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Judging SF Bloody Mary Fest

Best Bloody mary in sf 2

This weekend, the brave folks at the Bloody Mary Liberation Party set out to answer a question as old as time (or at least a few years old) – who makes the best Bloody Mary in SF? To that end, they threw the Bloody Mary Festival this weekend and invited ten of SF’s best purveyors of Bloody Marys to come make a few hundred samples and let the people of SF give them a taste. Since they recognize that tasting Bloody Marys is something that takes tremendous experience, they invited yours truly to be one of three judges. You can see the results on their Facebook event page, and I’ve got a few thoughts to add as well.

We scored all the Bloody Marys in two categories – original and traditional. That made things a little tough, because they all very much tended towards the traditional side. My two highlights for what I considered original were Mission Bowling Club, which made one with roasted mole, and Front Porch, whose Bloody Mary had enough sugar in it to be distinctively sweet (and one of my favorites as a result).

best bloody mary sf

A few other candidates for the best Bloody Mary in SF that stood out:

  • Scoma’s came down from Fisherman’s Wharf with fresh crab in tow, and they were serving up a small fried ball of crab with each Bloody Mary. The drinks were excellent themselves, but a little bit of fried seafood was a perfect pairing.
  • Kitchen Story brought the party – they had about a half dozen people at their booth in rainbow shirts and wigs, and they were having a great time. I’m not sure if that’s what drew in the large crowd at their booth, or whether it was the Millionaire’s Bacon they were serving with each Bloody. If that names sounds familiar, it’s because Kitchen Story is owned by the same folks who own Sweet Maple, Surisan and Blackwood, who all have Millionaire’s Bacon as well. Even without the pomp, circumstance and bacon, I still think Kitchen Story had the best BM in the house, so it’s no surprise they won for best original recipe and took home the people’s choice award.
  • Tacolicious took home the award for best traditional BM, which was not a shock – they didn’t have gimmicks or food pairings, but they definitely made a good, old fashioned Bloody Mary.

The Bloody Mary Festival was a great time, and I’ll definitely plan to be back next year. Remember, though, at the end of the day the best Bloody Mary in SF is the one you like the most, so go out, try some, and let me know what you think!

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Surisan

surisan
Surisan is a Korean restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf owned by the same restaurant group that runs Sweet Maple, Kitchen Story and Blackwood. Unlike most of
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Reviews

Alta

alta sf

Alta SF has two locations – the established one on Market Street, and the new MSP (Minnesota Street Project). The latter is all the way down in the Dogpatch, but it’s the only one of the two that serves brunch, so off we went this weekend. It’s a fairly small space – when I called in to make a reservation for 12, the hostess had to confirm with the chef that the kitchen could handle us. Thankfully they were able to accommodate, but they warned ahead of time that our dishes might come out a bit slowly due to the relatively small size of the kitchen.

The Uber ride down took us through a less than attractive neighborhood – my co-brunchers were taking bets on whether I’d actually just lured them here to murder them – but once we arrived, everything looked great. The inside only had a few shared tables and a long bar (plus us taking up two of those shared tables for ourselves). It wasn’t especially crowded; besides us there were mostly small groups who came and went over the course of a couple of hours.

The Bottomless

$20 gets you Alta SF’s “Bottomless Mimosa Lab,” which comprises champagne and accompanying juices/syrups/bitters served in Erlenmeyer flasks of various sizes (important note: I don’t actually know if they were Erlenmeyer… that’s just the only kind of flask I remember from AP Chem). Anyway, it made for some excellent Instagramming. Alongside a large flask of champagne, there were smaller ones of orange juice, bitters, watermelon syrup and blackberry syrup. We tried everything at first, but by the end we were mostly just drinking straight champagne.

The first couple of rounds were a bit slow, but once they caught onto the pace of our imbibing, they kept the champagne coming quickly.

The Food

The menu is limited and not especially complex, but everything they do, they do well. We started with some beignets, which were fresh, just flaky/crispy enough and accompanied with a side of blackberry compote. We also got deviled eggs for the table – if you like deviled eggs, you’ll love these, as they come topped with furikake (a Japanese seasoning that’s basically salty/savory), sesame seeds and a few drops of a hot sauce that was vaguely like sriracha.

After that I made the incredibly adult decision to skip past the brunch dishes and just have the strawberry shortcake sundae for my meal. It was pretty simple – basically a slice of lemon poppyseed cake topped with vanilla soft serve and fresh strawberries. Just the right amount of sweet, though the cake was a little dense for my taste. The rest of the table went with actually brunch foods, and surprisingly enough the standout for me was the Alta scramble. Usually I stay away from simple dishes like scrambles in order to get a taste for the more specialty stuff on the menu, but there’s a reason they put their name on this dish. The eggs were quite possibly the best I’ve ever had – they were light, fluffy and had a bit of dill, which was amazing. I also tried some of the breakfast sandwich and their grilled levain bread (with burrata and fresh tomatoes), but the scramble was easily the best of them.

The Service

The employees were very friendly both in helping me get my reservation made and serving us once we arrived. The restaurant doesn’t have a ton of staff due to its size, but everybody was helping out, and the food came out at a totally reasonable pace despite their warnings up front. One member of the group got the wrong dish, but they replaced it quickly. The waiter also only chuckled minimally when I ordered a sundae for brunch.

Overall

The worst thing about Alta SF is the location, but it’s worth the Uber ride. The space is well designed, the bottomless is just novel enough to be amusing and the food is spot on. This is a worthy new entrant to SF’s bottomless brunch scene.

Rating: 🍾🍾🍾🍾

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Hollow Cow

hollow cow
"Served shamefully." This is the last sentence in the description of one of Hollow Cow's brunch cocktails, the Hare of the Dog. Ingredients: one shot
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