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Eat + Drink

They've Got Sol

As if cozy accommodations, free cruiser bikes and aromatic, bake-yourself mud treatments weren’t enough, Solage Calistoga, the new wine country hotel, has also got a fabulous restaurant—Solbar, headed up Chef Brandon Sharp, who comes by way of Gary Danko and French Laundry.

Solbar has a casual vibe, but the attention to detail and execution that goes into the menu is anything but. You can almost feel Chef Sharp and his team sweating it out in the kitchen while you sip a nice Viognier and gaze at the modern sculpture-cum-fireplace.


Solbar's beef short ribs.

7 Memorable Meals of ’07

After a year of what felt like non-stop eating, I thought I’d reduce my many (many) meals into a concise list of the seven most memorable. As you’ll see, some are old standbys while others couldn’t be duplicated—at least not without considerable effort.

Here goes, my year in review:

Live Uni – Just-out-of-the-water uni at Sushi Groove

The uni was so fresh, it was still moving.

Spice Is Nice – 5 Spices, 50 Dishes cooking class

Beignets at Brenda’s

Last Wednesday morning was rainy to say the least, but a winter deluge wouldn’t stop this online team from trekking to the Tenderloin for our holiday breakfast. That’s right, we dined in the Tenderloin—but no need for pity here—there’s a little gem of a spot known as Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk between Eddy and Turk.

Basement Dining

There are quite a few holiday traditions that I’m not entirely sure about, and those having to do with shopping are the most perplexing. I don’t understand why, for example, people head to the mall on “Black Friday” and then grumble about the crowds—similarly, I don’t understand why everyone heads back to the mall to return gifts the day after Christmas. I mean, wouldn’t you rather be sitting at home, gazing at the tree and eating cookies? Well, now you know where to find me. But I guess some people just don’t like to spend that much time at home with their families. In which case—if you must, you must.

Really Good Things

I like dining out more than the average person, so I’m probably well suited to my current job. I check out restaurants the way some people check out performances and, I like to think, there is something performative about a dining room in the swing of things—the house lights dimmed, everyone in costume, reciting a script, of sorts, to a packed house. Doing a round-up of some of my favorite comestibles of the year is hard. We live in a good food town. So, in the spirit of ending the year on a high note, I offer the following.

Here, 7 things I could eat (and drink) again and again:

Tool Time

Oenophilia is still such a minority hobby that wine lovers always get excited when someone famous from outside their realm shows an interest. That’s why you can always find articles in Wine Spectator about some football or baseball player or actor who collects wine. Such was the excitement last week, when a dinner was organized around Maynard Keenan, lead singer of the rock band Tool and avowed wine geek and now wine producer.


Dee Vine Wedding

One of my favorite people in the wine industry is Dade Theriot, the owner of Dee Vine Wines on Pier 19. Dade is the most knowledgeable person about his passion—German wines—that I know, and he’s exceedingly generous with them, as he is with all things. He's also a Beethoven fanatic and an all-around eccentric, as was evinced by his wedding in which attendees were invited to come either in formal dress or in early 19th century costume.


Absinthe Arrives



St. George Spirits of Alameda, the good folks behind Hangar One vodkas and all the amazing Aqua Perfecta eaux de vie, recently had me out to preview the long-awaited release of their absinthe. Lance Winters, the distiller, was the mastermind behind this delectable spirit, and he was kind enough to pour the better part of a bottle and talk about the product, its history and how it should be consumed.


Lumpy Gravy Beer

Here’s a quick note that Lagunitas Brewing Co. came out with its latest tribute to Frank Zappa, in the form of a delicious new ale. Lumpy Gravy, named after the 1968 Zappa solo album, is the name of the new beer.



It’s a big, malty brown ale and utterly delicious. Perfect for the season (note: don't drink it too cold). Look for it at City Beer (where else?) and perhaps at other outlets, too.

Punch Drunk Love

During the holiday madness, I find it best to find a balance between non-sober moments and some rather sobering ones.

For the latter, I recommend catching up on your reading. In particular, Michael Pollan’s very good essay, “Our Decrepit Food Factories” in last Sunday’s Times Magazine. It lays out the ramifications of the use of antibiotics in factory farming. This is one way to sober up—really quickly.
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