Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heretics in Martinez

Earlier this week I had a great first date at the Creek Monkey Tap House in Martinez.  The menu consisted of basic bar foods (like wings), salads, and sandwiches/burgers.   Meghan had the Pulled Pork sandwich which was quite tasty and I had a bacon mushroom burger. It wasn't the best of burgers, but I've been spoiled lately by Lincoln Park's Wagyu Slider and M&G's 1/2lb organic burger in Fairfax.  The patty didn't live up to my expectations, but the mushrooms and bacon on the burger were fabulous.  Ugh, I'm becoming a food snob in addition to a wine snob.  I miss the days when everything tasted great.  I went from super picky as a kid to eating everything in my 20s and now edging back towards picky again.  I guess the difference is now I'm trying things before I decide that I don't care for it.

While the food was ok, the beer selection was phenomenal with 19 craft beers on tap and one cider.  Most of the brews are from Nor Cal.  There is a wide variety of beer styles from light to dark, but I didn't see any sours.  Meghan recommended the Heretic Gramarye (4.4%) which is a spicy yet smooth rye beer.  I loved it.  I really should have started with a pale ale and then gone to the Gramarye later as the spiciness of the rye overpowered the Grand Tetons Sweetgrass (6%) that I tried to have for my second beer.  I have enjoyed Grand Tetons beer before, but I'm never had the Pale Ale.  Luckily they will give you a sip of the beer before you buy it.  So after trying several lighter beers I tried another Heretic beer, the Evil Twin (6.8%) which is a hoppy red ale.  I liked it, but it still wasn't quite what I was looking for so I made my own blend with the bit of Gramarye still in my glass and it was awesome.  So I asked the very nice waitress if I could have it half and half.  (I wonder how brewers feel about people blending their beer.  Any brewers feel free to leave a comment.)  It was awesome.  So not only is the beer selection great, but the waitress was super patient, friendly, and happy to help me find the right beer.  (Tasting notes are limited because I wasn't planning on writing it up.)

I'm sure we will be back there soonish to take pictures and review more things like the stout float which is reminiscent of Doc's beer milkshake from Steinbeck's Cannery Row.  I tried making a beer milkshake many years ago and it was kind of foul, but I probably used IPA and vanilla ice cream.  So hopefully the CMTH can do it better.

So in conclusion if you love craft beers and/or you could use a bite to eat then check out Creek Monkey Tap House.  Also if you find Heretic pick up a bottle.  I've never seen it before so good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Awesome Wine Bar in San Anselmo

Published in the Marinscope Newspapers on 9/12 in section B1.  Something happened with uploading to the net, link will be posted at some point.

The newest wine bar in Marin is located less than a block from the hub in San Anselmo, Lincoln Park was opened on August 12th by renowned local chef Stephen Simmons. Much of the produce comes from Skywalker Ranch where Simmons has been the executive chef since closing the doors at Bubba's Diner in San Anselmo and working at a long list of other fine establishments over the past 30 years. Simmons describes himself as an old hand in the restaurant business and considers Lincoln Park a place to have fun with his creative side.

The white wines are arranged from floral to full-figured and the reds are listed from fruit forward to fat. There were five whites, five reds, a sparkling wine, two cold sakes, and 10 beers to choose from. The wines ranged in price from $6 to $11 for a 4 oz pour and $10 to $17 dollars for a small carafe. These are exceedingly great prices for a wine bar, let alone a wine bar in Marin. For $16 you can get three wines paired with little nibbles of almonds, cheese, and fruit. The wines and beers fit a variety of palates and come from small cult wineries and breweries. Six out of the ten wines and nine out of the ten beers are from Northern California which fits their buy locally philosophy.

I accidentally went for the two most expensive wines on the menu because I love viogniers and I wanted to try the Marin wine. Cowhorn's 2011 viognier/roussanne/marsanne blend from Oregon had aromas of honey, lemon, and citrus blossoms. On the palate, there were notes of lemon, mineral, pear, and slight hints of lychee. Kendric's 2008 pinot noir from Marin is a bright, fruit-forward wine with aromas of cherry, vanilla, earth, cinnamon, and hints of mocha. The pinot exhibited both stewed and sour cherries, dry earth, white pepper, and dark plum with hints of tar on the palate.

The food is fresh, lively, and intricate. The ingredients are nearly 100% local and organic. The wagyu slider was sourced from Skywalker Ranch and the chicken from Marin Sun Farms. I had the wagyu slider and the steamed mussels with fennel. The slider was one of the best I've ever had. The meat was tender, juicy, lightly seasoned with black pepper, and topped with white cheddar on a ciabatta bun. The mussels were amazing as well. The menu which consists of appetizers and desserts ($6-$12) changes often and is written on a large blackboard in each room. A picture of the menu is posted on their Facebook page almost every day.  (Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures when I was there the first time so I don't have any pics of the food.)

The space is divided into two rooms. One room has a marble bar top with shelves of reclaimed wood, an old typewriter, and early 20th century radio for decorations. The other room has high backed leather booths with tables. Classic relaxing jazz was playing lightly in the rooms while the patrons sipped their wine and gossiped. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. Both rooms were pretty full, on the Tuesday evening that I dropped in, with mostly women in their 30s and 40s and a few couples. Everyone left with a smile on their face; I overheard many well deserved complements to the staff and the chef.

I highly recommend Lincoln Park for the food, wine, and atmosphere.

Lincoln Park is located at l98 Sir Francis Drake in San Anselmo and is open Sunday - Wednesday: 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm and Thursday - Saturday: 4:30 pm - 12:00 am . For more information, call 453-9898 or visit

Question for the readers:  What is your favorite wine bar and what makes it special?