Virginia Miller

Appetite: Orson cocktails -- worth a revisit?

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Orson bar manager Ian Adams shows inspired vision in his cocktails. He's having fun pairing them with a new four-course dinner, but even more so, his everyday cocktails shine with enough twists to keep me intrigued. Read more »

Appetite: A mouthwatering preview of the SF Street Food Festival

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La Cocina's SF Street Food Festival keeps getting bigger each year. Gearing up for this Saturday's (8/20) third annual street food extravaganza, prepare for a takeover of numerous Mission blocks (free admission, with food for purchase under $8). This year there was an early sneak peek for media and select guests. There will be much to love at this year's festival. Many food truck and street food favorites return, plus Ferry Plaza stars like Namu. Just a few stand-outs the new-to-this-year front:

Wax moth larvae tacos from Don Bugito - These pretty, little tacos are laden with crispy larvae, garlic, pasilla chiles, and pickled onions. Some popped them in their mouths without realizing what they were, others turned away once they heard... but to taste them is to be converted. No need to fear bugs in the hands of owner, Monica Martinez. Plus, it's a great conversation starter.

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Tasty tunes

Our Outside Lands food-concert pairings

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virginia@sfbg.com

FESTIVAL Outside Lands has been descending on lush Golden Gate Park for three years now. As the music lineup continues to feature some of the biggest acts on the summer tour circuit, the festival's local food and drink offerings have been steadily increasing their profile. A Taste of the Bay Area, OL's edible arena, hosts 54 food vendors, and 30 wineries and winemakers pour 100 different wines amid whimsical barrel seating under the big tent of Wine Lands. As if our dancecards weren't already full of all the music we want to see!Read more »

Appetite: A pilgrimage to the Plymouth Gin distillery

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A decade ago I explored the central and northern parts of England, feeling strangely at home among its countryside and moors. This summer I took a three-and-a-half hour train ride through those rolling green English hills (yes, dotted with sheep and cows), that was as idyllic as my memories. The journey brought me to the southwestern coast of England and the town of Plymouth

Famed for being the port from which the Mayflower and its pilgrims set sail for America and as home to the British Royal Navy, Plymouth is also known for Plymouth Gin, distilled here since 1793 in the Black Friars Distillery. It is the most atmospheric distillery I've ever visited, oozing history from every wall. Stone, wood, and signature navy blue colors (a homage to the seaside location and the town's navy ties) define its look. Its gorgeous in-house bar evokes both farmhouse and chapel with a wood ceiling and warm, red walls. Read more »

Appetite: At Beefeater Distillery, London

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One jumps at the chance to spend a day at London's Beefeater Distillery, particularly when given a personal tour by Beefeater's master distiller Desmond Payne. Gracious and mannered, Payne has been making gin for over 40 years, his early days being at Plymouth Gin. As a guest of Beefeater, my trip to London was full of unforgettable days, and this was one of them.

Join me on the photo tour, above, through the distillery, one that has been in operation since 1820 - the longest running London Dry Gin actually made in London.

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Appetite: Plans of attack for SF Chefs

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SF Chefs year three starts this Monday, an event that has become San Francisco's biggest food and drink showcase – our "food and wine classic", if you will -- utilizing much of the Bay Area's best talent. (You can check out my coverage of the event from last year here).  

The event takes over Union Square for a week with events, classes, grand tastings, and nightly parties. There's something magical about a tented Union Square, especially with the cable cars gliding by and tourists casually wondering what kind of fun is going on. After hours of tastings and music, one can walk to afterparties atop the Westin or other nearby locales, taking in the city lights until the wee hours with dancing and yes, more impeccable food and drink.

But with a week full of events, how does one begin to choose what to attend? I have covered a lot of ground every year I've attended and have some specific advice on what to make sure you don't miss, depending on your preferences. Oh, and don't forget to allow your stomach some recovery time.

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Appetite: Jasper’s menu brightens up the Corner Tap

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All photos by Virginia Miller

You heard it here a couple weeks ago: Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen is going to be a drink destination, no doubt about it. Pair its all-star bartender line-up and impeccable cocktail menu with 18 beers on draft (like Telegraph Reserve Wheat from Santa Barbara), a fine wine list with playful categories like “Flower Power” and “We’ve Got the Funk”, satisfying bar food, (eventually) open-all-day hours – and plunk the whole thing down next to Union Square, a perfect tavern space for your downtown rendevous? The set-up is already screaming hit.

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Appetite: 4 noteworthy new spirits

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From an elegant new Islay scotch to a campfire toasted corn whiskey, then two locally-tied spirits, a rye with barbershop ties and a liqueur line imported by SF locals, there's some noteworthy new sips to share with you.

WHISK(E)YS:

LAPHROAIG 2011 CAIRDEAS
- Laphroaig’s master distiller John Campbell and Global Brand Ambassador Simon Brooking were in SF a couple weeks ago. I spent an afternoon with them sipping Laphroaig’s brand new 2011 Cairdeas, Ileach Edition. Limited release, only 350 cases have been made available to the US, of which SF alone has 75 (at Whiskey Shop on Sutter Street). On the heels of last year’s limited Cairdeas Master’s Edition, this winning version is non-chill filtered, hinting at that quintessential Islay peatiness but rounded out with an overall earthy, slate quality, and gentle sweet notes of candied orange.

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Appetite: Three appetizing new books

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Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant

By Anthony Myint & Karen Leibowitz

Leave it to McSweeney’s to publish a book that is ode to a series of brilliant SF dining concepts, a recent history of cutting-edge food, and a vividly illustrated cookbook. Mission Street Food, the book, makes me nostalgic for those not-so-long-ago early days of Mission Street Food, the experience. Through the book, I reminisced about favorite dishes served in that ultimate pop-up restaurant out of dingy Lung Shan, found my mouth watering for that incomparable Mission Burger out of Duc Loi Supermarket, and appreciated the current day incarnation of Mission Chinese. This book encapsulates it all, sharing many of the best recipes (with step-by-step photo instructions). We are lucky to have Myint and the Mission Street crew’s visions among us… and such a book to capture the experience.

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The toast of London

TRUE TRAVEL TALES: Splashing through the British capital's cocktail scene

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virginia@sfbg.com

>>View an extended version of this article at Virginia's site, the Perfect Spot.Read more »