Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

Of Smoke and Cocktails at Gibson

This is what a chicken nugget looks like at Gibson in San Francisco.

This is what a chicken nugget looks like at Gibson in San Francisco.

 

There are restaurants where cocktails and hearth cooking are strong supporting players.

At Gibson in San Francisco, though, they are center-stage stars.

Located in the Hotel Bijou on the edge of Union Square, it offers up a unique dining experience, as I found out recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a place that does some mind-blowing things with live-fire cooking. And it’s where you can enjoy not just a prix fixe dinner with wine pairings, but cocktail pairings instead if you are so inclined. That latter is what we went with.

With an al fresco ceiling, lots of brass and Art Deco touches, it’s a little like walking into a bustling Eastern European cafe in feel. Yet it’s all modern and whimsical in its approach.

The ceiling.

The ceiling.

Operation Director Adam Chapman mixes up specialty drinks at the bar.

Operation Director Adam Chapman (right) mixes up specialty drinks at the bar.

Sit at the chef's table just inches outside the kitchen to see and hear all the action.

Sit at the chef’s table just inches outside the kitchen to see and hear all the action.

We were seated at the chef’s table, a four-seat banquette that is right in front of the wide-open kitchen. How open? I literally could have gotten up from my seat, taken two steps and been right beside the cooks. From that vantage point, it’s almost like watching live theater before you.

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Inside the Cockscomb Cosmos

Behold the signature bacon chop at Cockscomb.

Behold the signature bacon chop at Cockscomb.

 

Cockscomb is a place you come for outright fun.

Chef Chris Cosentino‘s South of Market restaurant in San Francisco is all excess, abandon and liberation. Well, with an invisible layer of deft control over it all because it is by a “Top Chef Masters” victor who is one of the most skilled and versatile chefs around.

Inside the soaring two-story space, there’s a bit of a medieval lair feel to it. There are flames spewing from the grill where ginormous cuts of meat get seared, a buffalo head stuffed and mounted on the wall, and an eclectic assortment of items arranged on shelves such as a plastic pig sticking out of a vintage meat grinder. If Jon Snow walked in, it probably wouldn’t take him long to feel right at home.

On a recent Saturday night, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, the place was packed with seats filled at tables and the counter by the open kitchen, along with a parade of folks filing upstairs to the second dining room (with its own Juliet-like iron balcony no less), where groups are usually seated.

A sign above the open kitchen.

A sign above the open kitchen.

The eclectic collection decorating the walls.

The eclectic collection decorating the walls.

Cosentino wasn’t there that evening. He may have been in Houston, where just days before news broke about his new restaurant planned there, Rosalie Italian Soul, with a menu inspired by his Italian grandmother. Located inside the C. Baldwin Hotel, it is expected to open this fall. It will join his mini empire of hotel-based restaurants that includes Jackrabbit in Portland’s The Duniway, and Acacia House in the Las Alcobas resort in St. Helena.

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East End — The Be All And End All

Wide ribbons of pasta enrobed in a pork-lamb ragu at East End.

Wide ribbons of pasta enrobed in a pork-lamb ragu at East End.

 

There are many pizza places where you go for pizza and nothing but pizza. Oh sure, there might be appetizers on the menu, and a few salads to consider. But really, the main attraction that overshadows everything else is the pizza. Anything beyond is just filler to bide your time while you wait for your pie to emerge.

East End in Alameda is as far from that as it gets. In many ways, it reminds me of fabled Roberta’s in Brooklyn. You brave the lines there because you’ve heard the pizza is all that and more. But then you discover every single other thing on the menu is worth shouting about, too.

Such is the case at East End, where everything from the cocktails to desserts stands as tall and proud as the incredible pizzas.

Co-owner and co-chef Jacob Alioto manning the pizza oven.

Co-owner and co-chef Jacob Alioto manning the pizza oven.

East End was founded by co-owners and co-chefs Jacob Alioto and Paul Manousos. (You can find out more about them in my new cookbook, “East Bay Cooks” (Figure 1), which will publish in September and include two recipes from East End.)

Paul’s wife, Michelle, designed the laid-back, light-filled spot that’s full of reclaimed wood and interesting touches like old player-piano music rolls repurposed as wallpaper.

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Win Free Tickets to “Taste of Potrero”

Feed Your Soul

Ready to enjoy sips and noshes from Soulva, Hawker Fare, Trick Dog, Dandelion Chocolate, Humphry Slocombe, Nopa, August 1 Five, and so many more, all in one spot for one night only?

You can at the ninth annual “Taste of Potrero,” 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 2 at The Midway, 900 Marin St. in San Francisco. Yes, it’s on a Thursday night. But Thursday is the new Friday, isn’t it?

More than 60 of the Bay Area’s best restaurants, bars, breweries and winemakers will come together for this annual fund-raiser for Daniel Webster Elementary School in San Francisco. All proceeds from the event go to the school, providing more than 75 percent of the Home and School Club budget, as well as arts enrichment programs, classroom supplies, computer instruction and literacy professionals. Since 2011, this event has raised more than $760,000 for the school.

Tickets are $150 each for general admission; $250 each for VIP access that allows you early access starting at 6 p.m.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a pair of free tickets (valued at a total of $300) to the event, which will feature The Morris, Gibson, Dumpling Time, Oren’s Hummus, The Slanted Door, and more.

The contest, open to those who can make it to the event that date, will run through midnight PST April 27. Winner will be announced April 29.

How to win?

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A Taste of Okinawa in San Francisco’s Castro District

This is soba Okinawan-style -- yes, with egg wheat noodles -- at Izakaya Sushi Ran.

This is soba Okinawan-style — yes, with egg wheat noodles — at Izakaya Sushi Ran.

 

Owner Yoshi Tome came to my table at his Izakaya Sushi Ran in San Francisco, bearing bottles of awamori for me to try.

The unique clear Japanese spirit is made only in Okinawa, where he is from. Like sake, it is made from rice. But while sake is brewed, awamori is distilled, making it far more potent.

When I asked if Okinawans ever drank sake, Tome emphatically shook his head, saying, “No. They drink only three things: beer, whiskey and awamori. And they drink awamori neat — just poured over ice.”

Since Okinawans are among the longest living people in the world, they must be doing something right.

Owner Yoshi Tome.

Owner Yoshi Tome.

I can’t vouch for whether dining at the Castro District restaurant, which opened in December, will give you extra longevity. But it will definitely give you delicious insight into the region’s cuisine and drink, as I found out when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently.

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