The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
From the dep't of San Francisco buildings not to stand under 2007
Look out for this beige guy...
Edward Gorey would approve
Yes, yes, they really would adorn a building in earthquake country with giant urns on the corner. These puppies must be ten feet tall. What were they thinking?
Ferry Building 2007
a good mushroom array at Far West
blurry because there was little time to catch the shot due to people coming up to look at the 'shrooms
from Cowgirl Creamery: a bit of cheese
Bellweather Farms Pepato
from Acme Bakery: a loaf of bread
rounded out with a sausage with mustard and the view
zoom zoom, baby
Yes, the new camera rocks.
New art on the Embarcadero 2007
I'm guessing by the degree to which it gives me the heebie jeebies, Kristin's not planning any waterfront walks south of the Ferry Building for a while.
Just think of it as a DEAD, lead-coated, thoroughly conquered spider?
Evening light 2007
from the old camera phone en route back to San Francisco from work
Things are about to change around here 2007
screwing around with the new camera 2007
Joe has some really nice new shirts.
continued messing about with the new camera
[pics uploaded to Flickr on 11/27/2007]
dinner at Nopa 2007
Flatbread with fennel sausage, carmelized onions, feta, pine nuts & pomegranate seeds; roasted squash; Jack Rose cocktail (heavily featuring Neyah's grenadine)
By Kitty Puzon at Nopa
Old Pogue, Dubonnet, bitters.
at Nopa 2007
Original Jerry Thomas recipe for Manhattan - including recreated Abbott's Bitters
A great treat at Nopa. Neyah has made his version of Abbott's and they're absolutely amazing.
with Neyah's own grenadine which has now spoiled me for any other.
Goodwill loot 2007
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
-Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer
A is for...
It's getting too hard to find my place in my cocktail set when adding new drinks alphabetically, so I needed to do something to identify where each letter begins.
Looking at the A in Aperol, though, I think I may just use a distinctive piece of typography.
But what the hell, might as well finish documenting the state of my spirits collection as of Nov 2007 since I've taken half the photos already.
B is for...
Well, and beer too of course, but that's for Joe & guests.
C is for...
Oops, and forgot the champagne, cider, and Clamato in the fridge.
D is for...
F is for...
G is for...
H is for...
K is for...
L is for...
M is for...
O is for...
P is for...
R is for...
S is for...
And joining this *should* be a proper bottle of sloe gin but I have only just now remembered it and am kicking myself about it. Gerry's in Soho, London, probably had 5 kinds. Gah! Ah well, gotta go back to London again then... ;)
T is for...
V is for...
Yes, so I have 5 different vermouths with twice that on the wishlist; ya wanna make something of it?
W is for...
Well, and wine too, of course.
why I need a real camera
this is probably try number 5 or 6 to get just the A from the Aperol bottle, but no such luck. Focus bad up close and can't preview the framing enough to know I'm not getting the other letters too. Bah!
Henessey Daiquiri 2007
Alas, this, this drink I've been waiting to try for years since I couldn't find any form of tangerine liqueur, turned out basically undrinkable.
I think it's probably the 10 Cane rum. I need to look back at past cocktails and find out if that was in a previous failed cocktail.
How exactly is it that some people think running up debt like a fool is better for America than even the most well-thought-out taxes? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the average American family of four over $20,000! That's just nuts - and what the hell has it gained us?
"Charge it" is not a fiscal policy, it's a recipe for disaster.
the bitters selection as of today 2007
Gary! Puts the R in gay! 2007
An enhancement to the mailbox by Suppenkuche.
Probably should have tucked my ACLU card under the glass to go with the theme...
As of January 2009, the Liberal remains a firm favorite in our household.
The Bar, Bartender and Cocktail Guide 2007 2007
Given all the cocktail discussion within my London travel posts and our intense cocktail geekery over the last year, it seems time to start pulling it all together in one place.
Absinthe, Hayes Valley
[Not to be missed; recommended bartender: Jonny Raglin; recommended drink: consider whatever's up on the chalkboard tonight]
The Alembic, Upper Haight
[I need to give this one another try; had a suboptimal first experience, but am assured that's not typical]
Bix, Financial District
[recommended bartender: Bradley]
Bourbon & Branch, Tenderloin
[Gorgeous space, fantastic drinks]
Citizen Cake, Hayes Valley
[recommended drink: The Bravo]
Nopa, Divisidero & Hayes
[recommended bartenders: Neyah White, Matt; recommended appetizer: the flatbread]
Range, Valencia Street/Inner Mission
[recommended for dinner as well; recommended drink: 1794; recommended bartender]
Rye, Nob Hill
[Need to visit again - only tried once at a very quiet time and think it may not have been a lead bartender on duty]
New York City:
[not to be missed and a serious contender for my Best Bar in the World vote - certainly by far the best cocktail/food pairings in the world, try the Little Italy; recommended drink: 19th Century]
[recommended drink: Rye & Quince]
Artesian at the Langham Hotel, Regent Street
[recommended drink: Jerry's Medicine]
[nice enough, but not top of the list]
The Bar at the Dorchester Hotel, Mayfair
[not to be missed; recommended bartender: Paulo; recommended drink: Martinez with Old Tom]
Lobby Bar at 1 Aldwych, Strand
[recommended drinks: Caraway Maker, The Gentleman; appetizers merely adequate as of Nov 2007]
Montgomery Place, Notting Hill
[not to be missed - my current vote for best bar in the world; recommended bartender: Marian Beke]
Favorite drinks of the year:
The Bravo [invented by Matt of Citizen Cake & Nopa in San Francisco]
The Gentleman [invented by Giovanni, formerly of Lobby Bar at 1 Aldwych in London]
Old Potrero Hotalings & Carpano Antica Formula Manhattan
Cynar-washed Negroni [specialty of Kevin of O'Reilly's Holy Grail in San Francisco]
Martin Millers & Carpano Antica Formula Negroni [called by Joe Gratz and now my favorite version]
Bars on the to-be-tried list still:
London: The Blue Bar at the Berkeley (NYT recommended), Claridge's Bar (NYT recommended), Cocoon (bartender recommended, but just for drinks), Connaught Hotel (NYT recommended), Dukes Hotel (Negroni recommend by Jonny Raglin), Fat Duck (mentioned in NYT article), Green & Red (bartender recommended), Hakkasan (bartender & NYT recommended), Library Bar at the Lanesborough (bartender recommended),The Lonsdale (NYT recommended), MatchBar (NYT recommended), Nobu (bartender recommended), Roka (NYT recommended), Shochu Lounge at Zuma (NYT recommended), Trailer Happiness (NYT recommended), Whisky Bar at the Atheneum (bartender recommended).
New York City: Employees Only (friend & bartender recommended), Flatiron Lounge, Milk & Honey (bartender recommended), PDT (consultant Jim Meehan tends at Pegu Club).
San Francisco: Cantina (recommended on eGullet forum), Elixer (keep running into barkeep H at various cocktail geek events)
[Edited Dec 24th, 2007, after finding that Matt is back behind the bars at Citizen Cake & Nopa and that the Bravo is indeed his creation]
2007 big vacation: Day 9 - London 2007
Having learned our lesson on Saturday, we were very careful to spend our last day in London in a way optimized to leave us as relaxed as possible.
Sleeping in? Check.
Brunch two doors up from our hotel at the perfectly-adequate-for-our-morning-needs Garfunkel's? Check.
Back to the room to relax a bit, read, nap (Joe), get most things packed up early so the morning will be a piece of cake (Dinah)? Check.
Wait until late afternoon to actually set out anywhere to do anything? Check.
And the really wise choice was that when we did leave, we had but one definite part of the plan: take the tube to Notting Hill and go to Montgomery Place, the bar most recommended to us by other bartenders.
We arrived just before opening, 5pm, and sat under the awning at an outdoor table watching the light rain on Kensington Park Road. This was an excellent apertif in itself: fresh autumn air, wet London sidewalks, the knowledge that our only duty for the rest of the evening was to have some great drinks and tasty appetizers in a pleasant setting.
Montgomery Place lived up to and exceeded our high expectations. Really all one could want in a bar: incredibly skilled and attentive staff, great ingredients, attention to detail, and all this in an easy, unpressured environment.
Our bartender Marian Beke is an artist, a real master of the classic cocktail. Great conversation, deep knowledge, and just a fantastic host. Anyone wanting to improve their skills on the service side of the bar would do well to observe his approach.
The first pleasant surprise was just how good the food at Montgomery Place is. We knew the drinks would be tasty, but I'd recommend them to a non-drinker too for their delicious appetizers. Our favorite was the Lamb Schlick, but it was all very good.
The full drink menu is not available on the website and it's now Friday as I write this, so I'm regretting not having taken notes. It probably doesn't matter so much which drinks we ordered as that they were flawlessly executed. We also got to sample some of their extensive selection of vermouths (even more than the Dorchester's much vaunted list, I have to report!) and bitters.
The hard part about getting to some of the other recommended bars in London on a future trip is that we will really have to go to Montgomery Place every time now.
I just can't recommend them highly enough and early evening Sunday is a great time for true cocktail fans to go - quiet, plenty of room, and ample opportunity to talk with the bar staff. It would also be a good time to take a group - at least on a rainy Sunday in November - as there was plenty of room in the back to accommodate a good crowd.
With big smiles we walked back through the wet streets to the Ladbrooke Grove tube stop and on from Leicester Square back down to Club Quarters for the final night in the hotel.
In the morning there was little left to do to get ready so we had a fairly unhurried time getting ourselves to Heathrow for our 1pm flight home. Thanks to the large movie selection on British Airways and the easier direction of travel, it didn't seem as long a journey as the outbound trip. We got home by about 6:30pm San Francisco time (what with having to wait for our checked bag with the bottles from Gerry's inside), kept ourselves up until 8:30pm and then fell gratefully into our own bed.
2007 big vacation: Day 8 - London 2007
This vacation day started slow with laundry doing and dozing.
Oops! Forgot to mention this whole outing:
We had one errand we definitely also wanted to fit in on this trip: shopping for spirits that are hard to find in San Francisco. All bartenders seem to agree that the place to go in London is Gerry's in Soho. They were so very very right. We came in the door, stared agog at the selection and under the brisk but courteous interrogation of the storekeeper we found ourselves out on the sidewalk again gasping like landed fish about 5 minutes later with four precious bottles. It went something like this:
"What can I do for you?"
"Could we get some Amer Picon?"
Bottle is grabbed from two steps away and set on the counter.
"There's a tangerine liqueur..."
"Van der Hum from South Africa." Bottle placed on the counter almost as he finishes speaking.
Reaches up beside the counter, adds the bottle to our group, looks at us expectantly.
"And could we see the bitters selection?"
"Step around the counter..." and there we see every variety of Fee's including the Whiskey Barrel Bitters, Angostura, Peychauds, plus four kinds of Bitter Truth of which I selected the Orange (rather than the Orange Flower which they also make).
We'll be stopping in for a few bottles at Gerry's on every future London trip I suspect.
Laden with boozy loot we headed back to drop it off at the hotel, stopping along the way for lunch at the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin's In The Fields on Trafalgar Square. Very tasty food and a fun setting.
Eventually we got ourselves out and on the way walking to the pretty square at Lincoln's Inn to take in Sir John Soane's Museum with our friend Michael. The weather threatened rain at us but only dripped a bit.
Inside, as expected, we had a delighted time exploring this eccentric old gentleman's beautiful and creative home stuffed to the gills with every possible collectible you could get your hands on in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. My favorite bits remain the breakfast parlour, the library, and Hogarth's Rake's Progress in the art collection.
After our museum itch was scratched we rambled along toward Michael's favorite pub by way of Seven Dials and cheese shopping at Neal's Yard Dairy. Along with the obligatory excellent loaf of crusty bread and a good apple, this time the cheeses chosen were Innes Bosworth Ash ("A log-shaped, unpasteurised goats cheese rolled in salted ash beneath a layer of white rind that creates a jagged, grey circumference when sliced.") and Sleightlet ("Little discs mottled with black ash and white, blue and green moulds. The interior is bright white as with most goats cheeses. Soft, creamy and slightly fluffy texture that seems to dissolve on your tongue. The flavours are lemony, a little bit goaty and slightly nutty.") Extremely tasty!
We had a good time whiling away the early part of the evening with Michael at The Angel talking about technology, Douglas Adams, and other generally pleasing geek topics. A very pretty old pub with a lovely tiled, covered side yard.
A few pints later and it was time to scurry off through the West End crowds to get to the Royal Haymarket Theatre for The Country Wife. It was a great show - bawdy, witty, biting and frivolous fun! I think I need to see more Restoration comedy, or at least things staged at least half as well as this show.
Good thing it was such a good show too, because our escape from the West End afterwards turned out to be quite irksome. We had left a message in the morning at Milk & Honey asking for a 10:15pm reservation. When we got there we were told that they didn't have one for us since we hadn't answered when they tried calling back to confirm. (When we got back to our room there were no messages, so we're dubious about their having even tried).
Bottom line: given the other choices of places to go for exceptional bartending skill, courteous hosts and friendly treatment in London, I really can't see how Milk & Honey is worth the attitude or the bother. I'm willing to listen if someone wants to try to convince me otherwise, but I'm left with the distinct impression that Milk & Honey [in London] is for posers looking to brag about their money, not true cocktail fans. [Either that or Saturday night is a complete experience drag at any good place in central London.]
After the disappointing experience, we decided to call it a night unless a decent looking bar fell into our path on the way back to Club Quarters. Instead the drunken oafs (of both genders) of Saturday night partying hooted & screeched their way around us and we had to avoid stepping in vomit on more than one occasion. I think that perhaps an 11pm bar closing doesn't actually help reduce drunkenness as people jam too many drinks in too fast.
We swung by the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, but it was closed to non-guests and had a cheesy piano player crooning "Dock of the Bay" in the whitest possible fashion, so we fled. At least we saw the interior briefly before it gets remodeled. Who knows, maybe we had the real experience in a nutshell too! ;)
We were glad to get back to our room and chill out a little. We came to several valuable conclusions about ways our day could have been better:
- Make sure you get some breakfast before you start the laundry;
- Always make sure you drink enough water throughout the day;
- Eat a real dinner (instead of just bread & cheese);
- Three timed commitments (2pm at the museum, 7:30pm at the theatre, 10:15pm at Milk & Honey) is too much structure for a vacation day;
- Spend as little time as possible on the streets of the West End on Saturday night.
Big breakfast 2007
Unfortunately Stacks in Hayes Valley still isn't worth your time. Presentation is great, service today was outstanding. Ingredients? Not so much. Seems like they're just failing by not keeping up the quality of what they're serving.
Oh, the bacon was great, though.
Thanksgiving 2007 2007
flight home 2007
[according to Joe's Google Calendar]
2007 big vacation: Day 7 - Penzance to London 2007
Despite a combination of our usual morning sleepy reluctance to wake up & do anything at all and our regret at leaving such a lovely spot, we somehow managed to gather our stuff, dump the trash, and hustle ourselves out the door toward our 10am train in time for quick purchases of pasties for breakfast and newspapers.
The journey was, as before, beautiful. Relaxing to just glide along past the scenery. On the whole, now that I've tried both sides, I'd say when traveling between London and Penzance, you'll want to sit on the south side of the train for the prettiest views (that's the left side heading to Penzance, and the right side coming back).
We got back into London mid-afternoon, checked in again at Club Quarters in order to drop our bags and do a little online research about currently running shows, and then ventured out in search of theater tickets. After determining the odds of our getting tickets to Patrick Stewart in Macbeth were slim, we went just down the road and had no problem getting good tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross with Jonathan Pryce.
On the recommendation of the ticket agent, we went across the street for dinner at Chez Gerard, which was a nice little French restaurant. In keeping with the theme of the evening's entertainment, the waiter - courteously and emphasizing his French accent - attempted to upsell us multiple times as we ordered. We resisted and had a perfectly nice steak dinner, not the best food of the trip, but certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Glengarry Glen Ross was excellent. Mamet's brilliant dialogue, the wild pace, the intensity of the story, all were marvelously well-realized by this cast. Very interesting to contrast Pryce's performance against Lemmon's in the film; I think the former better represents the main character's moments of willful assholeness better. Really a very good show and especially so for Joe who'd never seen it and so got the full impact of its twists and turns.
After dinner we had a nice walk over to Mayfair for drinks at the bar at the Dorchester Hotel. Now if I tell you that they have their own bespoke bitters, you'll probably understand right away that they take their drinks seriously, but when I add that they've also had "Old Tom" gin recreated for them in order to fully convey the original flavors of some classic cocktails, you'll be ready to raise a toast to the money of Mayfair and the rich rewards it can sponsor for the rest of us.
The Bar at the Dorchester had been recommended not only by the New York Times article on the best bartending in London, but also by a bartender at one of those other bars: Alex at Artesian called it out first on his list of places we shouldn't miss and he was definitely right. I'll be doing a post soon to bring together all our London bar notes and this is one of the finalists for top place.
Our bartender was Paulo and he was very knowledgeable, skilled and friendly; the balance of temperament reflecting the balance of a good cocktail. In excellent surroundings of the bar's modern design and the music provided by a very good DJ, Tom Mannix, we had a delightful time and were extremely pleased with our drinks. The Bar at the Dorchester is known for its collection of vermouths and gins, so we were happy to find some old favorites on the menu along with new tastes to discover. We started with a Martinez (using their Old Tom gin, Punt e Mes, Maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, and perhaps the finest rendition of that drink I've ever had) and a Brooklyn (rye, dry vermouth, Amer Picon (a liquor very difficult to obtain in the U.S.) and Maraschino liqueur). These drinks really were phenomenal; perfectly made, perfectly served. Any fan of classic cocktails is advised to sit at the bar and enjoy Paulo at work.
As at the Lobby Bar at 1 Aldwych, the host (probably also the bar manager, though we didn't catch his name) came by to talk with us for a bit about San Francisco, the bar, and our interest in the more obscure liquors. He and Paulo introduced us to some of the amber vermouths they have and so added St Raphaël Ambre and Noilly Prat Ambre to our long-term shopping list of delicious apertifs.
Our second round was an Affinity (Chivas Regal, Lillet Blanc, Punt e Mes, and Angostura bitters) and a Harry's Cocktail (normally Plymouth Gin, Martini Rosso, Absinthe, and a sprig of fresh mint, but Paulo substituted a more robust vermouth for the Martini Rosso). These were lovely and it was nice to be in a country where a drink which traditionally calls for absinthe can be properly made.
Wishing Paulo well we headed back to our hotel with the weather turning more chilly. Good to come back in with pink cheeks and noses - not entirely from the drink, thank you very much! - to our warm room and so off to sleep, after the requisite bedtime next chapter from The Twenty-One Balloons, of course.
Now it's time to pack up the last few things, check out and set out for the airport. It's been a fantastic trip and we're already talking about things we'll do on our next visit to the U.K.
A few more posts to come once we're back home - to our own ever so excellent bed which we've missed - and recovering from jetlag...
2007 big vacation: Day 6 - Penzance 2007
Our last full day in Cornwall, so we decided to have another big outing. However, the predicted windy weather and our slightly tired knees argued against another big jaunt along the coast walk, so we took the late morning bus to Porthcurno. To our delight it was a double-decker so we were able to get a different perspective on the route from Penzance to Lamorna. Cornwall is incredibly gorgeous and the weather turned out to beautiful albeit a bit cold & breezy. The views from the top of the bus were fantastic and we had a great time on the ride.
In Porthcurno we immediately headed up the hill to the Minack Theatre for lunch in their glass-fronted, cliffside cafe overlooking both the theatre carved into the cliff and the beautiful sandy-beached, turquoise-oceaned cove beside it. A pasty and a bowl of soup later we were fortified for clambering around the theatre, a quick spin through the exhibition on its creator Rowena Cade, and then down a rather nerve-rackingly steep set of steps to the cove. Such gorgeous views though!
Sadly, the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum was closed due to having just switched to their "Sunday/Monday only" winter hours. We wandered around a little outside it but there's nothing much to see on the exterior. As we were realizing that we saw one of the little local buses - about the size of the Emery-Go-Round shuttle I sometimes take to work from the BART station came past the stop below the museum and started trundling up the hill to stop by the Minack. We hurried down to the stop and hopped on it on its way back out of the village figuring that even though it was bound for Land's End and St. Just, those towns are well enough served by buses that we'd find our way home to Penzance somehow. That turned out to be a fantastic choice. From the bus we had great views of the area - fields with stone hedgerows and the rough Cornish coastline - and got to enjoy a quick tour with an expert local driver who made sure we connected up with the correct connection to Penzance.
Land's End itself is a terrible split personality: an incredibly beautiful scenic area and an unbelievable eyesore of a tourist destination facility complete with cheesy promotional signs smack dab in the middle of it. The sight of this grotesque commercial monstrosity made us queasy and we were glad to quickly leave it behind us. The rest of the ride was just delightful, enjoying both the scenery and the glimpse into local life as residents got on and off the bus.
We would definitely recommend Penzance as a base of operations for a Cornwall vacation, reaching it by train and using local transit and walking to get to nearby sights. We could have stayed twice as long and still had things we wanted to do that we didn't get to.
After our outing we enjoyed another quiet evening by the fire, broken only by a short stroll down the block to dine at the Turk's Head. We were quite astonished by the really excellent food! I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary when I ordered but my roasted chicken salad was outstanding - best dish of the trip including our time in London - with a fine subtle mix of flavors and excellent presentation. Frankly, I was so dazzled by it I was a bit sad it was our last night in Penzance. I almost ordered a second, but I realized that was my taste buds not my stomach talking. Joe had something more traditional - bangers & mash maybe? - but as he's currently snoring away in a happy nap while I write this, I'll let him add his bit in a comment later. I do remember he quite liked his beer which had the catchy name of Betty Stog.
Sadly, it was time after dinner to pack, tidy up, and head to bed for our last night at the lovely Egyptian House. Our first Landmark Trust visit together - but very probably not our last!