A16 Rockridge: Preview Dinner

My friend Matt is such a rock star. Not only did he just start his own business (shameless plug for Adeline Motors) but he could have taken any number of food loving friends to this bonanza… but lucky me! I got the chance to go with him.

His lovely lady is the General Manager of A16. Entering the lofty and skylit space, everyone was bubbly and congenial, introduced themselves and Generally Awesome Manager didn’t even seem that stressed! A sign of good things to come- or a calm before the storm?

Let’s get to the good stuff: dranks!

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The Catch-22, Plum Swizzle and the Negroni(not pictured) were all dangerously good. So good, in fact, that the bar ran out of Plum Swizzle makings! The Italian wines offered were chosen well and described eloquently- I took a mental daydream vacation to Italy while listening to the descriptions. Ahhh…

Next up: Foods!

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The Marin Miyagis were pretty briny(Hello, ocean! Not a bad thing, but not a neutral flavor), the Bacalao sublime, the Geoduck crudo was briny as well(Hi again, ocean!), and a trio of Chef’s offerings for the evening: morel bruschetta, mussels and garlic (Not as briny as its cousins up above, unsure of the prep as they were off the menu, dangit! Really fell in love with these) and finally- head cheese sliced thin(how can you go wrong with that plate??)
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We also ordered the Burrata with dragoncello. (GM taught me: Dragoncello is Italian for Tarragon. Such a fun word to say~!) Your face makes an “ah” happen twice just saying Burrata! This is a good thing.

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Crawfish, canellini beans, chili flakes and some bouncy cavatelli pasta curls: from the sea- but well grounded.

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Matt and his awesome lady used to live in Portland, where they saw some place used scissors to cut up pizza, and here we are with scissors for the fried pizza. Good idea- interactive food fun! The crust was a bit thicker than Matt had experienced in tastes past, but the smoked tomato sauce and bel fiore mozz kept us digging in for more bites.

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The potatoes pictured above spawned a new addiction for me. Holy: salt and vinegar chips in smashed fried potato form! You can almost count them as health food as they come along with fried garbonzos/ceccis/chick peas – get your legumes, right Mr. Pollan? Just kidding (but not about the addiction.)

At this part of the meal I feel just right, full but not too full, and I had forgotten about the next tier of yums coming our way… The rabbit! The rabbit served over toast slathered with liver, surrounded by leeks, olives, orange peel and cooked to the softest texture… Each bite like savory little bunny pillows in your mouth- the orange peel was distracting at first bite as it wasn’t listed on the menu. I was looking for grapes or some other “sweet” and then honed in on it with a bite or two more. It doesn’t look like much (until the iPhone merges with Canon my photos will never do food justice) but boy-howdy, that texture is golden.

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Everything has been so interesting (palate-wise or other) so I get introspective and I space out and check out the kitchen. The team are elbow deep in tickets and those ovens are both kickin. For first night madness, there were only a few appropriately stern words uttered on the line, which were heeded, and service sailed on. The staff seem to get along and respect one another which was a pleasure to see at an opening.

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Looking around at the other dishes, I snapped a pic of the fennel and salmon, thanks neighbors! I missed a photo of the asparagus over toasted bread with a gently handled poached egg and some wacky looking orange cheese zested over the top- next time I’ll be trying that one!

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Oh, my old nemesis: Dessert. I always want a hit of sweet, but fill up so wonderfully on dinner… Dammit- this is a preview dinner, and sacrifice I must:

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Gratinata with the best cherries I’ve had this season: huge and pitless. Summer lovin’!

The zeppoli were a sweet sweet surprise!

3 words: Fernet Branca Gelato. OK?

Then: the budino. Since my roommate a zillion years ago worked in this space when it was Garibaldis, at each incarnation there has been a budino on the menu. Sadly this one was cold-  I was hoping for a warm bowl brownie, soft in the center with cream thoughtfully dolloped for counterbalance. This was more cakey, the nib brittle was smoky, mellow and awesome and the ganache gave me enough rich tasty chocolate flavor to last the next couple months. Not a light dessert, but it will knock off the craving if you have one!

Thanks to Matt and his lovely lady for a sweet intro to this new Rockridge eatery.

Fellow Oaklavores: Andiamo- have a seat, eat and enjoy!!