Tag Archives: bars

Grappa Galore at Bar 888

15 Sep

There are 3 things you should know about me: I like grapes, 8 is my favorite number and I like hard alcohol. Pull the slot machine of luck and we have a winner at Bar 888. A few weeks ago, I got a message on Twitter from the InterContinental Hotel asking me to follow them so they can DM me an invite. It sounded mysterious, so I followed and they hit up my DM box with a grappa tasting invite. Done! I like the word grappa and I knew involved grapes and alcohol. I remember it listed as an ingredient in a few cocktails that I had and I knew it alone was very strong. But that is where my knowledge stopped. I will save you all a Wikipedia visit by saying that grappa is made from distilling the pulp, seeds, skins, and stems from grapes. In other words, the waste product from winemaking.

I arrived at the hotel lounge and was escorted to Luce where the grappa bottles were hand selected from the Bar 888 bar to try. The rest of the evening went something like this: a welcome grappa cocktail, two grappas made from muscat grapes that tasted very different, some light bite food consuming, another grappa cocktail, and more straight grappa samplings. The Luigi Francoli muscato grappa was one of my favorites of the evening. It was floral and easily as complex as wine as each one poured gave off a completely different aroma and taste.

Some were aged for a long time and almost bourbon like, others were more like a high quality vodka that had been flavored. Normally, I would have thought Tagliatella to be a pasta, but it was a flavored grappa by Nardini with a fruity and bitter taste that the sommelier explained was a bit like Fernet Light. Ugh please, I have lived in SF for more than a year, I don’t even ginger back anymore; I go straight…and hard.

I spent a good amount of time really delving into the grappa menu that is endless. First there are more than 10 grappa cocktails and there is a list of bottles that simply never ends. I asked the som if this was the biggest grappa list in San Francisco, he nodded and then said, “Probably the biggest west of the Rockies.” It’s pretty incredible. I am now at that point in my life when I can see an item on a menu or a dress in a store and without tasting it or trying it on I can be right about 90% of the time that it will be a Cinderella fit for my body/palate and that I will love it. I read the word chamomile on the grappa menu and I knew I just had to have it. I am a sucker for tea infusions it accounts for all of my favorite desserts, macarons, and ice creams so it may as well work for my grappa. I begged to try it and I was right, it was my dream spirit. Smooth like honey and tasting of honey. One sip and I was transported to my childhood, picking the yellow buds of chamomile off the field. Squashing it on my fingers and putting my nose as deeply into it as possible to pull out the tea scent that I knew. My cups of tea that I would make around this single digit age would have so much honey and sugar at the bottom that the first few sips were watery torture while I waited for the thick sweet stuff that could hardly make its way down the cup. Yeah, this bottle of Marolo Grappa & Camomile was pretty incredible.

I recommend you save the grappa cocktail drama for your mama, and head to Bar 888 for some serious straight up grappa tasting.


Pickles for a Bitter Heart

11 Jan

Heart's pickle plate includes beets and Brussels sprouts.

For a straight woman, dating can be quite difficult in San Francisco ― a girl’s likely to end up so bitter all she wants to do is go to a bar and indulge in a pickle plate and a sour drink. Bar Agricole’s whiskey and traditional sours meet the second part of that need beautifully, but the pickle plate is simply not up to par. Comstock’s “barkeep’s whimsy” ― with parameters of citrus and bitters ― is fantastic, and the pickle plate (which kicks all other local pickle plates’ assess) is now off the menu, but you can probably talk the kitchen into plating one up if you deploy a little sweet talk.

A recent trip to Heart, though, turned out to be exactly what our bitter heart needed. House pickles with beets, Brussels sprouts, and cucumber spears ($4), paired with a glass of 2007 Fremont Brut Cider Par Nature Les Greniers ($9), hit the spot. The cider, which Heart describes as smelling like a “horse farm” and tasting “like (funky) perfection,” was the most complex cider we’ve ever tasted, with a bitter aftertaste that found its match in our heart.

With Heart’s communal tables and virtual fireplace cozily projected on a wall, maybe we can find another kind of match there someday. Until that happens, pickles and sour alcohol will have to get the job done.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

OAKland is A-OK! Bocanova, El Tio Juan and Adesso

4 Aug

My move to San Francisco has really been quite extraordinary and I always seem to sum it up into a single word: Roots. Nope, no mini-series about slavery. This transition in my life is about coming back to my Bay Area roots and about planting my own. The best part of this experience is reconnecting to my old roots and that means family and friends. The picture above is me and my friend Analisa, and it was taken at our Junior High graduation. We have been friends since 4th grade when we were both newcomers to the same school. She has always been someone that I have respected and considered a friend but in high school I very much went my own way. I knew since I was 14 what college I wanted to go to and that I wanted to live in LA, so high school always felt like a holding cell. Analisa and I had been friends via Facebook and Twitter for the last few years but I really had not heard her voice since our high school graduation (4 years after that photo was taken). When I moved to San Francisco, a month ago, I reconnected with this old friend and it has been fantastic. I have learned that she is a Social Media expert and quite the little foodie. We are made in friend heaven. In fact, the first time I saw her she took me to Comstock, which I am dying to return to. We drank cocktails and ate chicken fried rabbit and all was right in the world; we were back to being friends. Analisa lived in San Francisco for a while after college but now she lives and works in Oakland and for me atleast she is Oakland’s greatest advocate.

Two weeks ago, I set forth on my first real Oakland adventure. I had met her there once prior but this was going to be the ultimate tour. Tying to shed myself of my LA ways, I took the bus and BART to Oakland. It was all fairly painless especially since Analisa cued me into the almighty Clipper Card. She picked me up right out of the station and she took me to Bocanova. Well well well I wasn’t expecting this, we walked into an over-designed gorgeous industrial styled restaurant and were asked if we had a reservation. I knew that the NY Times had recently written about them but still I was impressed. We sat at the chef’s counter and I ordered my new signature cocktail: The Last Word. It was excellent, as was our server and the bartender who came up to me saying how much he liked my drink choice. We then went on to Walu “White Tuna” crudo and the bone marrow. The crudo was refreshing and we had to keep it just with papaya on top because I somehow remembered that Analisa had a mango allergy. This is mission fruition and I think I make it pretty clear  that I love fruit components on every dish. The bone marrow was yummy, but when isn’t bone marrow delicious? Although, I was disappointed that they cut it vertically instead of horizontally. I always get the impression that I am eating a push-pop when I eat that way. Also, after Animal’s perfect pairing of bone marrow and chimichurri there really is no better combination for this dish. All other bone marrow dishes have been put to shame.

The service and the atmosphere were so good that I could have stayed at that bar and ordered more and more food, spent a ton of money, and watched the chefs all night but thankfully Analisa saved my wallet and we had more planned for the evening. I remember from our days of class plays that Analisa was a good actress and on this particular night she was going to be in a production of Steel Magnolias. I had seen the movie and was looking forward to but I didn’t realize until Analisa was talking to the waitress that she had the Julie Roberts role. Hold the phone, I was having cocktails and plates with the star of a play that would happen in less than an hour. Not only that but the waitress knew all about the production and said that the host wasn’t there tonight because he had to see the play. I was given strict orders to look for him: the flamboyant guy with blue hair. I was a little bit in celebrity awe and now more excited than ever to see the show. Analisa has a boyfriend who loves taco trucks. After years of living in LA and late night Highland Park taco runs, I share his love. I was still a little hungry from these plates and was shocked when she asked if we wanted to go to the best taco truck before her play. Um, does the Pope where a funny hat? How did this girl know me so well?

In a short amount of time we arrived at the El Tio Juan truck. It’s funny both Analisa and I took four years of Spanish in high school but her spanish trumps mine, so I left the ordering to her. She swore by the chorizo taco and I was up for it, shocked that the star of the play would eat curbside with me. She also asked for a side of the grilled onions. Now these onions weren’t the kind of grilled onions that you get with your bacon wrapped hot dog at 3A, not that there is anything wrong with that. These were cipollini onions that were thrown on the grill skin on and my god they were delicious. This should be a condiment at all taco trucks. Speaking of condiments, on top of our tacos was a variety of pickled vegetables. It was more than the just the pickled carrots and jalepeno, there were radishes and cucumbers and even more onions. The tacos were perfection, with just enough heat. Not enough to make me say, “I need someone to make out with me, my mouth is on fire” I have sadly said that on several occasions but this was also more heat than your average taco truck.

Analisa then drove us to the theater, quickly brushed her teeth, and transformed into a Southern Belle. She did all this while I reminiscing on my tacos and said hello to my new blue haired friend. Right before the play started the director came up to me and said, “Hi Carina, Analisa told me to say hello to you” I told him how excited I was and that this was my first real time in Oakland, He corrected me that this was Alameda. Oh well, close enough. For the next two or so hours I was completely transported to that beauty salon. There was nothing but a handful of women on stage and they all shined brillintly. This play was superior to the movie and while I may be biased, Analisa was more charming than Julia Roberts. I left the play with Analisa and we still had more of Oakland to see.

Our next stop was Adesso and we were joined by my new Bulgarian friend. It was a dark bar with salumi for days (Bay Area lingo), strong cocktails, and this snack buffet on the side that was complimentary. That is my favorite price and I filled up on breads, cheese, and olives. My friend Kristina, the Bulgarian, just got off work and wanted chocolate cake. Analisa and I didn’t complain and we all indulged in a delicious flourless chocolate cake. After fish, bone marrow, chorizo tacos, and chocolate cake others may have stopped but we had the hankering for more meat. We got a sample salumi platter and I was set.

If you don’t all have an Oakland ambassador as fantastic as Analisa then simply follow these exact plans…you will be in heaven. Oakland has high-end food, low-end food, culture, arts, and even hip little late night places offering free salami. Yes, I am currently overwhelmed with how many places in San Francisco there are to try but Oakland is definitely on my radar and I have Analisa to thank for that!


55 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94607
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

(510) 444-1233


El Tio Juan Truck

40th Ave. and Foothill


4395 Piedmont Ave
(between Brandon St & Pleasant Valley Ave)
Oakland, CA 94611
Neighborhoods: North Oakland, Piedmont Ave

(510) 601-0305


Analisa Svehaug



Altarena Theater


Steel Magnolias playing until August 8th

I Left My Footprint in San Francisco

7 Apr

I grew up in Santa Cruz, so whenever I mention “The City” it has always been San Francisco that I have had in mind. I spent a bit of time there during the last few years of high school but I have now lived in LA for 6 years and since then I have had limited visits. Especially because when I head up north my mom wants me all to herself. I have had small excursions and I was a guest at the Tasty Awards last winter, but I have yet to really spend some quality time in the city that I always assumed I would end up living in. This weekend was different, one of my best friends who is more of a sister, named d’Auria, had just moved there from New Orleans and the whole time felt like us going home in some weird way. I picked her up on Saturday and she told me that another friend from Santa Cruz was in the city to see Wicked and asked if I wanted to hang out with him. I knew his name right away and was pleased that he knew who I was, even though I was a grade older and only knew him because he had dated an acquaintance during my senior year of high school. He was right across from the Ferry Building, we picked him up and I asked d’Auria to get on her phone and find me a sandwich. We drove around until she found a place on her Yelp App. She navigated me and we ended up only a block away from where we started. The sandwich place she found was closed and with our princess parking we went by foot and returned to the Ferry Building. Here is my bestie, d’Auria, in front of the building that houses a ton of culinary treasures.

The place was bustling and it contained some of my favorite things. I loved the oysters because of the aphrodisiac element and the mushrooms for their richness while still containing zero calories. I took a picture of Cowgirl Creamery because I know how much Josie loves their cheeses. I, on the other hand, love my cheeses like I love my men…hard and hol(e)y. We were in the mood to be served so we just browsed and returned to the car. I said something to d’Auria about how all of the LA food bloggers go nuts over Tartine. She told me that she goes there several times a week and loves just getting a baguette and jam. d’Auria is a French girl that is a foodie in her own right and she led me straight there. It was in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. It was the exact kind of neighborhood I dream about living in. There is a park in the center with an enormous woman statue made of recycled parts and is surrounded by boutiques, candy shops, and people picnicking and serenading one another. We walked to the bakery and it was quiet and empty. I thought that surely this couldn’t be THE Tartine that gives people food boners. Correct I was, it was not. Apparently we were at Tartine Cafe Francais instead of Tartine Bakery. I didn’t mind. I was starving, this place had a French owner, and my French bestie vouched for it and the prices were so reasonable. I am always happy when I see a sandwich less than $7. I had the salami and swiss with cornichons. I told d’Auria about how when I was in Cannes I brought a jar of cornichons  back with me in my luggage and what a tragedy it would have been if  the jar were to break. d’Auria proved why I love her so much by saying, “Then you would really smell Jewish.”

My sandwich was quite good and reminded me of something I ate in France. Simple, small, and fresh ingredients. Apparently this place has been here longer than the other Tartine and it clearly doesn’t have the same clout. It is a friendly neighborhood bakery and one that I wish was in my own neighborhood. The pastries were all hand crafted and everything was yummy and inexpensive. I left with an apricot hamatashan. I liked the fruit filling but strangely enough it was d’Auria who isn’t Jewish that explained to me this significance of this little cookie. We had a nice stroll through the park and then I said I needed a drink because I was parched. I said either a Diet Coke, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, or a cider. I ended up with the latter, a pomegranate cider brewed by Two Rivers, at  the 21st Amendment Brewery. It was a perfect neighborhood brewery, there were two bars inside, the food looked delicious, and along with serving local brews they also brewed their own beers.

d’Auria and I were left by our friend and we headed to her new office to change for dinner. Her new office is this very cool warehouse space in the SOMA district. She is working with her other Jewish BFF (actually all of her besties are Jews) on a very exciting new project that I can’t wait to tell you all about. We grew up in the same town, went to the same HS, and have the same confident/bossy demeanor that can be a lot to handle. We talked about business, dating, partnerships and everything else under the sun. We ate nuts, drank Stella, and it felt like the guys (er, girls) getting back together. It was fantastic. At around 9:30, I said I was hungry for dinner and we agreed on a Thai restaurant by the office. The place was called Manora, which made us both think of Hanukkah, and it was kismet.  We ordered the fresh mint rolls, a chicken curry (after we told the duck curry we were planning on getting was very spicy), and some pad thai. The fare we ordered was standard but the food was all very good. d’Auria got full early on but I could have been grazing for hours. I was having a fantastic day in a fantastic city and I couldn’t help but notice that the packed restaurant contained 90% men. This was far better numbers than we have in LA.

I told d’Auria when we were driving into The City that I had the feeling that I sometimes get when I go on a first date, which is a repetition in my head of “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.” However, San Francisco won me over…hard. I had the perfect day, great conversation, good food and drink, princess parking throughout the city, and good weather. I think I left a bit of my heart in San Francisco but the rest of my footprint has yet to be made. I am quite certain that the other foot will drop in the future and I’ll return to this beautiful city that has always felt like part of my destiny.

New Orleans: Trip to the Big Easy

7 Mar


The reasons for my trip, in no particular order:

  • Seeing this lovely lady, my hometown bff, d’Auria or Miss D if you’re nasty
  • Seeing a beautiful city and the south for the first time
  • Eating some delicious food
  • Getting some one on one time with the boyfriend before he leaves again to Europe
  • Utilizing the small week break in my intensive MBA program
  • To get my haircut, buy jewelery, and see a NOLA fortune teller

Day 1 – Friday, February 27, 2009

I participated a lot less than I would have liked in the driving process. I was getting over a cold, coughing incessantly, exhausted from my finals, and really no help to anyone. Thankfully, I have a boyfriend that is a machine and drove straight through. I drove for 5 hours of the 33 hour drive. The strangest thing we discovered is that Tuscon wants no one to come and visit. Every exit off the 10 leading to Downtown was closed, which was more than bad because I was starving; and no one wants a Hungry Carina. I had my Blackberry out and was searching the Tuscon Yelp for the “Best Pizza” and found Zachary’s Pizza. Again the problem was that there was nowhere to exit for about 12 miles of Downtown Tuscon. My navigation lady, who was named Areola on the trip, didn’t know about this and was getting pissy that we weren’t exiting. I, too, was pissy (ha, I originally wrote pizza) and when we were finally able to get off the freeway, miles away from our destination, I stupidly made my boyfriend get back on going the other direction thinking then we could exit correctly. Nope, closed on that side too. Another 12 miles past downtown in rush hour with road construction and no way out. When Areola finally realized we were not getting back on the freeway she brought us to Zachary’s where we learned why all of the forks were bent. Super deep dish pizza and no clean knives was the culprit. It was delicious and almost worth the fact that when we were finished and got back in the car my Sirius XM radio (third roadtrip godsend after my boyfriend and a Prius with amazing MPG ) just stopped working. I fell asleep on the road to country on regular terrestrial radio and commented that, ” I always thought I hated country it is really good when trying to sleep because it is story time”




Day 2: Saturday, February 28, 2009

We arrived in New Orleans at around 9 pm local time and d’Auria, who lives in a huge house with 4 other sorority girls, was sleeping and relaxing with her mom who was visiting. The machine, aka the boyfriend, wanted no part in that. Since he was the main driver and antsy to go out I obliged and we hit Magazine Street immediately. We were shocked by the amounts of beads scattered among the city leftover from Mardi Gras and the fact that many bars either close whenever they feel like it or many are open 24 hours and never stop serving. The first night we hit up the Balcony Bar and the Bulldog, where we kicked some ass at Trivia and beat out all other teams that doubled us in size.

Day 3: Sunday, March 1, 2009

Went to Mother’s for gumbo and jambalaya in the afternoon, d’Auaria took us on a driving tour of the city, at night the boyfriend and I explored the French Quarter and heard some great music at the Old Opera House, not as good karaoke at Cat’s Meow, later the boyfriend discovered his favorite local bar Miss Mae’s where he could get a mixed drink and a beer for $3.50 and they never close. After playing pool and drinking too much I request to be taken home around 4 in the AM. The boyfriend took me back, tucked me in, and then went back to his new love Miss Mae’s until 6 in the AM.





Day 4: Monday, March 2, 2009

Ate an amazing burger and baked potato at Port of Call, went to the Cure which just opened for amazing cocktails and a great pickled red onion and orange salad, was introduced to my new favorite thing sweet tea infused vodka (double) with ice and water at the Boot, and back to Miss Mae’s. After a night out we were hungry and when coming back d’Auria and I decided to make sweet potato fries but fell asleep half way through. The boyfriend finished making them and brought them to us in bed. He said d’Auria’s favorite line of the night, “You guys aren’t even facing each other”. We slept back to back something I would never allow the boyfriend to do. Actually, ironically in the morning d’Auria was helping with the UG logo *notice the new blog banner* and I had come up with the catch line “We don’t Spoon, we Spork! UncouthGourmands.com”







Day 5: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I got my hair cut at Urban Angeles from d’Auria’s favorite, and my new favorite, hair stylist Tara. Bought a beautiful oyster and pearl necklace (no, not that kind of pearl necklace) at Mignon Faget. Got some great candy and gummys (my favorite) at Lucky You! Candy Store where the women said to me, “I love looking at purchases like this, because I know you are going to love everything!” That made me so happy because I always consider myself a candy aficionado and pride myself on my palate. I got some gourmet grapefruit gummy slices, watermelon gummy bears, and little champagne drops in the same shape as those raspberry candies. We went to Squeal Bar-B-Q for dinner which was probably my best meal of the trip. I had corn and cheese grits, baked beans, pulled pork and brisket. d’Auria had collard greens with bacon (her favorite), baked beans and ribs. The bf had crab and andouille stuffed fried mushrooms. Later in the night we went home to rest from our food devouring and then the boyfriend and I went back out to drink more and play pool. I knew I had to go home after I knocked over the pool stick for the 5th time. So again I was taken home around 4 am and tucked in and then the boyfriend hit up Miss Mae’s. He had quite the adventure and I don’t think we saw him again until the early evening the next day.




Day 6: Wednesday March 4, 2009

d’Auria and I made gluten free cranberry, walnut, and banana muffins, drove to Metarie, Louisiana to get my Sirius XM radio fixed, and got Vietnamese food for lunch. We got back and thankfully found my boyfriend, who had only arrived minutes earlier, and then watched terrible reality TV for a while. Then d’Auria and I headed out to find me a fortune teller while the bf got some much needed rest. We walked past the row of them and then I said, “I want someone that speaks to me.” One lady said, “I am speaking to you”. There was then only one thing to say: fair enough. It wasn’t a great reading as someone that used to take tarot lessons for a while and talks to an astrologer regularly I consider myself an expert, like I am with gummy candy. Anyway, I crossed the last thing off my list. My mom called that night and since she knew d’Auria and the bf she offered to buy us all dinner if we stayed under $100. That is a budget I could work with so we headed to Delachaise for a bottle of wine and dinner. d’Auria had the steak and fries, the bf had the barbeque bruchetta, and I had tomato soup and a grilled cheese with pear butter.



It was a perfect last meal ($93 without tip), although I learned I am not suppose to toast on that or something ending. After that we headed to Pat O’ Brien’s Bar for hurricanes and dueling pianos. It was great entertainment and my favorite was the guy that played pennies on a platter in a silk vest. d’Auria then took us St Joe’s Bar which is famous for the Blueberry Mojitos for our last drink on our trip. I was cranky, maybe because I knew I was leaving, so I had a Hoegaarden instead but it was a good night and a great trip. We left the next morning and this time I managed to drive even less. I was too busy thinking of my new love New Orleans and missing my friend. New Orleans has such a pulse and is filled with what Uncouth Gourmands value most: good food, good people and a sense of community; above all else N’Awlins is a great neighborhood.