Head to Alameda for Authentic ItalianĀ 

My BFF and I took my sister out last night to celebrate her birthday.  The birthday girl wanted Italian food and suggested Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails located at Alameda South Shore Center.  It was my first time here and honestly my expectations were pretty low.

The service was really good.  We were immediately given warm bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and were asked what we wanted to drink.  We each ordered cocktails.  I really enjoyed my “Milano Mule” which is their twist on a Moscow Mule.  It had Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom vodka, saffron, and ginger beer and it was delicious.  
We started with a Caesar salad that wasn’t actually on the menu but it caught our eye when another table ordered it.  It was simple, but tasty.  We really liked the boiled egg that was included.   

 We had two antipasti.  One was the carpaccio which is raw, grass fed beef tenderloin with lemon, olive oil, shaved parmesan, and arugula.  Another very simple and delicious dish.  The meat was so tender that it melted in my mouth.  

 The other antipasti appeared much more complicated.  We had the polipo e patate which is grilled octopus with two kinds of potatoes, celery, lemon, and olive oil.  This was probably my favorite dish of the evening.  I loved the meaty char on the octopus.  
 My BFF picked the special rotisserie of the day which was duck.  It came with polenta and spinach.  The skin wasn’t crispy like Peking duck, rather fattier like a roast duck.  It had a deep rich flavor that was enjoyable.
 My sister ordered the agnolotti di zucca which is house-made pasta filled with butternut squash, walnuts, brown butter sage sauce, and parmesan.  I was pretty excited about it because you can see through a window where fresh pasta is being made.  I loved the texture of the pasta on the agnolotti, but the filling and sauce was a bit heavy and boring.  This was probably my least favorite dish, but I would still consider trying other pasta dishes here in the future.

 I ordered the pollo alla contadina, the wood-fire chicken with an herb and chili flake marinade.  It came with potatoes and root vegetables.  I asked to substitute the root vegetables with the green beans, but they accidentally substituted spinach.  I was ok with that.  The chicken had crispy skin and tender juicy meat that made me happy.   

 I would be remiss not to mention the wine we had that complimented our dinner.  My BFF did a great job selecting the montepulciano and it was a perfect pairing for our meal.  

 For dessert, they brought out a free tiramisu for the birthday girl.  It was exceptional and I can’t remember ever having a better one.  

 We also had the zabaglione, an Italian custard cream with fresh fruit.  I personally thought it was a bit on the thin side and didn’t enjoy it as much as the others at the table.  I would’ve liked more tiramisu.  

 In summary, we had a great experience at Trabocco.   I think we had a pretty good sampling of foods, but I did watch pizzas coming out to tables that looked amazing.  I’ll definitely be back for more as this was just an introduction to delicious authentic Italian food in Alameda.

DIY: Homemade Potstickers

I have been attending these fabulous themed cooking parties and last night we had a Shanghai dinner.  I wanted to make potstickers from scratch which I have never done before.  Potstickers are a form of Chinese dumplings.  I have made wontons, a different kind of dumpling, so I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult.  I found an old recipe that I had photocopied many years ago from a Chinese cookbook.  

Ingredients to make about 50 potstickers:

  • Potsticker wrappers (My packages came in 25 so I used 2 packs)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 cups of chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • Vegetable or other high heat oil for frying
  • Chicken stock

Place pork in a large bowl.  Add salt, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, corn starch, and ginger and mix thoroughly.  Now blend in the cabbage and the two types of onions evenly.  Your filling is complete.   

 

Place about 1 1/2 tbsp of filling in the center of each wrapper.  Wet around the entire edge of the wrapper.  Fold dumpling over in half and make pleats from left to right while sealing.  Once sealed, stand the dumpling up to shape the bottom flat so it becomes three sided.   

   

Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling.  If you don’t want to cook them all, these freeze very well. Place them on parchment paper and don’t let them touch each other for the initial freeze.  

To cook the first batch of dumplings, heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat.  Pour about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the skillet.  Once the oil heats, brown each side of the potstickers.  

  

Pour about 1/2 cup of chicken stock into the skillet.  Cover the pan and turn the heat to low so the dumplings can cook thoroughly.  In about 8-10 minutes the liquid should have evaporated.  The dumplings will begin to caramelize on the bottom and stick to the bottom of the pan which is why they are called potstickers.  Remove the cover and the potstickers should get crispy again and come off easily.   

These dumplings taste great dipped in a black vinegar/ginger or a hot chili oil. 

The potstickers were enjoyed by all.  Here are some of the other fantastic creations from last night. Thanks to the hosts and all the “chefs” for another successful dinner!

 

Parlour: More than Pizza

The opening of Parlour has been a long anticipated wait for me.  It’s located in Uptown Oakland a block and a half from where I work.  Imagine the suspense of knowing a new restaurant is going to open up in your neighborhood and they are remodeling the space.  The entire front entry is made of glass and wood from top to bottom.  For well over a year, those windows were covered with paper and I was intrigued about what was going on in there.  

Parlour finally opened on March 25.  I tried to walk in two days after the opening and couldn’t get in earlier than 9:45pm.  The restaurant pretty much encourages reservations.  Now that I know you can make reservations on Open Table, it works for me.  I made an early and same day reservation last week for me and two friends.   
We started with cocktails, after all it was really 6pm our time!  I had a drink called a Foxtail which is made up of rye, lemon, pomegranate molasses, and mint.  It was delicious.
 

Our first starter was purple asparagus with pancetta, farm egg, sherry gastrique, and parmesan.  My friends were wondering why the asparagus was green.  I thought maybe if you cooked the purple asparagus, it would turn green. We asked the waitress and she told us that they actually ran out of purple asparagus.  We still enjoyed these tremendously.  Each ingredient was cooked beautifully and complimented each other.  
 

We also ordered the meatball appetizer which is made of pork, veal, and beef.  The tender flavorful protein was outstanding.  They came with some crostini which I was happily dipping into the sauce.
 

What came out next was a plate that was compliments of the chef.  It was the vitelli tonnato which is pastrami tongue, crispy capers, celery hearts, and tuna aioli.  It was definitely not something I would order.  It was actually pretty tasty, but something I didn’t have to have.  We think the chef brought it to us because of the asparagus incident.  The purple asparagus appetizer did have a $15 price tag on it which I thought was pretty outrageous.  
 Funny thing about purple asparagus is that I saw it at the Farmer’s Market yesterday and it is pretty pricey. I did some further research and learned that purple asparagus tends to lose its color after cooking and can turn green.

 Parlour has a wood fired oven so we ordered a couple of pizzas.  The first one was a pepperoni and castelvetrano olives.  These are my favorite olives and I think it’s genius to out them on this particular pizza.  The pepperoni was cooked crispy just like I like them.  Yum and it looked like Christmas.  

The other pizza was the basic margherita pizza.  It was good but it was slightly unbalanced as far as the mozarella is concerned.  The crust on the pizzas were more on the crispy side.  

 I was with some big eaters so we also ordered the duck egg chitarra.  Chitarra is a pasta similar to a spaghetti.  This pasta came with cured kumquat, slow cooked duck ragout, and pecorino.  I was getting quite full so just had a small amount.   The flavors and textures were excellent.  

 

There is always room for dessert.  I picked the olive oil cake with blackberry preserves and vanilla chantilly cream.  The cake had a springy texture different from other olive oil cakes I’ve eaten.  I thought the blend of slightly tart preserves and creamy sweetness added to the cake was delicious.  
 

The other dessert we had was the smoked pear crostata with a brown butter caramel and a bay leaf semifreddo.  The operative word is smoked.  I couldn’t get passed the smokey flavor.  It was eaten up so I figure someone enjoyed it.  It was definitely interesting and probably innovative.
 Overall, Parlour is great!  I guess I can say it was worth the long wait it took to open.  Right now they serve dinner only, but I heard they will be opening for lunch in a few weeks.  Being so close to work, I’ll be back.  Remember to make your reservation at Open Table.

Kiraku: Japanese Tapas in Berkeley

 

My coworker introduced me to Kiraku, a small Japanese tapas restaurant  on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.  She recently had dinner there and was texting me photos as the food was being served.  I was intrigued.  My friend who lives in Palo Alto was happy to make the drive to eat there with me last week.   Here’s what we had in the order that it came out.

I was in love at first site with this beautiful spoonful of uni, ikura, and yuba.  It tasted fresh and had a subtle flavor of the sea.  

 

We had the homemade tofu that was topped with seaweed, bonito flakes, and green onions.  Although the presentation was pretty, it was cold and bland and not what either of us expected.  We should’ve had the agedashi tofu instead.

 

The beef tataki was lightly seared on the outside and thinly sliced.  The beef was very tender and was complimented with a citrus flavored sauce.  It was my absolute favorite plate of the evening.

 The corn tempura is clusters of kernel corn that is battered and deep fried and tossed with green tea salt.  This is a very popular dish.  It was good, but I think I expected a wow.

My friend who is obsessed with foie gras ordered the foie gras with daikon.  I remember my last hurrah with foie gras before the California ban in 2012 and decided to keep those memories as my last.  My friend really enjoyed this dish.  I tasted the sauce and the daikon and thought that was lovely.  

 

The roast duck came out next.  It was perfectly sliced with each piece having crispy skin.  However I thought it was a tad over cooked which made it taste boring.

 

The organic chicken karaage was something my coworker had recommended.  I had no problem ordering it because I love fried chicken.  I liked the coating, but thought it fell a bit flat.  

 

We ended our meal with my favorite sashimi, salmon.  This was the perfect ending being that it was fresh and light.  

 My coworker would probably disagree on the perfect ending because one of her favorite things she had at Kiraku was their homemade grapefruit yogurt ice cream.  Me and my friend opted to drive to Ici instead.  There are a lot more items on the Kiraku menu that I am interested in trying so I’m sure I’ll be back soon.