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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Mazra, Benchmark Pizzeria, Flacos

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Check, Please! Bay Area, season 18, episode 7, airs Thursday, September 21, at 7:30 pm, on KQED 9. See other television airtimes, and never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

At San Bruno’s Mazra, known for its Mediterranean mezze plates, diners are met by the mouthwatering aroma of woodfired kebabs and spit-roasted shawarma. This family-owned spot just minutes from SFO marries classic Levantine street food and vibrant, playful aesthetics for a unique dining experience. Then, at Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, a small community in the East Bay, the emphasis is on simple, satisfying ingredients: hand-stretched mozzarella, house-ground polenta, homemade sausage, and thin-crust dough made daily. The menu changes nightly, but one thing remains the same no matter the preparation – light, slightly blistered, crisp crusts and ample fresh toppings. Finally, Berkeley’s Flacos dishes up meatless Mexican bites, delivering all the flavors of a traditional taqueria while maintaining its all-vegan menu. Reporter Cecilia Phillips rounds out this week’s episode with a trip to Hella Plants Market in San Francisco for plant-based fare, vegan sweets and other treats for environmentally conscious eaters.

Check, Please! Bay Area host Leslie Sbrocco joins three local guests on set to discuss local restaurants.
Host Leslie Sbrocco joins guests Jesse Carter, Raheel Khan and René Peña-Govea from KQED in San Francisco.

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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’ll share my tasting notes about the wine, beer and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show.

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2022 Miraval Rosé
Cotes de Provence, France $26
When it comes to heralded southern French pink wines, the Miraval Rosé sits atop a lofty list. Packaged in a sleek bottle with appealing petal pink-hued wine inside, it’s a feast for the eyes and the palate. Made with a blend of grapes including Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle, the delicate yet decadent wine exhibits floral and berry aromas with a kiss of spice on the finish. It is ideal for tableside, poolside or fireside sipping.

2022 Black Stallion Sauvignon Blanc
North Coast, California $20
Crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is welcomed year-round whether it’s paired with freshly grilled fish or spicy tacos. This affordable bottling overdelivers in the quality department making it one of the best values on the market today. Black Stallion winery is an historic equestrian estate in Napa Valley now devoted to making stylish and age worthy wines. It should also rank high on any wine lover’s list of places to visit in Napa for a unique tasting experience.

2020 Post Scriptum de Chryseia
Douro, Portugal $35
One of Portugal’s top red wines is named Chryseia. An intense, world-class wine made in the iconic Douro Valley. Their Post Scriptum de Chryseia is a bottle I like to call an ‘insider wine’ known for elegance and excellence at an appealing price point. It’s easily drinkable yet also an age-worthy red made from second selection grapes that comprise Chryseia. These include famed Portuguese red varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. Smooth, sultry and satisfying with dishes from braised meats to aromatic cheeses, it’s a wine to discover.

2021 Blue Farm Pinot Noir ‘Gap’s Crown Vineyard’
Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California $85
Every once in a while, I get the pleasure of finding small wine producers that are true treasures. I found one after meeting highly regarded viticulturist, Anne Moller-Racke, and tasting her Blue Farm wines. She began the project in 2007 after planting seven acres of Pinot Noir on her historic farmhouse propery in Sonoma. Her winemaking motto is traditional with what she calls, “less being more.” This stunning Pinot hails from a special vineyard in the cool Sonoma Coast. It’s velvety and balanced with complexity that impresses.

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

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