For a cozy catch-up session over a hot beverage, which meeting places are best? The clubby atmosphere and hot toddies at the Presidio Social Club beckon, as do the Irish coffee at Nopa and Adesso's warm eggnog.
Hard cider from the Normandy region in France pairs well with food and adds a celebratory note to many occasions. Where can you find it in the Bay Area? Try Arlequin in Hayes Valley or Berkeley Bowl for bottles to take home, or cider bar Upcider on Polk for a comparative selection of sips.
Does anything taste better than a soft, spicy ginger cookie on a cold day? Find excellent examples at Blue Bottle Coffee in Mint Plaza and Flour & Co on Hyde Street.
Refreshing a conversation on the best breads served at Bay Area restaurants, locals rave about the fried bread under burrata at State Bird Provisions, the soft white crumb that comes with an olive-anchovy tapenade at Oakland's Barlata, and the all-you-can-eat slices from Bouchon served at Ad Hoc.
Zuni Café has been home to many special occasions, from engagements, to friends reconnecting over a bottle of wine and the restaurant's famous roast chicken (pictured). And the influence of Zuni's chef and co-owner, Judy Rodgers, was felt far beyond the glass-fronted Market Street space. After the announcement of Rodgers' death on December 2, many Chowhounds gathered to share their memories of the restaurant and Rodgers.
After operating as a pop-up, Marla Bakery opened recently in more permanent digs on York Street in the Mission District. The quality dough and concentrated fillings in both the quince and the Meyer lemon sufganiyot impressed (though more filling = more better), and a fan of the bakery's earlier iterations says to expect excellent quality from this rising star.
Tosca Café in North Beach benefits from a spit-and-polish renovation as well as a fresh menu from new chef-owner April Bloomfield (of New York's Spotted Pig). Recent reports say that some dishes seemed oversalted, but the sparkling cider and the antipasti menu—including spectacular moscardini and giardiniera—are worth your time.
Plotting a trip to Sonoma County during Christmas week? Locals recommend the "unpretentious, casual" flair at places like Cafe Citti, Fremont Diner, and El Molino Central.
Open since 1937, Buckeye Roadhouse is a stalwart along Highway 101 in Marin. Swoon over the classic Oysters Bingo broiled with spinach and garlic, and note that the bar booths are the ideal spot to enjoy your meal.