Sep
15
2014

September 15, 2014

“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.” – Susan Sontag in her diary, 1979

Truffles in Bologna (see Wandering Traveler)

Truffles in Bologna (see Wandering Traveler)

Enter fall, my favorite season and an always a gorgeous time in San Francisco. As I explore a range of new spirits, restaurants, cocktails and the 10 must-eat dishes to call yourself a San Franciscan, I also relive recent travels in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region in my first Food Republic article covering best eats, from bakeries and gelato to Michelin-starred restaurants, in and around Bologna.

I recently judged on this blind tasting whiskey panel with a great crew for 7×7 Magazine and also just spent a full day blind judging spirits from around the US for the Good Food Awards, with the awards ceremony and winners announced in January 2015.

This issue:

Wandering Bologna's ancient streets

Wandering Bologna’s ancient streets

Top TastesMy Food Articles, September 1-15: 11 of my latest Zagat articles on new restaurants, iconic SF dishes, underrated spots, Napa and Alameda recommends and new cookbook releases.
ImbiberMy Drink Articles, September 1-15: 6 of my latest Zagat articles on new cocktail menus at SF favorites, drinks on Alameda island, new spirits releases and a fantastic new cold press juice.
Wandering Traveler9 Top Places to Eat & Drink In & Around Bologna: Unforgettable tastes in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
ImbiberSt. George Releases 3 New Spirits: A whiskey, an aged rum and an apple brandy from the great Alameda distillery.
Imbiber3 Notable New Piscos

As your personal concierge who tells it like a good friend would, I also create personalized itineraries: trips, meals, explorations (under “Services“).

Virginia

CLICKABLE LINKS to Social Media & Articles:
Twitter
Facebook

Liquor.com
Zagat
7×7 Magazine
Spoonwiz
Pinterest

**Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Virginia Miller**

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Written by in: Intro Letter |
Sep
15
2014

Top Tastes

Charin, a secretive new tasting menu-only restaurant

Dining on elk at Charin, a secretive new tasting menu-only restaurant

My Top Food Articles: September 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my many articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some coverage highlights here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

New Bay Area Openings

CHARIN, a secretive new dinner in changing locations

Ryan Scott’s MASON in Potrero Hill

The hottest NEW ITALIAN RESTAURANTS in SF

6 new restaurants and bars with UNIQUE DESIGN

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

Underrated & Established Spots

10 Must-Eat Dishes to CALL YOURSELF A SAN FRANCISCAN

What to eat from TRICK DOG’s NEW CHEF

Unsung Heroes: BIX, a classic 1930s-esque supperclub

East Bay

6 Island Gems in ALAMEDA

Napa

$10 Lunch: the new MELTED in downtown Napa

Books

5 New Fall Cookbooks from Bay Area Restaurants

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Written by in: Top Tastes | Tags: , ,
Sep
15
2014

Imbiber

Lolo's new playing card cocktail menu

Lolo’s new playing card cocktail menu

My Top Drink Articles: September 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Cocktails

LOLO’s artistic new PLAYING CARD COCKTAIL MENU

NOPA’s two cocktail menus within a cocktail menu

Cocktails on the new TRICK DOG MENU

Cocktailing in ALAMEDA

Spirits

ST. GEORGE RELEASES 3 NEW SPIRITS for Fall

Juice

My new cold press juice favorite, UPTOWN JUICE

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Written by in: Imbiber | Tags: , , ,
Sep
15
2014

Wandering Traveler

“It [Italy] must be inhaled wholly, with the yielding of the whole heart… It is really something transcendent, both spirit and body.”
- Margaret Fuller by Megan Marshall

Amarene (cherry) tart at Atti & Figli in Bologna

Amarene (cherry) tart at Atti & Figli in Bologna

9 Places To Eat And Drink Incredibly Well
In And Around Bologna, Italy

Article & Photos by Virginia Miller [This article was published in Food Republic on September 3, 2014]

Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto, balsamic vinegar — these staples of Italian cuisine all hail from the flat Emilia-Romagna region, a place often recognized as the best area for food in a country where the cuisine is fantastic everywhere. In our recent explorations through the region, the food and drink (including Europe’s best Tiki bar!) is superlative. Bologna, a city of roughly one million, dates back to at least 1000 BC. Famed for being home to the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088, the city retains a rich academic culture and an impressive architectural landscape that includes medieval prison towers and endless porticoes. Arguably, Italy’s greatest food markets are here. Within those walls of ancient Bologna and in the surrounding countryside and neighboring towns of Parma and Modena, you can find many unforgettable places to eat and drink. Here are nine of our favorites:

Truffle and mushroom season at Da Cesari

Truffle and mushroom season at Da Cesari

1. Da Cesari, Bologna
Stroll down a narrow street off Piazza Maggiore to find this cozy, intimate restaurant serving traditional Bolognese dishes in a dark, shelf-lined room filled with dusty wine bottles. The Cesari family has run the place since 1955, with Paolino Cesari charming customers while his wife, Irene, brings out fantastic Bolognesi dishes, including her divine pumpkin ravioli melting in butter and shaved Parmesan. In the fall and winter, truffles and mushrooms are piled in baskets and featured in numerous dishes. Many ingredients, wine and even pigs (the rare mora romagnola pig) hail from their family “Umberto Cesari” farm. Via de’ Carbonesi 8, Bologna, 40124, +39 051-237710da-cesari.it

2. Nu Bar, Bologna
Nu Bar is a shocker — and not just because it is a Tiki bar in Italy. But also because it is an excellent one, thanks to Bologna native Daniele Dalla Pola, whose passion for Tiki stems from his time in Miami. Tucked away in the medieval city centre of Bologna, there’s an outdoor patio with pizzas and pastas to dine on. But, really, it’s all about the cocktails. Don the Beachcomber Tiki classics abound, set to a funky painting of Elvis, a chic lounge and an impressive collection of vintage Tiki mugs. Dalla Pola offers a choice of sugars from varying islands and different rums from which to craft your cocktail. In the mix with the classics, his creative creations stand out, like a rum, chamomile and matcha green tea drink made with sugar from Guadalupe, lime and a house pimento dram. Or, the Smoked & Spiced Colada, set alight with house cinnamon and cloves. You won’t find another bar with this unexpected congruence of cultures anywhere in the world. Via Dè Musei, 6, 40124 Bologna, +39 051 222532, nuloungebar.com

Nu Bar, an unexpected Tiki and rum haven in Bologna's medieval city centre

Nu Bar, an unexpected Tiki and rum haven in Bologna’s medieval city centre

3. Osteria Francescana, Modena
We would easily call this one of the best meals of our lives. Yes, it’s one of the world’s top-rated restaurants, boasting three coveted Michelin stars — and, for good reason. Here, amid the intimate five-table dining room, Chef Massimo Bottura cranks out works of art that are also sigh-inducing delicious. His playful personality shows in his avant-garde, modern menu, as well as more traditional offerings. He may start with oyster and anchovy macarons, serve lush cuts of rare culatello and assign whimsical names to courses. Consider: “How to Burn a Sardine in 3 Days,” and the popular “Oops we dropped the lemon tart!” dessert on a plate made to look as if it cracked into many pieces. The wine list is stellar. Try flights of the region’s famed Lambrusco in a wide range of a varietals, which are too often sorely misrepresented. Prepare for chef Bottura’s stories: an eel course represents the river Po with elements of salt water. Meanwhile, “snails in the vineyard” is a delightful combination of snails in balsamico, white truffles, beetroot and chlorophyll sauce. For food lovers seeking to push the boundaries, Francescana is worth the great expense. Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena, +39 059 223912, osteriafrancescana.it

4. Ristorante Badessa, Reggio
In the countryside, between the towns of Reggio and Modena, sits a striking, multi-roomed building from the 1600s that once housed a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dairy. The multi-room structure moves from the elegant, vaulted ceilings of the center room to the comfort of humble back rooms where salt crystals are crusted on the walls from centuries past. It’s a family affair: gracious Alberto Ruozzi runs the place with his grandmother, mother and sisters rolling tortelli in the back as he and his cousin bring out rounds of fantastic dishes. It’s hard not to sigh over the sublime goodness of risotto cooked in mountain butter and leeks or stunningly fresh pumpkin ravioli, while they open up a treasure chest and pour their own house balsamico, dubbed “black gold” by locals. Post-dinner, order a pour of house nocino (walnut liqueur) in unorthodox flavors like mint. Via Case Secchia 2/a 42013 San Donnino di Liguria, Casalgrande, +39 0522 989138, ristorantebadessa.it

Sardines and squid ink - artful and delicious at Osteria Francescana

Sardines and squid ink – artful and delicious at Osteria Francescana

5. Trattoria Gigina, Bologna
More than 50 years old, Trattoria Gigina owes its legacy to Gigina herself whose recipes are still the focus of this cozy spot outside the medieval city centre of Bologna. Here you can try signature dishes of Bologna, like the rustic, hearty tortellini in brodo (broth) best doused in fresh-grated Parmesan. Lasagna Bolognese and a signature rabbit entree are other standouts. This old world respite is an ideal space in which to linger over a glass of amaro after dinner. Via Henri Beyle Stendhal, 1, 40128 Bologna,  +39 051 322300, trattoriagigina.it

6. Cremeria Funivia, Bologna
Gelato is one of the greatest pleasures of Italy and is excellent in countless places. But Bologna’s Cremeria Funivia is one of the best we’ve had anywhere in the country. The texture is of creamy silk. And, in the bright white shop, flavors range from tart limone or amarena (made from the Emilia-Romagna’s famed cherries) to boozy chocolate rum or “Alice,” mascarpone ice cream over melted chocolate in a cone or cup. Note: they even list nut sources for their fabulous nutty flavors from buttery pistachio to toasted pine nut. Via Porrettana, 158, 40135 Bologna, +39 051 614 5062, cremeriafunivia.com

7. Emilia Cremeria, Parma
In keeping with the superb gelato of the region, Emilia Cremeria is one of the great edible moments in the city of Parma and anywhere in Italy. Made from organic milk and finely sourced ingredients, the luxuriously creamy gelato is displayed in a charming, white shop with whimsical drawings of ingredients. All scoops are served in house-made, gluten-free waffle and sugar cones filled with fresh, dripping warm chocolate. Via Emilia Santo Stefano, 21, Parma, +39 0522 430532, cremeriaemilia.com

Ristorante Badessa in a 1600s former Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy

Ristorante Badessa, in a 1600s former Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy

8. Atti & Figli, Bologna
Dating back to 1880, family-run Paolo Atti & Figli is a quintessential Emilia-Romagna bakery, a prime stop for an intro to regional baked goods. Original furnishing and décor make it feel as if you’ve stepped into a 19th-century movie set. Look for traditional panettone, meringue shells filled with whipped cream, preserved fruits or chocolate, loaves of bread and rare local pastries like tortine Bolognese con le tagliatelle, an almond-based tart covered in crispy tagliatelle noodles. Our favorite is the amarene tartine, a tart loaded with juicy, sour cherries of the region. Via Caprarie, 7, 40124 Bologna, +39 051 220425, paoloatti.com

9. Zanarini, Bologna
Where Atti & Figli is classic and full of old-world charm, Zanarini is chic and modern, despite its 1928 origin. Look for brightly colored macarons (some better than others – try cioccolato arancia/chocolate orange), creative chocolate truffles and elaborate cakes in the windows created to look like everything from piano keys to owls. This bakery institution evokes the grand cafes of Italy, complete with seating in the square, ideal for an afternoon aperitif or espresso. Piazza Galvani, 1, 40124 Bologna, +39 051 275 0041

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Written by in: Wandering Traveler | Tags:
Sep
15
2014

Imbiber

Photo Source: Ben Krantz

Photo Source: Ben Krantz

St. George Spirits Releases 3 New Spirits

Article by Virginia Miller [ran in Zagat SF on September 3, 2014]

We love our St. George Spirits. From the rock and roll attitude of their tasting room and tours in a WWII hangar housing their Alameda distillery (reservations for tours and tastings here) to their fantastic gins, brandies, whiskies, rum, absinthe, coffee liqueur and eaux de vie, they’ve been one of the great American distilleries since the 1980s. This fall ushers in three new releases, all limited edition and sure to go quickly, hitting local shelves and local bars September-October (the whiskey will be available within the next week or two, the brandy and rum not till mid-Oct.) Whether you’re a rum, whiskey or brandy fan, St. George has you covered.

1) St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy ($60)

15 different varieties of local NorCal apples go into this gorgeous sipping brandy based off a special apple brandy they did exclusively for NYC’s famed fine dining temple Eleven Madison Park a couple years ago. That was unaged and now it is aged. Nothing could be more appropriate for fall.

2) St. George Single Malt, Lot 14 ($80)

St. George continues to turn out wonderful whiskies, year-after-year. This time it’s round 14 — it’s one of our favorites of all their single malt releases. Master distiller Lance Winters started aging some of this whiskey 15 years ago in his early days at St. George and it’s blessed with a lingering elegance and subtle spice.

3) St. George California Reserve Rum ($80)

We’re big fans of St. George’s wonderfully funky California Agricole Rum, done in the French Martinique style of rum (or rhum) — which means made from fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses, allowing the rum’s grassy, lively properties to shine. Their rum has been aged for 3 years in French oak barrels and the results still exhibit that bold funk with a generous touch of oak.

Where to Buy: K&L, Healthy Spirits, Cask, Plumpjack Noe, Bi-Rite, Jug Shop

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Written by in: Imbiber | Tags: , ,
Sep
15
2014

Imbiber

3 Notable New Piscos

Article by Virginia Miller

One of my most unforgettable international distilling adventures was exploring — and even being part of — pisco production and blending in Peru with Encanto Pisco. I had already loved the spirit for years but fell even more in love after those travels. There are not a slew of pisco releases/imports in a year as there may be with other spirits, but there are some notable ones recently.

PISCO PAYET’s SINGLE VARIETAL TORONTEL ($32.95)

Payet Pisco Torontel Pisco Payet is a lovely import from Perú with an award-winning acholado (pisco blend) and Quebranta pisco from a family that studied production methods in wine (in California and Argentina) and French distilleries in Cognac and Bordeaux, to refine their pisco production.

My favorite of their three piscos, released last fall, is Pisco Payet Torontel, an herbaceous, floral pisco that goes down silky-smooth, showing off the sophisticated qualities of the Torontel grape.

Where to Buy: Beltramo’s, Cask, Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits

PISCO PORTON’s QUEBRANTA & TORONTEL SINGLE VARIETAL PISCOS ($39.99)

Pisco PortonAs the biggest brand in pisco in terms of dollars and influence, Pisco Porton’s acholado (blended pisco) can be found the world over. This fall, they are releasing — for the first time — two single varietal, estate-grown piscos that are the same price as their acholado ($39.99), despite the additional cost of producing Torontel specifically.

Their Quebranta exhibits those Quebranta grape qualities I love: earth and green notes, with hints of chocolate and sweet, spiced pear. The Torontel is elegant: bright and tropical on the nose, smelling of baked fruit in the sun, while its floral, blossom aspects shine to taste.

I recently had the privilege of an hour chatting with master distiller Johnny Schuler over — what else? — pisco, about the 120 people he employees, including mostly female distillers. He notes, “The origins of pisco are purity,” a quality you taste in both of Porton’s clean (but far from bland) new releases.

Where to Buy: Jug Shop, Swirl on Castro, D&M

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Written by in: Imbiber | Tags:
Sep
01
2014

September 1, 2014

“If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you… There is a German proverb: ‘Der Teufel scheisst immer auf den grössten Haufen’ ['The Devil always sh--s on the biggest heap']. So start heaping and have faith. Every time you make a film you should be prepared to descend into Hell and wrestle it from the claws of the Devil himself. Prepare yourself: there is never a day without a sucker punch. At the same time, be pragmatic and learn how to develop an understanding of when to abandon an idea. Follow your dreams no matter what, but reconsider if they can’t be realized in certain situations.” – German Filmmaker Werner Herzog

Breathtaking

Breathtaking sunset (with no filter) at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Taste of Sonoma

I hope you all had a lovely Labor Day weekend… this weekend I experienced Taste of Sonoma for the first time, part of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, including Friday night at Francis Ford Coppola Winery with the stunning sunset above. Saturday was full of winning tastes from over 200 wineries and 70 restaurants and food outlets on the grounds of MacMurray Ranch. In the meantime, here’s almost 20 new articles on what’s happening in food and drink from SF to NY.

This issue:

Top TastesMy Top Food Articles, September 1-15: 12 of my latest Zagat articles on new restaurants, underrated spots, weekend escapes and noteworthy events.
ImbiberMy Top Drink Articles, September 1-15: 5 of my latest Zagat articles on a Sonoma-grown cider, top 5 beer cocktails now and new cocktail menus at Ramen Shop and The Commissary.
Imbiber5 Under-the-Radar New Spirits to Try: 5 new standouts, from gin to mezcal, Scotch to rye whiskey.
Wandering TravelerMy 8 Best Cocktails in NYC 2014: My best cocktails from this year’s return visits.

As your personal concierge who tells it like a good friend would, I also create personalized itineraries: trips, meals, explorations (under “Services“).

Virginia

CLICKABLE LINKS to Social Media & Articles:
Twitter
Facebook

Liquor.com
Zagat
7×7 Magazine
Spoonwiz
Pinterest

**Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Virginia Miller**

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Written by in: Intro Letter |
Sep
01
2014

Top Tastes

Broccoli and cheese re-imagined at The Tradesman in the Mission

Broccoli and cheese re-imagined at The Tradesman in the Mission

My Top Food Articles: August 16-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my many articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some coverage highlights here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Essay/Opinion Piece

Changing Tastes: You Can Learn to Eat (Even Like) Everything with Commentary from Harold McGee

New Bay Area Openings

Spanish-Californian Gem in the Presido: Traci Des Jardins’ THE COMMISSARY

Killer peanut butter cheddar burgers and other better-than-average bar food gems at THE TRADESMAN

Bruleed lobster pretzel rolls and other seafood gems at JACK’S OYSTER BAR & FISH HOUSE in Oakland

Early Tastes at Spanish Newcomer in the Castro, BESO

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

Underrated & Established Spots

The Results of our 1st National BEST BURGER SURVEY – and my round-up of HONORABLE MENTIONS

WHERE TO EAT NEAR BART: My 10-stop guide, station-by-station

Secretly Awesome: GOOD LUCK DIM SUM in the Inner Richmond for best dim sum takeout

My Top 4 VEGETARIAN BURGERS

South Bay

Day Trip: What to Eat & Drink in LOS GATOS – my 4 favorite spots

Events

The 6 Best Things I ate & drank at OUTSIDE LANDS 2014

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