The Alembic, San Francisco:The Promissory Note cocktail
A spectacular, mellow blend of Reposado tequila, dry vermouth, canton ginger liqueur, honey, and a brief bite from absinthe. Served up, this is everything you want from a cocktail: some spice, some sweet, some booze notes, all together refreshing and thought-provoking.
Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco: Mexican Chocolate with Salted Peanuts flavor
The salted caramel and roasted banana flavors can be the most memorable bites of any month, so we’ll go with the rookie here. Available only in pints, cinnamon meets dark chocolate with some crunch. It’s the perfect teammate to either of Bi-Rite’s legendary flavors.
The Citizen Public House, Scottsdale, AZ: The Original Chopped Salad
So good it has its own facebook page. It looks like a rainbow and has every ingredient of the rainbow. The keys are the buttermilk dressing to add a unifying central taste, the smoked salmon for a unique touch from the usual salad ingredients, and the crunch of the pepitas.
Claudine, San Francisco: Avocado Toast with Dill Gravlax, Lemon, and Spanish Black Radish
The most satisfying lunch possible, especially with the green goddess salad on the side. Pristine smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon acidity, the bitter radish, the creamy avocado, all on thick, buttery toasted sourdough. I could make this a weekly habit.
Destination Bakery, San Francisco: Irish Soda Bread
I still can’t figure out how to make an Irish soda bread not dry. The folks at Destination Bakery in sleepy Glen Park, known for its busy BART station at rush hour and the excellent pizzeria Gialina, sure have with an excellent special rolled out for St. Patrick’s Day, packed with raisins and carraway seeds. This is sweet and savory baking at its best, perfect with a Guinness.
Flour + Water, San Francisco: Squid Ink Corzetti with Pork Sausage, Clams, and Calabrian Chiles
You could pick any dish at Flour + Water as a stand out. I was fascinated by the corzetti, circular, flat, and large ravioli, stained black by the squid ink, mixed with the rustic taste of the sausage, the ocean notes of clams, and spice from the chiles. A perfect example of what makes Flour + Water some of the most riveting cooking in the country.
FnB, Scottsdale, AZ: Roasted Carrots with Snap Peas, Oil Cured Olives, Dill, and Feta
As beautiful as it tastes, Charleen Badman elevates carrots to unforeseen levels. With the freshness of spring in the snap peas and influenced heavily by Greece’s cuisine, a truly special vegetable side dish from…carrots?!
Gary Danko, San Francisco: Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce
The key to this dish is the restraint: not too much mustard in the cream sauce but enough to be there, enough horseradish to make you aware but without the overboard nasal kick. Wrapped in brioche, the salmon melts upon the touch of a fork. Excellent signature classic by Chef Danko that hasn’t worn out one bit.
Nopa, San Francisco: Grass fed Hamburger with Pickled Onions, French Fries, and Harissa Aioli
The juiciest of beef patties needs no help, though the teammates of this perfect hamburger elevate this to an even higher level. Nopa has got this down pat, from the meat temperature to the homemade brioche bun that doesn’t let the package fall apart.
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix: Wiseguy Pizza with Wood Roasted Onions, House Smoked Mozzarella, and Fennel Sausage
Throw a dart and pick your favorite pizza at Bianco, it’s impossible to choose. I’ll side with the Wiseguy today, with its smoky toppings that create a fascinating sensation with the smoky crust, tempered gently by the sweet notes of the onions. No big deal, but maybe the best pizza at the premier pizzeria in the country.
St. Michael’s Alley, Palo Alto, CA: Ahi Tuna Salade Niçoise
Take the greatest salade niçoise and eliminate the decent tuna fish for beautiful ruby red seared ahi tuna. With plenty of hard boiled eggs, green breans, oil cured niçoise olives, this is the perfect entrée salad.
Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco: Smoked Salmon on Rye Toast
It is as it sounds. Add a few capers perhaps. Bite after bite of smoked salmon elegance, enhanced by the funk of the rye base.
Vincent’s on Camelback, Phoenix: Tequila Gold Souffle
No, it doesn’t taste like a margarita. A textbook fluffy souffle meets a creme anglaise enhanced by the sweetness of agave will make everyone forget about what bad souffles and tequila taste like until the next time you have one too many Jose Cuervo shots.