Dec
15
2014

Imbiber

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

My Top Drink Articles: December 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.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

Bay Area Holiday Dining Survival Guide

2014 Bay Area Food & Drink Trends

Cocktails

RN74 from a vegetarian perspective – an array of creative new vegetarian dishes

Beer

Visiting the new Brewcade (beer with vintage arcade games) and Tap 415 in the Westfield Centre

Wine & Sherry Lists

4 things to know about the new chef and menu at Gitane

Wine Country

Napa Valley newcomer: what to love at Archetype in St. Helena

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Oct
15
2014

Top Tastes

Tunisian pastries at Bistro L'Aviateur

Tunisian pastries at Bistro L’Aviateur

My Top Food Articles: October 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: THE HALL with 6 food and drink vendors in one food hall Mid-Market

All-day dream cafe, LES CLOS, opens from Saison sommelier Mark Bright, serving impeccable French food & wines

MARLOWE reopens in the former Coco500 space, now with cocktails

BISTRO L’AVIATEUR opens in the Mission with French-Tunsion charm

MONK’s KETTLE REOPENS with sidewalk seating and new draft system

MINI-CREAM PUFFS at new CHOUX BAKERY in Lower Haight

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

Divine garlic Parmesan knots with fermented tomato butter at new BR+Table cocktail paired chef's table at Burritt Room + Tavern

Divine garlic Parmesan knots with fermented tomato butter at new BR+Table cocktail paired chef’s table at Burritt Room + Tavern

Underrated & Established Spots

CHARLIE PALMER’s BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN: New Chef’s Table with cocktail pairings

OAKLAND’s HOMESTEAD, one year in

10 Great DISHES NOW at Top-Rated ZAGAT Restaurants

BOXING ROOM’s new Sunday jazz brunch

SECRETLY AWESOME: Dive bar lunch at BOX KITCHEN in a SoMa alley

PATHOS, Berkeley’s Greek dining, wine and cocktail destination

Best Thing We Ate: Avocado dish at AVELINE

10 HOTTEST NEW SF Restaurants Now

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Oct
15
2014

Imbiber

Burritt Room + Tavern's Chameleon on the new fall menu

Burritt Room + Tavern’s Chameleon on the new fall menu

My Top Drink Articles: October 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

All-day dream cafe, LES CLOS, opens from Saison sommelier Mark Bright, serving impeccable French food & wines

Cocktails

CHARLIE PALMER’s BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN: New Chef’s Table with cocktail pairings

MARLOWE reopens in the former Coco500 space, now with cocktails

ALTA’s new cocktail & food pairing menu, new fall cocktails, house root beer and house made spirits

PATHOS, Berkeley’s Greek dining, wine and cocktail destination

Best Thing We Drank: New Fall Cocktails at BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN

Beer

MONK’s KETTLE REOPENS with sidewalk seating and new draft system

SF CRAFT BEER Festival

Alta's Conquistador on the fall menu

Alta’s Conquistador on the fall menu

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Sep
01
2014

Imbiber

Ramen Shop beauties, like this rye and beer cocktail

Ramen Shop beauties, like this rye, cherry and beer cocktail

My Top Drink Articles: August 16-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just 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/Spirits

The TOP 5 BEER COCKTAILS to Drink Now, from SF to Oakland and Napa

The NEW COCKTAIL MENU at OAKLAND’s RAMEN SHOP

WINE & COCKTAIL Highlights at THE COMMISSARY in the Presidio

Cider

DEVOTO ORCHARDS CIDER from family-run apple orchards in SEBASTOPOL

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Aug
01
2014

Imbiber

Erik Adkins cocktails at South at SFJAZZ - the new Mexican restaurant from Charles Phan

Erik Adkins cocktails at South at SFJAZZ – the new Mexican restaurant from Charles Phan

My Top Drink Articles: July 15-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some of this coverage here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for the Bay Area here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

Cocktails

San Francisco wins at TALES OF THE COCKTAIL

ERIK ADKINS’ cocktails at CHARLES PHAN new Mexican restaurant/bar, SOUTH

Full bar and cocktail menu at NEW, EXPANDED OUTERLANDS by Ocean Beach

Pam Bushling’s garden-fresh cocktails in SONOMA (Healdsburg) at romantic MADRONA MANOR

Wine & cocktail recommends (French-centric) at Corey Lee’s new MONSIEUR BENJAMIN

A fantastic Lavender Flip and more at brand new SHAKEWELL in OAKLAND

Destination Oakland: cocktails at seafood haven, alaMar

Wine

New CADET wine + beer bar in NAPA

BARREL ROOM ROCKRIDGE’s wine classes study Spanish and Portuguese wines

Beer

ABBOTS CELLAR sells rare beers from its (and Monk’s Kettle) cellars

Books

3 NEW BOOKS (2 of them cocktail books from drink experts in NY and Portland)

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Jul
01
2014

Imbiber

Cafe Brulot flamed in the glass at Tosca Cafe

Cafe Brulot flamed in the glass at Tosca Cafe by bar manager Isaac Shumway

My Top Drink Articles: June 15-30

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my 15 articles/posts a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to just some of this coverage here – you can sign up for Zagat’s weekly newsletter for the Bay Area here and follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily.

Cocktails

Real deal, New Orleans-style CAFE BRULOT – flamed tableside! – now on 2 notable SF cocktail menus

8 reasons to revisit LOCAL KITCHEN & WINE MERCHANT in SoMa – Victoria D’Amato-Moran’s new cocktail menu

URBAN PUTT GETS BOOZE – and what to eat one month in at the quirky mini-golf restaurant/bar

If Savannah (or other quirky, historic Southern town) met a California Gold Country Western town, it might feel a lot like PORT COSTA, home to one of the country’s best dive bars and a cosmopolitan restaurant and cocktail bar

NICO ADDS NEW ROSE PAIRING and LOW PROOF COCKTAIL menus with these dishes

The BEST COCKTAILS in LOS GATOS – and some of the best in the South Bay

Silky crudo, standout salads and Carlos Yturria’s cocktails at LURE + TILL in PALO ALTO

Wine

Chef JOSH SKENES on SAISON’s New $498 Test Kitchen Dinners and Winemaker Dinner Series

NICO ADDS NEW ROSE PAIRING and LOW PROOF COCKTAIL menus with these dishes

Wine tasting room in a submarine training vessel DEBUTS ON TREASURE ISLAND

New PIATTINI ADDS A SLICE OF VENICE to Mission St.

3 new LOCAL WINE COUNTRY GUIDES

Beer

The 8 BEST BEER GARDENS in the Bay Area

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Jun
01
2014

Imbiber

Sampling beers during Strong Beer Month at Magnolia Pub in San Francisco

Sampling beers during Strong Beer Month at Magnolia Pub in San Francisco

5 NorCal Beers You Should Try

Article and photos by Virginia Miller

SANTE ADAIRIUS’ SAISON BERNICE, Capitola

Sante Adarius' cask

Sante Adarius’ cask

Sante Adairius is Santa Cruz’ beloved beer haven since it opened in May 2012. Run by gracious Sante Adairius co-owners Tim Clifford and Adair Paterno, they not only make some the best beers in the area, but among the more exciting to come along in the massive beer world of California in the last couple years.

When I visited back in January, the place was mobbed on a Sunday afternoon, though at the end of deserted-looking street bordering the freeway. While I enjoyed the like of their Vanilla Joe made with local Verve Coffee, it’s their Saison Bernice (6.5% ABV), named after Tim’s mom’s middle name, that made the strongest impression, with its classic Belgian profile and lively nature. 

MAGNOLIA’S PROMISED LAND IMPERIAL IPA, San Francisco

Promised Land Imperial IPA’s 10.5% ABV, long, grapefruit-bitter finish was a standout during Strong Beer Month in February at Magnolia Pub. Thankfully, it’s still on the menu so we can continue to enjoy this bright, boozy beer.

RUHSTALLER’S GILT EDGE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN LAGER, Sacramento

Weekend crowds at Sante Adairus

Weekend crowds at Sante Adairus

Ruhstaller Beer uses almost all local, organic hops, grown at 2000 ft. elevation in volcanic soil near Mount Konocti. They’ll inform you that pre-Prohibition, Sacramento was once the world’s greatest hops growing region.

Their understated beers keep winning awards, particularly the refreshing Gilt Edge California Golden Lager. Best of all, they give a percentage of their sales to Pride Industries towards jobs for disabled and mentally handicapped.

PALO ALTO BREWING COMPANY’S COOL BEANZ COFFEE PORTER, Palo Alto

Palo Alto Brewing Company‘s Kasim Syed was brewing in San Jose, serving his beers only at Palo Alto’s Rose and Crown Pub, but demand grew and now his beers are all over the Bay Area. Cool Beanz Coffee Porter is a nutty-chocolate laden standout made with beloved cult SF coffee, Philz.

KNEE DEEP BREWING CO.’s HOPTOLOGIST DOUBLE IPA, Lincoln

Yes, it’s hoppy. In all the right ways. Knee Deep Brewing, located in the town of Lincoln between Sacramento and Auburn, creates award-winning, uber-hopped beers, thanks to Founder/Brewmaster Jeremy Warren, that keep the sometimes maligned category from being merely a gimmick. He crafts drinkable, flavor-intense beers, particularly Hoptologist Double IPA and Simtra Triple IPA.

Cheese platter with beer at Magnolia Pub

Cheese platter with beer at Magnolia Pub

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Dec
15
2013

Wandering Traveler

Bruges in the sunlight

Bruges in the sunlight

In BRUGES

Photos & Article by Virginia Miller

Carriage rides around the city

Carriage rides around the city

The romance of Bruges cannot be overstated. I was delightfully surprised to arrive in the small, intimate city of narrow cobblestone roads and horse drawn carriages to be one of the more romantic cities I’ve visited (and I’ve been to 25 cities around the globe just this year alone): partly due to its intimate size and approachability, partly due to its fairy tale architecture and interlocked waterways, not too far removed from the canals of Venice.

Hotel Die Swaene was my home base, a velvet-strewn respite of dreamy paintings, drippy chandeliers and a quiet bar behind thick curtains that feels like one’s one private drawing room straight out of an 19th century movie. The bamboo-surrounded pool and spa under a glass ceiling are added bonuses. The rooms themselves were a bit dowdy comparatively but I didn’t spend much time there.

Dining & drinking in Bruges squares

Dining & drinking in Bruges squares

Waterways of Bruges

Waterways of Bruges

I indulged in morning cappuccinos on the sunny rooftop garden of a cafe, savoring the Belgian ritual of chocolate or mini-pastries served with coffee. I scoured chocolate shops, tasting a range of truffles, some better than others – there’s a surprising excess of milk chocolate and other over-sugary chocolates vs. the dark, complex, artisan chocolate I seek out around the world. Nonetheless, I stumbled upon some worthwhile chocolate.

Belgian beers at La Garre

Belgian beers at La Garre

Entering La Garre

Entering La Garre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruges squares

The Belfry of Bruges (medieval bell tower to the left)

Frites & rose at Poules Moules

Frites & rose at Poules Moules

A bucket of Belgian frites (thick-cut fries) and a glass of rosé orbeer is a quintessential Belgian experience, particularly on a sunny afternoon at a sidewalk table in a large, bustling square, as was the case at Restaurant Poules Moules. Better yet, a heaping bowl moules and frites (mussels and fries).

Espresso in Bruges

Espresso in Bruges

Beer & stew at Cambrinus

Beer & stew at Cambrinus

Streetside Belgian waffles, hearty meat stews or platters of sausages and sauerkraut… and, of course, Belgian beer. In indulged in it all. Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, in an atmospheric 1699 brick building, was a favorite for its casual, traditional Belgian food and extensive novel of beers – pages and pages worth – even if neglectful service left a little (or a lot) to be desired. I sipped a double-hopped De Ranke XX Bitter (which is found easily here at home at places like Healthy Spirits) or Van Steenberge Leute bokbier, a bright brown ale.

My favorite bar was off a narrow alley in an even more narrow building: La Garre stocks over 130 Belgian, Trappist and craft beers, particularly of the craft kind, offering the likes of most of the Oerbier line on draft alongside house brews.

Belgian waffles streetside

Belgian waffles streetside

Hotel Die Swaene

Entering Die Swaene's bar

Entering Die Swaene’s bar

Romantic paintings line the hotel

Romantic paintings grace the hotel

Die Swaene's indoor pool

Die Swaene’s indoor pool

Lounging with Campari & soda or absinthe in the hotel bar

Lounging with Campari & soda or absinthe in the hotel bar

Cafe Cambrinus

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Belgian beers at Cambrinus

Cambrinus' historic building

Cambrinus’ historic building

 

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