Marin County, California Pinot Noir
Marin County is shorthand for two things: high real estate prices (the average home costs $1.2 million) and scenic hiking trails (in Muir Woods and at Point Reyes). But there may soon be a third: Pinot Noir. There are currently some 125 acres of grapevines planted in this posh suburb of San Francisco, with Pinot Noir showing particular promise. Marin producers currently turning out noteworthy wines include Pey-Marin, which also makes an excellent Riesling, and Stubbs Vineyard, whose 2004 Marin Pinot Noir may not seem like a bargain at nearly $40 a bottle—until you consider how many houses could have been built on the land where those grapes were grown.
Healthy Fast Food, San Francisco-Style
Sellers Markets in San Francisco are a combination of restaurant and take-out shop, offering freshly prepared dishes like Dungeness crab melts, breakfast pizzas and barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches made with artisanal ingredients from local producers like Niman Ranch, Boulangerie Bay Bread, Cowgirl Creamery and Equator Estate Coffees & Teas. The company recently opened its second location; both branches are located near the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. By 2010, the owners plan to have 15 venues throughout the Bay Area (388 Market St., San Francisco; 415-956-3825; 595 Market St., San Francisco; 415-227-9850; sellersmarkets.com).
A Taco from Oyamel
Star Chef José Andrés’s authentic Mexican street food moves from Crystal City, Virginia, to downtown Washington, DC, in late January. At Oyamel, tacos, handmade tortillas and chilaquiles will be served in the Adamstein & Demetriou–designed space (401 Seventh St. NW, Washington, DC; oyamel.com).
Italian Food at Boston’s Rocca Kitchen & Bar
Famed Boston restaurateur Michela Larson (formerly of Michela’s and Rialto) will be making her first foray into the city’s South End in March. Rocca Kitchen & Bar will feature the simple cooking of Liguria, an area known as the Italian Riviera. The menu will emphasize focaccias, homemade pastas and seafood dishes like Ligurian fish stew (500 Harrison Ave., Boston; roccaboston.com).
An inky, crunchy coating that includes edible charcoal makes these peanuts from Japan slightly sweet and completely addictive ($9.95 for 2.5 oz; 888-472-5283; gratefulpalate.com).
Mixologists are creating liquid versions of tasting menus. Some are designed around a classic cocktail: At Trois in Atlanta, mixologist Eric Simpkins offers flights inspired by the Sazerac. Flights are sometimes paired with food: The Flight to Provence martini sampler at Boston’s Metropolitan Club comes with a “liquid Caprese” salad as well as other snacks created by chef Todd Winer (Metropolitan Club, 1210 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, MA; 617-731-0600. Trois, 1180 Peachtree St., Atlanta; 404-815-3337).
Brunch at Washington D.C.’s Bebo Trattoria
Thanks to Bebo, acclaimed chef Roberto Donna’s new trattoria in Crystal City, Virginia, diners in the Washington, DC, have a place to eat panini from Donna’s Galileo Grill and tasting menus from Laboratorio del Galileo’s while those restaurants are being renovated. In addition to the old favorites, Bebo offers pizza from a wood-burning oven and a family-style brunch on Sundays (2250-B Crystal Drive, Crystal City; 703-412-5076).
Sparkling Wine from a Bottle with a Metal Cap
Now that screw caps have become commonplace, the next innovative wine closure could be crown seals – which look like plain old bottle caps. Top California sparkling wine producer Domaine Chandon just released its latest prestige cuvée wine, étoile, in a bottle with a crown seal to ensure a fresh and lively flavor. Could Bollinger “on bottle cap” be far off?
Spices from Le Sanctuaire in San Francisco
Jing Tio, the visionary behind Santa Monica, California’s Le Sanctuaire, will open a branch of his perfectly curated kitchen boutique in San Francisco this month. In addition to beautifully designed tableware, well-chosen books and the latest equipment, Tio will offer more than 300 ultra-high-quality spices from around the world (315 Sutter St., 5th Fl., San Francisco).
Greek Food at Melbourne’s Press Club
In the historic stone building that once housed Rupert Murdoch’s Melbourne newspapers the Herald Sun and Weekly Times, renowned Melbourne chef George Calombaris has launched the Press Club -- the most ambitious Greek restaurant in a city with a sizable Greek population. Toning down the avant-garde cooking of his past, Calombaris has created a menu that reflects his Greek roots with modern interpretations of classic dishes: rabbit baklava; lamb roast with haloumi, watermelon and shiso; deep-fried shrimp with Greek honey. At $45, Calombaris’s kerasma tasting menu is a bargain—and even better when sampled with a flight of Hellenic wines (72 Flinders St., Melbourne; 011-61-3-9677-9677 or thepressclub.com.au).
A Taste of China at Beijing’s Legation Quarter
Chinese-American mega-developer Handel Lee, one of the main forces behind Shanghai’s Three on the Bund, is building another massive, attention-getting project—this time in Beijing. Within the city’s Legation Quarter, he’s turning a 103-year-old former U.S. Embassy compound near Tiananmen Square into a destination for high-end restaurants and cultural attractions. Slated to open in the fall of 2007, Legation Quarter’s buildings will house branches of Italy’s Michelin three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri; two restaurants from Hong Kong’s Aqua Restaurant Group, which owns the glam Hutong and Shui Hu Ju; a restaurant from star New York City chef Daniel Boulud; and a spin-off of Lee’s Beijing restaurant RBL. The complex will also include a series of glass-and-marble structures for a 140-seat repertory theater, an art gallery and a pastry café, plus indoor and outdoor venues for such activities as open-air jazz concerts and ice-skating.
A Caipirinha at Cambridge’s RhumBar
At RhumBar, the new upstairs lounge at Harvard Square’s Om, mixologist Clif Travers has his pick of 27 types of rum. To make a caipirinha, he uses Água Luca rum from Brazil (92 Winthrop St., Cambridge, MA; 617-576-2800).
Frédéric Bau, Valrhona’s executive pastry chef, believes so strongly in using chocolate in savory cooking that he created a new product called Xocopili to encourage experimentation. These super dark chocolate beads are blended with spices like paprika, cardamom and Basque chili powder and are meant to be added to food in small doses. While chefs like New York City’s Iacopo Falai and Miami’s Norman Van Aken are using Xocopili to make sauces for everything from foie gras to quail, the chocolate balls are delicious on their own. Starting in early 2007, home cooks can buy the intense chocolate at Whole Foods ($5 for 4 oz).
Seattle-based Italian-food importer Ritrovo just introduced a follow-up to its wildly popular Casina Rossa Truffle & Salt: Sea & Salt, a rich, smoky blend of sea salt, lemon and orange zests, cardamom, sun-dried tomato and air-dried Sicilian bottarga (tuna roe). It’s fantastic on everything from sushi to eggs to Caesar salad ($22.95 for 3.5 oz; cheftools.com).
Carrot-Lime Ravioli from Pastry Chef Sam Mason
These days you don’t just need a reservation for dinner; you might want to think about making one for dessert, too. Sam Mason, the celebrity pastry chef formerly of WD-50 in Manhattan, plans to launch Tailor, a dessert-oriented restaurant, in New York City in February. Tailor will seat 50 upstairs and have a cocktail lounge downstairs—all open until 3 a.m. (525 Broome St., New York City).