No matter what type of menu they’re supporting—rustic Italian (Locanda), haute California (AQ), Chinese (Wo Hing General Store)—today’s restaurant bartenders are crafting strong cocktails with the delicate precision of a bomb squad. These drink menus demand as much attention as the rest of dinner, but whether these libations are food-friendly is another matter. (Do you really want to end up still sipping a glass of icy, dry sherry punch when your jook arrives?)
This week, more than a dozen bartenders from around San Francisco dusted off sticky bottles of Drambuie, embracing the challenge to reconsider the 200-year-old Scotch-based liqueur. Whether they normally spend their nights slinging Jaeger shots to college kids or discussing the finer points of the Manhattan to patrons perched precociously on velveteen stools, on Tuesday night, all were equal.
Napa Valley has been getting pretty beat up by young beverage professionals in San Francisco. Many feel that over-priced, high scoring wines made by former financiers aren’t that cool anymore. “Napa Valley just isn’t a very interesting place,” shrugged one beverage professional I spoke to recently.
One of the most promising winegrowing regions in Napa Valley is also one of the least visited. Just minutes outside of downtown Napa, the Coombsville sub-appellation is certainly off the beaten path, but not because of its remoteness. Until recently it wasn’t even on the map.
Because man cannot live on Manischewitz alone, No. 209, which has been making gin on Pier 50 for over 10 years, released its first vodka this month — and just in time for Passover. Because “leavened,” including fermented, grains are forbidden during the eight-day festival (hence the unleavened bread) spirits that are distilled from these grains are also forbidden. So even vodkas that are certified kosher for the other 357 days of the year, may not be for Passover.
Thanks to some seriously deranged laws, most wineries in Wine Country are not allowed to serve real food. Hence, the stale crackers and sweaty cheese that constitutes most “food and wine pairings.” It makes little sense considering that wine is most often enjoyed as part of a meal. Thankfully, if there’s a will, there’s a way–and these wineries have found a way to bring their food and wine together under one roof.
When it comes to food and cocktail pairings, who knows better than the men and women who mix drinks for a living? When these bartenders find themselves on the other side of the stick, here is what they think makes the perfect pairing:
Jambalaya and plastic beads aren’t the only things descending on the city this week. From the hallowed land of Burgundy to the City by the Bay come some of the very best vignerons; their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be poured by leading sommeliers and paired with cuisine by our finest chefs. La Paulée, named in honor of the annual harvest celebration in France, is the All Star wine event of the year.
At a trendy new restaurant in town, the sommelier approaches your table. At least you think she’s a sommelier. Wearing sneakers, she looks barely old enough to drink.
Poor chocolate. Every February it suffers at the well intentioned but ultimately misguided hand of romance. While sparkling wine and chocolate are two of life’s greatest pleasures, enjoying them together, unfortunately, is anything but pleasurable. The reason? Most Champagne and sparkling wine is dry or nearly dry and most chocolate is, well, sweet. To rescue both of them from this annual massacre, we offer this year’s Valentine’s Day Pairing Guide—for every kind of love.
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