There's nothing Mediterranean about the old Cafe Claude space. Dark walls, busy burgundy wallpaper, and large gold accessories transport you back to turn-of-the-century France rather than the glistening waters and white sands of the Mediterranean sea. That is, until you sit down to the menu.
They can shake it, they can stir it, but for one of Michael Mina’s newest cocktails all the bartender has to do is crack it. (And no, it doesn’t involve an egg, but it is egg shaped.)
Bar Director Carlo Splendorini, in thinking of new ways to present classic cocktails, is looking to modernist culinary techniques. His Aviation, which involves water balloons and liquid nitrogen may or may not have been inspired by a similar drink crafted by the Aviary team in Chicago, but thankfully, he has found an alternative to using a syringe. Because really, drinking cocktails should never, ever, at any stage, involve the use of a syringe. Ever.
Last night, I came up with the perfect idea for Halloween and since I'm not into dressing up myself, you can have my ultimate mixologist costume. All it entails is a mustache, suspenders, a page boy cap, a shaker, and an ice pick for making perfect ice. Obscure bitters would be good. For a little gore, add some fake blood to the tip of the ice pick which you can say is from the customer you stabbed when they asked for a vodka tonic.
Every chef in town seems to have paid their dues at Chez Panisse over the years. But on the fine-dining side, the cooks that have come out of Michael Mina's kitchens are an impressive lot.
On October 9, Mina—who's only 42 years old with 19 restaurants under his belt—is celebrating the 20 years that have past since he opened Aqua in what is now Restaurant Michael Mina in the Financial Distrct. The Anniversary Tribute Dinner will include 14 contemporaries cooking up six courses. At $500 a person, supporting Ronnie Lott's All Stars Helping Hands, it's a fête that seems worth the price considering both the good will and the star power.
Chefs included in the line-up:
Leave it to San Francisco to turn something as humble as a corn meal-batter-coated hot dog into an exercise in culinary wit. At its best, a corn dog should be hand-dipped and deep-fried to order—none of this pre-frozen business. At its purest, the meal should be eaten standing up, or while perched on a stool, al fresco, of course. But after asking around town, it's clear that corn dogs have broken free from their carnie stereotype, graduating onto many a San Francisco menu. Here goes our list, running the gamut from quick and dirty deliciousness to posh, dine-in "dogs."
First there was Benu. Prospect followed suit. But when Michael Mina—the man who, in 2004, opened his eponymous flagship restaurant at the Westin St. Francis in a pillared “swirl of beige and celadon” (according to Michael Bauer’s four-star review)—made the decision to ditch the tablecloths at the restaurant’s second coming, I knew that I’d officially witnessed to the end of an era. Remember those crazy times when dining tables had that impractical white fabric draped over them?
Now that Michael Mina has moved into the old Aqua space, I got a chance to dine there the other night. For Mina fans, it's a true second coming. You should have overheard the reverent foursome at the next table over from me who practically passed out when Mina, the man/the legend, walked over on water to greet them.
And though there was a whirlwind of activity going on around me (the servers might be wearing jeans and a bottle of self-serve water might be set on your table, but that doesn't mean the old tableside service is over), I became particularly fixated on the beautiful plates.
While you were going about your business last month, Michael Mina opened two—that's right—two new restaurants in San Francisco. To put this in perspective, these are his 17 and 18th properties—Mina opens restaurants the way some people change hair-dos.
If you've been out and about in local bars of late, you've probably seen a bottle or two of Harlem, a liqueur manufactured by the Dutch distiller Nolet (best known in the States as the maker of Ketel One). Dark and herbal, with a hint of anise, the liqueur has both taste and consumption similarities with Jagermeister-- it's meant to be served ice-cold, in shot form.
One thing’s for sure—the French certainly know how to celebrate. Whether you’re looking to satisfy that craving for Chateaubriand or twirl your tail off to DJ Frenchy le Freak, this city’s got you covered on July 14. Join the French in festivities commemorating the birth of democracy on Bastille Day.