I sometimes feel caught somewhere between wanderlust and homesickness. Moving back to Oregon has tempered some of the homesickness, but I do feel a strong desire to get out and explore. To pack up the family and hop on a plane, a train, or the open road, and watch the scenery unfold. So many places are calling me: The Wallowas, Tomales Bay, Craters of the Moon, the Battenkill, and Copenhagen.
When I travel I love to find a comfortable café to spend some quality time. The ritual sounds of the espresso machine (grind, tamp, drip, steam, and pour) feel like home and awaken the senses. A café promises plenty of overheard conversations, whether I understand the language or not. The new place begins to unfold here, with glimpses into the local culture: What people wear, what people read, the art on the walls, and the music they listen to. A short time spent in a new café fuels me for hours of exploring.
I have logged many café hours in my life. Most were earned in San Francisco. So much so that the geography of San Francisco is tied to cafés I have known and loved. Some are still thriving, some long gone.
I was lucky to live close to some amazing cafés like Atlas, Farley's, and Babar. When I first moved to San Francisco I worked in a corner café and loved the flow found from making latte after latte. These were old school lattes in tall glasses filled with steamed milk, a shot or two of espresso carefully layered above the milk, and a plop of dryish foam on top. I loved working there and being part of the neighborhood.
San Francisco is now home to gorgeous coffee temples like Four Barrel, Sightglass, and Blue Bottle. I love them, but there is something about the homey neighborhood café that makes one want to linger and read another chapter.
One of my neighborhood cafés was Que Tal. I first started going there because they carried my favorite City Bakery pumpkin scones, but I soon learned that they made excellent homemade soup. It was a comfortable, homey place with a resident chubby grey cat named Lucy. She would move from sunny spot to sunny spot, and from lap to lap. I am sad to report that Que Tal is now closed.
When I moved out to the Richmond, I fell in love with Bazaar Café. This place is a hidden gem. They serve coffee, Japanese food, sandwiches, and sweets. The space is warm and decorated with wood and colorful accents, but the real secret is the backyard garden. Each table is surrounded by grasses, flowers, and vines. The Richmond is in the foggy part of the city, so on sunny days the garden was full of people soaking up every ray. After a stop at Bazaar Cafe, it is a quick walk to Clement Street, Land's End or Baker Beach.
But the place that I miss the most is Radio Valencia. I loved the quirky-comfy ambiance and the amazing music. They created daily playlists that were curated both in house and out. They would provide a copy of the playlist at each table, like a menu. One day a fire truck smashed into the building. Radio Valencia reopened and then closed for good a few years later.
Eventually the space became Beretta and it was again a happy place. Mr. Graham and I ventured there whenever we found ourselves in the Mission. They are known for their pizza, cocktail program, and especially their Rattlesnake cocktail. I am not sure how their cocktails fare these days, but for a time they were top notch.
Recently Mr. Graham and I started to reminisce about San Francisco cocktails. We remembered that the Rattlesnake is similar to the Filibuster, from another of our favorite places, Flora in Oakland. It is interesting to research the diaspora of certain cocktails and ingredients. As it happens the Filibuster is a precursor to the Rattlesnake at Beretta.
On paper this cocktail doesn't seem fancy, it is just an earthy version of a whiskey sour. But it is so smooth and perfectly balanced. I am going to refer to it as a Filibuster, because the Rattlesnake has its own provenance. If you look up the Rattlesnake in the Savoy Cocktail book, you will also find a whiskey sour, but it is made with a few dashes of absinthe instead of bitters. When I started researching this cocktail, I found a bit more about the history of this cocktail and the relationship to bars in the Bay Area on Savoy Stomp. Savoy Stomp is a great read. Mr. Ellestad is a dogged researcher, experimenter, and bartender. I can't wait to head down to the Coachman to enjoy a famous milk punch.
This recipe uses grade B maple syrup instead of simple syrup. (FYI - grade B maple syrup is now known as Grade A, Dark/Robust - the Vermont Maple Board has updated their grading system). Whatever you call it, it is the richer, earthier syrup from later in the season. It has a higher mineral content. Maple syrup, of course, is from my homeland. My sister and her husband still gather sap and boil down syrup, like we did on our farm back in the day.
This recipe calls for Peychaud's bitters, but I have also made it with aromatic bitters such as Angostura or Scrappy's. I can't say which bitters I prefer. All I can say is to be sure to include the bitters, they are essential!
The Filibuster, or a variation of the Rattlesnake Cocktail
A variation of the Rattlesnake cocktail in The Savoy Cocktail book. Recipe based on one from Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Family. He also designed the cocktail menu at Flora.
Makes two cocktails
1 ounce egg white
4 ounces rye whiskey, I used Old Overholt
3 ounces lemon juice
1.5 ounces maple syrup, I prefer grade B (now known as Grade A Dark/Robust)
4 dashes of Angostura or Peychaud's bitters (or absinthe, to follow the Savoy recipe).
Dry shake the egg whites in a cocktail shaker (no ice). Add the remaining ingredients and shake well. Add ice and shake again. Make sure the lid is secure. Strain well and pour into coupe glasses. There should be a nice creamy, foamy layer on top. Put a drop or two of bitters on top of the foam and make a design with a toothpick for decoration.