Category Archives: Spirits/Cocktails/Beer

Dining Outside At Occitania

Escargot at Occitania.
Escargot at Occitania.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales thinks of his new Occitania restaurant in Oakland as the light to his more moody-vibed Duende that’s a mere five blocks away.

Certainly, he — and the rest of us — were badly in need of a little more levity when work commenced on this restaurant in October 2020 during the throes of the pandemic.

Taking inspiration from the Occitania linguistic region of Southern France, Occitania opened its doors in June of this year on the property of the Kissel Uptown Oakland, a Hyatt brand.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales in front of the bar at his newest restaurant.
Chef-Owner Paul Canales in front of the bar at his newest restaurant.

At the end of August, the restaurant added a few sidewalk tables, which is where I dined recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. The tables sport large umbrellas for shade, with heaters forthcoming.

Read more

Dining Outside at JiuBa

Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.
Pork and shrimp dumplings in chili oil at JiuBa.

Last summer, the incredibly splashy iChina opened its doors in the Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an air of Vegas to this Santa Clara-San Jose shopping center.

Standing two stories tall, sporting a virtual-reality private dining room with projection screens all around, and dripping with sparkly, shiny jade-hued glass and gold accents everywhere, this restaurant is a true sight to behold.

If you’re like me, though, and limiting yourself to dining outside at the moment, the bad news is that iChina, which means “love China” in Mandarin, offers only indoor dining.

However, its first-floor bar and lounge, JiuBa, does have outdoor seating.

JiuBa, which means “bar” in Mandarin, serves a much smaller menu. However, it is definitely possible to compose a full and satisfying dinner from it, as I found when I was invited in as a guest last week.

The bar inside shares the same opulent look as the rest of the restaurant, as if an enormous jade-emerald-diamond ring was the inspiration.

The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
The glamorous bar inside JiuBa.
Would you believe this is the bathroom?
Would you believe this is the bathroom?

Even the all-gender bathroom looks as if it belongs in a modern-day Chinese palace.

Read more

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 20

L'Apero les Trois' line of aperitifs comes in six flavors, including Blenheim Apricot.
L’Apero les Trois’ line of aperitifs comes in six flavors, including Blenheim Apricot.

L’Apero les Trois

Three women of three different generations in Winters, CA have joined forces to create a delicious new product that celebrates not only the agrarian bounty of Sonoma County, but a time-honored French tradition.

The result is L’Apero les Trois, a line of fruit-based, lower alcohol spirits known as aperitifs, which the French have enjoyed for generations as a pre-lunch or pre-dinner libation.

They are the brainchild of Georgeanne Brennan, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author who taught cooking classes in France for years; Corinne Martinez, co-owner of Berryessa Gap Vineyards; and Nicole Salengo, Berryessa Gap’s winemaker.

As with all aperitifs, they are meant to be served chilled, sometimes with a few ice cubes in the glass, and topped off with sparkling wine or fizzy water, if you so choose.

Read more

My Favorite Cocktail

My fave Negroni, with a big orange twist.
My fave Negroni, with a big orange twist.

In my household, there is no argument as to what our most favored cocktail is.

But there is disagreement over whose drink of choice it was first.

Let’s just say that I’m convinced I chose the Negroni way before my husband did.

After all, he can’t even tell you why he likes it. But I can. It’s all about that delightful bitter orange taste that does it for me, like that of the prized rind of Seville oranges in marmalade.

So when a review copy of the new “San Francisco Cocktails” (Cider Mill Press) landed on my porch, it was the perfect excuse to make at home the satisfying sip I usually order out.

This fun book is by my friend and colleague Trevor Felch, a Bay Area food and drinks writer who has assembled 100 San Francisco cocktail recipes and the stories behind them. Holy moly, just imagine the tipsy time testing all of those.

Read more

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.

Read more
« Older Entries Recent Entries »