Category Archives: Great Finds

Veer Into Verjus

Portuguese mackerel conserva and a glass of natural wine make a perfect nosh at Verjus.

Portuguese mackerel conserva and a glass of natural wine make a perfect nosh at Verjus.

 

Should you be adding to your Allbirds collection at the trendy shoemaker’s only San Francisco store, you need to pivot afterward to Verjus.

Should you be browsing the stylish watches at nearby Shinola, you need to follow it up by taking a seat at Verjus.

Basically, if you’re anywhere in San Francisco’s Jackson Square — or even farther afoot — you need to make a beeline to this natty new wine bar by Lindsay and Michael Tusk of acclaimed Quince and Cotogna restaurants.

If you know the couple’s two other San Francisco establishments, you know they don’t do anything halfway. Verjus, which opened in January just a short stroll from Quince and Cotogna, takes the concept of a wine bar and improves on it royally with one of the largest collections of natural wines offered in the Bay Area, along with a menu of classic European bistro-type food done impeccably well. Yet the vibe is as laid-back as you’d want. There’s a hidden refinement to everything that bolsters the experience without ever turning it stuffy or pretentious.

The wine bar.

The wine bar.

Vintage slicer.

Vintage slicer.

The fun menu board.

The fun menu board.

I had a chance to see for myself, when I was invited in as a guest of the establishment recently.

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Brunch to the Nines at The Village Pub

Start your Sunday with a French rolled omelet with caviar at the Village Pub.

Start your Sunday with a French rolled omelet with caviar at the Village Pub.

 

This is not one of those brunches where you line up for an hour for dollar pancakes or a Grand Slam special.

Nope, this is brunch done up posh.

At the Village Pub in Woodside, its sumptuous a la carte brunch involves truffles, lobster, caviar and even a mimosa cart wheeled to your table. You will likely drop more on a Sunday morning here than you would at dinnertime at many other places.

But what a way to pamper yourself, friends and family. It is a guaranteed way to feel ultra special on a Sunday. So naturally, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, how could I refuse, right?

The dining room just after 11 a.m. on a Sunday.

The dining room just after 11 a.m. on a Sunday.

The mimosa cart.

The mimosa cart.

Take a seat in a burgundy velvet plush chair at a white tablecloth-draped table. The mimosa cart will come by with your choice of Champagne and fresh-squeezed citrus juice.

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Valette’s Is A Healdsburg Favorite For Good Reason

A place loved by locals and tourists alike.

A place loved by locals and tourists alike.

 

You know a restaurant has got it going on when it is packed on a Monday night.

The start of the week is typically a sleepy night for most restaurants. But not for Valette in downtown Healdsburg. On a recent Monday night, when I dropped in to dine at the bar solo (paying my own tab at the end), the place was bustling shortly after opening at 5:15 p.m.

Chef Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron Garzini opened the beloved restaurant in 2015 in the same property that their great-grandfather once owned. They turned it into a convivial space, with warm polished wood, big hefty leather bar chairs, and a golden glow from globe chandeliers.

Dustin was off that night. But I did get to meet his father, who in his mid-70s, still flies for the state Department of Forestry, responding to forest fires, including the devastating fires in Napa and Sonoma in the last two years.

Ahi poke that stands out from the pack.

Ahi poke that stands out from the pack.

When Dustin was a kid, his father would take him to school — dropping him off in his plane — because it was quicker than the school bus. How’s that for one cool ride?

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Duck, Duck…Meatloaf Or Burger

Ever tried a duck burger? You definitely should!

Ever tried a duck burger? You definitely should!

 

Chicken and turkey make decent enough burger substitutes.

But they ain’t got nothing on duck.

If you’ve never had a duck burger before, prepare yourself for a most righteous patty on a bun.

In the cookbook, “Kindness & Salt: Recipes for the Care and Feeding of Your Friends and Neighbors” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018), of which I received a review copy, the recipe may be called “Duck Meatloaf,” but even authors Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell advise that it can be eaten burger-style with a smear of mustard.

The two owners and chefs of the popular Brooklyn spots, French Louie and Buttermilk Channel, have served this duck dish at the latter since it opened in 2008.

The cookbook’s title refers to the two most important ingredients they believe that are needed to take a good meal into the realm of greatness.

Kindness and Salt Cookbook

The 100-plus recipes give the makings to serve just that in the casual comfort of your own home with recipes such as “Salt-Roasted Beet Hummus,” “Slow-Roasted Pork Spare Ribs with Ancho Chile Marinade” and “Delicata Squash Tart.”

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A Rewarding Time at Jordan Estate

Black truffle lamb jus poured over Sonoma lamb at a typical lunch for qualifying Jordan winery rewards members.

Black truffle lamb jus poured over Sonoma lamb at a typical lunch for qualifying Jordan winery rewards members.

 

The other day, I found myself waking up to the sun coming up over the Jordan Estates vineyard in Healdsburg, along with the pitter-patter sound of workers inspecting the barrel room next-door to my four-poster suite.

It was enough to make me want to roll over in bed and call out playfully, “How’s that 2019 vintage coming along, Jeeves? Do the barrels need turning?”

Yes, some rewards programs offer the opportunity to upgrade an airline seat, get store gift certificates or even cash back. Jordan does something quite different. It allows you to accrue points that can be used toward posh private wine tastings, decadent dinners prepared by its own chef or even overnight stays like this in one of its three private suites on the property.

It’s enough to practically make you feel as if you’re the queen — or king — of your own winery. If for a few hours, anyway.

Jordan has vanquished the typical wine club, which usually requires members to purchase a case of wine every month. Instead, what you purchase — and when — is entirely up to you. Plus, the points never expire. You earn three points per dollar spent. And when you join the program, you automatically get 3,000 points.

There are three membership levels: Silver (when you spend $500 in your lifetime), Gold (when you spend $2,500) and Platinum (when you spend more than $5,000). Once you reach one of those levels, you gain access to a selection of experiences that will cost you a certain number of points plus a monetary amount (since California law prohibits freebies with purchase of alcohol).

Bottles in the winery's shop.

Bottles in the winery’s shop.

The Jordan Estates chateau.

The Jordan Estates chateau.

Although I am nowhere near any of those precious-metal levels, I had a chance to experience what Gold and Platinum members can, when I was invited as a guest of the winery to stay overnight at the estate room plus enjoy a seat at a four-course “Formal Lavish Luncheon.”

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