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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Café La Taza, Kensington Circus Pub, Beit Rima

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Check, Please! Bay Area, season 18, episode 9, airs Thursday, October 5, at 7:30 pm, on KQED 9. See other television airtimes, and never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

In San Francisco’s Mission District, Café La Taza is the ideal destination for hearty Central American breakfasts. Begun as a mere coffee shop in 1997, this family-owned and operated shop has grown to a full-service restaurant with heaping portions perfectly suited for your appetite, no matter the time of day. Then, in Kensington, a close-knit community in the Berkeley Hills, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the local Kensington Circus Pub for a quaint pub in the heart of London. This East Bay find pours the best of British and Irish brews (all on tap), plus English pub grub, from bangers and mash to Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips to “England’s Most Popular Sticky Toffee Pudding” – so good they have it flown in. Finally, Beit Rima, nestled in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood, crafts authentic Arabic comfort food with locally sourced ingredients. Pillowy, fresh-from-the-oven pita sprinkled with Zaatar is one highlight, but the menu showcases the versatility of Palestinian cuisine; this quick-service spot pays tribute to beloved Mediterranean and Arabic dishes with roots in multiple cuisines, from hummus to shakshuka, kebabs to fattoush. Reporter Cecilia Phillips closes out this week’s episode with a hands-on tutorial at Newark’s Mexico Tortilla Factory, home to handmade tortillas and prepared Mexican meals. Family-owned since 1972, it’s an East Bay institution, crafting fresh tortillas from all-natural stone-ground corn daily, alongside other signature dishes.

Check, Please! Bay Area host Leslie Sbrocco joins three local guests on set to discuss local restaurants.
Host Leslie Sbrocco joins guests Jon Chong, Gabriela Childree and Paul Meyerhof 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.


2022 Fiddlehead Cellars ‘Pink Fiddle’ Rosé of Pinot Noir
Sta. Rita Hills, California $32
As a longtime fan of trailblazing winemaker, Kathy Joseph, it’s a pleasure to shine a light on her highly regarded brand, Fiddlehead Cellars. Based in the cool climate California coastal region of Sta. Rita Hills, Kathy crafts stylish wines like this crisp, classy Rosé of Pinot Noir. With a deep garnet hue, it lends itself towards the serious side of pink wines making it ideal to pair with dishes including grilled pork loin or salmon. But with its bright, red berry fruit flavors, it’s simply a joy to sip with anything… or nothing at all.

2022 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand $35
When I speak about Sauvignon Blanc, this is one of the iconic wines I reference. Why? It put New Zealand on the international wine map. Founded in 1985, Cloudy Bay helped define the signature racy, vibrant style of ‘Savvy’ from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. This classic Sauvignon Blanc is adored by many (including myself) for its mouthwatering freshness and citrus ping. Pour alongside fish tacos, a bowl of steaming ramen noodles or with goat cheese salad. Taste the islands with this delicious white.

2018 Hestan Vineyards Grenache
Napa Valley, California $60
Napa Valley has many hidden treasures and Hestan Vineyards is one of them. This small, family-owned property from the founders of Hestan cookware, is a stunning spot. This limited-edition Grenache was made by winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, who is known for wines of complexity and elegance. The red grape begets wines of dark berry succulence with power and spice. It’s a splurge for hearty red lovers.

2021 Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir
Los Carneros, Napa Valley, California $42
With a rich history in Napa Valley dating to 1969, Cuvaison is one of California’s heritage stars. Not only are their wines world-class, a visit to the 200-acre Los Carneros property’s Tasting Salon is a wine lover’s treat. If you can’t make it there right now, take a virtual visit by uncorking their lush Estate Pinot Noir. A smooth and silky texture wraps dark berry fruit flavors and earthy floral aromas into the perfect Pinot package.

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

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