An Epic Training


As you probably know, Epic Roasthouse, the new meat restaurant from Pat Kuleto and Co. down on the Embarcadero, opens today down on the Embarcadero. While resolved to eat less meat, I still have a great interest in it, especially how animals are raised, killed and prepared. So when Epic’s executive chef Jan Birnbaum invited me about a week and a half ago to sit in with the entire restaurant staff for their training on their meats, I went.

I was lucky enough to catch Colorado rancher Mel Coleman of Coleman Natural, giving his spiel on the kinds of hormone- and antibiotic-free pasture-grazed meat products. The guy was good, and I learned a lot about his company’s high-quality standards. But I was just as impressed with the staff of Epic, who were genuinely interested and asked lots of great questions. It’s good to see the staff so enthusiastically on board with a restaurant’s mission. The restaurant is using mostly local meat suppliers, as well as Coleman and the Meyer Ranch from Montana.

The wine program at Epic seems to be excellent (and I'll have more on that when I go back in; on my last visit it wasn't quite complete). Wine director Nicole Burke has a marvelous sense of style and composed a thorough but not overwhelming wine list that touches many genres and countries. It's not all "big red meat" wines whatsoever, as there is a great section of well-chosen Pinots and Burgundies, as well as several pages of graceful white wines.

A slight inconvenience for Nicole is that the bulk of the wine storage is offsite in a nearby pier where this container has been outfitted as her entire storage facility. Rather than Nicole being able to dash downstairs to the cellar when she needs something, restocking is going to be done by a guy whose main job is to drive a golf cart from the storage to the restaurants with wine. Of course, he might have to take special trips if someone orders that special bottle that she doesn't store in the restaurant.

One of the most interesting things Nicole's done with the list is to give a small section of that valuable real estate to a guest sommelier. While a common practice on cocktail lists around the world (to feature and attribute drinks from other bartenders), this is the first time I've seen it on a wine list. The first guest somm is Paul Einbund from Coi, who gets to suggest some of his favorites and Nicole will serve them. I'd love to see other sommeliers establish this practice. San Francisco has the best sommelier community in the country—that's a fact—but it's nice to see Nicole paying homage with her precious wine list.

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