Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time for a toast!

Bourbon and Branch is a very big deal in the city.  It's a special speakeasy that requires a password just to get in.  There's a time limit for your stay and you can't take pictures inside.  That being said, I have yet to go.  However, I did find myself at their sister bar, Rickhouse on a particular special Saturday night.

Doors on the right, the trick doors are cool though!
Unlike Bourbon, Rickhouse is a fun, laid back bar where it's a bit too crowded, a bit too loud, and a lot of bit fun.  On this Saturday, I was out with Phil, Oli and her husband Peter for a fun double date. (I guess that's what you do when you get old.) We stumbled into Rickhouse around 10:30-11:00. It had a little bit of a line, but wasn't too bad.  I don't do long lines.  We managed to macgyver a spot at the bar, and the rest of the night is history.  No not really, maybe for Peter, but the rest of us had a great time.

View of the Bar from Upstairs
Gigantic Punch Bowl of fruit and juice and a hangover
Like Bourbon and Branch, Rickhouse has a punch bowl.  Personally I hate sweet drinks, but the punch seems to be a hit with most ladies.  We decided to just get personal drinks and Phil started out with an Old Fashion, Peter got bourbon neat (bye bye Peter), and Oli and I couldn't decide.  This is when me being my annoying self started asking the bartender to create us something yummy and good.  And he delivered.  I can't tell you much of what they were called.  One was an Airplane maybe?  Anyway, the goods were great.  Everything is made fresh, right in front of you with the freshest ingredients.  Not too pricey either for an establishment like that.  I would recommend asking the bartender for his favorite or get something good like an Old Fashioned or Moscow Mule.  This is a place you want to go back to the oldies, and not get something like a vodka-soda: true story someone ordered four, I wanted to cry.  They also have beer on tap for those who don't like hard alcohol, but come on people be adventurous!

Yummy.  So many options!
Fresh to Death
Something the Doctor Recommended
Tourist Tip: You can reserve the upstairs loft area.  And on Saturday night there is live music - always fun!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

For San Diego readers, and hopeful vacationers

This past weekend was Valentine's Day.  Normally I hate it.  And that is not because I am single.  I have always had a Valentine, I just hate it.  It's a stupid holiday with stupid expectations and stupid expensive things.  That being said, this year my bf, Phil, took me to San Diego for a vacation.  Fun city, but wouldn't want to live there...anyway we went out to celebrate Valentine's day and it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.

Little Italy at Night is so pretty!
My friend Chris (the one from the Sac posts) is from San Diego, so we asked him for some hints on where to go.  He is a big foodie and recommended Bencotto.  I am SO glad I listened to him because it was unreal.

Welcome to a piece of heaven.
The best part about the restaurant was its service.  Our waitress was so helpful and didn't rush us at all.  We ended up having dinner for 2 hours, and it was awesome.  We had a huge glass of wine.  Like one of the biggest pours I have ever seen at a restaurant.  Then we ordered the Caprese and spicy meatballs.  They were both amazing.  The Caprese Salad was so good.  It was a huge chunk of fresh mozzarella with beautiful tomatoes.  The only way it could have been better would be if it were heirloom tomatoes, but besides that it had basil puree on top and vinegar beautifully crafted throughout the plate.  The meatballs were the big hit.  I absolutely love meatballs (if you can't tell from my many meatball sandwiches).  These were in spicy marina sauce.  They were small but so moist and delicious (sorry SMo, I know you hate that word.)  I highly recommend the meatballs.  I also would have liked to try the prosciutto and melon app or the risotto balls but Phil isn't too keen on too many carbs or melons for that matter.

Spicy Meatballs. A must order!
Prosciutto and Melon
Fried Risotto Balls
For dinner Phil got the Chicken Parm but instead of mashed potatoes he got the homemade spaghetti with meat sauce.  The pasta is so amazing here, getting anything else would be a mistake.  I don't know why he got chicken parm - to be honest it wasn't anything special but he liked it.  I got the lasagna.  It was easily one of the best things I have ever had.  It isn't your typical American lasagna.  The pasta is so thinly sliced and it has fresh marina sauce with great chunks of meat.  I highly recommend it.  And the leftovers were amazing after a night of drinking.

Chicken Parm - Normally comes with mashed potatoes but skip that and order pasta!
They are famous for their gnocci.  Didn't try it but it looked delish!
Lasagna - "Dream about this dish" delicious.  That's a promise.
Phil's pasta with meat sauce - so good!
Unfortunately, we didn't have room for dessert (well I did but Phil was stuffed).  So we paid our bill and walked around Little Italy.  If you don't stop by here you are greatly mistaken. Definitely the best find in a long time!

Outdoor Patio - not bad on a nice day but right on the street and super cramped!
Tourist Tip: Make reservations and sit inside!  We sat at the patio and it was a bit cramped.  If you can't get into Bencotto go next door.  It is their sister restaurant but they also offer brunch options!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

wine, wine, wine

I don't know about you folks, but I love me some wine.  In fact, for this past Valentine's Day, the bf bought me a nice expensive cab instead of a bouquet of flowers - he knows the way to my heart.  Being so close to wine county means good quality for cheap prices.  It also means lots and lots of options.
sonoma county
My Beautiful Bouquet of Wine
One of the best places to go in the city is just a few blocks from my house.  Amelie is absolutely delightful.  (Disclaimer, I lived in Paris for a summer so I am a bit obsessed with all things French.)  It is a lively wine bar owned and run by a Frenchman.  It seems that everyone who works here is from Paris, which meant that the more I drank the more I tried to speak French.  I loved trying to talk to them and ask them which were their favorite wines.  I don't know if they loved hearing me butcher the language.

White, Red, Syrah, Champagne, you pick!
The best part about Amelie are the wine flights.  During happy hour it is $10 for three flights of your choice.  It lasts from 5:30-7:00 but often they honor the prices even longer.  I can't recommend any wines because honestly you can't go wrong.  The staff is very helpful and will answer any questions you have.

Red, red winnneeeeeee
Heaven.  Just simply Heaven.
 They also serve food.  But I have only ever had the charcuterie plate.  That is a treat.  Three cheeses, five meats, honey, garlic, everything...man I am drooling.  If you have had other items please let me know if they are worth trying!

Cheese, Meat, Sauce, Bread - Try and Be Mad
Tourist Tip: Get there early and sit at the bar.  Faster service and lots of help picking out the best wine for your palate!