Saturday, June 28, 2008

Restaurants, Oakland: Camino

A few weeks before Camino opened, I happened to be looking through the window, when Russ walked up and asked if we wanted to go in.

Another way you can tell that I'm not a blogger with food journalist ambitions, is that I didn't say,"Sure! Let me get my camera!" and then blog about it weeks before the restaurant opened. I was also mildly surprised that Russ was inviting us in even though I had my son with me - Axel was 20 months old at the time, and the restaurant was very much under construction. The 30' long communal tables were there already, so was the cladding for the bar and open kitchen - salvaged from a friend's house. And of course the fireplace.

Years ago, Russ told me that if he ever did his own thing it would need to be very specific. He didn't want to fall into the routine of cooking Chez Panisse food. He said,"Something like cooking everything in a fireplace."

I mentioned that I'd dropped by to a friend, and he offered up that the painted sign out front was kind of bad ass. I agreed, the happy confluence of American roadhouse, and as John Sarriugarte would put it Basque boarding house. Luck would conspire against my wife and I - we missed the opening party. Still, the invite was very fetching.

Yelpers seem to be splitting the verdict on Camino. Some folks think the bar that only serves the drinks on the menu is weird. I admit I didn't know how this worked at first. After having a rum drink, I asked if they did a Caiphirinia. I was told that what I'd had wasn't a caiphirinia but that they'd be happy to bring me another one. There's seems to be a prevailing opinion that the drinks should come in bigger glasses. I come and go on this. The drinks can be potent enough that the small glasses don't bother me. Some folks think the restaurant feels like a cafeteria, with a very limited menu. Whatever.

We've been a few times now, and the fact that I don't have to drive outside of Oakland to eat food like this trumps any foibles yelper's might care to point out. It's odd to find parking in front of a restaurant that serves food this good, and then walking in to find a packed bar of people waiting for a table.

Also, some of those cocktails are just delicious. Rum, orgeat, bitters, and absinthe. Really. I may muster a review at some point, or I could just say that they some times have duck cracklins on the menu.

Lagier Ranches Sour Cherries at Grand Lake Farmers Market

For the first time in my blogging life, I wish I'd set up some blogging widget on my phone or had one of those Twitter accounts. Lagier Ranches had sour cherries this week. They tend to not be around for long, and I know they have a following.

I'd scooped up a pound or so before the guy working the stand had his signs out. He asked if I knew what they were. I said yes, and then handed one to my toddler who managed an enthusiastic mmm sound even as he scrunched his face.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hog Island Oyster Company

Given my fondness for oysters, and the amount of time we spend around Tomales Bay, it may seem odd that I'd never made it to Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall (Population 50, Elevation 15). This past weekend I made the trek with our not quite two-year old, while my wife took BART to the city and then biked up to Point Reyes Station. We grabbed a dozen Kumamoto oysters and a dozen extra-small Clearwater oysters for a picnic in Inverness. They were delicious, averaged about a dollar a piece, and the biodegradable bag they came in was branded with that slammin' logo of theirs.


Back when I started Happy Consumptive, I would browse past more established food blogs trying to locate my tribe. It hadn't occurred to me yet that blogging could be a more or less solo act. I had this idea of spending a few years building a modest encyclopedia of ingredients before expanding into preparations of my own. Dabbling occasionally in big food ideas. There were a handful of food bloggers that everyone seemed to mention, and one of these was Becks & Posh. Some recent self-googling turned up that they'd linked here - almost a year ago. Somewhere along the way Happy Consumptive also found it's way into the "delicious food blogs - local" sidebar on Food Hoe. This sort of thing probably isn't newsworthy for most bloggers. Given the relatively low number of visitors who stop by here each day though, I have to assume that these folks like a good watermelon mojito with their sabelfish crudo.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Greens: Purslane (aka Miner's Lettuce or The Gardener's Curse)

Last October, purslane showed up in episodes of Top Chef and Next Iron Chef. Highlighting what I tend to view as the obvious differences between the audiences of the two shows, Dale featured purslane in a scallop dish for the Top Chef finale while Michael Symon bestowed it on Chris Cosentino as a kind of culinary curse.

It turned at the Farmer's Market two weekends ago, piled high in the Ledesma Family Farms stand, a page of recipes helpfully displayed next to it. I was surprised to see purslane recipes from Gourmet dating back to 2000 on epicurious.

When it came time to prepare ours, I was short on ingredients for those recipes. I marinated some shaved fennel in lemon juice and a little white wine vinegar, tossed the purslane with olive oil, salt, and black pepper. What wikipedia describes as the 'mucilaginous' quality of purslane was evident, but the bright flavors stood out. No photos of the salad though. I'd opened a bottle of syrah by then.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cherry Pit Vodka Tonic

Cherries showed up at the farmer's market over a month ago. Back in April, I'd overheard a vendor tell someone that they expected to have their cherries in the third week of May. When I bounced this date off of Brad Gates at Wild Boar Farms, he responded that the third week of May was,"the sort of date someone pulls from an almanac." Hidden Star Orchards and Hamada Farms cherries showed up sooner than that. Brad brought his first batch on May 31 and said that in a week they'd be off the charts.

In what has to be considered a pretty odd coincidence, the following weekend someone showed up at his stand with a brix meter and more or less verified this claim. An average cherry apparently measures in at 16 brix, Brad's cherries measured in at 25 brix. He offered up that this wasn't a fair comparison. That an average cherry is grown for yield, whereas the fruit on his eighty year old trees which have never been sprayed with pesticides is not. Still, 25% sugar.

Anyway, as I ate my way through the last 6 weeks of cherries, I deposited the pits into a glass of vodka. I'd had some vague idea of attempting to recreate Tord Boontje's cherry pit necklace and figured the vodka soaking would help somehow when it came time to cleaning them up. Two weeks ago I noticed that the vodka had taken on some of the cherry taste though, and well - tonight it was hot.

Owing to some over-indulgence in caipirinhas last night all I could muster the courage for was a cherry pit vodka tonic. Refreshing though. If you're of a mind to try it, I'd recommend at least two weeks of soaking.