I love The Fairmont for Christmas in large part because of their decorations, magnificent (see photo) including the oh-gosh-it's-real lifesize Gingerbread House constructed right after Thanksgiving for the delight of all during the holidays. (It's to the right of the tree, dripping in lights).
Going to the Fairmont means I don't have to decorate, yet I get all the benefits, especially the joy of seeing many young families frolicking with their kids (and dogs-Fairmont is canine friendly) in the lobby. Good to see people generally just darned glad to be alive.
This Christmas was warm, dry as a bone (last year it was misty-rainy-chilly) with bright azure blue skies. It felt much more like late fall than December. But, dry weather makes driving UP (and I do mean UP) to Nob Hill a lot more comfortable for one such as me (terrified of heights). To me, at least, The Fairmont is one of the unsung wonders on Christmas Day because you can get a parking spot on the street and saunter in.
Just beyond the Gingerbread House, off the Lobby and the grand piano with 40's standards played to perfection, is Laurel Court, The Fairmont's lobby restaurant and bar.
It's a GREAT bar, old-fashioned, comfortable, a terrific spot to hang and watch the crowd any time of the year--particularly on Christmas. The bartenders are the real thing, no fluff, hard about their business. It goes without saying that The Fairmont stocks all the stuff anyone would want to drink. (Note: the only other hotel bar in San Francisco that is better, i.e. more turn-of-the-19th-century than The Fairmont is The Huntington Hotel half a block away. Bar bites, too. Their lobster mac-n-cheese is insane, fresh to order, never warmed up.)
Thank God for the men and women who work the hospitality industry on Christmas and other holidays so people like me can enjoy the day.
The Gold Buffet, attached to a bowling alley to make sure everyone worked up an appetite first, is, sadly, long, long gone.
At any rate. I love French food and a friend found a terrific place for Christmas dinner. ChouChou (pronounced shoo-shoo, "chou" meaning small cabbage in French) is tucked away in an off-the-path SF neighborhood, small (maybe 60 seats, tops) and full of, well, French food, French waiters and chefs, and French wine.
Christmas offered a very reasonable Prix Fix menu.
The food was good, the wine was better (which in my view is how dinner in general should be and French dinners in particular). We started with a split of a lively Sancerre, which can be the most pleasing of all dry whites. Not by any means is it only a late-harvest dessert wine.
The star of the show, from my perspective, was the bottle of 2010 Ortas Rasteau (see photo), selected to bridge the gap between a seared rare steak and duck confit Wellington. (The steak was phenomenal, the Wellington was a good idea but didn't quite deliver).
A full-bodied Rhone blend, the Rasteau delivered a simple, medium nose with a spicy, refreshing acidity. It stood up to the food, never overwhelmed, and worked with the steak and very rich Wellington--had enough of a backbone (tannins) to cut through the entrees. About $16-$17 on retail and around $40 in any honest restaurant. A very flexible choice for steak, pork, duck, or chicken, priced to enjoy at home on a weekend or with friends. (For day-to-day wine, shop smart at BevMo during the 5c sale... no sense spending too much; there's plenty of very good wine to be had for 10-12 bucks a bottle.)
Rasteau is a wine appellation in France's Southern Rhone Valley.
Again, thank God for the men and women who work on the holidays so many of us can enjoy a lovely meal.