Virginia Miller

Island breezy

Tasting Jamaican at Back A Yard and Miss Ollie's

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virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE Although I'm not an island girl, I crave sorrel — that cinnamon-spiced, rosy-purple juice made from the petals of a sorrel plant — or multi-colored Scotch bonnet peppers, both common in the Caribbean and ideal together, the sorrel cooling off the pepper's scorching heat. One of my closest friends is Jamaican and we've been exploring local Caribbean food for years, despite the lack of abundant local options.Read more »

Appetite: 12 reasons to love Nevada City and Grass Valley

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Imagine if the Wild West collided with a European village. There might be winding, narrow streets through neighboring towns, plotting through pine trees. Old West saloons, wood sidewalks and columns, classic homes in walkable small towns. Not far from Lake Tahoe, at the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, there are two such tiny towns. The Gold Country towns of Grass Valley, a charming, relaxed Old West town, and its sister merely four miles away, Nevada City, the smaller, more funky-artsy and visually striking of the two. Historically, I'd trek 30 minutes off the 80 on the way back from Lake Tahoe to spend an afternoon in these towns, particularly when fall leaves are at their peak. This fall, I decided to spend the weekend here instead of Tahoe - and a restorative weekend it was.

While you're in Grass Valley, foodies and cooks don't miss Tess' Kitchen Store, three floors of every cooking accoutrement you can think of, and Back Porch Market, a small but well-curated gourmet deli of cheese, salumi, wine and gourmet foods (P.S. inhaling the house pasta sauce cooking as you enter is intoxicating).

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Capo's

The new restaurant from Tony's Pizza Napoletana serves pizza and Italian treats you can't refuse

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We go together

Appetite: Ringing in 2013 with notable new pairings

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APPETITE A celebratory or comforting drink is just what we crave at this time of year. When it comes with an excellent bite, even better. Here are a few of the most noteworthy drinks, winter cocktail menus, and dishes in SF as 2012 passes into 2013.

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Appetite: More tantalizing sweet spots

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Last week, I indulged my sweet side with a romp through several notable new candy stores and dessert offerings -- here are several more to dive into:

While we await the menu launch at the new Dandelion Chocolate factory (read more in my recent chocolate article), the beautiful space sells Dandelion's exquisite bars, and boxes of collaborative chocolates with two other local greats, Feve Artisan Chocolatier and Kika's Treats.

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Sweet tooth

Appetite: Miso sesame rice crispies, chocolate-dipped peanut butter cupcakes, eggnog latte frozen custard, and more new sweets on the scene

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Earthy, savory desserts call out to me. Despite my diminishing tolerance for excessive sugar, ice cream and gelato remain my biggest weaknesses, and I'm as appreciative of baked goods and balanced, unique desserts as I ever was. There are a slew of new and noteworthy Bay Area sweets on my menu — and a couple older places worth revisiting. (Visit the Pixel Vision blog at SFBG.com to read about six more.)

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Dishing 2012

Appetite: 2012's top new restaurants brought surprise tastes, culinary depth

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virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE The past year saw a number of openings I hope will be around for years to come — here is my list, in order, of my favorites. As ever, my goal is to include more affordable spots alongside midrange or upscale openings, considering range and uniqueness. It being December, I cannot strictly cover the calendar year so, with each choice open at least two months, the opening date range goes back to October 2011 for a full year.

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Appetite: 10 best spirits launched in 2012

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Each year holds a range of interesting spirits released from around the globe. As the craft spirit industry continues to explode, there were many exciting newcomers this year. Here are some of the best of what's crossed my desk in 2012.

FORD's GIN ($27)The 86 Company is a new venture from spirits and cocktail world stars Simon Ford (former International Brand Ambassador for Plymouth Gin), Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric (owners of New York's Employees Only bar, authors of Speakeasy). Just last month, they released Caña Brava Rum (a Panama rum, aged 3 years), Aylesbury Duck Vodka, and Ford's Gin. It's the gin I've been mixing with at home in every kind of cocktail from a basic gin and tonic to complex Ramos Gin Fizz.

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Comfort, au courant

Hearty, familiar contemporary fare at new spots Jamber and Company

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virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE San Francisco doesn't lack for comfort food. The last decade's wave of twists on hearty, familiar fare has insured most neighborhoods aren't without elevated burgers and grown-up childhood favorites. Two new restaurants, opened in September, continue and update the trend.

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Orexi

West Portal's delicious, midrange, homestyle Greek secret is out

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virginia@bayguardian.com

APPETITE West Portal has long warmed my heart. Maybe it's the removed setting, tucked in the shadow of Twin Peaks where T line ends and the M emerges. Or it's a sense of stepping back in time to a 1970s San Francisco, a sleepy area unfazed by trends and hipsterization. It's a family neighborhood, residential and small town in feel — and like any corner of our city, has its food gems, like old school blue cheese buffalo burgers at charmingly dated Bulls Head, or vividly fresh sandwiches and salads at the original location of Market and Rye.Read more »