Monday, February 23, 2009

Dining Six Feet Under (in the figurative sense)

A couple of weeks ago, Daniel and I finally partook of one of San Francisco's semi-underground dinners. It wasn't deep, deep underground in the core or even the mantle, but still, it was below the surface, perhaps in the earth's crust - or more precisely in the Outer Mission at a million fishes, an arts collective. It was a vegetarian dinner, featuring local produce, prepared by Leif Hedendal (who has cooked in Barcelona and at Greens in SF). The event served as a fundraiser for a documentary In Search of Good Food, a look at the history of local/organic food in the Bay Area.

We arrived to the BYOB event bottle in hand and were greeted by the welcoming sounds of Klezmer and a tray of hors d'oeuvres.

The first was housemade purple potato crisps with celeriac-horseradish-brown butter puree.

These were absolutely delicious. The potato crisps perfectly crispy and salty and the celeriac-horseradish combo a fantastic textural complement to the crunch of the crisp. I wouldn't have minded a bit more bite to the horseradish, but I am also the girl who likes a ratio of 3 to 1 in favor of horseradish in my Hillel sandwich, so I may not be the best judge of such things.

The other little bite being passed around was a Chiogga beet crostini with Andante chevre, Bolinas stinging nettle, walnut. While I was thrilled by the incorporation of the non-stinging stinging nettle, this one didn't leave much of an impression, and so while others at our communal table used their whily ways to snag an ilicit second helping of this, I reserved my underhanded efforts to secure a second (and third) potato crisp. (I mean really, who can eat just one crisp?)

When we were all seated, it came time for the real eating to begin, and our first course was a Borlotti bean soup with farm greens, served with a big chunk of hearty bread for dipping purposes. In my humble opinion, you can't go wrong with bean soup, and the bread had a delightfully crunchy crust and a perfectly chewey center.

Next up - golden nugget pumpkin with roasted shallots, tahini cauliflower, baby golden turnips. This was really the star of the evening. It's only flaw was that I wanted more of it. The pumkin itself was moist and well-seasoned, with just the perfect balance of stringiness that you want when you spoon into a punpkin. The tahini cauliflower was to die for. I'm not usually a huge tahini fan, but it was in no way overpowering and it was almost caramelized atop the just browned cauliflower. Heavenly. The turnips? Also quite nice, although quite difficult to eat because the hosts, perhaps not trusting the rowdy crowd, hadn't given us knives for the meal...

Salad course - Star route baby lettuces, chicories, cresses, cara cara and blood orange, olio nuovo. As Daniel noted, this was like a salad that I would make at home, what with the combination of slightly bitter greens and sweet blood oranges. I like it at home, I liked it there. I like salad everywhere.

Finally, for dessert - an olive oil marmalade cake with an orange glaze. When this was served, we overheard the server mentioning to a friend at our table that the ingredients for this cake had been foraged. Based on the description of the cake itself, I had trouble guessing what elements exactly had been foraged. The olive oil? The marmalade? Maybe the oranges had been stolen renegade style from someone's citrus farm? We may never know, but it sure tasted nice in that hearty Italian olive oil dessert style, where you think, mmm, this is good, and wouldn't it taste better with some nice butter thrown in? Just kidding. I really liked it and gobbled the whole thing down cold.

All in all, a really lovely evening out. Or should I say evening underground...

No comments: