Last week I was back in San Francisco for the first time in about five years, this time for a conference which would take up the better part of a work week.


My flight was around noon, so I worked from home and then had a nice easy commute to the airport. Almost too easy, really — my Uber driver and I were both freaked out by how smooth a trip it was.

My flight was similarly simple, and with a little extra leg room in the exit row. I watched The Post and Red Sparrow and landed at SFO in no time. The night before the conference began I spent a night at the Inn at Union Square, which was fine, if a little noisy. It was well-placed, though, to try a good place for lunch: Hogwash, where I had a dirty sausage sandwich and a Little Creatures Juicy Pale Ale.

It was also convenient for that night’s dinner with other conference attendees, at Scala’s Bistro, just a few seconds around the corner. Dinner was fine. Too loud. Too cramped. But gift horses and all that. Afterward I walked up the hill to check out another beer joint, Hopwater Distribution. I unwound from the forced interaction and closed the place down.



The next day I switched to my home base for the remainder of the conference, and spent the day attending session. That night some of us got to attend an event at the SFMOMA, which was showing an interesting Magritte exhibit (and has lots of Cy Twomly pieces that I really liked). There were rare whisky tasting and dessert art stations set up outside, so I…had a good time.



On Wednesday, after the conference day ended, I skipped the planned social event for the 20,000+ (!) attendees and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, Luce. My meal was outstanding, and I got to try Keenan Cab Sauv for my first time since visiting the winery eight years ago.

  • Pacific blue prawn, roasted with espelette chili + lemon, pistachio & brown butter (+ Château de Brézé Chenin, “Clos du Midi,” Saumur 2016)
  • New York strip steak w/ , rosemary + garlic Yukon potato “Anna”, Trumpet Royale mushrooms & date marmalade (+ Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014)
  • Chateau Laribotte 2011 Sauternes



Before the conference started I made my way to the nearest Blue Bottle Coffee for a cappuccino. It was a long wait. It was not worth it.

After the conference ended Thursday I made my way to the Mikkeller Bar SF to have some lunch and do some work. I’d heard good things. I’d read better things. I was immediately overwhelmed. There were at least a dozen beers I wanted to try, most of them stupidly strong.

In the end, in addition to another tasty sausage, I had:

  • Mikkeller “Blue Hour” gose-style ale brewed w/ pineapple, tart cherry & yerba buena
  • Mikkeller “Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter?” American porter brewed w/ yuzu
  • Barrel Brothers “The Snozberries Taste Like Snozberries” blonde sour ale with w/ wild berries
  • Jackie O’s “Oil of Aphrodite” imperial stout brewed w/ black walnuts
  • Prairie Artisan Ales “Bomb!” imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla & chilies

I walked (slowly, carefully; those last few beers were 10% and 14% ABV respectively) back to my hotel and chilled for a bit. I was in the mood for more steak, and made dinner reservations (solo) for Alexander’s. It was a killer meal, and one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. And because I was sitting at the chef’s bar they kept sending over little tastes and treats , and the Sommelier led me down a very lovely path indeed.

  • Hon hamachi w/ avocado, serrano, cilantro, yuzu-soy, garlic & radish
  • Scallop crudo w/ avocado, fresno chile, honey vinegar, apple & mint (+ their customer Riesling from the Mosel, which had been aged just long enough to be outstandingly petrol-y)
  • 20oz Nebraska-raised prime black Angus ribeye chop w/ yuzu kosho chimichurri, baby corn, Blue Lake green beans, charred lemon miso & crispy shallot  (+ Corison 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Dream Weaver goat cheese from Paso Robles (+ 1968 D’Oliveiras Bual Madeira)
  • Lime cotton candy (!)



Nothing to do Friday but more work in the morning, and then fly back to Toronto. In the crap bar at the airport I happened upon one last killer beer: the Ballast Point grapefruit “Sculpin” IPA.

The flight home went super-quickly: I was somehow upgraded to premium economy, and watched two movies (Avengers: Infinity War and Detroit) and suddenly I was back in Toronto. Body tired, brain full.

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