Eat + Drink
Although Santa Rosa's Russian River Brewing Co. may look like any other pub, it's somewhat of a mecca and home to some of California's finest craft beers, including the cult favorite, Pliny the Younger. Released every February, (Growlers only, no bottles) for a brief one-time brewing, it's why many beer lovers (including myself) make an annual trek from SF up 101 N. I liken its taste to a sloppy kiss from a Redwood mixed with a fresh bitterness.
I just wanted to give a quick shout about a new product. Cointreau Noir appeared at the end of last year without a lot of fanfare, but it's a pretty big deal as far as a new spirit. Years ago in 7x7 I wrote a column on the difference between Grand Marnier and Cointreau. Well this new release from Cointreau only blurs the lines.
People are always asking me where to eat, but really, it should be what to eat. No restaurant is perfect across the board. Getting the most out of restaurants is a matter of knowing what to order.
So, for you—and for ourselves—we've compiled The Big Eat SF, a list of 100 dishes and drinks "to try before you die." (If San Francisco was a restaurant, this would be its menu.) Don't think of this as a morbid activity though. Think of it as a celebration of life.
In 2005, when Hershey's made a high-profile, high-value acquisition of beloved local chocolate company, Scharffen Berger, San Francisco artisanal chocolate lovers wagged their tongues, another case of big fish eating little fish. Local customers were assured that the Berkeley-based company would change little in the face of the acquisition, that the chocolate would remain the same and that it would still be made here in the Bay Area.
Get out of the kitchen and read something, will ya?
As a chef, I think one of the most important things you can do is to continue learning. This can be accomplished in several ways, including doing a stage at another chef's restaurant, watching interesting food shows on TV (and by interesting, I mean Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman, not Rachel "EVOO" Ray), and by reading books. Lots and lots of books. I have a ton of food-related books, mostly piled in my office at work, because there's no place to put them in my little apartment. Behold a list of my favorites:
“Good meat is 95 percent of a good burger. It should be well-seasoned with salt and pepper; Nopa seasons their beef well in advance, which makes a huge difference. I order mine medium-rare and smear it with a side of their feta-harissa dip. They use brioche-style soft buns, which I like. Zuni’s burger is really good, with the house-made ketchup and pickled onions and zucchini, but there’s one problem—it’s on focaccia, which gets soggy. You end up having to eat it with a fork and knife. The burger at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher is close to perfect. I get it with raw onions—I like the crunch—and American cheese. Yup, American.
I finally got to stop by Humphrey Slocombe the other drizzly day for a taste of pastry chef's Jake Godby's quirky ice cream. I'm not someone who generally likes quirky for the sake being quirky, but Godby has a way with his ingredient pairing that's subtle and sophisticated with just a touch of attitude. The banana ice cream with crushed red hots, for example. Cinnamony and streaked in pink with a honest fresh banana flavor, it's whimsy at it's best. On the flip side, his balsamic-caramel is very adult, very deep. I made the mistake (or had the good idea) of taking his Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream and putting a scoop of it in a cup of espresso for a double-whammy affogato. You could sell that stuff on the street.