King of Kebabs: The Kebabery

After hiking nearly thirteen miles today from the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Beach along the Bay Ridge Trail, my friend and I were hungry. Since I have another week of my diet of not eating carbohydrates and sugar, my options are somewhat limited. I have friends who dined at The Kebabery on Friday evening with a positive review and since kebabs are a great choice for me, I suggested we have dinner there.

The folks behind The Kebabery are the same people behind the very successful Camino. This casual joint is located in North Oakland, bordering Emeryville. Unlike Camino where the focus is cooking from a wood fire oven, The Kebabery celebrates the grill.

We tried to order as much variety as we could for the two of us. We started with their soup which was a vegetarian soup with garbanzo beans, celery, tomato, Swiss chard, and mushrooms. A dollop of Greek yogurt and some infused oil was placed on top. After blending it with my spoon, the soup thickened up. It was comforting and tasted delightful.  Another side dish to consider are the spiced fries. The other night, my friends ordered and polished off every last piece of the shoestring potatoes.  
We each ordered a Kebab Plate which includes a choice of one kebab, two side dishes, yogurt, herbs, spicy picked chiles, and either flatbread or red lentils. My friend’s plate had the lamb kebab, spiced carrots, mashed beets, and the flatbread.  
I ordered an extra kebab on my plate so we could try all three varieties. The two kebabs I ordered were the marinated chicken and the spiced king trumpet mushrooms. My sides were the mashed eggplant salad and the homemade pickles. In lieu of flatbread, I ordered the red lentils.  
All the side dishes are purposely cold. It reminds me of eating a mezze platter. My favorite sides were the mashed eggplant salad and mashed beets. The homemade pickles were kind of fun because it had an assortment that included carrots, cauliflower, fennel, and celery.  The lentils were mild in flavor and a creamy texture that I liked. My friend enjoyed the grilled flatbread. I am a sucker for flatbread and really wanted to taste it so I sampled a piece the size of a quarter. It was warm, fresh, and chewy. 

Of course the real star of The Kebabery are the kebabs. The lamb, the chicken, and the mushroom kebabs were all marinated with delicious spices that lend to a great grill. The lamb kebab was particularly flavorful. The chicken kebab was ever so moist and the pieces with chicken skin were crispy and amazing. The king trumpet mushrooms were also quite delicious. This option really gives vegetarians the opportunity to enjoy a full meal.
Every ingredient used at The Kebabery is organic. With that said, I think the prices are very reasonable. A sandwich goes for $12 and a kebab plate runs $15. Another thing to note is that there is no tipping at The Kebabery. This tells me that the staff at The Kebabery are paid a fair wage and the prices you pay go towards that. I like this innovative approach and I’ll be back when I don’t feel like cooking. 

Madhur Jaffrey’s New Cookbook Inspires

Actress. Chef. Cookbook Author. Food Writer. Television Personality. Worldwide Name. She is Madhur Jaffrey and is known by some as the Godmother of Indian cuisine. She introduced the United States to Indian food in 1973 when she wrote her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking.
I was fortunate to be in Ms. Jaffrey’s presence last Wednesday at an event at Camino in Oakland. We enjoyed delicious food that the talented Camino kitchen prepared using recipes from her latest cookbook, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking.   
 In her new cookbook, Ms. Jaffrey travels throughout India and explores vegetarian dishes in various regions of the country and compiles the best and most simplistic recipes she finds. With each recipe, Ms. Jaffrey provides a description of where the dish originates.   
 I had fun reading and learning about her travels, including her experience with Kodava mushroom curry with coconut, a dish enjoyed in the mountainous region of Coorg. The Kodava community farm cardamom, coffee, black pepper, and multiple varieties of mushrooms that range in size from tiny to a large dinner plate. When Ms. Jaffrey came home to her test kitchen to recreate this dish, she substituted lime juice for a type of vinegar that could only be found in Coorg kitchens. This was one of the many dishes we were served on Wednesday and it was my absolute favorite!   
 I have always been intimidated by cooking Indian food and have never experimented with this cuisine. After having this fabulous meal and perusing Vegetarian India, I am inspired to cook from this book. There are probably a few basic Indian spices I need to get my hands on, but Ms. Jaffrey does mention over and over that the recipes are simple. Wish me luck! 
 

Nopi: The Food Tour Stops in Oakland

Last week I was in a room with Yottam Ottolenghi and I was giddy like a school girl. He was at Camino, Oakland with his coauthor Chef Ramael Scully promoting his new cookbook Nopi. I have only known about Ottolenghi for two years, but in the short time have become a big fan. I’ve eaten at his restaurant Nopi in London and cooked amazing food from his cookbooks. This guy makes vegetables sexy.

Upon arrival at Camino, we were treated to drinks and snacks with the opportunity to get our cookbooks signed by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. With a glass of rose wine in hand, I waited my turn to meet. I thought it was ironic because I read Ottolenghi’s recent blog post that he isn’t a fan of rose wine. I didn’t want to try to maneuver my book and my wine so I finished it up before I reached him. Part of me also didn’t want him seeing me drinking the rose wine. With a few words shared, I got my cookbook signed and a photo taken.
 The lunch we would be eating today were items carefully prepared by the Camino kitchen using recipes from the Nopi cookbook. Before the official sit down lunch, we had three passed appetizers that came around multiple times.

Fried baby artichokes and parsley with pink peppercorn aioli.   
 Halibut and bulgar tartare with preserved lemon salsa and Jerusalem artichoke chip on endive. 
 Burnt green onion dip on flatbread. 
 The popular bar at Camino was open and they were shaking up two specialty cocktails while we were snacking.
Sparkling wine cocktail with Cocchi Americano and homemade vin d’orange 
 Nopi Coriander Martini with vodka, lime, coriander, and cilantro.   
 After some time eating, drinking, and being merry with friends, I had the courage to go back to the chefs to talk to them some more since it seemed they finished all the autographing. I went to recommend a place for Ottolenghi to grab tacos in Oakland since he mentioned he really wanted one at a talk he gave the night before. I talked to Scully about his Malaysian heritage and where he likes to eat. He like me is a big fan of Momofuku. One of my friends was also having a special moment with Ottolenghi. I give him a lot of credit because in the past two weeks, he’s eaten at Ottolenghi restaurants in London three times. We took another photo.  
We returned to our assigned seating with table cards before the first dish was served.

 
We had baby carrots and mung beans with smoked labneh and crispy flatbread. 

 
Our entree was smoked lamb loin and leg with eggplant purée, jalapeño sauce and daikon pickle. Earlier I watched the lamb being cooked in the Camino fireplace. 

 
We were served a side of mixed cauliflower with golden raisins, capers, and almonds to share. This was the one dish I requested seconds for.   

  

Our meal was accompanied with white and red wine to pair accordingly 

 
Allison, host and co-owner of Camino brought out the chefs to say a few words. 

 
Coffee service came out with dessert which was popcorn ice cream with caramelized popcorn and black pepper.   

 
I had an amazing meal and overall experience at the Nopi luncheon. Chef Scully fuses a slight touch of Asia to the Mediterranean cuisine of Ottolenghi that inspires me to cook from the Nopi cookbook. Russ, chef and co-owner of Camino did an excellent job interpreting the food of the Nopi cookbook. 

 It was an absolute privilege to be there and document the day. Thank you Allison and Russ and everyone at Camino for hosting this event!

Oakland Restaurant Week: Camino

San Francisco has “Dine About Town” where selected restaurants in the City offer 2 course lunches for $17.95 and 3 course dinners for $34.95.  It really encourages people to try out restaurants that they’ve never been to or allows people to save a few bucks at restaurants they enjoy eating at.  Being in its tenth year, I imagine that it is a pretty successful program.  Cross over the Bay Bridge and Oakland celebrated its own exciting food scene with Restaurant Week.  Restaurants offered meals at $20, $30, and $40.

I celebrated Oakland by dining at Camino for dinner.  Camino is located on Grand Avenue in the Lakeshore District.  It’s been over a year since I last dined at Camino so I was looking forward to it.  There are two things that Camino is well known for – their cocktails and their open kitchen fireplace.  The three of us were seated at a table closest to their open kitchen.  I couldn’t help to wonder if my opentable.com reservation got us such a great table.

The cocktail list is pretty unique.  I randomly ordered the pisco drink.  It was served with lemon, gum syrup, and egg white.  I believe it is their version of a pisco sour.  It was very tasty and I can understand why their mixologists get such rave reviews.  Their Oakland Restaurant Week Fixed Menu for $30 offered a fennel, daikon, kohlrabi and chervil salad, half a Dungeness crab grilled in their famous fireplace, and citrus compote with orange sabyon.  I went with the fixed menu.

Before our appetizers came out, they served an amuse-bouche of pickled celery.  This tiny bite was simply tasty.  The salad was beautifully presented with each ingredient shaved very thinly.  I felt a little like a rabbit eating these raw vegetables that were a little bland.  I didn’t feel that the sliced parmesan and olive oil was enough flavor for the salad.

I was excited for my Dungeness crab to come out.  I had seen a batch cooking on the grill next to the burning fireplace when we had arrived.  The crab was accompanied with grilled winter chicories, sunchokes, beets, and chilis.  The crab was absolutely delicious.  I’ve never had it cooked in this method and never had crab so good.  One additional item on the plate that really impressed me was the sunchoke.  It was starchy and looked like wedged potatoes.  I didn’t realize what it was and thought it tasted very much like artichoke.  The waitress told me it was a sunchoke otherwise known as a Jerusalem artichoke, which is in the sunflower family and not actually a type of artichoke.  Note to self to experiment with some sunchokes as they were great.

Dessert was a variety of citrus fruit accompanied by sabyon and lemon tuiles.  This may be my first experience having sabyon.  Sabyon is a light creamy custard and this version was smooth and delightful.  Tuiles, another word I didn’t know refers to thin crisp lace cookies.

Restaurant Week prompted me to dine at Camino again and it makes me feel great to live in a City with such great dining options.