At Alta last night, I got lucky enough to get a seat at the bar. Rather than transfer to my table for dinner, my friend and I stayed put. This probably had something to do with the lure of Alta’s excellent cocktails, which are some of the best I’ve had in a city riddled with overly boozy drinks. Alta’s bar empress is an unassuming Ashley Miller who gets the art of making drinks for drinking (rather than pondering). My favorite was the Samuel Clemens, a combination of Scotch, pomelo, and orange bitters. But my friend’s Jumping Frog (gin, celery, yuzu, lime, soda) was so light and cheery it would have done well pool-side. I’ll be back to try out more. —S.D.
One of the restaurants I went to while reporting a story on open-fire cooking was Oakland's Homestead (4029 Piedmont Ave. near Glen Ave.). While the grill is the focal point of their excellent New American menu, chef-owners Fred and Elizabeth Sassen are turning out some exceptional Parker House rolls. They’re soft, pillowy, and sport a topcoat of melted butter that lends them a bit of sheen and immeasurable powers of temptation. Plus, they're served warm, which means that you will more or less be powerless to stop stuffing them in your face. —R.F.M.
Some might say this week's onslaught of clammy weather is incompatible with the consumption of frozen treats, but as any true aficionado will tell you, ice cream knows no season. One of the very best reasons to venture out in the rain is Garden Creamery's strawberry-white chocolate-pretzel popsicle, which I was lucky to encounter at Off the Grid. Although proprietor Erin Lang describes her creation, which is dipped in white chocolate and then embellished with pretzel chunks, as frozen strawberry mousse rather than ice cream, I feel that a more apt description is freaking delicious. Sweet, salty, and creamy, it's an ideal antidote not only to the weather, but pretty much everything else. —R.F.M.
Like ice cream, a summery Pimm's Cup wouldn't seem to be the most natural pairing for a rainy chill, but remember, this is a drink invented in England, where they know from inclement weather. And I'd drink Stones Throw's (1896 Hyde St. near Green St.) version in the middle of an ice storm. The Pimm's itself is made in-house, with sweet and dry vermouth, Cardamaro, Cocchi Americano, and juniper, then mixed with lemon juice, ginger beer, and garnished with a sprig of mint. It's as refreshing as it is dangerous, a drink that goes down so easily that you may find yourself ordering another... and then another. —R.F.M.
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