Thursday, December 9, 2010

Travelin' Oenophile: San Francisco Adventures

I'm reading a book called The Psychology of Wine, which is (duh) by a couple of psychologists. One of the points the authors return to repeatedly is the connection of wine experiences with memories. It's well-established that certain tastes and smells can transport our memories to a specific time or situation, and for those who love wine, this can certainly be the case.

A psychology convention brought me to San Francisco the weekend before Thanksgiving. Perhaps it was the influence of my reading material, but during the trip, I seemed to pair wine with experience.

Being at a conference and having professional interactions may have prompted some people to drink before dinner, but I decided to be good (for once). The rain had started by Friday evening, and apparently it's a rule in San Francisco that half the cabs disappear, so the line for a taxi plus the cold, windy, damp weather deterred me from waiting for one. I'd had a recommendation for the Daily Grill, which was a couple of blocks away, so I made a dash through the rain for dinner. Being cold and wet in a city where I was truly missing Hubby, whose work schedule wouldn't allow him to accompany me on the trip, may have led me to turn to an old friend: the Rodney Strong Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, this is one of our house wines. No, it wasn't adventurous, but it was "comfort wine," and I could almost believe its citrusy-grassy notes would preserve me from getting sick in the cold and damp.

I started with the special soup of the night, Butternut Squash with Crème Fraiche, which hit the spot with its creamy texture, sweetness, and spices. The Blackened Ahi Tuna Salad seemed a good, healthy choice for my entrée, and although I enjoyed it, it needed some mandarin oranges or something to balance the tangy saltiness of the ginger-soy dressing. I did appreciate that the tuna was served rare and not too spicy. Alas, jet lag caught up with me before I could get to dessert.

I was on a panel on Saturday, so again, the drinking had to wait until the evening. San Francisco "Wine Brat" Thea had invited me to join her at the Night That Never Ends BevMo Holiday Beer Festival. This time I had to wait in the taxi line, so I ended up being late and not able to spend that much time with her. Still, it was a pretty awesome beer festival, not least because I was able to try everything at the Unibroue table while talking to a fun couple from Oakland. I'm a fan of the Trois Pistoles but hadn't realized that their beers are all Belgian-style. I also liked the Anderson Valley Brother David's Triple (not available in Georgia, sadly) and the Scaldis Noel. The other highlight of the beer fest was hanging out with Ashley Routson the Beer Wench, who showed me around to some of her favorites and then drove me to North Beach for dinner so I wouldn't have to wait in yet another taxi line.

This brings me to the absolute highlight of the trip. Vicoletto, which means "little alley," had also been a recommendation. This cozy spot on Green Street is off the main North Beach drag (Columbus Avenue) and worth seeking out. I started with the Insalata tricolore, a salad of bitter greens and reds with parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. I asked the cute young guy behind the bar, whom I assumed was the general manager, what he would recommend for an entree, and he suggested the veal or lobster ravioli. I was in the mood for pasta – yet more comfort food – so I went for the ravioli. Check out the description from the menu:

Ravioli con aragosta: house made lobster ravioli, sautéed prawns and cherry tomato brandy cream sauce

Yeah, it was amazing.

And, of course, there was wine. The 2008 Sabazio Rosso di Montepulciano (100% Prugnollo Gentile, aka Sangiovese) had enough acidity to go with the food, but was fruity and smooth enough to drink on its own.

Finally, I didn't crash out before dessert and had a chocolate soufflé with crème fraiche ice cream. I've come to learn it's hard to do a good chocolate soufflé with a molten center, but this one was perfect.

And the hot Italian guy behind the bar? That was owner Francesco Covucci. Hanging out and observing him interact with his other guests gave me an education in relationship-building from a business perspective, which, ironically, had been part of my panel discussion. The evening helped me to feel like my trip had been as well-balanced as the Rosso di Montepulciano (which he told me was his favorite). The next time Hubby and I are in San Francisco, we're definitely going to Vicoletto.

By the way, as you can probably guess from his blog post while I was gone, Hubby is still pouting. I'll let you add your own sour grapes joke here.

Apologies for lack of pictures. The Blackberry is on its last keys, and its battery was dying that night.


Marisa Birns said...

Too tired to eat dessert? Ack! That's really tired.

Don't worry about lack of pictures. Your descriptions were so vivid and wonderful. *salivating*

Ah, cute guys and their wines. Great combo. :)

Cecilia Dominic said...

That's always what happens my first night or two on the West Coast -- I feel that three-hour time difference.

Glad the descriptions were adequate! And yes, wine is always better when paired with a cute guy. ;)

Thanks for stopping by!