Updates when the kitchen receives something extraordinary from a farmer, fisherman, rancher, or forager that will appear on the current menu.
Stay cool and come for a glass of rose and a light, righteous late summer meal. Or, order for takeout! We have a nifty online app that allows you to order – it’s 20% off your first online order through ChowNow.
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26th Annual Tomato Dinners
Tuesday through Friday, September 13-16, 2016
The late date for this year’s Tomato Dinners (we sometimes hold the event in August) is a result of 2016’s having been a bit cooler than normal. Chef Jonah says that the same moderate weather that made for our best beef ever, has caused a slightly late ripening date for certain varieties of northern California’s tomatoes (not that we haven’t had fabulous dry-farmed Early Girls and terrific Sungolds and cherries already).
Solanum lycopersicum – our beloved tomato, an edible nightshade berry which grows on a vine – has a long, complicated history. The subject of much debate since the Spanish found tomatoes being cultivated in southern Mexico (after having been brought from the Andes where they first grew, tiny and wild), it took the tomato centuries to be eaten widely in Europe as they were assumed to be poisonous. But over the years the tomato has become ubiquitous in myriad cuisines, and now, oddly, the world’s greatest producer of tomatoes is, by far, China.
As Chef Jonah Rhodehamel finds out which tomatoes, specifically, will be among those he chooses for our event, we’ll post particulars about our menu offerings on the Oliveto website.
We’re continuing to go through the two ethically-raised, grass-fed lamb that we received last week. Look for juicy, earthy roasts and sausages through the week and weekend! We look forward to seeing you for a glass of wine and a leisurely summer evening.
The summer is allowing us to perform wonders.
- Chef Jonah’s taking pigeon and baking it in salt, pairing it with farro, glossy roasted figs, Bianco di Maggio onions agrodolce, and poultry sugo.
Peppers are spiking the menu:
- we’re serving a summer tortelloni of house-made ricotta with Brentwood corn, blistered Padrón peppers, and mint;
- sweet Jimmy Nardellos are accompanying a salad of guanciale and and Charentais melon
We also have lamb! Magruder’s gracing us with two.
- We’ll have leg of lamb this weekend, and chops the next week.
We hope to see you for a glass of rose, a contorno of garlic-roasted Padrón peppers, and a dish of succulent lamb.
We are so passionate about tomatoes that we try only to feature them when they’re seriously good, and so we’ve been impatiently waiting for them to stun us. We pounced when we found these, from Oya Organics, at last Tuesday’s South Berkeley market.
Oya Organics is a small farm out of Hollister owned by Marsha Habib. Its tomatoes are everything tomatoes should be — succulent and sweet but not too sweet. Sungolds do well at Oya, and they are gracing our crudo of local albacore, avocado, Cherry Bomb peppers, and basil.
Chef Jonah is really on a roll — there’s so much on the menu to bowl you over these days:
- Salad of grilled Blossom Bluff stone fruit with house-cured guanciale, dill goat’s milk kefir, house-made Santa Rosa plum vinegar, and cured egg yolk
- Tortelloni of house-made ricotta with Brentwood corn, fines herbes, cured egg yolk, and squash blossoms
- Charcoal-grilled Paine Farm pigeon and boudin with braised radicchio, malted wheat berries, fig mostarda, and sugo
It’s a great time to come in.
Of course, with the first really good tomatoes, we’re thinking about our annual Tomato Dinners — dates coming soon.
We’re particularly excited about our cured meats these days. We’ve done salumi for years – before it became commonplace for local restaurants to have them – but while there’s lots of it around, it can be hard to find it made really well. Our current selection is particularly nice. Chef Jonah chose the pig himself on a farm tour through the southern midwest, where he stopped in at The Good Farm, a diverse farm in Topeka, Kansas, that specializes in heritage pigs prized in restaurants coast to coast. Looking for sizable hams and a decent amount of fat – though not too much – he chose an Old Spot, a historic breed from Gloucestershire, England.
The coppa he made from its whole muscles have been cured over the last 5-6 weeks, so it’s young and sweet – allowing you to taste more of the meat flavor. For comparison, the 24-month prosciutto we will be serving alongside has the consistency and flavor of cheese – rich and porky. Jonah finishes the platter with some swordfish, cured and smoked, and toscano, rustica, finocchiona, and morcilla; ciappa with lardo.
Stop on in. We’ll be having this salumi plate for some time, though the 24-month prosciutto will only be available for a short while.
Cucumber, jalapeño, fennel, mint, basil, almonds, golden balsamic, and olive oil are brilliantly combined for our charred strawberry gazpacho. Strewn with petal-like nibbles of strawberry and tiny cilantro flowers, it looks and tastes like a garden.
It’s just right for the warm days coming this weekend. Please drop in and refresh yourself with a crisp rosé and a cooling and beautiful bowl of soup.
At long last, gazpacho!
We Californians are happily up to our necks in strawberries for a good part of the year, and it’s easy to take our most reliably luscious berry for granted. Delightfully, our new pastry chef Andrew Chaney relishes them. Between his time at the CIA in Napa and his days at Gary Danko and Boulevard, Andrew spent time in New York, where the strawberry season goes from June through August — “and that can be cut short due to bad weather,” he says. For him they remain precious.
We’ve been greatly appreciating Andrew for bringing a renewed interest and energy to our pastry program, which he’s doing with talent, a fantastic culinary background and, in some instances, memories that bring meaning to his work — like driving through Salinas with the top down, deep in strawberry season, the smell of them sweetening the highway.
Strawberries can seem so commonplace, but they’re perfectly capable of surprising us with a new, glorious aspect of themselves. Right now, they’re just getting good again, and Andrew’s enjoyment of them shines through his deconstructed strawberry vacherin — strawberries, touched with strawberry-blood orange coulis, are sandwiched between a fragile mound of whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream. But it’s the lime-flecked meringue kisses that really get to us — their citrus-y perfume lingers on the palate like lipstick on the collar.
Our strawberry vacherin will be on the menu at least through the weekend. Come and try it!
P.S. Did you know you can order our upstairs restaurant desserts from our downstairs rosticceria? Stop by for a quick indulgence, or stay for a whole and wholly delicious meal.
Downstairs in the rosticceria, the kitchen’s been looking outwards from the vantage point of an Italian hearth, to Africa, Mexico, and the Middle East, and infusing their traditional flavors into our downstairs menu.
Above photographed is something we’ve been calling a chocolate Persian mole. The traditional Persian stew fessenjoon, with its combination of pomegranate and walnut, is so like Mexican mole, with its similar of fruit and nuts, we tried adding raw cacao to tasty effect! Neither too sweet nor too chocolate-y, this hearty sauce is absolutely wonderful on top of our spit-roasted Hoffman Farm chicken, and we’re planning on offering it fairly regularly.
Other items, new and wonderful, made with our own spice blends, include:
North African-style beef stew with cinnamon, Cayenne pepper, Ceci beans, and mint
Mannekish (flatbread) with olives, cucumber, and za’atar
Roast parsnips with ras al hanout and sultanas
Hope to see you for dinner soon!
We’re enjoying Magruder Ranch’s supremely delicious beef this week with greater gusto than usual, as it is the last of our supply until Magruder’s first spring animals become available in late March.
Believe it or not, grass-fed beef raised with integrity — like Magruder’s — is seasonal. And it should be. Grass goes dormant over the winter, providing much less food for the pastured cows to roam around and dine on. In cooler months, some ranchers will offer grain-finished beef — the cows fed on grass will consume corn and other grains for the last few months of their lives. It’s a sure-fire way to fatten up cattle quickly, but it’s not 100% grass-fed beef.
Owner Mac Magruder, a consummate purist, chooses to do things differently. Each year, the ranch waits until the grasses are green and lush and the animals can be finished on it before bringing his animals to the restaurant again, and it makes a difference we’re willing to wait for. We think Magruder beef is some of the best around. The meat has a depth of flavor that’s deep as the earth on which the grasses grow.
We’re serving some of our favorite cuts through the weekend— think flame-kissed flat iron and juicy sirloin steak. It’s a great time to come in! Call us at 510-537-5356 or reserve online.