I'm going to let you in on an East Bay secret. On the first Sunday of the month, Alameda is the place to be.
The morning starts with the Alameda Flea Market (although if you really want to do it right, a stop at Bakesale Betty's for coffee and banana bread is required) where you can wander the aisles for hours upon end, perusing furniture, jewelry, clothes, dishes, just about anything you can think of. From croquet sets to cast iron pans, I've picked up some fantastic things. I even saw Francis McDormand here once.
When your feet are tired and you've had enough of the sweltering East Bay sun (something our SF counterparts aren't so familiar with) you can make your way to the first airline hangar on the left for a St. George Spirits/Hangar One Vodka tasting and tour, where Lou or one of the other staff members will regale you with tales of the trials of distilling wasabi root (gas masks are a must) and rediscovered brandy barrels "accidentally aged" for 20 years. He'll also explain why a donkey is very often a necessary part of the tequila making process. It's the kind of tour that re-defines informative, and the best part is, you get to belly up to the bar at the end and taste the fruits of their labors, what they call a trial and error process that is often filled with happy accidents and all sorts of deliciousness.
Preserved Buddha's Hand Citrus
Our group of four was feeling pretty adventurous this Sunday. We split two $10 tastings of the regular menu, which includes small pours of 12 vodkas, brandies, eux-de-vie's and liquers. We then bought an absinthe and de profundis pear brandy (selling for $200 a bottle and almost gone) to split all around. The St. George absinthe was recently ranked #5 overall in the NY Times. I'd tried it before and found it interesting. It's fascinating to hear the story behind the ban of absinthe in the early 1900's. St. George was the very first distillery in the US to produce it once the ban was lifted. We watched as our bartender poured the liquor over ice and added a bit of water, turning the liquid a gorgeous opalescent color. The notes of anise and fennel were especially strong.
Our favorite in all was the seasonal Fraser River Raspberry Vodka. It's truly amazing just how many berries go into one bottle. 20lbs per bottle in their raspberry liquer, and even more for the vodka. That much is clear from the taste, not too sweet, just a pure, tart, berry flavor with a fantastic fuchsia color to it.
When all is said and done you'll need some food. Dim Sum is always a good option, luckily East Ocean is close. Nothing like soup dumplings to cap off a great afternoon. Though, my last suggestion would be a good nap.
Now that's how you do Alameda.