Another year, another WhiskyFest. I've been attending a number of years now, ever relishing an opportunity to try unexplored whiskies, refresh my taste memory on others, and connect with whisk(e)y industry folk and distillers here from Kentucky to Scotland.
A number of options listed as VIP tastes (more than ever this year) were not, in fact, available at all. Some purveyors said these bottles -- like Isle of Jura's Shackleton or Pierre Ferrand Ancestrale Cognac -- hadn't reached the States yet. I find this a problem, particularly for those paying more to hit VIP hour for these rare tastes ($135 regular tickets; $185 for VIP hour).
One that WAS there however, was the soft, layered, fruity yet slightly oaky, Tamdhu 30 year from Gordon and MacPhail.
APPETITE Growing up partly on the East Coast (New Jersey) with close Korean friends exposed me to the pleasures of kimchi and burning hot ssamjang (a Korean hot sauce) early in life. In Flushing, Queens, I savored endless incredible Korean restaurants, often filled only with Korean customers. I was first hooked on those crispy, comforting Korean pancakes, pajeon, and my fondness for the cuisine grew from there.Read more »
APPETITE Ireland is a green land of rolling hills, sheep, and craggy coastline, to be sure. The people enchanted even more: a generous, welcoming, hilarious lot. One of my favorite people in recent Ireland travels was Liam O'Leary, distillery operations manager at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, near the southern coast of Ireland.Read more »
APPETITE For those who have been following my Guardian Appetite column, you know I've been there since the beginning of 2009, reviewing food and drink, cocktails and wine, restaurants and hole-in-the-walls, both in the Bay Area and on my travels. I am delighted to share a myriad discoveries with you each week here, from my daily meals, tastings and adventures, ranging from whisk(e)y releases to stand-out dishes at new restaurants. Here are four intriguing tastes this week:Read more »
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, bar talent and innovation. Monday begins the fifth annual Cocktail Week, bigger than ever, with numerous national and local brands represented, an extensive schedule of seminars, parties, events, and the first ever Legends Awards honoring key contributors in the field.
I’d recommend Cocktail Week certainly for aficionados (cocktail/spirits geeks), but equally for the curious or those who just plain love classy, transporting events.
Chefs Sarah and Evan Rich (who also happen to be husband and wife), come with a fine dining, creative pedigree cooking in kitchens of the caliber of Coi, Quince and Michael Mina. On August 29th, I attended their first Chefs Night Off pop-up dinner at Radius, and they are also hosting pop-up Fried Chicken Dinner at Rebel Bar (check their Facebook page for dates).
Their four-course, market-fresh dinner was peppered with amuse bouche/bites and palate cleansers between courses that showcased their inventiveness without being fussy.
Consistently, St. George Spirits (also Hangar One) wears the crown for renegade inventiveness. As I wrote last year, Lance Winters, master distiller, and distillers Dave Smith and Chris Jordan, lead the way in out-of-the-box creativity. Never have I seen the like of their test tube apothecary of experimentation where they'll try anything, from foie gras and beef jerky, to carrots and fresh Dungeness crab, to see what works as a spirit.
Sampling the new, revamped Harry Denton's Starlight Room cocktails. All photos by Virginia Miller
Tonight, September 6th, Harry Denton's legendary Starlight Room will reopen, revamped, with brand new menus and look. Though the space wasn't quite ready for a sneak peek, I was able sample a few of the cocktails that will be on offer from bar manager Joel Teitelbaum's winning menu.
Grouped together by time periods, the menu starts with the 1600s and punch, ending with Starlight Room classics from great bartenders who have launched from here over the years (like Tony Abou-Ganim, Marco Dionysos, Jacques Bezuidenhout). Other sections include The Jerry Thomas Years (1860's), The Dry Years - Prohibition (1920-1933), and Dark Times (1980's - this one with updated versions of '80's hits like the Fuzzy Navel).