Few good things resulted from the pandemic. But one of them is surely Afici.
This South of Market fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco grew out of the pasta-oriented pop-up and takeout that Executive Chef Eric Upper of Alexander’s Steakhouse did during shutdown. A New York City native who worked at Auerole in New York, and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, Upper had the opportunity to lean into his Italian heritage, having studied Tuscan cuisine at Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence.
The pop-up proved so popular that it led the Alexander’s Steakhouse Restaurant Group to open Afici last summer.
The result is a stylish restaurant featuring inspired Italian specialties not found easily elsewhere, including house-made charcuterie made exclusively with prized A5 Wagyu.
I had a chance to experience Afici last week, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
With the wacky weather of late that’s brought snow to the Bay Area, it was an especially nice touch to be greeted at the host stand with cups of warm ginger-infused tea.
When Chef Michael Rotondo left San Francisco during the pandemic, it was surely Monterey’s gain.
The former executive chef of Parallel 27 in the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and the U.S. Bocuse D’Or “Most Promising Chef” of 2008, moved south to open Coastal Kitchen in February 2022.
Unlike the latter, though, there is no outdoor dining space. The white cloth-draped tables inside Coastal Kitchen’s warm-wood dining room are spaced out amply, though.
This is a tasting menu-only restaurant. In fact, it’s thought to be the sole tasting menu-only restaurant in Monterey. At $145 per person (with an additional $95 for wine pairings), it delivers a lot for the buck.
Now, this is guaranteed to spice up Valentine’s Day.
Hanson of Sonoma Distillery has put together a fun DIY Moscow Mule Kit ($60) that comes complete with most everything you need to make the popular cocktail. All you need do is just add the final fresh wedge of lime. You can get two Hanson-embossed copper mugs (an additional $40) for the full effect.
I had a chance to try a sample of the full kit with my choice of Hanson’s Organic Habanero as the base. You get a full 750ml bottle of the vodka that’s made by steeping seven varieties of peppers, including habaneros in the neutral vodka. Tasted straight, it’s grassy, subtly sweet, and peppery with a pleasant kick of throat-warming heat that’s not overwhelming. In short, it’s wickedly good.
After a seemingly interminable odyssey, the wait is indeed over.
Cyrus, the acclaimed fine-dining restaurant that closed in Healdsburg in 2012 after a landlord dispute, finally reopened again last September in a striking new iteration in Geyserville.
Chef-Owner Doug Keane, co-owner Nick Peyton, and their team couldn’t be more relieved and thrilled to be back at it again. Neither can their legions of fans, so many of whom considered the original Cyrus their favorite restaurant.
The original Cyrus garnered two Michelin stars. The new one already scored one star — barely two months after opening.
Keane spent a decade searching high and low through the Alexander Valley, which was founded by the restaurant’s namesake Cyrus Alexander. He had all but given up when this site came available. Though this sleek contemporary glass, steel and concrete building is the polar opposite of the restaurant’s original Old World provincial aesthetic, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting place in this new age and time. At least, that’s what I found when I finally had the opportunity last week to dine here.
The former general manager of Arka in Sunnyvale and operations manager at Sakoon in Mountain View, Agnel explains that he wanted to attract diners not only craving modern Indian cuisine, but ones who desired an elegant, upscale experience overall — no matter the food’s provenance.
To that end, he hired Mumbai-born Chef Prakash Singh to take regional Indian specialties and make them his own. Agnel also designed the extensive beverage program that includes the Peg Gastropub Bar inside the restaurant that sports a revolving 12 microbrewery selections on tap. A daily Happy Hour, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., features specially priced beers and cocktails.
The bar also boasts a sizeable selection of Japanese whiskies, tequila, and mezcal, not to mention a wine list that includes a 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia for $450 and a 2018 Hundred Acre Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $650 for big spenders.