Field Notes: Restaurant, Hotel and Food News

San Francisco

Veg Out at AFICI

Is it just me or is there an uptick in vegetarian tasting menus happening around the Bay Area? Last week, I previewed a few of the dishes on AFICI’s new 10-course vegetarian tasting menu ($99) and it is heaped with seasonal flavor and the exacting technique for which chef Eric Upper is known. I mean, look at that Ratatouille Tart! Every dish I sampled tasted uniquely Californian during high summer. I highly recommend the wine pairing from wine director Nicholas Keegan ($125). He’ll knock your socks off with pairings both familiar (Burgundian chardonnay with morels) and fun (dry Bordeaux sauvignon blanc with white asparagus panna cotta).

overhead shot of ratatouille tart at AFICI in San Francisco
ratatouille tart at AFICI

Can’t commit to a prix fixe or a 10-course meal, check out AFICI’s lounge where an a la carte menu is available. Like the pictured corn miso tagliolini, the taste of California summer is all over that menu, too.

Southern Cone Flavors

cocktail at San Francisco's Barrel Room

The Barrel Room’s wine director and co-founder, Sarah Trubnick is back at it, curating a wine list to match a relaunched program of seasonally-driven menus that focus on a singular wine region. For summer (that is, through September 21), the region is the Southern Cone countries of Argentina and Chile. The new menu, developed by chef and co-founder Manuel Hewitt, includes Argentine pork ribs, Chilean-style sea bass ceviche and pisco garlic prawns and a hints of North American flavors in a dish of crispy Chilean fish croquettes with roasted pasilla chile, roasted tomato aioli and grilled corn. Drinks like the Eva with strawberry brandy and crème de banana, are named for local legends (Ms. Perón in this case). Of course, there are wine flights from the region but here, they are served blind so bring your poker face.

tomato salad on Barrel Room's Southern Cone tasting menu
tomato salad on Barrel Room’s Southern Cone tasting menu

East Bay

Livin’ La Vida Europea

three drinks in front of the bar at Oakland restaurant, Palmetto.
photo credit Derick Daily

You don’t need an accent to enjoy a slice of European life at Oakland’s Palmetto. La Hora de Vermut, or Vermouth Hour, is a favored ritual in Spain and around southern Europe where, after the workday, a refreshing, low abv beverage is de rigueur and a lovely prelude to dinner, a show or watching replays of the day’s Tour de France histrionics. Drink a sweet red vermouth, as they do in Spain via the Lacuesta Rojo, a red vermouth drunk on the rocks with hints of marjoram and absinthe and a citrus twist. Or go all in on the Spritz menu (it is summer, after all). Try the white Mulassano Bianco which will remind you of an Alpine meadow (or a Dolomitian meadow – your call) or toast French joie di vivre with a Comoz Blanc. Olives are a traditional nosh pairing but why not try the kielbasa?

In the Heights, German-style

chef Nelson German at alaMar Dominican Kitchen

After a brief closure to revamp the space, chef Nelson German reopened as alaMar Dominican Kitchen in Uptown Oakland on June 30. Gone is the seafood focus. Instead, chef turns his attention to dishes that highlight his Dominican Republic roots and upbringing in Washington Heights, a neighborhood near the George Washington Bridge in upper Manhattan. (Hello, Yankees!) Look for German’s take cheffy takes in dishes like oxtail with garlic miso butter, peppers, and demi-glace; pollo guisado chicken wings; plantains glazed with chipotle and guava BBQ sauce, roasted pork with Chinola (passion fruit liqueur made in the DR), and slushy boozy cocktails to slurp down with a meal.

pollo guisado wings at alaMar Dominican Kitchen, photo credit: Eric Wolfinger
pollo guisado wings at alaMar Dominican Kitchen, photo credit: Eric Wolfinger

More Americana from Matt Horn

overhead shot of sea dip in a cast iron pan at Matt Horn's new restaurant
Sea Dip, photo credit AH2

Chef Matt Horn is at it again, opening another Oakland restaurant Matty’s Old Fashioned on July 20. This time, the focus is new American cuisine. Dishes that are important to Horn are featured, including a classic diner burger made Horn-style with caramelized onions and aioli all on a griddled potato bun. So-called Sea Dip, a Horn family holiday favorite is laden with crab and shrimp. Diner nostalgia is laced with ballpark fare like a baked pretzel with cheese dip, a fried bologna Sandwich with honey mustard aioli and crispy onion rings, and a grilled hot dog with onion, and relish. In keeping with the Americana theme, the dessert menu includes housemade milkshakes. If you visit, report back on whether there are diner stools and retro music to match the vibe.

beef tartare plated with flowers and with a cow alongside holding what looks like chopsticks
beef tartare, photo credit AH2

Wine Country


Celebrate Aging with Grace

the vew south of Timber Cove resort
Looking south to Timber Cove resort

I don’t know how the team at Timber Cove prized chef Dustin Valette away from his many restaurants, but, in honor of the resort’s 60th anniversary, chef is cooking up a special dinner at the resort on July 29. The four-course dinner 4 course dinner includes:

  • First Course- Valette Estate Osetra caviar with buttermilk brioche and traditional accompaniments, paired with 2020 Wayfarer Estate Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay
  • Second Course – Sous vide duck breast and a pave of confited liver, pickled dried cherry,  and cocoa nibs paired with 2021 Wayfarer Estate Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir
  • Third Course- Wagyu beef duo (New York and 400-Day Bushi, smoked potato mousseline and shaved truffles paired with Two Library vintage wines side by side: 2014 Wayfarer Estate Fort Ross-Seaview Golden Mean Pinot Noir and 2014 Wayfarer Estate Fort Ross-Seaview Mother Rock Pinot Noir
  • Fourth Course- Dark chocolate pave with white chocolate snow and toasted hazelnuts, paired with 2014 Wayfarer Estate Fort Ross-Seaview The Traveler Pinot Noir

Reservations here.

Fresh Flavors in Southern Sonoma

Over at Ram’s Gate Winery in southern Sonoma, executive chef Oliveros has crafted a new five-course menu paired with house wines. The Seasonal Wine & Food Experience includes the 2019 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir, Bush Crispo Vineyard, paired with lemongrass-infused pork tenderloin with smoked apricot chutney and 2019 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay, El Diablo Vineyard, with spring onion and squid ink pasta, a sous vide egg and English peas, among other dishes. Of course, if you just want to hang out on the beautiful patio and drink wine, you can do that, too.


Eat Late in Yountville

two martini glasses with olives perched on cocktail skewers above he glass
photo credit: Nicola Parisi

In what may prove to be a shock to the lazy evenings, the. newly remodeled Restaurant at North Block in Yountville is serving dinner until midnight. Ok, ok, only on Fridays and Saturdays and you’ve got to be seated by 10 p.m. for the full dinner menu, but still, very different for the sleepy town that Tom built. Along with refreshed spaces, a new menu includes daily brunch service – another yowza – and cocktails like the like the Sitka & Shroom that nods to NorCal’s natural vibe withrye whiskey, Armagnac, redwood tip, candy cap bitters, and pinecone syrup. Look for a late-night menu that includes a burger and and stone-baked flatbreads to go with your Sea-Tini (oyster-infused Sherringham Seaside Gin and blanc vermouth, served with lemon twists, yuzu-infused roe in a clamshell, and Castelvetrano olives).

interior with round globe lamps at North Block in Yountville
photo credit: Nicola Parisi

More Late-Night Hours at Downtown Napa

Consider my jaw dropped – another Napa restaurant is opening July 21 with a plan for late night hours, The Lincoln. Calling itself an elevated gastropub, the restaurant’s menu will be handled by executive chef Leo V. Varos, Jr. who highlights American classics. I don’t know if honey sriracha salmon lollipops or a superfood salad fit into that category (maybe modern American classics?) but short ribs with potatoes au gratin, and hash mac –hash browns topped with mac n’ cheese – sure do. Brunch service will begin mid-summer, with fried chicken & waffles, a smash burger and a signature Bloody Mary.

tufted, dark leather chairs at The Lincoln in Napa
photo credit Kristen Loken

Situated just north of the oxbow on the Napa River, the broad outdoor patio will be the place to be. It features fire pits and outdoor games like Oversized Jenga, Connect Four, Corn Hole, and Ping Pong. Until 2 a.m., people!

Be a Kid Again (With Wine)

Summer should be about fun and being outside. So why not jump on a bike and head out into the vineyards at Clos du Val to a private treehouse with sweeping views of the Stags Leap AVA? At Clos du Val, this is now a thing and its doable in August and September only. It’s shaded, there is a tree swing and even cornhole. The packaged includes house Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in half-bottles, sealed with screw caps, along with a casual picnic lunch.

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.