Posts Tagged ‘The Hidden Vine’

60 Hours – On Location in San Francisco

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

 

2 1/2 days in a city that has no boundaries and to fully enjoy all that the 7×7 has to offer and much better than just 48 hours!  My most recent edition of ’60 Hours’ took me to the city by the Bay, San Francisco, for a true series of adventures and discoveries.

 

After arriving into SFO, I headed straight to North Beach (the Italian neighborhood) for my caffeine fix at

Hole in the Wall, a 27 Square Foot (yes, really) coffee bar that brews pour overs right in front of you with one of four different Signature roasts.  This street-side spot at 524 Union Street is great for coffee and conversation!

 

Feeling the need to fuel the furnace, next stop was Original Joe’s right across from Washington Park on Union Street.  This is a true San Francisco classic, Italian American & Classic American Cuisine in style – so I enjoyed their Wedge Salad with Bacon, Shaved Egg, Blue Cheese Dressing and Poached Baby Bay Shrimp.  Tasty, historical and a good first dish to enjoy.

 

Walking down Columbus Avenue, enjoying some early Spring weather and sunshine, I traveled from Italian Culture to the edge of Chinatown for a visit to China Live, pretty much a Chinese Eataly with their shops, various restaurants, tea counter and more.  Still feeling a touch hungry, I was able to enjoy their Gluten-Free (yes indeed!) Chicken Lettuce Wraps, served with mushrooms and Chinese sausage – filling, fresh and very delicious.

 

Next on the agenda was a visit to a longstanding favorite of mine, The Hidden Vine, a cool little wine bar on Merchant Street on the edge of the Financial District (the FiDi) which just so happens to have a Bocce Court!  They carry quite the selection of wines by the glass from all around the world, enabling guests to enjoy a taste of many different wine regions.  Feeling hungry again at this point, I was joined by a few locals to the city who wanted me to experience a legendary restaurant in the city but also California, the Tadich Grill.  The Tadich has been in constant operation since 1849, making it the oldest operating restaurant in San Francisco which is an accomplishment unto itself!

 

Dinner there was a classic experience with Dungeness Crab Cakes, Hamburger Steak, Local Sole and other delights which made the evening feel like a true throwback to a prior time.  If you’d like to step back and have your ‘Back to the Future’ moment in San Francisco, this is a must visit!

 

For the final stop of the evening, I was escorted to The Occidental Cigar Club where I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying before.  ‘The Ox’ is a cigar bar in California.  Yes, it is legal and yes, it is ALWAYS busy!  Here I partook in a Connecticut Shade Davidoff paired with a glass of local Sonoma Red Wine, which was a great way to finish the evening.

 

 

Starting Day Two off slightly foggy, but damn happy I decided to venture from Fisherman’s Wharf, where I was staying with a leisurely walk to the Marina District for one of my favorite hamburger’s in the entire world, located at Balboa Café.  Balboa is owned by the Plumpjack Group, a local San Francisco Company that owns wineries, restaurants, wine shops, bars, and much more.  It is a throwback for sure, with a classic long bar, dark wood finishes and a menu with touches of the past and flavors of today.  I knew I needed a filling plate of deliciousness, so I had to get their burger.  The Balboa Café burger is a long patty, traditionally served on an open face baguette cooked to your desired temperature, along with pickled red onions and pickle chips, hot & salty thin cut fries and any toppings you’d like to add on for extra.  I went with the burger cooked rare (yes, a great call knowing their meat is quality in style) topped with Jack Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms and Sautéed Onions, Fresh Mixed Greens Salad rather than the fries, accompanied by a chilled glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, perfect for a San Francisco afternoon.

 

That right there was a slice of heaven!  And, the bartender recognized me (which was damn cool) so he poured me a second glass of wine, on him – a true San Francisco Treat!

 

Continuing the city adventure, I stopped over to Union Square to people watch the locals and tourists mingle together and the beautiful weather before having a quick stop by Bun Mee, a modern Vietnamese Sandwich & Snack Shop.  The smells coming out the door were too delicious not to stop!  Deciding to walk up Market Street, I passed by the Bill Graham Auditorium and the San Francisco Capital Building on my way to see a buddy at Jardinière, Traci Desjardins iconic restaurant.  This is a true Michelin starred restaurant, with French accents mixed with San Francisco flavor, a perfect pairing.  Enjoying watching the pre-theatre crowd and sipping on a tasty glass of chilled Italian wine, I realized I was in the right place at the right time.

 

Next on the Tour de SF was a quick stop into Popson’s on Market Street for a side by side burger tasting with some business contacts who were doing menu research.  It’s an upscale, quick-serve burger concept – far from my favorite, but they’re basically doing a take on an In-N-Out style.  Popping next door, we enjoyed a glass of wine and some great hospitality at Waystone, a cool Wine & Beer Café with a citified environment perfect for a date or small group gathering.

 

Feeling the need for an actual dinner, we headed over to the Mission for a taste of New Orleans at Alba Ray’s which was vibrant, fun, plenty festive and damn delicious!  From the Char-Grilled Oysters to the Mixed Jambalaya to the Black-Eyed Peas with Kale to the Red Beans and Rice, we let the Good Times Roll!

 

Day Three – Waking up on my final day in San Francisco, I knew that I was in store for another one filled with plenty of stops and deliciousness, so I started with another stop to Hole in the Wall Coffee for a freshly brewed North Beach Roast.  With coffee in hand, our entourage started walking down the hill, down Broadway on our way to the Embarcadero enjoying the city’s surroundings, prior to arriving at the Ferry Building; a working ferry terminal filled with food stalls, restaurants and shops which has truly become the hub of San Francisco.  We were lucky enough that it was a CUESA Farmer’s Market day, so there were various farms displaying their bounty and the Roli Roti truck for the most amazing Porchetta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  This combination of flavors is something I can taste as I’m writing this post; salty, sweet, savory and damn tasty!

 

Walking into the Ferry, we ventured to the Mariposa Baking Co. stall, a tremendous Gluten-Free Bakery that started in Oakland and has found a very loyal following here in San Francisco.  I wanted to eat just about everything but limited it to having their Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Cheese Pocket, which was decadent and savory at the same time.  Wow, so good!

 

The final cherry on top for the Ferry Building visit was over to Hog Island Oyster Company to a table overlooking the bay, enjoying two different Pacific Ocean Oysters and a crisp glass of Picpoul from France.  In that moment, I was tremendously happy; enjoying the day in the place I was supposed to be at the exact moment.  Perfect.

 

We turned to head up Market Street on yet another stunningly beautiful Spring day, walking amongst the hustle and bustle of workers, tourists and others, and made our way to Credo Restaurant for a beverage during the lunchtime rush.  I had the pleasure of dining there a few years ago and was pleased to see they were still going strong.  We only stopped by for a quick glass of wine but were fortunate to receive great hospitality and a friendly welcome.

 

What lay ahead was the Tre Bicchieri North American Tour & Tasting, held by the Gambero Rosso at Fort Mason.  Tre Bicchieri is the highest rating that Italian Wines can receive, and the Gambero Rosso Guide has events around the world to showcase these wines and bring them to market, for distributors, wine professionals and restaurateurs.  There were hundreds and hundreds of producers there, sharing their top wines which made for an outstanding afternoon of tasting and learning.

 

Turning the corner on my final hours in the city, we headed to Park Tavern back in North Beach to enjoy the friendly confines of this delightful restaurant.  Park Tavern has only been in business since 2012, however it has become a San Francisco fixture with it’s high-end bistro fare.  With its open kitchen, spacious bar and sweeping dining room, it was the perfect destination for a glass of rose and some snacks.

 

Last stop on the adventure was The Salzburg, only open since October 2017, which was created by the founders of Union Larder and Little Vine.  It is North Beach’s answer to the Alps for Austrian inspired cuisine and a large selection of wine by the glass.  We enjoyed a collection of house-made sausages (Rabbit, Pork and Lamb) along with a signature Rosti, topped with Smoked Arctic Char.  I immediately felt transported to the Alps, quite the fete knowing we were in San Francisco and the Italian neighborhood.

 

Hoping into an Uber to the Airport and my flight home I quickly realized that I had a tremendously full 60 hours in San Francisco and realized I couldn’t wait to return!

 

 

Adventures to San Francisco & the Bay

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

 

Recently, three members of The Nyman Group had the opportunity to head to the San Francisco and Bay Area for meetings, events and tastings, experiencing quite a few elements that the area had to offer.

 

Desiring to embrace a classic San Francisco restaurant landmark, we ventured over to Swan Oyster Bar at 1517 Polk St. (no website and they don’t answer their phone, fyi). – a seafood haven founded in 1912 that is cash only, you wait on line for the 16 bar stools and sit elbow-to-elbow with locals and tourists alike.  Every fish and bivalve served are extremely fresh and completely delicious.  We sampled an oyster platter and then the mixed seafood salad, mounded with Bay Shrimp, Dungeness crab and Prawns, which was then served with an olive oil and vinegar dressing, mixed with some of the back fat of the Dungeness, in the shell.  WOW!

 

Needing some caffeine to charge us for the afternoon, we stopped over to see our good friend, Nick Floulis, at his 27-square foot coffee bar (yes, really), Hole in the Wall, located in North Beach at 524 Union Street.  Hole in the Wall only serves pour-over coffee (very cool and impressive), in three distinct roasts – Blonde, Brunette (lovingly known as North Beach) & Redhead, right on Union Street.  They’re fully embraced by the local community and a great spot for a damn good cup of joe.

 

We then moved along to one of our main reasons for the visit, heading to the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Experience Trade Tasting, being held at the stunningly beautiful venue, Bently Reserve.  Zinfandel is commonly referred to as ‘America’s Grape’, even though it is not native to our country, it has been fully embraced as American in flavor and palate appeal.  Tasting through the over 75 wineries, our favorites were definitely Turley, Klinker Brick, Gamba and Brown Estate.

 

Needing sustenance and wanting another San Francisco classic food and beverage venue, we made our way to NOPA in the NoPa (North of Panhandle) neighborhood.  Established in 2006, NOPA is more than a restaurant, but a gathering point for the local community for good eats, a lively bar scene and late night dining.  We were able to swap standing room only into seats, ponying up to the bar and holding down that area with the buzzing activity around us.  The Half Roasted Chicken was tremendous in flavor, having been brined and basted in an herb butter, and the Country Pork Chop with Brussels Sprouts, Cara Cara Oranges, Mustard and Sesame was divine.

 

Next stop on the tour was to The Independent, one of San Francisco’s premier live music venues, to take in a performance by Kamasi Washington.  The jazz saxophonist was in town as part of the 2016 Noise Pop Festival and came under critical acclaim in 2015 for his album, The Epic.  The show proved to be just that as Kamasi and his band (which at times included his father!) laid down a 90-minute set filled with jazz, funk and a room full of mesmerized fans.  To witness this is a room that holds just 500 people was truly special. Following the show we headed just up a touch of Divisadero St. to swing into Bar 821 for an amaro to finish the evening.  Upon arriving, we looked at the wall of the bar where to amari and digestivos were listed and, we were all immediately and completely in awe of the variety they had available.  There were at least 30 amaros and another 20+ digestives, with tasting flights and bottles from Italy, the U.S.A., Switzerland and France.  We were able to sample a great variety, including Brovo #4, an American amaro from Seattle, Washington, which we never knew existed!

 

Wrapping up the evening, we had decided to rest our heads at the recently renovated The Buchanan Hotel, in Japantown, right on Buchanan.  This Kimpton property had clean and spacious rooms, friendly staff and a perfect location for our trip.  We would gladly recommend the hotel to any travelers, business or leisure for your next visit to the Bay.

 

Friday morning we hosted a breakfast meeting at Sweet Maple, located right now the street from our hotel where they are focused on fresh ingredients, gigantic portions and fun combinations of flavors.  We were able to sample one of their signature items, the Millionaire’s Bacon (which was featured on the Discovery Network) – thick, free range bacon baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black pepper.  Damn good!

 

After some meetings and exploration, we headed over to Union Larder, a neighborhood joint at the corner of Union & Hyde that refers to itself as a Cheese, Wine & Charcuterie Bar.  Our afternoon stop was perfect timing, as it wasn’t too busy and allowed us to sample the menu, most specifically their House-made Charcuterie and Uni Pate with Fruit Mostarda, a really cool concept of pate.

 

Venturing further down into the city, toward the Financial District (FiDi), we went to see our friends at The Hidden Vine, a wonderful wine bar in the shadow of the TransAmerica Building, complimented by their regulation size Bocce court.  They are great supporters of our Director of Operations’, Labor Wines wine project, featuring the Pinot Noir by the glass.

 

Next on the Bay adventure was a quick BART trip to Oakland for the Vance Joy/Elle King concert at the Fox Theatre.  On this warm February night, it was a breath of fresh air to see Oakland so alive and bustling with activity as patrons entered and exited bars and restaurants. Glancing into the windows of hustling hot-spots and seeing folks eating and drinking, smiling and conversing reassured us that Oakland is continuing to rise again, city-wide.  Just a couple years ago people would have called you crazy to paint a picture of the scene on this night.  The Fox was one of the venues that really led a change for the neighborhood and with shows like Vance Joy, a diverse, happy and fun-loving crowd invaded Oakland in a great way.

 

Saturday morning, we stopped over to the Fillmore Farmer’s Market, which is small but has a nice collection of vendors, purchasing some heirloom carrots, salmon jerky and fresh pastries.  A really fun treat to enjoy a piece of the area’s local flavors.

 

Escaping the city, we were taken to a classic restaurant for lunch, Max’s in Palo Alto at the Stanford Shopping Center, which has been open for over 25 years and is run by our good friend Dennis Berkowitz.  His restaurants are truly run for their customer’s pleasure and enjoyment, and happily boasting, ‘everything you’ve always wanted to eat.’  Max’s menu is vast and full of deliciousness, and we sampled too many dishes!  Having the chance to taste their Corned Beef (Nitrate-free!) and Pastrami, was a heavenly experience.

 

Capping off the trip, we had the pleasure to get a full tour of Max’s Commissary, located in the shadow of San Francisco International Airport.  Being shown around this massive facility was quite the perspective, seeing all that they produce for their various operations, located around the bay.  We were given a Chocolate Covered Macaroon that was the size of our fist, truly unbelievable!

 

All told, our 2 very full days in the Bay Area, were tremendous.  Mixing our meetings in with pleasure, we came, we saw, ate, drank, listened to music and caught up with some great people.  Can’t wait to be back there!