Virginia Miller

Appetite: David Wondrich on Punch

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When cocktail historian and Esquire columnist David Wondrich speaks about drink, you listen -- or read, as the case may be. His latest book Punch, debuts Nov. 2, the first of its kind on the glories and history of the punch bowl. I had the privilege of speaking with Dave over the phone from his New York home. The question at hand: why punch? Or to quote from the book, what makes punch "necessary"? Read more »

FEAST: Distilled genius

From carrot liqueur to the best in absinthe, a tour of the city's new tipples

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It's a thrilling time in Bay Area spirits. The same players who've made us proud in years past continue to reinvent themselves, while newcomers add flavor — literally — to the scene. In visits to four local distilleries, I came away inspired by their inventiveness and skill. And while none of the spirits I tasted use extracts or flavorings (like many of their big-brand counterparts), they do manage to fit in countless pounds of local, unexpected fruits, even natural herbs.Read more »

Appetite: Director Jean-Luc Naret dishes on SF Michelin Guide 2011

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Hubbub's the word in the food world this week surrounding the release of the 2011 Michelin Guide San Francisco, the restaurant ranking organization's fifth Bay Area edition. The venerable food institution is entering into its 111th year, having gained a strong following in New York and San Francisco and anticipating an upcoming launch in Chicago (next time, LA).

Hot topics around the champagne cooler? Chez Panisse losing its star and The Restaurant at Meadowood achieving the rare feat of gaining three stars (making it and French Laundry the only Bay Area 'straunts to make the grade). Read on for Michelin Jean Luc Naret's reflections and a list of the Bay's Michelin-honored restaurants for 2011. Read more »

Appetite: Del Maguey and the glories of mezcal

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There's mezcal and there's Del Maguey. You may have heard me talk about Del Maguey mezcals and the line's founder, Ron Cooper, in the past. A session with the gentle yet passionate Ron (like his mezcal seminar at 2010 Tales of the Cocktail) is an experience you're not likely to soon forget. Even the way he describes fermentation stays with you: "wild creatures eating sugar, farting carbon dioxide, pissing alcohol!"

I'm leaving for Mexico next week, so sipping Del Maguey was getting me in the south of the border mood -- even though I'm going to Tequila vs. Oaxaca, where most mezcal is produced. For the unfamiliar, mezcal is a spirit made from the heart (piña) of the maguey, an agave plant native to Mexico. Piñas are roasted underground, giving mezcal its distinctive smoky properties. Mezcal is the peaty scotch of tequila, which by definition is a mezcal made specifically from blue agave in Tequila, Mexico. Read more »

Appetite: Three beef sandwiches that get it right

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In today's Appetite installation, Virginia Miller ranged near and far (in a fabulous pair of vintage pumps, as is her wont) in search of the meatiest hunk of sandwich available for hungry city souls. Sink your teeth into one while watching your -- cross your fingers -- new league champion baseball team. Go Gigantes! 

1. Deli Board's Boca Read more »

Whiskeyfest 2010 highlights, part two

Meet Your Maker... hanging out with whisk(e)y's master distillers

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Earlier on sfbg.com, Virginia Miller turned WhiskyFest into Whisky Week, meeting with seven different distillers who'd come to attend the Fest from such far-flung booze berths as Kentucky and Scotland. Here's part one of her scotch-heavy Whisky Week highlights. Read on for part two: conversations with bourbon and rye distillers.Read more »

Appetite: WhiskyFest 2010 highlights, part one

Meet Your Maker... hanging out with whisk(e)y master distillers

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"[Whisky] feels appropriately intellectual: a drink you can wrestle with, linger over, and appreciate with all its nooks and crannies." - Victoria Moore, How to Drink Read more »

Appetite: 3 recent food books pique our palates

Dive into Twain's Feast, Hungry Town, and the Sunset Cookbook

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These three books (one factual journey, one memoir, one cookbook) have two things in common: they're all new this year and centered around food. Read more »

Appetite: Dinner and cocktails with a view

Gazing deliciously upon the city at Luce and Top of the Mark

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Wednesday  through Saturday nights there's a ready-made date if you want romance without having to think too hard. At $80 a person, it's a package deal between Luce Restaurant (which I've written about more than once) in the Intercontinental Hotel and Top of the Mark. Choose the order - three course dinner or cocktails first - with a cab ride included to the second location. Read more »

Appetite: The green fairy transforms

ABSINTHE - education through a panel, a new book, and a night of absinthe at the Ferry Building

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Absinthe is on the move from its initial novelty phase once finally legalized in the US in 2007 into an era where appreciators of fine drink are gaining greater education and refinement on the subject. No, it is not a hallucinogen (more on that in a minute), and no, it's not the artificially sweetened and colored liqueurs flooding the market (but labeled as absinthe). When made as it has been historically, it's a natural, herbal spirit with a rich culture surrounding it. Read more »