SF Beer Week promises big stuff

SAN FRANCISCO -- The annual San Francisco Beer Week is scheduled to begin next Friday, February 5, and run through Valetine's Day, Sunday the 14th.

An estimated 60 rare, limited-release beers will be popping up, along with a host of activities at multiple venues. Herewith, a small sampling:

• A music concert, live comedy, and a dozen breweries at a "Beer-In for Charity" at Cobb's Comedy Club.

• A dinner with barrel-aged beer pairings by Beer & Nosh's Jesse Friedman, with celebrity chef Jen Biesty, at Scala's Bistro.

• Nightly food pairings with Drake's Brewing Co. new Belgian Trippel at The Front Porch.

• "Beer to Breakers" bike ride with breaks at breweries in San Francisco.

• Such new beer releases as Triple Rock's Keyser Soze Imperial Stout, Gordon Biersch's Rauchbier, Special Bock and Barrel-aged Dunkles, Russian River's Pliny the Younger, Schmaltz's Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah, and Speakeasy's new collaborative beer with Whole Foods.

• "Meet the Brewers Nights" with Black Diamond, Sudwerk, Trumer, Allagash, Marin, Ballast Point, Moylan's, Triple Rock, Bear Republic, and the San Francisco Brewers Guild.

• A Peninsula pub crawl on CalTRain with Wet Your Whistles.

You can get the full rundown on the interactive events map on the website, along with details on tickets, lodging and the like.
Dowd's Brews Notebook
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Kosher wine-and-food extravaganza in NYC

NEW YORK -- From time to time, I get an inquiry about kosher wine and food events. They're few and far between in most areas.

However, if you're willing to trek to Manhattan, you can take care of that problem on Monday (February 1).

The Royal Wine Corporation of Bayonne, NJ, is hosting a "Kosher Restaurant & Wine Experience" at 6:30 p.m. at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers. The event will feature tastings from 20 kosher restaurants -- Abigael's, Cho-Sen Gardens, Fumio, Glatt a la Carte, Le Marais, Pomegranate, Noi Due and Taverre 84 among them -- and 200 varietals from 40 international wineries.

Numerous winemakers will be on hand. There also will be a seminar by Jay Buchsbaum, Royal’s fine wine director Jay Buchsbaum.

The cost is $100 per person or $175 a couple. Details and reservations: Call (888) 710-2439 or go online.
Kosher Wine Society
Kosher Wine Review
Dowd's Guides


Have a cold one your way

MIAMI, FL -- Burger King likes to refer to itself these days as BK. Now, the B can stand for beer with your burger.

If you're here in Miami, that is. That's where the fast-food chain has opened its first "burger bar" where it is selling beer to drinking-age patrons.

The Whopper Bar South Beach is offering Whopper sandwich with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors brews. With fries, the combo costs $7.99. A beer alone, served in special aluminum cans made for BK, costs $4.25.

This restaurant is the company's pilot project. If successful, it plans to introduce the concept in other tourist markets such as Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles, according to Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King North America.

Can a wine list be far behind?
Dowd's Guides


Coffee & Tea Festival in NYC

NEW YORK -- Wine, beer and spirits have their extravaganzas, but coffee and tea don't have nearly the number of showcases. However, the 5th annual Coffee & Tea Festival NYC is a major event.

The international event, open to the public and the trade, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, February 2021, at 7WEST, located at 7 West 34th Street in Manhattan.

The event will offer two days of programming including classes/lectures/demos from industry pros and pioneers. Chocolates and sweet treats will offer a wonderful compliment to the spectacular collection of coffees and teas.
Ticket information and reservations
Dowd's Guides


San Francisco about to be ZAP-ed

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 19th annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival is set for January 28-20 here.

The event, to be held at the Fort Mason and Intercontinental Hotel, is three days of tastings, wine pairings and seminars.

Beverly Gannon (above left), chef of the Hali'imaile General Store in Maui, Hawaii, will prepare Hawaiian-themed food to pair with selected Zins at the January 28 dinner at Herbst Pavilion in Fort Mason.

More than 250 producers will offer samples of their wines at the Grand Zinfandel Tasting on January 30.

Admission to individual events or all three days ranges from $59 to $524, and is by advance purchase only. Information is available online.
A video interview with Chef Gannon
Dowd's Guides


Classifying the castles of Scotland

William M. Dowd photos

Ancient Edinburgh Castle sits atop an extinct volcano.

ABERDEENSHIRE, Scotland -- In the craggy Highlands of Scotland, and to some extent in the lusher lowlands as well, life has always been harsh.

Rough weather, generations-long disputes between family-led clans, hard-scrabble earnings pried from rocky fields and shaggy cattle, invaders from Scandinavia and England imposing their will and their rule … . All have played a part in producing a stubborn, hardy race of people known for clinging to their ethnic heritage as strongly as any people you’ll find anywhere.

Little wonder, then, that most of Scotland’s structures have been built, at least in part, of stone – the strong granite type quarried in abundance throughout this land about the size of South Carolina; stone that defies armed attacks, howling winter winds and debilitating cold and snow. Stone that can be cut and muscled into various shapes to accommodate the needs of the people.

Most types of granite tend to sparkle when wet, and in a land where “wet” is synonymous with “typical day” and where you’re never more than about 45 miles from the sea, it’s not unusual to see a certain gleam ahead when approaching a town or village after a storm.

As I traveled throughout Scotland I noted that even the meanest villages were made up mostly of stone structures. And Aberdeen, one of the major cities, is, in fact, known as the Granite City. The granite blocks are found in private homes, farm outbuildings, commercial facilities and, of course, the ubiquitous castles.

Castles have always had a special place in the life and legend of Scotland. The structures themselves vary widely, rather than automatically falling into the “Ivanhoe” or King Arthur model Hollywood created for us.

From the earliest stone fortifications, known as brochs and motte castles, to fortified manor houses (essentially tower-like structures built vertically for security reasons ) erected in the 13th through the 15th centuries and often expanded in later years -- and large, sprawling castles whose names are well known to us today –- Balmoral, summer home of the British royal family; Cawdor, scene of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”; Ardverikie House, the manor house on the BBC America television series “Monarch of the Glen,” and, of course, magnificent Edinburgh Castle that stands on an extinct volcano overlooking that ancient city – these are a legacy that punctuates the history of the nation.

Today, the castles fall into three categories:

• Those that have gone into ownership of such official agencies as Historic Scotland or the National Trust.

• Those that have become tourist accommodations as a way to pay the heavy taxes that have caused most other families to sell them off.

• Those that have fallen into disrepair and now provide mute testimony to the fate of all things made by man, no matter how immortal the feel of their stones.

Many of the historic sites were spruced up in 2009 during the national tourism promotion effort called "Homecoming Scotland."

I've come across several examples of each castle category during my travels of the country.

A welcoming committee greets guests for a Leith Hall luncheon.

One of the most historically interesting was Leith Hall, built in A.D. 1650 and now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

It’s a preserved treasure trove of Scottish memorabilia in the form of chinaware, oil paintings by the likes of Gilbert Stuart, as well as household and personal articles of the period. It’s a typical example of a residence for a Scottish laird (lord), set on a 286-acre estate in the rolling countryside of Aberdeenshire.

The remnants of Huntly Castle.

It stands in marked contrast to Huntly Castle, looked after by Historic Scotland. The original was built 500 years before Leith Hall. The stone structure that now stands in ruins replaced the original wooden fortifcation in about 1410, and one still can see much of the shell of the main building as well as the remnants of outbuildings -– a winery and a bakery -– and of the motte, a circular artificial defensive mound.

Huntly has always had a cursed existence, usually because its lairds were on the losing side of political and military battles, the winners continually setting the place afire and defacing much of its masonry art. It eventually became an unintended “quarry” for people stealing stones to build the nearby town of Huntly. Finally, in 1923 it passed into state care.

The best example of the third category –- a family home turned commercial enterprise -– was Ballindalloch Castle in an area known as Speyside, a large crescent of land where the river Spey meanders, and where much of the ubiquitous Scotch whisky such as The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich is distilled.

The 16th Century castle has been home to the Macpherson-Grant family since 1546. The original structure was in the traditional Z shape, but has been modified and enlarged over the centuries. It’s a good example of the evolution of a fortified tower house into a sprawling estate.

The people who own and operate Ballindalloch are the picture of British aristocracy, motion picture style.

Oliver Russell, 68, a onetime banker raised in London, is the son of a highly decorated British admiral, and as a young man was what is known as an “honors page” to Queen Elizabeth II. He’s tall, slightly stoop-shouldered, with carefully combed silver-gray hair, a long handsome face and a courtly manner.

Clare Macpherson-Grant Oliver, lady of the manor at Ballindalloch Castle. Husband Russell Oliver greets visitors, below.

His wife, Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, 62, through whose family the castle has been owned, is the only child of the sixth baron of Ballindalloch. She is an elegantly turned-out woman, dressed in a tailored skirt and jacket, her gray hair worn in sort of a Thatcheresque poof, hands clasped as she speaks, softly and with a clipped English inflection.

When her father died during her childhood, the family title went to his brother who passed ownership of the estate to her upon his death. However, legally the title may only be passed from male to male in the family line.

“Such a silly thing,” Lady Clare said with a dismissive wave. “The very idea that women can’t be just as accomplished as men.”

To avoid having the title die out, the Russells' elder son, Guy Ewan, 41, has officially changed his surname to Macperson-Grant which means he can eventually inherit the sobriquet.

She does, however, hold a title of her own. She is the Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, which means she is the Queen’s representative in the locality.

“It also means I have to be sure everything is in proper order when the Queen comes for any occasion,” she told me during a tour of Ballindalloch.

She also is the author of several published cookbooks and designed a number of the items among the jewelry, cashmeres and tartans sold as part of “the Ballindalloch Collection.”

The main dining room of Ballindalloch Castle.

The castle, which has undergone a continual upgrade over the 40-plus years of the Olivers’ marriage -– “I very cleverly married a banker, so he knew all the particulars of how to financially support this venture,” she said -– is a pristine place, with gilt-framed portraits, fine fabrics, heirloom dishware, draperies and silver tableware and bric-a-brac, photos delineating the more modern adventures of the family, and collections of weapons from many generations. All of which stand in stark contrast to seeing the laird and lady of the manor off in a corner stuggling mightily to overcome an office computer problem in the absence of a staff member who usually handles such chores.

Visitors wander through the house, moving through one corridor after another that range in size from two-abreast to tiny, cramped winding staircases once used by servants to stay out of sight of guests while going about their household duties.

The grounds of the estate contain about 100 stone buildings, smallish affairs that over the years served as living quarters for estate workers. Many have been refurbished to serve as guest houses. The grounds also offer salmon and trout fishing in the rivers Spey and Avon that run through the grounds, shooting and hunting on the riverbanks and in the mature hardwood forests, and golf on the private course Oliver Russell runs.

The flora and fauna of the estate are worth seeing. Flower gardens, a walk-through arbor and river walks; a herd of Aberdeen Angus, a breed developed by Lady Clare’s great-grandfather in the 1860s.

“In the States you call them Black Angus,” she explained to me as she pointed out a trio of the great beasts lounging under a shade tree, “but the true name is Aberdeen Angus and they came from right here at Ballindalloch.”

Many of the castles, such as Blair Castle at the Atholl Estates right in the heart of Scotland midway between Inverness (located at the top of Loch Ness) and Perth, are excellent family stops. Child-oriented displays and activities such as wildlife tours via Land Rover, farm tractor tours, pony treks and country fairs abound.

Next year’s “Homecoming Scotland” festivities undoubtedly will ramp up tourism throughout the country. If you’re of Scottish descent, July 25-26 will be the pinnacle when “The Gathering 2009” is projected to be the largest international clan gathering and Highland Games ever held in Scotland.
Around 8,000 clans-people from around the world are expected to take part in a parade along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the Highland Games’ Heavy Event Championship.

The competition moves from country to country each year since its inception in 1980. This year’s championship was won by American Sean Betz in West Virginia, and he plans to defend his title next year in Edinburgh.
Homecoming Scotland
The Gathering 2009
Scottish Tourist Board
• Clans & Castles
Fishing In Scotland
Golf Travel Scotland
The Malt Whisky Trail
• Dowd's Guides


Boston Wine Expo discount tix available

BOSTON, MA -- Discounted tickets are available until January 15 for the 19th annual Boston Wine Expo, scheduled this year for January 23-24 at the Seaport World Trade Center.

The organizers call this the largest trade and consumer wine event in the country, with more than 450 wineries participating and pouring samples of more than 1,800 wines from domestic and foreign producers.

The event also includes free food samples from a wide variety of vendors, as well as workshops and seminars.

Full details are available online.
• Dowd's Wine Notebook
Dowd's Guides


72 participants for HV Restaurant Week(s)

The 4th annual "Hudson Valley Restaurant Week" will be offering a three-course, prix-fixe lunch for $20 and dinner for $28 at participating restaurants in the historic region of New York State.

The event this year actually is a two-week event despite its name, scheduled for Monday, March 15, through Sunday. March28.

Prices are per person and do not include beverage, tax or tip. Reservations are recommended eveywhere, and required at some establishments. No tickets or passes are required, simply review the restaurant list below. Contact restaurants directly for details and reservations.

There are 72 restaurants signed up as participants so far, including the following:

Armonk: Marc Charles Steakhouse, Opus 465

Red Devon

Piggy Bank Restaurant

Iron Forge Inn

Brewster: Santrista Grill

Crabtree's Kittle House

Chatham: Blue Plate

Cold Spring:
Brasserie Le Bouchon, Cathryn's Tuscan Grill. Hudson House River Inn

Congers: Restaurant X and The Bully Boy Bar

Dobbs Ferry: The Cookery, Halfmoon, Off Broadway Restaurant

East Chester:
Casa Brusco

Hudson's Ribs & Fish, Il Barilotto

Garrison: The Bird & Bottle Inn

Goshen: Catherine's Restaurant, Il Tesoro

Hastings On Hudson: Blu Riverfront Bar & Bistro, Harvest on Hudson

Haverstraw: Union Restaurant and Bar Latino

High Falls: Depuy Canal House

Hyde Park:
The American Bounty at the CIA, Twist

Il Soriso, River City Grill

Le Fontane

Mamaroneck: Zitoune Restaurant

Hidden Cellar Restaurant, Raccoon Saloon


Millbrook: Charlotte's

Milton: Ship Lantern Inn

Montgomery: Backyard Bistro

Mt. Kisco: Cafe of Love

New Paltz: Beso, Village Tea Room Restaurant & The Bake Shop

North Salem:
121 Restaurant and Bar

Two Spear Street

McKinney & Doyle Fine Foods Cafe

Peekskill: The Peekskill Brewery

Pine Plains:
The Stissing House

Iron Horse Grill

Port Chester:
Sonora Restaurant

Poughkeepsie: Amici's, The Artist's Palate, Babycakes Cafe, Beech Tree Grill, Shadows on the Hudson

Starr Place, Terrapin Restaurant

Somers: Luce Seafood & Pasta House

Porotino Restaurant

Marcello's of Suffern

Bistro Z, Caravella, Eqqus at the Castle On the Hudson, Harvest Grille at the Westchester Marriott, Ruth's Chris Steak House

Tappan: Il Portico

Valhalla Crossing

Wappingers Falls:
Aroma Osteria

White Plains:
Legal Seafood, 42, The Melting Pot, Niko's Green Taverna

La Lanterna Restaurant, Tombolino Ristorante, X2O Xaviars on Hudson
Restaurant Week updates
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