Aug
15
2013

On the Town

SF Chefs Sean Brock & Daniel Patterson - Virginia Miller

Exploring cooking on both coasts with Charleston’s Sean Brock (Husk) & SF’s Daniel Patterson (Coi) during an 8/2 cooking demo

SF CHEFS – AUGUST 2013

Article and Photos by Virginia Miller

Good humor and rapport between Chefs Patterson (left) and Brock (right) on 8/2 cooking demo

Good humor and rapport between Chefs Patterson (left) and Brock (right) on 8/2 cooking demo

SF Chefs is one of my more anticipated food and drink events all year. Partly because it is now in its fifth year, it runs like a well-oiled ship, a buzzy flow of seminars, classes, luncheons, tasting events and parties, the four main Grand Tastings being held in an entirely tented Union Square, which always feels like a party in itself.

As San Francisco’s food and wine classic, the event features solid wines, though the selection at Pebble Beach Food & Wine Classic is far stronger, as one comparison. But the food at SF Chefs is excellent and varied at any of the grand tastings from key Bay Area chefs.

In past years, the cocktail portion has been stronger with local bars representing SF’s long-established cocktail culture throughout the tent. This year, 8/1 atop the Westin was meant to be the cocktail and bites-focused night. Real estate has become too valuable in the tent, so besides Elixir, pulling out all the stops with a changing menu of five different cocktails during each Grand Tasting, and cocktail catering/consultants, Ananas and Rye on the Road, cocktails during the Grand Tastings were all brand-sponsored, with cocktails made by local bartenders.

Via photos, just a few of the best food, drinks and moments from SF Chefs 2013:

8/1: Bar Bites atop the Westin St. Francis

8/2: Fifth Anniversary Opening Celebration in the Grand Tasting Tent

SF Chefs Chris Cosentino - Virginia Miller

Chris Cosentino (Incanto) slices up Berkshire pigs stuffed with truffle mortadella, pâté de campagne, and smoked liverwurst

Rye on the Road presented a menu of four different (blissfully boozy) shave ice flavors, including

Rye on the Road presented a menu of four different (blissfully boozy) shave ices, including this winner of roasted cantaloupe syrup, poblano chili tincture, sweetened condensed milk, Espolon tequila

Betelnut’s raw day boat scallops marinated in nouc cham sauce with kaffir lime peanut brittle and sweet black sesame purée on black sesame rice crackers

Roman BLTs on pizza bianca with juicy Early Girl tomatoes and guanciale from Locanda

Locanda’s Roman BLTs on pizza bianca with guanciale & Early Girl tomatoes

SF Chefs Cynar - Virginia Miller

Perfection: espresso & Cynar (Italian artichoke liqueur/amaro) shots at the Campari cocktail cart

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Ananas Consulting’s Lillet shots: Lillet Blanc & Rose, pisco, rosewater; Lillet Rose, Campari, watermelon; Lillet Rouge, plum liqueur,  Del Maguey mezcal

 

Chef Peter Armellino's luxurious caviar cannoli as my first bite of the night. At one end peeked a black head of California Hackleback caviar, donated by the California Caviar Company. At the other, diced chives decorated the filling of smoked sturgeon mouse, creamy with mascarpone and crème fraîche.

From the Village Pub in Woodside: sweet corn & Summer truffle fritters

Roasted White Chocolate Crémeux from Absinthe How does one roast white chocolate? For this innovative and irresistible dessert, pastry chef Bill Corbett cooked the white chocolate in a water bath over low temperature to gently toast the mild solids. His method turned the crémeux a pale shade of pumpkin and gave it a caramel flavor. This slightly-sweet pudding accompanied a mild tarragon foam and juicy raspberry compote mixed with a little fennel. Crumbled chocolate cookies stepped in for crunch

Absinthe Pastry Chef Bill Corbett’s roasted white chocolate crémeux – I’m not even a white chocolate fan & I loved this dessert; the roasted effect gave it a caramelized taste, topped with tarragon foam, raspberry compote, chocolate cookie crumble

8/3: The Five Tastes: Bitter, Sour, Salty, Sweet & Umami in the Grand Tasting Tent

8/3: Decadence After Dark, The Menu is In the Music in the Grand Tasting Tent

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Farallon’s Louisiana prawn & scallop sausage w/ whole grain mustard creme fraiche

Chef Michael Mina poses for photos as he serves food

Chef Michael Mina poses for photos as he serves food

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Thanks, Bluestem Brasserie, for Torchon of Hudson Valley Foie Gras w/ peaches on brioche, atop a turntable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander's Steakhouse

Alexander’s Steakhouse’s silky steak tartare decadently topped with chicharrones

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Sens’ tasty sweet-savory apricots stuffed w/ chicken tagine, pistachios, spiced yogurt

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Gitane’s Butifarra Negra: blood sausage decadently topped with raw scallops, sweet corn, pickled onions

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Written by in: On the Town |
Aug
15
2013

On the Town

OUTSIDE LANDS 2013:
Music Lover/Foodie’s Dream Festival

Article & Photos by Virginia Miller

VIP hangout area for Dynamo Donuts, Blue Bottle Coffee and other treats

A VIP hangout area for Dynamo Donuts, Blue Bottle Coffee and other treats

As a couple hundred thousand people descended on Golden Gate Park for three days of some of the world’s biggest musicians at Outside Lands, San Francisco is truly represented by food, wine and beer that shames what typically passes for “festival” food and drink. Raising the bar for all festivals, James Beard restaurants serve celebrated appetizers from their restaurants, artful, boutique wines are poured, whole lambs are cooked in array of delicious interpretations, California craft beers flow. This year in the woods near Choco Lands, three bars (two SF, one Oakland) poured quality cocktails… hopefully next year, even more local cocktail bars will be represented.

In the midst of unforgettable shows by Sir Paul McCartney, Jurassic 5 and dozens of other musicians, we were certainly satiated.

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Among the best eats at OL 2013: Rich Table’s famed sardine chips & my favorite, their porcini doughnuts (right)

Roaming the Wine Lands tent: taste highlights included wines by one of my favorite small Napa producers, Forlorn Hope, as well as Scribe,

Roaming the Wine Lands tent: taste highlights included wines by one of my favorite small Napa producers, Forlorn Hope, as well as Scribe, Hobo, Robert Sinskey

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Written by in: On the Town |
Aug
01
2013

On the Town

The hazy, sultry heat of New Orleans in July fogged up my camera lens

The hazy, sultry heat of New Orleans in July fogged up my camera lens

Another Year, Another Tales:
2013 TALES of the COCKTAIL in New Orleans

Article & Photos by Virginia Miller

Absolut Magic:

Absolut Magic in the air set to Annie Bea’s sultry vocals Miss Beahave’s Copper Club, an intimate lounge at the Absolut party

Another year, another Tales. Tales of the Cocktail was another mad frenzy of a week in oppressive heat (though not as bad as in past years), drinking while getting educated on drink with thousands of people around New Orleans. Any reason to return to my beloved New Orleans (which I’ve written about extensively) is a worthy one.

Best moments this year included time spent in local’s homes, eating home-cooked food (which in New Orleans is real treat, let me tell you) and talking long hours over good drink. Tales remains the single best event in which to connect with key folk of the cocktail/spirits world all in one place and to sample new spirits and products.

While the Tales parties have gotten too big (in some cases, too big to even get into – lines were so long I skipped more than one major event I had a ticket to), some spirits brands ensure the time is worthwhile with countless smaller, more manageable events around the the city. In one case, I was driven to a historic house for Cognac and cigars (cheers, D’usse!), another time I walked to a beer garden with absinthe root beer floats, and, yes, beer (thanks, Becherovka/Pernod!)

Tales Miss Beehave's 4- Virginia Miller

Transported to another time in the orange-haze of Miss Beahave’s Copper Club

Tales Miss Beehave's - Virginia Miller

Grand piano & sultry jazz tunes at Miss Beahave’s Copper Club

Tales Miss Beehave's 3- Virginia Miller

At Miss Beehave’s sipping Absolut Elyx Blush: Fino sherry, Lillet Rose, orange bitters

While there are too many key moments to list, the week’s highlights are best hinted at via photos, the most magical moments being in the intimate jazz room set to the transporting, sultry vocals of London’s Annie Bea at the Absolut party, the one major party that exceeded expectations, with bartenders from around the globe serving drinks (Dale DeGroff, Toby Cecchini, Audrey Saunders, Nick Strangeway, Chris McMillian, etc.) in 16 wildly different themed rooms inside legendary Nola restaurant, Arnaud’s.

Tales Spirited Awards dinner

Tales Spirited Awards dinner

Note the list of Tales Spirited Awards winners below, a Gatsby-themed gala I attended Saturday during Tales. The awards remain New York and London-centric year after year, with the occasional nod to the rest of the cocktail world but not always a pulse on what’s currently “best” around the globe. Still, it’s a pleasure to see hard-working bars, bartenders and industry folk nominated and win, even if many are not included who should be.

Stay tuned for more on New Orleans‘ restaurants and cocktail bars in upcoming newsletters, and also in this newsletter for spirits newcomer standouts during this year’s Tales.

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David Wondrich gives a drink history lesson in the back garden of Dead Rabbit pop-up

Tales Dead Rabbit Pop-up - Virginia Miller

Dead Rabbit pop-up bar (complete with piano as in NY’s Dead Rabbit) at Nola’s brand new Cane & Table bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolut Elyx dinner with skagen (North sea prawns, dill, lemon mayo), Kraftor (Swedish crayfish in a broth of beer, salt, dill, flowers), herring, gravad lax

Idyllic Absolut Elyx dinner housed in atmospheric Bevelo Gas & Electric Lights space with rounds of skagen (North sea prawns, dill, lemon mayo on toasts), Kraftor (Swedish crayfish in a broth of beer, salt, dill, flowers), herring, gravlax, generous pours of Absolut Elyx, dessert cocktails from Naren Young

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Dave Arnold (NY’s Booker & Dax) serves molecular Absolut Elyx shots at Absolut party

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Creepy, clincal fun in the”My Blue Heaven” room (with Dave Arnold) at Absolut party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D'usse Cognac, cocktails, bites and Cognac-soaked cigars at the historic Edgar Degas house - back patio set up for cigar smoking

D’usse Cognac, cocktails, bites and Cognac-soaked cigars inside and in the back yard (pictured) of the historic Edgar Degas house

2013 TALES SPIRITED AWARD WINNERS

Nick Strangeway's "office", 16 Winchester Walk at Absolut party - private appointments/tastings only

One-on-one tasting appointments with Nick Strangeway (London) in his “office”, 16 Winchester Walk, at Absolut party

Best Cocktail Writing PublicationDifford’s Guide (London)

Best New Cocktail/Bartending BookDrink by Tony Conigliaro

Best American Brand Ambassador – Todd Richman (Sidney Frank)

Best International Brand Ambassador – Jacob Briars (Bacardi)

Best American Bartender – Charles Joly, The Aviary (Chicago)

World’s Best Cocktail Menu – The Dead Rabbit (New York)

Best Cocktail Writing – AuthorGary Regan

Best Bar Mentor – Julie Reiner, The Clover Club (Brooklyn)

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award – Salvatore Calabrese

Pernod Ricard event at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum was a relaxing afternoon respite, using the vintage soda fountain-like atmosphere to serve up Pernod ice cream floats, test tube cocktails, boozy candy and other treats. Ivy Mix with Pernod Absinthe ice cream floats at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Pernod Absinthe/Abita root beer/ice cream floats at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Best American Cocktail Bar – The Clover Club (Brooklyn)

World’s Best Drinks Selection – Canon Whiskey & Bitters Emporium (Seattle)

World’s Best Hotel Bar – The NoMad Hotel (New York)

World’s Best Cocktail Bar – Drink (Boston)

Best Restaurant Bar – Saxon + Parole (New York)

Best High Volume Cocktail Bar – Clover Club (Brooklyn)

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar – The Dead Rabbit (New York)

Best New ProductFords Gin

International Bartender of the Year – Jack McGarry, The Dead Rabbit (Brooklyn)

Joyous brass bands, whole roasted pigs and fund-raising for the local community schools in Washington Square Park at Pig 'n Punch, thrown annually by SF's The Bon Vivants

Joyous brass band, whole roasted pigs and fund-raising for the local community schools in Washington Square Park at Pig ‘n Punch, thrown annually by SF’s The Bon Vivants

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Written by in: On the Town | Tags: ,
Aug
01
2013

On the Town

New Zealand dining during America's Cup (see "On the Town")

Waving the New Zealand flag for America’s Cup from Waterbar during a lunch with NZ Chef Al Brown

Dining NEW ZEALAND-style in SF

Photos & Article by Virginia Miller

Dining New Zealand-style at Waiheke Island Yacht Club (see "On the Town")

Dining New Zealand-style at Waiheke Island Yacht Club (see “On the Town”)

With America’s Cup in full swing, Team New Zealand represents with a pop-up restaurant, and visiting New Zealand chefs, one who shared NZ specialties during SF Chefs.

As part of the forward-thinking design of America’s Cup Park, Waiheke Island Yacht Club is a New Zealand pop-up restaurant in historic Pier 29, open through December. Walking into the pier structure, there’s astroturf, fancy porta potties, and a giant Yacht Club sign. Entering the airy, warehouse space, untreated wood forms the floor, bar, and walls in space both minimalist and refined. The menu is pricey (entrees from $27-35) and though service is friendly and attentive, the kitchen moves at a slow pace, even during an almost empty lunch. The lunch took over two hours, though 45 minutes before our last dish arrived, I mentioned (more than once) that we had to wrap up. Go when you plan to be there awhile or sit at the bar and order a couple plates.

My favorite dish at Waiheke: ‘Hawkes Bay’ Cervena Tartare, oyster, radish & fresh horseradish.  16.0

My favorite dish at Waiheke: remarkably silky, flavorful Hawkes Bay Cervena venison tartare ($16) intermingling with oysters, radishes, fresh horseradish

Waiheke's spacious dining room

Waiheke’s spacious dining room

More importantly: the food. What pours forth from the kitchen are memorable, artfully prepared dishes. Though a lamb entree disappointed in terms of flavor or “wow” factor (particularly at $35), a few small plates and desserts impressed.

Warm levian bread with hickory-burnt butter & sea salt, tasting a lot like salted caramel

Warm levian bread with hickory-burnt butter & sea salt, tasting a lot like salted caramel

Ingredients are dominantly local with key items from New Zealand. Cooking style and inspiration comes from NZ by way of SF. With much of the staff from New Zealand, true tribute is paid to the culinary scene and riches of the country, while Moa beer flows on draft and cocktail recipes are created by NZ bartenders.

During SF Chefs, I delighted in a family-style lunch at Waterbar (cooked in partnership with Waterbar’s Executive Chef Parke Ulrich) with leading New Zealand TV chef and fisherman, Al Brown, who brought fresh fish, oysters and lamb straight from NZ, sharing the bounty in the Grand Tasting Tent at SF Chefs. I also discovered NZ treasures like Kikorangi Blue, a creamy, mild blue cheese served at both meals, on the menu at Waiheke.

Here are memorable dishes from both meals via photos. You can explore New Zealand flavors at Waiheke Island Yacht Club through the end of December 2013. They also just launched weekend brunch, reinventing the beautiful Mt. Cook Alpine smoked salmon for breakfast with eggs, escabeche, salsa verde, herbs, in hollandaise sauce ($16), as one example of dishes on the brunch menu.

Hard Case  12.0 Tanquray Rangpor, Lillet Rose, Domaine de Canton, Guava

Waiheke: Refreshing Hard Case cocktail ($12): Tanquray Rangpor gin, Lillet Rose, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh guava juice

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Waiheke: Mt. Cook Alpine salmon ($19) surrounded by eggplant, coconut cream, rocket emulsion, roe, pumpkin seeds

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Waiheke: Pacific-style ceviche ($13) accented by wasabi sorbet, cucumber, lime, coriander

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Waiheke: coconut fromage ($14), creamy over verjus peaches, nectarine & apricot crackling

Waterbar: Chef Al Brown

Waterbar: Chef Al Brown

Waterbar: Coromandel McGregor Bay & Clevedon Kawakawa Bay Oysters, Cloudy Bay Clams in seaweed & ginger lime syrup

Waterbar: Coromandel McGregor Bay & Clevedon Kawakawa Bay Oysters, Cloudy Bay Clams in seaweed & ginger lime syrup

Waterbar desserts: Left: Zespri golden & Zespri green kiwifruit over Heilala vanilla pavlova (like meringue); middle: Whittaker Chocolate Ice Cream Lamington (butter/tea cake); right: Jazz Apple blackberry galette

Waterbar desserts: left: Zespri green kiwifruit over Heilala vanilla pavlova (like meringue); middle: Whittaker Chocolate Ice Cream Lamington (butter/tea cake); right: Jazz Apple blackberry galette

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Dec
01
2012

On the Town

11/16 Appellation Trail at CIA (Culinary Institute of America), St. Helena

2012 Flavor! Napa Valley

Photos by Virginia Miller

Flavor! Napa is a five day food and wine festival in its second year, potentially the definitive event representing the wines of the region and the chefs and restaurants that make this grouping of small towns in the countryside one of the great culinary and wine destinations in the world.

Despite some nasty rainstorms hitting the area for part of the week, festivities were many and varied, from classes and demos to dinners and galas.

Here are a few highlights this year in photos, including sessions with two of the biggest chefs in the world: Thomas Keller and Masaharu Morimoto.

My top taste at the 11/16 Appellation Trail event: an incredible chicken liver creme caramel - silky, sweet & savory - with roasted grapes & bacon from Chef Brad Farmerie at The Thomas & Fagiani's Bar

11/17 Interactive Lunch with Masaharu Morimoto who helped attendees make sushi for a three course lunch

11/17 morning session with Thomas Keller on the importance of selecting produce

Food highlight at 11/16 Appellation Trail event: Chef Richard Reddgington of Redd's confit chicken thigh in a winning chocolate orange spice mole sauce over cheddar cheese polenta with cracklins'

Appellation Trail wine highlights: 2009 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc

Appellation Trail wine highlights: 2009 Moone-Tsai Howell Mountain Hillside Blend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 11/17 Morimoto lunch, second course was a lush, braised black cod paired with 2011 MerSoleil SILVER Unoaked Chardonnay

Perfect dessert at 11/16 Appellation Trail from Chef Valentina Guolo-Migotto at Ca'Momi Enoteca: dreamy bigne (beignets), both Tchocolato with TCHO chocolate & latte miele, caramelized on top, filled with vanilla bean cream

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Nov
01
2012

On the Town

Young turnips rest under decomposing leaves that must be dug through by hand

One Night Only: SWEDEN’s MAGNUS NILSSON & SF’s DANIEL PATTERSON Cook Together at COI

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Near the kitchen, Coi staff welcomes Magnus on a chalkboard wall

Food lovers in the know are well aware of Chef Magnus Nilsson and his restaurant Faviken Magasinet in the furthest reaches of northern Sweden, the small restaurant causing the biggest food magazines in the world to trek hours from anywhere for a meal. They return glowing, with photo spreads capturing meats hanging from a rustic wood ceiling, ingredients like lichen, moss and open fire meats turned into delicious, elemental art, all sourced within miles of the restaurant, and the young Nilsson in his nearly iconic fur coat.

His just released new book, Faviken (with charming, traditional Scandinavian art cover), is a pleasure to walk through. Lucky us, Nilsson’s US book tour featured only two nights of cooking in the whole country, one in Charleston at Husk with Sean Brock, one on October 20 at Coi here in San Francisco with Daniel Patterson. I savored all twelve courses of the collaborative dinner and will let photos and brief descriptors do the talking as imagination could not quite envision the unique tastes and earthy experiences reflecting Bay Area ingredients Nilsson and Patterson foraged for themselves that morning.

Think tofu made from water sourced deep within the ocean around the Farallon Islands or turnips one must dig for by hand through a pile of decomposing leaves and you’re on the right track.

Powerhouse chef team of Daniel Patterson (L) and Magnus Nilsson (R)

Entering Coi in North Beach for this one night only dinner; we are served sides of whole wheat milk bread & excellent rustic black olive caraway bread

Starting with “crackers and dip”: flaxseed chips with a dreamy, of-the-sea blue oyster emulsified dip (L) & brown rice crackers with kale dip (R)

Unreal course: “Earth & Sea” tofu made from deep ocean water pulled from a spot of the Farralon Islands, pasteurized & coagulate into ricotta-like tofu and served with cherry tomatoes & seaweed, in Silver Leaf olive oil

Most aromatic, striking course of the night: Pacific oysters moldering in redwood and pine

Chanterelle mushrooms, clean & unadorned with Meyer lemon, peas & lovage salt

Kohlrabi root crusted in tobacco & vinegar, laced with dill, edible flowers, Thai basil, mint and surrounded by pomegranate sauce

One of my favorite courses: Monterey Bay abalone grilled in nettle dandelion salsa verde, crunchy with spicy breadcrumbs

Cauliflower cooked in white soy and vinegar with S’Peters English Ale whipped cream

Emigh Ranch lamb slow-poached in olive oil & cooked over direct fire, with Swiss chard leaves & stems in garum (fermented fish sauce) and rosemary

Superb: almond milk ice cream dotted with wild bay oil and chocolate crumbs

Passion fruit-white chocolate baba topped with honeycomb, in shiso sauce

 

Finish: candied raspberries

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Oct
15
2012

On the Town

9/23 at St. George Spirits Distillery in Alameda - too much fun at the Cops & Robbers party

SF COCKTAIL WEEK 2012

Photos by Virginia Miler

A special year for SF Cocktail Week… a couple new, notable events like Jupiter Olympus‘ imaginative (Altered) State Fair (watch for their Cocktails from the Crypt event on 10/28) and the Spirited Food Trucks mixing food trucks and cocktails. Here are highlights in photos…

9/23 - On a stunning Sunday afternoon at St. George Distillery

9/23 - Bartenders behind bars at St. George's Cops & Robbers party; a cocktail highlight from Oakland's Haven, Paul Christensen's No Chance of Parole cocktail: 1.5 oz. of St. George's Breaking & Entering bourbon, 1.2 oz. Nocino (walnut liqueur), 1 oz. house peach liqueur (cooking sous vide peaches), a dash of house fig bitters, topped with orgeat foam

9/22 Altered State Fair - sweet, baby pig from the petting zoo

9/22 Altered State Fair - llama, pygmy goat, pony, rabbit, and more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skee ball and carnival games at 9/22 Altered State Fair

9/22 Altered State Fair - boozy Manhattan sno cones

9/22 Altered State Fair ring toss around a range of spirits/bottles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live bands, from country to alt rock, keep it real at 9/22 Altered State Fair - the best new event of Cocktail Week

Charlotte Voisey, William Grant & Sons (L), & Amy Murray, Cask (R), serve Milagro tequila/watermelon cocktails

9/21 Legends Awards: Miles Karakasevic, 13th generation Master Distiller of Charbay, Napa, wins Lifetime Achievement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/21 Legends Awards: Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove, wins Renegade Award

9/21 Legends Awards: Erik Adkins, Bar Manager of the Slanted Door wins Mentor Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/19 Best of the West: No surprise, in a range of West Coast bartenders, Kevin Diedrich (Jasper's Corner Tap) creates one of the night's best cocktails

9/19 Best of the West: a balanced, refreshing cocktail highlight from Annalisa Huante of Cin Cin, Reno: Love on a Hangar (St. Germain, Hangar One vodka, lemon, agave, fresh watermelon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/18 Spirited Food Trucks event at SoMa StrEat Food Park: best cocktail of the event was a Moonstone Sake/lemongrass/coconut water/rum/falernum/lime/white peach puree cocktail served in coconuts from The New Easy, Oakland

9/18 Spirited Food Trucks event: Ju Ju balls (fried mashed potato/cream cheese balls with lemon zest, orange) from Cosmic American Voodoo Van

9/18 Spirited Food Trucks event: Elixir's H. Joseph Ehrmann & Shea Shawnson serve up Brugal rum cocktails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/18 Spirited Food Trucks event: best food of the night was the brilliant Kraken (lemon pepper and garlic fried soft shell crab sandwich) from Adam's Grub Truck

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Written by in: On the Town |
Sep
01
2012

On the Town

OUTSIDE LANDS, August 10-12, 2012

Misty, dreamy lighting changes colors, illuminating Golden Gate Park trees at night

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

This year’s Outside Lands, a three-day extravaganza of some of the top musical acts in the world, quality food and drink (this is SF, after all), all in the beauty of Golden Gate Park, felt more packed than ever. But despite throngs descended on SF from all over the country, turning Golden Gate Park into a sea of trash (the clean-up crew are saints) and no shortage of rude attendees, Outside Lands magic happened each day.

Thousands swarm the main stage lawn

It took place on Sunday when Jack White popped up for an impromptu set of a few songs, literally standing in the eucalyptus groves in the woods near Choco Lands. Magic happened eating local foods in a festival setting, like dreamy Italian Del Popolo pizzas (although hour-plus lines and daily sell-outs were a drag) or everything from Ryan Farr’s two 4505 Meats stands sustaining us on those long walks between stages with the perfect Damn Good Cheeseburger and Yum Yum fried chicken sandwich. Magic was felt in this year’s new Beer Lands, sipping craft beers chosen by none other than Dave McLean of Magnolia Pub & Brewery, while taking in Foo Fighters, Regina Spektor or Beck (though shame on the training given to those pouring beers, as one pouring for The Bruery on Saturday told me confidently that this incredible brewery from the OC was from San Diego).

Beck keeps the crowd happy at the main Land's End stage on Friday

Magic occurred when Metallica, flames, lasers and all, delivered the tightest, hardest rocking set of the weekend. Not long after the noon hour, fun. swept up the entire Polo Field in their rousing anthems. Magic reached its pinnacle in Stevie Wonder’s set on Sunday night. His voice sounding as tight and beautiful as ever, even at age 62. His joy and wisdom just radiated from the moment he took the stage, streaming out to a field full of thousands basking in waves of pink, blue, green lights, foggy, Pacific Ocean air, and the voice of a legend.

4505 Meats' greasy-good chicharrones bars, like Rice Krispy treats but made with Ryan Farr's unparalleled chicharrones, puffed rice, marshmallow, and choice of Apple Jacks or Cocoa Puffs

The hilarious, improvisational Reggie Watts rocked it with comedy and music Friday afternoon and in the media tent following his set

A fantastic addition this year, Lamb Lands, Michael Mina's RN74 and Bourbon Steak restaurants served some of the best food of the weekend, including whole roasted lamb gyros, lamb poutine, and RN74’s Chef David Varley's Brentwood sweet corn in lamb sausage crumbs and cotija cheese

Lamb Lands: under faux Victorian facades, an array of lamb treats were offered, with Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast grilling up and using 8-10 whole lambs per day (lambs from lambs from Superior Farms in Dixon, CA)

4505 Meats/Ryan Farr's ridiculously good Chicken Yum Yum sandwich understandably sold out on the last night of Outside Lands as one of the festival's best eats - watch for it at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

The Wine Lands tent impressed once again with 49 wineries, many small and Old World-influenced; highlights included Villa Creek, Robert Sinskey, Qupe, Kermit Lynch imports, Palmina, The Scholium Project, Wind Gap

New this year: Beer Lands tent with 16 CA breweries selected by Brewmaster Dave McLean of Magnolia and Alembic; highlights included The Bruery's brilliantly bitter Humulus APA and Sierra Nevada's special event beer, Outside Lands Saison

Saturday in the media tent, Dave McLean (center - Magnolia, Alembic) talks Beer Lands, John Fink (right - The Whole Beast) dishes on lamb,

Choco Lands is an enchanted, Tim Burton-esque fantasy in eucalyptus groves with Day of the Dead accents and an array of chocolate carts and treats

Outside Lands ends with best set of all: Stevie Wonder exudes joy and life to thousands in the Polo Field, his voice in top form

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