Notes from the Road, June 2008 - Oakland, San Francisco & Napa
Hello to you all! Here is another installment of my adventures from the road and updates from my recent visit to Northern California.
This past trip started in San Francisco with a late evening meal at Globe (www.globerestaurant.com). This restaurant serves until 1am Monday through Saturday, which is a fantastic option for city dwellers and industry folks. It has a definite Mediterranean slant with San Francisco flavor and products. The group started with a cool take on a traditional Portuguese dish, a Salt Cod & Potato spread with garlic toast – very fun concept. I thought my entrée was going to be good, but was blown away once it arrived and I tasted the flavors of the King Salmon (cooked perfectly Medium Rare) on Boccacino Pasta with Spigariello, Aglio e Olio and Salsa Verde.
After morning meetings the next day, another San Francisco day of experiences took place. We started with a late lunch at the Balboa Café (www.balboacafe.com), which is owned by the Plumpjack Group. It is a true San Francisco classic, open since 1913! It was over 97 degrees in the city that day (very unusual), so we started lunch with a bottle of 2005 Virtu, White Meritage, which is produced by St. Supery Winery (www.st.supery.com) in Napa. It was so good, we actually had 2 bottles overall! Lunch started simply with fresh fried calamari with remoulade and Dungeness Crabcakes to share. I then decided to have their bistro burger, which was out of this world. It was cooked exactly how I requested it (Rare) and came with a red leaf lettuce salad with Balsamic Shallot Vinaigrette. Not only was the meal overall fantastic for a simple café, it was extremely reasonable.
Next stop was a visit to another San Francisco original, Perry’s on Union Street (www.perryssf.com). They’ve been around since 1969, offering Classic American fare while becoming a true institution. Here we were just catching up with friends and enjoying a mellow afternoon in a great environment (with air conditioning – 97 degrees remember!).
Of course, with all of the wine and heat, we started to get hungry again and decided to continue onwards to Betelnut Restaurant (www.betelnutrestaurant.com) right down the street. This restaurant is referred to as a Pejiu Wu or ‘Beer House’ serving Asian street fare with fresh local ingredients and regional spices (hot ones). This was a great place to congregate, as our group was about to rise to over 10 people. Some of our good friends from the rock group, O.A.R. (www.ofarevolution.com) were in the city for 2 shows at the Fillmore (more on that later) and had Friday night off. Three of the boys Chris Culos (drums), Michael Paris (keys) and Richard On (lead guitar) came down to join the festivities.
The evening continued on, for a mellower stop to The Occidental Cigar Club (www.occidentalcigarclub.com). This is great little bar with a good selection of cigars complimented by an outstanding by the glass wine program and excellent vibe. If you are a cigar connoisseur make sure to stop in on your next visit. The final stop on the evening was to visit our good buddy, Kenny Luciano, at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (www.harrydenton.com). I am a big fan of this rooftop lounge with a great view of the city, gorgeous cocktail servers in black evening gowns and an atmosphere from years gone by.
Saturday was a big day and another adventure altogether. It was the official release and launch party for Pushback Winery (www.pushbackwinery.com) from my good buddy Nick Floulis. I had been drafted along with our friend Scott Cunningham to do the cooking and hospitality for the day, so of course, we had to go all out. We made the drive from San Francisco up to Napa, heading to Peju Province Winery (www.peju.com) who was going to be hosting the event. Major thanks go out to HB (‘Mama’ Peju) for opening her home and to the ‘Flying Peju Sisters’, Lisa & Ariana for being wonderful!
The menu included smoked Baby Back Pork Ribs, Homemade Grilled Pineapple Salsa, Spiced Asian Chicken Satays, Andouille Sausage Quesadillas, Roasted Garlic Red Bliss Potatoes, Grilled Corn and multiple other dishes. The function started at around 2pm and continued well into the evening, finishing up around 11pm. It was a great day for Nick and his release of Pushback with support from many members of the Napa and wine community including representatives from St. Supery, Atmosphere Wines, Lapis Luna Winery, Robert Skalli Wines, Cuvee Napa, etc.
Sunday was another fun filled day of adventures including a visit to the Oakland A’s game, a welcome respite from the craziness of eating and drinking. Following the game, we decided to barbeque, with me (of course) doing the majority of cooking and prepping.
As I mentioned earlier, the boys from O.A.R. were in town playing the Fillmore, so they were extremely good to us and left some tickets to come see the show. If you’ve never had a chance to see this band and only heard their studio albums, you must attend a concert. They put on quite a show and always seem to be up there having a blast on stage. FYI, they are releasing their newest album July 15th, All Sides, so run out and grab it! The concert was truly amazing, in a classic venue; an experience I won’t soon forget. And of course, we had to squeeze one more meal in, which brought a late-night visit to Grubstake (www.sfgrubstake.com). This is a ‘diner-esque’ restaurant that is housed in a former railcar and been around in one version or another since 1927. It is a simple straightforward menu with a Portuguese slant to it, with such dishes as Ovos com Linguica and Caldo Verde Soup.
The next day was travel back to Vegas, so the adventures have to go on hold for at least a few days! However, I promise there is much more to come and travel around the country. Be sure to write me an email on where you’d like to see me head out to and also if you have any suggestions for dining destinations that I should check out.
Have fun, take care and ‘Keep Eating and Drinking.’