Where You Should Be Drinking in the Bay Area: Tamarine
Early January was a whistle stop tour of California as we introduced our baby girl Nora to our family, to some of our favorite places, and to our Golden State friends. One day, on our way from visiting one good, old friend to another, we found ourselves with a spare hour in downtown Palo Alto. In situations like this, we usually take advantage of the moment to check out a local watering hole. Having Nora as part of the gang hasn’t so much undone that habit as adjusted it. She so far travels extremely well, likes to be out and about, and is mostly quiet and happy. She loves staring at lighting fixtures and fans, and bars often have a pretty good selection of both; so while we’re taking in a cocktail, she’s perfectly happy to take in the view of the ceiling. Our one modification is that we aim for earlier cocktails, favoring the late afternoon or early evening hours between lunch and dinner. It’s not that we think Nora would mind some primetime drinking; she enjoys a good crowd as much as anyone. We have to admit, though, that it feels more seemly to bring our baby into a quiet bar than a loud one; and, while they might have looked askance at her presence in a full bar, bartenders and patrons alike seem to appreciate her help in warming up a cold room (except at one place that kept very strictly to their 21+ policy). This was especially the case at Tamarine, the Vietnamese restaurant which yelp told us was also the closest good cocktail place.
The bartender was the rare and marvelous combination of friendly and skilled. We got the impression that he doesn’t often feel like that skill is recognized. Our small expressions of appreciation and curiosity produced an outpouring of information, tips, stories of his favorite drinks, and offers of off menu items. We were sad we only had the time for the one round; we could have happily spent the entire evening there, baby in tow or not.
What We Ordered
El Camino: mezcal, Ancho Reyes, pineapple juice, piloncillo, lemon juice
Antonio’s Pear Drink: Grey Goose poire, green Chartreuse, Imbue bittersweet vermouth, aloe liqueur, fresh lemon
What We Thought
We’d tried to order a drink that featured Ancho Reyes earlier in the week, only to find they were out of the stuff. So, we were delighted to see El Camino on the menu. We were even more delighted by how it tasted, an extremely satisfying rendition of the classic combination of smoky, sweet, sour, and spicy. There was enough of each component, and not too much of any.
Antonio’s Pear Drink showed the same subtlety, with just the right hints of fruit, herb, and baking spices in a light, approachable drink. The final touch to this pleasant drink was the aloe and lemon foam, a perfect way to give the drink some texture and to add to more gentle flavors.
If You Go
Give yourself some time, show the bartender some appreciation, and enjoy the drinks that come your way.