Virginia Miller

Appetite: Scotch dreams come true

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For someone whose every day is a taste adventure, I will say a recent, private Russell’s Room tasting at Bourbon & Branch of Highland Park scotches was one of the most memorable I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of. There were only two such tastings in the country: here and in New York. I felt lucky to be one of less than 10 around the table (and only 2 women – scotch remains predominantly a man’s world?) tasting HP’s awesome 18, 25, 30 and 40 year scotches. But the magnificent centerpiece was a just-released, $3999 per bottle, limited-edition 1968 vintage. 

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Appetite: Fill your Irish self to the gills at the Liberties

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St. Patty's Day draws near -- for more wild Irish events, check out our rundown in the current Guardian.

The Liberties Bar & Restaurant has always been a welcome respite from some Irish bars: a place where you can kick it up with friends but not so rowdy that you can't have conversation or a reflective pint. (I particularly like the room tucked to the side with quotes painted on the walls.) It celebrates St. Patty's all week long with a special Irish menu and long pours of Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwick's and Harp. Oh, there's also plenty of Irish whiskey, like Midleton Rare 21 year, Red Breast 12 year and Black Bush. Irish brunch, beer and whiskey flights round out the week, along with live music on St. Patrick's Day.

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Appetite: Taking vodka to the next level

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On February 22, 42 Below Cocktail Competition at the Regency Center was nicely spread out in two large rooms, plenty of space to taste and view bartenders make New Zealand vodka creations. Some of our best local talent competed to go to nationals, which take place in NYC, then on to finals which happen in 42 Below's native land, New Zealand.

It takes skill to bring layers of flavor out of vodka and this group delivered. Certainly, there were other spirits mixed in and some real creativity set to a rowdy, live rockabilly/punk band. Congrats to the two winners: Michael Callahan of Gitane, created a fresh, aperitif-like concoction using, among other things, lemon and fennel root. Josh Harris, of 15 Romolo, once again pulled a win with his nuanced "Bridge to Terabithia" (loved that book as a kid), which contained everything from his own fennel syrup to 42 Below’s Kiwi Vodka, dusted with masala chai. Read more »

Appetite: Hungry for Oscar coverage

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Food lovers can be film lovers, too. So in an unconventional "Appetite" this week, we go to the Oscars. Despite unworthy nominees and a slew of lackluster films, as a lifelong film fanatic, I still relish the event every year. There's fun in joining with like-minded film buffs and fashion hounds to rave and rant about all the missteps or underdogs who should have won. And I'll take any excuse to dress up.

This year I'm hoping the dynamic duo hosting team of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will add some spark to the hours' long telecast. I'm more skeptical about the first go-round of 10 Best Picture nominees, however. We may not be Hollywood, but SF still gets into the act with events to suit everyone: those who want to enjoy the Oscars in style and those who want to bash the hell out of them. Read more »

Appetite: Hungry for Oscar coverage

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Food lovers can be film lovers, too. So in an unconventional "Appetite" this week, we go to the Oscars. Despite unworthy nominees and a slew of lackluster films, as a lifelong film fanatic, I still relish the event every year. There's fun in joining with like-minded film buffs and fashion hounds to rave and rant about all the missteps or underdogs who should have won. And I'll take any excuse to dress up.

This year I'm hoping the dynamic duo hosting team of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will add some spark to the hours' long telecast. I'm more skeptical about the first go-round of 10 Best Picture nominees, however. We may not be Hollywood, but SF still gets into the act with events to suit everyone: those who want to enjoy the Oscars in style and those who want to bash the hell out of them. Read more »

Appetite: Don't forget to remember

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In the wake of a number of January closings, including some long-timers I'd rather not see go (like Vivande Porta Via), I've been reflecting on those neighborhood spots or classic restaurants we often forget are there but don't want to lose. From time to time, I'd like to share reviews of places we'd do well to re-visit... or get to for the first time. They might be receiving a fresh infusion of flavor from recent chef or menu changes, or are good enough to remain noteworthy, despite the flood of new openings and (over)hyped hot spots. The Grand Cafe is one of them.

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Appetite: Forecast -- a downpour of delicious varietals and gourmet bites

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It's been a stunning week of sunny weather... We may get a little rain on Saturday, but no problem if we can spend the afternoon indoors sipping delicious wine, right? On Sat/20, the largest competition of American wines in the world takes place in Fort Mason's Festival Pavilion.

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Appetite: Break out the bourbon and gumbo, Fat Tuesday's coming

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On the heels of a first time ever Super Bowl win for my beloved city of New Orleans, comes Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Lent. No one celebrates this time of year like Nola, but we try in our own little way here. At least there's some local outlets for wistfully wishing I was there...

February 15-19: Fat Tuesday at the Front Porch
Outer Mission's Front Porch always knows how to throw a good party, and Fat Tuesday will be no exception. I can't think of a better way to usher in Mardi Gras than with a front porch crab boil. Don't forget to eat plenty of their jambalaya, drink Abita beer, and don those beads. Even better, if you can't make it Tuesday, they're doing the boil and French Quarter menu specials all week long, starting Monday.
5:30pm until close
65a 29th Street
415-695-7800
www.thefrontporchsf.com

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Appetite: Planning ahead for V-Day

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By Virginia Miller of www.theperfectspotsf.com. View the previous installment of Appetite here. Check out more V-Day dining ideas here.

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Fondue you: The Melting Pot draws couples closer for Valentine's

2/14 - Belgian beer and butchery at La Trappe
Many of us don't get excited by the commercialism of Valentine's Day - and not just because we may or not have a special someone in our lives. It could just be that we don't like things rosy, pink and cute. No need to go the hearts and chocolate route when you can do Belgian beers and butchery, right? La Trappe does it right by making their enchanting Belgian brick-walled, candlelit basement the setting for A Porcine Valentine. Only 45 lucky people will have their run of the place, cozying up on church pews and couches with all the beers and pig they can ingest. La Trappe's Dave and Chris will each be breaking down a whole pig, showcasing different butchering techniques between the US and Italy.
3-11:30pm
$95 per person, limited to 45 people
800 Greenwich Street
415-440-8727

www.latrappecafe.com

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Mission Beach makes it sweeter

2/14 - Mission Beach Cafe sweets for the sweet
ILove Mission Beach Café. Not only is it a morning delight for weekend brunch or weekday pastries and Blue Bottle coffee, but its dinners are some of the best and most underrated neighborhood dining in the city. Valentine’s Day there is, yes, a special four-course prix fixe dinner (including white linens, roses, champagne toast, amuse bouche and sweets from fab pastry chef, Alan Carter). Knowing their track record, it won't be the often overpriced, mediocre food one gets for Valentine's. There's dishes like Heirloom Chicory Salad with pomelos and huckleberries, Lobster and Dungeness Crab Ravioli or Prather Ranch organic prime rib. All this in the cozy, chic glow of a neighborhood restaurant that's also a worthy destination.
$75 per person
198 Guerrero Street
415-861-0198
www.missionbeachcafesf.com

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Appetite: Hoist your stein for Beer Week

Food-and-drink spots, deals, events and news
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2/5-2/14 - SF Beer Week is going to be a big one this yearRead more »