Back when I was living in New York, I think I took for granted the fact that it really was "the city that never sleeps". Literally any hour of the day, I could get my hands on anything I craved. Bars stayed open to 4, delivery services ran around the clock and worked lightening fast, and there was always a restaurant open serving exactly what I was in the mood for, no matter what crazy hour it was that I wanted it. Now, let's compare that to San Francisco, where bars start winding down at 1 AM and close at 2. It's a place where most restaurant and bar kitchens close around 10 PM and food delivery is an utter joke. If it's past 10 PM and you feel like having a great late night meal, you've got to approach the situation with a little more care and a lot more knowledge.
Kin Khao is a restaurant that's been on the tip of everybody's tongue from the moment it opened just over a year ago. Nearly everybody loves Thai food, but there is just something totally unique about the twists that Kin Khao interweaves to these regional classics that gets people buzzing. It's been written up in nearly every Bay Area publication – Hell, it's even been written up in the New York Times by Mark Bittman and was included as #6 on Alan Richman's 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 in GQ. What could it be about this Thai spot that makes it so damned special? I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that both the chef and owner of Kin Khao have a pretty impressive food industry pedigree. Chef Mike Gaines spent a good chunk of time working at David Kinch's famed molecular gastronomy hot spot Manresa and the owner and restauranteur behind Kin Khao is a famed Bay Area food blogger named Pim Techamuanvivit whose passion for her Thai heritage guides the restaurant's concept. She also happens to be dating famed and celebrated Chef David Kinch who I'm sure has some tangential effect on the place. Yet somehow, with all of these compelling reasons to check this place out laid out in front of me, this was still only the first time I had gotten the chance to visit.
You guys know I eat a ton of food. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I'm also quite passionate about my cocktails. Some would even go so far as to call me a lush. Well, this year provided no shortage of impressive and outstanding cocktails (and obviously food as I've already recapped). And since the end of the year is rolling around, it only seems fair to look back and remember the best of the best cocktails as well. I've even inclcuded a list of ingredients for each drink recipe so you can try to whip them up for yourself at home... if you're particularly talented. Warning: there are some really obscure ingredients in a lot of these, a lot of them are rather complicated to concoct. Also, I don't have any of the proportions for the different parts... so good luck!
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.
I think it's about time I gave Aliment its much deserved due. Since that very first weekend away from New York in San Francisco over six months ago, Aliment has proven to be a reliable go-to restaurant when I'm in need of an excellent meal in the Union Square/Nob Hill area. Before this visit, I had only been to Aliment for brunch, but I was so impressed by every single dish I ate on every single visit that when I was in need of a last minute Saturday night table for four in the 'hood, I was confident that Aliment would be able to deliver. Somehow, despite how great this place has consistently proven itself to be, it continues to remain off the radar for most San Franciscans.
Listen up. I have found my new favorite restaurant IN THE WORLD. This place served me, without a doubt, the best food I've ever eaten. Twice. Both visits were, in my humble opinion — flawless. Where and what is this incredible restaurant, you ask? It's The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta near Union Square in San Francisco and you absolutely must go.
*Editor's Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktails This is San Francisco's hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European. I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn't long before it filled out with the who's who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.
Frequent WinstonWanders readers may notice I don't eat sweets very often. I don't know what it is about them, but I'm just not drawn to sweet foods very much, so you should realize that it's a particularly special occasion when I do find sweets that I love. Right across from the Museum of Modern Art in the Union Square area of San Francisco, there's a small, but hard to miss shop with bright yellow signage covered in friendly doodley illustrations. This shop, called Beard Papa's, specializes in none other than cream puffs which are individually filled with cream to order.