Field Notes: Restaurant, Hotel and Food News

Luce’s chef de cuisine debuts a tasting menu that’s a feast for the eyes, Chef Amod Singh lands in Fisherman’s Wharf, Francis Ford Coppola opens modern caves at Napa’s Inglenook and more eating and drinking news around the Bay Area and Wine Country.

San Francisco

File Under Hella (or is that Hellenic?) Cool

Chef’s Degustation Eight-Course Tasting Menu is the shiny new thing from Dennis Efthymiou, chef de cuisine at Luce, the fine dining restaurant at Hotel Intercontinental San Francisco.  The menu reflects Efthymiou’s Greek upbringing and looks like an Ionian dream. A plate of scallops known as Thalassa, or goddess or the sea, swims in a bright blue sea, an iconic blue typically of Greek islands. Dusted with oregano and tomato powder, Secrets is a pita dressed to ornament the tomb of a king (I don’t know which one). It hides the so-called “hidden cut” between the shoulder blade and loin of an Iberico pig, seasoned with black garlic tzatziki and strawberry. Coincidence that chef timed the release of his menu to coincide with the release of Dial of Destiny? Me thinks not.

Chef Singh Sighting

Chef Amod Singh, the former executive sous chef at Taj Campton Place in San Francisco – he of the two Michelin stars – has come aboard to man the stoves at Argonaut Hotel’s Blue Mermaid restaurant. While we await details of the menu, word is that chef has curated elevated Indian American menus at breakfast, lunch, brunch, happy hour and dinner with the attention to flavor Singh is known for.

Bottomless Mimosas. And Oaxacan Brunch

horchata cocktail on the brunch menu at Sacred Taco
Horchata cocktail at Sacred Taco

Perhaps to celebrate its first anniversary on San Francisco’s Union Street, Sacred Taco, Cow Hollow’s home for Oaxacan cuisine, is dishing up a new brunch menu with $20 bottomless mimosas to go with. Chilaquiles with guajillo salsa and huevos rancheros fall into the ‘but of course’ category, as do breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs and breakfast burrito. Now, the confit duck tacos topped with a duck egg, that’s the dish that I am after.

North Bay

Weirdly Original Brew

Though the Petaluma brewery may be best known for their IPA, Lagunitas’s latest collab is a little toastier. Actually, it’s called Toast Beer. Made in partnership with Toast Ale, a beer made with 80 surplus fresh bread loaves from Alvarado Street Bakery that would have otherwise gone to waste is now available. Bada-bing, bada-boom: beer! Bryan Donaldsonthe Brewing Innovation Manager at Lagunitas Brewing Company describes the Toast of Petaluma as “light in body and aroma, with a nice backbone bitterness. It has floral and slightly fruity aromas. You don’t really taste the bread. Super clean and drinkable.”

Available at Lagunitas’s  TapRoom & Beer Sanctuary, Toast Beer is carbon-friendly and supports Sonoma Family Meal – the brewery supported 200 local food-insecure people with a one-time donation.

The Toast of Petaluma is a limited-edition beer – only 16 kegs were made – so, hop to it as they say. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Sip ‘n’ ATV

the ATV tour at Groth Winery in Napa

Is riding an ATV while drinking wine a thing? At Groth Vineyards and Winery’s Oakville estate, the  vineyards are now available for semi-private ATV tours. With a winery guide, roll among the vines while chatting about the estate’s efforts at sustainable farming and other winery bits while sipping estate-grown wines. The tours are only on weekends and only through October.

Inglenook’s 22,000 Foot Wine Cave and The Athenaeum

Francis Ford Coppola and the winemaking team at Inglenook stand in front of the ginormous fermentation tanks in the winery's new wine caves.

You know Francis Ford Coppola, right? The six-time Academy Award-winning director of “Apocalypse Now” and some other movies you may have heard of…Well, he is the proprietor at Napa’s Inglenook.  The storied estate, whose chateau was completed in 1887, tucked a wine cave into a knoll on the south end of the property.

Coppola and his team are making magic happen underground. Low CO2 concrete was used in the cave’s construction and no heating or cooling is required to maintain an even temperature. That’s pretty cool but even cooler are the 120 insulated, remote controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks. With each tank assigned to a different block in Inglenook’s 235-acre organically farmed vineyard, nuances in each bottling can be teased out.

To taste all of those fastidiously made wines, step into The Athenaeum. A Greek word for a library or school (I love fancy words), The Athenaeum is complete with original artwork from Wayne Thiebaud and Robert DeNiro, Sr., rare books and a craps table. Oh and wine.

A New Tasting Room in Napa

updated Victorian sitting room is now a new tasting room at Matthew Bruno Winery
photo credit Yoshihiro Makino_

Napa may be crowded with tasting rooms, but how many of them are in a Victorian? At Mathew Bruno Rutherford Estate, a low-slung Victorian has been redesigned and updated by MG+CO Architects. Shaded terraces and lush gardens and views over the vines are, of course, part of the experience. The interiors, by Chris Reed Interior Designs blend modern and Victorian era niceties. Ornamental accents and copper sculpture are in keeping with Napa now while French oak floors bridge European and American wine sensibilities. That aesthetic carries over to the tasting experiences, which could be with an Oakville Grocery-curated picnic in one of the semi-private seating areas (indoors or on the wraparound porch). 


Marin Magazine New In Town

I also write the New In Town column for Marin Magazine, which includes restaurant openings and more. To keep up with what’s going on in Marin, please head over there.