My friend Oliver McCrum has been importing some of the best Italian wines to California and selling them to K&L for the past decade. Along with guys like Kermit Lynch and Charles Neal, Oliver has built a following of fanatical fans who—like me—love the selections he brings us here in the states. Any time he comes by the store to work with Greg St. Clair, our Italian wine buyer, I always find my way into the tasting bar. It was just over two years ago when Oliver approached me in the store and asked me, "Do you think it would be worth getting a spirits license?"
"You mean for Italian spirits?" I asked. "Hells yes!"
"OK, good," he replied in his mild-mannered British voice. For the past year, whenever I would run into Oliver at tastings he would tell me, "We're still working on it. You have no idea what a hassle this has been," regarding the progression of the project. However, when he made an appointment to taste with me earlier this week, I knew the day had finally come. Oliver finally had something fortified to sell me! "What could it be?" I asked myself with excitement. An amaro, of course!
Oliver is definitely starting this new chapter off with a bang. The Amara Amaro d'Arancia Rossa is instantly the best amaro we have in stock, bringing new life to a category that was just begin to get a bit saturated. Made in Sicily from blood oranges grown near the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, it's a citrus-dominated liqueur with only a slight bitterness that marries well with hints of baking spice. The finish is like the purest expression of citrus peel I've ever tasted in a spirit, giving the Amara a versatility that is simply off the charts. You can sip it after dinner as a digestivo, add soda water to make a spritz, mix it into a Negroni, or simply pour it over ice. No matter how you drink it, you're going to love it. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm willing to bet you could use this instead of Grand Marnier in a Margarita.
You need this in your life, trust me. As if Oliver's wines weren't already tempting enough, now he brings me this? I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!
Being inspired by both the Italian amaro and the old-timely post card that came with it, my wife and I decided to go to Beretta for brunch today. Let me tell you something about myself: I like to drink cocktails made by friendly bartenders while stuffing my face with various snacks, but with a certain amount of temperance. I want food that's filling and delicious, but also somewhat healthy because I do watch my figure. I know that it's super cool again to eat fat fried in fat while sipping hard liquor, and nibble on braised meats with a selection of charcuterie on the side, but that's just not for me. I'm not knocking those things; I just don't want them when I go out drinking. What do I want? I want my standard Mediterranean diet. I want super thin pizza with a crispy crust, sautéed cauliflower with sage, a large Caesar salad, and a frittata made with pesto and roasted vegetables. That's exactly what I had for lunch today at Beretta in San Francisco's Mission District.
And I washed it down with a delicious French 75. Beretta has been an iconic cocktail spot for many a year, so I'm not telling many of you something you don't already know. But here's what needs to be reiterated: if you think San Francisco's cocktail scene is getting too snooty, too pretentious, and too unfriendly, then you owe it to yourself to visit Beretta. Right when you walk in the bartenders smile, greet you, and help you find a seat. They hand you a menu, go over the list, and immediately get friendly with you. The service is outstanding, the food is top notch, and the drinks always forward-thinking, but classic. My wife got a Margarita that added cassis as an extra ingredient and that small addition made all the difference. We almost stayed for a third round, but we had some shopping to do. I could definitely make a Sunday habit out of brunch at Beretta. Today was easily the best San Francisco experience I've had all year.
And that's what going out in the city should be like. It should be an experience that inspires you while making you feel welcome. Molto bene, Beretta. You guys fucking rock. I'll be in more often.