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Thursday, June 24, 2010

My First Father's Day

I found a dog over a week ago and it is amazing how this little creature has changed my life.  If I thought I had slowed down since leaving my corporate gig almost two months ago, the dog has made me move even slower.  I look forward to waking up and walking him around the city.  And we have covered a bunch of terrain since we found one another.  Last week, we even ventured to the East Bay, the North Bay and down the Big Sur.

Having a sidekick makes it challenging to find food places that are accepting of pets.  Thank goodness for the good weather we have been having. This allows us to sit outside with coffee or lunch or whatever. Waiter, my pet, loves going to Bernal Heights and exploring the hillside.  On one of our most recent visits up there, we stopped at one of my favorite new spots along Cortland after a long walk.  Sandbox Bakery always has something tasty to try when we go there. I shared a Swiss Dill Biscuit and a Curry Pan with a bud.  I love the savory treats they offer up. I got to talking with Mutsumi and told her how impressed I have been upon each visit.

My friend and I continued to walk up Cortland to discover a new interesting Co-Op. Inside,  there is a produce market, a sushi joint, a knife sharpener, empandas, a bakery and Paulie's Pickling. Since I was still hungry, I decided to give their Brisket Sandwich Beer Braised w/ Grilled Cabbage Slaw & Russian Dressing a shot. Served on dark rye by Liz, one half of master team behind this spot. Her husband Paulie is the Pickler, apparently.  The sandwich was very good and had a huge helping of meat.  It came with my choice of a side salad.  I got to try the Grilled Slaw which was also quite good.  And I also had bites of the Shell salad which had olives, feta, pasta shells and sun-dried  tomatoes.  Liz told me that their picked green beans are now a staple at WILDSIDE WEST.  They put them in the Bloody Mary's. I will have to make an excuse and bring the dog over there soon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Comstock Saloon Leaves You Speechless... Which Is A Good Thing!

Last night, I finally made it over to Comstock Saloon.  My friend Karri, a server over there, guilted me that I had already missed the first menu and therefore my friend Chris' game hen.  Jonny, the Saloon Keeper, also said, I missed the oyster stuffing that went along with it. Doh!  But my best friend Ron was in town for one last night and we had to celebrate in style.

And in style, is an understatement, when you walk into the Saloon.  It really is quite swanky and fun in terms of the layout.  We sat at the bar and put ourselves in the hands of the master of ceremonies.  Jonny asked my friend Ron whom his favorite pitcher was and based his drink around this.  Ron proclaimed Nolan Ryan and the concoction that was made was amazing.  It was a variation of a French 75 made with vodka and champagne.  Ron said it was everything you could ask for and more. I got Jonny's riff of an OLD PAL with whiskey and vermouth. It was fantastic!

At this point we had some snacks arriving as well.  Carlo and Chris, who are the Grub Slingers in the kitchen served us housemade cheddar crackers and pepper jelly.  The pepper jelly came with some ricotta and we just dipped those delectable crackers in the mix.  Then came the corn & jalapeno fritters and we were completely floored.  They were puffy and powerful.  Ron and I looked over at each other and just nodded our heads in agreement.  And this was just the beginning...

My next cocktail was a riff on the High Cotton. Made with Rittenhouse 100 proof rye, Pimm’s No. 1, Dubonnet Rouge, and dashes of Peach and Mint bitters.  Stirred and served up with a mint leaf and a lemon twist. Inspired by Lyndon B. Johnson and "the hope for better times to come."  I need not hope, they are a happening and the drink further proves this fact.  Plus, the Fried Seafood Cocktail that was brought out next is nothing but good times.  This unbelievable combo of fried oysters on top of succulent crab and cocktail sauce will have you ravaging.  I certainly was.

In terms of main courses, I think we almost covered all of them.  First, there was the beef shank and bone marrow pot pie that was out-of-this-world.  I had heard about this legendary dish from Karri and Co. She was spot-on.  Johnny suggested the clams and sausage to share as well.  He was not kidding.  The clams were screaming and the toasts and potatoes were awesome to sop up all the jous.  And would you believe that Jonny also brought us the chicken-fried rabbit with pepper vinegar to sample. And if that were not enough he even brought out the pappardelle which I think was vegetarian.  I couldn't tell at this point between the Dunlap cocktail and the glass of Pinot Noir.  All I know was that  I was in rapture.  I was seduced to the point of being completely speechless.  You can ask Karri.  All I could utter were moans and um's and ah's.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pairing Great Beer With Great Food!

Thursday night, I had another chance to drink the beers I have been selling with Waterloo Beverages.  I had a gone on a date and we met up at Monk's Kettle. This is one of my favorite spots, not just for the beer, but for the grub as well.  And, the staff that works there, appreciate both.  In fact, they encourage pairing, to get the most out of the experience.

I thought it best to pair the Ichetegem's Grand Cru with some ruffage to start us off. We decided on the Roasted beets, organic mixed greens, dijon vinaigrette, Laurel Chenel goat cheese and fried pumpkin seeds.  Our slightly sour Flemish Red Ale was the perfect choice to accompany this delicate salad.  The flavors of the beer were also as light and silky.

The waitress offered us tastes of Left for Dead my Moonlight Brewing which was interesting to taste after drinking the Ichetegems.  It was lightly refreshing and sour and had a reminiscent taste to Death & Taxes.  It had this roast-like finish that just took me there. It was perfect with the special Chicken Pot Pie we ordered. Sauteed '38 North' chicken breast served in a creamy mixture of onions, carrots, celery, turnips & peas, topped with housemade pie crust and micro sprouts garnish.  Um, duh, I'm drooling.  And I was in the same state eating it the other night.  Pure amazement.

Our tasting continued with Moonlight Brewery's Uncle Svenson, which I had the pleasure of trying at Beer Fest less than a week ago.  This Norwegian Farmhouse Ale was one of the highlights of the festival. Instead of adding hops this time, Brian Hunt uses Red Cedar Chips.  It's light in alcohol, checking in at 5.5%.  That went with our Center Stage entree.  We ordered the Coleman Natural Hampshire beer & cider brined Pork Chop with cheddar scallion potato cake, caramelized brussel sprouts, house-cured maple smoked bacon, and stone-ground mustard ale sauce. What a spectacular dish.  It was just really thoughtful to get all that flavor.  I had ordered us an Arend Tripel to pair with this dish too.  This beer by De Ryck Brewery is blowing the doors off most restaurants that carry it on their menu. It is sweet and has a great aroma of citrus and spice.

There was nothing left on our plates nor in our glasses.  It was my usual protocol when I dine at Monk's Kettle.  I will probably be back there soon to continue to pair more of our beers with this delicious cuisine.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Freaky Thursday

Yesterday, John and I dined at delarosa for lunch.  We had just conducted a tasting for Waterloo Beverages and had some leftover beer we were drinking at the bar with the bartender.  We were encouraged to try the Broccoli rabe and crescenza bruschetta.  According to our barkeep, it just might be the best thing on the menu.  Man, he wasn't joking.  I, being generous yesterday, gave John the bigger piece.  I swear we switched personalities yesterday at the meal.  He was ravaging and I was eating slowly.  Weird.

John continued to pull a Samwick when the Dungeness crab arancini arrived with a side of calabrese aioli for dipping. They were scrumptious. I mean, delicate Italian rice balls stuffed with succulent crab, is just too good too be true.  And for some reason, I was savoring each bite.  I must of had some buzz.

I was drinking the Linden St. Black Lager.  And the Linden St. Common Lager as well.  They both paired tremendously well with the Hot salami, coppa, tomato and diavolicchio pizza. We were really excited about this pizza.  We seem to always go for this style.  I recall, just last week, in fact.  I think we were at delarosa's sister Beretta and got something pretty similar.  Who knew you could find a good pizza in San Francisco?!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Yesterday was glorious.  I have the sunburn to prove it too.  I got to go the Beer Fest up in Santa Rosa.  Apparently, there were 4 going on throughout the greater Bay Area. I got to shout out a big thanks to Mario Rubio from Brewed For Thought, for getting me on the list as one of the vendors. And I have to say it is a blast to be part of the team at Waterloo Beverages.  We do have some real gems in our Belgian Beer profile.  Opening the beers up at tastings and seeing just awesome reactions to our beer, gives me such a thrill.

Although, we did not open up any yesterday, we certainly had our fair share of some of the best beer around.  I started off in Mr. Brian Hunt's hands when he personally poured me his Reality Czeck. It was as soft and delicate as he described and a great Pilsner to get things started.  I did go back immediately for his Death & Taxes.  I just love this very crisp Black Beer. It gives a great head when it pours that is so distinctive and fun.  I drank it up rather quickly.

From Moonlight Brewing Company, I headed over to the Bear Republic folks to try their Crazy Ivan.  I love this complex Belgo-American IPA. It had me hopping around looking for some eats after I sucked down this Dark Ale.  I just enjoy the fact that they made it and are inspired by their 3R's.  That would be their Racer 5, their Red Rocket and their Hop Rod Rye, which are all triumphant brews.

After hopping around for some beef sliders and some decadent Humboldt Fog Blue Cheese, I visited the Napa Smith guys and had a refreshing Wheat Beer.  I love this Brewery, especially their Amber Ale which I have had many times.  They were also pouring their Organic Pale Ale which definitely has a great fragrance.  I was smelling it and drinking it while waiting on line for a beef sandwich with horseradish sauce.

I stumbled over to Stumptown Brewery for a taste of their Rat Bastard Ale.  These guys are awesome and really made a great Pale Ale beer.  With the help of Third St Aleworks and Bear Republic, who both loaned grain and yeast,  they made their first beer brewed and aged in time for yesterday's festivities.  I noticed how pleasant it really was as I came back for a 2nd pouring after another visit to the cheese table.

I continued to refresh my commemorative glass at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company with a very refreshing Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema.  This beer was perfect for the hot sun beaming on my shoulders and bald head.  And it was definitely creamy and sweet and most drinkable.  The lady pouring it had a great big smile on her face when she was pouring it for me.

One thing that got me excited while waiting in line for some pulled pork was hearing about Uncommon Brewer's Bacon Brown Ale.  The kids were saying it tasted like they had just had a BLT or a burger from the aftertaste.  I did taste the bacon but it was more like a flavoring.  What surprised me was how thick this pour was.  I drank it pretty fast as to keep that foamyness going.  I was completely blown away by their Siamese Twin Ale though.  It is a Belgian-style dubbel brewed with whole lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Indian coriander.  That combination of ingredients made it very sweet and very bold at the same time.

Next On Tap, was the Point Arena Pale Ale from the kind folks at Ukiah Brewing Co. A great American pale ale with nice malt and hops.  It was nice to drink as I made my way over to gods at Russian River Brewing.  I needed a Pilney The Elder real bad.  I crave that taste and smell and I saw them out of the corner of my eye.  I was even there for the opening of a very special Supplication.  Mmmmm, the sour cherries in that masterpiece of a beer are so tasty.  I have to admit I also went back at one point for the Damnation.  I just love the richness and the smoothness of there beers.

I remember visiting the Blue Frog for a Pale Ale that I enjoyed.  The Lagunitas folks had a Tap of their Lucky 13 which was pretty outstanding too. A Mondo Large Red Ale as it says on the label and it fits it perfectly.  Hops are there but it is very pleasant to taste.  And speaking of pleasant tastes, I also had a stop at Ruth McGowan's for their flagship Cloverdale Ale.  And I certainly love Amber Ales,  but this one stood out with that perfect combo of malt and hop.

Speaking of my love for Amber Ales, I know at some point, I stopped by the Stone Brewing folks to get some Levitation.  Ale that is.  But I was levitating at this point, for sure.  And this beer just kept me on my high.  It is big, it is special and I lived up to it's name yesterday.

Although I was pleasantly buzzed it never got out of control.  That is, I managed to continue to try things.  Like the Bodega Head IPA from Third Street Aleworks.  I liked the finish on this one.  I am a huge fan of IPA's and this one had that bitter up front taste that I enjoy. I went to the Steelhead Extra Pale next.  This Mad River beer was delicious and I imagined I could drink alot of it on a day like we were having.  But I needed to move onward as the fest was wrapping up in the next hour.

So I hit up Lhasa and Speakeasy before making back to Moonlight to end this day of beer. I felt great, besides my sunburn, of course.  And I have the pictures to prove it.  And apparently, all the memories too.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Having the witch after dinner, with class...

After a stacked day of selling Belgian Beer and packing coffee bags, my Flemish friend and I celebrated, buying grabbing a bite in Oakland.  John was nice enough to treat at Boot and Shoe Service.  We both have been dying to try this place.  Kate is a fantastic bartender and incredibly gracious as well.  She immediately came over and hugged us and asked us what we felt like drinking.  Since I told her I favored a Bourbon cocktail, she offered to make me us  Deadly Sins.  Along with Bourbon, this cocktail has Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur, Dash Orange Bitters and an Orange Twist Garnish.  It a perfect treat to start to relax, as we awaited our table.

We got moved through the waiting list rather quickly and were seated at one of their great communal tables.  John and I started to look over the menu and immediately spotted the meatballs and toast and asked our waiter to bring it over.  It was a great dish and very popular around the room.  I loved the meatball but also loved the tomato sauce and the bread toasted in their wood oven.

By this time, we already ordered our 2nd round of drinks.  I asked the waiter to tell Kate I was in her hands.  She made me a bittersweet Fata Morgana with whiskey, Amaro Nonino, Dry Vermouth, orange juice and a pinch of cardamom.  Kate was impressing me behind the bar and I was about to be impressed in the dining room.

A gift of burrata and toast with curly cress and shaved radishes came out from the kitchen.  John always makes it known when we eat together of "the dish." For him, it was this burrata cheese.  Creamy, soft, stretching across the toast, this dish was amazing.  And while in our high, our Pizze landed on the table.  I can still smell it, the wood oven still lingers in my mind.  And the taste of tomato, anchovy, black olives capers & calabrian peppers is something I will not forget for a long, long time.  It was cooked so well and delivered so fast, that the ingredients were so distinct and delicious.  We were moved by the whole experience of this place.

When it came time for Dolce, the strauss vanilla soft serve with olive oil and sea salt was mentioned.  I raised my hand in acceptance.  And it lived up to everything I  imagined and more.  It was like cake batter with the soft cream and the salty olive oil  melting in my mouth with every slow bite.  John got their delicious buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries.  That was another tasty treat to go back and forth with the ice cream.

We decided to go back to the bar and have one more cocktail with Kate.  This time she made me a E.U.  Made with Gin, Calvados, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Dry Vermouth and Strega.  It was awesome.  And a perfect send off to us as we reflected on the bridge back to the other side of the bay.  It was such a great meal, I could not wait to write about it.