Virginia Miller

Five for summer

Dive into the season with these tasty bites from restaurants new and old

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Time to dive into summer — at least nominally. These five playful dishes recently made an impression, and brought a little sunshine to the table.

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Appetite: Spring weekend in Los Angeles yields intriguing tastes

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I recently returned to my old SoCal stomping grounds for yet another long weekend. This time I stayed at funky, restored motel, The Farmer’s Daughter, gazing over a pool filled with giant rubber duckies, the hotel’s birds greeting me each morning in the lobby. Colorful and quirky, the hotel (with welcoming, engaging staff) is a worthwhile home base, ideally located across the street from the original LA Farmers Market. You won’t find farmers here, rather, it’s a permanent, open air mall of food purveyors.

Though not always gourmet, a few newcomers add foodie cred to the market. However, I hope to never see the demise of old school diners, pie shops and vendors selling unnaturally bright red popcorn and the like – it’s a charming slice of LA history.

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Appetite: Going Big at another menu-less bar

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This week in the paper, Virginia Miller reviewed menu-less wonderbar Rio Grande. Below, her review of a second custom drink haven.

Big's name is somewhat of an oxymoron. This cozy space from the crew behind Jones is a mere few seats and when the bar is full at around 20-25 people, be prepared to wait at the door until space clears (they will text you when it does). After multiple visits, I continue to find the bar staffed by the talented Brian Felley (previously at Fleur de Lys and Garcon), a barback and one other bartender, Mo, who is recently here from burgeoning cocktail town Denver, having worked at the Squeaky Bean. Similar to the aforementioned Library Bar, there's a small herb and produce spread here, while both bartenders are quite  adept at assessing preferences, taking time to craft you "just the thing."

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Rio Grande

New pop-up bar from the Bon Vivants mixes kitsch with quality -- especially if you order the off-menu cocktails

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Appetite: A bright Spring Mountain Sour

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Subtle mixing at Perfect Puree's press event, and a sampling Charbay's new whiskey releases

Thanks to Napa-based Perfect Puree for a recent intimate dinner celebrating Perfect Puree neighbor Charbay Distillery’s new spirits releases at Jasper’s Corner Tap.

The ever-talented Kevin Diedrich (bar manager at Jasper’s) crafted three drinks using Perfect Puree’s fresh, bright purees. In typical Diedrich fashion, subtlety and balance wove together each, from a Thymely Fashioned, vivid with Charbay White Whiskey, Perfect Puree Thyme Citrus puree (one of their new flavors), Galliano and bitters, to a beautifully frothy with egg white Spring Mountain Sour, named after the home of Charbay on Spring Mountain in St. Helena.

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That's amore

Original Joe's old school Italian conjures New Jersey nostalgia

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE After moving from Southern California to New Jersey at age 14, I learned what a true city was when I discovered New York City. Whenever in that New York state of mind, I miss its boundless energy, frank people, eclectic neighborhoods, and, yes, East Coast-style Italian. I reminisce about family dinners filling up on mountains of cheese, doughy pasta, and impeccable red sauce — which, to achieve perfection, should exhibit both sweet and savory notes. In both NYC and NJ, it was often perfect. (I miss you, Cafe L'Amore).Read more »

Acquerello

Nob Hill fine dining that might be worth the price tag -- cheese cart and all

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Who to drink

SUMMER DRINKS: Five bartenders look to the past to create some of the Bay's best cocktails -- and tell you what to sip for summer.

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Appetite: Whiskies of the World tastes and gin tales

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A better than ever year aboard the SF Belle at Whiskies of the World last month meant some fine, global pours of whisk(e)y from Scotland to Australia. Here were some highlights:

On the fun and interesting tip, Lark Distillery distills single malt whisky in Tasmania, an Australian island - and it's surprisingly solid. Distilled in copper pot stills, it's smooth with a modicum of peat, aged five years, yet with a bit of complexity. I appreciated returning to 10-year-old old Masterson's Straight Rye Whiskey. Aged in charred white oak barrels, this Canadian rye evokes whispers of pepper, vanilla, spice, and a soft sweetness.

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Namu Gaji

Their new space may be smaller -- yet the adventurous Asian spirit of Namu's Lee Brothers remains

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virginia@sfbg.com

APPETITE Although Asian outpost Namu Gaji is brand new, the presence of Namu restaurant itself and owners the Lee brothers — Dennis, David and Daniel — has been felt in San Francisco for years. Since 2006, the Lees have been weaving Korean, Japanese, and other Asian cuisines with California spirit in the original, now shuttered Richmond restaurant and eventually Namu's Ferry Building farmers market stand on Tuesdays and Saturdays. In early April, the brothers opened their Mission incarnation, Namu Gaji.Read more »