100 Things To Do In San Francisco Before You Die

My interveiw with Kimberley Lovato

S.F. Bucket List - Book cover

I first met the author, Kimberley Lovato at our home

when she was the guest of honor at one of my wine tastings. I interviewed her about her first book – Unique Eats and Eateries of San Francisco – and we all tasted wine and she signed books for everyone, and we all had a great time.

So when I heard she had published a second book with co-author Jill Robinson, I wanted to repeat the popular event. But it came out during the holiday season, and I had one or two other things going on and so did she, so… I had to settle for this Blog interview.

Co-authors, Robinson and Lovato

Dave: Kimberley, you and I both love our city and its fun, little-known (as well as well-known!) unique haunts. And I almost hate opening these great little secrets to everyone! But tell us, what did you and Jill want to do with this book?

Kimberley: We wanted to share some of our favorite ways to play in the city, and given the number of guests and tourists we’ll host this holiday season, this new book is a timely source of new activities and discoveries. Our book is loaded with tips for all readers, whether it’s their first time in San Francisco or they’ve been here for ages. It’s really just an idea generator. And I’ll let your readers in on a little secret – our book lissts way more than a 100 things to do!

Dave: Can you describe some of the things you decided to include in your book? That must have been a difficult editorial decision for the two of you!

Kimberley: We divided the book into sections – Food & Drink, History and Culture to lend some organization to our long list. And we enjoyed spending hours looking into the nooks and crannies of our citie’s four corners (we mean literally, since the city is pretty much a 7X7 square!) Some of our favorite places are well-known, others are hidden gems you’d only find by diving deep into San Francisco’s eclectic neighborhoods. We’re hoping the book will be popular as a holiday gift for that friend who keeps promising to visit year after year, or put it on your guest room’s bedside table.

Dave: That sounds like a great idea, you just solved one of my gifting challenges for this year!

Kimberley: My co-auther also uses it during her daughter’s school breaks. She asks her to choose a few things in the book, or turn to a random page, and then they do them together. It’s been a fun source of mother-daughter activities.

Dave: Kimberley, thanks for speaking with me today, but let’s close with a few of your favorite activities from your list. What are your top suggestions from your book?

What are some of the best things to do in San Francisco around the holidays?

San Francisco is great anytime of year but the holidays are lovely. Union Square has an ice skating rink beneath a big Christmas tree, and the Macy’s has SPCA Holiday displays where adoptable pets frolic in the windows. Ghiradelli Square also has a large tree and plenty of entertainment for visitors to enjoy. Plus, you can drink hot chocolate nearby.  The San Francisco Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker is a holiday tradition and this year is the show’s 75th anniversary in the city. The decorations inside the War Memorial Opera House are magical. San Francisco hotels really get in the spirit too in terms of décor – you could spend a fun day touring their lobbies and stopping in for tea (or wine, Dave suggests!) at each one. The Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill even constructs a massive gingerbread house in the lobby. 

Is San Francisco a fun place for kids? What can they do for fun?

Yes, and there are so many things to do. Since San Francisco is relatively small and easily walkable, kids of all ages can enjoy it.  The Cable Cars are a fun way to get around the city, and kids always love to hear the clang-clang as they move effortlessly up San Francisco’s steep hills.  If the weather is nice, we recommend getting out on the bay and we list several ways you can do that, both as active and passive participants, including ferry rides to nearby towns, such as Sausalito, or even kayaking.  One could spend a whole day in Golden Gate Park where you can rent paddleboats, romp in the playgrounds, count the buffalo, and ride a carousel.  Our museums are also really fun and interactive for kids, especially the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and the Children’s Creativity Museum. Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a popular pastime, and ideal for teens who need to burn some energy and want to take really cool selfies.

A fun way to get around the city. A moving museum!

Where would you recommend going for the best holiday family photo?

Crissy Field is not only a wonderful walk along the San Francisco Bay, it also boasts one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city. You can snap the family portrait with the entire span in the background. It’ll be a framer for sure!

Where should someone go for a celebratory glass of bubbly or holiday cocktail?

We write about how hotel bars in San Francisco are having a moment and we still think that’s true. Some of the best bars in the city are in hotels, and they feel especially fun and festive during the holidays thanks to twinkle lights and décor.

The former Starlight Room on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel is now called Lizzie’s Starlight and it’s a chic spot for bubbly and some of the best bar food in the city. Make sure to go during daylight hours so you can enjoy the sweeping views.  The Palace Hotel, under its crystal atrium in the lobby, looks like a snow globe scene and is the perfect place for a celebration. And the Clift Hotel’s Redwood Room always feels swanky and luxe.  We already mentioned the Fairmont Hotel, and across the street atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel is Top of the Mark, known for its panoramic city views and martinis.   One of our favorite old stand-bys is Buena Vista Café, known for its Irish coffees, which hit the spot on a cold and foggy day.

The Buena Vist’s Irish Coffee. Expensive, but worth it?

What should people eat this time of year?

‘Tis the Season for Dungeness Crab in San Francisco.  You can get it at Fisherman’s Wharf at one of the stalls, or restaurants around the city will likely have it on their holiday and winter menus.   We like the casual Swan Oyster Depot, an institution on Polk Street. You’ll have to wait in line but it’s worth it.  Tadich Grill is another SF mainstay. They annually serve more than 20,000 bowls of Cioppino, a seafood stew considered by many to be the signature dish of San Francisco.

Read more about the authors or pick up a copy online at www.100ThingsSF.net or wherever books are sold.

Explore the popular wine discoveries from Dave the Wine Merchant at www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

New Book: “Unique Eats & Eateries – San Francisco”

I thought this book would be of interest only for Bay Area foodies, but as one of my wine club members explained “all paths lead to San Francisco eventually“.  So I post this review for perusal by all who want to be prepared for that next trip to San Francisco, even if that trip is yet to be planned!

Local author, Kimberly Lovato, was kind enough to attend a wine tasting I organized, and discussed her latest project. You’ll find it refreshingly unique among restaurant books in that it doesn’t provide reviews or ratings. Instead, its objective is to illuminate interesting restaurant history, local foodways, and tidbits unique to the city’s food scene.

It makes no attempt to document the city’s thousands of restaurants, or even to isolate its handful of “best”. To earn its way into this book, a food establishment had to be sufficiently unique and interesting to stand out from the crowd in one way or another – like the donut shop featuring a donut as big as your head.  Good ol’ “Bob’s“. Or the oldest continuously operating restaurant in California – the Tadich Grill – who doesn’t take reservations and whose white-coated staff proudly turns away the world’s rich and beautiful alike if they are unwilling to wait their turn.

These and many more discoveries await in this new book from Lovato. Crack the cover of “Unique Eats & Eateries” and you’ll find your brief perusal has quickly turned into many minutes spent flipping from one interesting feature to the next.

Enjoy!

New Cookbook from “Once Upon a Chef”

Available through Chronicle Books, $29.95

Online chef sensation, Jennifer Segal, has developed a considerable following for her home-tested recipes. Today she introduced the release of her first cook book – Once Upon a Chef, 100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes.  I’ve subscribed to Jennifer’s email feed for years now, and though they include more desserts than I can feature with wine pairings, her savory dishes all replicate quite well in our home.

Because Jennifer also happens to be a talented photographer, she normally shoots her own food shots, and they are clear, simple and well-shot.  So I was surprised to see that her cookbook photos were shot by Alexandra Gablewski.  I can only presume Jennifer hired her for this project because Alexandra is even better than Jennifer, which only builds the anticipation for the release of this book, now avaialable for pre-order. And at just under $30, add this book to your short list of gifts for friends and family.

And, as always, let me know if you need help pairing wines with any of Jennifer’s recipes!

Cheers!

“Man that toast was too short!” (Said nobody, ever)

Want to show some appreciation for friends and family at upcoming Holiday events?  Read my ten tips for Toasting Success and you’ll be remembered as a pro.

  1. It’s not as hard as it seems.  Although public speaking is intimidating for many – telling someone “Thank You” in public is what most of us have been trained to do since we were three!  And a toast is just a formalized extension of that – just stand, clink your glass for silence, and say some sort of extended version of a simple Thank-You… “I think we all owe our hosts a big thank you for such a wonderful time, such great food, and for having the wisdom to invite such an interesting group of friends tonight!
  2. Know Your Audience.  You’re unlikely to give the same toast at a gathering of old school pals as you would at a work event, right? To avoid falling flat, or saying something inappropriate, remember those you’re inviting to raise their glass will be unlikely to do so unless your words are pleasing to their ear.
  3. Toast, Don’t Roast.  I once listened to a Best Man describe how he and the groom once stole a refrigerator from a neighboring apartment. It was the most inappropriate toast I’ve ever heard at a wedding, and was not appreciated by anybody, leaving many of the celebrants in a state of shocked protest when invited to raise their glass. This is not the time for the risky or risqué!
  4. 60 Seconds, Tops. One reason people can feel nervous before giving a toast is the false belief that every toast needs to be a speech. Quite the opposite – as long as your toast conveys your heart-felt gratitude, it’s a success. Your best bet is to shoot for 30-60 seconds, from the first word to the invitation “… so please join me in raising your glass to…
  5. Follow This Proven Outline. Having listened to and studied with some of the world’s truly great public speakers, I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed when following their outline for a good toast:
    1. Thank the host and/or acknowledge the guest of honor
    2. (Totally optional, but recommended) Describe a shared experience from the past – light, and either humorous and/or touching.
    3. Invite all to join you in raising their glass to the honoree(s).
  6. Do It Early. Those who hate speaking in public find it preferable to procrastinate. But a toast is best when it sets the tone for an event early on – after everyone has been seated at the table and the first wine has been poured, for example.  Just before dessert is also a great time, but comes with the downside of, well, see below…
  7. Don’t Drink Too Much First!  For obvious reasons.  We are never as glib as we think we are after that second or third glass of wine!
  8. Eyeball-to-Eyeball.  Look each other in the eyes as you raise your glass. I learned this important lesson from an Italian winemaker who was aghast at my very American tendency to look at my glass as we clinked, instead of looking at the man who had just honored me with his toast. A toast is a sharing of our humanity, a celebration of it, and as we raise our glasses around the table, it will mean much more if each participant recognizes the others by looking them in the eye as they clink glasses. (This is easier when in a small gathering, of course)
  9. Standing Is Best. Standing at the dinner table as you propose your toast makes it easier to get started, as heads will turn to see what is happening. Clink a water glass (no, not the crystal one!) to gain attention, and dive in, or simply announce “I propose a toast!”.  If standing is not possible for any reason, simply raising your glass can be effective, though it does not convey the same gravity – which is often preferred for casual situations anyway!
  10. Sources of Inspiration. There is no substitute for speaking from the heart. But there is also a long history of wit and wisdom that may lend a humorous launch pad for your own creativity. I’ve collected some of my favorites over the years, and you are welcome to view them here

Recipe – Caldesi’s Six Elements for A Perfect Salad

I spend a fair amount of time in the air these days.  On one of my recent sojourns, the in-flight magazine featured an article on Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, who run the eponymous restaurant/cooking school/cookery shop – London’s “Caffe Caldesi” (118 Marlybone Lane, W1U 2QF) and La Cucina Caldesi (4 Cross Keys Close, W1U 2DG) and the “Caldesi in Campagna” at Bray, Berkshire.

They’re also the authors of the cook book you see here – Around the World in 120 Salads.  While researching the book, Vietnamese chefs told the Caldesis that the world’s best salads sahre six key elements.  The result is a set of guidelines you’ll find useful for the rest of your salad-eating days (note, a single ingredient often checks off more than one of the six boxes):

  1. Dry – Salt, pepper, dried spices or herbs add a bit of kick
  2. Wet – Fresh citrus slices or other sources of juiciness
  3. Sweet – Often it’s a pinch of sugar, a drop of maple syrup or honey, or fructose from ripe fruits of choice
  4. Sour – Providing a counter-point to the Sweet element, citrus juice, vinager or other sources of tartness
  5. Soft – Examples include avocado, cooked beans, dried dates or edible flowers…
  6. Crunchy – carrots, sliced scallions, toasted nuts, fried onions or other toothsome textural ingredients

Wine Pairing Advice – It’s difficult to pair wines with a salad course until the details of the salad are known.  Here, the basics of food-and-wine pairing (match body weight, and be sure the acidity or sweetness of the wine exceeds that of the dish) don’t help much, as salads often feature sweet and acidic elements in the same dish. This makes your pairing task truly perplexing, as acidic wines rarely work well with sweet elements, and vice versa.

As a general rule, I opt for a wine on the acidic side but that also offers some richness of fruit – a very dry rosé, an Alsatian white, unoaked chardonnay, etc.  In general, the salad course is the domaine of white wine – in fact, I can’t think of a red that would pair well with salad, though as soon as I say that, someone will write in with a notable exception – please do so!

Cheers!

Dave The Wine Merchant

Pre-Arrival Offer – Cult Wine from OR

Antica Terra Logo

In case you’re a few issues behind in your wine periodicals, let me remind you that ‘Antica Terra’ is the Oregon winery co-founded by Maggie Harrison, who tutored under Manfred Krankl down at Sine Qua Non.  Her wines are beautifully crafted, and for a short time are available on pre-release.  Prices go up after the order deadline! 


Order now – my deadline is Wednesday, 9-7-2016

PHONE ORDERS ONLY #866-746-7293

Arrival expected by October 1, 2016


Maggie feels her 2014 Antica Terra wines are among the finest she’s ever made.  And that’s saying something, given that her wines routinely  enjoy scores in the rarified air that exists well north of ‘90 points’.     

 The Producer

Maggie Harrison“Maggie Harrison, who learned the winemaking ropes under the tutelage of Manfred Krankl at Sine Qua Non, has emerged as one of the country’s most talented young winemakers. That’s the case at Antica Terra (including Chardonnay and a remarkable pink wine) as well as with her bottlings based on Rhône varieties from California’s Central Coast that are produced under her Lillian label.” Josh Raynolds – Vinous

The Vintage

“2014 Another Vintage of a Lifetime? I had the chance to taste a number of barrel samples from 2014, as well as a few bottled wines back at home in recent weeks. As improbable as it may sound, 2014 is shaping up as a vintage that’s at least the equal of 2012. The growing season remained almost two weeks ahead of schedule all year thanks to an early flowering and to consistently warm, dry weather—and warm nights—through the spring and summer.” Josh Raynolds – Vinous

 

____2014 Chardonay “Aurata” $480, 6/750ml ORANTCHA14Antica Terra - Arrata

“In sourcing chardonnay, we looked to the Shea Vineyard because it is one of the places that we find real depth and intensity in our red wines. The Shea vineyard has shown the ability to hold onto acid and deliver a deeply expressive wine with astonishing persistence, and that’s exactly what we were looking for in this age-worthy Chardonnay.”  155 cases produced.

 

Antica Terra - Angellical____2014 Rose Pinot Noir Angelicall $550 6/750ml ORANTROS14

In this conventional sense, ours is not rosé; but neither is it red or white. The liquid is macerated on the skins for a little over a week. Somewhere between the 6th and 8th day, the aromatics of the fermentation reach a peak of expression and fill the room with astonishing perfume. At this point, just before it becomes red wine, we siphon the juice from the fermenters and fill the barrels, where the juice finishes its fermentation and ages on the lees for a year before bottling. 210 cases produced

 Antica Terra - Botanica

____2014 Pinot Noir “Botanica” $540 6/750ml ORANTPNB14 Botanica Pinot Noir

Botanica is always sappy and sanguine with a taste of wild rose, sour cherries, and blood orange. It is tempting to define it solely by its compelling texture and lush personality but there is a structural element that is equally striking. This balance between extraordinarily concentrated fruit and intense levels of extract is the essence of this wine. 600 cases

 

Antica Terra - Ceras____2014 Pinot Noir “Ceras” $540 6/750ml ORANTPNC14 Ceras Pinot Noir

Ceras is Botanica’s counterpoint. Its color is more purple than red. It is more about minerals and herbs than fruit and flowers. It is a focused and elegant distillation of rock rather than an opulent cascade of fruit. It is an expression of the geology that lays beneath our land, the tart blue fruits of the coast range and the tender herbs that one finds amongst the trees and mushrooms of the Northwest forest. 320 cases produced.


Order now – my deadline is Wednesday, 9-7-2016

PHONE ORDERS ONLY #866-746-7293

Arrival expected by October 1, 2016


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 20140604_192823Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

866-746-7293

Does Your Wine Cause Cancer?

During the course of my many solar orbits, I’ve observed broadcast news shift from dry, informative information to content that offers entertainment that shifts between feel-good stories embedded between warnings of the falling sky.  Such is the destiny of today’s deregulated marketplace.

So I wasn’t too worried when I read the headline “Weed Killer Could Be Lurking In Some CA Wines”.  But if one follows the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” it does seem as if Monsanto’s ‘RoundUp’ is too ubiquitous to NOT become a factor in the health of some portion of the population. 

The news on wine containing traces of this popular weed killer is just the latest bit of inflammatory news.  Clearly, our entire food supply is at risk, as are our watersheds.  I tend to adopt a rational approach to such things, and intend to keep looking at the research beyond what our current broadcast news environment allows.  

I’ll keep an eye on this to see if wineries diminish their use of RoundUp, or if organically raised grapes still have traces of the carcinogenic chemical, and see if there is scientific consensus (outside of studies sponsored by Monsanto) that indicates glyphosate is encroaching into our food and water supply at a level worthy of concern. Stay tuned.

See the original broadcast here:

 (or copy/paste this link)

http://abc7news.com/health/i-team-weed-killer-could-be-lurking-in-some-ca-wines/1314832/

Where the hell is Swabia!? Wine Lovers need to know.

Jon Bonné, the NY ex pat who moved to SF to write about wine for many years, then moved BACK to NY to get married, has penned an opus to a rising-star wine region – Germany’s Baden-Württemberg and W. Bavaria –  a region collectively known as Swabia.  

Swabia artwork - PunchNow, most of my education in the German language is limited to grape varieties, soil types and the tongue-twisting words commonly found on complex German wine labels.  Such a basic facility with the language suggest the region’s pronunciation should be “SVAH-bia”.  But Google is of little help in providing confirmation of my tentative suggestion.  From Google can tell, the English pronunciation is “SWAY-bia”, while the German pronunciation is “SWAH-bia”, with a short A but still pronouncing the W.  I’m surprised the W isn’t pronounced as a V, but then, perhaps Google just doesn’t know everything (shocker).  I hope an astute German-speaking reader will comment and I can erase this confusion in a revised posting.

But what’s in a name?  The wines of Swabia by any other name would taste as sweet.

Wait, these are dry wines, so I need a better Bardian reference, but you get my drift.  The key thing is to read Jon’s article, then go out and buy some of these wines to taste for yourself.  They are lighter than their new-world counterparts, but I hesitate to use the term “Burgundian” as they are unique unto themselves.  Yet given their Burgundian origins, it’s no surprise that the German word for Pinot Noir (the flag-bearing varietal from the region) is Spätburgunder, which roughly translates as “the late-ripening grape of Burgundy”.  

And though Jon emphasizes the red wines of Swabia, it’s worth noting that the white wines are also of great interest to wine lovers – try the curiously named “Gutedel” (GOOT aid-uhl, as in edelweiss), a white variety also known as Chasselas (SHA salahh) which is worthy of note because it has not yet to be discovered by hip millennial wine bars (aka it’s still affordable).  And the Swabian Pinot Gris (Grauer Burgunder), which may be a bit higher priced but is equally and uniquely charming.

Read the article here.

Guest Post: An Ode To Prosecco

By Catie Costa, author of “Love on the Rocks, A Positano Tale

An Ode to Prosecco

Tiamo Prosecco DOC, $16Oh, Prosecco!

I’ve long thought Prosecco to be the nectar of the gods. I mean, whatever the gods were drinking (at least the Italian gods), it just had to be Prosecco. I can’t think of a tastier drink (next to champagne, which I also adore) that complements so many dishes, yet can also stand alone.

Still, what makes Prosecco so special? What do we really know about Prosecco, you ask?

…Please, let me tell you:

  • Prosecco was not always the name of the beverage. It was the name of the variety of grape. Duh. Ok, I didn’t know that either.
  • The name of the grape variety was changed to “Glera“.
  • In order to be labeled Prosecco, the wine must be made in a region or regions labeled as DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).
  • DOC regions are in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Treviso
  • Atop the DOC regions is the epitome of all Prosecco, those from Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore (DOCG).
  • Most Prosecco today is extra dry (DOCG).
  • Asti and Moscato D’Asti should not be mistaken for Prosecco. They are sweeter.
  • The Bellini (Prosecco and pureed peach) originated at Harry’s Bar (an old watering hole of Ernest Hemingway) in Venice.
  • A Rossini is another fruity Prosecco cocktail I think you’ll enjoy. Simply pour Prosecco into a flute with pureed baby strawberries.
  • Other variations: the Puccini – Replace peach puree with mandarin juice. And then there’s the Tintoretto – replace with pomegranate juice. Fancy!
  • Prosecco is a libation that does not age well. So upon opening the bottle, drink at once! 

(Want to try a good Prosecco for a reasonable price?  Dave recommends the Tiamo DOC for less than $20!)

Love on the RocksAbout the author
Catie Costa has traveled all over Western Europe, with repeated trips to Ireland and Italy. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She recently published a new fiction novel, “Love on the Rocks: A Positano Tale,” a story of two best friends, Kit and Bridget, who flee their humdrum lives in the States to spend an adventurous summer in Positano, Italy, where Prosecco, Nutella and romance abound.

CorkSharing – Wine App Review

CorkSharing-full

Having learned my lesson the hard way (it’s a long sob story not worth any more pixels), I appreciate good wine apps.  I recently came across Bryan Petro’s “CorkSharing” (wine tourism app for iPhone and Android) and thought it worth sharing.

CorkSharing was designed for those who like to plan their route in advance and who enjoy a little preferential treatment upon arrival.  The app allows users to visually scan a map of a wine region showing an overlay of participating wineries.  Users can then click on a winery’s red dot to review their self-reported details and, if all looks good, to book a tasting appointment. 

From a winery’s perspective, the app automates the reservation process, from booking the appointment to taking payment for the tasting fees (CorkSharing takes a 15% booking fee – there is no other cost to participate).  The company currently has more than 600 participating wineries from around the globe.

To see more on how it works, here’s a helpful video demo:

 

Winery Sign-Up Process
If you run a winery tasting room and would like to test CorkSharing, sign up for it here.

Tasting Event Promotion
Holding a tasting event you want to publicize? Post it here.

 


My App Review

My vision for our failed iPhone app was to allow wineries to book reservations, as CorkSharing does, but also to push promotions to users once their device was within a reasonable distance.  Imagine a slow day in your tasting room, and the ability to post an instant promotion of limited duration.  Generating more TR traffic for you, and providing greater value for customers seemed like a great deal.  

CorkSharing gets you much of the way there, and seems a likely candidate among wine apps to go the distance.  However, they desperately need more wineries on board before the app reaches critical mass, and they are constantly working on this.  Unlike other apps, they don’t scrape data from winery websites in order to create the appearance of endless choices (only to disappoint users who click on winery after winery not participating in the booking).  

The app is free and easy to use.  Even at this early stage it’s worth downloading.  Any wine lover planning their next trip will find it useful!

Just DaveCheers!  
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com