Virginia Miller

Appetite: Two tastings to watch for

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Two excellent yearly reasons to wet your whistle are coming to town this week. Whiskey and wine, anyone?

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Uncorking Jameson

Sampling 10- and 20-year whiskies straight from the barrel at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, Ireland

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Ireland is a green land of rolling hills, sheep, and craggy coastline, to be sure. The people enchanted even more: a generous, welcoming, hilarious lot. One of my favorite people in recent Ireland travels was Liam O'Leary, distillery operations manager at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, near the southern coast of Ireland.Read more »

Gin, with wings

Appetite: Flying high with Hot Sauce and Panko and St. George's Terroir

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE For those who have been following my Guardian Appetite column, you know I've been there since the beginning of 2009, reviewing food and drink, cocktails and wine, restaurants and hole-in-the-walls, both in the Bay Area and on my travels. I am delighted to share a myriad discoveries with you each week here, from my daily meals, tastings and adventures, ranging from whisk(e)y releases to stand-out dishes at new restaurants. Here are four intriguing tastes this week:Read more »

Appetite: What not to miss during SF Cocktail Week 2011

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For those of you who attended last year’s San Francisco Cocktail Week, you know it was jam-packed with some downright magical events, celebrating our city’s rich cocktail heritage, bar talent and innovation. Monday begins the fifth annual Cocktail Week, bigger than ever, with numerous national and local brands represented, an extensive schedule of seminars, parties, events, and the first ever Legends Awards honoring key contributors in the field.

I’d recommend Cocktail Week certainly for aficionados (cocktail/spirits geeks), but equally for the curious or those who just plain love classy, transporting events.

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Generation cork

Three family wineries spread California love and innovation

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virginia@sfbg.com

BEER AND WINE It's a unique time in Bay Area winemaking. We see more California winemakers finding harmony between New and Old World-style production, laying off heavier-handed extremes of overly-oaked or high alcohol wines, honing in on our region's true terroir. While global love for big, bold California wines isn't going anywhere, it's ever more apparent that our range is far beyond what might be assumed.Read more »

Appetite: tucking into Chefs Night Off

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Chefs Sarah and Evan Rich (who also happen to be husband and wife), come with a fine dining, creative pedigree cooking in kitchens of the caliber of Coi, Quince and Michael Mina. On August 29th, I attended their first Chefs Night Off pop-up dinner at Radius, and they are also hosting pop-up Fried Chicken Dinner at Rebel Bar (check their Facebook page for dates).

Their four-course, market-fresh dinner was peppered with amuse bouche/bites and palate cleansers between courses that showcased their inventiveness without being fussy.

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Appetite: 3 new gins from St. George's

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Consistently, St. George Spirits (also Hangar One) wears the crown for renegade inventiveness. As I wrote last year, Lance Winters, master distiller, and distillers Dave Smith and Chris Jordan, lead the way in out-of-the-box creativity. Never have I seen the like of their test tube apothecary of experimentation where they'll try anything, from foie gras and beef jerky, to carrots and fresh Dungeness crab, to see what works as a spirit.

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Appetite: Refreshing the Starlight

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Sampling the new, revamped Harry Denton's Starlight Room cocktails. All photos by Virginia Miller

Tonight, September 6th, Harry Denton's legendary Starlight Room will reopen, revamped, with brand new menus and look. Though the space wasn't quite ready for a sneak peek, I was able sample a few of the cocktails that will be on offer from bar manager Joel Teitelbaum's winning menu.

Grouped together by time periods, the menu starts with the 1600s and punch, ending with Starlight Room classics from great bartenders who have launched from here over the years (like Tony Abou-Ganim, Marco Dionysos, Jacques Bezuidenhout). Other sections include The Jerry Thomas Years (1860's), The Dry Years - Prohibition (1920-1933), and Dark Times (1980's - this one with updated versions of '80's hits like the Fuzzy Navel).

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Appetite: 3 to watch -- new restaurants, noteworthy bites

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Open for a matter of weeks or months, these new spots show promise with dishes I'm still thinking about...

LE BORDEAUX - French sausage
The new Le Bordeaux, tucked away in North Beach, holds some subtle surprises. General description: ultra-traditional French bistro fare in a Euro cafe with woodsy, rustic country lodge feel. It's a blessedly mellow respite for lunch or dinner. The winning dish thus far is Boudin blanc ($18), that light, gentle white pork sausage I love so, common in France as well as in New Orleans cuisine.

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Appetite: Oompah and bratwurst in Larkspur

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Think towering redwoods, smoky aromas of sausages, onions and peppers wafting from a grill, German beers on tap from a cooler, and a darling oompah band of elderly gentleman playing with spunk and skill. Enter the just-launched-this-week Biergarten at the Tavern at Lark Creek. For a short jaunt from the city to Larkspur, it feels worlds away.

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