Eat + Drink
It's always fun to see what SF star chefs are doing abroad, so to speak. We recently checked out Michael Mina's newest outpost, XIV, on a bustling corner of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. While the design by Philippe Starck is an uncommon marriage of modern and French chateau (a nice play on the name, which derives from this being Mina's fourteenth restaurant), the food is classic Mina mini-portions, taken to the next level.
Two years ago, Gordon Uhlmann and Wendy Van Dyck, two wine-loving San Franciscans, noticed that most shops have an abysmal selection of half bottles. Thus Half Wit Wines—the sole half-bottle-only wine shop in the country—was born. With a dazzling 1,300 bottles, Half Wit features everything from fine and rare Burgundies (a 2002 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet “Clavoillon” for $130) to wonderful everyday drinkers (a 2006 Hahn Cabernet for $10). Uhlmann, whose motto is “Drink less and enjoy more,” says his customers often use the half bottles to sample around without wasting wine. There’s no storefront, so all ordering is done by phone or over the Internet.
In about two weeks time, I will have reached my annual puff pastry saturation level, a point I get to after attending the first of many holiday parties. Soon after will come blue cheese canapé fatigue, followed by miniature crab cake malaise. For no matter how different a holiday party might be, the food is almost always the same. Here is my public service announcement: Break out of the mold!
Thanksgiving Day just got a little shinier. I was already excited about Yat’s, the legit po’boy (and gumbo and red beans ‘n’ rice and crawfish etoufée) joint that took over the Potrero Hill/Mission dive bar Jack’s during daylight hours last May. I haven’t been there yet, but this Saturday’s the day. As a girl who was (almost) born, and definitely raised, in Baton Rouge, LA, I consider myself a po’boy expert. I will report back.
The fact that Destino owner and executive chef James Schenk opened a Pisco lounge in a former Laundromat next door to his eight-year-old restaurant isn’t a surprise—we’re only wondering what took him so long. But given that San Francisco is experiencing a sudden resurgence of all things Peruvian, perhaps the timing is just right. Says Schenk, “Gin made a comeback. Small-batch vodka is available. Cachaça, bourbon—they’ve all experienced newfound popularity. Now it’s Pisco’s turn.” Pisco Latin Lounge carries some 15 varieties of the high-proof spirit, for sipping straight or in mixed cocktails (including one standout, the Sideways Sour, which combines Pisco, white-grape juice and lemon, served over ice with a float of Pinot Noir).
We’d like to add a few they left off:
You want to have the best experience at a restaurant in San Francisco?
Don’t go on a Friday or Saturday. Really. Because you know what? Those
are the same nights that everyone wants to dine out, and the crush of
humanity would really like to be seated at 7:30, thank you very much.
Valentine’s Day is often referred to by the industry as “amateur night”
and I’m betting Friday and Saturdays are considered “amateurish” too.
Sugar for coating rim of glass
1 ounce 151-proof rum
ground cinnamon (preferably in a shakable container)
4 ounces hot coffee
1/2 ounce Kahlúa
1/2 ounce brandy
Coat the rim of a wineglass with sugar, and pour the rum into the glass. Using a lighter, ignite the rum. Being careful not to tip the rim of the glass toward the ground, twist the glass in your fingers and sprinkle the fire with cinnamon. (Be careful: This will generate some large bursts of fire!) When sugar is caramelized around the rim of the glass, put the fire out by pouring coffee into the glass. Finish with Kahlúa and brandy, and top with whipped cream.