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Mar 25, 2009 09:40 PM

Wine flight with a prix fixe / tasting menu?

DW and I are spawn-free for the weekend and want to make the most of it. We snagged a good room at the Fairmont (thank you, recession pricing), so the next question is, of course, where to have dinner on Saturday night.

There is a nearly unlimited number of places I'd like to eat. So to narrow the field, I'd like to focus on places that offer a well-thought-out series of wines by the glass, specifically paired to dishes served. Maybe thee or four courses, maybe a full-blown tasting menu.

Price is an object, but not the object. DW's avoidance of MSG and its analogs makes many Asian cooking methods more challenging. Otherwise, the geographic origin of cuisine is unimportant. Places near Nob Hill get extra points. Good food (and, for this outing, well-paired wine) is paramount.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Hmmm, maybe more info would help.

    Two places that are definitely in the running are Masa's and Acquerello. We've wanted to try both restaurants for a long time, and they're within walking distance of the hotel. Fleur de Lys is another option, as is The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton (which has more tables available at the moment).

    But we're not limiting ourselves to Nob Hill and surrounds, and aren't necessarily wedded to the idea of hitting someplace that has a Michelin star; a bistro with great food and an interesting wine program would be just fine.

    Presumably the food at any of these places is going to be very, very good. And they all have solid wine lists. But has anybody had experience with the wine flights? If there's someplace where the person who does the pairings thinks outside the box - where there are some surprises as to the wines paired - that might tilt the balance.

    Again, thanks again for any tips.

    5 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes


      I'm not sure what you mean by an "interesting" wine program that could mean many different things to different people. So I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest my new favorite: Gitane.

      It's a bistro (and it has it's own thread here that I have been meaning to post to), that serves Spanish/North African/Mediterrean dishes, small plates and some larger ones. Their wine list is strictly Spanish (including Basque), Portugese and French. That makes it interesting to me, because you will find some things that you don't see everywhere else. It is also well priced. They do not offer flights, but they do have many offerings by the glass and the carafe (probably about 2-1/2 glasses) so you could make your own tasting menu and pairings.

      I was there a couple of weeks ago with a group and the sommelier was very helpful in suggesting wines that everyone could enjoy with a varied selection of dishes.

      This is a newish place, open only about 6 months, but the owners also have the established Cafe Claude practically right next door.

      It's an easy downhill walk from the Fairmont, but you might want a cab to go back up.

      At the very least stop in and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail at the bar. They have a great bartender, who will customize a drink for you. I had a lovely sparkling wine with St. Germain and another with blood orange juice. It's a beautiful space, but tiny, so make a reservation if you want a table in the upstairs jewelbox dining room.
      Have a great time in SF.

      Gitane Restaurant & Bar
      6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

      1. re: pamf

        Thanks! Gitane is definitely on the list of places to go, as is Cafe Claude. If not this weekend, then soon. And since we'll probably eat late, a cocktail sounds perfect.

        As far as "interesting," new varietals and provenances are always fun. But what really blows me away is an untraditional pairing. For example, a glass of junmai daiginjo sake alongside a shellfish dish, or a floral, minerally, off-dry riesling with foie gras. I mean, I can order white Bordeaux and Sauternes until my wallet gives out, but I never would have thought of those combinations.

        I guess I'm just looking for broader horizons, one glass at a time.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          Coi is pouring a Japanese beer as one of the pairing with the current tasting menu. I'll post the courses and the parings (on a recent night at least) if I can find my notes.

      2. re: alanbarnes

        For really interesting, consider the tasting at Ame -- amazing wine pairings with their small plates tasting.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          Of all the uber-expensive, highly acclaimed places, Coi has IMO the most "untraditional" pairings. For example they once served me a glass of beer scented with cucumber essence. However, all of those restaurants have excellent programs.

        2. Let's start at the top.

          Coi has an 11-course tasting menu with paired wines for $215 + 20% service and tax. It is either a 15-minute downhill walk, or a 3-minute cab ride from the Fairmont. Coi is rated four stars by the Chronicle, and 2-stars by Michelin.

          Masa's has a 6 course tasting menu with a wine pairing for $175, and a 9 course Dégustation menu with wine for $254 (both choices + service & tax). Masa's is a 3-minute downhill walk, or a 1-minute cab ride from the Fairmont.

          Either of these places will provide extraordinary food and excellent wine pairings.

          1. Acquerello's wine pairings were great when I ate there a couple of years ago, before the price hike. Amazing Italian list, one of the two best in the city.

            1. Thanks for the tips, everybody.

              We ended up going to Acqeurello, but as with all the best-laid plans of mice and men...

              The tasting menu looked good, but there were so many things on the regular menu that were calling our names, we opted to go that direction. The sommelier (a young woman whose name escapes me) was very helpful, and pointed us to a couple of half-bottles (a Friulian Pinot Grigio and a Barolo) that worked well. But the food, rather than the wine, was the main focus of the meal. Which was just fine, given that the food was wonderful.

              Even so, there was a bit of a pleasant surprise on the wine front. I had ordered the pork belly and prosciutto as a first course, and the Barolo needed more time to open up when the food was served. The pinot grigio was a surprisingly good match, with the bright acidity cutting through the unctuousness of the pork. Another "whodathuknit" moment.