Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Mourad, Niku Steakhouse, Causwells

28 min

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Check, Please! Bay Area Season 15 premiere airs Thursday, April 2 at 7:30pm on KQED 9. See other television airtimes. And never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

We’re not throwing away our shot to kick off Season 15 with a bang! The stars of San Francisco’s Hamilton join Leslie to turn the world upside down with their favorite city eateries. Mourad is an elegant, Michelin-starred spot in SoMa where modern North African cuisine shines under the guidance of its visionary chef. Next, it’s off to the Design District, where high-quality steaks are elegantly crafted with a Japanese twist at Niku Steakhouse. Finally, we raise a glass to all-star cheeseburgers at Causwells, an intimate American joint in the Marina.

Leslie Sbrocco and Hamilton cast on season 15 episode 1 of Check, Please! Bay Area.
Host Leslie Sbrocco and cast members from Hamilton on the set of season 15 episode 1. (Cecilia Phillips/KQED)

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Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine
Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine (Courtesy of Leslie Sbrocco)

My name is Leslie Sbrocco and I’m the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I will be sharing my tasting notes about the wine, beer and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show.

Paula Kornell Brut Sparkling Wine Méthode Champenoise
California, $22

When I heard Paula Kornell was launching her eponymous bubbly brand, I couldn’t stop smiling. First, because it’s sparkling wine and that always makes me happy. But more importantly, because Paula is a rare breed in California. Her father, Hanns Kornell, is a legendary pioneer of sparkling wine production in Napa Valley since 1958. After decades of dormancy, she has brought the family name back to where it belongs—on a bottle and in a flute. This stylish sparkler with citrus aromas and juicy flavors is primarily chardonnay with pinot noir. It’s vivacious and full of personality... just like Paula herself.

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2019 Raeburn Rosé
Russian River Valley, California, $15

With a deep respect for nature and family, Derek Benham founded Raeburn Winery in 2012. His mother was a devoted naturalist, and he grew up in California with his hands in the dirt. Raeburn is an old English term meaning “the river where one goes to drink,” and drink you will. This is a refreshingly fruity and appealingly affordable pink. The rosé is a blend of grapes, including pinot noir and grenache, made in a Provençal style that captures lightness and brightness.

2017 Eden Rift Estate Pinot Noir
Cienega Valley, California, $48

As someone who has visited well over a thousand worldwide wineries/vineyards in my career, I can honestly say that Eden Rift is one of the most dramatically beautiful I’ve ever seen. Owned by Burgundy lover Christian Pillsbury, it’s located in the little-known but historic Cienega Valley, south of San Jose. With close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the rolling hillsides blanketed with vineyards benefit from cooling breezes that keep the grapes happy. And pinot noir vines adore the ancient limestone and granitic soils of the property. The setting–along with talented winemaking–allows Eden Rift to produce wines of profound complexity. This silky wine is tinged with mineral notes and a dark berry fruit character.

2015 ToyMaker Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California, $295

When it comes to cult cabs from Napa Valley, there are a handful of bottles I think worthy of their price tags. This is one. Powerful and structured, it has the bones to age gracefully, but concentrated fruit notes and polished tannins create a suppleness that makes it deliciously approachable now. The unique project was born from the founder’s love of collecting both Bordeaux and toys (Marvel action figures, to be precise). Noted winemaker Martha McClellan has a passion for crafting world-class cabernet sauvignon, and the ToyMaker is a bold beauty.

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
$120

Anyone who has read my reviews over the past seasons knows that I’m not only a bourbon and whiskey fan, but a Michter’s devotee. They can trace their heritage back to 1753, making them a rarity in American distilling. Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon is also a rarity. This limited-production bottling is hard to find, but oh-so worth the effort. It’s been voted at the top of Best American Whiskey lists and ranks high on my “swoon-worthy” whiskey scale. Seductive, sultry, smoky and smooth, the amber elixir gained its character by patiently aging in specially charred American white oak barrels. If you can’t find this particular bottle, explore Michter’s more available whiskeys. After one sip, you’ll understand why I’m enamored.

In honor of Hamilton, make sure to seek out the delicious Federalist wines, which I sipped at the show’s San Francisco opening party. Celebrating the Founding Fathers (and Lady Liberty), they’ve been poured at theaters with Hamilton productions from New York to Chicago to San Francisco. Cheers!

Wine and spirits from Check, Please! Bay Area season 15 episode 1
Wine and spirits that guests drank on the set of season 15 episode 1. (Cecilia Phillips/KQED)

Thirsty for more beverage advice? You can find more of my wine, beer and spirits tips for you here.