Eat + Drink
DO have your entire order ready, for yourself and your friends. No bartender has the time to meet each member of your posse. And when we finish making your margarita, please don't say, "Oh, and two more of those."
DON'T whine, "My drink's too sweet." Politely say that you like it a little more tart, and we'll be happy to fix it for you.
DO be patient.
DON'T ask to have your drink made extra strong. Would you ask a chef to put an extra steak on your plate for no charge?
DO have your money or credit card ready. The moment to dig through your purse is not when there are 50 people behind you.
Make no mistake—Miss Saigon isn’t going to revolutionize the dodgy block on which it sits (at the corner of Sixth and Mission streets). It is, however, a good place to get lunch if you’re tired of the options at the Westfield SF Centre. The utilitarian, but spic-and-span, dining room is run by an efficient workforce that bustles about, delivering Vietnamese coffee and fussing (in a good way) over the guests. Menuwise, it’s the usual suspects: We have no complaints about fried squid with scallions and garlic (#14) or the delicate threads of green papaya in the classic salad named after it (get #9, shown here, the version with shrimp and pork). Linger too long and you’ll be subjected to a viewing of violinist André Rieu’s DVD of love songs, shown on three televisions.
Oh, yes, we’re in the thick of it now. Here is something that will make things better: A big old slice of Noe Valley Baking Co.’s superlative stollen. Stollen, that yeasted sweet bread of German origin, studded with citron and raisins and gently perfumed with almond, is just the thing to perk you up. Buy a few now and throw them in your freezer, then toast and butter slices as needed all month long. Also worth noting: the $21 loaves make very lovely host/ess gifts.
Available at Noe Valley Baking Co., 4073 24th St., 415-550-1405
Rich white wines, especially white Burgundies, are popular around the holidays. They're delicious with cheese, lobster, crab and all the other rich things we like to eat. Problem is, they're super expensive. Here's an alternative:
If you can't cook a turkey and write your Christmas list at the same time, you've failed in holiday multi-tasking.
But we're here to help. Starting today until December 25, Jessica and I are going to let you what we want for Christmas, because the best gifts to give are often the ones you want to eat yourself.
Jessica and I finished up our holiday-cookie–tasting extravaganza weeks ago, but the fruits of our labor can now be viewed right here. Tasting over 100 cookies from SF’s best bakeries sounds fun until you’re on your fifth really mediocre Mexican wedding cookie, feeling vaguely strung out on sugar (not to mention the suspicious dusting of powder on your nose).
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!