At Fog Harbor Fish House, bar and restaurant practice what they preach 

click to enlarge Fog Harbor Fish House bar manager and sommelier Nusan Brounstein says the restaurant's insistence on fresh ingredients extends to the drink menu. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Fog Harbor Fish House bar manager and sommelier Nusan Brounstein says the restaurant's insistence on fresh ingredients extends to the drink menu.

It is perhaps fitting that bar manager and sommelier Nusan Brounstein has connections to the geographical regions and scientific fields that might influence seafood sustainability guidelines, since the San Francisco restaurant where he works, Fog Harbor Fish House, is an example of such practices.

Fog Harbor uses Monterey Bay Aquarium guidelines for sustainable seafood. The Pier 39 eatery serves the freshest possible seafood, from a network of mostly local mom-and-pop fishing operations.

Originally from Santa Barbara, Brounstein graduated from UC Santa Cruz and put his computer expertise to work helping researchers manage data collected from automated buoys throughout Monterey Bay.

In addition to earning Level 3 certification from the International Sommelier Guild, which is the highest possible designation from the organization, Brounstein spent a year commuting to Santa Rosa Junior College to learn winemaking.

What possessed you to give up your job managing scientific databases and get into the restaurant business? That job involved working lots of hours and late nights. I missed interacting with people and being on my feet.

Is there some way in which your cocktails reflect Fog Harbor's emphasis on extremely fresh ingredients? Yes, we use all fresh juices. Even the herbs we muddle are fresh.

Do you get much in the way of local clientele or is your crowd mostly tourists? We do see a lot of local businesspeople and North Beach residents. As for tourists, it's not uncommon to have vacationers give us a try, find out they like us, and wind up coming here five nights in a row.

What would be an example of a classic cocktail you're trying to reinvent? We put a unique twist on our Ginger Negroni. It's made with No. 209 Gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and The King's Ginger Liqueur. We age the mixture in a 5-liter oak barrel for 30 days, and for the garnish we use an orange peel frozen inside a block of ice. The freezing process breaks apart the orange peel's structure in such a way that when the ice melts, it really brings out the flavor.

Does being located at Pier 39 cause people to make certain assumptions about Fog Harbor? Sometimes people come here with low expectations, bracing themselves to be ripped off. But we really want them to have a good experience and come back. Our owner gives us feedback on every Yelp review we get.

What if the Yelp reviewer is crazy or unreasonable? Nobody's getting fired or disciplined over a Yelp review. If somebody says they were disappointed with some aspect of our service, we want to find out what went wrong, learn from it, and make sure it never happens again.

Going all the way to Santa Rosa for winemaking classes sounds challenging. Was it worth it? Oh yes, being hands-on with the process really helps you understand why wine tastes the way it does.

For you personally, and for Fog Harbor, so much seems to come back to the coastal communities a few hours south of The City. Is that reflected in your wine offerings? Yes, but we're by no means limited to those regions. There are some really fun mountain fruits from the Howell Mountain peak of the Vaca Mountain range in Napa Valley that are going into the cabernet from La Jota Vineyards. I'm also excited about Jordan chardonnay and cabernet from Sonoma's Alexander Valley. If you ask me to recommend a Monterey wine, I might suggest a La Crema pinot noir.

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