Monday, October 26, 2009

Swiss Movement

Fall days are perfect to enjoy a late lunch at a new restaurant in San Francisco's Castro/Mission neighborhood. Below the perimeter of Market and 16th Streets--in the neighborhoods of Castro, Noe, and Mission--are some of the trendsetting, tastiest restaurants, bars, and cafés in the city, sandwiched between abandoned storefronts, taquerias, sleazy hotels, and cheap apartments. These are places like Bar Bambino, Contigo, Flour + Water, Beretta, and Starbelly.

Starbelly opened just a few months ago. I would describe the food as "contemporary Americana as imagined by a San Franciscan"--downscaled Lark Creek mixed with Bay Area Cal-Euro, whatever the heck this means. To illustrate, on the menu you'll find corn dogs next to salumi, pizza Marherita side-by-side with BLT, tapenade and pimientos de padron together with Prather Ranch burger. What is going on?! Is this how many of us eat in the Bay Area these days?

To further complicate matters, my friends and I brought a bunch of Swiss wines to Starbelly--yes, Swiss, as in watches and banks--to have with this new take on American comfort food.

Switzerland's Valais region is where the Rhône River originates. In its hills and valleys below the Alps lies one of the most fascinating wine regions. The warm and sunny microclimate combined with the mountain terrain produce fabulous wines with complex, mouthwatering flavors and minerality.

The 2007 Caloz Heida-Paien (pictured above) easily seduces with a scent of wildflowers and flavors of ripe pear, sweet spice, and fresh herbs, all held together by a crisp acidity and crunchy minerality. Heida-Paien is the Swiss name for the Savagnin grape grown in the Jura region of France. Anyway, this wine was absolutely tasty and refreshing with Starbelly's Caesar Salad. Eric, Raj Parr's assistant at RN74, tells me that they go through a bunch of this at the wine bar. I wasn't surprised.

From the restaurant's wine list we ordered a 2007 Simcic Sauvignonasse from Brda in Slovenia bordering Italy (same region as Movia), it was rich and interesting but no match with the gorgeous 2007 Cave du Vieux-Moulin Petite Arvine de Vetroz. Petite Arvine is a white grape that's also grown widely in Italy's Valle d'Aosta. Romain Papilloud of Cave du Vieux-Moulin crafts this suave Petite Arvine, dry and vibrant, redolent with citrus, green apples, and sweet herbs. A great match with the Fried Clam Poorboy sandwich with a side of fries that I had.

The last wine we opened was the 2007 Cave des Tilleuls Pinot Noir de Vetroz. Pinot Noir, of course, is a cool-climate grape varietal and well at home at the Valais region's mountain terroir. Bright, juicy cherry flavors with hints of spices like pepper and cinnamon stick. Prorpietor/winemaker Fabienne Cottagnoud make this mountain Pinot Noir with beautiful purity, exactly what it deserves.

A small plate of caesar salad with avocado and croutons. A refreshing meal by itself with the 2007 Caloz Heida-Paien

Having lived in New England for years I can't resist ordering this fried clam poorboy sandwich. I washed it down with the 2007 Cave du Vieux-Moulin Petite Arvine de Vetroz. Heavenly!

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