Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Glorious Range of Gins Showcased at Bourbon Steak's Juniper in July

Bourbon Steak - Michael Mina SF

There's a day left to do it! For a quick escape this month, Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak is featuring some gorgeous gins in its Juniper in July special.

Located in the classic St Francis Westin in Union Square, the airy, cathedral-like steakhouse with high ceilings, classic arches, and roman columns offers a civilized spot for diners looking for a chance to try expertly crafted classic martinis with a unique selection of gins.

Bourbon Steak - Michael Mina - Bar

Steered by bar manager Adam Reaume, the menu is comprised of martinis ($14) with made from eight different gins, mostly locally distilled. These include Barr Hill, Distillery No. 209, Junipero, Monkey 47, Spirit Works, St. George Dry Rye, Uncle Val's, and Voyager.

I tried the martini with Monkey 47 (an $8 supplement), a high quality German gin with exceptionally big, bold botanicals—one of the most distinct gins I've ever tried. The name is particularly apt because of its 47 botanicals distilled down to 47 proof. This is served the traditional fashion with vermouth and a very untraditional marshmallow grain garnish—a flavor that brings a creamy addition to the rich martini.

Monkey 47 Gin Martini - Part of Juniper in July at Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak

The rest of the menu is comprised of classic cocktails inspired by the 19th-century barman Jerry Thomas that also go well with steak. To add to that, Adam created some whiskey cocktails and specialty cocktails of his own design. It's a cocktail program designed to go well with the food. Seasonal bounty from the local farmers market is often incorporated into the cocktails, and house cocktails are usually inspired by a dish or element on the food menu.

After the martini, I indulged in The Saint of Pier 50, which is made of 209 gin, along with strawberry. It tasted bright citrusy along with strong botanicals.

The Saint of Pier 50 - Bourbon Steak

My friend Tom, meanwhile, reached for Thyme for Smile (he is always one for puns). The drink is made with Monkey shoulder gin, grapefruit, aperol, and thyme—which results in a light, but herbaceous cocktail—a good pairing for food.

Where There Is Smoke - Bourbon Steak

Speaking of food! The drinks are designed to go with a delightfully hearty menu of steak. One of my favorites.

We started by trying their "fresh ricotta gnudi," a delicious take on meatballs, braised dandelion, caramelized parsnip, and parmigiano-reggiano. Bone-marrow rich with tender meatballs make it a perfect bite.

Gnocchi with Meatbals

I also tried their steak tartar, which was part of their daily special: Steak Tartar with Caper Relish, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Pearl Onions, Horseradish-yogurt Puree, Egg Yolk, Squid Ink Beef Chicarones. From the moment I heard of it, I knew I wanted to try it. After all, who doesn't like tartar and squid ink?

Tartar with Mustard Seeds and Squid Ink Chips

Of course, the star of the night was the steak!

The staff recommended the 10 oz imperial flat iron, a wagyu, but one that still has some of the texture of an American steak. Sometimes wagyu can be overwhelmingly buttery and rich. This imperial flat iron was the perfect mixture of texture and richness.



Tom and I also shared the short rib—a plate of farro verde, beech mushroom, baby carrot, and caramelized onion sauce for two to share.


We finished the night with some beautiful desserts.

Silky buttermilk panna cotta with fluffy citrus sponge cake, rhubarb sorbet, and kaffir lime.


And pillowy beignets, served with cinnamon sugar and macallan caramel custard (dipping the fried doughy pieces into the caramel was as delicious as it sounds!).


Enjoyed, of course, with a drink—this one a classic Hanky Panky from the Savoy Cocktail book, here with Voyager gin mixed with fernet and a Carpano Antica, a sweet, herbaceous vermouth. It's a slow, slightly bitter drink that ends the meal well.


Finished with some house treats.


A classic and elegant San Francisco dinner. :-)

Bourbon Steak
335 Powell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 397-3003

Posted by Noelle

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Meet the Cocktails: Japanese ingredients, California style at Pabu

Pabu Interior

Though I'm not Japanese, I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of people with a unique sway to Japanese culture and food. I spent my "small kid days," as they call them, eating comfort foods like spam musubis (spam laid over a bed of rice and wrapped with nori), melona bars, and oyako donburi (chicken and egg served over hot rice). On hot days, my summer fun friends and I would walk to the nearby Toyo Superette to buy Japanese candies and drinks, like cold Japanese sodas and soft Japanese gum.

There are two times I've been taken back to my childhood in Hawaii while tasting cocktails. The first was when I first tasted Chareau, the new aloe liqueur made in California. The second was tasting the cocktails at Pabu, Carlo Splendorini's new Japanese-inspired program.

I recently wrote a piece for Eater SF about the new bar in the SF's Financial District. See are additional pictures of the drinks and here some extra commentary from Josh:

A highlight of the Pabu menu is the highballs. Although these drinks are simple mixes of soda water and Japanese whiskey, they have a surprising subtlety. Carlo pulls out this subtlety by using house-made, flavored sodas––strawberry, yuzu, and shiso. These flavors complement the tasting notes in the whiskeys. Noelle's personal favorite was the strawberry, which I have to admit blew my mind as well. The strawberry is subtle, so subtle, in fact, that it can be hard to place. Nevertheless, it pulls out some berry notes in the whiskey that you'd otherwise miss.

Whiskey Highball at PABU

Carlo Splendorini at PABU

Whiskey Highball at PABU

The Fuzzy has a nice tart, and the spicy garnish on top of the drink adds a pleasant tingle to your lips. This drink matches nicely with food.

Carlo Splendorini at PABU


Carlo's play on the Ramos Gin Fizz, The Little Green Bag is the definition of instant gratification. The rich coconut fat makes you feel like you're getting all the richness of a Ramos, but without the heaviness of the lactose. The coconut also adds a nice nutiness. Think of a tropical Ramos.

Carlo Splendorini at PABU


Little Green Bag at PABU

Summer Cocktail. Sometimes served in a glass specially designed to spin the cocktail but not the ice, this cocktail is just fun. Not to mention tasty and easy drinking. Sake and strawberries go fantastically together, but what's more impressive is the strawberry vinegar. It reminds me of a shrub, but far less intense. So those of you who like just a bit of sour will love this drink.

Carlo Splendorini at PABU

Carlo Splendorini at PABU

Carlo Splendorini at PABU

Summer Cocktail at PABU

Whiskey Ceremony is a bit pricey, but it's a nice treat for a special occasion. Carlo pairs each whiskey with a different fruit (usually infused with something else. The strawberry below, for example, is soaked in a special creme de cacao). The fruit is then charred and the glass imbued with the smoke. You nibble the fruit and sip on the whiskey, the flavors gradually melding together to create a unique drinking experience.




101 California St
San Francisco, CA
Bar hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am-10pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:30am-10:30pm

Posted by Noelle and Josh