Lucky me, I was invited this past week to the friends and family tasting at Cindy Pawlcyn's new restaurant Brassica in St. Helena.
It's in the former 'Go Fish' location, with a little bit of interior restyling and the same wonderful outdoor patio for those fabulously warm days and balmy nights in the Napa Valley.
They're also doing something new and brilliant with the wine program: Brassica's offering the entire wine list -- which includes a dozen small producers without tasting rooms -- by the glass *and* in 2 oz pours so you can pair each and taste a broad range of different wines. See what I mean? Brilliant!
The menu is truly inspired and encompasses flavors from all areas of the Mediterranean-- Southern Europe, N. Africa and the Middle East. Everything from the kitchen is made with tremendous care...even the ceramic salt cellars and olive dishes were made by Cindy herself [because she clearly didn't have enough to do in opening a new restaurant].
We started off the meal with the lightest, fluffiest, creamiest hummus I've ever had -- almost the texture of a mousse, but with substance (if that seeming contradiction makes any sense). The fava bean ful in the center, perfectly cooked farm egg and freshly made pita bread right off the grill just elevated the it to a whole other level.
I love haloumi cheese and was so excited to see it on the menu. This amazing fresh haloumi seasoned with oregano, chili and garlic was heavenly. In addition to the little cast iron skillet being a sweet presentation, it kept the cheese perfectly warm and tender.
If you like a good fruit/cured pork combo like I do [think bacon-wrapped date], these delicious salty/sweet pancetta-wrapped and roasted Colavolpe figs are right up your alley.
For all you shrimp fans, these wild shrimp with espelette and plenty of garlic are so flavorful and tender, they just melt in your mouth.
Okay, I've had eggplant fries before but I have to say that previous encounters were nothing -- and I really mean 'nothing' -- like these light as air, za'atar seasoned strips of satisfaction. The spiced yogurt dipping sauce is bright and the perfect companion.
I must confess that I am not generally a sardine fan. However, my dining companion adores them and I like to share and taste, so was game to try. The verdict from this non-oily fish loving girl: the crunchy skin and rich flavor of the fish combined with the tang of the mustard vinaigrette on the bitter greens salad was just the right balance and I liked it so much, I just might order it on my own next time. Swear!
Despite having an already full belly, I called on my dessert stomach to come to the game and was so happy it was able to rally. This lemon, ricotta cake made with ground pinenuts was divine -- great texture, light and lots of lemony goodness.
These spiced, poached figs in orange blossom sauce with vanilla ice cream and a date and honey stuffed phyllo 'cigar' were rich with flavor, not too sweet and a wonderfully satisfying end to the meal.
There's so much more I had the desire yet no physical capacity to try: leek and pancetta risotto with friend egg, coriander & thyme braised rabbit with pappardelle, Turkish lamb with fig & onion yahni, and, and, and....I guess that just means I'll have to return a few more times with more friends in tow so to taste it all.
Thursday, September 1
There's so much exciting change afoot in Dogpatch lately, with even more to come. There's a fantastic new wine shop called Dig, which is just next to the new Piccino location [well, there's actually a new MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) shop separating the two....details, details].
I do love our local wines, but sometimes I crave a French or Italian style with a lower alcohol content so I can sip the evening (or afternoon) away without getting blotto. Dig has a fantastic collection of exclusively French and Italian vino, and Wayne, the owner offers expert guidance to whatever suits your taste and pocketbook.
The Piccino move brought with it a bigger, brighter, more expansive coffee shop space where you can enjoy some superb Sight Glass java...
and one (or more...who's counting?!) delectable baked treats.
Just down the street and around the corner, you can find where San Francisco is now the proud recipient of it's new French butcher shop. So if you have a hankering for one of your favorite French cuts, go see Olivier.
The man is serious about his profession.
And the cuts are gorgeous.
There was a little micro-hood event put on recently by the Bold Italic and we got a little slider taste of Olivier goods off the BBQ. The housemade, baguette-nestled merguez sausage I devoured was spicy divine.
Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars is dedicated to filling and corking all of his wines by hand and hosts the occasional barrel tapping where you can walk away with one of these fabulously stylish jugs -- filled, of course.
The night of the event, we got to sample just about everything in the current portfolio for a very modest tasting fee of five bucks. Nice.
I've already raved about Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous in a prior post, so I'll spare you the repeat. I stand by my claim that this is some of the best ice cream in the city and decidedly the best housemade cones. And it's definitely the sunniest spot you'll wait on line.
Now, the gals at Poco Dolce are among my chocolate heroines. Just when I've gotten addicted to their latest chocolate 'tile', they throw yet another flavor combo ditty into the mix. Sesame toffee you say? Uh, yeah!! I mean, 'yes please'.
It may not look like it with them working away, filling orders at their desks, but their store front on 3rd Street, really is a retail shop, too. Don't just peer in the windows, pop on in and start your own addiction.
Acupuncture Kitchen is not only a the most stylish environs to get your needles on, but the owner also makes some killer chocolates, specially formulated for her patients [it's pretty hard to argue with a LAc who prescribes chocolate]. And for the recent micro-hood event, the 'kitchen' mixed up some mighty tasty herbal elixers for folks to sip while enjoying a webisode on coffee, a cowgirl foot massage by the fabulous Nell Waters -- resident massage therapist-- and/or the newly offered, old-school barber shop services by master barber Ruben Padilla for the gents.
These are just some of the latest & greatest destinations in Dogpatch with more coming soon -- like a branch of Magnolia Brewery and the new savory cafe project [in the former Piccino space] by Jacky & Michael Recchiuti whose chocolate workshop was one of the original artisan production houses to move into the area nearly 15 years ago. So what I'm sayin' is, if you live in SF, I suggest you come enjoy it all while the crowds are small. Cuz soon, the 'hood is gonna be the dubbed the next 'gourmet ghetto' and you know what that means.
Posted by katiechrist at 8:29 AM