Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

A Visit to the New Fitoor in Santana Row

The signature appetizer sampler, "Chaats of India,'' at Fitoor.
The signature appetizer sampler, “Chaats of India,” at Fitoor.

You’d be hard pressed to recognize the space at San Jose’s Santana Row that formerly held Amber India. Gone is the once dramatic celestial ceiling complete with shooting stars, which was cutting edge back in the early aughts. In its place is Fitoor, with modern luxuriousness and an elegant clubby vibe, an archetype perhaps more in keeping with this sleeker day and age.

Husband-and-wife restaurateurs Anu and Vikram Bhambri have completely revamped the space down to the studs, creating three distinct dining areas, a rear dining room done up in shades of emerald, a middle dining room gilded in gold accents, and a front lounge with floor-to-ceiling accordion glass windows that can be completely tucked away to make it open-air.

It’s been a busy year already for this enterprising ouple, who also opened the Mediterranean Alora on Pier 3 in San Francisco just two months prior. It joins their other restaurants, Rooh in Palo Alto and San Francisco, and Pippal in Emeryville. And more may be in the works.

The bar/lounge area.
The bar/lounge area.
The glam green dining room.
The glam green dining room.

Fitoor is Hindi for “passion,” and weekends exemplify that with added high energy, courtesy of a live DJ plus fire dancers. On weeknights, such as when I was invited in recently as a guest of the restaurant, the atmosphere is more subdued, with plenty of tables filled with tech types gathering after work.

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San Francisco’s Landmark InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel Nears Its Centennial

The Margherita naan flatbread at the Nob Hill Club at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.
The Margherita naan flatbread at the Nob Hill Club at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

As someone born and bred in San Francisco, I am mortified to admit that until last month, I’d never taken the elevator all the way up to the Top of the Mark, the iconic 19th floor bar in the grand dame InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

With such a celebrated landmark in your own backyard, it’s easy to get jaded, thinking it’ll always be there, so you keep promising yourself to get to it one day.

Well, one day finally came this month, when I was invited to stay overnight, and enjoy dinner and cocktails at this venerable hotel that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026.

Everywhere you turn, there is a sense of history in this gilded property. As the saying goes, “They don’t make places like this anymore,” and they sure don’t.

The grand entrance atop Nob Hill.
The grand entrance atop Nob Hill.
The lobby.
The lobby.

Mark Hopkins was one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railway, and a bit tightfisted with his wallet, jested Connie Perez-Wong, the hotel’s creative director, as she gave me a tour of the property. It was his wife, Mary, who convinced him to build her dream home here on top of Nob Hill — all 39 rooms of it. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to ever move into it. Instead, in what some might call a cougar-like move, Mary ended up marrying the home’s interior designer, who was considerably younger than her, and moving into the hilltop home with him.

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Psst…The New Suspiro at Santana Row Has A Secret Speakeasy

Paella de carne at the new Suspiro in San Jose.
Paella de carne at the new Suspiro in San Jose.

The new Suspiro, which opened in San Jose’s Santana Row last month, offers up delightful Spanish and Peruvian specialties, along with an intriguing attraction:

A secret, reservation-only speakeasy tucked away in the back with its own private entrances.

How surreptitious? The press materials I received never even mentioned it. If you go to the Suspiro web site, you won’t easily find anything written about it either. That is, not until you scroll to the very bottom of the page to find a red star symbol underneath the restaurant’s phone number. Click on it, and it will take you to the Instagram page with a link. Click on that, and you’ll see yet another link to make a reservation at the speakeasy via Resy. You’ll also see a link there for “members,” where you can apply to be one. Although I was told it’s unlikely a membership will ever entail a fee, it may entitle you in the future to special perks.

The stylish dining room.
The stylish dining room.

So, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant a few weeks ago, this was all news to me. As was the fact that the executive chef is Yerika Munoz Rodriguez, a woman who had Frida Mexican Cuisine and Cantina Frida in Beverly Hills, and worked with celebrated Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio at Astrid y Gaston in Mexico City. That’s because all the press materials only included the name of Oscar Santos, the chef de cuisine, a Barcelona native who spent time working at that city’s Michelin-starred Enigma by Albert Adria.

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Crack Open A Cold One — To Bake This Marvelous Beer Bread

Red Stripe beer and loads of rosemary infuse this aromatic, moist, and easy quick bread.
Red Stripe beer and loads of rosemary infuse this aromatic, moist, and easy quick bread.

On your next trip to the store, pick up a six-pack of Jamaican Red Stripe beer, and feel free to sit back and sip a cold brewski.

But do yourself a major favor and save at least one of those distinctively stubby bottles to bake a loaf of “Rosemary Red Stripe Beer Bread.”

That’s right — this incredibly moist and flavorful quick bread uses one whole bottle of the beer, plus copious amounts of fresh rosemary.

There’s no yeast involved and no rising time required. Just mix, bake, and enjoy a warm slice slathered with butter in no time flat.

This wonderful recipe is from “For the Culture” (Harvest, 2023), of which I received a review copy. It takes its name from author Klancy Miller’s For the Culture digital magazine.

A New York chef and food writer, Miller spotlights 66 inspiring Black women in her book with interviews, and 47 recipes from them.

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Sensational Sips, Part I

A pretty-in-pink gin.
A pretty-in-pink gin.

Malfy Gin Rosa

Have you ever spied a pink gin before? Me, either. At least not before receiving a sample bottle of Malfy Gin Rosa, an Italian gin that’s tinged a very pale pink from grapefruit.

Inspired by the Amalfi Coast, this gin gets a subtle citrus and bitter pith edge from Sicilian pink grapefruit, along with lemon. Juniper berries add characteristic pine and almost anise-like notes without veering into medicinal-tasting territory.

Just know, though, that because the color is so light, it won’t be visible once you add any kind of mixer.

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