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!
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.
As an ex-New Yorker now living on the West Coast, I've been trained to go to Italian eateries with low expectations, particularly if they claim to specialize in pizza. I know I've been spoiled by the ease of access to the very best pizza slices in the country, but I've already learned that you can in fact find great pizza in the Bay Area in square slice and Brooklyn-style neapolitan form. Still, I didn't expect much from Palo Alto's Pizzeria Delfina despite its very positive reputation.
If you've read at all about the SF dining scene, it would be difficult to avoid hearing about Zero Zero. They've been written up in just about every major and minor publication for their upscale Neapolitan pizzas and cocktails, but prior to this visit I just never had any reason to head over to that Northeastern part of SoMa for a meal. But one day I found myself in that part of town at around 10 PM hungry and in need of a good cocktail or two, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what the hype was all about.
For Stanford students, there's only a few bars that everyone goes to. One of the biggest nightlife hotspots is NOLA, an aggressively Mardi Gras themed bar and restaurant that's gaudily decorated with scattered dangling beaded necklaces. It's the kind of place that I'd normally write off at first glance, assuming they'd only be able to make stupidly sweet and strong alcoholic punches and serve shitty bar food, but that assumption would be wrong.
It's not always easy to find quality restaurants in Silicon Valley, but Mountain View has proven time and time and time again that there's some really excellent places to eat and drink on their main downtown drag. There are not many restaurants that I have loved enough to eat at multiple times out here, but Scratch has sort of become my go-to, not-sure-what-I'm-in-the-mood-for dinner and drinks spot.
With my Texan girlfriend leading the way and teaching me everything there is to know about true Texas 'cue, I've become a bit of a barbecue aficionado, as regrettably also a bit of a snob. I've had enough experience consuming the real stuff to know what makes good and bad BBQ and NYC has plenty of each. I've travelled around NYC, throughout the boroughs, to Cochon 555, and The Big Apple Barbecue Festival a number of times. Hell, I've even been to a barbecue head-to-head event where many of NYC's top BBQ producers go to show off their chops. I think I've got a pretty good handle on what's what in the New York BBQ world. There's been much written lately about the booming NYC barbecue scene, but I've often found myself disappointed with many of the most highly-regarded, hyped, big-name places. But there also really is some incredible barbecue to be had around NYC. I've written previously about my love for Mighty Quinn's and I think that Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke is pretty phenomenal, but I think the best of the best might be at the old Brooklyn mainstay Fette Sau in South Williamsburg. Fette Sau's name means “Fat Pig” in German and that's exactly how you'll feel after indulging in a meat-tastic gorge-fest there.
*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.
I love new restaurant openings. There's always this energy in the air, an excitement, the mystery of what the gut gamble might uncover. That's why I was so excited to be invited to the soft launch of Union Bar & Kitchen in West SoHo.