Drinks in Rockridge Area
Walking distance, your best bet is Ben & Nick's (which is a fine place if you are not eating). I also like the bar at Oliveto, but it could be crowded. A little further down College is the Tiki Room upstairs from Rustica (more of a longer walk). The other direction is Barclays (great beer selection), but that can be crowded depending upon what's on the tv.
You're going for the last night of the Tomato Dinner, right? Here's the menu. http://www.oliveto.com/dinnermenu.pdf Hope you weren't pining for salumi. I'll try to report on what we have tonight.
As for drinking in Rockridge...
If your Oliveto res. is pretty early, you should be able to get into A Cote for drinks at the bar at 5:30. Later on you'll run into trouble. Still, if you are going that early, A Cote's cocktails are the best in the East Bay. They are, however, far from cheap.
On the other side of the BART station, you could also try Grasshopper on the early side. Their bar is stronger than their food. They use good juices and great booze (and they're one of the few places I know with Old Raj gin). Prices are a buck or two less than A Cote.
Another option with better drinks than food is Garibaldi. The restaurant may be full, but you can probably still get into the bar (later than at A Cote and Grasshopper). The Island Breeze (house made pineapple infused vodka served up is pretty more-ish). The Tropical Breeze is the Island Breeze w/ coconut--I think it's gross but know some who like it.
If you are going later, Ben & Nick's may be your best bet. Sort of funky but comfortable. Beers are your best option (though they do have Hendrick's on the bar, if you're a gin person).
Be sure to save room in your hollow leg for your Proud Mary at Oliveto.
And after your drinks, once at Oliveto:
Mini Mary Cocktail--Potent in every sense of the word. Worth ordering, but the mini is enough.
Panzarotto: Fried Tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and Basil Turnovers--Yummy according to hubby, but he's not a sharer.
Gelatina of Red, Green, and Gold Tomato Tartares with Mi yagi Oysters--I enjoyeed this. The gelatin was briny, but nice.
Sformatino of ‘Rosa Bianca’ Eggplant with Tomato, Garlic,
and Herbs--Eggplant overpowered the tomato, but it was very nice. Somehow light and rich at the same time.
‘Black Plum’ Tomatoes with Smoked Swordfish and Mint--ample swordfish, but it was overpowered by the very intense tomatoes.
Classic Tomato Soup with Gruyere Cheese in carrozza--Like a high end version of the Campbell's classic, w/ a grilled cheese sandwich swimming in the middle. Ideal comfort food for a rainy day.
Sicilian-style ravioli of Tomato conserva with Oliveto ricotta,
Pine Nuts, and Marjoram--Very intense, almost raisin-like in flavor. I liked it a lot, but it was too much flavor for the 12-year-old.
Niman Ranch Beef Tripe with Smashed Tomato crostini
and salsa verde--Very tender and extremely rich.
Cannelloni of Half Moon Bay Squid, Garlic, Parsley,
and Tomatoes--Rich and full of garlic, squid's presence was not strong.
Jones Farm Rabbit Braised in Earthenware with Tomatoes,
Rosemary, and Olives--Yummy!
Spit-Roasted Niman Ranch Country-Style Pork Ribs
with Two Tomato condimenti--Massive! Probably brined (quite salty). Yummy, but overwhelming.
Hoffman Farm Hen alla milanese with aïoli and Tomatoes--Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner! Fantastic.
Grilled Beefsteak Tomato Wrapped in pancetta with Paola’s Potatoes, Anchovy, and Herb Sauce--Didn't get to try any, but my dad LOVED this.
‘Black Prince’ Tomato “Water” and Fresh Ginger granita--Lovely and light. Better as a smaller pallet cleanser between courses.
Green Tomato and ‘Gravenstein’ Apple Fritters--Hubby (the no-share guy) says it was yummy, but not far off of straight apple fritters.
Warm ‘Pineapple’ Tomato, Cornmeal, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake with mascarpone--Really nice. Rich but not deadly. Flavor was very well balanced.
My tomato dinner was similar:
Proud Mary -- love it, love it, love it. I don't think I would have been able to just have the mini. The tomatoes are unbelievably sweet and the basil booze fantastic.
Gelatina of Red, Green, and Gold Tomato Tartares with Mi yagi Oysters -- a nice, lighter starter. I loved the coolness and mineral-ness of the combination.
‘Black Plum’ Tomatoes with Smoked Swordfish and Mint -- this was unbelievable. We had the smoked swordfish at the seafood dinner and this time didn't disappoint. I actually thought it was well-balanced with the tomato and mint.
Classic Tomato Soup with Gruyere Cheese in carrozza -- see description above...excellent.
Cannelloni of Half Moon Bay Squid, Garlic, Parsley,
and Tomatoes -- this was total nostaglia for me, as it reminded me of my hometown-style italian tutti mare pasta. Rich, garlicky and wonderful. And very dramatic presentation, with squid ink pasta.
Red Charcoal-Grilled Lamb and Tomato Sausages
with Fresh Shelling Beans -- the beans were nice, but the sausage was less interesting than the other dishes.
Deep-Fried Paine Farm Pigeon with Cherry Tomato Preserve -- very bony, but unbelievable flavor. Sooo good.
Vacherin with crème fraîche Ice Cream and
‘Sungold’ Tomato Syrup -- light and refreshing. I really wanted something creamy (and crunchy from the meringue) at the end of the night and this hit the spot.
Garibaldi -- we had these little bar cookies with some madeira and brandy at the end. Very nice, not too sweet ... raisiny.
We had our server pair wines with each course and he did an excellent job. I wish I could remember them, but afer the proud mary....