the New Orleans-inspired menu doesn’t have its head-turners.
The oysters Saint Charles, dressed in cayenne and butter, turned out to be a perfect companion to the whiskey — or whiskeys, who’s judging? — of your choice. Read More
It’s rare that a bar’s drink menu completely reflects one bartender’s obsession, but that’s the case at Mum’s, the bar and restaurant attached to Japantown’s Hotel Tomo. “I’m crazy for hamsters,” says bartender Mana Yasuda. That sentiment is reflected in the cocktails she creates, which have names such as Hamster on the Beach, Mexican Hamster, Hamster Sundae and Gloomy Hamster. This zaniness fits in perfectly with Tomo’s expression of hotel as pop culture art object. Read More
Imagine it’s 1980. Made famous by the jingle “Riunite on ice, Riunite that’s nice,” lambrusco is everywhere. A fizzy, sweet red wine, it accounts for three of every 10 wines exported to the U.S. While berated by critics, it is consumed en masse in Emilia, Italy, where it is largely made by cooperatives and consumed in discotheques from San Francisco to Ibiza. Read More
I have a serious thing for sandwiches.
My first job as a teenager was making sandwiches at a deli, and that set my path forever. Cities I’ve visited around the world are defined by the sandwiches I’ve eaten there. Whenever I delve into a great dish at a fancy restaurant, at least 10 percent of my brain is thinking, “How could I turn this into a sandwich?”
So when I heard that V-105, run by ex-Garibaldis chef Daniel Martes, was creating some of the best sandwiches in San Francisco, I hit the ground running. Read More
The Palace Hotel has been in the news lately because of its decision to remove the iconic Maxfield Parish mural “The Pied Piper” from the wall behind the bar that bears the painting’s name. But due to public outcry, the painting — which is valued at several million dollars — will soon return to its traditional place. Long before Parish was commissioned to create “The Pied Piper,” the bar was home to the man who wrote the book on bartending — literally. William T. Read More