Wood Tavern: Rockridge’s Best

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More than five years ago, restauranteurs Rebekkah and Rich Wood opened up their first Oakland restaurant, Wood Tavern. They were one of the first restaurant owners to successfully transplant a San Francisco restaurant across the Bay to Oakland. Many restauranteurs have followed suit in the past few years making Oakland a destination place to eat.

If I were to have written lists of the Top 10 restaurants in Oakland each year, Wood Tavern would be on that list every year since it opened in 2007. It is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Rockridge. It was one of the first places in which I discovered pork belly on a menu. A friend and I had a recent visit to Wood Tavern for a leisurely lunch.

We ordered a bowl of soup which was sausage and faro. Since we were sharing, they gave us our individual cups. This tomato based soup was hearty with chunks of what I believe was andouille sausage. Parmesan cheese was sprinkled on top making the soup amazingly delicious. I am still thinking about this soup wondering if I can get a copy of this recipe.

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A second appetizer we ordered was the crispy pork belly with warm kale salad and a poached egg. The combination was a great match. I only wish the crispy pork belly wasn’t quite as crispy, specifically in the fatty parts.

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Our entree was the clam stew which also came with halibut fillets, bacon, potatoes, and leeks. The flavors of the thyme and leeks really came through. After eating the garlic toast that came with it, we had to use up the remaining bread from our basket to soak up the clam broth.

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My friend was in the mood for chocolate so for dessert we had the dark chocolate salted caramel brownie with malt ice cream and malted caramel sauce. I was quite full so I really only had a bite. I thought the ice cream was a fun flavor reminding me of good old Hershey Whoppers.

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Wood Tavern consistently creates delicious food and I am eager for more opportunities to dine there as well as the Wood’s other restaurant next door, Southie.

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Prospect: Chez Chic

I envy the residents that live in the Infiniti Towers in San Francisco. Why so? The gorgeous condominium is close to the Bay, walking distance to the Ferry Building and AT&T Park, and has a chic restaurant offering fine food. I finally had the opportunity to dine at Prospect recently. Prospect is the sister restaurant to Boulevard also located in San Francisco.

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My two friends and I started out with some fun cocktails. They offered us a list of specialty cocktails, but you can also have the bartender tailor a cocktail to your tastes.

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We decided we would do some sharing amongst the three of us. We would start with two orders of the mushroom and squash soup. Like many fancy restaurants, you get a bowl of goodies and the waiter pours the liquid part of the soup into the bowl in front of you. It was nice of them to divide the orders and give us each our own bowl. It was smooth, creamy, and divine. Adding mushrooms to a butternut squash soup can surprisingly make a soup special.

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We also shared the baby artichoke and burrata salad. It came with some prosciutto. This was a nice appetizer to share because we could pick at it.

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One of the entrees we had was the rib eye steak which came with onion rings, mashed potatoes, and green beans. One of my friends was a good sport and allowed me to order the meat medium rare. Although she typically likes her meat well done, I think she enjoyed the juicy, tender version we ordered. This All-American dish was spot on.

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The other entree we shared was the sea bass which came with fingerling potatoes, broccoli romanesco, and clams. I tried a small piece of the fish and thought it was quite delicate and delicious.

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We ordered one dessert to share which was the ginger spice cake. It came with poached pear, huckleberry sauce, and walnut ice cream. The combination worked well together.

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Dinner at Prospect reminded me that I was eating in a culinary Mecca. For special occasions, I would highly recommend Prospect. They also offer some less expensive options like happy hour, brunch, or Sunday Supper.

2012 Omnivore World Tour: San Francisco

Omnivore World Tour, a new food festival featuring young chefs was held at the Presidio in San Francisco this past weekend. It started on Friday where the under thirty chefs cooked at some renowned Bay Area restaurants. The weekend of events also entailed various cooking and wine classes including a workshop for kids. Last night, my friend and I attended the “Omnivorous Party” at the Observation Post. First, the venue is amazing where you could see views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our tickets included some wine and food tickets. The first part of the evening offered wine stations, a cheese station, and a charcuterie station. The West Coast wines included local Robert Mondavi and Wente and Washington State’s Thorney Rose. In addition, they had some Italian and French Wine. I started with the Italian Prosecco and ended with a French Wine Cotes du Rhone.

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It was odd that the volunteers from local Cow Girl Creamery weren’t serving any of their cheeses. They still had a good variety of cheese such as blue cheese, hard cheeses, and some soft and creamy ones that were yummy.

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The meat selections were courtesy of Fabrique Delices from Hayward, California. Along with cured meats, they offered a liver pate and a duck roulette. They were quite good and my favorite was the salami.

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Awhile into the event, the doors opened to the food area. The young chefs were providing samples of tasty bites. Most of the items had already been prepped, but at some tables we got to see some final prep and plating. There were about six selections and we were able to sample all of them. Sample is the key word as I felt it was difficult to really appreciate the food when the portions were so small.

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Chantal Guillon is a Bay Area bakery that specializes in macaroons. They offered a trio of tiny desserts which were quite delicious.

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An Asian Aussie chef featured a salad that I thought was quite unique. The baby greens had chopped Chinese sausage sprinkled on it. I think it was a nice take on bacon bits and simple and delicious.

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Omnivore was a fun event and rumor has it may be touring to Rio de Janeiro.

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

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Dia de los Muertos aka Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated November 1 and 2. It is a time to celebrate those loved ones who have passed away. I was invited to celebrate Dia de los Muertos on Friday evening at Cosecha located in the Housewives Market in Old Oakland. Cosecha is a relatively new addition in Oakland, about 14 months, and I have dined there a handful of times. Their food is authentic and excellent. Like many other alumni from Chez Panisse, Dominica has opened up a successful business.

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Doors opened at 7:00pm and the host wearing traditional make-up checked us in and seated us at communal tables. Wine and peanuts were available to us as we got situated and got to know our neighbors.

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The first course was a beautifully colored salad made up of persimmon, pomegranate seeds, lettuce, cucumber, jicama, pepitos, and avocado. It was a generous portion and I ate every bite of the fresh ingredients.

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The main dish was a chicken mole and came with two tamales. The base of mole sauces are chili peppers. Dominica had been working on this dish for two days. It had a rich flavor with a nice heat to it. My friends who in my opinion are “Mexican food connoisseurs” thought this was one of the best mole sauces they have had. I haven’t had enough experience with mole sauces, but this one was the best I have had and ridiculously delicious. I enjoyed the tamales. They were prepared thin which I liked, and a great compliment to the chicken and sauce.

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The sides were brought out for us to share. We had bowls of rice, beans, and zucchini & tomatoes. The experience of passing the sides allowed for a fun, family style environment.

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For dessert, we had Pan de Muerto which translates to Bread of the Dead. They are sweet rolls shaped like a bun. Cosecha was serving two types, one was coated with sugar and one with sesame seeds. The breads were fluffy and fresh. It wasn’t as tasty as a flan, but it was fun to participate in the tradition. Platters of grapes also came around to the tables as well as Mexican coffee with a hint of cinnamon.

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This was the second year Cosecha has had the Dia de los Muertos dinners and I hope this ritual continues.

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Me and Dominica