Pomp & Whimsy is actually a gin liqueur. It’s gin that’s been distilled, then twice-infused with a botanical liqueur, then re-distilled with 16 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, grapefruit, orange, lychee, cucumber and jasmine pearls.
It was created by sociologist Dr. Nicola Nice in 2017, and was inspired by Victorian times. Nice was perplexed that there was no spirit that appealed to women in the same way that men naturally gravitated toward flights of whiskey, scotch or bourbon when they got together to unwind. When she learned that gin was sold in barrels during Victorian times and often blended with sugar or other flavorings by retailers to create gin cordials, she ran with that idea.
Pomp & Whimsy ($34) comes in a stout, bourbon-like bottle. Its taste, as I found when I received a sample bottle, is profoundly of lychees, bitter orange, grapefruit, lime, and honeysuckle flowers. Juniper, which often lends a medicinal quality that turns off some folks, is present, but just barely. There’s a sweet, almost syrupy or viscous quality, too.
Its name in Italian means “pause,” which I’m sure is the button we all wish we could hit for a respite from the previous year. But San Mateo’s Pausa does the next best thing — serving up to-go Italian specialties that are so delicious we can forget the challenging times we’re still in right now, at least for a moment.
Veneto, Italy-born chef Andrea Giuliani and co-owner Steven Ugur imbue the food with true Italian soulfulness. Just consider the pizzas, with crusts made from a special blend of flours imported from Italy, that bake up over almond wood with blistered edges. Even at the restaurant (when dine-in is allowed), the pizzas arrive uncut. Same with takeout. At the restaurant, you get a pair of scissors to portion it out, yourself. At home, just use kitchen shears to do the work.
Like all the pizzas, the sausage one ($22) sports a crisp crust that’s chewy-tender, bready in some parts with a nice little hint of salt. It has the long-developed flavor of an artisan boule. The crumbled, house-made sausage and house-made mozzarella are the perfect complements to the sweet-fruity tomato sauce.
For something unique, try the pizza zucca & lardo ($22) that tastes of autumn with its sweet butternut squash puree, caramelized onions and cabbage, slices of tender delicata squash, fresh rosemary, and of course, long, paper-thin shavings of cured pork fat that fairly melt in your mouth.
As someone who rarely used to order takeout, I never thought I’d be turning my annual Top 10 list of the year’s best dishes into one centered solely on food picked up at restaurants to enjoy in my own home.
But 2020 has been like no year we’ve ever experienced.
It was more difficult than usual to cull my favorite eats down to only 10 mentions, because every restaurant or bakery that I visited has something wonderful to offer in these most challenging time. What’s more, each place I visited this year deserves an enormous thanks and pat on the back for persevering in this extremely difficult situation.
With 2021 around the corner, and the beginnings of a very slow return to normalcy just inching forward, I hope you’ll join me in continuing to support your local restaurants by getting takeout. Do pick up the food yourself if you can, rather than relying on delivery apps that eat into the already slim margins that restaurants reap from your order.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my Top 10 takeout picks of 2020.
Healdsburg’s J Vineyards has long made one of my favorite go-to sparkling wines.
Its new J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut NV ($38), of which I received a sample, is a total pleaser with yeasty, apple, and spice notes. Medium-bodied, it has a slight creaminess yet plenty of crisp acidity.
It would make magic alongside a cold seafood platter, a goat cheese salad with bitter greens, or even an egg salad croissant sandwich.
Cheers: This bubbly will ring in the New Year in style. Given the year we’ve had, you deserve to uncork a special bottle to mark the end of a supremely challenging 2020, and to toast to a hopefully much brighter and lighter 2021.
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2019
You don’t often see a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend on the market. In fact, Pine Ridge Vineyards founder Gary Andrus first created this as an experiment in the 1990s.
Dark and spicy as an intense holiday ginger cake, the just-released 46th annual Anchor Brewing Company Christmas Ale also boasts its highest ABV ever at 7 percent.
Yes, this is a hoppy, robust beer with a pronounced bitter coffee edge. I had a chance to try a sample of this festive beer that boasts a substantial body rivaling Santa’s. Pour it into a glass to appreciate its deep espresso-like color and cappuccino-colored foamy head.
Each year, the holiday beer gets a different tree design on its label. This year’s features The Three Graces, the three majestic sequoias from the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park.
This beer, available now through January 2021 or until supplies last, will definitely get you into the holiday spirit. Or make for a welcome gift.
It’s available in 6-packs ($10) and a gold-foiled 50.7-ounce magnum bottle ($14). Orders can be placed online for pickup at Anchor Public Taps in San Francisco.
Cheers: Anchor Brewing suggests enjoying the Christmas Ale alongside Thanksgiving turkey or rack of lamb. I think it’s pretty awesome with a slice of pumpkin bread, too.