Call it dessert wine if you will, icewine (eiswein in German) is definitely sweet. But winemakers prefer to call it “rich and concentrated,” an apt icewine description, which, when produced well, retains enough acidity to keep it from being cloying.
Icewine’s intensity comes from frozen grapes, allowing greater flavor concentration. Unlike in Sauternes, Bordeaux, icewine is not sweet from botrytis (noble rot), rather from frozen, concentrated juice. Canada and Germany are the largest icewine producers in the world, with most of Canada’s icewine vineyards in Ontario, which I recently visited. Besides attending the annual Niagara Icewine Festival, I spent time with three wineries and tasted winning salumi and cheeses made locally.
Bourbon and Branch, Wilson and Wilson, Rickhouse... I've frequented (and written about) each since they opened. Though some tire of the speakeasy concept, Bourbon and Branch led that trend, remaining one of the more transporting places to drink anywhere. I value owner Future Bars' emphasis on setting and will always adore a setting from another era or place, whether you call it speakeasy or not. Taste and quality is crucial, but I'm grateful for that rare bar I can escape to, to feel as if I'm in another time or world, preferably with an excellent drink.
Future Bars' brand new bar, Local Edition, opened yesterday off bustling Market Street near Third (in what was the Manhattan Lounge), full of retro spirit. I visited a couple days before opening to check out the space, and again opening day for drinks, when the line to get in wrapped around the block (hopefully not a sign of things to come?) The underground space has a 1950s-era jazz club feel and is surprisingly large (over 5000 square feet), so even after the throngs entered, it was not full. The bar is sexy and candlit with a stage, restored vintage chairs surrounding low tables, and red bench seats lining the walls.
Heaven’s Dog has been a haven for superb cocktails since it opened, with excellent bartenders like Erik Ellestad (Savoy Stomp) and pre-Prohibition era cocktails ($10 each) from Charles H. Baker’s The Gentleman’s Companion, aka "Jigger, Beaker, and Glass." The bar still serves Baker classics, and with new bar manager Trevor Easter on board, receives a fresh infusion while keeping to its roots. Easter came from some of our city's best bars (like 15 Romolo and Wilson & Wilson inside Bourbon & Branch), and used to trek up from San Diego where he lived prior to SF for cocktails at Heaven’s Dog by bar director Erik Adkins.
APPETITE Southern food has a profound hold on me. No, I'm not a Southerner — but few cuisines the world over elicit in me such yearning and comfort. Finding the real deal in the Bay Area is tricky, although a recent Southern trend has helped. Aside from my beloved Brenda's and delightful Boxing Room, the following spots fulfill cravings.
After years of hunting, the day finally came when I could find proper cocktails in LA, even if the scene itselfwas years behind NYC or SF. I’ve covered LA cocktail bars in recent years as the quality has rapidly grown, with my latest visit yielding the most consistent drinks yet. The LA cocktail renaissance is indeed coming into its own.
There have still been a few hyped-up letdowns, like Next Door Lounge in Hollywood, which is a fantastic space: roomy, mellow, old world, with comfy leather couches, friendly service, and classic Powell and Loy movies playing on a big screen. I absolutely loved the environment which it made it even more disappointing in sampling four expensive drinks ($12-14) to find them unbalanced and generally unappetizing.
Perhaps Next Door's execution will improve to match the interior. In the meantime, here are some spots worth checking out down south.
APPETITE Lunch-hour quality advances around town with a slew of notable openings or recently launched lunch menus. In a two part series (click here for part two), here are some of the best new mid-day meals.
APPETITE While I miss the sophisticated, out-of-the-box cocktails of former bar managers Carlo Splendorini and Alex Smith (they both continue to craft excellent drinks, Splendorini at Michael Mina, Smith at Honor Bar), I am pleased to say Gitane, one of the sexiest spots in all of SF, is still a drink-worthy location. I'd be remiss not to likewise return to the Moroccan and Spanish-influenced menu that chef Bridget Batson has been rocking for years.Read more »