I like the New York Times for it’s sundry coverage of everything EXCEPT travel. I was superbly disappointed when I started to go to places the New York Times was highlighting that didn’t meet my expectations over time.
I am a huge video fan–no surprises there–I initially loved New York Times travel videos–superb editing and production quality. But superb editing and production quality does not replace sage and wisely selected content.
I thought I would be missing much by not going to places the Times was highlighting. So hence when I was on a long sojourn to Europe a couple of years ago and I was inspired by watching NY Times travel videos. I visited a few places in Berlin and Bologna and other places that were highlighted in their videos. Berlin is the Houston of Europe at least in square kilometers–expansive and not so easy to see everything in a short period of time–especially that of a tourist. I thought that the selections by the NY Times were going to be the most optimum places to visit i.e. ‘must visits’. Instead of being delighted – I scratched my head as the places the Times visited were okay; just okay.
I thought perhaps the NY Times videos might miss a few things in one city’s video–but it kept happening. I took a long break from NY Times Travel features.
Recently, I read the article In San Francisco, the Revival of the Hotel Bar and I was intrigued–for me as a San Francisco resident it is easy to get to anyone of the hotel bars so I won’t be investing too much if the recommendations were not good.
Overall San Francisco has a very nice mixology scene–a lot of award winning bartenders are here. I am fan of Elixir Lounge, Trick Dog, Comstock Saloon, Trou Normand, The Beehive, Bourbon and Branch, ABV and Wild Hawk to name a few. Most of San Francisco with it’s many tall skyscrapers has a lot of Left-Right Restaurants and Bars–that is–you walk in and there is a left side and there is a right side. Hotels can offer a larger and more non-traditional space that most of San Francisco can offer.
While I am not a fan of some San Francisco hotel bars like the St. Regis or the Americano. The St. Regis is just an okay place for a cocktail and so is the Americano–a patio with a ‘stunning’ view of The Embarcadero – truly not that scenic and the drinks offering is just okay.
My first outing was Ayala at Hotel G. the Castelverano washed gin Martini was something I couldn’t resist. Since it was Happy Hour I got Baked Oysters Green Garlic Prosciutto Butter not just attractively plated but superbly delightful–Proscuitto butter–why didn’t I think of this?! A fantastic experience, compelling cocktail.
The photos in this article were beautiful and sometimes what you see in a picture is not what you get. Case in point was at the Bar at Hotel Kabuki and the pictured ‘Forget me Not’–while the photo had a drink with flowers; they didn’t have flowers when I visited but it didn’t matter it was quite a nice drink. The ‘Forget me Not’ is not on the menu so don’t forget to ask for it by name. This cocktail is an offering of Suntory whisky, lemon juice, butterfly pea tea syrup, and egg white.
And lastly, I visited the Hotel Bijou’s Gibson. The picture in the upper left is their version of a Bijou–no Chartreuse–this legendary cocktail originally concocted by Harry Johnson, author and bartender of New and Improved Bartender’s Manual. This drink was popular during Prohibition and soon disappeared after the end of this period. This wonderful cocktail is gin, Saffron, Cardamom, dandelion, orange oil and sweet vermouth. I love Saffron and Cardamom and there was no other choice to make. I did want to try another signature drink–their Clear Bloody Mary–what clear?! Yes, tomato water from Early Girl tomatoes. Gibson’s interior is a very nice 70s inspired design Tom Ford meets Halston.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience–comfortable hotel bars, fantastic service in a town where friendliness is not always plentiful, excellent mixology, food offerings and nothing was passable but excellent choices. While most San Franciscan’s would prefer a ‘neighbourhood’ bar these selections would certainly meet most residents expectation for a very nice experience. I think most residents stay away but there no reason to. Enjoy!
James the Wine Guy
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