Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

Trou Normand — A Carnivore’s Delight

The "small'' beef chop at Trou Normand.

The “small” beef chop at Trou Normand.


Sure, you can choose a salad or veggie sides at Trou Normand in San Francisco’s South of Market district.

But really, this restaurant is all about the meat.

Local heritage breeds, whole-animal butchery, and up to 40 different kinds of house-made charcuterie and salumi offered daily are its hallmarks.

It is the younger sister restaurant to Bar Agricole, both founded by Thad Vogler. Executive Chef Salvatore Cracco, who heads the kitchen and butchery program, was the former butcher and sous chef at Bar Agricole.

They’ve turned the historic Art Deco Pacific Telephone Building space into an airy, industrial-hip environment with an unfinished ceiling, marble tables, over-sized tufted leather banquettes, and cool cafe artwork.

The light fixtures.

The light fixtures.

The bar with its iconic artwork.

The bar with its iconic artwork.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Naturally, my husband, aka Meat Boy, tagged along. After all, this carnivore’s paradise is right up its alley.

The restaurant is named for the northern French tradition of enjoying a small glass of brandy, usually Calvados, between courses to settle the stomach and awaken the palate. Gotta love the French, right?

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Bourbon Steak Scores at Levi’s Stadium

The bourbon cart at Bourbon Steak at Levi's Stadium.

The bourbon cart at Bourbon Steak at Levi’s Stadium.


There is no pussyfooting around this.

Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is not inexpensive. It’s a special-occasion place. It’s where you go when you’re dining on an expense account to sink your teeth into an 8-ounce Snake River Farms rib cap for $110 or a Japanese A-5 Kagoshima rib eye for $34 per ounce (with a 3-ounce minimum required).

It’s not a place you’d head to every night. But then again, you couldn’t anyway. Because the restaurant is situated right on the ground level of the 49ers’ stadium, you can’t get into either Bourbon Steak or Bourbon Pub (the contiguous casual eatery) when the Niners are playing home games — unless you are a game ticket holder. In fact, the whole restaurant and pub becomes the ultimate gourmet tailgating extravaganza on game days — but only for season ticket-holders who pony up $5,000 each for the 10-game season. After the game ends, the restaurant and pub are open to any ticket holder.

Similarly, if One Direction, Taylor Swift or any other concert or special event is holding court at the stadium, you can’t get into the restaurant or pub, either, unless you have a ticket to said event.

Got all that?

I think you can guess whose autograph this is.

I think you can guess whose autograph this is.

How many other famous signatures can you spot?

How many other famous signatures can you spot?

The stadium field.

The stadium field.

When dining there, it pays to call for a reservation or to at least check the Levi’s Web site beforehand to make sure no events are happening the night you want to visit. Be mindful that the restaurant is open only for dinner; the pub is open for lunch and dinner.

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Two Treats in One: Cider to Sip and For Roasting Tender Pork

A perfect one-dish meal of pork, apples, cider and cabbage.

A perfect one-dish meal of pork, apples, cider and cabbage.


Sundays are made for dishes that bake gently in the oven, filling the house with warmth and delicious aromas that rev the appetite.

“Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish” (Chronicle Books) is all about dishes like that. The book, which came out in 2014 and of which I received a review copy, is by Betty Rosbottom, a veteran cookbook author and PBS host.

Fish and chips in a casserole? You bet, when the potatoes are scalloped. Risotto in the oven? Sure, when it’s baked with butternut squash, sage and Parmigiano. Mac and cheese? Absolutely, especially in variations with lobster, lemon and tarragon or smoked sausage and country mustard.

“Cider-Baked Pork, Red Cabbage, and Apples” appealed to me because I love the combination of apples and pork, a meat which always plays nicely with the sweetness of fruit.


Pork loin can get dry if cooked too long, but these emerge very juicy. They bake over a bed of tart apples, onions and red cabbage, which give everything a soft, pretty fuchsia hue.

Cider vinegar and actual cider add even more vivid apple flavor.

For me, this was also the perfect opportunity to break into my samples of the new Devoto Orchards Cider. The Devoto family makes the small-batch ciders in Sebastopol from estate-grown apples. Susan and Stan Devoto grow more than 50 varieties of heirloom apples, as well as flowers and pinot noir grapes on their 20-acre farm.

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A Summery Taste of Jardesca

A fun new summer sip.

A fun new summer sip.


In summer, nothing satisfies like something chilled, quenching and palate-awakening.

That’s what Jardesca delivers. The fortified wine is made in Sonoma by Roger Morrison and Marshall Dawson, who wanted to create a simple apertif suitable to begin any meal.

Recently, I had a chance to try a sample. The beautiful bottle looks right at home in a garden. Not surprising since Jardesca is made with an eau de vie infused with 10 botanicals, as well as a blend of sweet and dry white wines.

It’s designed to be served not only chilled but on the rocks, which is how I tried it. It’s dry and refreshing, with notes of orange peel, peppermint, grapefruit, mint and a whiff of warm baking spices. Even at 18 percent alcohol, it’s quite smooth with none of that fire at the back of the throat of other aperitifs.

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J-Pop Summit Festival, Filipino Fare, and More

Enjoy sake and so much more at the J-Pop Festival in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of J-Pop)

Enjoy sake and so much more at the J-Pop Festival in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of J-Pop)

San Francisco’s J-Pop Summit

Get your appetite ready for the second annual J-Pop Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The event, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 19-20, celebrates Japanese pop culture, music, fashion, film and food. Admission is free, though some activities will require a fee.

Among the new attractions this year is sake tasting. A number of booths will be set up on Webster Street at Post St., where attendees can enjoy sake tastings and even buy bottles to take home. Admission to this area of the festival is $10 and includes samples from all the participating sake companies. ID will be checked.

If you need some food after all that sake, look no further than the “ramen street.” A half dozen ramen restaurants will set up booths on Post Street between Laguna and Buchanan streets. The ramen will be priced at $8 per serving.

A “Bites & Snacks” area will sell both sweet and savory noshes, including natto (fermented soybeans), onigiiri rice balls by Onigilly, and mochi waffles from Moffle Waffle.

Additionally, look for more than a dozen food trucks, including the Creme Brulee Cart, Bacon Bacon, and the Chairman.

Celebrate Filipino Food at Two Events

Enjoy a one-of-a-kind Filipino-Franco dinner at Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park on July 24.

Chef Brendy Monsada will be cooking up dishes influenced by his Filipino heritage. The three-course $45 prix fixe will be served family-style and include beverages.

Among the offerings will be adobong manok (chicken drumette casserole cooked in soy sauce, sugar cane vinegar and garlic); beef kalderata (slow-braised beef short ribs in a savory tomato and peanut sauce); and pritong lapu-lapu (deep-fried grouper with heirloom tomato salsa).  And yes, halo-halo, the layered dessert of fruits, crushed ice, purple ube yam and ice cream is one of the dessert options.

For reservations, call (650) 473-6543 or email:

For more Filipino fare, mark your calendar for Aug. 30 for the first Savor Filipino at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

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