Thursday, June 17, 2010

A16 - A truly memorable experience!

It’s been a week since we returned from an exhausting vacation out to the west coast, San Francisco, specifically. I became increasingly interested in the San Francisco food scene once I purchased and read the book A16. The chefs at A16 have gone through a thoughtful, investigative journey through the Campania region of Italy to understand the ingredients and culture of the region. The other key reason why A16 kindled my interest in the San Francisco food scene is the way A16 chefs live by the concepts of the local food movement by cultivating relationships with local farmers to provide the meat and produce for the restaurant.

Honestly, as much as I love the A16 cookbook, I was nervous to go there. I was nervous that I would be disappointed and it wouldn’t live up to the high expectations that I had. The opposite happened. The experience was definitely one of the best dining experiences I’ve had.

My husband and I visited during lunchtime right when the restaurant was opening. We were guided back through the long narrow restaurant, past the bar area to the dining and kitchen area. The kitchen area is completely open to the dining area so we could see all the preparation taking place for future meals. Finished very minimally with little decoration, the restaurant’s ambiance is dependent on the connection between the wait staff and the preparations taking place in the kitchen.

When we arrived Liza Shaw and another chef were deboning ducks to prepare for a stuffed duck dish that was to be served at a Napa charity auction the next day. Liza is one personable lady. She answered all my questions and seemed to be having a great time herself. Refreshing to see someone having so much fun while they work.

Known for their pizza and meatballs, we figured these would be good items to order. Both were amazing. The chefs only use San Marzano tomatoes to make a simple yet full flavor sauce. I only cook with San Marzano but my husband and I think I must cook them too much because I’ve never been able to coax as much flavor out as they did. We ordered the Romano pizza which has no cheese on it. It was delicious. The absence of the cheese allowed the flavors of the sauce, olives and anchovies to come through. The meatballs were tender beyond belief and bursting with flavor. Through lunch we asked the server to choose the wine for us. The wine was excellently paired.

I’m typically not a dessert fan but the dessert at A16 was a knock out. We ordered both the ‘chocolate budina tart with sea salt and olive oil’ and the ‘Strawberry Gelatina and Basil Granita with Mascarpone Mousse’. The strawberry gelatina dessert was by far the most creative use of taste, texture, and temperature that I have had to pleasure to experience. Served in a canning jar, the bottom was filled with a strawberry based gelatin and then topped with the mousse which was then topped with the icy, crunchy, bright green basil granita. A spoonful that had a little of each layer was heaven.

I’ve had that Strawberry gelatina dessert in my head since our visit. I sent a comment through A16’s website letting them know how much I enjoyed the experience and asked for the recipe. Low and behold, Lori, the pastry chef emailed me last night with their batch recipe! What super nice people!

If you live or visit San Francisco, I would highly recommend that you seek out a meal at A16 on 2355 Chestnut Street.

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