Could Ghirardelli Square One Day Rival the Ferry Building?

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If the last time you were in Ghirardelli Square was to escort a visiting elderly relative who wanted to buy fudge with traveler's cheques, that's because it kind of sucks.

But as a historic pod of twelve buildings dating as far back as 1864, it certainly has potential beyond its current 55 percent occupancy rate and general forgettable-ness. (Remember, the Ferry Building used to be walled off from everything by an elevated freeway.) In perhaps a bit of recognition that it's underutilized and unloved, Ghirardelli Square has been purchased for $56 million in preparation for a big, post-recession zhoozh.

See also: Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival Offers More than Cacao

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Drink of the Week: Best Winter Cocktails

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Lou Bustamante
With the rain last week, the cold snap this one, and the holiday visitors streaming in, chances are, you're going to need some liquid cheer sooner or later. This week, I'm rounding up a few of the best drinks to enjoy this winter around town, whether you need a post-shopping nerve-soother, or to ward off the cold (or even a cold).

Drink: Rock & Rye
Where: Rye Bar, 688 Geary (at Leavenworth), 474-4448

Why: The beauty of this drink is that it's one that works both hot as a toddy or cold as a stirred Old Fashioned style drink. The base is rye whiskey infused with citrus and spices, sweetened by horehound candy (with alleged medicinal properties) developed by bar owners Greg Lindgren and Jon Gasparini, based on a classic American liqueur. Rock & Rye may no longer be prescribed by doctors for colds, but trust us, 100 years later, there's still no better cure.

See Also:
- Drink of the Week: Best Warm Weather Cocktails
- Drink of the Week: The Port Au Prince at Smuggler's Cove
- Drink of the Week: The Orient at Michael Mina

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Eat This for Lunch Today: Porchetta Sandwich at Carmel Pizza Co.

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Anna Roth
Yesterday for lunch we popped over to Carmel Pizza Company at Fisherman's Wharf, because ever since we read about it a few weeks ago, visions of its porchetta sandwich have been dancing through our head.

This version had less fat than previous porchetta sandwiches we've known and loved -- the fresh ciabatta roll remained relatively grease-free, a far cry from the glorious gut bombs of sandwiches past -- but it did mean that it didn't completely kill our productivity for the rest of the afternoon.

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Drink of the Week: Irish Coffee at Buena Vista

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Lou Bustamante
The cup of coffee you wish you had this morning
Solstice arrives next week, marking the celestial start to summer and bringing with it the arrival of tourist season. Yes, that means that soon we'll be shepherding out-of-towners around the various tourist traps sites. While certain activities confirm why we avoid particular parts of San Francisco, but others, like a ride on the Powell and Hyde cable car to the Buena Vista Cafe, remind us of the iconic features we love about the city.

The version of the Irish Coffee ($7.75, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, coffee, sugar, lightly whipped cream) served at the Buena Vista was developed by Jack Koeppler and Stanton Delaplane in 1952, reverse engineering a version that travel writer Delaplane had tasted in a bar at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. The pair are credited with bringing the drink to the United States and developing a special method for creating a dense, yet light froth of cream that rests on the sweetened, whiskey-laced coffee. Warming and soothing, rich and sweet, it's an uncommon cup of nectar.

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Check, Please! Reality Check: Episodes 401 & 402

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This season's first episode (#401) of Check, Please! Bay Area didn't merit its own post. It was odd that the three guests were so unanimous about how great everything was at Mescolanza, a neighborhood Italian place in the Richmond, the Basque Cultural Center in South SF, and Alexander's Steakhouse, an expensive, Vegas-style place in Cupertino, especially given that the writen reviews on KQED's Web site include some critical remarks, but they didn't seem to be very sophisticated diners.

This week's episode (#402) is another story. Most experts rate the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Shanghai Dumpling King the best in the Bay Area, but the two guests who were trying the place for the first time didn't order them. One didn't make the connection between the restaurant's name and the menu. The other didn't order them because she's a vegetarian. What!? Sending a vegetarian to review a restaurant that specializes in XLB is like sending an observant Jew or Muslim to cover a pig roast. If the producers want to have vegetarians on the show, wouldn't it make more sense to give them their own all-veg episodes?

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Tea for the Holidays at Crown & Crumpet

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The adorable tea salon Crown & Crumpet, in Ghirardelli Square (900 North Point St, E207), is offering three special holiday tea events between now and Christmas. There's a Children's Gingerbread Tea on Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m.; a Ladies' Tea on Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.; and a Hanukkah Tea on Monday, December 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.

All three feature special menus of sweets and savories (we love their housebaked scones with clotted cream and lemon curd), Christmas crackers and gifts for everyone, surprises and special guests. Crown & Crumpet bills itself as a "doily-free zone," its d├ęcor is a charming and cheerful blend of chintz, checkerboard flooring, chandeliers, and a swell view of the Bay. The Gingerbread Tea and the Hanukkah Tea runs $40 per child, $45 per adult; the Ladies' Tea, $58 a person. Book at 771-4252. --Meredith Brody

Friday Sundae: Ghirardelli Square's Peppermint Bark Sundae

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For the holiday season, the elves at Ghirardelli Square's Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop (located at 900 North Point St.) are offering two Christmas-y concoctions: peppermint hot cocoa and a peppermint bark sundae. We thought the sundae was a wee bit overpriced at $8.95 (before tax), but figured hey, we don't get the chance to indulge in all things peppermint till this season comes along, so why the heck not? The sundae features three large scoops of peppermint ice cream, decadent layers of fudge, peppermint bits atop the cream topping (which are also mixed into the ice cream itself) and a square of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for garnishing. Good for two, or well, one if you don't give a darn about your waistline. --Janine Kahn


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