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Eat + Drink

Eat It: Wine Blitzes, Tamales and French Bubbles

Learn to Make Tamales
If you want to make homemade tamales part of your holiday feast (or you simply want to add them to your culinary repertoire), learn the craft from two experts—Dilsa Lugo and Maria del Carmen Flores will be teaching a hands-on class on December 15 at La Cocina. Learn how to make tamales wrapped in both corn husks and banana leaves, and get a bag of the finished product to take home. Tickets are a steal at $65, which includes dinner and drinks!

Baby It's Cold Outside: A Hot Drink Primer

That we are in the season of hot drinks--toddies, liquor combined with butter, libations laced with spices--is understood. Though this season could arguably be said to begin in, say, July, it is most fully embraced during the holiday season, when a warm drink feels like the requisite partner to nut-encrusted cheese balls.

Should you choose to partake, here's the low-down,

What To Drink Now: Something From Laurel Glen

Paul Einbund is the wine director of the Slanted Door restaurant group including Out the Door Bush Street and Westfield Centre as well as Heaven's Dog. He also runs the beverage program at Frances, and has worked at Coi and more. Look for him here every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @pauleinbund.

A Gift for the Drinkie: Firelit Coffee Liqueur

I got a chance the other day to sit down with the Jeff Kessinger, the man behind Firelit Coffee Liqueur ($45), an excellent spirit which is now on its second batch. It was made with the help of St. George Spirits. "I came up with a basic recipe," said Kessinger. "And they helped me trick it out."

Batch No. 2, which was recently released, was made with Blue Bottle's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans. We did a little tasting about 4 pm on a Tuesday, a perfect workday pick-me-up of sorts. Just don't tell your boss. SF Bartending Stars Compete to Mix the Best Negroni

It seems like everyone's on a Negroni kick lately, but to make one perfectly, you need a good gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Our friends at challenged some of SF's best bartenders from watering holes like Marco Dionysos from Smuggler's Cove and Rye, Erik Adkins from Heaven's Dog, and Ryan Fitzgerald and Vince Lund from Beretta to mix up the best Negroni they could to determine which gins and sweet vermouths are prime. Read about the results here, and mix up your own Negroni with the winning recipe.

The Winter Blues Cure: Hot Clam Chowder and a Dozen Cold Oysters

I moved recently from my place in Bernal Heights to a house that sits right on the cusp of Noe Valley and the Castro. When we moved in, I asked the previous tenant, a flamboyant real estate broker, which neighborhood he described it as. He took a moment to look my husband up and down and said, "Well, I call it the Castro. But you—you're definitely going to call it Noe Valley."

The two neighborhoods might offer different stereotypes, but their food offerings are about equal. Neither are considered SF food meccas (although with Frances, the Castro's definitely coming up in the world).

Holiday Drinking: Hotel Bars

We're going to be doing a lot of posting about holiday drinking over the coming weeks to get you through all that cheer. We're kicking things off with hotel bars. Here's where we recommend imbibing this season:

Big 4 Restaurant
With lawyer-green club chairs, lead-glass mirrors, dark wood paneling, a fireplace, and a nightly piano player (this part is key), the Huntington Hotel’s restaurant and bar has that weighty but casual feel of old money—a place where real men are made. But of course it does: The place is named after the major railroad tycoons.
1075 California St., 415-771-1140,

San Francisco's Best Butchers, and Roasts 101

A continuing proliferation of butcher shops are providing options far beyond the loin.

Feast Family-Style On Dungeness Crab @ Starbelly Next Week

Crab season has arrived loud and clear, and Dungeness this and that are popping up on menus all around town. Starbelly is reaping the ocean's bounty and organizing a family-style Dungeness crab and chardonnay feast next Tuesday, December 7th, from 5-9 pm.

It's limited to 60 lucky people so get in there now while you can. At $56 per person, you can gorge with Chef Adam and winemaker Jim Malone from Terra Savia vineyards on a crab-centric menu that is already making our mouths water.

Here's just an inkling of what they might serve:

Fresh Dungeness crab with drawn butter and remoulade

First Bite: Cotogna (and the $24 Prix Fixe)

There are two types of menu paralysis.

1. The kind when you open a menu and can't decide what to eat because it all sounds a bit … wrong: This includes leap-of-faith menus: "Oysters on the half shell with a cranberry-cilantro mignonette and gingerbread sprinkle." And frustrated-poet menus:  "White chicken. Rain water. Red wheelbarrow."

2. The kind when you open a menu and can't decide what to order because you want to eat it all.

Paralysis case number two is the reason why I sat with Cotogna's menu for quite a while before budging to order.

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