20120529-010156.jpgUnbelievably fine… Delicate floral nose of honey suckle and sweet strawberry. Pleasantly soft before food but seems to rise with strength and flavor with the meal as the fruit bursts forth and just the right acidity bring the whole experience to a crescendo. Yes, this is a gushing, and yet non-specific note, but the overall experience of this wine defies description. If one thinks in terms of points, this is easily a 95 and probably the best wine I’ve had in a year.

The meal didn’t suck either. We were dining at La Brasserie du Sillon in Saint-Malo, Brittany, France. Expensive, slightly snooty service, but really good eats and drop-dead views of the beach, ocean, sunset (at 9:45 PM!), and the old walled city in the distance.

20120529-012724.jpgRoasted lobster with an escargot sauce.

20120529-012831.jpgRoasted lobster with a Cognac sauce

20120529-012935.jpgScallops with some preparation that I’ve forgotten but Alec reported that “they rocked.”

20120529-013144.jpgOf course, we couldn’t leave out our vegetarian travel companion. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

You’d be hard pressed to find better meats than those offered by Bryan Flannery of Bryan’s Fine Foods in Corte Madera and San Francisco.  He’s a great guy too, well in-tune with food, wine, and the joys that go with sharing them with other fun loving folks.

Read what happens when a big corporation and their legal team starts going after the little guy in this hilarious account of David sparring with Goliath.

Here’s a video of our sister-in-law, the beekeeper, providing the secret ingredient for great pizza crust.  If I had her job, I would only be slightly less scared than if I were a rattlesnake herder.

2002 Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (3/23/2011)

Wow. This wine is firing on all cylinders right now. Dark and rich with waves of mouthfilling dark fruit flavors that coat the mouth and last for almost a minute. Creamy mocha, or even hot chocolate. Hint of mint on the nose. Smokey. Big, but balanced. This wine is showing its very best right now. Drink over next 3 years. (94 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

The Bressler was the perfect partner to take to dinner at Asena Restaurant in Alameda.  This was our first visit — but hopefully not our last — to this small restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine.  The flavors of Italy, North Africa, and Turkey are all presented in delicious style.  Service, mostly by the owner himself, was friendly and warm but sometimes seemed a bit disorganized even though the restaurant was far from full during most of our meal.  I think he (the owner) may have been doing a bit too much schmoozing with all the guests at the expense of following up on drink orders, leveling a table that had a disconcerting wobble, and generally orchestrating the dining experience.  This is not a big gig in our book: we’d probably prefer this homey approach over cold efficiency.  The food was mostly wonderful with highlights including crispy breaded artichoke hearts with lime aioli ($6.95), house-made humus and flatbread with linguiça ($7.25), and paella with chicken, linguica, Mediterranean mussels, prawns, leeks, saffron, and rice ($19.95).  Members of our party also raved about the shrimp special though I didn’t catch the details on that one.  The “miss” on the menu was grilled lamb tenderloin with mint-burgundy demi glace ($20.95).  The lamb was tasty enough and cooked to the right temperature but two of us really had our hearts set on the mint in this recipe — loving that flavor with lamb — but alas, the mint was subtle to the point of non-existence.  For dessert, the blood orange cheesecake, chocolate pot de creme, and tiramisu were all wonderful.  Corkage was a very fair $12.

Inn Kensington (Kensington, CA) serves breakfast right — not fancy, just creative variations on the standards from American and Southwestern cuisine. And, if you just want bacon, eggs, and toast, they’re wonderful too… especially the whole wheat toast. Where do they get that bread? The food comes fast and your coffee cup stays full. My son loved his seafood omelet and my green chile omelet made me dream of home in New Mexico. Final damages to stuff a party of four — $51. Definitely worth the schlep up into the hills of the East Bay.
They don’t take reservations per se, but if you call ahead, they’ll add you to their table wait list.
Inn Kensington
293 Arlington Ave
Kensington, CA 94707
(510) 527-5919

Oh Solano mio… just a few miles away, but the I580/80 curve and traffic through Berkeley can make you seem so far. However, just for sheer number and variety of great (and really good) restaurants, Solano Avenue, stretching across North Berkeley and Albany, is one of the best dining destinations in the East Bay. There are many places that are worth the trip.
Rivoli Restaurant is one of Solano’s shining stars. Three of us had never tried Rivoli and it had been years since the fourth had been there but excellent fare is the norm. Rivoli has been in The Chron’s Top 100 Restaurants of the Bay Area since 1996. Chef Wendy Brucker’s menu changes every few weeks and it just switched over. Wouldn’t you know it, right before I could refer to the online menu to write this post? But trust me, the girls said the vegetarian entree they ordered was delicious, calling it “the best vegetarian entree that they ever had.” We boys, stereotypically ordered steak, flank steak that is, and it was excellent as well. My goat cheese souffle with truffle oil appetizer was like music in the mouth. Service was attentive and professional. The very small dining room looks out over a cute “secret” garden and despite the room’s size, you can still hear your conversation partner without them having to yell.
Corkage at Rivoli is $20 per bottle. We brought:
2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Amber Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/19/2010)
Excellent rich, mouthfilling cherry, vanilla cream, and brown sugar flavors. Primary, but tasty, with everything in wonderful balance during a relatively short window. (89 pts.)
2004 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (3/19/2010)
Quite interesting that if guessing blind, I would have identified this wine as the Russian River and the Kosta Browne as the Santa Rita Hills. There was significantly more ripeness and roundness in the KB. Both wines share similar fruit flavors (at times it would have been tough to tell them apart) but where the KB heads in a mouth-filling, candied direction, the HP Cargasacchi has more green herb and anise undertones — flavors I tend to associate more with Old World or Oregon Pinot Noir. (88 pts.)
Preference between these two wines would come down to preference of style instead of a “rating” though I would have to say on this night, the Kosta Brown was just a tad more enjoyable. However, it is worth noting that both of these wines were pretty much dead by the end of the night after being exposed to air for two plus hours. Drink up. They are not for aging.
(Posted from CellarTracker on GrapeStories.com)

Now I’ll never get in. At least if anyone pays attention to Gayot.com (the self-proclaimed “Guide to the Good Life”) and MSN.com
Bardessano (Yountville) makes list of 10 Best New Restaurants in the US.
What is the best restaurant in your town?

After a recent evening exhibition at the SFMOMA, Sasha and I found ourselves in need of a bite and where better to meet such a need than a place called “Fang.” We’d never heard of this slightly upscale Chinese restaurant but the hip decor and house full of San Francisco Gen X & Y-ers showed promise. It was a good choice.
Our waitress was obviously new and had little familiarity with the menu and sake choices. However, she promised that the chef would be by our table soon. Before we could stop her from summoning the chef, he appeared and indicated that he was here to cook whatever we wanted. (We later figured out that he did this at most, if not all, of the tables.) We were trying to steer clear of oily or heavy sauces and he recommended a white fish with spinach. We added some bok choy and tofu to the mix as well. This turned out to be a delicious variation on one of their menu items. We both thought the fish was fantastic. Sash thought it, and most everything, could have gone a little lighter on the salt. I saw her point: I like salty stuff and even I noticed the salt here. Giving in to that sodium siren though, I ordered a rather pleasing salty and spicey prawns on purpose. We shared an appetizers of steamed duck rolls. They were tasty, but not special.
In fact, “tasty but not special” sort of sums up our whole experience at Fang. I would walk several blocks to go to Fang. If in SOMA and hungry for Chinese food, I would go to Fang if parking wasn’t too much of a problem. But I don’t think I would drive across the Bay Bridge or even across SF to go to Fang.
The wine list is non-starter. Don’t even bother. There’s a small selection of sake, beers, and cocktails.
Fang’s owner also owns the Chinatown mainstay, House of Nanking.
Fang Restaurant
660 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 777-8568‎

Great restaurants in New York City?!? Who knew? Just kidding, of course. Other cities have their stars, but The Big Apple is a whole galaxy of epicurean super novae. That’s one of the main reasons why I visit The City: I love to eat.
“The City” is not to be confused with “The City” that one means when talking about San Francisco. Residents of both believe their hometown is THE ONE that deserves the capitalization. Everywhere else is just a city.
The other night we had the pleasure of dining at Eleven Madison Park. The space is lovely and service was attentive, but not obtrusive. I kept wondering how my water glass and bread plate got refilled without me noticing. It just seemed to keep happening like some sort of Hanukkah miracle.
The amuse bouche was great. I wish I could remember the French name for it but it apparently meant soup. It was a frothy, artichoke cream with pear oil and a few caviar eggs at the bottom. Sounds bizarre I know, but I loved it.
Di Palo Ricotta – Gnocchi with Violet Artichokes, Taggiasca Olives and Bacon
Hawaiian Prawns – Roulade with Avocado, Lime and Yogurt
Four Story Hill Farm Suckling Pig – Roasted with Sweet Potato, Brussels Sprouts, Pickled Plums and Amaretti
Millbrook Farms Venison – Herb Roasted with Glazed Bosc Pear, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Bacon
Everything was delicious and beautifully presented, but if it all sounds heavy to you, you’re right. Dining out a fancy NY restaurant like Eleven Madison is not for the faint of heart, stomach, or wallet. Three-Course Prix Fixe, two savory, one sweet is $88. An eleven course chef’s tasting menu is $175. A “Taste of Autumn” seven course menu is $125.
The wine list was impressively broad but also had some impressive price tags. Staying under $100 per bottle was not an easy thing to do, but we did it. Kudos to the sommelier who treated our “cheap” bottles as respectfully and professionally as he would if they cost 4 times as much.

  • 2007 Failla (Failla Jordan) Pinot Noir Estate Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (11/23/2009)
    Delicate strawberry fruit is currently dominated by bracing acidity. Elements of cinnamon and clove. This wine needs time but hints of really nice things to come. Blind, I would have guessed Oregon rather than Sonoma. $75 on tEleven Madison’s wine list.(86 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux Meursault Les Terres Blanches – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault (11/23/2009)
    Clean and fresh, light on the palate with green apple, stone, and lemon zest. Interesting minerality. $95 on Eleven Madison’s wine list.(88 pts.)
  • Posted from CellarTracker

This kind of dining can be fun, but Sasha’s and my preferences run more towards ethnic foods, particularly asian influenced cuisine. We tried two such places during our short stay in Manhattan. Both were highly recommended to us by locals and Zagat’s guide. I won’t be doing a separate blog entry for Bar Bao or Shun Lee Palace but while both were okay, they were not as good as we’re used to back in the Bay Area. In my opinion, while Manhattan may be #1 overall in dining destinations, other cities including San Francisco and Vancouver have it beat on Asian fare. Feel free to argue and/or post suggestions that may change my mind. I’d love some more great options in NYC.

Looking for sushi around San Francisco’s Union Square? We really enjoyed Sanraku last night. The sushi was fresh and creative. The service was outstanding with servers ready with thoughtful and useful recommendations. Our server was particularly helpful with her knowledge of the varied and fairly priced sake list. The wine choices, while few, were respectable, especially considering that often wine options are an afterthought in sushi restaurants.

The picture to the left (sorry for the poor quality, blame my phone) is their Harvest Celebration platter which is available only a few weeks a year. At $37, it’s expensive for six pieces of sushi but it was delicious and is a work of art on the table.

I recommend making a reservation. The Sutter Street space is small and it was packed on a Thursday night. They also have locations in the Metreon and Four Seasons Hotel.

704 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

website securityContact Us
3060 White Sulphur Springs Rd
St Helena, CA 94574
t: (707) 200-3510
  • RSS
  • Mailing List
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • NetworkedBlogs
  • YouTube