Oct 26, 2010

Wine & Dine while watching the Giants/Rangers game

Can't nab tickets to watch the San Francisco Giants whollop the Texas Rangers in the World Series this week?  Help is on the way! The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau has compiled a list of venues where you can view the game with other fans--with plenty of beer, wine, and food to energize your cheering. Go giants!

Americano Restaurant & Bar at Hotel Vitale
8 Mission St.
415- 278-3777
Hours: 11:30 a.m. - midnight
Overview of promotion:
Games played on a large 50” television in Americano Bar.

Aurea at The Stanford Court Renaissance San Francisco Hotel

905 California St.
Hours: For the duration of the games (Wed.: 7:30-10:30 p.m.; Thurs.: 7:30-10:30 p.m.; Sat.: 3:30-6:30 p.m.; Sun.: 5-8 p.m.; Mon.: 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Wed.: 7:30-10:30 p.m.; Thurs., 7:30-10:30 p.m.).
Overview of promotion: Aurea will play the games on five flat-screen televisions.  As part of this “rally cap” promotion, guests will receive 50 percent off on all small plates and bar snacks (starting at $2.50)

Bar 888 at the InterContinental San Francisco

888 Howard St.  
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m. – midnight; Fri. and Sat., 11.-1:00 a.m.
Overview of promotion:
Bar 888 is featuring a special Giants cocktails called the Ultimate Pitch with Hangar One Mandarin Vodka, Andrew Quady Sweet Muscat, Cinzano Bianco, fresh squeezed orange and lime juice and Angostura bitters for $12.

The Grille at Seven Fifty

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
750 Kearny St.
415- 765-7878
Overview of promotion:                       
Surrounded by five flat screens, specials during the games include: Anchor Steam Draft Beer $3.50, Lobster Sliders $14, Kobe Beef Slider $12, Pulled Pork Sliders $9, and Slider Sampler $14.

Fog Harbor Fish House
Pier 39
Overview of promotion: 
Happy hour Mon.- Fri.: 3 -6 p.m. in the bar.

4th St Bar & Grill
55 4th St.
Hours: Tues.:1-11 p.m; Wed. and Thurs., 4-11 p.m.
Overview of promotion:                       
Watch the Giants on one of 22 televisions and enjoy nightly happy hour specials 4- 6 p.m.

101 Fourth St.
Overview of promotion:                       
View the games from a 50-foot video wall.

Kyo-ya Restaurant

2 New Montgomery St. in the Palace Hotel
415- 546-5089
Overview of promotion:
A sushi platter and sake for $25 while cheering on the home team.

303 Second St.
Hours: Mon.-Sun.: 4:30 p.m.- close
Overview of promotion:
Go Giants margarita with Herradura Antiguo and pomegranate for $9 glass/$34 pitcher; $5 margaritas/mojitos/house wines and well drinks, $3 draft beers and $2 tacos.

Knuckles at the Wharf

555 North Point St.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Overview of promotion:                       
"Bearded Wilson" cocktail and "Uribe Homer" cocktail.

McCormick & Kuleto's Seafood Restaurant

Ghirardelli Square
900 Northpoint St., Suite H301
Overview of promotion:  
“Special Giants Happy Hour” includes the Happy Hour Menu - $5 drink specials, $3 beer specials, $1.95 to $4.95 food items. Game 1- Wed. Oct. 27: Happy Hour from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.; Game 2- Thurs., Oct. 28:  Happy Hour from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.     

Midi Bar & Restaurant

185 Sutter St.  
Overview of promotion:                       
11 a.m. to midnight Happy Hour prices during all games, including $5 specialty drinks and wine and $3 beers.

Pied Piper Bar & Grill
2 New Montgomery St. in the Palace Hotel
Overview of promotion:
The Pied Piper has added more televisions for viewing in the lounge.  Giants special: Kobe beef burger and a beer for $25.

Pier Market
Pier 39
Overview of promotion: 
Happy hour Monday through Friday 3-6 p.m. in the bar.     

Royal Exchange

301 Sacramento St.
Overview of promotion:                       
Guests can root for the Giants (on one of their 17 big-screen TVs) while enjoying Deschutes brewery Mirror pond pale ale and black butte porter for $4; beef and chicken nachos, sliders and buffalo hot wings for $5.

Wipeout Bar & Grill    
Pier 39
Overview of promotion:  Watch the Giants games on our giant projection screen TV.   

Oct 20, 2010

Sustainable fishing can work

Everybody knows that over-fishing is a serious problem, but nobody seems to do much about it. Think I’m exaggerating? Go watch the fast-paced documentary, The End of the Line. Filmed over two years—in locales ranging from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coast of Senegal, from the pristine wilds of Alaska to the Tokyo fish market—it focuses on scientists, fishermen, activists, government officials and others to arrive at a grim conclusion: If we continue fishing as we have been, most seafood will be gone by 2048.

There is some hope. More and more people are choosing to buy only sustainably-harvested fish. Monterey Bay Aquarium has long had a Seafood Watch Pocket Guide that helps consumers make sustainable choices. Today the Guide comes in six US editions (West Coast, Southwest, Hawaii, Central, Southeast, and Northeast) as well as a National edition and a Sushi Guide (download any or all for free). You can also get the National guide as a free iPhone app at the iTunes store (it's one of the most popular free downloads).

Another example of increasing consciousness: Wal-Mart, a huge seafood retailer, recently announced that shoppers can now find the safe-to-eat Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) independent blue eco-label on ten of its fish products in locations across the US.

Here's another good thing: The End of the Line cites Alaska as an example of responsible and sustainable fishing. Seasonal fishing limits for various species are pre-determined based on location and current estimated species population. For instance, this year’s Red King Crab harvest season in Bristol Bay, which opened on October 15, has a limit of 15 million pounds (a small decrease from last year’s harvest). Once the limit is reached or the season reaches it’s official end, that’s it: no more fishing until next year.

According to a press release from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska is dedicated to seafood sustainability. The words "seafood marketing" may not seem to have anything to do with sustainability, but in fact they do. The Institute says that seafood is “so essential to our [Alaskan] way of life that our constitution has a mandate that ‘fish…be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.’” (See the video below, No Shortage of Wild Salmon in Alaska, to learn more about Alaska’s sustainable approach to seafood.)

The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private sector employer. If the seafood disappears, Alaska is in trouble—so residents understand the need to protect fisheries for future generations. Instead of ceaselessly and greedily sucking up everything they find, they're taking some seafood and leaving the rest to re-populate. The world's seas need more of that kind of sustainable management.

Meanwhile, go see The End of the Line (it’s a free selection for Netflix members).

Oct 18, 2010

Cure your own olives, Part 1

Fresh-harvested olives     Credit: Suzanne Rodriguez
Sonoma and Napa counties abound with olive trees, and in the town of Sonoma, where I live, they are everywhere: in parks and private gardens; surrounding commercial vineyards; even scattered throughout the town's ancient cemetery.

I’m a certified, life-long olive aficionado who has rarely met an olive she didn’t adore (and devour). So when I moved here a few years ago I decided to attempt curing my own olives. As it turns out, the process is easy—and, despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to use lye or any other nasty products.

I make two different sorts of olives: water-cured green olives and salt-cured black olives. Young olives are green, but as they mature on the tree they turn black. Right now, in mid-October, hanging olives have attained full growth but are still green.

Last week I harvested a pound or so of green olives and now have my first batch underway. If you’d like to cure your own green olives, follow these steps:
  • Locate a large glass jar with a lid, sterilizing both in boiling water. A large-size mayonnaise jar is about the smallest you’ll want to use (I use a jar that’s about half again as big as a large mayo jar). If you're having trouble finding a good-sized jar, try a thrift shop: they abound in glass jars.
  • Go pick your green olives. Choose unbruised, fleshy olives. You’ll want enough olives to almost fill the jar, leaving at least 1” of empty space at the top.
Placing a tiny cut on the olives     Credit: Suzanne Rodriguez
  • Place the olives in a cold water bath. Then remove them one by one, placing a small but deep cut in the flesh with a paring knife. Try to hit the olive’s pit. Then place the olive in the jar.
  • When all olives are in the jar—and remember to leave at least 1” of space at the top—fill the jar with cold water. Put the cap on and tighten it. Then place the jar in a coolish location (but somewhere you'll be sure to see it each day).
Olives beginning the curing process    Credit: Suzanne Rodriguez
  • Once a day for the next 3 weeks, empty the jar’s water and replace it with fresh cold water. The consecutive cold water soaks remove the bitterness of the raw olive, something done quickly in olive processing factories with lye. If you go away for a night or two and can’t change the water, that’s okay. If it’s longer than that, though, give the jar to a neighbor and ask them to replace the water each day. By the way, the beautiful chartreuse color of the fresh-picked olives will begin to fade about Day 3. Don't be alarmed; that's just part of the process.
  • After about three weeks, nibble on one of the olives. If it’s still bitter, continue the daily change of water. If it has only a bit of bitter tang, that’s when I move to the next step; I like an olive with a little bite. But you may prefer an olive with no bitter tang at all, and that's fine. The bottom line: when the olive reaches a state that pleases you, it’s time to move on to the next phase of olive curing. I’ll discuss that phase next week in Part 2.
Also, in November I’ll show you how to salt-cure black olives. These black olives are yummy additions all winter long to spaghetti sauces and hearty stews.

Oct 14, 2010

10 Wine & Food Pairing Tips

Wine Tasting, California   (Courtesy: Robert Holmes)
Yesterday, after publishing a post entitled Two New Books About Wine & Food Pairing, I came across 10 wine/food pairing tips from the Wine Institute, an organization representing more than 1,000 wineries and affiliated businesses throughout California.

Given that, it's easy to see why these tips are geared to California wines. In fact, though, the tips are appropriate for the same varietals grown elsewhere. But, hey, let's face it: California wines are not only the best in the nation, they hold a strong and equal rank with the world's best.

At any rate, here are the tips:

  • When enjoying cheeses either before or after dinner, consider a California sparkling wine alongside. The effervescence will stimulate the palate in such a way that both the cheeses and the wine will soar. For a festive and tasty flourish, serve fresh California pomegranates with the cheese and add a few arils, as pomegranate seeds are called, to each glass.
  • Enjoy smoked fish—oysters, salmon, lox, trout, sturgeon and sablefish, for example—with California sparkling wine.
  • California Sauvignon Blanc loves green vegetables of any kind, from artichokes and green beans to tender lettuces and zucchini. It is also an excellent match with goat cheeses and fresh mozzarella.
  • California Chardonnay and Viognier blossom with corn and carrots. Serve with corn on the cob, corn chowder, creamy polenta topped with California Teleme cheese and corn salsa, corn or carrot risotto, oven-roasted carrots and carrot fritters.

Oct 13, 2010

Two new books about wine & food pairing

Wine & Cheese Pairaing -- Courtesy Bellwether Farms
Much has changed on the American culinary scene over the last couple of decades, including how to properly match wine to a meal. That was a pretty simple task when dinner usually consisted of protein, a veggie, and a starch. Now, when a meal can be composed from any sort of ingredient sourced anywhere in the world, matching is a tougher trick.

That’s why I was happy to receive review copies of two recent books—one glamorous, one not—on the subject of wine & food pairing:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food Pairing: Co-authored by Certified Master Sommelier Jaclyn Stuart and freelance culinary writer Jeanette Hurt, this fun and straight-ahead guide breaks the pairing process into its basic parts. You’ll learn how wine aromas and food flavors work together (or don’t), how to pair by terroir or intuition, how to match wines with Asian, Mexican and other international cuisines, how to plan a pairing party, and a lot more. The final chapter takes the pairing principles you’ve learned and applies them to beer, spirits, coffee, and tea.

The authors really drill down into these topics, which is what makes this book rock. I particularly liked the chapter on the science of pairing, which taught me a lot about intensity, acidity and sweetness—and how to work with them. Once you understand a few rules such as “acid likes acid,” it’s easy to pair something like a Chicken Piccata with a high-acid Chardonnay. If you know that “sweet likes salty,” you’ll match those potato chips you're hankering after with a demi-sec sparkling wine.

The Appendix, nearly 40 pages  long, contains a helpful glossary, a tasting journal, an alphabetical master pairings list (e.g., Club Sandwich with unoaked Chard, sparkling wine, or an Oregon Pinot Noir; Tandoori Chicken with Gew├╝rztraminer, Shiraz or Zin). This book is well worth the $!6.95 list price ($12.95 on Amazon).

Buy The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine and Food Pairing

Oct 4, 2010

Culinary Gad News Roundup (10-4-10)

View of Dry Creek Valley from Michel-Schlumberger     (Credit: Michel-Schlumberger)
The periodic Gadabout Roundup compiles news from a variety of sources--press releases, industry associations, consumer publications, and more--on the subjects of food, wine, spirits and/or travel.

h2hotel: Green Luxury
A New Green (Wine) Trail: The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County) and the new h2hotel in Healdsburg (photo) have teamed up to offer a new package, the "Green Trail of Dry Creek Valley." It's designed for those who want to explore the region’s certified organic and biodynamic wineries, including Hawley Winery, Michel-Schlumberger, Montemaggiore, Preston of Dry Creek, Quivira Vineyards & Winery and Truett Hurst Winery.

Each participating winery along Dry Creek Valley’s meandering back country roads will offer Green Trail guests a complimentary wine tasting, along with (if desired) a discussion about how the winery became certified organic or biodynamic, how this affects the wine and why it's important to be green. At Michel-Schlumberger, organically farmed vineyards incorporate beehives, a beneficial insectary and a wildlife sanctuary into the terroir. At Quivira, visitors can visit the colorful 1-acre produce garden, a variety of farm animals and a Steelhead spawning stream, along with sampling artisan wines. Truett-Hurst’s preserved creek allows for sightings of Coho Salmon, Steelhead trout, otters and ducks. And expect to see plenty of sheep, herbs, olives, heirloom fruits and vegetables...

The stylish h2hotel is a sustainable inn located just off Healdsburg's historic downtown square. Guests receive a two-night stay in a standard guest room; a welcome bottle of Dry Creek Valley wine; a picnic lunch for two from the hotel's southern Mediterranean-style Spoonbar restaurant; and bicycle loans. The package is available through December 2010. 

Wine Searcher 2009 Statistics
Most Popular Wine-Search Site: The LA Times recently published an article describing the increasing power of New Zealand-based website According to the story, entitled " levels the wine industry playing field:"
In the last four years, a single website, the search engine, has done more to transform [the wine industry's] commercial landscape than any other, affecting every facet of the way the wine business is conducted, certainly in this country and increasingly on a global scale. For better or worse, it has leveled the playing field on getting, buying, pricing and selling wine. If you're a wine lover and you're not using this tool, it's time to start. And if you sell wine, on any level, you ignore it at your peril., which employs 20 full-time programmers, has access to the inventories of more than 17,000 retailers worldwide, making it easy to compile and compare price lists--something that's good for a casual wine buyer but fantastic for a collector. The article goes into detail about how makes money (both the search and service are free, but retailers who pay a yearly $4,000 fee get a competitive edge).