The alarm buzzed at 4:15 am on Friday, April 13th, 2007. I hadn’t much sleep from the night before, but I knew that wouldn’t matter much; I was going to be high on excitement and anticipation the rest of the day. Today was the day I joined my compatriots in whiskies and flew up to San Francisco for the annual Whiskies of the World exposition. We had attended last year, and had decided before that event was even over that we would be returning this year for more!And return we did. The flight up was uneventful. Raz and I got in to Oakland around 8.30am and found ourselves on the B.A.R.T light rail heading into the city soon after we touched down (Fergus was to meet up with us later once we was able to leave work). We emerged form the subway somewhere around the Montgomery exit, and began to get our bearings in the City. While it was still very early, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to check-in quite yet, we still made our way to our hotel to drop off our luggage.
With no responsibilities for the day, Raz and I decide it is time for a drink, and begin walking around the city. We found ourselves in Chinatown quite quickly, as the gates to Chinatown were less that a block from our hotel, and continued on that path, as it was interesting and we had no cares in the world. To our surprise, as we are entering the tip of North Beach, I get a call from Fergus who indicates that he is on his way into the city, much earlier than Raz and I had anticipated. With Fergus’ imminent arrival, Raz and I make our way down to the Montgomery B.A.R.T. station to meet up with our friend, only to find a nice small sushi place which had just opened for the day.
Taking a break from walking, we sit down to a nice sushi lunch and some Oolong tea…. apparently we were thirsty. Four cans of Oolong later, and we were finally beginning to feel human. Of course this is just about the time I get another call from Fergus telling me he just left work, and would be in the city within an hour, so Raz and I opt to head back to the Irish Bank pub for drinks, which just so happened to be next door to our hotel! Soon after, Fergus showed up and the fun really began. And this is where our photos begin… (click on the image to get to the full album from the trip):
We grabbed a bite of lunch, and headed into the hotel to try our hand at checkin once more… but of course we were still a bit too early, which left us back wandering the streets of Chinatown. In typical 3 Drunken Celts fashion, we find ourselves admiring some architectural facades, only to realize it is the entrance to a local bar. Of course we have to stop in for a drink now. I’ll tell you, that bartender saw us coming a mile away. She made her “special Chinese Mai Tai” and charged us out the ass for them. Oh well, it was worth the fun, and after all this WAS intended to be a drunken debauchery kind of weekend. Not wanting to spend too much time there, we opted to finish our drinks and leave so we could go checkin, get unpacked, and moving on to the next bar.
We made our way back to the hotel and finally were able to checkin and get our room assignment. Due to a small mixup, we got a room that was a bit cramped for 3 guys, but we made it work none-the-less (and were taken care of on checkout as an apology). The room was pretty darn cool:
Even better was the work being done on the outside “courtyard” area:
One of the artists had been given free range on the walls in the courtyard. What you see above is probably on 1/3 complete. I think we’ll need to return to see the completed project!
The three of us got settled in an unpacked just in time to get back out to the city and start walking again. This time, however, we were walking on a mission: we needed to get to Bourbon & Branch for cocktail hour before the big whisky pairing dinner later in the evening. We seemed to have misjudged our timing a bit, so we ended up at a bar just down the street for a bout half an hour. On our way back up to B&B, Raz encountered one of his funniest moments for the weekend.. a passerby stopped, looked Raz in the eye as he was walking and exclaimed “FARMERS DON’T PLAY!”, then continued on down the street. Really, what more could be said?
Bourbon & Branch is setup, mildly speaking, like a Speak Easy. I say mildly since there is a huge ANTI-Spirits league sign at the door. Not exactly subtle in my opinion. Upon speaking the appropriate password at the front door (“rain-pitchforks”, seriously, wtf???) we were escorted into the library at the rear of the main bar. I have to say, the mixed drinks on the special menu (using many Compass Box whiskies) were good, but nothing to write home about. So I’ll stop here and continue on with the rest of the weekend…
We ejected ourselves from the library, by way of the door to the street, since the door we came in from had no handle on the inside to return to the main bar. This was all fine and good since we were heading down towards the Palace Hotel anyways to meet up with my friend James for more drinks. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour with James once we found a bar with enough room for the 4 of us. Two drinks down, and we said our goodbyes as the 3DC headed back to the Palace for the night’s Whisky Pairing dinner as put on by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky.
Because Fergus is a member of Rhiannon’s “Dram Club” on www.celticmalts.com, he was privy to an invitation to the dinner. Naturally, he asked if Raz and I could join in (not being dram Club members), and luckily we were allowed to tag along. Mind you this wasn’t a free dinner, but rather a 5 course whisky pairing to challenge any great restaurant’s vintner’s dinners, which came with an appropriate price tag of $115 per person. So, as long as we paid, we were welcome to obtain a reservation. Thank the stars we did. This dinner rivaled some of the best I have had. I happened to squirrel away the menu, as I knew I would need it for reference later, and I was sorely right.
The menu for the evening was as follows:
Starter, paired with Compass Box “Oak Cross” Arugula and French breakfast radish with malt vinaigrette & Seared scallop served over Marscapone polenta, pomegranite sticky, melon
Entree’ Selection paired with Compass Box “Peat Monster”, as well as 2004 SageCliffe Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington Sous Vide Venison with water chestnut puree and brussel sprouts with cherry bacon vinaigrette & Roasted breast of Duck with an orange mapel glaze, pancetta mashed potatoes and sauteed beet greens
Dessert paired with Compass Box “Hedonism” and Compass Box “Flaming Heart” Cowgirl Creamery ricotta cheese cake with quince jam, Korean basil seeds and pear crisp
Yes, you can be envious now… I’ll wait…… There, all better now? good. Let us continue….
All in all, a wonderful dinner. My personal favourite of the evening was the Compass Box “Flaming Heart”, which has not been released as yet. This was an astounding dram which I will need to obtain at least one bottle of for personal enjoyment. Complex, but refined. “Oak Cross” was an amazing dram as well, which contrary to the name was not overly saturated with Oak, but rather held a pleasant balance of oak making it a very drinkable whisky.
At the end of dinner, there happened to be a full bottle of the SageCliffe Merlot on the table. You see we had all been poured a glass during dinner, and then a new bottle had been placed on the table for anyone desiring more. Well, after 4 glasses of whisky and a glass of wine during dinner, not many people were clamoring for more wine. Somehow, the bottle made it into Fergus’ jacket…. mind you we asked John Glaser at the end of the evening if it was okay, and he replied, “I think Rusty would be offended if you DIDN’T steal this bottle!”. So like good little drunks, we walked out with an unreleased merlot provided by the winemaker, Rusty Figgins. (It should be noted that we got to enjoy Rusty’s company the day after, and while initially concerned, he soon came to understand and was okay with our bit of shenanigans that evening.)
So here is a great photo of Fergus pouring a glass of wine while we walk the streets of San Francisco back to the Irish Bank:
Back at the Irish Bank, we greet the bartenders working, and pour a glass of the merlot for them. That started the decline for me… my last memory is drinking an irish coffee, then moving back onto whiskies. At some point Raz excused himself since he had a fairly bad migraine, and Fergus and I continued into the night drinking away. We finally hot the wall and returned to our room around 1:30am in a giddily drunk state, much to Raz’ chagrin. It seems we kept him up for another hour with giggle fits and a light-show at one point, though I am a bit hazy on the actual duration and sequence of events at that point. Suffice to say, Raz got us back in the morning….
Next Up… Retaliation, Seamus is an artless lying bitch, someone drops an “h”, and the main event of the weekend.