Sunday, December 18, 2011

Camino & World Champion Latte Artist at The Proxy Project

The report on the last 20 hours of food prowling.
Latte art by Hiroshi Sawada. Baked goods in background from Sandbox Bakery and Black Jet Bakery.
  • 7:00pm Friday - It started Friday night at Oakland's Camino, which is easily among the best restaurants I have been to in years. Communal tables, open-flame cooking, unpretentious service, first-rate Californian cuisine. More at the end of this post.
  • 10:00am Saturday - Ferry Building farmers' market for beans and eggs at Primavera's booth.  Then, a visit to the Farmhouse Culture stand, where I tried three kinds of sauerkraut: horseradish leek, apple fennel, and garlic dill pickle.  I took back a container filled with the first.  The salty-tartness and crunch of the sauerkraut pairs superbly with roasted beets!   

  • 11:00am Saturday - Ritual Coffee at the The Proxy Project to see Hiroshi Sawada, THE master of latte art--the man who literally wrote the book on the subject.  He is also featured in this NY Times article from yesterday about Tokyo coffee.  
Hiroshi-san creating one of his ephemeral masterpieces.
As soon as I arrived at Ritual on this sun-drenched Saturday I began to envy everyone living in Hayes Valley (all the tail-wagging dogs and toddlers included).  Why? On the other side of Ritual is liquid nitrogen fueled Smitten Ice Cream; in front of it are two fashionable food trucks; and a stone's throw away are Blue Bottle, Absinthe, Miette, and probably many other awesome places that I would rather not know about. 

As I said, the day was bathing in sunshine and mildness for a winter day.

Smitten Ice Cream just upon opening. The Santa hat tells you it's December.
Attention carnivores!
Wha??  "Brighter Faster" is what the Proxy Project landmark says. Below is Casey's pizza truck,
This is why I sing "I left My Heart in San Francisco."


More on Camino

Here is what three of us ordered (verbatim from the menu). My favorites are asterisked.
  • Avocado, orange and rutabaga salad with pomegranate and walnuts *
  • Wood oven-baked local oysters with absinthe, breadcrumbs and carrot salad
  • Wood oven-roasted chanterelle mushrooms with pounded wild nettles and grilled flatbread
  • Half a Dungeness crab grilled in the fireplace with radicchio salad and aioli*
  • Grilled local ling cod, rockfish and artichokes with new onions, Yukon Gold potatoes and chile broth*
  • For dessert: persimmon pudding (tasted like a milder version of pumpkin pie).  
Every dish had a "WOW!" factor. This means that every time I took a bite of a new dish, I interupted the table conversation or chewing silence to repeat (yet again that night), "Wow! That is good!"  Camino uses fireplaces and wood ovens rather than stoves to cook its food.  Also unlike the majority of kitchens, theirs is not made of stainless steel or plastic, but stone. The resulting look and feel of Camino is warmth--chestnuts-on-an-open fire lighting. (This is truer the closer you are to the kitchen, which we were.)

This gorgeous hearthy kitchen is also an open kitchen.   The colorful mis en place preens for onlookers.   Last week's Good Food show featured an interview with the chef, Russ Moore, a/k/a the "Gentle Griller." His kitchen is decidedly anti-macho--he said it himself! Here's to you Chef Russ!

My trip to Camino should have taken 45 minutes from Palo Alto, where I was coming from.  Instead, it took two dreadful hours, much of which was spent muttering obscenities, along with: I should have left earlier. Why am I doing this? I should have stayed home tonight!  Nothing like a good Friday evening traffic jam to soothe your nerves following an intense day at work.

But when I sat down and took my first taste of the avocado, orange and rutabaga salad,  all cares went POOF!  

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