Eat + Drink
This is the time of year when I start thinking about all the bests of the year—my favorite meals, the chefs I hope to see more of in the New Year, the best newcomers, restaurants I’m sad to see close. Melissa Perello is one of the young chefs I’m keeping my fingers crossed for in 2009. I finally got over to Sebo last Monday, where Perello’s been guest-cheffing periodically (her boyfriend, Danny Dunham, is one of Sebo’s chef-owners and was in the kitchen to help). The $45 four-course meal was a well-executed Cal-French mid-winter treat, featuring a caramelized scallop salad with celery root puree, kale-and-chanterelle risotto, and fork-tender Cabernet-braised pork cheeks.
Hey, this has been kind of a rough year, eh? The last couple of months have kind of made us want to hide under our desks. But as this year ends and the next begins, it would seem a shame to let it go by without a proper toast, something like “Thanks for nothing, 2008. See you on the flip side.”
1. Stock your holiday pantry with a visit to Cheese Plus—they’ve got panettone, Stilton, mince pies and Nordic glögg aplenty, perfect for whatever wintry celebration you have planned. For more information, visit cheeseplus.com
2. On December 24 Incanto will be hosting the annual Feast of the Seven Fishes, a four-course all-seafood menu that is the traditional Italian meal served the night before Christmas. The price is $55, exclusive of tax, gratuity and beverage, call 415-641-4500 to book your spot. For more information, visit incanto.biz
If you're looking for a fine, but reasonably priced Champagne for the holidays this year, I recommend this new-ish offering from the famous Champagne house Taittinger. It's made entirely from Grand Crus-rated vineyards (ones that score 100% in the Champagne AOC's system), and it's 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. it's got great structure and length, but is marked by an elegance and a citrusy juiciness that makes it hard not to guzzle. I think the price of $50, which you can find at K&L, is a bargain for Champagne of this quality.
The Vertical Rabbit -- I pretty much exclusively use a simple waiter's corkscrew when opening a bottle of wine. Simple, compact and effective, it always gets the job done. Years ago, when the first Rabbit corkscrew came out with its lever and its single pump action to both extract the cork and twist it off the worm. It looked good, but was clumsy and difficult to use. I stuck to my waiter's corkscrew. But this year they came out with the vertical rabbit--it's much smaller and more compact and actually works much better than the original. With it, it's easier to obtain leverage and its general action is much smoother. For the individual bottle, I'll stick to my pocket-size opener. But if I'm going to be opening more than one or two, the Vertical Rabbit is the way to go.
Sliding in one day too late for my unofficial holiday gift guide for the foodie is American Cheese: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses (Simon & Schuster, $25) by Clark Wolf. It arrived on my desk the other day and I finally got a chance to look at it.
One of the things I've noticed over the past seven years that I have been in San Francisco is the clear differences between foodie culture here versus New York City—my hometown. Since I’m just finishing up a visit (snowed-in as we speak), I thought I’d weigh the benefits of two cities dear to my heart.
Chef Hoss Zaré hosts a five-course dinner at Zaré at Fly Trap on New Year’s Eve, featuring Persian-inspired dishes paired with wines from around the world (along with a complimentary glass of champagne at midnight, of course). Festivities take place from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dinner costs $105 for the first seating and $125 for the second seating; wine pairings are an additional $42 per person. 606 Folsom St., 415-243-0580 or visit zareflytrap.com
The Flip-Top Shaker -- The best innovations in the world of cocktail in the last few years have been historical, archival in nature. That is, the recovery of old recipes, techniques and ingredients through the scholarship displayed in such books as David Wondrich's Imbibe and in events like The Alembic's occasional Savoy Cocktail book nights, where guests are invited to choose antique recipes from the great compendium of the 1930s. Recently, though, I was sent a sample of the Flip-Top cocktail shaker from a company called Metrokane.
Sure, an orange at the toe of the stocking is still a nice touch, but here are seven other goodies to slip in the sock.
1. At Christopher Elbow’s Hot Chocolate Lounge in Hayes Valley, you can enjoy a rich mug of any number of his signature drinking chocolate—treat yourself, then buy a tin and treat a friend. $16, available at the shop (401 Hayes St., 415-355-1100) or online.