Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Table Willow Glen- Brunch

If you are familiar with the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose you are probably familiar with their old stalwarts. La Villa Italian, Taiwan Chinese, Willow Street Pizza, John's Excellent foods for Greek, Bill's for Brunch. Probably some of the casual spots like Pizza My Heart or Opa! If you haven't been down to Lincoln Ave in awhile you may be in for quite the surprise! Over the last 2 years or so there has been an huge overhaul particularly on the corner of Lincoln and Willow. There is lots to see and taste and one of the most popular new spots is The Table.

A few months ago I wrote about Hay Market another new restaurant in Willow Glen with an on trend menu of California cuisine. Earthy and interesting. They now have some competition! The Table is described on it's website as "An urban, neighborhood eatery focused on seasonal ingredients, hand-crafted cocktails, & progressive wines". With an ambitious but not overly long menu of interesting flavor profiles The Table appears to have a lot to offer. As time permitted this weekend I decided to try out their brunch first. Having had that I'm excited to go back for another meal or perhaps happy hour!
Coffee is served with steamed milk and your choice of Raw Sugar or Splenda
My friend Amanda joined me at the restaurant for a catch up & commiseration sesh while we ate. As I arrived first I was able to take some time taking in the surroundings over a bloody mary.

The north wall faces Willow Street along which US Bank & Bill's cafe reside. Floor to cieling windows let in lots of warm mid morning light and along with the high ceilings give the space a much larger feel than it's square footage might convey. The bar fills the next short wall with about 6 seats and nice TV and a lovely bottle display. I'm looking forward to checking out this angle at a Happy Hour soon. Following is the open kitchen. A blend of both urban and country esthetics abound (once again very "on trend"). The tables of 2 or 4 are lined up in 3 rows. The row along the window seems to be one big "family table" type set up with a few long benches along with chairs on the opposite side. In the front corner there are a couple of round booths for 5 or 6.
With brunch they offer bottomless mimosas in really elegant stemless flutes, a nice spicy and well balanced Bloody Mary, or a refreshing sounding gin cocktail. Their menu leans more primarily to the savory, we wanted to try to contrasting dishes so I had the Chilaquiles (a Mexican dish made with a base of crisped tortillas cut into pieces and tossed in a red sauce) topped with a poached egg, cotija cheese, and avocado and Amanda ordered their Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Wild Oregon Huckleberries.
The only other times I have had Chilaquiles were when the chef's at some of the restaurants I worked at made it as an occasional treat before a lunch service. It's been a long time so it is hard to compare the two but over all I enjoyed this dish. The very lightly poached egg added lots of extra moisture to the crunchy tortilla pieces. I could have gone for a little more of the red salsa/sauce and maybe a little more spice (they did provide hot sauce on the side should you want to add it, I'm not a big hot sauce add-er but I think I should have on this one). The Avocado was nice and fresh and the dish was generous in size and attractively plated. I frequently see Huevos Rancheros on brunch menus but Chilaquiles are little more rare. It was a nice brunch change of pace. I maybe could have gone for a second egg (not that it was necessary I was just craving more breakfastiness) to enjoy even more of the dish.
 Amanda's Lemon Ricotta pancakes were beautiful and thick. The berries were nice and added some extra tangy flavor although since they are so small it would have been nice if there were more to go around. I was really curious to see what the ricotta would do to the texture of the pancakes. They were somewhere between dense and light, more cakey in a way. A nice option if you prefer sweet breakfast.

I noticed that they were really pushing their house made Sticky buns hard at each table as a sort of starter. I had actually at first considered ordering one when I looked the menu over upon first arriving and waiting for Amanda but my waitress was bugging me so I changed my mind. After seeing one pass by (it didn't look very impressive) I wasn't disappointed I didn't have one.

Over all for a neighborhood restaurant in San Jose I was impressed. It felt sophisticated and I really enjoyed the atmosphere (minus my clingy waitress who doesn't know how to not interrupt table conversation). As I have already mentioned a few times I'm planning to check out their happy hour soon and will most definitely add it as an addendum to this post!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pear & Prosciutto Pizza- Trader Joe's Post #4

Mmmm... Home made pizza fresh out of the oven. Balancing the flavors just the way you like, rolling the dough out to your favorite thickness. Nothing beats Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough. Available in Plain, Whole Wheat, & Garlic Herb each bag can make a variety of sizes (about 4 individual pizza's or 2 larger shareable pizza's) I've topped it with hundreds of combinations of cheeses, veggies, meats and other fun things over the years. For this weeks post I took inspiration from one of my favorite seasonal dishes from Pizza Antica but with a little bit of my own spin! With the tangy cheese, sweet pear, & salty prosciutto you can't ask for more!
This is my absolute FAVORITE prosciutto. Available at Trader Joe's- best value for the cost, the pieces always hold up really well when you are working with them and they taste great!
I start by Pre-Heating my oven to 475 F. The bag calls for 450, I'm not sure if its my oven or my pans but I find it cooks better for me a little higher especially since I'm looking to achieve a thin crisp crunch. If you are lucky enough to have a wood fire oven you know those suckers get up to 750F and you achieve that perfect crisp edge and chewy  center. If you have a pizza stone that goes in your regular oven follow their suggested temps.
It's important while your oven is pre-heating and you are prepping your toppings to let the dough rest on the counter top in the room temp for about 30 minutes. While it is in your cold refrigerator the yeast in the dough that helps it rise and get chewy and delicious is dormant. Letting it come to room temperature will both help you be able to stretch the dough more easily but will also help it not be dense.
I like to slowly stretch the ball of dough with my hands until it is the desired thinness (not always the most uniform shape haha but I like the baked texture better than when I roll it out with a rolling pin). Once shaped place the dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (to avoid sticking).

On all my pizza's I like to do a spray of olive oil over the whole dough before topping (if you don't have a olive oil spritzer you can also use a pastry brush and brush the dough with oil) this will help the edges get nice and golden. Next I took some well chopped roasted garlic and spread it evenly over the dough. I followed that with chunks of Trader Joe's Cambozola which is flavor wise like a combination of a Triple cream (like a really creamy brie) and gorgonzola (Italian blue cheese) nice and melty and tangy a perfect compliment to the thin slices of sweet but firm Bosc pear. Once all these ingredients are layered I popped the pizza in the oven for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes I pulled the pizza out and added some chopped fresh sage and a layer of prosciutto, finishing it off in the oven for another 3-5 minutes (until the edges of the crust are brown and the prosciutto begins to crisp). Slice it up and serve with your favorite glass of light and fruity red wine or crisp white! I enjoyed mine with one of my favorite new wines from Trader Joe's- Found Object's Carmenere.
At $5 a bottle you can't beat the deal on this Chilean wine. Trader Joe's is currently selling 3 varietals from Found Object's - Carmenere, Petit Verdot, & Syrah. I have tried all but the Syrah so far and found them pleasant and surprisingly complex and interesting considering their low price point. Definitely worth checking out the next time you are there and want an easy week night bottle!

Tell me- what are your favorite unique pizza toppings?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chez Panisse my 2 year blogiversary dinner!

It's hard to believe that it has already been two years since I began this blog. I have been to so many great restaurants, learned how to cook wonderful new dishes, and have started to learn how to create recipes from scratch with lots of trial and error! There are lots of fun things I would like to write about in the future and I hope all of you continue to read and enjoy.

For such an occasion I thought it only appropriate to celebrate with a dinner I have been wanting to have for a long time, a reservation at Chez Panisse.

A little background for those of you who may have not heard of the restaurant or it's luminary Alice Waters.  Founded in Berekley in 1971 with the premise of serving fresh and locally sourced foods in the prime of their season using primarily French country style recipes. The atmosphere was meant to be like a thoughtfully planned dinner party, not with a menu to be chosen from but where all the guests are served the same courses based on the finest market availability. While this may not sound revolutionary in today's saturated market at the time it was a novel approach to fine dining. Chez Panisse was the birth of what is now considered California cuisine.

Alice Waters became to many the face of what is now known as the "slow food movement". She is ideological in her approach to gardening, sourcing, and cooking for yourself and the food choices we make. She has been a leader in the Edible Schoolyard that stresses the importance of feeding our chilldren healthful foods and teaching them about cooking and farming as well. She is actively involved in many aspects of food nonprofit & advocacy culture.
 Over the last 40 + years Chez Panisse has garnered an exceptional reputation and following in the restaurant world. Which, as always, reflects to a certain need for foresight in your dining plans. Not surprisingly it was only about a week and a half ago that I realized this week was my two year blog-iversary and decided on the spot to finally check this off my list. Hmmm... weekend reservations were out of the question. In a stroke of luck there were still spots available on Monday night (and with the least expensive menu of the week... my ailing pocketbook was glad for it) so I booked and started to get excited! With a 5:30 res and a drive to the East Bay from Santa Clara it might be a tight squeeze but I made it happen.
I was pleasantly surprised to find parking with relative ease and inexpensive. I walked a short block from my car and approached the restaurant with mounting anticipation. I had perused the menu online earlier in the day and was excited to see the results!

After a certain amount of stress through sections of traffic on my way there inevitably I was still early for my reservation. After snapping a few discreet pics of the foyer and the portion of the dining room as seen from the windowed portion of the entry I wandered upstairs to give the Cafe a quick look (reservations are not required upstairs and the have a more traditional service style of ordering from a menu, this will be an adventure for another time).
Being a solo diner and the first to check in with Maire D' I was seated first at my reservation time, the dining room filling slowly after me. I settled into my spot (perfect for a diner without a companion I had a nice view of the open kitchen)
The dining room is both warm and elegant with Cherry Wood paneled walls and art deco-esque lighting fixtures. There are lots of small windows about giving an openness to the cozy space. Each place setting has the evenings menu unique for the day in cover design and listing.

Monday, January 14 $65
Ramacche: prosciutto and caciocavallo cheese fritters with winter vegetable caponata
Cuscus trapanese: Sicilian-style fish and shellfish stew with almonds and
saffron couscous
Anise panna cotta with oranges and honey caramel

One of the 4 server's assistants brought water and later a bread basket along with an "Amuse Bouche" being served by the Chef, a toast square topped with bacon and duck liver.

When my Server (one of two that each seemed to be working their own half of the roughly 16 table dining room) came to tell me more about the Sicilian inspired menu which had some influences from North Africa he also took my wine order, suggesting instead of a single glass that I do the wine pairings for the evening which ended up being a fun choice as it opened me up to two varietals I had never before enjoyed.
For the first course a Grecomusc was poured. This producer, Cantina Lonardo, is the only one to produce this grape varietal singly and not as a blend. Grown in Campania in Southern Italy this white wine is crisp and refreshing with a nice light acidity on the palate and surprising complexity. It was paired with the Ramacche which were two smallish lightly fried balls of cheese with small cubes of prosciutto and had the texture of a slightly dense pillow. The outside was not as crisp as I might have expected but not in a disappointing way just different than my anticipation.
Served on top of a melange of vegetables (artichoke heart, carrot, celery etc) cooked to a nice al dente texture, a light citrusy butter sauce and finished with mache greens. I really enjoyed this dish, it made for a not overwhelming start to the meal, the Ramacche had a unique texture that I had not experienced before and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. I cleaned my plate.

Although my dish was served in what felt like a pretty timely manner (when you are only making conversation with yourself time can sometimes drag but I was enjoying people watching around the room and kitchen and unobtrusively eavesdropping on the table in front of me) I began to notice that not many others were coming out of the kitchen. While the two tables in front of me were greeted pretty quickly the table to my left who sat later were visibly uncomfortable with how long they were waiting to be acknowledged by the server although they were eventually brought water, bread, and the Amuse by the attendants. As my second course was arriving I could see my server beginning to get anxious that for most of his half of the dining room the tables were still lacking the first course. The table to my left was finally asked if they wanted wine.
Served with the main course was a Cerasuolo di Vittoria a light to medium bodied red wine from Sicily from the well know producer Cos. With light tannins and well balanced acidity this wine paired surprisingly well with the seafood stew. There were lots of bright ripe cherry flavors and aromas along with on my palate a little hint of Anise.

In the nature of full, unbiased, discretion I have to be honest- I wasn't very impressed with the main course. The plating seemed really sloppy. I understand this is a stew type dish served over couscous, as it was served on a flat plate the elements seemed to just tumble haphazardly all over the place, perhaps if it were served instead in a shallow bowl were the elements would be sequestered closer together the effect would have seemed more appealing and less.... well sloppy. While each item in the stew- Lingcod, Gulf Shrimp, and locally harvested mussels and clams were cooked nicely there weren't any stand out or interesting flavors to the dish. This may have been on purpose to highlight how fresh the fish was in which case wonderful, but the overall impression was very underwhelming.

AS I finished my main dish my neighbors received their first course....
Before describing my dessert course I feel the need to veer to the course of service. While all of the waitstaff, Maitre D', etc were all very professional and for the most part engaging it was really confusing to me as to why it took what felt like an exorbitant amount of time for those dining around me to receive their food. To start- everyone is receiving the same dish. Everyone. and the staff is aware well prior to the day how many portions will be served and when the seating's are. Via a chalk board visible to all in the kitchen each table's times were kept track of so everyone knew at what point in the meal all the tables were at.  From my vantage point the kitchen wasn't giving off a sense of urgency. In my many years working in restaurants (certainly not of this caliber but regardless) I have seen kitchens hustle underfire. It was hard to tell exactly who was making what but whoever it was felt to be taking their time. And with a seemingly uncomplicated plating I was a little baffled. Perhaps because it was the first seating of the week things weren't quite as well tuned as say a Saturday night. Whatever the reason it left me with a nagging distaste that was hard to get past.
Thankfully my beautiful dessert arrived and I was able to move past the parts of the evening that felt disappointing. The black licorice flavor of the Anise in the Panna Cotta was delightful and the fresh sweet and tangy flavors from the citrus fruits in honey syrup were lovely. The caramel tuille added wonderful crunchy texture. I was a little disappointed to realize that the wine pairing was only for the first two courses (I had assumed it was for the whole meal). As I ate I noticed one of the girls from the party near the kitchen had wandered into the throughway and was taking pictures, although my server offered that I could go explore as well before I left if I chose (and I was tempted... if for no reason than to see the method behind the slow service) it somehow felt... well rude and like I was over stepping a boundary. For a restaurant that requests business attire and no use of cellphones or computers (both things I noticed blatantly disregarded by a few diners) to take liberties lowered the standard for me.While I love being able to see the cooking happening a kitchen throughway is not a place for spectators. Watch from a safe comfortable distance and don't get in the way. Maybe this is a mentality that I need to get past if I want to expand my culinary writing insight but as a server who 1 too many times had to ask a bystander to get out of my way.... I just can't quite bring myself to do that to someone else.

Overall dining at Chez Panisse was quite an experience. I can now say I visited a culinary artifact of sorts. Although I'm not sure it is a meal I will rave about (I feel like I might be getting snotty....or as I prefer to think of it well traveled) it was an experience I will not soon forget!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mini Corn Dogs

My guiltiest pleasure? Corn Dogs. I'll admit it. I don't eat them often but they are really high up there on my favorite foods list. I think the breading is what really does it for me. I love the crisp outside and the soft sweet cornbread inside. Corn dogs are ubiquitous with fun summer times, carnivals and festivals and the circus. Portable food on a stick giving you free reign to run around and enjoy. Party food should be the same way. It should evoke a fun free feeling and it should be easily eaten on the go. And heck it doesn't hurt if it is cute!
Let's be honest anything tiny is cute. Tiny corn dog on a tooth pick? SO CUTE! Served in a plastic shot glass with some mustard or ketchup at the bottom (making it easy to pass around, easy to eat, and easy to dispose of the toothpick when you are done) you have a fun party treat for adults or kids alike (supervise small children).

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Polenta Grind Corn Meal (should be available at most bulk food sections of fine grocery stores)
1/4 Cup white sugar
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Egg lightly beaten
1 Cup Light Flavored Beer (I used a Belgian white ale I like the flavor it has a little spice to it)

1 Pack Cocktail Sausages (I Used Hillshire farms Lit'l Smokies)
40 + Toothpicks

Vegetable oil for frying (quantity will depend on the size of Fryer or if you are using a deep sauce pan on the stove 1 Quart)

In a container with tall sides (I used plastic food storage container that was about 4 in square and about 8 inches tall) blend all dry ingredients for the batter. Add lightly beaten egg. Add beer and whisk together until smooth.
 Pierce one end of each Cocktail sausage with a tooth pick inserting it about half way into the sausage.

Preheat the oil either in your fryer to 350 or in a deep sauce pan over medium heat.

Holding the tooth pick dip each sausage into the batter individually, rolling it around to be certain it is well coated. Slowly lower it into the oil to avoid splashing or sticking to the bottom. Allow to fry till light golden 2-3 minutes turning occasionally with cooking tongs. You can fry 3-4 at a time.
Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels to remove any excess oil. Serve as shown above! You can experiment with different flavors of sausage or dipping sauce, your guest will love this two bite nostalgic treat.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

State Bird Provision's: My dinner at Bon Appetit's Best Restaurant in America

It's no secret that San Francisco is a foodie town and has many establishment's that rival or surpass the restaurant mecca that is NYC. Yet there is something uniquely thrilling when a "hometown" eatery is honored with an award from your favorite magazine. In 2012 Bon Appetit named State Bird Provisions their restaurant of the year. Of course I'm sure the first images that cross through your mind are white table clothes, rows of silverware and wine glasses, $50 entrees, and an executive Chef tucked away somewhere on a world tour. Scratch all of that. Instead the Chef is out on the floor talking to diners and suggesting dishes that are being rolled by on an antique trolley for $3, $6, or $9 a piece, the kitchen is open and casual attire is the uniform for both staff and guest alike. Oh and there is a line at the door at 4:30 just waiting to get on the list to sit at one of the 6 bar stools (or 3 standing spots) staring into the kitchen, being served delicacies straight from the cooks. Recogition does come at a "price", reservations are booked out 2 mo in advance, but walk-in's are still taken every meal just be prepared to wait.
After visiting the de Young museum in Golden Gate park during the day I was excited and eager for the dining adventure that State Bird promised me that evening. Since I decided only a few days prior that I wanted to go reservations were unavailable, but I figured as a solo diner I had a pretty good shot of getting in. I followed the advice of a few Yelpers who said to arrive no later than 5 pm to get in the line up for their 5:30 pm opening. As I arrived there were already roughly 4 parties ahead of me and quickly as many behind. I was glad I brought a book. We waited in the chill night air as sunset fell and the anticipation mounted. The unsuspecting denizens of this end of Fillmore street passed by frequently commenting "Damn dis place must be hella good!, yo what they serve here?" ... they were not met with much reaction from our timid lot.
At last the doors opened and we were shuffled in past the open kitchen and bar seats to the hostess who took our names and sat who she could.

As my un-luck would have it the last single seat went to the guy directly in front of me. The very kind host took my cell number (on her iPad booking system) and let me know it would probably be about 7:15 when a table would be ready. They would text as soon as something opened up. Not deterred as I was fully aware this was a possibility I moved down the street looking for a libation to kill time during the wait.

About a block and a half away I happened to glance around the corner to see cute bistro tables sitting outside what looked like exactly what I wanted. Unfazed by the fact that the fire alarm seemed to be going off I headed in to Fat Angel . (As it turned out the fire alarm had been set off in one of the apartments in the building in which the Beer & Wine bar is located and they had been assured there was no actual danger but the fire department has to come turn it off). Inside was in my mind exactly what I want in a bar. Cozy atmosphere with beautiful pressed tin ceilings, AWESOME list of mostly large format beers (don't get freaked out by the price many are 750 mL the size of a bottle of wine and are meant to be shared) and just enough food on the list to get a great snack or even dinner if you so chose while you drink. Although the menu isn't anything unheard of (artisan flat breads, cheese or charcuterie dsplays etc) it is all yummy looking. Since I'd be having a big meal I stuck with snacking on an order of the sweet & spicy Chinese spiced nuts while making friends with three guys who sat down next to me. It turns out they were also hoping to go to State Bird that night but weren't going to be able to get in till 10 pm! It pays to line up at 5 (and dine solo). It felt like I had been waiting only minutes when I looked down at my texts and saw that I had been paged! An hour earlier than anticipated woo hoo! I bid farewell to my jealous compatriots and quickly headed back down the street. As it turned out the guy who got seated right before me had a flight to catch or something and ate quickly, my luck had turned around!

I took my seat at the bar and began to survey my surroundings. Although modestly decorated when you are seated basically in the kitchen there is no end to the things you can see. The place setting has a wonderful farm house vibe and the menu is strapped to a board indicating the items that can be ordered from your waiter and also leaving spaces at the bottom for them to tally the items you get off the cart or more often in my case from the kitchen.
I hadn't been seated long before the cart made its first lap by. Filled with a variety of succulent and brightly colored seafood options I knew exactly what I wanted to start. 1 raw oyster topped with kholrabi kraut and seasame and some amazing looking Lobster with lentils.

It's hard to know where to begin to describe these flavors and textures. The oyster was chill and tangy from from kraut with an enjoyable crunch and hints of the fresh seawater. The lobster was perfectly tender and buttery with herbal notes and the lentils added their own soft textural notes. Both were the perfect light refreshing start to my meal. As I enjoyed both my waitress brought my glass of wine and asked if there was anything I'd like to order from the listed items. It wouldn't be right not not try the namesake dish and so I ordered a half of the fried quail (the State bird of CA... get it?) which is served on a bed of onion jam and topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Each bite of the bird is a tender little morsel of crisp and savory goodness. As you all know I'm not one to deal with bones... I put that whole sucker in my mouth once i had done all I could with knife and fork. I wasn't letting any bit go. The onion jam is a perfect tangy sweet balance to the crisp breaded and fried bird, helping cleanse your palate to enjoy the next bite. If I weren't trying to eat as many items as possible I could have easily eaten a full order (but of course the point here is to try as much as you can handle, a dream come true).
While I had been waiting for my bird to be ordered the chef in front of me had passed over an offering of a veal and sweetbreads meatball served atop shaved quince and pickled vegetables, since I knew I would have a little time I thought why not!
Tender juicy and meaty each bite of the meat ball combined with a small piece of the quince was a joy. I tried to make it last as long as possible forking off small bites one at a time. I soon got backed up however as my Bird arrived and shortly after my waitress brought over a dumpling with savory broth to which (surprise surprise) I could not say no to!
In all honesty I was in such a frenzy by this point that I had forgotten what exactly my waitress indicated the dumpling was filled with. The sample menu on line indicates it may have been Guinea Hen but as they change things up frequently it may have been something else. There is a nagging in the back of my brain that says it was short rib. Frankly it doesn't matter it was delicious. I tried my best to break it in half with my spoon to be able to enjoy it in two bites and as soon as the dumpling was finished i was quickly spooning as much of the broth out of the cup as possible. Complex and deep with bright notes of lemongrass and ginger along with other distinctly earthy umami flavors I'd like to bath in that broth. I should have just tipped it up and drank it out but sometimes I like to pretend I'm classy. I doubt anyone would have cared.

I knew soon I would have to slow down. The influx of the last 3 dishes had kept me busy but as the cup for my dumpling was cleared away I couldn't stop my wandering eye from peering around at what might be coming out of the kitchen next.
Was it time for a snack? Well sure after all I had had my fresh and bright "appetizer" courses, my meaty "main" courses, why not delve in a different direction. Being plated up at the end of the bar were golden stacks of house made potato chips and the perfectly spooned egg of porcini mushroom dip. At this point I'm not even sure how one ended up in front of me and frankly I didn't care! If there was one thing I ate this night that I am desperate to recreate so I can enjoy it all the time it was the porcini dip. The pieces of mushroom chopped just big enough that you could enjoy the texture, the substance binding them not overly creamy. Perfectly seasoned to spread across the salty potato chips. It was while I was enjoy this that Executive Chef and owner Stuart Brioza stopped next to me to comment "isn't that the best? If I could only eat one thing for life that would be it". I'm sure I mumbled something stupid, let's be honest I was a little star struck. Having read the Bon Appetit article (which was accompanied by a picture of him and his wife co owner of SBP and pastry chef Nicole Krasinski) and overhearing a few of the kitchen staff refer to him as Chef I had put two and two together. I think the indelible image in my head was of of the table knife tattooed on his right forearm. It seemed an interesting choice (since at least from what I could tell that's what it was vs say a chefs knife). Had I been able to interview him I would have loved to ask about it. But alas I'm not that brave and he was busy being a hands on gracious owner and chef helping out the staff getting things ready to be passed around and occasionally working the crowd.

While finishing up my "snack" course I was comfortably satiated and without an overwhelming amount of thought decided it was time for dessert.
My choice was made easy when I read the ice cream sandwich of the moment was filled with eggnog ice cream. My fascination lead me to order a shot of the Peanut muscovado milk as well, it's sweet creaminess to wash down the sweet creamy dessert. Yum. The sandwiches cookies were crisp and a little chewy and really nice texture to hold in the creamy spicy egg nog ice cream all of which drizzled in rich chocolate fudge with crushed almonds. I love the Stonehenge esque plating. I was about 3 bites in when I realized I had made a horrible oversight.... I had not had the garlic bread with Burrata. The horror!!! The expo had just gotten a request for some and called to make 6 or so so they would have a few to pass. He saw the conflict in my eyes, "do you want one?" ..... of course I did. But I was mid way through dessert ...."You could take it home, just box the cheese and bread separately and heat up the bread at home" Genius. Of course my gluttonous little fingers couldn't help from eating about half before I was about to burst and had to box the remainder.
The bread was a knot of light crisp dough (like pizza dough) garlicky and smothered in a healthy portions of the rich burrata cheese (fresh mozzarella surrounding fresh ricotta it is sealed into a ball with cream) and sprinkled liberally with crushed peppercorns and seasoning along with olive oil. Divine. Before I could order anything else I admitted defeat to my waitress and handed over my menu board so she could tally up my bill. As a warning although you are very aware of what you are spending (it is tallied right in front of you while you eat it's not difficult to keep a running total in your head) it is incredibly difficult not to want to eat everything. And with most items being less than $10 a piece it's easy to be seduced into adding "just one more". Frankly I think this is an amazing way to dine and my dream of how a restaurant would run, my only disclaimer is be prepared to spend money so that way you can have the best time possible! If you come with another person (or two) you are afforded the luxury of trying more items by sharing but most are not that big and many you will probably be too greedy to share much of!

This I think may be my best dining experience to date. This unique approach to serving food was transcendent for me (being the lover of small bites that I am) a choose it yourself tasting menu of complex
 flavors and experiences. The fact that the open kitchen takes up the front 1/4 of the space is a fascinating design concept and quite the show for a home cook like me. Something particularly intriguing that I couldn't help noticing (with my restaurant background) was that the kitchen staff looked very different from many I had worked in. These were all culinary program grads.... and they all spoke English as a first language. Is that here or there? Probably not. But in a Bay Area restaurant is definitely unique.

It should go without saying at this point that I am dying to go back again soon. With so many other things to try and new creations all the time this is one that will keep me coming back again and again!