Eccolo...a warm kitchen to come ashore to
Since Mother Nature had decided that we deserved another fine Indian Summer weekend, some friends and I ventured out on the Bay for a day of sailing and noshing. Sun, sea and good wind made for an excellent sail out past Angel Island and into Sausalito where we enjoyed a fine lunch of various charcutterie, fresh fruit, some excellent homemade dolmas and tabouleh, and a couple of nice Italian cheeses to round it all out. We poured some Viognier, Barbera and Syrah to accompany and happily bobbed about the ocean watching an interesting mock pirate battle and the surreal slow ebb of the fog. Setting sail for our home port of Emeryville was fueled by a stong breeze at our backs and the incoming tide. We were fueled by an equally strong and tasty batch of homemade espresso brownies.
As we arrived at the marina, we contemplated dinner and I suggested nearby Townhouse Bar and Grill or Bucci's. As it turned out, neither is open on Sunday which was both surprising and disappointing. With that, I led my fellow sailors to 4th Street with little delay. Cafe Rouge turned out to be hosting its 10th Anniversary dinner, which looked to be quite amazing, but also had a stout waiting time for a four top.
We promptly turned on our heels and headed over to Eccolo. Specifically to it's excellent bar that gives you more than a glimpse of the kitchen activity. Surprisingly, while the restaurant was completely packed, the bar was all but empty when we ponied up to it. We were soon snacking on some very nice deep fried pollenta squares with parmesan shavings that the chef had brought over to us. They were piping hot and just the ticket to take the chill of the ocean off.
We sampled the eggplant soup and settled into a big bowl. While it sounded like a variant of babaganoush, it was actually a very satisfying and delicious soup of its own. With a chicken stock and finished with what looked like creme fraiche but turned out to be yogurt and mint, it was a hit. The chopped salade that my friend ordered looked very good and she definitely enjoyed it, though I thought it looked a bit small for the $11.50 price.
We also ordered the mission figs with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. This was a resounding hit. As it has always been a favorite of mine and something that I always identify with the Fall, I was especially pleased to see that the figs were the smaller variety which I think have a more concentrated flavor. The balsamic was also very high quality and not just a reduction of generic vinegar, but a good condimento quality one. And the prosciutto...oh the nearly luminscent slices of that wonderful pork...is there any finer sight? It was markedly higher cut of meat than most places serve and the portion was very generous. Juxtaposed against the chopped salad, I think it was the steal of the menu at $9.50. Fantastic, simply fantastic.
For mains, we had a couple of orders of the steak, a side of shell beans which turned out to be a mix of Cannelini and black eyed peas, and my favorite, the pan fried chicken livers with Morton the Mousse's favorite bacon from Bruce Aidell, all served atop a creamy cloud of polenta and topped with a refreshing gremolata that counterbalanced the richness of the dish. It warmed me right to the very core. The steaks were simple and tasty with a nice accompaniment of peppery arugula and parmesan.
Sadly, we had to depart before we could sample the dessert menu which had a ginger cake that looked particularly tasty. So with a quick demitasse of excellent espresso, we were off into the evening with full bellies and fond memories of the waning days of Indian Summer and the promise of Fall.
This meal served as a reminder to me that having favorite haunts such as Cafe Rouge is all well and good, but you can also forget about gems such as Eccolo that are right around the corner. Ah well, so many restaurants, and so few meals to go around I suppose. Then again, who's up for creating a few more meals in between breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and supper?