Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

A Gin-Tastic Time at Brasserie S&P

A taste of "Indian Summer'' at Brasserie S&P, which specializes in gin cocktails

The last time I dined at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco a few years ago, I shimmied into a chic cocktail dress and fancy black heels.

On a visit there just a few weeks ago, though, I donned merely dark jeans and a simple cardie.

How times have changed.

Like so many hotels in these still precarious economic times, the Mandarin Oriental has shed its spendy, special-occasion restaurant in favor of a more casual one that’s friendlier on the pocketbook.

Out went its glamorous Silks restaurant. In came the new Brasserie S&P this summer, named for the fact that it’s at the intersection of Sansome and Pine. It’s headed by Executive Chef Adam Mali, formerly of Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay.

While Silks was perched on the second floor of the hotel, Brasserie S&P is on the main floor, just past the check-in desk and right across from a bank of elevators. While the former was a secluded, hushed space, the latter is smack in the middle of all the action.

I had a chance to check it out, when I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant.

The sedate dining room is all cream and blonde, with dark chocolate leather placemats on the tables. The decor may be somewhat too hotel utilitarian, but the snazzy bar and satisfying food more than make up for that.

The vase of flowers at each table keeps the theme going.

Mixologist Priscilla Young clearly is having a blast with the new cocktail menu, which spotlights gin, of all things. She even crafts her own tonics to go along with the extensive brands of gins available.

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Ice Cream Sandwich Time & Dan Gordon Performs at the San Jose Jazz Fest

Can't resist this ice cream sammy at Sift Cupcakes. (Photo courtesy of the bakery)

Ice Cream Sandwiches on the Menu

When the weather heats up, there’s nothing as joyful to enjoy as an ice cream sandwich. It can’t help but bring out the kid in each of us.

Try an “Ice Cream Sammy” at Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar, the only Bay Area bakery to win the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”

With locations in Napa, Santa Rosa and Cotati, the bakery takes organic gelato and sandwiches in between big cookies. Try the “All for the Cookie” ($4), which features cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream stuffed between two chocolate cookies.

Look for a San Francisco location to open later this summer, too.

Mozzeria's loaded ice cream sandwich plate. (Photo courtesy of Mozzeria)

San Francisco’s Mozzeria is getting in on the act, too, with peanut butter ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies ($6). It gets even better, too. The sammy is served on a homemade fruit roll-up — with a side of spicy beer nuts. It’s a meal.

Mozzeria is one of the first deaf-owned restaurants in the country. Its global menu features everything from roast duck pizza with hoisin to Japanese pumpkin ravioli.

Dan Gordon — Beer-Maker and Musician

Sure, we all know that the founder of Gordon Biersch Brewing Company knows how to make great beer.

But how many knew that Dan Gordon also is an accomplished musician?

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Press Club is One Hot Ticket in Town

Shaved asparagus salad with a raw cow's milk cheese at Press Club.

Forgive me if I tell you that my first thought upon walking down the illuminated steps to the lounge-y Press Club wine bar was:

“If I were hip, young and single, man, oh man, would this be the place to hang out.”

Ahem, well, I may be none of those things. But Press Club in downtown San Francisco sure made me feel that I possessed each and every one of those attributes, if only for a night.

You’ll feel that way, too, in this dimly lit, expansive space that’s cozily divided into separate areas to linger in low-slung couches, at tall communal bar tables with chrome and leather stools or at a smattering of seats at the bars.

Take your pick, but don’t dally, as all those seats will surely be snapped up as the night wears on, as folks gather for after-work drinks, a girls-night-out soiree or just to take a load off after an afternoon of shopping on Union Square.

A communal bar table -- empty, but not for long.

As the night wears on, it will get packed at this popular gathering place.

While Press Club has always served food, it used to be more a place you’d stop in for a glass of wine and a quick nibble before heading elsewhere for dinner.

But that changed this spring when Chef Chris Borges of San Francisco’s Taste Catering came on board.

Under his direction, Press Club has transformed into a place where you would be remiss not to stay for the full shebang.

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A Toast to Absinthe

A popular starter of hamachi sashimi at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar in San Francisco.

No matter how long you’ve lived in the Bay Area, it’s impossible to get to every restaurant you’d like to try.

There are just too many of them. With more opening each and every week, too.

Such is the reason why it took me this long to finally visit the 15-year-old Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco.

When an invitation to dine as a guest at the restaurant presented itself a couple of weeks ago, it was the needed nudge that finally got me in the doors.

And boy, have I been missing out.

The lively restaurant in Hayes Valley is almost always packed, especially before nearby theater performances with folks grabbing a most civilized meal before racing off to the ballet or symphony.

Executive Chef Adam Keogh, who has cooked at Chez TJ in Mountain View and at a couple of Michael Mina Group restaurants, infuses classic French brasserie sensibilities with California flair to come up with menu items such as Atkins Ranch lamb sugo over papardelle ($22); spicy fried chickpeas ($4); and beef tartare ($16) with violet mustard, green apple and red onion.

A cocktail is a must here.

The plush dining room.

The restaurant is made up of several plush rooms, done up with burgundy walls sporting gold trim. There’s a large mural in one, depicting the inside of a dining room restaurant complete with servers and tables of diners.  At the entrance to the kitchen, there’s even a small toque painted above, appropriately enough.

When a restaurant is named for a once illegal spirit, you’ve just got to order a cocktail, don’t you? Absinthe has long been famed for its well-executed cocktails.

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Scenes from the 25th Anniversary Star Chefs & Vintners Gala

A Reuben slider from the crew at Foreign Cinema and Show Dogs restaurants at the Meals on Wheels gala.

It was a star-studded chef affair on Sunday night at Pier 48 in San Francisco, as more than 70 Bay Area top toques turned out to cook up a storm for a sold-out crowd in support of a noble cause.

More than 1,000 folks wined, dined and mingled at the sold-out 25th “Star Chefs & Vintners Gala,” the main fund-raiser for Meals on Wheels, the San Francisco organization that provides nutritious meals and support services to home-bound seniors. Last year’s event raised $1.4 million. Yours truly was lucky enough to be invited as a guest this year.

For the ninth time, Chef Nancy Oakes of Boulevard and Prospect, both in San Francisco, took the reins as gala chair for this megawatt event. The evening kicked off with a walk-around reception, in which mixologists shook up cocktails, vintners poured special vintages and a bevy of chefs manned stations to turn out gourmet noshes.

A night to remember for a worthwhile cause.

Chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, the dynamic duo behind Terra and Bar Terra, both in St. Helena, prepared bowls of their fabulous ramen complete with succulent pork slices and a oozy poached quail egg.

The Bar Terra team hard at work...

...serving up bowls of pork belly ramen.

Chef Victor Scargle of Lucy at Bardessono in Yountville served up cones of Georgia shrimp atop soba noodle salad made with the restaurant’s own rau ram herb, while Chef Ron Siegel of Parallel 37 in San Francisco followed the Asian vibe with a juicy scallop in dashi broth.

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