Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

A Visit to California’s Smallest City

The incredible seared house-made ricotta at the Imperial Hotel restaurant.
The incredible seared house-made ricotta at the Imperial Hotel restaurant.

Amador City, CA — At 0.3 square miles, this Gold Country town is indeed the smallest in the state by size.

It amounts to roughly 6 blocks.

What it lacks in magnitude, though, it more than makes up for in its rich history and present-day charm.

Jose Marie Amador, a wealthy rancher and gold miner, founded this Gold Rush town that’s one hour east of Sacramento. By the time its most famous mine closed in 1943, an estimated $24 million in gold had been mined, according to Visit Amador City.

The downtown is teeny, all of a block and a half, made up nowadays of wine tasting rooms, home-ware shops, cafes, and the Amador Whitney Museum. At its heart is the Imperial Hotel, a historic brick building originally built in 1879.

The historic Imperial Hotel.
The historic Imperial Hotel.

Last fall, Kevin Carter and his partner Cassie Davis took over the hotel, refurbishing it, before reopening it this spring. Two weeks ago, I was invited as their guest to check out the redone property, which includes a 130-seat, on-site restaurant headed by an executive chef who will be familiar to South Bay folks: Max Benson, whose family operated CB Hannegan’s in Los Gatos for 37 years. When Benson’s mom moved to Amador City, he eventually decided to follow suit.

Read more

Taking a Stab at Stickbar at Gozu

Canapes of Wagyu tartare topped with Wagyu "caviar'' at Gozu.
Canapes of Wagyu tartare topped with Wagyu “caviar” at Gozu.

Nowadays, there are many restaurants where you can enjoy a Wagyu steak. But at Gozu in San Francisco, you can sink your teeth into smoky skewers that spotlight both familiar and unusual specific cuts of the prized Japanese beef.

When Chef-Owner Marc Zimmerman opened his hearth-centered restaurant in 2019, it was thought to be the only restaurant in the United States to directly import from Japan full cuts of top-grade A5 Wagyu. That amounts to a whopping 750 pounds in one shot.

That gives him the ability to use nearly every part of the outrageously marbled beef, often in audacious ways, including burning the bones as charcoal and fermenting lean cuts to make shoyu.

Japanese A5 Wagyu being aged at Gozu.
Japanese A5 Wagyu being aged at Gozu.

You can experience it for yourself with a $125 four-course menu or a $225 tasting menu. Or opt for the a la carte Stickbar menu that allows you to try individual skewers, priced from $14 to $55, depending on the cut.

Read more

“Grill Takeover” Time At Eataly’s Terra

Lamb tongue with horseradish potato foam at Terra's first "Grill Takeover'' dinner collaboration.
Lamb tongue with horseradish potato foam at Terra’s first “Grill Takeover” dinner collaboration.

Terra restaurant at Silicon Valley’s Eataly is getting taken over — in a fun and delicious way.

The rooftop restaurant inside Eataly at Westfield Valley Fair shopping Center in San Jose just launched a “Grill Takeover” series in which it partners with a local restaurant for a one-night collaborative dinner.

I was fortunate to be invited as a guest to the inaugural one last week with San Mateo’s Pausa restaurant.

The event featured Eataly Silicon Valley’s Chef Antonio Giordano and Pausa’s Chef Andrea Giuliani teamed on a four-course meal that was $125 per person.

Eataly Silicon Valley's Chef Antonio Giordano and Pausa's Chef Andrea Giuliani with Terra's general manager.
Eataly Silicon Valley’s Chef Antonio Giordano and Pausa’s Chef Andrea Giuliani with Terra’s general manager.

The dining room was full for this sold-out event. For those still cautious about dining indoors, you’ll be glad to know that Terra’s dining room is practically outdoors. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to the outside dining terrace are left open. Moreover, the ceiling itself is slatted to allow for plenty of air flow.

Read more

Dining — To The Hilt — At Mourad

The magnificient basteeya at Mourad.
The magnificent basteeya at Mourad.

Whenever visitors from out of town query me about where to eat, one restaurant in particular always merits a high recommendation.

And that is Mourad in San Francisco.

Because chances are wherever they hail from, they do not have a restaurant in their vicinity that serves modern Moroccan cuisine. At least not anything as elevated and imaginative yet still stirringly soulful as this.

So, when I recently gathered to catch up with family in San Francisco last weekend and discovered they had never eaten here, I knew it was high-time they were introduced to Chef-Owner Mourad Lahlou’s singular cooking.

The kitchen at Mourad.
The kitchen at Mourad.
With Chef Mourad Lahlou.
With Chef Mourad Lahlou.

We perused the menu, ordered, and paid our tab — but had no idea that Lahlou would end up sending out nearly three-fourths of the menu to our table on the house. To say that we each needed a wheelbarrow to cart us out afterward would be putting it mildly. It proved a feast in every sense and for every sense.

Read more

Dining (And Drinking) At Adrestia and Nokori Japanese Whisky Bar

The Corvina Nikkei -- sans konbu dashi.
The Corvina Nikkei — sans konbu dashi.

Admittedly, when it comes to whisky, I am a total light-weight. It’s not that I don’t enjoy its smooth smoky, vanilla and caramel richness. It’s just that I fear keeling over after two sips.

That’s why I was glad to get introduced to Nokori Japanese Whisky Bar in the Tetra Hotel in Sunnyvale. It’s designed not only for true connoisseurs who like to sip premium and potent whisky neat, but for more wimpy imbibers like myself who can kick back instead with a lightened-up, tall whisky highball instead.

Last week, I was invited in as a guest of both Nokori and its adjacent restaurant Adrestia. Both are housed inside the upscale Tetra Hotel, which is actually right across from the AC Hotel Sunnyvale Moffet Park, which has a bar that conversely specializes in gin. Both are Marriott properties.

The Tetra Hotel in Sunnyvale.
The Tetra Hotel in Sunnyvale.
The hotel's Japanese whisky bar.
The hotel’s Japanese whisky bar.

Since it’s located near several Google buildings and Lockheed Martin, don’t be surprised to see plenty of tech types with laptops and suitcases biding their time in the lobby, bar or restaurant until they depart for the airport.

Read more
« Older Entries Recent Entries »