Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

TRAVEL: Drinking My Way Through San Francisco

Bourbon & Branch
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

So I just finished going through all of my pictures of San Francisco so that I could post them on Flickr and then blog about my trip (click on the pic above to see the whole set). In reviewing, it appears that I spent almost the entire trip in bars.

But that's not true! We did all kinds of things ... but it was a fairly low-key vacation and the times we weren't eating or drinking we were either shopping, watching a movie, watching football, or just plain relaxing. Another contributing factor is the fact that I have become fascinated with the low-light settings on my camera that allow me to take pictures without using my flash and being an obnoxious jerk, so I took a LOT of pictures whenever we were in dark places.

So here's a whirlwind tour of some of the places we went:

Absinthe Brasserie
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Absinthe Brasserie:
Upon our arrival on Friday night, we needed somewhere delicious to go. Somewhere that served food late and was comforting for travellers. It didn't take us long to decide on Absinthe. We had been there before and just remembering the coq au vin is enough to make me feel warm inside. This is where I had my first taste of maraschino liqueur and I haven't looked back. The cocktail pictured above is called the Last Word the Sensation and it's basically the best cocktail in the entire world. It has THE perfect balance of flavors. I thought Aviations were good, but this is better. I wasn't so fond of the little mint leaves floating around in the drink, especially when they got caught in my teeth, but I ultimately decided it was worth the extra sparkle to have them in there. Not pictured was my croque monsieur, because looking at it would instantly make you gain five pounds.

Sugar Lounge
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Sugar Lounge: After our dinner at Absinthe, we headed across the street for drinks at Sugar Lounge. Here, they make fancy-dancy cocktails, some featuring local spirits, and it STILL costs less than a mojito in L.A. It's embarassing. But I enjoyed it while I could, sipping on my Bulleit Manhattan in the dark, and actually fairly quiet bar, except for the DJ spinning behind us. Where are these places in L.A.? Why don't we get any? Anyway, the one drink was enough to do me in, so then it was back home for the night.

Ferry Building
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

The Ferry Building: Besides our hotel (which was conveniently right across the street), we spent the most time here at the Ferry Building, which is where I want to go after I die (but everything will be free, then). We started at the Saturday Farmer's Market with drip coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee, made the old-fashioned way, which is very cool to watch. Sadly, I got no picture because fools kept stepping in front of the camera every time I tried. We were entertained by a lovely pink-haired accordion girl, and I tried every damn flavor of June Taylor Jam, since I could not bring any of these delicious gels back on the plane with me. Then we purchased pastries to go with our coffee and sat and watched the bay.

We were back for lunch to try Delica rf-1, the sleek Japanese-style deli. I had a vegetable miso with wild mushroom croquette and it was the perfect warm lunch for the cool day. We also picked up some bread and produce for snacks while J. watched his football game.

Finally, we came here for our last breakfast on Monday morning at Boulette's Larder, which replicates the most pastoral dream of a French country kitchen. The menu changes daily depending on what's fresh. There's an open kitchen where you can watch everything happen, and a mop/dog that hangs out for authenticity. Your breakfast comes with an array of cute little trappings that replicates your favorite European bed and breakfast times 100, and we even had a fabulous French waiter to serve it to us.

Beard Papa
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Beard Papa: After breakfast on Saturday, we went to H&M for shopping (still hate it--it's crowded and terribly organized and the clothes don't fit right, blech--I always end up sitting with the dads and kids while my husband goes clothes-shopping). After that harrying experience, we made the mistake of trying to just pop into the new mall to use the bathroom. There was no popping in to that place. The entire city was jammed in there. I waited in line for about five years just to use the loo.

After that, it was necessary to reward ourselves with lots of sugar and fat. So we stopped at Beard Papa and got ourselves some cream puffs. I got a green tea cream puff and J. got an eclair. After tasting both I determined that what was really needed was an eclair that had the green tea filling. But alas, it does not exist.

Madrone Lounge
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Madrone Lounge: Before dinner on Saturday, we stopped off at Madrone Lounge ... yet another dark, relatively low-key bar in the Hayes Valley featuring DJs, infused vodkas, and anime. And yeah, that international supermodel up there is my husband. Sorry, ladies and gents. I am not sharing. We relaxed in some comfy chairs, sipped on our infused vodka drinks and took in some Dragonball Z, which always seems to be playing in the background at bars I am in, and which I have ONLY seen in the background of bars I am in.

Originally uploaded by ktglick.

NOPA: We had dinner at NOPA. If you happen to be in SF, I highly recommend it. Someone at the bar takes great care with the cocktails, and someone in the kitchen takes great care with the food. It's fresh and seasonal and if you sit where I sat (second floor, right above the kitchen), you can watch them make it. Despite the fact that we probably didn't need more calories, we powered our way through an amuse, salad/soup, mains, and dessert. And the food was all fairly healthy so it wasn't too guilt-inducing. I managed to resist the hamburger in favor of fish and I wasn't sorry.

Club Waziema: After dinner, I dragged J. over to Club Waziema for a glass of Ethiopian honey wine to close out the night. Club Waziema is a beer/wine bar and Ethiopian restaurant (although I've never eaten here) and it's an old favorite of mine. It's always cozy, doesn't tend to get obnoxious and it's been around forever. At one time Billie Holliday and Ike and Tina performed here and one bartender claims ghosts haunt it, but if they do, they are friendly. We watched the TV on mute and played a game called "Why is This SNL Sketch Funny?"

Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Olive: Our last night we ended with a bang, trying to get in all the places on our list that we could. We started at Olive, a place I'd been wanting to go to since I moved away from SF. (Sad.) Olive is a bar that also serves small snacks. My kind of place. On a Sunday night it was really quiet, except for a few obvious friends of the people that worked there. It gave it a nice "neighborhood place" feeling. The little flatbread pizza I had to prepare me for the drinks to come really hit the spot. (I kind of wanted another one, actually). And the rose petal vodka drink I had was elegant and unique (and pretty).

Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Rye: After Olive, we found we still had some time to kill before our secret reservations at Bourbon & Branch. We slipped into Rye to try some of their drinks. It was also a quiet Sunday night there, but the bar seats were still full. I've noticed that there are several bars in SF now that are cocktailie heaven in a way that seemed to me reserved for NYC. J. had an interesting drink that actually was rimmed with chile salt and I had a flip, which is one of the basic types of cocktails that you almost never see on a bar menu anymore.

Bourbon & Branch
Originally uploaded by ktglick.

Bourbon & Branch: Finally, we reached the climax of our trip: Bourbon & Branch. Bourbon & Branch is a new bar in SF, that is in the style of a speakeasy. It's reservation only and only after you make your reservation do they call you and let you know the location and give you a password. Unlike the elusive Milk & Honey in NYC, however, it's not that hard to figure out where it is, and anyone can go, as long as you make a reservation. You walk up to the bar, ring the buzzer and are ushered into a dark--very dark--elegant space. We didn't experience any of the negative aspects of reservation back-up reported since it was a relatively quiet night.

The menu is large and bound in wood and contains a large list of cocktails divided into sections, including a shout-out section featuring drinks concocted by famous mixologists like Audrey Sanders of Pegu Club and local legends like my old tequila professor Julio Bermejo, the master of margaritas.

You are served by a pair of lovely cocktail waitresses, who are friendly and ready to tell you anything you want to know, or make recommendations. The cocktails are all iced to perfection and well-crafted. This is not, maybe, a place you want to go for everyday drinking. The drinks are mixed to cocktail-snob standards and not to get you drunk, and the pacing is slow if you're sitting at a booth. But you can--gasp--actually talk to the people you came in with and the atmosphere is definitely something special. It was the perfect ending to our weekend getaway.


so you hit up the madrone huh? my sister used to be best friends with the girl who owns that place. i went to the opening. (i don't think i'm cool for that or anything just mentioning) it seems to be much more young and casual than the other places you went... how'd you even know about that place? i LOVE my low-light long exposure settings on my camera.. i'm always trying to take pics of vicky and me and the problem is, you REALLY have to stay still (unless you're going for the motion effect) vicky still hasn't quite learned.

said by dhp at 4:09 PM Delete

I'm not always such a cocktail snob! On previous trips we have gone to more dive-y or neighborhood places, but we were on a yuppie kick this time. I almost got Jason to go to the Ha-Ra but we didn't have time.

I always hold my breath when I take low-light pictures--and hold the button down for several seconds before pushing it. I don't know why ... I feel like it gives the camera time to absorb the details. Wow, that sounds really dumb when I actually write it out.

said by KT at 4:58 PM Delete

I luv those pics and it makes me think, I left my heart in san francisco.

said by martha stewart at 10:18 PM Delete

Thanks! Um ... Martha.

I definitely left my heat in SF.


said by KT at 10:33 PM Delete

I know what you're thinking.... but it's not me.

I haven't seen Martha since they wouldn't let her into canada:)

said by Sooslo at 10:41 PM Delete

Dang gurl, you were busy getting tasty drunk it sounds!

said by Garrett at 9:52 AM Delete

It was vacation! The normal rules of space and time don't apply. Meaning you can drink as much as you want and it totally doesn't affect you. Just like you can eat as much as you want and it simply doesn't count.

Isn't that magical? I love vacation!

said by KT at 12:25 PM Delete

I think what you had at Absinthe was not the Last Word, but the Sensation, which is essentially an Aviation with mint. It looks as though the mint was too vigorously muddled, though the problem can be rectified by puring the cocktail through a tea strainer.

said by Anonymous at 4:07 PM Delete

You're right, it is the Sensation. The Last Word is something else I had considered and not ordered, but then in the long line of cocktails that followed must have got them mixed up in my head.

I agree about the mint, and I think we even talked about using a strainer when we were trying to figure out how you could fix it.

Thanks for the comment!

said by KT at 4:13 PM Delete

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