The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
April 21, 2015
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Tasting at the New Zealand Wine Fair in 2013. Bonus points if you can spot the ‘hopper. Photo from Facebook.

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Some of the many fabulous Japanese beers now lining the shelves at Umami Mart in Oakland. Photo: Umami Mart.

Did you know that this Friday April 24th is Sauvignon Blanc Day? It is! There are lots of ways to celebrate, including by getting yourself a glass and using the hashtag #SauvBlanc. You can put your knowledge to work the next day, Saturday April 25th, with the New New Zealand Wine walk-around tasting at Farallon. The tasting goes from 12pm to 3pm and will include pours from 24 of New Zealand’s finest wineries. There will be sauvignon blanc, of course, along with pinot gris, pinot noir, syrah, and more. Passed appetizers from the Farallon kitchen will be served, including many with New Zealand ingredients like smoked salmon, venison tartare, and lamb polpette. Tickets are $50, and the event runs from 12pm-3pm. 450 Post St. at Powell, 415-956-6969.

Then, on Monday April 27th, trade peeps can check out the New Zealand Wine Fair at Fort Mason from 1pm to 4pm. In addition to the walk-around tasting, there will be a seminar on New Zealand wines. Trade RSVP here. Fort Mason Conference Center Building A, Marina Blvd. at Laguna.

The fab Bi-Rite Spring Wine Blitz is coming up from Monday April 27th through Sunday May 3rd, and you can get ready with a class at ~18 REASONS~ on Thursday April 23rd. The Spring Wine Blitz Preview will run from 6pm to 8pm, and will include tasting of more than 20 of the wines available at Bi-Rite, including many of the wine buyers’ favorites. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for 18 Reasons members.

Did you know that in 2013, approximately 93 percent of the wine grapes planted in California were made up of only eight different varieties? Yeah, crazy. Well, the Seven Percent Solution wants to change all that with a tasting of the other 7 percent, with a special tasting event with Bergamot Alley at the Folsom Street Foundry on Wednesday May 6th from 5pm to 8pm. Participating wineries include Unti, Stark Wine, and Arnot-Roberts. Tickets are $65 per person. Industry folks can also register for the industry portion from 12pm to 3pm. 1425 Folsom St. at 10th St., 415-795-3644.

The fab ladies at ~UMAMI MART~ are celebrating their new Japanese bottle shop (the nation’s first, which we told you about here), Bottle System, on Tuesday April 21st (that’s today!) from 6pm to 9pm. The event will include bites from Casa de Kei and music, along with low-octane beverages (their license doesn’t allow open containers on-site, sadly). Be sure to check out the new bottle offerings, including their extensive selection of beer and sake from Japan, which you can bring home and enjoy. 815 Broadway at 8th St., Oakland, 510-250-9559.

Also in Oakland is the opening of a new bar, ~WOLFHOUND~. We mentioned it last year, and now they’re open! It’s primed to be a neighborhood hangout, and a local friend reports that it’s popular and dog-friendly. The E’Ville Eye has some photos, as well as a cool story on the history of the space. 5516 San Pablo Ave. at 55th St., Oakland, 510-338-3023.

April 14, 2015
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Bar tables at the upcoming Forgery. Photo courtesy of Forgery.

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Seating at Tofino Wines. Photo courtesy of Tofino Wines.

The PlumpJack Group has announced their plans for the former Sloane space in SoMa/Mid-Market: partners Hilary Newsom and Jeremy Scherer will be opening a bar called ~FORGERY~ this May. Running the cocktail show will be the talented team of Jacques Bezuidenhout and Ken Luciano (previously Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants). The 2,000-square-foot space will have exposed brick walls, concrete floors, leather banquettes, and a dark mahogany bar (Napa-based Shopworks is behind the design), and there is also a second floor with more seating. Trivia time: the space was once home to a glassblowing studio and a historic printing press. Forgery will be open six nights a week. Plans for the adjacent nightclub are still TBD, but it’s available for private events, FYI. 1525 Mission St. at 11th St.

In other PlumpJack news, don’t forget they are also taking over the ~LEXINGTON CLUB~, which is having farewell parties next Friday April 24th and Saturday April 25th (details on their Facebook page). Their last night of service will be Thursday April 30th. Eighteen years! Damn. 3464 19th St. at Mission, 415-863-2052.

Last month we mentioned the upcoming ~TOFINO WINES~ from Mark Nevin and April Sack, and look at that, they are now open! The wine shop and bar is focused on wines from small, family producers in California, France, Italy, and Spain, with special attention to Champagne and Sherry selections and natural winemakers. Try wines by the glass at the bar, enjoy a bottle on-site for a $10 corkage, or bring it on home. Wine-friendly snacks are also available. It has a great look, with plenty of room at the bar, so come meet your new stylish wine clubhouse. Open Mon-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12am, and Sun 11am-7pm. 2696 Geary Blvd. at Emerson, 415-872-5782.

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The glimmering bar at Spruce. Photo: © FrankenyImages.com.

Just in time for another blast of summery weather this week, ~DIRTY HABIT~ is offering a special selection of rosés for half off through April 30th! Sommelier and wine director Jose Aguirre has some selections that will inspire you to think pink, like Robert Sinskey Vin Gris Carneros 2014 for $38 and Champagne L.Aubry Rose NV for $76. He’ll be selling bottles right out of his Timbuk2 Dolores Chiller Bag on the patio, so you can pretend you’re at Dolores Park, but instead of the COLD WATER guy, it’ll be the cold pink bubbles guy instead. Check out some new spring dishes on the menu too. They open at 5pm and reservations are taken for parties of two to eight, plus tables are available for walk-ins. 

Did your taxes drive you to drink? Seriously. Fortunately ~SPRUCE~ and ~THE VILLAGE PUB~ in Woodside are kicking off Whisk(e)y Wednesdays this week. Every Wednesday, the restaurants will be opening one very special and/or rare whisk(e)y and offering one-ounce pours at a price that is lower than list price. For Tax Day, they are going big by offering Pappy (why hello!). You can have a pour of the Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 Year, Lot “B” for $20 (but it’s $30 down at the Pub for a different whiskey).

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Pouring spring cocktails in 2014. Photo by Balthazar Digital Media via Facebook.

On Wednesday April 29th, head to the Ferry Building for an evening of CUESA’s Cocktails of the Farmers Market. This season it’s all about San Francisco’s fabulous neighborhoods, with bars from all over the city shaking up a cocktail inspired by their corner of town. Participants include Blackbird representing the Castro, Maven and the Alembic collaborating to represent both the Upper and Lower Haight, and La Urbana representing NoPa. Here’s the full list of participants and their drinks.

In addition to cocktails, you’ll also find bites from chefs across town, like Fine & Rare, The Whole Beast, and Loló. The evening runs from 5:30-8pm and tickets are $50 per person and include two full-size cocktails, unlimited sample-size drinks, food, and plenty of fun. Ferry Plaza at Embarcadero.

April 7, 2015
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The interior at Orbit Room. Yelp photo by Bern S.

Last week’s news about the tragic passing of Club Deluxe and Orbit Room owner Jay Johnson was quite sad enough, and now comes even more sadness: ~THE ORBIT ROOM~ has closed its doors after 20-plus years of brightly holding down the corner of Market, Laguna, and Hermann. Hoodline says it has been sold to a new owner (no word who that is).

That bar has been like a clubhouse for so many people, especially folks in the neighborhood. I always enjoyed its eclectic crowd, Deco styling, Jay’s music playing, and I have many fond memories of craft cocktail exploration when the trailblazing Alberta Straub was there. I used to sit at the counter—witnessing a veritable thicket of fresh ingredients at the bar—and ask her all kinds of questions about booze and muddling and syrups. The pizzas were good. The cocktails were inventive and well made. Damn it, that bar rocked. (You can read this piece in The Bold Italic by another lover of the bar.) 1900 Market St. at Laguna St.

But here’s one piece of good news: that Bold Italic piece mentions that Johnson’s friends Sarah Wilde and her husband Chris Pankow are taking over the ~CLUB DELUXE~, so the bar will live on as it was supposed to.

News of another closure via Hoodline: ~BARRIQUE~, the Jackson Square wine bar that served wine directly out of barrique, is closing on Friday April 10th after an unmanageable rent increase (their five-year lease was up). 461 Pacific Ave. at Montgomery, 415-421-9200.

But hey, an ice bar is coming.

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The crowd at the 2012 San Francisco Vintners Market. Photo courtesy SF Vintners.

If you’re looking to get your wine on this weekend, check out the 11th San Francisco Vintners Market, a two-day tasting event with a range of winemakers, domestic and imported, up to 150 in all (organized by viticultural area). The hallmark of this event is that if you taste something you like, you can buy it on-site.

Buy tickets here. Use code Tablehopper for 50 percent off general admission, the Reserve Room on Saturday and Sunday, and the Cult Room on Sunday. Saturday April 11th and Sunday April 12th, 12pm-4pm. Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion.

Next Thursday April 16th, owner Stephen Singer of Baker Lane Vineyards will be guest sommelier at ~FOREIGN CINEMA~. The following wines will be offered at special prices by the flight or bottle during dinner service: 2007 Estate syrah, 2010 Estate syrah, 2012 Reserve pinot noir, 2012 Sonoma Coast Cuvée syrah, 2014 Estate viognier, and 2014 rosé. All the wines are made from grapes grown on Road’s End Farm in Sebastopol, located in West Sonoma County. 

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A cocktail at Dosa. Photo by Beth Raper, courtesy Dosa.

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of ~DOSA ON VALENCIA~ this spring, beginning Tuesday April 7th (that’s today!), with special guest bartenders. Every week, a different bartender will be in attendance, shaking up their own version of spice-driven cocktails, and toasting to Dosa’s decade in business. The bartenders and their drinks will be available as follows:

Tuesday April 7th-Saturday April 11th: Trent Simpson of La Urbana. Sunset Ashram: Mezcales de Leyenda Oaxaca Espadin, lemon juice, ginger, celery bitters, Sunset Ashram cordial.

Tuesday April 14th-Saturday April 18th: Jonny Raglin of Comstock Saloon. Bowler: pisco, mango gastrique, Hellfire bitters.

Tuesday April 21st-Saturday April 25th: Danny Louie, Chino. Mums the Word: Bombay East gin, cantaloupe, Dosa spice mix, lemon, Lipton tea, togarashi, toasted nori.

Tuesday April 28th-Thursday May 30th: Josh Harris, The Bon Vivants/Trick Dog. Tinsmith Punch: Don Q añejo rum, Ancho Reyes, Luxardo apricot liqueur, lime, Angostura bitters.

Tuesday May 5th-Saturday May 9th: Duggan McDonnell, Cantina. East India Cocktail: Encanto pisco, pineapple cordial, lime juice, aged rum, orange juice, dash of housemade bitters.

Not only is this a great way to toast Dosa and celebrate local bartenders, but $2 from every cocktail will be donated to charity. Half of the proceeds from each Tinsmith Punch will go to the Bon Vivants Charitable Event Series, which donates money to youth organizations and charter schools around the country. So you can feel good about all that fun you’re having.

It’s well established that the tablehopper is a sherry fan, and here’s another chance to try some out. ~GITANE~ will be celebrating the delicious beverage all month, with sherry punch, sherry flights, and a special cocktails for your imbibing pleasure. The sherry flight includes Hidalgo Pastrana manzanilla pasada, Elcano fino, Grant amontillado, and César Florido oloroso ($22), or try the Innkeeper’s Cup, with amontillado sherry, gin, cucumber, lemon, Bonal, and ginger beer ($10). All sherry specials will be available during evening hours during the month of April.

To dive even deeper into sherry, you can attend Gitane’s Sherry Secrets class on Saturday April 25th at 3:30pm. Wine director Sarah Knoefler will teach you all about the different kinds of sherry, and you’ll sample different varieties, along with a sherry punch. Tickets are $55 per person.

Then, on Tuesday April 28th, catch a four-course sherry dinner with Lustau. Each of the courses will be paired with a different sherry, and tickets are $95 per person. Reservations begin at 6pm.

March 31, 2015
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The patio at Ziryab, soon to become Horsefeather. Photo from Facebook.

We’re getting reports from Hoodline and Eater that Divisadero’s ~ZIRYAB~ is closing. A new bar is moving in from Justin Lew (who has been in the neighborhood for 11 years) and Ian Scalzo, who previously worked with Future Bars (the group responsible for Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse, and many more). It’s going to be called ~HORSEFEATHER~ and will be a neighborhood bar with a comfortable, welcoming feel. They’re still working out the details (like late-night dining), and their liquor license is still pending. In the meantime, Salim and Sameer Nasser are keeping Ziryab open. 528 Divisadero St. at Fell, 415-522-0800.

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458 Grove St. Image from Google Streetview.

Hayes Valley’s newest wine bar, ~BIRBA~, is getting ready to open on Wednesday April 1st, Hoodline reports. As reported on tablehopper last April, the new spot comes from owner Angela Valgiusti, who has worked as a sommelier at Slanted Door and wine consultant at Bar Jules. Valgiusti is most passionate about Spanish, Italian, and French wines, so those will dominate the menu. There is also a selection of snacks to pair with the wine, like sausages, pâtés, and tortilla Española. The wines will range in price from $8 to $17, with a house white and red called “hairdresser” wines in a nod to the hair salon next door that has been very supportive of the project.

The space is small, with seating for only 16. In the future, Valgiusti hopes to expand into the back garden, though neighborhood concerns about noise mean she’ll have to operate for six months before applying for that permit. The space will also function as a base for Wine Guru SF, her wine consulting business. Hours are Tue-Fri 5:30pm-10pm, Sat 3pm-10pm, and Sun 3pm-9pm, closed Mondays. 458 Grove St. at Octavia, 415-519-5099.

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Cocktails and live music at the Deluxe, always a pleasure. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I was not happy to return home to the tragic news in Hoodline that Jay Johnson, the owner of Club Deluxe and the Orbit Room, had passed away at the young age of 61 (screw you, cancer).

The Deluxe has been such a gem for more than 25 years—I remember going there when the swing scene was running hot in the ’90s, drinking too many martinis, and have always appreciated all the quality live music. The Orbit Room was ahead of its time, back when Alberta Straub was one of the first bartenders to be using fresh ingredients in really unique ways. While I have hated the awkward cocktail tables from the beginning, the vintage vibe paid proper homage to the beautiful space.

Sincere condolences to Jay’s family, many friends, co-workers, fellow musicians, and regulars. His contribution to the San Francisco cocktail and nightlife scene was a special one. You can read his obituary here. Happy trails to you.

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The Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. Yelp photo by Loretta B.

On Thursday May 7th, chefs from nine Bay Area restaurants will be heading to the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico for a special collaborative beer dinner in the brewery’s Big Room. Chefs and bar managers will be at the brewery attending “beer camp,” where they’ll be crafting a special beer to serve in their restaurants and will then be sticking around to prepare a six-course dinner.

Participants include Jennifer Puccio (The Cavalier, Marlowe, Park Tavern), Stephen Call and Laurence Jossel (Nopa), David Bazirgan (Dirty Habit), and Staffan Terje (Perbacco). They will all work together to craft the dishes for the dinner, which will also be paired with beer, of course. Tickets are now one sale for $100 per person, and the dinner begins at 7pm. 1075 E. 20th St. at Sierra Nevada Ct., Chico.

March 17, 2015
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Lucky 13, long may she reign. Photo from Facebook.

Last week, SocketSite reported that ~LUCKY 13~, one of the best damn divey bars in this town, may be demolished to make room for condos. There has been lots of concern about this, naturally, because everything about this is so symbolic of San Francisco in this moment in time. While we sincerely hope the bar stays put, it also looks like whatever does happen to the bar is going to take a long time.

The Bold Italic has a comprehensive look at exactly what has happened and breaks it all down. Essentially, the only thing that has happened so far is that plans to demolish the building and build condos on the site have indeed been submitted to the Planning Commission. However, the process has only just begun and this initial permit phase alone will still take three to six months, followed by lots more permitting issues.

It is also worth noting that this is not the first time the bar has been threatened with demolition. As Lucky 13′s Martin Kraenkel wrote on Facebook, “The possibility of the replacement of the bar with condos has been hanging over our heads since 2002.” Because it is a historic landmark building, that makes the whole process a bit more challenging, as well. So while there is definitely reason for concern, don’t completely freak out. There is still hope, and we will keep you updated as the process continues. 2140 Market St. at 14th St., 415-487-1313.

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The interior of Tofino Wines. Photo courtesy Tofino Wines.

Husband-and-wife team and wine industry veterans, Mark Nevin and April Sack, are opening a new wine shop and bar on Geary near the Masonic hill, called ~TOFINO WINES~, at the end of March. The new project is focused on wines from small, family producers in California, France, Italy, and Spain. They’ll be paying special attention to Champagne and Sherry selections (hello, hopper favorites), as well as “producers who practice natural winemaking and make well-balanced wines that reflect the terroir of their particular sites,” according to an email from Sack. The selection of wines available by the glass at the bar will change weekly, allowing customers to try different options before purchasing a bottle in the shop. Bottles bought in the shop can be enjoyed on-site for a $10 corkage. They will also offer a small menu of wine-friendly snacks, like cheese, charcuterie, and crostini.

The space is located near the rather odd corner of Geary and Masonic, just across from Corner Store and Target. The space has been made quite lovely, with vaulted ceilings and large windows evocative of a busy transit hub. Exposed concrete beams and flooring are balanced with warmer, more natural elements like a marble bar counter, walnut wine shelving, and terra-cotta tile from the 1920s. Right now, the plan is to open in late March—we’ll let you know when it’s official. (H/t Scoop). 2696 Geary Blvd. at Emerson, 415-872-5782.

On Sunday evening, I attended the Charin monthly pop-up dinner at Stable, which had quite the wine team on the floor (the pours we had were mighty fabulous). I had a chance to catch up with Michael Ireland (previously The Restaurant at Meadowood, consultant for Verbena) about his upcoming Inner Richmond project with John Vuong (Ame, Gary Danko), ~PIVOT~ (you can read our previous post about it here). It ends up construction is just getting started, so it’s going to be another three or four months before it opens. Sit tight for now! 443 Clement St. at 6th Ave.

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Beautiful bubbles at Quince. Photo: Paul Dryer.

A couple of updates for you in sommelier land: first up, as you may have noted from the matchmaker ad we ran last week, ~QUINCE~ is looking for a new wine director. Previous director Jai Wilson has departed and is now with Bar Agricole and Trou Normand. We’ll let you know who lands at Quince.

Meanwhile, the fabulous Cara Patricia is no longer at ~LES CLOS~ in SoMa, but she has left on very good terms; they have hired a few folks to fulfill her duties. For now, she will be traveling to Burgundy with Mark Bright and chef Shawn Gawle (that trip won’t suck), and expect to see her at some upcoming events, like Pebble Beach. I’ll keep you posted on what else she has cooking for 2016, it’s gonna be good.

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The Mexican-American Vintners Association is an organization dedicated to promoting and organizing Mexican-American winemakers in California, and on Wednesday April 8th they’ll be in town for their Spring Tasting. It’s at Fort Mason from 5pm to 7pm, and will showcase wines from 15 different wineries. Some of these wines are hard to find, and the tasting is a unique opportunity to taste them, purchase them, and chat with the winemakers about their process.

There will also be cheese, charcuterie, fruit, and other snacks on hand. Tickets are $35 per person for special advance tickets (until they sell out), then $55 per person until April 7th. A limited number of tickets can be purchased at the door for $75 per person. A trade and media event will precede the tasting from 2pm to 4pm; details here. Fort Mason Center, Fleet Room, 2 Marina Blvd. at Laguna.