Sometime this spring we’ll be able to belly up to a 34-foot redwood bar, burrowed into a contemporary beer hall housed in the Old Sash Mill complex (next to Patagonia), and not only sample six to eight artisanal beers on tap, but also savor seriously handmade meats, sausage sandwiches and creative ethnic pub food.
This long-awaited tasting room—The Oasis—and kitchen represents the tasty partnership of Chris LaVeque of El Salchichero butcher shop and brewmaster Alec Stefansky of Uncommon Brewers. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” LaVeque reminded me last week at the shop’s preview tasting. But the new large-scale kitchen—called Matambre—is the first restaurant for LaVeque, whose exceptional prosciutto, sausages, chops, and steaks fuel some of the finest restaurants in the area. Stefansky was busy hauling in infrastructure paraphernalia at the preview, but LaVeque took a minute to give me the lay of the land. “This entire area behind me,” he says, pointing to the former River Street furniture store, “will be the restaurant and lounge. We’re going to push out that wall on the right, and that’s where the kitchen will be.” At the far back of the huge hall, LaVeque indicates where the tap beer tasting bar will be. “There will be cured meats hanging all along the back bar, and upstairs will be beer barrels,” he says, pointing to an enormous loft space. Much more space for meat curing and barrel aging is available in the former Farmers Exchange space. The transformation will take a few more months, but be prepared to be amazed. And meanwhile, stay thirsty. On second thought, go sample some of LaVeque’s patés and sausages over at the Swift Street El Salchichero shop, and check out Uncommon Brewers’ wares at enlightened stores in your neighborhood. I love their Golden State Ale, available at Whole Foods, Shopper’s and New Leaf.
Pasta of the Week
The ricotta pappardelle Bolognese at Gabriella Cafe is nothing short of addictive. So easy to love, those wide noodles—comfort food for fashionistas since the days of the Medici—and that triumphant sauce, slow-cooked so that you can sense every herb, every vegetable, every hour of simmering that occurred before it arrived at your table in a deep bowl. Try it with a starter of roasted beets, goat cheese and honey pistachio puree.
Wine of the Week
Byington Liage Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles 2013. Located on Bear Creek Road above Los Gatos, the spectacular Byington Estate plays host to tasters and special parties throughout the year. With Andrew Brenkwitz at the winemaking helm, the wines have never been better, as I found out recently, sampling a bottle of the aromatic and mineral-infused Sauvignon Blanc (the sister wine to the house Alliage Bordeaux-style red). Kissed with just a touch of Viognier, the award-winning Liage delivers the citrusy, slate qualities of Sauvignon Blanc, and the kumquat, grapefruit peel and gardenia aromas of Viognier. A beautiful balance of salty and floral, we found it an intriguing food wine, thanks in part to the delicate 13.7 percent alcohol. You’ll have to look around, although I’m told you can find this one at the 41st Avenue Whole Foods—and of course at the hilltop Byington tasting room. Oh, and if you’re a fan of opulent Barberas, Byington’s 2013 creation from Shenandoah Valley grapes overflows with cherry, spice and floral intensity. Why not just stretch your legs and treat your senses—all of them—with a weekend visit to the tasting room, open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. byington.com.