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Sep 16, 2010 02:36 AM

Oliveto - Tomato dinner

Like someone said, it's about the execution. Always. Historically, the hype has been high but the executioni left something to be desired, at least in my book. Yes over the years and scores of these theme dinners the output was better than average, maybe even much better but this is Oliveto and the bar should be darn high. This time the kitchen was on the level.

Salmon with tomato mousse
Mascarpone ice cream with tomato(ed) caramel and walnuts

In exchange for those, I can listen to Paul talk about consommes for 15 minutes

Oliveto Cafe
5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

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  1. Bump. Any other reports on specific dishes from this year's menu?

    1. Tomatoes with burrata, sea salt, and olive oil--excellent.
      Halibut crudo with red and green tomatoes--excellent.
      Duck breast with potato straw cake, tomatoes, and plums--more than excellent.

      We'll be back Saturday.

      1. Another excellent tomato dinner, even better than last year, despite the cold summer we've had. We tried the majority of the appetizers and all of the pastas. Some of us started with the Carrot Vodka Bloody Mary with San Marzano and Brandywine tomato juices, nicely balanced to highlight the fresh tomato flavor, not a salty spicy style of bloody. Began with the heirloom tomato tasting, a beautiful assortment of perfect tomatoes, simply presented with some smoked sea salt. A nice way to start the meal with a survey of tomato flavors. Highlights out of the other dishes:

        Panelle with San Marzano tomatoes, basil, hot pepper and barilotto di bufala. Chickpea cakes topped with a mix of tomatoes and hot pepper with a nice kick of heat and balanced by a ricotta salata style cheese.

        Sicilian-style ravioli of tomato conserva w/ Oliveto goat's milk ricotta, pine nuts, and marjoram, thin ravioli pasta stuffed with a concentrated punch of tomato and topped with a creamy cheese.

        Spaghettini aglio, olio w/ whole roasted tomatoes studded with garlic. I was skeptical about this as it seemed too straightforward, but the pasta and execution was so perfect that it ended up being one of my favorites of the night.

        Chicche w/ Chanterelle mushrooms and Cherokee Purple and Gold Brandywine tomatoes. The chicche were inch long pieces of gnocchi like pasta. The texture was so soft it melted in your mouth. This was a favorite of one of my friends. I normally like more toothsome types of pasta, but the texture of the chicche went well with the slight bite of the chanterelle mushrooms.

        The intermezzo of green apple, green tomato and prosecco sorbetto is also worth getting if you plan on an extended meal.

        To finish, we sampled three desserts. For some reason they were noticeably better than the desserts on previous visits. We particularly enjoyed the warm cornmeal-rosemary Persimmon tomato upside-down cake. The cake had a slightly crunchy cornmeal texture on the top with the sweet tomato glaze on one side and a light airy center. The meal was well paced and overall the service was gracious and professional -- a great night out.

        Oliveto Cafe
        5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618