As you may (or probably should) know, we’re cocktail fiends. This affinity followed us to San Francisco, where we sought out a few of the city’s best cocktail lounges to see if they could match up to our favorite New York haunts.
The first place that popped up on my radar was a newish bar called Wilson & Wilson, located in the Tenderloin. Get this: it’s a bar within a bar. Yes, Wilson & Wilson is located within Bourbon And Branch, another haunt of San Francisco’s cocktail cognoscenti.
Wilson & Wilson follows the theme of a private detective agency. You enter through an unmarked door which takes you into Bourbon And Branch. You’re given a password just for you, then the host takes you back to a much smaller room and presents you with your “dossier” for the evening, as you can see above.
The cocktails are relatively affordable (three for $30) and are concocted with a mix of various tinctures, house made bitters, and a wide variety of specialty spirits and liqueurs that you don’t always see.
While we sipped, we chatted up our bartender who was quite an amiable fellow. He told us that he also works at a bar called the Alembic and invited us in on Monday afternoon, when he was working next.
Obviously, we couldn’t resist.
Tim Zohn, the bartender, took excellent care of us and we absolutely loved the vibe at the Alembic. Tim introduced us to a few of his friends and “regulars” and also guided us toward some of Alembic’s delicious small plates. Stir-fried shishito peppers with sea salt and duck heart and pineapple skewers? Um, yes, please. (This wasn’t just your typical bar food.)
That pretty little number above is the Gilded Lily—Plymouth gin, yellow Chartreuse, orange flower water, sparkling demi-sec, and yes, a dash of gold leaf for good measure.
When researching our San Francisco dining options, we both somehow stumbled across Flour + Water and decided that it was a must-try. Our dedication to trying it was much rewarded.
Located in the Mission District, Flour + Water is dedicated to local ingredients (what San Francisco restaurant isn’t?) but still relies heavily on some traditional Italian preparations. They make eight pastas in-house daily and also have a dough room where their pizza dough rises. (It can also be used as a private dining room, if you so desire.)
Our first course (shown above) was a crudo of local halibut. The buttery slices were nestled in with freshly-shelled fava beans, wild arugula and a mix of green and red strawberries. The whole thing was topped off with a simple dressing of oil, salt and pepper. We had never had green strawberries before and were impressed by their tart-sweet flavor and firm texture.
For our pasta course, also shown above, we had their homemade, whole-wheat strozzapretti with tender chunks of wild guinea hen, broccoli rabe and little cubes of bresaola. This dish was the perfect combination of umami and bitterness, as the bresaola and hen added salt, whereas the broccoli rabe gave some necessary bite. The pasta itself was just toothsome enough and also sturdy enough to stand up to the hearty guinea. Ryan claims that this dish was good enough to eat a whole container of, solo.
Our last selection was the fungi pizza, with morel and hen of the woods mushrooms, ramp pesto, melted leeks and fontina cheese. This was the least impressive dish of the night, not because it was bad, but because the other two were just SO good.
We both loved everything about this meal; in fact, we loved it so much that we wanted to return but ran out of time. We found out after our dinner that one of the chefs at Ryan’s restaurant is friend with one of the chefs here, so now we have even more incentive to return in the future.
We opted out of dessert (sadly), but only because Humphry Slocombe is right around the corner, but that’s a tale unto itself. (Preview: balsamic caramel ice cream and Amarena cherries.)
- Laura and Ryan
On Thursday night, my parents came in to visit us for the weekend. My mom grew up in Pacific Grove, Calif., so they spent two nights in San Francisco (in a killer suite at the top of the Hyatt Regency) and one night with us at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey.
We drove down Highway 1 from San Francisco, one of the most scenic and beautiful drives in the country, if not the world. Once in Monterey, we visited my mom’s childhood homes, Asilomar Beach, Lover’s Point and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The Aquarium was fantastic, as always, but we particularly enjoyed two of their special exhibits right now—seahorses and jellyfish. (We also spent about two hours watching the sea otters do their thing. They’re my mom’s favorite animal and a lot of fun to watch.)
On our second day in Monterey, we drove along 17-Mile Drive to Carmel. We stopped a few times along the way and splashed in the water, watched sea lions and admired some of the impressive houses.
One time, several years ago, I was driving with my parents along 17-Mile Drive when we ran into a construction crew blocking the road. We asked one of the flaggers what was going on and he told as that were moving a giant door into one of the house. Not just any door though—a door imported from a castle in Spain, if that gives you an idea of the type of house along this revered stretch.
Once in Carmel, we strolled around the village, which really is more of a “village” than the super-commercialize seaside towns that most people think of, before hopping back in the car and taking the quick route back up toward the Bay.
While we were in San Francisco, we were lucky enough to wander into the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (one of my favorite museums) during one of their Food & Thought events, sponsored by Meatpaper magazine.
The museum has been holding the events monthly on the rooftop (although April was the last one—boo!) and brings in local chefs to prepare themed dishes. Some past themes include Still Life, Secrets & Disguises and Vertigo. Meatpaper’s Flickr stream has some amazing photos of the previous events.
On our night, the theme was Flowers and all of the dishes were centered around using edible flowers and plants. We absolutely adored a chamomile panna cotta and a few other small plates, but my personal favorite was the one you see below—peas, strawberries, and flowers in a little olive oil and salt. It was so simple but so delicious.
We enjoyed beer and wine on SFMOMA’s gorgeous roof deck… What could be better than eating delicious fresh food and sipping wine underneath a Calder or next to a Bourgeois?
Oh, another fun thing: the Blue Bottle (yes, we’re obsessed!) at SFMOMA has the most amazing art-themed desserts. You, too, can eat a cake from Wayne Thiebaud or better yet, your own Mondrian. We were seriously charmed by all of these.