December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010

Opening right now at 3pm today is a completely new kind of wine bar, ~BARRIQUE~, in Jackson Square. In fact, it’s America’s first private-label wine establishment dedicated to serving wine via its proprietary Cask Delivery System®. So instead of an array of bottles to choose from, guests will be greeted by 18 barriques—yup, you’re going to be tasting directly from the barrel (although there will be 100 international wines available by the bottle, ranging from cult classics to small, family-owned wineries). What’s interesting is you’re kind of tasting the wines blind: you’ll learn the varietal, and appellation, but not the producer. Owner Jim Howell said he wanted to take wine marketing, branding, and ratings out of the equation, and offer the consumer the opportunity to really focus on the taste of different wines and appellations instead.

There are currently nine wines available, with another nine barriques coming soon. The wines in barrique are all Californian, and high quality, primarily from Napa and Sonoma (for now). For example, there are currently two chardonnays (oaked and un-oaked), a Napa cabernet, and a Chalk Hill cab. This all translates to lower prices: the wines will run from $7-$14 by the glass, and are also available in a half-carafe or carafe. There will also be four beers on tap, rotating after a couple kegs (there are currently some selections from Oregon and Maryland, but California kegs are next). You’ll be able to snack on some artisanal salumi, cheese, and other light fare as well.

The 49-seat historical space is more than 100 years old, and was designed by Gi Paoletti. You’ll note original redwood beams, beautiful masonry work, and brick walls they uncovered. The floors are stained concrete, warmed up with the stained white oak cabinets and barn doors for the wine storage, along with special LED strip lighting. The front room features contemporary red chairs and cocktail tables, while the main room features chic, white chairs in a variety of two-tops and four-tops with loveseats. (The bathroom is really elegant as well.) There’s also a bar where guests can stand, and a glassed-in room that will be dedicated to housing long-term storage lockers for guests (there will be room for 12 bottles). And coming soon is a small back patio shielded by the surrounding buildings, with room for four or five tables.

They used very sustainable practices in the build-out, and are the first restaurant/bar in San Francisco to utilize the LifeSource® water filtration technology, which reduces the amount of cleaning agents for their glasses by 52%. There will also be a wine club with a customizable format, almost like a winery. And upcoming classes and tastings are in the works. Hours are Tue-Sat 3pm-10pm.


All photos by Jessica Stout.


This is almost like an early Christmas present: the century-old and newly restored ~HOUSE OF SHIELDS~ is most likely opening tomorrow (please note it will be cash only until the credit card machine is up and running). Owner Dennis Leary (Canteen, The Sentinel, and Golden West) has been hard at work restoring this beauty of a saloon with designer Charles de Lisle and Jason Langkammerer, who heads up At-Six Architecture, and bar manager Eric Passetti.

Did you know it was a private men’s drinking club until 1972? And that President Harding, who reportedly died at the Palace Hotel, may have actually died at the House of Shields, and was possibly dragged to the hotel through the underground tunnel that connects the two spaces? And how about the back bar, which was originally meant to go into the Palace Hotel, but Maxfield Parrish’s Pied Piper mural was too large, so it was sold across the street to the HOS. The chandeliers were made by the same company that made the chandeliers in the Garden Court (the HOS designers just replaced the shades on their chandeliers—and get this, they had them hand blown), and the tile floor is also exactly the same as the one in the Pied Piper. And the famed urinal of course has stayed put.

The place is looking spectacular. The Victorian statues are gleaming, the floor is fixed, the wood panels polished, and the upholstery on the booths was replaced. Bar manager Eric Passetti (Pesce, R Bar, and he opened Mamacita and Delarosa) said the cocktail list is going to be classic and straightforward—in fact, it’s just going to be a verbal list for now.

In an email to me, he said, “To me this is the most personal project I have ever worked on. My great uncle and great grandfather both owned bars in SF, in the Barbary Coast days, we are Italian, so of course in North Beach….my mother told me that my grandfather and great uncle hung out around the Palace when they were young men. And the thought of them having possibly stepped foot in the House of Shields for a highball or beer was very much a driving force behind my motivation for taking this job… So you see, this place is not about fancy cocktails to me, or being cool, being a dive bar, live music or whatever happens to be new trend or style. To me this HOS is about preserving a historic SF business and helping it evolve into its modern lifespan. I honestly hope HOS will be around longer than I am, and maybe some[day] one of my decedents can visit the bar and think about what life was like at the end of the gilded age, or how it has survived and evolved throughout all these years, and the people who have passed though, all the while being a friendly functioning place for people like myself to make a living.” Nice thoughts, those.

There won’t be a food offering for now—the plan is to remodel The Sentinel next door and expand its kitchen, and then be able to provide food for the bar. For now, come on by, and admire this beaut of a bar that is back on the scene. Hours will be Mon-Sat 4pm-2am. 39 New Montgomery St. at Mission.


A stange (glass) of cold Social Kölsch. Photo by Austin Hastings.

Since this Wednesday December 15th is the second Wednesday of the month, you can attend ~SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY~’s Brewmaster’s Dinner and congratulate brewmaster Rich Higgins on becoming one of only three Master Cicerones in the world. More than just a “beer sommelier,” a Master Cicerone must pass the Cicerone Certification Program’s two-day exam, which consists of 10 hours of essay questions, 2 hours of tasting and sensory panels, and 2 hours of oral examination. Phew!

You can taste the results of Higgins’s expertise at SKB, where he brews beers that pair with the brewpub’s food, and champions the concept of cuisine à la bière (using beer in cooking) by designing menus and beer pairings for the monthly Brewmaster’s Dinners. This month’s seasonal tasting menu includes beet soup with garlic labneh and torn croutons paired with L’Enfant Terrible, an earthy Belgian-style ale with notes of chocolate and plums. Higgins plans to offer more education and beer and food pairing programs at the brewpub.


Photo from Monk’s Kettle website.

The ~MONK’S KETTLE~ has hired a new chef, Adam Dulye, from Boulder, Colorado. He has trained in kitchens in the US as well as France, working at the Caribou Club in Aspen, Wildwood in Portland, and The American in Kansas City. Most recently, he was the executive chef at the Manor Vail Resort, and prior to that, at Devil’s Thumb. He’s known for his craft pairing dinners (even doing one at the James Beard House), and has been involved in a number of beer festivals. Dulye begins in mid-January, and will be creating a new menu while staying true to the Monk’s Kettle’s gastropub theme.

But in the meantime, The Kettle will be celebrating their third anniversary by tapping six very special cellared kegs, five of which will have bottled vertical partners offered by the glass. They will also be offering a selection of 15 cellared bottles on their newly re-minted “vintage list.”  It all starts tonight, Tuesday December 14th—but please note The Kettle will be opening a bit later than normal (at 5pm).


Photo from Tres Agaves.

~TRES AGAVES~ has kicked off a Winter Happy Hour, with $3 three-taco plates, $3 Mexican drafts, $3 new mixes, and $5 margaritas! Served every day from 2:30pm-5:30pm. And then on the weekend, you can get bottomless margaritas for $15 per person with the purchase of an entrée during brunch, Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St., 415-227-0500.


Photo by The Lush Life.

On Wednesday night (December 15th), H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir Bar will be teaching a Cocktail 101 Mixology Class at The Cocktail Bill Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts. You’ll learn the fundamentals of home bartending, making four primary cocktails: martinis, Manhattans, mojitos, and margaritas. Because the best way to understand how you like your cocktails to be made is to make them! And then drink them. Sponsor products include Square One Organic Vodka, Plymouth Gin, Wild Turkey Bourbon, and Espolon Tequila. 6pm-8pm. All materials are included in the ticket price, and you get to drink everything you make! 21 years old and older; your ID will be checked at the beginning of class.