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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Birch & Rye, Easy Rider, Bake Sum

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Check, Please! Bay Area, season 18, episode 14, airs Thursday, February 8, at 7:30 pm, on KQED 9. See other television airtimes, and never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

In the heart of San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, Birch & Rye charms guests by reimagining traditional Russian and other Eastern European dishes with Californian flair — and a touch of experimental finesse. Then, in downtown Petaluma, Easy Rider brings Southern classics crafted with quality ingredients to Sonoma: think shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and pork belly biscuits paired with Southern-inspired cocktails and a local selection of Californian wines. Finally, from Oakland’s Great Lake neighborhood comes an intimate bakery with a focus on Asian flavors. At Bake Sum, expect tasty surprises from their ever-changing menu, from mochi bites, to musubi croissant mashups, to okonomiyaki danishes. Reporter Cecilia Phillips closes out this week’s episode in San Jose — home to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam — discovering perennial Vietnamese eats, treats and entertainment at Vietnam Town.

Host Leslie Sbrocco joins guests Shivani Torres, Daniel Phung and Yemi Ogunkoya 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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Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
Champagne, France $95
I have a passion for pink Champagne. So much so that I’ve inked a tattoo on my leg of a glass inspired by my favorite French sparkler — Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. This historic Champagne house was founded more than two hundred years ago and today is run by a seventh generation family member, Mathieu Roland-Billecart. What’s unique about this ultra-chic wine is that it’s made from the traditional two red grapes of the Champagne region — Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier — blended with Chardonnay and is vinified as a red wine. This gives the bubbly structure, rose-petal aromatics with orange peel and red-fruited flavors. It is class in a glass and worth the splurge.

2022 Château de Saint Cosme
Cotes du Rhône, France $19
Many wine drinkers are familiar with reds from the southern French region of the Cotes du Rhône (there are also terrific whites). An iconic producer from the appellation of Gigondas, is Château de Saint Cosme. Their Saint Cosme (pronounced COMB) is made from 100 percent Syrah unlike many versions from the region, which are blended with other grapes such as Grenache. The winery’s farming is certified organic, and it shows through in the purity of this red. Sleek with vibrant mineral notes, it’s not made using oak barrels, which allows the grapes to shine. Red berry fruit with a black peppery kick and silky texture makes this an affordable option to enjoy year-round. It’s worthy of twice-the-price!

Rosa Regale, Rosé Dolce
Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, Italy $24
Hailing from the hilly northern Italian Piedmont region, this unique semi-sweet wine is a perfect dessert sipper. Lightly sparkling, it’s made from local Brachetto d’Acqui grape in a pink style with citrus and red berry freshness balancing the kiss of sweetness. It’s a wine to sip chilled for a refreshing après meal drink, or pair it with berry tarts or lemon cake. It’s also one to sip alongside spicy dinner fare from red curry dishes to birria tacos. Beautifully packaged, it makes a perfect gift, too.

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