An Extraordinary, Ultra-seasonal, Japanese-inspired Tasting Menu in Wine Country

What:

Single Thread @ST_Farms Newly opened and it's already been awarded the San Francisco Chronicle's highest honor — four out of four stars by critic Michael Bauer. I don't always share my food opinions with Bauer, but when it comes to the level of brilliance and care coming out of Single Thread, it's hard to disagree.

Where:

Downtown Healdsburg 131 North Street Healdsburg, CA 95448 [wpgmza id="302"]

When:

Despite its high-end concept and rather expensive price point, they do manage to keep the entire experience quite approachable and not stuffy, unlike many other tasting menus at this price point. Still, you'll definitely want to save this one for a VERY special occasion based on cost alone. A 10-course tasting menus costs $255 per person (which comes to around $295 with tip included) and the wine pairing add-on costs $155. We visited Single Thread to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary with a bang.

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Cooking with Smoke and Direct Fire at Primitivo in the Garden District

What:

Primitivo @EatPrimitivo At this NOLA newcomer, our waitress explained that there isn't really a theme or nationality that guides the menu Primitivo, just a philosophy. That philosophy is to use local, seasonal ingredients and prepare them in some manner that involves their gigantic open-flame hearth. Smoke is the key to nearly every dish they serve here.

Where:

Off-the-beaten path between the Garden District and Center City 1800 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. New Orleans, LA 70113 [wpgmza id="289"]

When:

Perfect for dude's night out in NOLA.The decor has a masculine German beer-hall vibe with gothic calligraphy typography and distressed wood defining a majority of the aesthetic. Between the huge, hearty portions and very reasonably priced cocktails, this place was made for the bachelor party "nice-meal". While I do really like the place, I wouldn't necessarily tell NOLA first-timers to go on their first trip — there's plenty of other places in the city I think are more essential to go to first (see: Cochon, Commander's Palace, Red's Chinese, Compère Lapin, or Sylvain for example).

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Lord Stanley Brings Super-Restrained Scandinavian Style to Russian Hill

What:

Lord Stanley @Lordstanley_SF You can file this one under 'I just don't get it.' Despite the fact that Bauer and most SF reviewers absolutely adore this trendy Nordic date spot, I just can't seem to understand the effusive outpouring of positivity.

Where:

Russian Hill / Polk Gulch 2065 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 [wpgmza id="269"]

When:

It's definitely suited for an elegant date night, but don't expect extraordinarily exciting flavors.

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SF’s Perpetual Hot Spot Has Turned Dim Sum on Its Head

What:

State Bird Provisions @StateBirdSF This restaurant hardly needs an introduction. One of SF's hardest tables to land. Theyare famed for the way they embrace the dim sum system to serve creative New-Californian cuisine.

Who:

The married chef-oweners, Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza, have both earned themselves a James Beard award as Best Chefs: West in 2015 for the restaurant among many other accolades.

Where:

At the intersection of Japantown, Lower Pac Heights, and the Western Addition (aka NoPa) 1529 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA 94115 [wpgmza id="287"]

When:

Perfect for a special occasion splurge or super-impressive date night dinner.

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Your Next Date Night Should Involve SF’s Very Best Burger

I love that we live in a time where the modest and familiar burger is treated with the same skill and care as a seared duck breast or other fancy-sounding entrée. These impressive creations are no longer haphazardly assembled by slapping together unwanted scraps and trimmings and are no longer regarded just as greasy pub food. These burgers come a pedigree. Brilliant chefs now utilize custom butcher blends of meat and have truly mastered the art of balancing and enhancing those bold, rich, cheesy flavors while still retaining the burger's undeniably attractive gutbomb essence. These cherished burgers have now become a highlighted menu staple at most high-end restaurants and while many claim to serve the best in San Francisco, I think the title belongs safely to the one I've had at Stones Throw.

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Beat the Heat with Ice Cold, Summer Sweets at Plum St. Snoballs

It's feeling like summer, so let's talk about summery things. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone but, I'll say it anyway – New Orleans gets freaking hot in the summer. And when the people of NOLA find themselves melting under the oppressive sun, they rely on a steady intake of freezing cold shaved ice treats known in this town as Snowballs. You're probably familiar with this sort of summery snack and you also probably know it by another region-specific name – Italian Ice, Water Ice, Shaved Ice, a Snocone, or any other myriad of alternatives. But in NOLA, it's a Snoball. And there's one place that become the most famous for them and draws the biggest crowds of all called Plum St. Snowballs.

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Where to go for Innovative Twists on Japanese Traditions in Austin

Everyone that's even partially aware of the Austin dining scene has heard of Uchiko. It's generally regarded as one of the top dining destinations in the city and I've known for many years that I needed to see what all of the excitement was about for myself. I think the restaurant may have actually first come to attention when the now-famed chef Paul Qui tore his way through Top Chef Season 9. He basically wiped the floor with his competition utilizing his signature Asian fusion style and I took notice. Paul has since moved on from Uchiko to work on other Austin ventures such as his food truck East Side King and namesake restaurant Qui. But, Uchiko remains as exciting and buzz-worthy as ever.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin!And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.

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Bizarro Sweet Treats at OddFellows Ice Cream in New York

There's no doubt in my mind that chef Sam Mason is a genius. He in fact runs his ice cream shop OddFellows sort of like a mad scientist would run a lab – inventing crazy concoctions that truly nobody has ever thought to do before. Take, for instance, his famed Chorizo Caramel Swirl Ice Cream – that's a flat-out bonkers idea to do to ice cream. I can admit that I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn't available during my visit (not that I wasn't able to find other amazing insanities to try).

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