Category Archives: Wine

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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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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Duck, Duck…Dried Plums or Prunes

Duck legs get a lot of love with red wine and dried plums.

Duck legs get a lot of love with red wine and dried plums.

 

There is something that has annoyed me to no end for quite awhile. And I know I’m not the only one who frets about this rather unforgivable injustice.

It’s when someone refers to me as “ma’am.”

I bristle.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was “Miss”?

What happened to those days?

I know it’s only semantics. Still, it’s a bruiser. No, I may not like it, but I have glumly accepted it.

That’s what irks me about prunes. Oh sure, they get to be called “dried plums” now. What’s up with that?

Like the rest of us “ma’ams,” I’m sure they felt labeled “old and decrepit” beyond their years with that moniker. But somehow, they’re fortunate to get a new name, one that’s peppier and more youthful. We should all be so lucky, right?

I couldn’t help but think of that amusingly when I spied a recipe for “Red Wine-Braised Duck Legs with Dried Plums.” It’s a classic French country recipe, though, back in the day it was known as duck with prunes.

Wine Country Table

The recipe is from the new “Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest” (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy. It’s written by veteran award-winning cookbook author Janet Fletcher, who makes her home in the Napa Valley, in collaboration with the Wine Institute.

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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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Niku Steakhouse — Where Japanese Wagyu Reigns Supreme

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

 

Some chefs wear their hearts on their sleeve.

Steve Brown takes that to an extreme — wearing his passion prominently and permanently inked on his forearm.

The executive chef of the splashy new Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco has “A5” (the highest grading for Japanese Wagyu beef) tattooed on his right arm, so there’s no doubt as to what his favorite ingredient is.

You can see for yourself if you snag one of the 18 seats — truly the best seats in the house — at the counter that surrounds the massive grilling station. That was my vantage point recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, opened by the Omakase Group, about one month ago.

Executive Chef Steve Brown's tattoo says it all.

Executive Chef Steve Brown’s tattoo says it all.

Sitting here is a primal, visceral experience, as you’re just inches from the flames of the hand-cranked main grill that can get up to 900 degrees to cook American prime steaks, and the small custom-built Japanese grill heated with binchotan white charcoal on which the Wagyu is seared.

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