Eating & Drinking on the Barbary Coast Trail

barbary-coast2A few Sundays back – before this freakishly warm weather dropped in to send everyone to the beach – we decided to follow the Barbary Coast Trail, developed and maintained by the San Francisco Historical Society.

The trail starts at the Old Mint down on 5th and Mission and then meanders through Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill, before dropping down to the Bayfront wharfs and eventually Ghirardelli Square.

From there you can wait in line for the Hyde Street cable car and admire the view while playing a game of matching country (or state) to the accent of your fellow line-waiters. Or you can say fuck it and walk the two blocks to catch the 47 Van Ness.

The Historical Society has a handy map (available here) that can be printed beforehand; there are also markers embedded in the cement indicating direction. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to explain the significance or various landmarks along the way (the marker in front of the Old Mint is the only one we found). There are tags on the map, but it shouldn’t hurt to produce some sort of podcast to accompany the route. Historical Society?

But the Barbary Coast Trail is also lacking something else, notably where to eat and drink. As an itinerary, the Trail wanders through some of San Francisco’s best neighborhoods for memorable food and drink. (Well, things get a little dodgy after North Beach…) Without putting too much thought into it, I made this shortlist. And there’s an accompanying Google Map (my stab at such a map anyway). Take a look, and feel free to add to this list or directly to the map — it should be public.

(More after the jump…)

( Continue reading

2009 Trends: Cabernet Franc tops Pinot Noir?

Okay, maybe not. Although I’d put money on a substantial cooling of the California pinot noir market in 2009. But that’s not really so surprising, is it?

linecook415, written by Richie, one of cooks at NOPA in San Francisco, is a blog I enjoy reading for my back-of-the-house-the-kitchen-is-my-life fix. Say what you will about shows like Top Chef or Iron Chef, or even Anthony Bourdain: If you’ve spent time working anywhere in a restaurant, chances are good that you secretly covet a cook’s life. Parts of it anyway.

So back in December just before the holidays, Richie posted this end-of-night tally of items sold in the restaurant — and one of the guys on the line set a new record of 78 burgers (and that NOPA burger is damn good, btw). Check it out:

(image via linecook415)

But what’s also impressive here, at least from a wino’s point of view, is that cabernet franc outsold pinot noir 42-25. (I presume that’s by the glass.) How ’bout them apples?

L’America Cambia Pelle!!!!!

Ciao tutti,

I’m leaving early in the morning for Italy’s Alto Adige province, excited to proudly claim that I come from a country where anything is possible. Wow.

(At this point, things aren’t looking good for California’s proposition 8 – the gay marriage ban – I hope it’s voted down – but at least there’s hope.) 

Meanwhile: Obama’s unoffical (official?) campaign song, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”

Sustainable Seafood, Hipster Street Food & More

Faced with a lack of creativity or inspiration at the moment, I’ve decided to do what blogland does best and link to stuff by other people! I know, hardly original, but whatever.

Iwashi – Best Choice Sushi

Last week, Peter Liem mentioned the release of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new guide to sushi from its Seafood Watch program. If you aren’t familiar with Seafood Watch, it’s an excellent program that publishes a series of guides to help consumers make the best choices regarding sustainable seafood. Given the popularity of sushi — especially here in California — it’s nice to see this new guide added to the program. Sadly, some of my favorites are on the list: Bye bye, tai, toro and unagi. Fortunately, iwashi (sardines) and aji (spanish mackerel) are in the ‘Best Choice’ category. Check out the new guide to sushi here.

What’s the fastest way to open your own restaurant in San Francisco? Start with a taco truck!

San Francisco has some pretty killer street food, a lot of which gets overlooked but that’s just fine. More for the rest of us who don’t mind ordering food from a kitchen or refrigerator with wheels, often parked next to a sleeping bum. Anyway, this past October saw the street food concept taken to an entirely new level (I don’t know why somebody didn’t think of this sooner; also, watch for copycats). Anthony Myint, a line cook at Bar Tartine, rented an Antojitos food truck every week on Thursday night to dish up delicious flatbread sandwiches to hungry SF foodies lined up at 21st and Mission (check out past menus here). After a few weeks and a number of hiccups, it seems that Myint and crew are migrating from the truck to an “actual restaurant“:

To make this change possible, we’ll be moving from the truck into an actual restaurant. We’ve been talking with some local restaurants about sharing space, and we’ll announce the details in a few days. We’ll be closed this week for planning and will re-open somewhere in the Mission on November 6.

The new format will also feature guest chefs/contributors. No word yet as to where Mission Street Food will relocate, but it will be well worth checking out!

How to open a bottle of wine using only a clothes’ hanger, a spoon and a Bible

Boozehound and writer Camper English shares a funny little anecdote about trying to open a bottle of wine while suffering from jet lag at his hotel in London. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably got some idea of how he eventually got the cork out. For the full story, click here.

And Camper, one word for you: screwcap.

Speaking of London:

‘Action’ by St. Etienne, from their 2002 album Finisterre.

Wino Photos are Fun

I’ve finally got a decent camera in my phone. Not that I’m abandoning my Nikon or anything, but this does mean more spontaneous pics to share. To wit:

Check out those tartrates!

fingernail in a wine bottle

Is it me, or is that a fingernail floating in the neck of this wine? The label *did* say that this wine was bottled unfiltered. Maybe that means the grapes were trod by foot, in which case, well, I’ll let you speculate about that…

Ever wonder what’s in a wino’s recycling bin?

A weekend’s consumption: canellini beans (tossed with tuna and sauteed dandelion greens), Ridge 2001 Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel (with 15% carignan, from 80 year old vines), Movia 2006 Pinot Grigio (natural wine from Slovenia), several cans of Modelo Especiale (class).

No Skating of Any Kind: Restaurant Prohibitions

References to farms or other suppliers on menus notwithstanding, restaurants often employ some creative signage. Bi-Rite Market, which obviously isn’t a restaurant although there’s plenty of great shit to eat, has a hand-written sign up at the butcher counter informing customers that they can now get “Bill Niman’s Goat” at the store (according to this article from Wednesday’s New York Times, Niman, who founded the meat company Niman Ranch, can no longer use his own name in conjunction with any ranching business; his products are labeled simply BN Ranch). Bill Niman’s goat is delicious, by the way.

But restaurant signage is more often than not about what patrons can’t do in a restaurant. No entry. Don’t touch. Kitchen staff only.

Or, as in the case of Kreuz’s, the mothership barbeque joint in Lockhart, Texas, no roller skating or skateboarding, as seen below:

I don’t know about you, but when I eat smoky barbequed ribs I just want to bust out a pair of roller skates and get down!

And then last night we went for deep dish at the Mission branch of San Francisco’s Little Star Pizza. Great pie, sort of a California version of Chicago deep dish — the crust feels somehow lighter; polenta? — and killer beers on draft (Blue Star, Racer 5). Wine list needs work, althought they carry Quivira, a biodynamic grower and winery from Dry Creek Valley. But it’s not the food or beer I remember most. It seems Little Star has had some issues with bathroom graffiti, and they’ve issued a plea to patrons and would-be taggers, below:

“Honestly we rather you give us the finger on the way out than destroy our mirror, garbage can, or walls.”

Now them’s fightin’ words!

Coffee Wars and Locavores

(Above: Lemon-pistachio donuts and coffee at Four Barrel)

Three’s a war, right?

It seems that the coffee wars have officially come to San Francisco. The last few years have seen the arrival of Blue Bottle, Ritual and now, Four Barrel (no website yet; tel: 415-252-0800). Blue Bottle began as a roaster based in the East Bay, with two kiosks here in the city, one at the Ferry Plaza farmers market theme-park, and the other tacked on to the front end of a wood shop in Hayes Valley. They’ve since opened their first café-laboratory off Mint Plaza downtown.

Ritual opened deep on Valencia Street in the Mission District in 2005; it’s both a roaster and a popular airy café filled with so many laptops that you could mistake it for someone’s idea of the perfect hi-tech start up (indeed, Flickr got started here).

And then there’s Four Barrel, which is sort of a midway stop between Blue Bottle’s Hayes Valley kiosk and the Ritual HQ at the end of Valencia. Stylistically speaking too, it’s somewhere in between. A big space made warm by the hum of conversation, coffee and vinyl LPs affixed to the fall (check the Mad Max soundtrack, natch), there’s a roaster in the back and places to sit up front, as well as a retail counter to take a sack of beans home. There’s food too, and I’d be guilty of Wall Street level greed if I didn’t say it’s worth a trip to Four Barrel just for the lemon-pistachio donut from the new Dynamo Donut.

So San Francisco is developing a local coffee industry that may just rival Seattle’s someday. Or maybe not. In any case, all this talk of localism brings to mind a short article that my friend David Tamarkin wrote over at Time Out Chicago about the ultimate futility of the locavore/localvore movement. (Although I wish he’d taken that stupid name to task.) I get the impression that David wanted to write much more than what he had space for, but it’s a thought-provoking piece all the same.

(Above: Internationally sourced coffee beans for sale at local roaster Four Barrel. Maybe there’s a happy medium for locally and internationally sourced produce? Also, dig that Megadeth typeface!)

As a dedicated lover of things vinous and seeker of delicious things to eat, I’m not about to commit myself to eating and drinking only those items which are sourced in a 50- or 100-mile radius (and I live in a place where such a lifestyle is actually possible). Sorry, generally speaking I prefer cru Beaujolais to California Pinot Noir. And I couldn’t live without a little La Tur in my life. That said, I believe a consciousness of the local bounty and how that produce gets to market is important, to say nothing of what’s in and out of season in your particular region; indeed, eating seasonally might be even more important and effective than eating locally. But wouldn’t the energies and passions of people committed to maintaining a locally-based diet be better devoted elsewhere? Like developing school gardening programs, for instance, or guaranteeing the rights of immigrant farm workers at both artisan and industrial farms?

Guilty Pleasures

Circumstances have found me alone at home for most of this week, which means I get to indulge in a few guilty pleasures. Like tonight, for instance, a delicious dinner and a movie–and about half a bottle of wine. Which wine you ask? Well, I looked in the stash and said, screw it, I’m drinking chardonnay. From California. ‘Cause that’s how we roll over here. Or at least sometimes.

* The geekish-minded will be somewhat comforted by the fact that it was a bottle of Navarro’s ’06 Mendocino Chardonnay, so the wine was rather lean by California chardonnay standards, with high acidity and a bright lemony cut to the finish. You know, it was so delicious I might just have another glass, even though, in the manner of certain experiments, I had thought to save this overnight in the fridge.

As for the movie, well, I can’t even pretend to be high minded about that.

I watched:

Hilarious. Although downright filthy. A bit like how I felt when I reached for the chardonnay in fact.

But as funny as Superbad was, in the high-school/coming of age comedy genre, it doesn’t quite compare to Richard Linklater’s 1993 masterpiece, Dazed and Confused:

And now to further indulge in a guilty pleasure, it’s time to play a little Bob Dylan…

The Perfect Negroni

(Above: A refreshing Negroni is the perfect cure for a case of the summertime blues)

Gotta love summer. Easily my busiest work period of the year and everyone else gets to go on vacation. Bastards. Anyway, because I’ve been buried under multiple deadlines recently, rather than post something original, I’m going to pinch work from colleagues. Well, not exactly. My friend Jordan Mackay has a cool article in the current issue of 7X7, where he talks a little about his experiences as a bartender at San Francisco’s Cantina–a hub of this city’s current cocktail revolution, and easily one of the most enjoyable places in town to get sauced.

A fun side/end bar from the article:

What Your Drink Says About You

1. Shot of Patrón You think you know, but you have no idea.
2. Pacifico and a shot of anything Fine-dining restaurant employee.
3. Sommelier Sidecar Your knowledge of wine is not as good as you think it is.
4. Vodka Soda Marina chick (even if you’re a guy).
5. Jack and Diet Ex–frat boy who spends too much time at the gym.
6. Dark and Stormy Seasoned drinker who’s “on the wagon.”
7. Milk of Millennia You’re likely from L.A.
8. Mojito European tourist who will later ask whether we know of a good disco in the area.
9. Vodka Red Bull Show us your ID.
10. Pisco Sour Young woman from a South American country, or a dyed-in-the-wool cocktail geek.

Also be sure to check out the video at the end where Jordan describes how he makes one of my all time favorite cocktails, the Negroni. Yes please!

(Go here to read the whole thing)