Nov
15
2014

November 15, 2014

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.”David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Savoring fall in Napa Valley

Savoring fall in Napa Valley

Fall is my favorite season — and the most stunning time in Wine Country. Invigorated by the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of the vines in Napa Valley this weekend, I share nearly 20 new articles I wrote these last two weeks, including a big feature on 12 Essential Sonoma restaurants, covering a range of prices and food categories around the County.

This issue:

Liquid nitrogen dish at Square Root in New Orleans

Liquid nitrogen dish at Square Root in New Orleans

Top TastesMy Food Articles, November 1-15: 13 of my current Zagat articles on a number of new restaurants, under-the-radar spots and more.
ImbiberMy Drink Articles, November 1-15: 4 of my current Zagat articles on new cocktails at Alembic, a wine sailing adventure on the Bay, 3 new beer bars you should know, and more.
Wandering TravelerNew Orleans: In my annual return to my beloved Nola, standout dishes at 8 new and established restaurants.

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:
Zagat
Food Republic
Liquor.com
Editor, Distiller Magazine
SF Bay Guardian Critic (Weekly Column: 2009-2013)
Spoonwiz
Freelance:
The Times London, Eater, PureWow, Drink Me Magazine, Citysearch, NBC’s The Feast, Blackboard Eats, Tasting Table, Grubstreet, Where Magazine

www.facebook.com/ThePerfectSpothttps://twitter.com/ThePerfectSpotwww.linkedin.com/pub/virginia-miller/2/295/33a/

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

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Written by in: Intro Letter |
Nov
15
2014

Top Tastes

In the Napa town of St. Helena: The Restaurant at Meadowood bar bites (see eat at

In the Napa town of St. Helena: The Restaurant at Meadowood bar bites (see How to Eat for $30 at Top-Rated Restaurants)

My Top Food Articles: November 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

First Look: ALEMBIC’s new kitchen opens – what to eat on the new menu

7 things to order at Traci Des Jardins’ new Arguello in the Presidio

3 things to order at the new Klyde Cafe near Union Square (including one of the best new burgers in town)

What to order all day long at the new Brenda’s Meat & Three (yes, a sister restaurant to the long-wonderful Brenda’s French Soul Food)

Sweet Tooth: Lush Gelato opens on Polk Street

The Whole Beast Menu at The Hall: beef spider cuts & duck hearts

Tikka Masala reopens as Tikka Masala & Pizza in the Upper Haight

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

Cedar-smoked trout - on  Alembic's excellent new menu post-new kitchen buildout

Cedar-smoked trout – on Alembic’s excellent new menu post-new kitchen buildout

Underrated & Established Spots

3 things to know about Yuzuki Japanese Eatery & its new chef (hint: it transports me back to Japan)

How to eat for $30 or less at 8 top-rated Bay Area restaurants

10 coziest Bay Area restaurants

East Bay

3 new East Bay brunches

10 coziest Bay Area restaurants

Wine Country

12 Essential Sonoma Restaurants

How to eat for $30 or less at 8 top-rated Bay Area restaurants

10 coziest Bay Area restaurants

Authentic, lush Japanese desserts at Yuzuki in the Mission

Authentic, lush Japanese desserts at Yuzuki in the Mission

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Nov
15
2014

Imbiber

New drinks at the Alembic

New drinks at the Alembic

My Top Drink Articles: November 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.

Wine

Bluxome Winery & Les Clos team up for a month of (delicious) sailing on the bay

Cocktails

New cocktails on ALEMBIC’s menu alongside dishes from its brand new kitchen

Second Annual Give Back the Bird: drink Wild Turkey whiskey cocktails for charity this Thanksgiving at 5 favorite SF bars/restaurants

Beer

3 new BEER BARS you should know in SF and Oakland

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Written by in: Imbiber |
Nov
15
2014

Wandering Traveler

Square Root, an ambitious new restaurant

Square Root, an ambitious new restaurant

8 Best Meals in New Orleans in 2014

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Rooftop pool at the centrally-located Omni Royal Hotel

Rooftop pool at centrally-located Omni Royal

Back in my beloved New Orleans. During my annual visits, I am able to catch up on my many newcomers since the prior visit. I returned to spots like Sylvain and Café Adelaide, ordered sandwiches for my flight home from St. James Cheese Company, and in coffee, and went daily to my favorite Spitfire Coffee near the ideally-located Omni Royal Hotel, where I returned for another stay. When I moved to the mellow Maison Dupuy Hotel, I was delighted to find a fantastic new coffee newcomer — also a vintage barware and bike shop — just around the corner, Arrow Cafe, serving Four Barrel Coffee from SF to make me feel right at home.

Last issue, I covered the best of new bars and cocktails this year in Nola, and here are my top New Orleans meals this year from both newcomers and repeat favorites:

Liquid nitrogen preparation at Square Root:

Liquid nitrogen preparation at Square Root:

Tasting Menu Extraordinaire: Square Root

Artful foie gras course

Artful foie gras course

Square Root is easily the most exciting New Orleans’ newcomer on the dining side — and the same holds true for its upstairs bar/lounge and cocktails. The historic building boasts a balcony and a wrap-around upstairs bar from which bartenders turn out impeccable cocktails, dishes and bites akin to the creative quality I love at their parent restaurant, Root. Downstairs is a 16-seat bar surrounding a live kitchen where executive chef Phillip Lopez and team turn out sophisticated, international dishes (sometimes with molecular touches) right in front of you. It’s a 12-15 course dinner ($150 per person) and changes constantly so each experience is unique.

Shaved white truffles over eggs

Shaved white truffles over eggs

What I appreciate most, besides occasional “wow” moments — when New Orleans flavors and classic dishes are reinterpreted with a Mexican, Asian, global slant — is Lopez’ vision to bring something to Nola that isn’t already here, attempting to be on par with visionary tasting menus found all over NYC, Chicago, LA or SF. There is much possibility and artistry here and I can’t wait to see how Square Root unfolds.

Square Root: mole and cornbread

Square Root: mole and cornbread

Square Root's intimate dining room is up & close & personal with the cooking of their multi-course meal

Square Root’s intimate dining room is up close & personal with the kitchen

Oh, Those Beignets: SoBou

Beignets

Duck Confit Debris & Foie Gras Beignets

Since the week it opened, I’ve been drawn to SoBou for lovely Abigail Gullo’s cocktails, but the food keeps up, maybe even more than in its initial opening days.

Summer was showcased in one of my favorite regional specialties: Creole tomatoes. Akin to amazing heirloom tomatoes at home in Northern California, these juicy red, yellow and green tomatoes ($13) come from Covey Rise Farms ($13), piled high with spicy legumes (black eyed peas, etc.), grilled summer corn and arugula in sugarcane vinegar made into caviar-like pearls. But all bets are off with decadent sweet potato beignets ($12) drizzled in foie gras fondue, filled with duck confit debris and accented by chicory coffee ganache. Sigh.

Out of the Way Surprise: Treo

The best part of Treo may be its clean but funky design & warm service

The best part of Treo may be its clean but funky design & warm service

On a sweltering, hot day, I went well out of my way to try newcomer Treo in Mid City because the menu called to me. Cocktails were intriguing but some came in surprisingly miniscule portions (half the size of a typical cocktail), especially at $10-11 each — and flavors weren’t always realized either though I loved the ingredient combination, as with Phet Nit Nawy (translates to “a little bit spicy” in Thai) mixing Genepy des Alpes liqueur, Ransom dry herbal vermouth, tarragon syrup and Thai chilies. But the Southeast Asian influence is not much seen (and thus needed) in these parts.

Treo's gumbo

Treo’s gumbo

Food was the highlight, particularly on the “pie” front. Crawfish empanadas ($8), a Spanish twist on classic crawfish pie, were a delight, while Nola’s legendary Hubig’s was the inspiration behind a fried blueberry pie ($8) accented by crème anglaise and fresh blueberries.

Even Better 1 Year In: Peche

Surprisingly excellent fish stick

Surprisingly excellent fish sticks

Since I first visited Peche right when it opened last year, chef/owners Ryan Prewitt, Donald Link and Stephan Stryjewski have been garnering a heavy dose of accolades, including being named Best New Restaurant in the US at the 2014 James Beard Awards. While all that feels a bit exaggerated for the large, deafeningly noisy space, returning this year, it was clear in terms of food, Peche has come into its own.

Whole fish

Whole fish: Louisiana speckled trout

Over rounds of seafood, it’s a pleasure, whether ridiculously good fish sticks ($11), oozing, warm shrimp fontina croquettes ($10) or grilled corn on the cob ($5) smothered in Alabama white sauce (hell, yes!) It works best as a shared plates kind of place, particularly with whole fish specials like grilled Louisiana speckled trout ($36) with pancetta and celery or smothered catfish ($16).

Creole tomatoes at their peak in summer at SoBou

Creole tomatoes at their peak in summer at SoBou

Brunch Perfection: Ralph’s On The Park

Brandy Milk Punch

Brandy Milk Punch

Facing massive City Park in Mid City, Ralph’s On the Park is one of my favorite classic New Orleans brunches, a ritual I partake in every year (for over 7 years) at different places around the city. Though Ralph’s doesn’t have live jazz and I prefer jazz brunch when I can get it, their food is among the best brunches I’ve had in Nola — and a deal at $28 for a 3-course brunch.

Ralph's on the Park

Ralph’s on the Park

While sipping a classic Brandy Milk Punch ($8 – brandy, milk, simple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla extract) — also a key part of my Nola brunch tradition (along with a Cafe Brulot) — I start with pickled beet salad ($6.50) accented by baby arugula, red onion and creamy feta with an unusual touch of orange blossom vinegar. Fried smoked oysters ($11) are excellent in Buffalo Trace tomato jam and white remoulade sauce, while chicken & waffles ($15) are given a twist with the chicken wrapped in country ham, all in red eye gravy. Their turtle soup finished with sherry ($8) is the best I’ve ever had after trying many versions over the years.

Elegant Comfort: Herbsaint

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Crab in watermelon gazpacho

While I might prefer other Donald Link restaurants (namely the aforementioned Peche; Cochon is wildly popular, but after a few visits over the years, I enjoy but find it overrated), the older Herbsaint turns out a number of lovely dishes, thanks to Link and Chef de Cuisine Rebcca Wilcomb. While pricey sparkling cocktails like the Herbsaint Champagne ($13) are disappointing, the wine list offers plenty of acidic, Old World whites to accompany seafood.

Herbsaint's massive, delicious, slow-cooked lamb neck

Massive slow-cooked lamb neck

Jumbo lump crab ($14) is lively in watermelon gazpacho dotted with lime-jalapeno aioli. Louisiana shrimp and fish ceviche ($12) is perked up with cucumbers and pepitas. I love tender rabbit fricassee ($14) over garganelli pasta, decadent with bacon and pumpkin, the clincher being a rich Madeira sauce.

One of the dining rooms at SoBou

One of the dining rooms at SoBou

Not-Your-Average-Nola-Dive-Bar: St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence' burger

St. Lawrence’ burger

Dive-y but not dingy, St. Lawrence is a welcome addition to the Quarter. It’s open all day and night, offering affordable comfort food made with quality ingredients and the best damn boozy slushies in a neighborhood famous for bastardizing the category. Just try their bracing, delicious Pimm’s Cup slushies and try not to be converted.

Sip a slushie on a hot day alongside a platter of heartwarming fried chicken ($15) mashed potatoes and braised collard greens or an 8 oz. Creekstone Angus beef burger ($12) on a Kaiser bun with white cheddar ($1).

Drinks & Southern Goodness: Kingfish

Kingfish's fried green tomatoes & Hoppin' John

Kingfish’s fried green tomatoes & Hoppin’ John

Kingfish is all about bartender legend Chris McMillian and his few-but-utterly-perfect classics, included the best Suissesse ($12) — a classic, creamy absinthe cocktail, here made with Herbsaint, orgeat and cream — you’ll ever have.

But it’s also about fun food, my recent favorite being a top notch version of Hoppin’ John salad ($9) accompanied by a fried green tomato with remoulade sauce. On the entree front, shrimp gaufre ($22) is Nola-style BBQ shrimp atop a cornmeal waffle pirogue on sweet potato puree.

The courtyard of Nola's Maison Dupuy hotel, one of a few places I've stayed in the French Quarter - this hotel is a quiet respite in the Quarter with a pool in the coutryard

The courtyard of Nola’s Maison Dupuy hotel, one of a number of places I’ve stayed in the French Quarter – this hotel is a quiet respite in the Quarter with a pool in the courtryard

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Written by in: Wandering Traveler | Tags:
Nov
01
2014

November 1, 2014

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”Aldous Huxley

Artful food at under-the-radar Napa gem (see Top Tastes)

Artful food at under-the-radar Napa gem (see Top Tastes)

Just returned from an unreal trip to Hong Kong and Japan, I am right back into long days of writing and savoring the warm, sunny days and invigorating fall air of home.

This issue:

Top TastesMy Food Articles, October 16-31: 18 of my current Zagat articles on new restaurants, under-the-radar lunches and comfort food dishes, and more.

Brittany-style crepes in the Haight (see Top Tastes)

Brittany-style crepes in the Haight (see Top Tastes)

ImbiberMy Drink Articles, October 16-13: 4 of my current Zagat articles on a new coffee destination, wine and spirits in Napa, a carbonated draft cocktail menu, and more.
Wandering TravelerNew Orleans: In my annual return to my beloved Nola, standout cocktails at new and established bars.
Imbiber3 Spirits Picks for October: My top 3 new spirits releases — a gin, rum and Scotch — this month.

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:
Zagat
Food Republic
Liquor.com
Editor, Distiller Magazine
SF Bay Guardian Critic (Weekly Column: 2009-2013)
Spoonwiz
Freelance:
The Times London, Eater, PureWow, Drink Me Magazine, Citysearch, NBC’s The Feast, Blackboard Eats, Tasting Table, Grubstreet, Where Magazine

www.facebook.com/ThePerfectSpothttps://twitter.com/ThePerfectSpotwww.linkedin.com/pub/virginia-miller/2/295/33a/

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

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Written by in: Intro Letter |
Nov
01
2014

Top Tastes

Artful food at under-the-radar Napa gem, 1313 Main

Artful food at under-the-radar Napa gem, 1313 Main

My Top Food Articles: October 16-31

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

BURMESE fare & BRITTANY-style CREPES arrive at Upper Haight’s SECOND ACT MARKETPLACE

First Look at HUXLEY in the TENDERLOIN

2 NEW OAKLAND BURGER OUTPOSTS (also with Asian-influenced tacos and craft beer)

TWISTED DONUT & SWICH: Outer Sunset’s sweet new duo

TINY WARRIOR: A new Mission coffee outpost with creative iced coffees & a pour over coffee menu from various producers

PAPABUBBLE: Barcelona import with housemade hard candies

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

Squid at brand new Huxley

Squid at brand new Huxley

Underrated & Established Spots

8 Under-the-Radar LUNCHES in San Francisco (including new lunches, off-the-beaten path spots and upscale places with discounted lunches)

SECRETLY AWESOME: 10 Under-the-Radar Bay Area Gems

10 SF COMFORT FOOD CLASSIC DISHES

CAFE JACQUELINE, an Unsung Hero – the “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” of souffles

$10 Lunch: JANNAH, SF’s best Iraqi cuisine?

$10 Lunch: sandwiches at MORTY’S DELICATESSEN near Civic Center

Secretly Awesome: GUSTO in SAN CARLOS

Wine Country

10 TOP EDIBLE STOPS in SANTA ROSA (Sonoma County)

6 things to know about 1313 MAIN in DOWNTOWN NAPA

NOBLE FOLK PIE & ICE CREAM in Healdsburg (Sonoma County)

FLAVOR! NAPA VALLEY readies for its 4th year mid-November

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Nov
01
2014

Imbiber

Blackbird's refreshing carbonated cocktails

Blackbird’s refreshing carbonated cocktails

My Top Drink Articles: October 16-31

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.

Wine & Spirits

6 things to know about 1313 MAIN in DOWNTOWN NAPA

FLAVOR! NAPA VALLEY readies for its 4th year mid-November

Cocktails

BLACKBIRD’S carbonated draft cocktail line-up

Coffee

TINY WARRIOR: A new Mission coffee outpost with creative iced coffees & a pour over coffee menu from various producers

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Written by in: Imbiber |
Nov
01
2014

Imbiber

Lost Spirits Cuban Rum

3 Spirits Picks for October

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries I visit in any given month… being in Asia half of October, there were dozens of spectacular (and rare) spirits I tasted, mostly in Japan. Those will be explored more in upcoming articles in Whisky Magazine UK, on my Liquor.com page, here at The Perfect Spot and in other publications I’m writing for.

For October, here are 3 international spirits — gin, rum and Scotch— that stood out most this month.

LOST SPIRITS’ CUBAN RUM ($40)

You’ve heard me talk about Monterey’s visionary and excitingly experimental Lost Spirits and its distiller Bryan Davis before. Davis has done it again. Just I am in love with their Navy-style rum, their just-released, 151 proof Cuban-style rum is my new addiction. With those beautiful funky notes, it’s a sweeter but still bracing, potent rum that evokes island breezes and vacation, but with earthy depth and complexity. This is some of the best taste-to-value rum you will find anywhere — and I am a fan of their classic-style artwork (pictured above). I can’t wait for more from Davis, Joanne Haruta (co-owner) and Lost Spirits.

Where to Buy: At K&L

GLENROTHES 1992 Vintage, 2nd Edition ($249.99) and 2001 Single Malt Scotch ($70)

Glenrothes has long been a favorite Speyside Scotch producer of mine for its balance and general elegance.

Glenrothes 2001It was back in 2011 that I last had dinner with Ronnie Cox, Glenrothes’ longtime brand ambassador (his official title is Brands Heritage Director for Berry, Bros. & Rudd — BBR). I had the privilege of doing so again this September at Dirty Habit. We tasted through Glenrothes’ 1998, 2001 and 1995 Scotches and were the first in the world (outside of BBR staff) to taste the 1992 Vintage before it was poured during VIP hour at this year’s Whiskyfest SF.

The 2001 and 1992 were my favorites for different reasons. Glenrothes 1992 Vintage, 2nd Edition (44.3% ABV), is aged 10 years longer than the 1st edition (released in 2004) and is a mixture of ex-sherry and bourbon casks. It is actually the first Glenrothes vintage made of Scotch aged entirely in refill casks, meaning the wood doesn’t dominate and the base spirit shines. I caught plenty of apple and vanilla on the nose and warm apple notes, bright pear and butterscotch to taste, balanced by a long, dry finish. The 2001 Glenrothes has more spice (the sherry cask showing off) and a rounded depth that whispers of citrus, sandalwood and even chocolate. I could linger with that one all night.

Where to Buy: Master of Malt

ANCHOR DISTILLING’s OLD TOM GIN ($29.95)

Anchor Old Tom GinIt has been awhile (the last release was Hophead Vodka) since there was a new Anchor Distilling spirits release. Anchor’s Old Tom Gin is a worthwhile new addition to a gin line-up that includes their fascinating Genvieve, a Belgian/Dutch-style genever, and their longtime, standard-setting London dry style gin, Junipero. This Old Tom is more approachable (and easily drinkable) than other versions on the market (I wrote more about the category here) — and it tastes wonderful with a quality tonic.

Old Tom is a classic style hearkening back to 18th century England, juniper-dominant in keeping with gin as we know it, somewhere between malty genever and London dry gin. Distilled in a pot still, it’s sweeter than a London dry, thanks to star anise and licorice root botanicals as well as stevia sourced from Paraguay, adding a silkier texture and mouth feel than in a London dry.

Where to Buy: Alchemy Bottle Shop in Oakland

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