Summer’s just around the corner, and heat spells like last week’s are good reminders of the absolute perfection of drinking a light, refreshing aperitif on a warm, sunny evening before dinner.
My top 5 restaurant bars for aperitif cocktails are:
3. Slanted Door
I was fortunate enough to attend the Taste3 conference in Napa last week. Sponsored by the Robert Mondavi company, the gathering of food, wine and art minds from around the world is supposed to be a sort of culinary TED conference and—if you have an extra $2-grand and consider yourself a die-hard foodie—is well worth your time and money. Great thinkers, scientists, story tellers, cooks, taste makers and thinkers gather together for two days of awesome talks on everything from bees and mushrooms to terroir, food blogging and new kitchen inventions. And you can rub elbows with the speakers at several lunches and dinners.
Cortez reopened on Tuesday after closing the dining room for repairs, and it's no coincidence that there's a renewed sense of innovation in the updated dining menu and excellent cocktail list. If you can't get into Bourbon and Branch for a drink, swing around the corner to Cortez because B&B's bar manager, Todd Smith, used to be the man at Cortez, and a lot of the drinks continue to reflect his creativity and good taste.
I finally managed to get over to Poggio last week, where I'd been hearing good things about the cocktails, wine list, after-dinner drinks, and, yes, even the food. I wasn't disappointed. No driving is necessary--take a shuttle boat from the Ferry Building and it's only a few paces over to Poggio's front door.
I went back to Austin, Texas last week for Passover. It's the town I grew up in, and thus naturally where I learned to drink. I'm going to follow with a couple of posts about my visit--my first in two years--and reflections on the drinking I did then versus what I do now.
As baseball season approaches we’re all aware of the myriad places around the ballpark to drink Vodka drinks (e.g. Paragon), stand and chatter in claustrophobic throngs (Momo’s), etc. But just a block down from where you can guzzle margaritas (Tres Agaves), there is now a place to sip Sauvignon Blanc, munch on risotto balls and rhapsodize about Pinot Noir. The name of the place is District and it brings a touch of sophistication to a neighborhood that needed it.
As I became older and more conscious of foods, though, I became fearful of store-bought egg nog. Its third and fourth ingredients were high fructose corn syrup and just plain corn syrup, with artificial flavors, salt and something called carrageenan thrown in for good measure. It’s unnatural viscosity started to seem creepy, and I stopped drinking it.
Bartenders around town have been reporting a heightened frequency of orders for the Vesper. This is no doubt because of the popularity of the new James Bond film, which is said to present a harder, more serious Bond instead of that wry, wisecracking guy we all started to hate (I have yet to see the film).
Welcome to the drinking blog. Every week, I'll be corresponding in this space about all the fun one can have in this town when it comes to imbibing.
One such place—a new spot in the Haight called The Alembic (www.alembicbar.com)—might be technically considered a restaurant with a bar, but in fact it is the opposite. Most of the long, narrow space is dominated by a long and generous bar, while the dining area is civilly kept small and to the rear.