Mike Winston’s Top 10 Best Cocktails of 2014

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!
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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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Elizabeth St. Cafe is a Completely Adorable French-Vietnamese Breakfast Spot in Austin

Austin, Texas is loaded with plenty of epic eating. Even breakfast – dominated by massive egg-filled breakfast tacos – is out of control awesome. But, for the most part, breakfast is limited to fast-casual options. So, if you want something sit-down and just a bit more formal, you’ve got to look a little bit harder. While I was in town looking for a nice, relaxed breakfast, we got a recommendation to head to a nearby spot called Elizabeth St. Cafe to get our fix.

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A Quiet, Classy, and Impressive Brunch at Maven in Lower Haight

One of my favorite weekend city pastimes is to just pick a direction, wander aimlessly (get it? Winston Wanders), and see where my feet take me. This is also one of the many ways I find new places to eat – I just walk unfamiliar streets and routes and see if I can stumble across something new and interesting.

On this particularly long wander, I started at home in Lower Nob Hill, headed down to Hayes Valley, then over across the Panhandle, through Haight-Ashbury, up Divisadero, across Alamo Square, and down to Lower Haight before I finally decided on a place to sit down for a quality brunch with my buddy, Corey.

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Unique Spanish Basque Brunch at Huertas in the East Village

I completely ignored the opening of Huertas in the East Village when I first heard about it. All too frequently I find myself disappointed by tapas joints, so I often don’t bother to give them a chance. But, then I read a glowing write-up from my most trusted food writer – Robert Sietsema that made me completely reconsider. My tastes pretty much always fall directly in line with his, so I knew that if he loved the place, I was probably gonna love it too.

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Looking for Lost Love at The Bagelry in Russian Hill

Who would be surprised to hear that this New York Jew loves bagels and lox? No one? OK.

There are plenty of foods that I can now have in San Francisco that I could never get my hands on before in NY. And in fact there are many food that I could get in NY that are done so much better in SF. But, there are still a few dishes that I find myself truly homesick for that I can’t seem to replace. Topping that list – a quality bagel with cream cheese and lox.

By reputation, I didn’t expect much from San Francisco bagel shops. In fact, I figured they’d be pretty abysmal based on the things I had read online. But, one day I woke up particularly hungover with an uncontrollable urge to crush a bagel with lox. On this day, nothing was going to stop me from embarking on this quest despite the fact that I knew it would likely disappoint me. So I headed six blocks north on Polk St. to my best nearby bet – a place called The Bagelry.

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Aliment is the Nob Hill Neighborhood Joint You’ve Always Wanted

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.

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Beachfront Boozing & Wood-Fired Pizza at Bar Bocce in Sausalito

When the sun is shining, I nearly always feel compelled to be outside with a drink in my hand. In need of a place to meet some friends in Sausalito on a Sunday afternoon, we decided on Bar Bocce – a highly regarded bar/restaurant right on the Sausalito waterfront that features plenty of outdoor space including a large fire-pit, narrow beach, and full-sized bocce court.

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Simple, Satisfying Date Night Fare at Salt House in the Financial District

I feel like it’s a good idea to always have at least one great date night spot in every neighborhood. San Francisco’s Financial District is pretty quiet at night compared to the rest of the city, so it isn’t always too easy to find a great place to serve this purpose. One night I was in the area looking for a nice place to take Amy to and I stumbled upon Salt House which I seemed like it might very well fit the evening’s bill.

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