Virginia Miller

Appetite: Portland cocktailing

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More than 50 places in one week…  I may not have covered all of Portland this May, but I certainly made a dent. So much so that my Portland reviews are broken up in a four part series. Soaking wet half the week, I biked out to neighborhoods East, West, and North with my usual (if grumpy, cold, and irritable) tenacity to dig in and taste the soul and breadth of a place rather than its veneer. Join me as I drink, and eat, my way through the rainy town up north.

As cocktail bars are required to serve food in Portland, cocktails and food are intertwined – and strong – at many a locale. Though I separate out cocktails and restaurants, there are numerous places where both are worth making your way to so you’ll see some restaurants listed here and in next issue’s Portland restaurant article.

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Appetite: Tasting spirits

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An array of new liquor tastes, and a Whiskyfest recap

NAVY STRENGTH GIN REACHES US SHORES

Unforgettable: my journey to the south of England town of Plymouth and its legendary distillery with Master Distiller Sean Harrison. Possibly the most beautiful distillery I’ve yet visited. I relished drinking Plymouth Navy Strength ($34.99) while in the UK, a bracing version of their classic gin at 57% ABV/114 proof, the preferred gin of the British Royal Navy.

Though still smooth like Plymouth gin, Navy Strength packs a greater botanical punch, enlivening cocktails. The good news is it finally arrived to the US merely weeks ago in September so drink up.

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Boozy shakes

A fountain revival -- including adult beverages and delicious food -- at the Corner Store and Ice Cream Bar

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE A wave of old fashioned soda fountains serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic treats alongside quality food is hitting various parts of the country, with two notables in San Francisco.Read more »

Appetite: What's new at Anchor? A lot.

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Inside scoop from Anchor Distilling: A new clear hops spirit, line of Japanese whiskies, rooftop bar, world's most extensive cocktail book library, and more

Anchor Distilling is a local treasure. Fritz Maytag pioneered craft beer and craft spirits in America long before most were even thinking about it. Tracing back Fritz' brewing days to the 1960s puts San Francisco squarely on the map as a leader and trendsetter in beer, while in spirits Fritz -- alongside Jorg Rupf at St. George, and Hubert Germain-Robin of Germain-Robin -- were all pioneering American craft spirits here in Northern California decades before the current renaissance.

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Rich Table

Don't pass up the duck lasagna: this new Hayes Valley restaurant glows with satisfying warmth

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Not since State Bird Provisions and AQ opened towards the end of 2011 have I been as excited about an opening. Evan and Sarah Rich's new Rich Table is, kinks and all, even in the first month, well-rounded and satisfying. With efficient, informed service, reasonably priced wine list, few but well-crafted cocktails, a comfortable dining room with rustic-urban decor, and most importantly, a number of exquisite dishes, Rich Table is primed for greatness.Read more »

Aim for these

Delicious destination dishes at Bluestem, Marcella's, and Blackwood

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Most memorable restaurants boasts an overarching standard of quality to their menus. Other times, one dreams of specific items from certain spots. Here are a few places worth trekking out to for unique dream dishes.

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Appetite: New whisk(e)y releases and WhiskyFest

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I'll take whisk(e)y year round. But as summer evolves to fall, it seems all the more appropriate enjoyed on crisp nights, preferably fireside. Thankfully, WhiskyFest approaches this Friday/5, in the usual massive, underground Marriott ballrooms. Recapping past years, VIP early pours of rare whiskies and seminars tend to be highlights. There's another seminar this week with the legendary, delightful Parker Beam, exploring Japanese Whisky with Suntory brand ambassador Neyah White, and I'm particularly looking forward to beer and single malt pairings with Highland Park brand ambassador Martin Daraz.

There's a number of  new pours this year, including Glenfiddich's Malt Master which I review below, Parker's Heritage Collection release for 2012, the Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills (Parker Beam's annual, limited edition releases are among the most exciting American whiskies made), and for the first time ever Nikka Japanese whisky, which I've long had to enjoy when in Europe, as you can't get it here in the US... until this fall, thanks to SF's very own Anchor Distilling here in SF. Anchor is importing Nikka with, as Anchor President David King told me recently, a few more Japanese whiskies to come -- a huge win for whisky lovers like myself who've been longing for more imports from Japan. I sampled Taketsuru 12 year, which will also be poured at WhiskyFest, while Anchor will soon import their 17 yr and 21 yr whiskies.

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In FiDi, a Turkish gem

Perfect lamb, visionary seared branzino, and phyllo delights at Machka

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Cocktail harvest

Appetite: Goose and Gander and The Thomas bring cocktail culture to Wine Country

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Appetite: What not to miss at SF Cocktail Week

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SF Cocktail Week is here once again, drawing out cocktail geeks, spirits aficionados, and those seeking a memorable event or a fine drink.

For those of you who attended last year’s San Francisco Cocktail Week, you know it was jam-packed with some downright magical events, celebrating our city’s rich cocktail heritage and talent that has influenced the cocktail renaissance globally. There's another strong line-up this year, in keeping with the memorable highlights from last year and the year prior.

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