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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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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Where to Find Incredibly Fragrant, Spice-Loaded Afghan Food in Sunnyvale

This is what happened when a craving that doesn't often strike me, struck. Usually when I crave Middle Eastern food, it comes in the form of intense yearning for falafel or hummus. But, on this particular day, I needed to find an extremely meaty meal of kebab over rice and a quick search of the nearby Sunnyvale area brought Kabul, an highly-rated Afghan restaurant, to light.

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Where to Find Authentically Spicy Indian Frontier Cuisine in Monterey

Is it wrong that I want to eat Indian food surrounded by Indians? I don't want this to come off sounding bad, but there's something that just feels right about eating in an ethnic restaurant that's actually filled with people of that ethnicity. I view it as a sort of tip of the hat to the place's street cred and I've often found that it's a pretty consistent indicator to determine if the place is going to be authentic and good. Just think about it, if Indians don't want to eat this food when they're dining out, why would I?

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The Incredible Burmese at Rangoon Ruby has Finally Arrived on Polk

I'm so excited, it's finally here. I'll keep this short, but the brand new location of my all-time favorite Silicon Valley restaurant Rangoon Ruby, has opened a sister location a block from my SF apartment. In a space that used to be a lackluster sushi spot called Sushi Rock, my beloved Palo Alto Burmese favorite has planted roots. From the moment Sushi Rock had shuttered, I was aware because the place is actually in directly eye line from my apartment window. I anxiously awaited something new and interesting to come and take over the space. And I was over-the-moon elated when I saw a Coming Soon banner indicating that it would be a location of the exact place I missed most after transitioning from Palo Alto to SF.

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Magnificent, Modern Southern Cuisine at Odd Duck in Austin

Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore's also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both.The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer's touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.

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A Meticulous, Experimental Tasting Menu at Barley Swine

*Editor's Note 3/29/16: Barley Swine has relocated its entire operation to a larger space at 6555 Burnet Road since my visit.Many of my previous visits to Austin had been during Austin City Limits where my schedule was jam-packed full of concert-going and nearly every moment of my usual 3-day stay was booked up. But, this Christmas-time trip was a little different. We were in town for a full week with plenty of time to relax and do bit of gastronomic exploration.I've experienced a variety of Austin's lower-key options including mini-trips to the outlying barbecue towns of Lockhart and Elgin, but I had never before really experienced Austin's more elevated dining scene. First on my list of places to try was a little, Southern, tasting menu-only restaurant called Barley Swine and sister to another amazing Austin hot spot called Odd Duck – both which recently received 2015 James Beard Award nods.

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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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Fast, Fresh, Flavorful, & Filling Greek at Souvla in Hayes Valley

In an area filled with many fancy, upscale sit-down restaurants, Souvla is a welcome addition to the Hayes Valley neighborhood. With its cheap, high-quality spit-roasted meats served in either sandwich or salad form, excellent selection of Greek wines, and absolutely delicious french fries this casual, yet elegant spot is a real winner.It's the kind of place that's cheap enough for a random weeknight dinner and at the same time sexy enough to work as a great casual date night spot. There is no waiter service, which sort of takes away from the date night vibe, but it's done so well that I really can't complain. This place is a real gem.

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