My favourite cocktail bar in San Francisco

The View, San Francisco, USA

Oh, another cocktail bar post. Well they are my favourite places to go, so I go to a lot! Now it’s been a few years since I went, and I have just seen that The View has recently re-opened, so hopefully it is even better than before. One thing that is for sure, is that being on the 39th floor of the Marriott, the 360 degree views over San Francisco would be just as spectacular! Get there early for a window seat, and enjoy sipping your $7 happy hour martini! Well at least you could in 2011. But looking at the new menu, I would be just as happy paying full price to watch the sun slowly sink with a Soma Spritzer in hand while snacking on some Crudo Three Ways.

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My favourite Californian beach-side dining

Ventana Grill, Pismo Beach, California

On our drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, an unexpected gem of a place was Pismo Beach. This beach town, a 3 hour drive north of LA, is very picturesque  – especially at sunset. So where better to soak this view up than at Ventana Grill . Get there before 5pm to get cheap drinks, a good table and time to spare before the gorgeous sunset. I would recommend this place regardless of the food, but the menu and service was top-notch, and the food – simply superb.

My favourite cevicheria in New York

Desnuda, East Village, New York City

Sure, this is a fairly specific category,  but the point is (like every other post in this blog), this is somewhere you should go! Desnuda offers spectacular food in an intimate surrounding, with everyone seated at the bar, and any establishment that serves predominantly ceviche (with a cool atmosphere, helpful staff and impressive wine list to match) is a friend of mine. In the heart of East Village, Desnuda is the perfect place to start or finish a night, if not spend the whole night!

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My favourite cooking school in North Thailand

Baan Thai Cookery School, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Picked up in a sawngthaew from your hotel, once at  Baan Thai Cookery School you don pretty aprons and bandanas, and head straight  to the local markets to buy weird and wonderful fresh ingredients. On return to the cooking school, prepare to eat! To start, a Thai “welcome pack” consisting of chilli, peanuts, coconut, dried shrimp, ginger and shallot self-assembled in a cone leaf of some sort, accompanied by some sticky rice and banana and mangosteen. Next we cooked up one of my favourites – chicken and cashew nut, immediately followed by a spicy noodle salad and chicken in coconut milk soup. We used little green chillies for this, how many was up to the individual punter. After a brief 30 minute break which involved lying on the floor under the fan propped up by those Thai triangular pyramidal cushions, soon enough it was back to the grind to make some red curry paste. This involved finely cutting up heaps of herbs and roots and then grinding them up in a heavy duty mortar and pestle until we had dead arms. Before we knew it we were back sweating up a storm in front of an oil-filled wok frying up fish cakes and cooking red curry chicken. A kilo or 2 heavier, we were then escorted home. Fantastic day, but my hot tip is: Don’t eat the day (or 2) before.

My favourite tapas bar in Barcelona

Tickets, Barcelona, Spain.

Tickets is a tapas bar headed by Ferran Adria who ran elBulli and is arguably the greatest chef in the world. Set up like a theatre with a ringmaster type character as the door person, the place has a buzzing atmosphere. Between three of us we ordered probably two thirds of the tapas on the menu which was a huge amount of food, but every dish was worth it! Some of the highlights included fried egg with truffled duck fat and potato foam, Ferran Adria’s famous Olives (looks and tastes like an olive, but isn’t – it just explodes in your mouth!), rabbit taco in salmorejo sauce, catalan cream rolls, warm lava cake with raspberry sorbet, and the Animated Forest. All washed down with some cava, a bottle of red and some Tokay to finish, this top notch meal came to the grand total of about 85 Euros each. So if you know you’re going to be anywhere vaguely within the vicinity of Barcelona, be sure to swing by Tickets. Plan ahead though – you need to book online exactly 60 days before (the online booking form opens midnight Spanish time, and it books out within an hour). Hands down the best value meal of my life!

My favourite pintxos bar

A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian, Spain.

In the core of San Sebastian, the Parte Vieja (Old Part), you will find A Fuego Negro. This tapas bar is a diamond in the rough of San Sebastian bars (which are all pretty good and fun anyway). But A Fuego Negro, an ambient bar of dark decor highlighted with red accents,  is a standout in that it serves “Nuevos Tapas” which loosley translated means “not the same shit you get in all the other tapas bars”. With cool hip hop playing and helpful staff who will politely try to understand your poor Basque before handing you an English menu, you can try the likes of ceviche with pomegranate foam, olives with vermouth gel, Playboy bunny (rabbit) with garlic, and frozen cheese with anchovies. Get your fix of tortilla de patatas, stuffed peppers and croquettes elsewhere. This place is where you will find the best pintxos in San Sebastian, if not Spain.