Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 19

A rosé that delivers on much more than taste.
A rosé that delivers on much more than taste.

2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé

In 2016, Carlo Mondavi — yes, grandson of Robert Mondavi — created the Monarch Challenge to bring attention to the plight of the beautiful Monarch butterfly, whose population has been devastated since the advent of Roundup.

Every year since then, he and his brother Dante have produced a limited rosé through their RAEN Winery in Sebastopol to bring attention to this environmental calamity befalling this invaluable pollinator, and to inspire other like-minded vintners to do the same.

I had a chance to try a sample of this year’s 2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé ($30), sales of which will benefit the conservation organization, the Xerces Society, and Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick or orphaned wildlife.

Produced from RAEN Pinot Noir grapes and old-vine Grenache, all farmed organically, this pale salmon wine is an exuberant expression of strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of guava. It is crisp, tangy, and laced with minerality. It’s pure deliciousness.

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Dining Outside At Kaiyo Rooftop

Bluefin tuna toast gets glam at Kaiyo Rooftop.
Bluefin tuna toast gets glam at Kaiyo Rooftop.

To find San Francisco’s newest hot spot, all you need do is look up.

That’s where you’ll find Kaiyo Rooftop, up on the 12th floor of the Hyatt Place Hotel in the SOMA neighborhood.

Opened barely a month ago, it’s already drawing crowds, as evidenced by what I saw last Wednesday night when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Even at 5 p.m. on a school night, every seat was taken at the eye-catching bar done up in glazed emerald tiles, along with about half the tables.

Kaiyo Rooftop is the sister property to Kaiyo restaurant in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, both of which specialize in Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Japanese and Peruvian In fact, a similar Kaiyo restaurant is expected to open on the ground floor of the hotel by the end of the year to serve more substantial fare like its Union Street sibling. In contrast, Kaiyo Rooftop’s menu is designed to be more bar food. Even so, it’s ample food for a meal.

The elevator doors.
The elevator doors.

Just be sure to dress in layers, and don’t forget a scarf or hat, too. That’s because the winds can be fierce up top, and the chill will definitely set in once the sun goes down, despite heaters being all around.

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Dining Outside at Teleferic Barcelona Los Gatos

Outstanding Galician octopus at Teleferic Barcelona Los Gatos.
Outstanding Galician octopus at Teleferic Barcelona Los Gatos.

If there’s any doubt that Covid has long entered the everyday lexicon, look no further than the new Teleferic Barcelona in downtown Los Gatos, where the new Prime Wellington gets its own vaccination tableside.

It’s all in good fun — and flat-out deliciousness — of course. When the golden pastry-wrapped roll of mushrooms duxelles and braised short ribs is set down, it actually gets injected with a metal syringe filled with jus to make it more flavorful, and no doubt immune to any dryness.

After two years of untold pandemic upheaval, you deserve a meal full of verve and playfulness that takes you away from any troubles. Teleferic Barcelona is just the place to do that, as I found earlier this month when I dined outdoors as a guest of the restaurant.

Corporate Executive Chef Oscar Cabezas.
Corporate Executive Chef Oscar Cabezas.

The Los Gatos location is the third U.S. outpost for the Spanish restaurant group, joining ones in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto.

The spacious outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant.
The spacious outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant.

It was supposed to open in September 2021, but like everything else, was delayed by supply-chain issues. Much of its furnishings, which came from Barcelona, were stuck on container ships for six months.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 17

La Crema's Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.
La Crema’s Brut Rose is the perfect sip for a romantic dinner.

La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose

A lovely pale pink-salmon in hue, the La Crema Sparkling Brut Rose Russian River Valley ($45) epitomizes Valentine’s Day in a glass.

Girly yet sophisticated, it fairly bursts with bright strawberries and raspberries with just a twinge of ginger on the finish. Crisp and zingy with plenty of acidity, it’s a blend of 65 percent Pinot Noir and 35 percent Chardonnay.

This nonvintage sparkling wine, of which I received a sample, is right at home, be it at a romantic holiday dinner or a casual backyard get-together. It’s sure to make any occasion feel that much more festive.

It’s available on the La Crema site, Safeway, and Marketview Liquor.

Cheers: Did you know that La Crema was founded in 1979 in Sonoma County, when most wineries in California were focusing on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and turning a blind eye to Pinot Noir? It took the late-great winemaker Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, founders of Kendall-Jackson Winery, to shine a spotlight on Burgundian-style Pinot Noir with a cool climate, single-vineyard focus with their La Crema wines.

Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher

What has hops, brewer’s yeast, but no alcohol? And isn’t beer or even non-alcoholic beer?

Meet Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher by the clever folks at that legendary Petaluma brewing company.

This uncanny, clear beverage pours with a thick foamy head just like beer, as I found when trying sample bottles. But it doesn’t try to mimic the taste of beer whatsoever.

It's made with hops, but isn't beer at all.
It’s made with hops, but isn’t beer at all.

Instead, it is its own thing — akin to sparkling water in texture and weight on the palate. It’s quenching and refreshingly dry, with a moderate hoppy bitterness on the finish and unexpected bursts of mango, orange and grapefruit on the palate.

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Dining Outside at Mago

A hearty wheat berry porridge finished with mustard greens and bottarga at Mago.
A hearty wheat berry porridge finished with mustard greens and bottarga at Mago.

If you’re on the hunt for a relatively reasonably priced tasting menu full of soulful flavors, where you don’t have to get dressed up fancy, and can sit comfortably at a heated outdoor patio, look no further than Oakland’s Mago.

Its name is Spanish for magician, and Chef-Owner Mark Liberman and his staff of just five certainly perform wizardry with such a small crew.

Opened in 2019, it’s Liberman’s first solo project, following his stint in San Francisco at the shuttered AQ restaurant.

Last week, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant for dinner. There’s only one tasting menu offered each night, though vegetarian and vegan versions are always available on request.

It’s $75 per person for about eight courses, which are moderate in size, but all together will definitely leave you sated at the end. Because Liberman takes a vegetable-focused approach to his rustic, Colombian-meets-California dishes, you’ll leave plenty full yet still feeling buoyant.

Chef Mark Liberman manning the live-fire grill.
Chef Mark Liberman manning the live-fire grill.

With the tasting menu lasting about two hours, I was pleasantly surprised at how many diners were indulging in it on a school night (Wednesday). Ease-dropping, I could tell quite a few were regulars, too, which is always a good sign.

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