Last year I went to France. Specifically, the good folks at Planet Bordeaux sent me, and a group of other bloggers, to Bordeaux for an amazing week. In all seriousness, I can’t even explain how amazing.
I could use the fact that I was simply overwhelmed by France as an excuse for not writing about the trip for a year. However, the true excuse is that so many other real-world changes have been happening to me, writing about France was just low-priority.
As many of you know, I’m now living in San Francisco. In fact, as of a few weeks ago, I’m in the heart of the city. We live in Lower Pacific Heights (no, Michael Keaton is not nearby – but Danielle Steele is). We are in the middle of the rejuvenated Polk Street, the hipster Hayes Valley, the trendy Fillmore District, and the trendy AND hipster Marina (Union and Chestnut Streets). This means that there is simply too much to eat, drink, sample and experience than one could possibly imagine.
But back to France. On Sunday, after partaking in the San Francisco constant that is all-weekend-brunch-with-bottomless-mimosas-everywhere, I was walking along Union Street. Despite walking down this street constantly, I’d never noticed a tiny French delicatessen. Perhaps because my companion and I were out earlier than most weekend denizens of Union Street and there was no one around … regardless, I wandered in based on a sign: “French Wine Club – $20.”
The store is called Chez Berlue. While I’ve been obsessed with all things Paris for the last year, I’ve studiously avoided the rest of France. One step into Chez Berlue and I was taken back to Bordeaux last year. Of course I joined their wine club (although I chose a slightly higher level than $20), and I had a wonderful conversation with the young Frenchman behind the laptop. He just got back from China and while in San Francisco right now, is studying wine in Bordeaux. More exploring led me to discover the great French cookies, jams, TRUFFLES, meats and of course, CHEESE in the front of the store.
It’s the back of the store that’s a miracle of French wine, though. Filled to the brim with French wines of every price tag and from all over – Provence, Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Champagne – it’s all there. It turns out that two young French women own this lovely little store. They love San Francisco but opened the store because there are just certain things they miss about French foods (such as how I miss LaRosa’s Pizza Sauce and Four Roses Single Barrel from back home). One of these two young women was born and raised in a Bordeaux wine family, and she (Julie – the Berlue of the name) maintains the enjoyable wine collection.
My entrance into this store had two effects on me:
1 – I immediately left with two wine club reds and a white, which I’ll review tomorrow.
2 – I left with a renewed energy to write – both about my trip to France and all things wine and French related.
That means you’ll be getting a lot of France from me over the next few months, as I dive into French wines, my trip, and everything else remotely related. See, French wines often LOOK intimidating (blame those grand chateaus on the labels), but in truth, they’re amazingly approachable – and affordable – wines. My goal? To make French wine easier for all of us. I think that’s the goal at Chez Berlue too.
I’ve still got an occasional cocktail review I need to share (Fernet Branca, anyone?) and some occasional wine experiences out here in wine country. But there will be a lot of France. Hang on to your french fries …
I interrupt our standard coverage for a public service announcement. Sort of. I’m walking in the AIDS Walk San Francisco this weekend. It’s 6.2 miles through Golden Gate Park.
I don’t often do things like this but I believe that AIDS is something that has touched all of us, whether you’re familiar with celebrities, remember reading about Ryan White, or know someone personally affected with the disease. Hell, even if you’ve seen Rent, you’re aware of the toll this disease can take on someone and their families.
Since 1987, AIDS Walk San Francisco has raised nearly $80 million for San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other HIV/AIDS organizations in the six Bay Area counties. Your support will help the Foundation prevent new HIV infections and promote health among those living with HIV.
My thanks …
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
When I lived in Kentucky, there were 4 wine refrigerators in the house. The two smaller ones kicked the bucket pretty early. However, the two larger ones (40-50 bottles) are still running.
During some recent change-ups, I lost custody of the wine refrigerators. So now I’m in the market for a new one.
I’ve been researching, of course, and there are a lot of recommendations out there. I know that my main requirement is storage for 40-50 bottles. Following that, I’d like a quiet appliance and tinted glass. Less important is the need for a reversible door or dual temperature control. I’ll have to be particular about what goes into the new fridge, as I’m in a San Francisco apartment and well, space is at a premium. Gone are the days of 4 wine coolers in one room …
What brand do you have? Is it reliable? Have you had it for longer than 3 or 4 years? I’d love to hear your experiences as I shop for a wine cooler – on my own – for the first time.
I was having brunch on Saturday and the mimosa menu included the Hawaiian Sunrise. After finding out the ingredients, I ordered it. I absolutely loved it. Next time you have brunch, mix it up a little from the traditional mimosa and order a Hawaiian Sunrise instead.
There wasn’t much happening drink-wise in Episode 5. That was fine. There was a lot of heavy history happening in that episode – I’ll forgive them a lack of cocktails. That brings us to episode 6, where Roger starts picking up clients in airport lounges.
The orders start with Roger drinking (ewww) water with an onion and ordering a Jim Beam, double, for his friend. I was all set to tell you all about the history of Jim Beam, but then something interesting happened. Bert ordered a spirits of elderflower. Let’s talk about that.
Elderflower liqueur is one of my favorites. I love to ask a craft bartender to create a drink for me – whatever they want – using elderflower. I’ve also used it in sugar cookies and it’s quite tasty. The brand you’ll see on the shelf most often these days is St-Germain. If you’re familiar with Paris, you’re probably already recognizing the name of the famous street, St Germain, where Hemingway wrote and Picasso painted. The St-Germain web site describes its signature liqueur as follows:
“It has been said that Paris is a mélange curieux, a curious mixture of flavors, styles and influences. So it is with St-Germain.”
Technically, the liqueur is made from elderberries, but you’ll taste everything from flowers to peaches to grapefruits in the liqueur. Honestly, I enjoy drinking it on its own. It’s also quite wonderful mixed with champagne or sparkling wine. Here’s the classic St Germain cocktail, straight from their web site.
I was so tickled by their “variation” that I grabbed the thing as an image instead of retyping. Have a laugh … and have a cocktail.
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