Best of the Bay 2009: Food and Drink - Page 12

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Just remember to pace yourself, because tomorrow lunch is gonna cost you.

Sundays, 3–7 p.m. 806 S. Van Ness, SF. (415) 824-1800, www.bendersbar.com

BEST GYPSY WOMAN WITH A PERMANENT ADDRESS

Is it the sexy, swanky décor that makes Gitane so appealing? The genius bartenders who whip up tasty tipples with a smile? The bacon bonbons and fresh bread served in a deceptively small dining room that feels both grand and intimate? Yes, yes, and hell yes. We didn't know what to expect when the founders of Café Claude opened this gypsy-themed restaurant, but were delighted to find that the designers and chef took elements from gypsy culture and the countries where gypsies — or rather, the Roma people — have historically lived, and combined them into a lovely, unexpected, and unpredictably consistent mélange. Grab a date for a cocktail (perhaps the Gypsy, Gitane's twist on the St. Germain's elderflower trend) or dinner (if they're on the menu, order the melt-in-your-mouth ribs), or simply stop in for a glimpse at the bar's reflective ceiling or the mezzanine's illuminated brick wall. Portions are ample enough that you may not have room for dessert — but no matter. An evening at Gitane feels decadent, sensual, and indulgent enough.

6 Claude, SF. (415) 788-6686, www.gitanerestaurant.com

BEST WAY TO EAT ROSEMARY'S BABY

It's hard to remember life B.H.C.: Before Humphry Slocumbe. Sure, we have plenty of amazing ice cream, and suffer little for want of a good local scoop. But when fine-dining veteran Jake Godby applied his experience at Coi, Fifth Floor, and Boulevard to the art of ice cream, the results were nothing short of great. Stunningly original flavors like Secret Breakfast — a creamy heaven of bourbon and cornflakes — have become the new standard. And we expectantly follow Twitter waiting for postings of the day's latest flavors, which could range from Peanut Butter Curry to Laphroaig Scotch Rye, and Red Hot Banana to Rosemary's Baby (rosemary and pine nuts). Sure, those $7.50 pints add up, but what you're getting for that costly juice (as in Jesus Juice, a flavor featuring Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône and Coke Classic flavor) is rich satisfaction mixed with a splash of adventure.

2790 Harrison, SF. (415) 550-6971, www.humphryslocombe.com

BEST SECRET SAZERAC

San Francisco suffers no shortage of well-made classic cocktails. The revival that began more than a decade ago — perhaps the final remnant of the 1990s swing revival — is still pouring it on, and terms like "sidecar," "bitters," and "Pimm's" are ubiquitous on most upscale bar menus. For any gimlet greenhorns anxious to navigate the fraught waters of classic cocktailia with no potential embarrassment or pocketbook deflation, we recommend the generous, spacious, yet still mixology-audacious 83 Proof. Whether you order the Proof's fancy basil gimlet (with a gentle splash of ginger Cello) or a sturdy, manly Manhattan (with a dark, house-candied Maraschino cherry), the attentive bartenders and companionable atmosphere will put you in a comfortably adventurous mood. If it's a slower night, the staff may even mix you a kick-ass sazerac, the legendary, labor-intensive ur-cocktail from New Orleans made with rye whiskey, bitters, and sugar in an absinthe-prepped glass. Slink in on a Monday and ask nicely.

83 First St., SF.