Cortez reopened on Tuesday after closing the dining room for repairs, and it's no coincidence that there's a renewed sense of innovation in the updated dining menu and excellent cocktail list. If you can't get into Bourbon and Branch for a drink, swing around the corner to Cortez because B&B's bar manager, Todd Smith, used to be the man at Cortez, and a lot of the drinks continue to reflect his creativity and good taste.
I finally managed to get over to Poggio last week, where I'd been hearing good things about the cocktails, wine list, after-dinner drinks, and, yes, even the food. I wasn't disappointed. No driving is necessary--take a shuttle boat from the Ferry Building and it's only a few paces over to Poggio's front door.
I spent a couple of days over the weekend perusing the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino coast. Naturally enjoying all that pristine beauty on a sunny day with a cleansing breeze and pounding surf, one gets thirsty. So I searched up and down the coastline up there for the perfect spot to have a beer.
Just got the news that last week Berkeley Wine importer, merchant and living legend Kermit Lynch was bestowed with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, one of the highest awards given by the French government. If you've read his Adventures on the Wine Trail, one of the most inspiring wine books ever written, you'd know that Lynch is a true rock star of wine. But this award puts him in the company of the likes of Duke Ellington, Clint Eastwood and Julia Child.
Whiskies of the World took place on two floors. On the ground level was the main tasting hall which involved dozens of tables set up around the perimeter, each manned by a different whisky brand pouring its stuff. It was a great showing, but I just can't deal with the crowds. After fighting through people piled up at each table just to get a pour, actually tasting, concentrating on it and taking a note is not easy to do. Which is why I spent most of my time up on the second floor, where in small meeting rooms, guided tastings and seminars devoted to various brands were running almost full time.
The annual Whiskies of the World tasting was last weekend, my first one to attend. This is a pretty big deal, as evidenced by the line of people waiting to get in, which stretched from the Palace Hotel meeting hall where the whiskies were being poured through the lavish main hall of the into the glittering lobby and down another hall. Almost as impressive as the several hundred people who paid over $100 a ticket to taste whiskies was the number of people willing to pay over $100 a ticket to taste whiskies in a kilt.
Enough about Texas--it feels good to be back in the place I really love.
Now, perhaps my future as a drinks writer was predictable given my childhood love of root beer. I loved it so much as a 10-year-old that I was consistently able to taste the root beer blind at restaurants and accurately guess the producer--Fanta, A&W, Mug, whatever it may be. That deep love lives on, so it's hard to convey how pleasantly surprised I was to find homemade root beer at the Magnolia Brewery and Pub. Creamy and delicious, one of its best attributes is that it's not too sweet.
No doubt, there is some very good barbecue in San Francisco. I'm a fan of Memphis Minnie's on Haight Street, as well as Lily's (formerly Brother-in-Law's) on Divisidero. But, in my opinion, you can't get better barbecue than in Texas, specifically in the Austin area. Texas Monthly magazine has consistently rated three bbq joints in central Texas among the top four in the state. So with my, yes, brother-in-law, sister and niece (all visiting from Seattle), mom and wife, we made the hour-long pilgrimage from Austin to Llano to eat at the venerated Cooper's BBQ.