March 26 2017

The Grand Tasting Salon

Napa Valley Distillery
Napa Valley Distillery

I departed the city rather early this morning to head up to Napa to meet with the folks from Boozephreaks for a tour of the Grand Tasting Salon and Distillery at Napa Valley Distillery.

A bit of backstory: Boozephreaks is a social group in the Bay Area which aims to educate people on how to drink WELL. Not more, not fancier, just well… they host events that are educational, fun and tasty as well.  I discovered them when they had an Amaro class at Seven Stills in February, and it was super kickass. So when they announced the Grand Tasting Salon tour, I signed up.

We met in the parking lot of the Distillery, where our host, Dr. Inkwell checked us in and had those of us who were “new” pick our Boozephreaks names. They were, like “Dr. Inkwell” all horribly awesome puns.  I am forevermore “Graham Marnier” in the world of Boozephreaks.

Paul, our Master Tourguide took met us in the parking lot, and led us inside to the distillery floor where he and Dr. Inkwell did an informally formal introduction, then took us around to see how everything worked. I don’t plan on going through the tour in detail, because you should really go do it yourself, but here are some photos!

When the tour was done, we were taken upstairs to the Grand Tasting Salon, which was pretty awesome. Paul and Theodore took us through HOW to taste, then we tasted:

The tasting was REALLY educational, and both Paul and Theodore added just the right amount of humor to keep us smiling and enjoying ourselves the entire time.

Master Tourguide, Paul

We all got little gift bags from both the distillery and Boozephreaks, and then we dropped our credit cards on the table to sign up for the Bar Club.  Because who doesn’t want stuff this good delivered to their door on a quarterly basis?

And because we were there, we were able to pick up March’s club release, which consisted of:

And since I signed up for the Bar Club and was getting a deep discount, I also got a bottle of the Ancho Leon chili-infused aged Brandy. It was mind blowing.

Post tour, we all headed over to the Oxbow shopping center, where NVD has their storefront.  We checked out the wares there (OMG, So. Many. Bitters.), grabbed some lunch, chatted quite a bit, then headed home.  It was the perfect First Top Down Drive of Spring.

March 12 2017

Whiskey Quest

It’s been just over six years since I posted here, which is a damn shame. I’ve had some EXQUISITE food experiences in the intervening years, but due to other mediums like Instagram and such, I’ve neglected to catalogue them as I should.  So let’s see if I can rectify that.

Recently, I discovered the glory that is Seven Stills.  And the reason I say glory, is because they are living one of my dreams.

Back when I first started homebrewing, one of the things I desperately wanted to do was distil my homebrew down into liquor. That, of course, is not quite LEGAL, and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to find anything that could help me.  Fast forward nearly 20 years, and you have Seven Stills: a craft brewery (a mere 1.5 miles from my home) that takes their kickass brews and distills them into whiskey.

I was so enamoured with Seven Stills that I immediately joined their Founder’s Club so that I had access to their new and experimental stuff ahead of the public.

As part of my first Founder’s Club order, I scrambled to grab a bottle of EVERYTHING ELSE THEY HAD AVAILABLE. While they have a good stock at the distillery, there are some of the older brews that they have sold out of.  So today was an adventure in finding out if anything else was out there.

Today’s flight plan.

Despite the meticulous flight plan, I started the trip off with a stop at The Storehouse to grab espresso and an apple galette.  Good choice, me.

Leg One:

The jaunt from the Storehouse to BevMo! on Bayshore was quick, even with the stop to get gas.  This place is my go-to BevMo! because it’s close to home and has ample parking.  They didn’t, however, have any Seven Stills products on hand.  That was fine, though, seeing as I’d just dropped a buttload of cash there the other day to grab a bottle of Redbreast Lustau edition (matured for its final year in Bodegas Lustau sherry casks).  So I didn’t feel too guilty dashing in and out of there and on to (hopefully) greener pastures.

Leg Two:

From Bayview to the edge of the Mission was a fairly easy drive, despite having to spend one whole exit on 101 on a Sunday morning.  This stop was as Gus’s Community Market, a great little corner grocery with a really good beer, wine and spirits selection.  While they did carry Seven Stills’ California Courage vodka. But that wasn’t what I was looking for. They did, however, have a six-pack of Belching Beaver‘s Peanut Butter Milk-Stout, the source beer for the Seven Stills/Belching Beaver collaboration. So I grabbed that, and then it was back outside to the car with the added adventure of avoiding the sidewalk condom (Thanks, Mission!).

Leg Three:

While longer, the trip from the Mission to Laurel Heights and Cal-Mart was relatively easy. My attempt to find street parking BEHIND Cal-Mart led to the discovery of the back parking lot (and entrance) which saved me a whole lost of hassle.  Cal-Mart has a LOT of stuff packed into a very small space, and so it took me a little while to find the whisky section of the store, which was oddly tucked behind the 10 items or less checkout counter. After surviving the glares of people who thought I was cutting in line, I was able to sidle up to the whiskey selection and peruse until, lo and behold, I found two bottles of Whipnose, one of the bottles I was NOT able to get ahold of directly from the distillery.

@sevenstills — There is one bottle of Whipnose left at Cal-Mart. Just sayin.

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I grabbed that and ran (after paying for it, of course).

Leg Four:

This was by far the most harrowing part of the journey. While the distance was a mere 2.1 miles to Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits, it took me nearly 45 minutes to find parking.  The Richmond is tough that way.  Blackwell’s, by the way, is great. Awesome staff, amazing selection of both beer and spirits (wine too), and they DO carry Seven Still stuff… it was just stuff I already had.  I did, however, pick up a bottle of The Mutant Killer Zombie Manhattan Project Thingy.  How could you not, with a name like that??

Leg Five:

The next part of the journey took me across Golden Gate Park, and south into the Inner Sunset for a visit to the San Francisco Wine Trading Company.  Also an AWESOME place with a kickass selection and a tasting bar.  They, too, carried Seven Stills stuff, but again, not anything I was looking for.  I did, however, peruse their wine selection for a long, long time before leaving.

Leg Five Detour:

It was a this point in our epic adventure that I realized it was well past lunchtime, so I took a detour to Guerra Quality Meats on my way back to the car and nabbed myself a Sicilian sandwich, which I have been gnawing on while I type this.

The Long Trip Home:

As I was traversing Monterey Heights and making my way into Sunnyside on my way home, a spied the Monterey Deli (specialty beer & sandwiches). Of course, I stopped.  Little mom and pop shop with a rather surprising selection of beers and spirits, and some not half bad wines, too.  I’ll be stopping back there, I’m sure.

And then, finally, home.  Sandwich in hand and keyboard at my fingertips, I officially re-launch my foodie/beerie/whiskeyie blog.

February 28 2011

The Taste of Carney Food

So I’m not drinking nearly enough to keep a drinking blog going.  But what a perfect excuse this gives me for incorporating the semi-regular brunches we’ve been doing into my urban food/beverage blog, right?


Straw -

This week’s brunchstravaganza saw us at Straw, a new addition to Hayes Valley, and self billed as “Carnival Fare.”

Cotton Candy
Birthday Treat

It’s a small place, and they don’t take reservations, so get there early.  If you’ve got a large (more than 4) group, send a scouting party early to get on the waiting list, and take a stroll around the block to Blue Bottle for a coffee while you wait.  And trust me, the wait is worth it.

Our party of six was lucky enough to get to sit (partially) in the Tilt-a-Whirl booth (don’t worry, it doesn’t really move) and because it was my birthday, we got a bowl of cotton candy to start our meal off.  It was fresh, and tasty.

State Fair
State Fair - beignets/apple compote/caramel sauce

We decided to splurge, and started off with an appatizer of “State Fair” (beignets/apple compote/caramel sauce) which were “kill your neighbor and take their share” good.

Rocky Mountain Madame
Rocky Mountain Madame

Then everyone moved on to their own EXCEPTIONAL meal.  Mine was the “Rocky Mountain Madame” (egg in the hole sourdough toast/proscuitto/béchamel/home potatoes).  After the sweetness of the cotton candy and the beignets, it was fantastic.

Service was great.  The host was friendly (they even took our phone number to call us when our table was ready). And one of the owners came out to see how our meal was at the end, and was genuinely flattered at the praise we lavished upon her.

I’ll totally go back here.

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November 8 2010

Tempering and Temperance

When I took the job with Philips, I knew that it was going to be a big life change.  I’d been out of the corporate world for nearly six and a half years.  And while there have been adjustments, the majority of the experience has been positive.  Especially last Thursday.

Philips places a great deal of importance on Work/Life balance, and on Employee Engagement.  As such, team building “outings” aren’t uncommon.  Now, my team has been pretty damn busy since I started, so the first real outing we got to take came last week.

The view from our table at Le Garage.
The view from our table at Le Garage.

The four of us departed the Foster City office at 4:00 and drove up to Sausalito for dinner at Le Garage.  We started with a really nice Cline Carignane.  Big, fruity and tasty tasty tasty.

Learning About Chocolate!
Learning About Chocolate!

We splurged a bit because it was Shari’s birthday on Monday, so the appetizers were… indulgent.  A Brie Beignet and frisee salad with prosciutto, pumpkin seeds and a roasted walnut vinaigrette was followed by Black Mission Figs with fourme d’ambert, pistachios, mizuna, organic French prunes and a huckleberry vinaigrette, and finally a Filet Mignon beef tartare with quail egg, shallots, parsley, capers, ground mustard and grilled croutons.  The tartare was beyond amazing.  I could have eaten 3 orders of it for dinner.

Coco-luxe Chocolate Molds
Coco-luxe Chocolate Molds

We bolted from dinner and made our way over to the kitchen shared by Dragonfly Cakes and Coco-luxe for the team building part of the evening.  The awesome ladies at Coco-luxe were offering a two hour chocolate bar making class, and if there’s anything better than learning, it’s learning about chocolate. Continue reading

May 10 2010

Tricky Tastes

I have to admit that I’m biased against California wines.  I spent so much time working with Italian wines, I’ve become a little bit of a snob — I can admit it.

Murphy Goode Minnesota Cuvée
Murphy Goode Minnesota Cuvée

During my time vying for the wine gig up in Sonoma, I purchased a bunch of different Murphy Goode wines.  Tonight, we opened up the Minnesota Cuvée.  I was really impressed.

The nose is sweet and musty, a little syrupy and just kinda comforting.

The taste is light and a little woody. Sweet, and a lot more complex than I would expect from a Chardonnay.  It leaves a warm, fresh taste on the tongue.

Again, I’m not generally a big fan of Chardonnay, but I’d drink this on a warm summer night any time.

(By the way, this particular bottle starred as Wineder Woman in The Supergoode Friends).

April 19 2010

Friends and Frappato

There are some things that, upon trying them for the first time, we find an instant affinity for.  The same goes for people.  There are some things that take some getting used to… you have to try them over and over again, you have to be exposed to them repeatedly, you have to WORK to find common ground before you can honestly say you like them.  The same goes for people.

This week, one of my college professors is in town, and on Tuesday, I’ll be taking her and her husband around San Francisco as part of their Bay Area Whirlwind Tour.  It was this last Saturday, however, that we had a gathering over in Dublin where students of hers from the Bay Area gathered for a bit of bar-be-que and a bunch of wine.

My two contributions to the wine table were a Primitivo (Layer Cake 2007 – Puglia) and an Organic Frappato (Occhipinti 2007 – Sicily).

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April 11 2010

Wine, wine, everywhere (and way too much to drink)

What better way to kick off my attempt to blog about fermented spirits than with a summary of my visit to the SF Vintners Market.  Invited by my friends Melissa and Paul (soon to be Urban Spumelunkers themselves), it was a really fun afternoon filled with the vino.

We actually attempted to start at one end of the room and work our way around, but with over 150 vintners in attendance it became quickly apparent that we were going to have to change up our game plan and be a little more selective.

Below are the meager tasting notes I jotted down as I went…

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