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Of Note: Sip and Savor During the Heart of Winter

by Trevor Felch

While ski trips and Valentine’s Day dining splurges dominate the conversation this month, there are lots of noteworthy food, drink and travel items to fit in between the slopes and the amorous holiday. The most exciting new wine-tasting experience in the Napa Valley might not even be at a winery, and Sonoma County recently added a sumptuous spa at a staycation favorite. Back in the City, it’s hard to keep track of all the restaurant changes and facelifts, including at a legendary spot on the Embarcadero. Rain or shine, in the countryside or downtown, it’s shaping up to be a fun February around the Bay.

The Madrigal. | Photo courtesy of Joseph Weaver.

A Dramatic Cocktail Bar for the Theater Crowd

Between the Orpheum Theatre and Van Ness’ symphony-ballet-opera row, pre- and post-show guests looking for excellent cocktails and clever dishes have a very tempting option with the latest opening from the busy Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group (which also operates the Vault Garden and Trestle). The Madrigal’s double-height ceiling and giant wrap-around windows provide patrons with a San Francisco rarity: great cocktails in a space that feels grand and spacious.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates Made by You

Skip the ordinary box of sweets and learn how to create your own exquisite chocolate bonbons. Paris-trained chocolatier Pooneh Yamini of Mon Rêve Chocolate Art Studio at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard will teach four classes (the first two Fridays and Saturdays of February) to aspiring confiseurs, who will each make and take home 35 artisanal chocolates.

Turntable. | Photo courtesy of David A. Lee.

A Rotating Cast For a Premier Restaurant

Russian Hill’s beloved and much-lauded Lord Stanley is now Turntable at Lord Stanley, with compelling chefs from around the world taking over the menu for one month at a time. In February, chef Eric Huang — an alum of New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park — shares his contemporary take on Chinese cooking (like celtuce surmounted by XO sauce).

Windsor’s Marquee Wine-and-Food Pairing: Since opening at the start of the pandemic, Bricoleur Vineyards has quickly become a go-to Sonoma County wine-tasting destination. Now its six-course Rooted pairing menu soars to an even higher level of ambition with a duo of James Beard Award–winning chefs, Charlie Palmer and Nate Appleman, joining the winery as culinary advisers. Think: Bricoleur’s 2019 Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc alongside roasted cauliflower and romanesco, accompanied by a green goddess dressing that incorporates fresh oysters.

SF’s Haute Bites and Drinks Lounge: The former La Folie Lounge on Polk Street is now Bar Iris, the chic yet casual next-door sibling to fine-dining star Nisei. The Japanese-leaning cocktails are created by one of the City’s leading bar talents, Ilya Romanov, while Nisei chef-owner David Yoshimura’s menu at Bar Iris is small yet mighty. Case in point: a stunning bite of Santa Barbara uni, sushi rice and nori.

A Creative Chef Considers Comfort Food: Chef Bruno Chemel is best known for his inventive tasting menus at Baumé in Palo Alto. But now he’s offering the Peninsula a completely different option for lunch: croque monsieurs. Monday through Wednesday, you can enjoy his version of the classic French sandwich, made with Black Forest ham and Gruyère, available from Baumé’s B Deux Go. There’s also a vegetarian option with bell peppers.

Napa Valley Unicorns: St. Helena’s outstanding boutique wine merchant ACME Fine Wines specializes in finding some of the most coveted bottles from Napa Valley and other regions. ACME’s recently launched IPO Tasting Experience takes that theme a step further by exclusively featuring producers’ debut vintages or new, small projects from preeminent wineries and winemakers.

Wine Country Appreciates Cocktails, Too: Most visitors come to Sonoma for the myriad stellar wine offerings. But after a few tastings and a couple of glasses at dinner, sometimes you just want a terrific craft cocktail, right? Luckily, Taub Family Outpost — a hybrid market and restaurant on the town square — has turned its upstairs into a speakeasy called the Beacon. In addition to a menu full of splendid cocktails, you can nosh on bites devised by chef Trevor Anderson.

Worries Fade Away in Forestville: The Russian River Valley’s top destination for fine dining and luxury accommodations offers another reason to visit: a new spa. The Farmhouse Inn’s Wellness Barn boasts several soothing treatments and massages, with a few inspired by Sonoma County’s stunning natural setting that incorporate ingredients like redwood mist and wild mustard seeds.

A Revamped Reason to Dine in Downtown SF: One of the Moscone Center area’s leading restaurants, Bluestem Restaurant & Market, decided to make a substantial change by redesigning its interior and shifting its menu to reflect California’s coastal influences. But don’t worry, pastries and sweets by Lori Baker — remember her amazing desserts at Baker & Banker? — are still available in the restaurant and the newly unveiled all-day market.

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