Frisco pre Xmas: Best Little City on the Left Coast

Castro St. Decoration Winner

When Mrs. tBoW has to travel she prefers to bring along tBoW. Nice for me. Fortunately, she often travels to The City, Baghdad by the Bay, aka San Francisco. What a great town. When we lived here way back when, it was really more of a cow town. Had a Cow Palace and was filled with young folks trying to loosen their grip on life. City was already filled with adults who lost their grip long before us. Nice people called that colorful. What I am trying to say it sure is fun up here. There is always a new generation of young folks looking for a break and a lot of good times. You can drive all over the city in minutes so there are plenty of choices for where you’d like to get in trouble. Think of it like shopping in the Imagination Bazaar. If you are going to rent a car make sure it is tiny. Solves almost all your parking conundra.

One of the BEST qualities of San Francisco is its endless proliferation of restaurants. They open they close they never change they are always changing. You can visit repeat favorites like Delfina in the Mission or just drive by old old haunts that are still there [ed. he means Haystack Pizza in Noe; Xmas lights year round]. But the best experience is trying out the new spots…and there are always new spots.

This trip it was Waterbar on the Embaracadero and Ristobar in “zee Marina”.

Waterbar is good as under the Bay Bridge. You would think the glowing bridge lights in the misty evening would be enough to capture your attention in this swank 3 y.o. restaurant/bar in a nameless two story brick building that looks like it should house a copy center and maybe a Pilates studio. The lights from the bridge are cool but they must compete with two 20 foot tall and 10 foot wide aquariums [ed. aquaria?? Aquaria!!] in the center of the dining room. Kind of like Cher standing up to Christina Aguilera. Better together than on their own. Can’t tell you what the food was like because we had drinks, took in the views and got out of there. Definitely worth a stop for $50 including valet and cocktails.

Ristobar is a fairly new Italian dining room in the Marina which will never stop being the place to hang for 20 and 30 y.o. young adults living life on the conventional edge for 20 and 30 y.o adults living in The City. It’s boots, heels and leggings for the ladies and dark tousled hair for the men. Ristobar is situated almost across the street from A16 which was the foodie spot five years ago when it opened.

Focaccia shop fever

Aside from the outstanding food and exceptional wine lists these are two different experiences. Being crammed into a space wide enough to be a tee shirt store on Haight with another 300 people with claustrophobic noise as sound track is the A16 experience and the norm for an exciting show in 2005. Step into a space that could be the entrance to a tasteful hotel in Italy with a ceiling fresco that teams Reubens with Tintotretto. Glide to your comfortable dining table with enough room to stretch a bit…it is so 2010. Ristobar offers excellent fare with sufficient comfort and a noise level that assures us we are off the street. And the wine list has enough fairly priced special wines – 95% Italian – to complement the pricier Baroli and Tuscan bottles. Our group ordered Wild Boar Ragout Pasta, Swordfish, Short Ribs, and Lamb Meatballs. Save room for dessert. We ordered three and had to sew our lips shut to not order a fourth: affogato al caff√® which was served as an espresso parfait, apple crisp in Italian, and the delicate strawberry slab flavored with sage.

2003 Fattoria Colsanto Sagrantino $48 (list): Umbrian red that offers a powerfully scented nose of spice and violets. Acidic style settles down in 15 minutes. Perfectly balanced and well matched to every course which ranged form pasta to short ribs (see below). Nice to find this as a value pick on the wine list. Exactly the kind of wine find we expect in a San Francisco restaurant. 14.5%

Whenever in The City it is tough to resist a visit to North Berkeley Wine Imports on the residential corner of Martin Luther King and Cedar. This gem of store has long been a favorite tBoW haunt. They carry the wines the tBoW tasting team enjoys and pricing is pretty good. Selection and value – belongs on the tBoW coat of arms. NB has especially special relationships with a handful of producers so the bottles of Magnien and others populate significant chunks of the store. NB selects all their wines carefully – every carefully – and no you cannot say they say that about every wine store. This means buying wine from NB involves little risk and high reward, and at a very fair price. In several cases, the NB team actually selects the barrels and oversees the blends. The NB wine team is truly in their wine business up to their elbows. We wanted to learn something more about their 2009 Beaujolais selections. Here is some of the story.

2009 Durdilly Beaujolais Les Grandes Coasses Vieilles Vignes $15.25: My style of fresh fruit and enough acid to balance. Very flavorful and easy to drink. NB site says old vines are 70 years. Check the alcohol. 12%

2009 Domaine des Braves Regnie $17.50: One of those producers you see int the NB store every vintage. More sophisticated, lean, even savory. Not my style but well made. Price is U20 so…13.5%

These wines compare well with the Duboeuf Beaujolais selections purchased at Woodland Hills Wine Co. In sum, however, tBoW says he prefers the Duboeuf 2009 wines as a group. More juicy without being too fruity. Good news is there are more producers to come. Based on these two experiences this 2009 vintage may actually live up to hype.


  1. Wavatar
    mouse says:

    Sagratino de Montefalco gets my vote as the best wine that the fewest wine geeks are familiar with. I would like to know when no one has taken the effort to grow the grapes elsewhere. Probably because the total acreage could fit inside the Superdome. A beefy wine. Oklahoma by 31 in Fiesta.

  2. Wavatar
    Bacchus says:

    I may be able to get an answer on Sagrantino. Can I get back to you on that? Similarly, I have some ideas why Torrontes is not grown outside Argentina (where it is grown in every region). No other nation outside the continent could compete with the price. I once suggested Torrontes should be the first wine made by every nascent winemaker as I have never had a bad one. Can the 2010 Sooners score 31? What about your Rose Bowl pick?

    • Wavatar
      mouse says:

      Oh, I don’t know about Pasadena, as I haven’t watched the fascist Badgers eat their overmatched Midwestern prey. I pray for The Cardinal. No guess. I don’t know if Sooners can score 31, but UConn won’t get 8. They stink worse than pinotage.

      I have had some rather tasteless Torrontes, actually, but for an entry level ‘floral’ (viognier, albarino, etc) it IS a bargain. I think it may have originated in Piedmont?
      But, I report my first 2009 Beaujolais, a Morgan from Dubouef, the Deschants vineyard. I tried it at a winestore, and was blown away. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

      • Wavatar
        Bacchus says:

        Luck-filled prayers. I like the Cardinal. And Beavers. I wouldn’t hold back one fart if every Big Ten and SEC team got whomped. I will probably check out every 09 Beaujolais I encounter. The only limit will be pricing. It better be P-R-E-M-I-U-M to pull $20 out of tBoW’s pocket. Some shops are trying. “Vintage of a lifetime.” That is the Duboeuf quote and his wines this year are fab AND dirt cheap. I have tasted 3 of his wines and each was scrump-tilly-umptious. Today I saw an 09 Brouilly (unfamiliar producer) priced at $23 and 70 yards down the alley the same bottle was $17. Stay thirsty my friend…for 09 Beauj.

        On the Torrontes…I have never tasted a bad one or even an uninteresting one. Is LA closer to Mendoza? You hit the mark on Viognier and Albarino. Has the oil of the former and flavors of the Spaniard but generally lacks the acid of the Basque white.

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