My brother was visiting from Boston last weekend and so I did what I often do—took him to a good cross-section of places the likes of which he doesn't have access to back East. Historically that roster of restaurants has included La Taqueria (because, I don't care what they say, Anna's Taqueria can't hold a candle), Chez Panisse and something in the Ferry Building, often Hog Island Oyster Co. It's always fun to watch someone experience a place you love for the first time, especially if, like my brother, they're good eaters. This time around I brought him to Beretta and as we poured over the cocktail list the divide between Boston and San Francisco widened.
"What's this?," he asked, pointing to some unusual spirit. "Hey, this one has rosemary in it." "Absinthe? Who's making that?" That's when I remembered that in Boston, mixology is not a thing. Even the Boston bar Drink, which opened last fall (and where former Alembic bartender Josie Packard is rumored to be working now), owner Barbara Lynch insists that it's not about the tyranny of the cocktail. Ask the guys at Doyle's to make you a Hemingway, which is the cocktail my brother finally settled on, and they're likely to pour you a glass of whisky instead. I know this is exactly the reason why people choose to live and cook in San Francisco. Here, you can make a sorbet with hibiscus and beets, like they're doing over at Humphry Slocombe, and you can flavor dishes with Douglas fir, like Daniel Patterson does at Coi.
The exchange at Beretta got me thinking about my Achilles Heel, the constant running comparison I maintain between the East and West coasts. What is better where? New England has whoopie pies, but then again, we've got asparagus and strawberries in March. Despite what some will say, I'm convinced that one coast is no better than the other, but surely some things are better—or worse—here than on the East Coast? Let me know what you think.