Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Take out, from Zare at Fly Trap

As I mentioned last week, for several days in a row, I had the task of providing dinner for a group at work.  And since I'm a bit of a food snob, I could not be satisfied with just ordering delivery pizza.

The first day, I went for cold Vietnamese salads and desserts from Miss Saigon, along with spring rolls from Freshroll.  It was all good enough, casual, and worked well for take out.  But I had bigger ambitions.  I wanted a really good meal.

The problem is, hot food delivered always arrives cold and soggy.  Even if I were to pick it up from somewhere nearby, it would be lukewarm.  I needed food that would be good cold in the first place, but I didn't want just a bunch of standard salads or sandwiches.  I wanted a satisfying dinner!

I browsed around looking at menus of nearby places, and thought long and hard about memorable cold dishes.  I found the perfect answer: Zare at Fly Trap!  I've long been a fan of Fly Trap, and used to visit the restaurant regularly.  I love Chef Hoss's Persian spin on classic French cuisine.  Or perhaps French spin on Persian cuisine?  Of course with local California flair thrown in there.  Also, if you've ever met Hoss, you'll understand why he is known for his "Hoss-pitality".  He's not only a wonderful chef, but an incredibly generous man, always so welcoming.

On my last visit to Fly Trap, I was absolutely blown away by one of the salads, smoked trout over cucumber "linguine".  And I recently attended a demo by Hoss where he made an insanely delicious spring salad with asparagus, apple, jicama, caramelized shallots, and marscapone, in a yogurt citrus dressing.  I'm not much of a salad girl, but these were both phenomenal, and I knew would be perfect for take out.

I contacted Hoss on Facebook before my visit, in order to get a current menu.  I was thrilled to see that both of the salads were on the menu, along with a few other cold dishes that sounded great.  And of course, desserts.  I had a plan!
Cassis Daiquiri.  $10.
I headed to the restaurant right when they opened, and perched myself at the bar to place my order and wait for my food.  While I waited, I decided to treat myself to a cocktail.  Benefits of being the one doing the pickup, right?

I selected the daiquiri, made with pampero anniversary rum, veev, clear creek cassis liqueur, pistachio.

I was expecting this to be sweet, but it was bitter.  Not quite my style, but nicely balanced.  I did like the pistachio on the rim though.  I wouldn't get it again, but that is just personal preference.
Lavash and Tapenade. $6.
When I lived near Fly Trap, I used to swing by regularly, just to get the lavash and tapanade to bring home.  I've also ordered it pretty much every time I've been to Fly Trap.  The dips are just addicting!

The lavash and bread are normally toasted, but since I was getting take out, I asked to have the bread not toasted, so that I could toast it and have it fresh when I served it.  It worked like a charm, I toasted it in the toaster oven at serving time, and provided my co-workers bread just as warm as it would have been at the restaurant.

The tapenades were both as delicious as ever, and I loved combining them together into a single bite.  $6 was a fine price, and I'll continue to get this as a starter whenever I go.
Trio of hummus. $12.
I also got the hummus trio as a starter, which also came with a side of lavash (I didn't take a photo of that, since it was the same).

The trio was chickpea, roasted squash, and roasted beet.  The chickpea was a fairly standard hummus, but I don't tend to like chickpea hummus, so it was my least favorite.  The squash one was my second favorite, but not something I loved.  The beet was fresh and colorful, and my favorite.

I am not a huge hummus fan, but I got these to provide the team with a bit more food that would be good for takeout.  I wouldn't normally order this, and $12 for a small amount of hummus did seem a bit high.  It was a pretty dish though, and I imagine it looks great when they serve it at the restaurant. I appreciated that they even included the garnish for take out!
Smoked trout, cucumber, seaweed, tobiko, dill salad.  $14.
And here it was, my smoked trout salad!  As I said, I had it last time I was at the restaurant, and it was the dish of the night.  I was really looking forward to it again!

The cucumber is cut like linguini, tossed with dill and seaweed, served with a crème fraîche based dressing, and topped with tobiko and smoked trout.

It was pretty much exactly the same, albeit not quite as nicely plated :)  The cucumber was fresh and didn't get soggy, even though it was take out.  The trout had a wonderful smokey flavor.  The tobiko added a little pop.  And the dressing was creamy without being heavy.  I again loved the dill.  Refreshing, flavorful, and enjoyable.

I'd still get it again, and $14 for a salad this size, with so much smoked trout, was a good price.  Everyone loved it.
Spring salad with asparagus, apple, jicama, caramelized shallots, marscapone, yogurt citrus dressing. $13.
I first enjoyed this salad at a cooking demo that Hoss gave at the Cuesa market.  I was blown away then, so I was happy to see it on the menu!

The salad was made with asparagus, apple, and jicama, all crunchy, crisp, and fresh.  I absolutely loved the caramelized shallots in it.  The dressing was again creamy without being too heavy, the marscapone balanced by the yogurt, tangy yet fresh.  Garnished with sumac and edible flowers, even though it was take out :)

If you want to make it yourself, you can find the recipe here.

Again, fresh, flavorful, tasty.  $13 for a quality salad was right in line.  We all loved this too.
Scallop crudo with assorted house pickles. $15.
Since we were sticking with cold dishes, in addition to the salads, I also got the crudo.

The scallops were delightful.  Sweet, tender, just perfect.  Fresh, quality, delicious.  I could have eaten several orders of this myself.

They were accompanied by a crazy assortment of pickles: ramps, wild mushrooms, caper berries, beets, grapes ... and I'm sure other things I'm forgetting.  These were all really nicely done, tart but not too vinegary.  The ramps were particularly crunchy and a fun component.

Sweet delicate scallops and tart pickles were a bit of a strange combination though.  I loved them all separately  but together it didn't quite work.  The grapes were a good bridge, sweet and the most mild of the pickles.  Texture-wise, I appreciated the crispy accompaniment to the very tender scallops.

The price was also right, and given the elaborate plating of this for take out, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the restaurant.
Cheese Plate, Olive Bread, Walnuts, Honey. $14.
Because Emil was one of the diners, we obviously had to get a cheese plate.

I didn't have any of the cheeses, but Emil and the other person who ate it complimented the cheeses, and in particular, the selection of cheeses together.

Served with olive bread, again normally toasted.

I did try the sweet accompaniment of course, a mix of walnuts, honey, and we think soaked black walnuts.  It was actually really tasty, and I'm sure went perfectly with the cheese.

Price was right for a cheese plate, and the folks who ate this were happy.
Baklava, Persian Cream, Rose Preserves. $9.
This was a fun take on baklava.  Not just a standard piece of baklava, instead it was filo dough layered with a cream, all garnished with chopped pistachio and rose preserves.

It had all the classic flavors of traditional baklava, with the nuts and sweetness, but the deconstructed form, plus the cream, made it far more fun.

I liked this much more than standard baklava, and $9 for a quality restaurant dessert was right in line.
Peach and Huckleberry Crisp. $10.
As I mentioned, since I was getting take out, I got only cold dishes, and asked for the breads to not be toasted.   This plan worked perfectly, except that I totally forgot that the crisp is served warm, until I felt the warm box.  Whoops!

I'm glad they serve warm crisp though, nothing disappoints me more than a cold crisp!  If you've read my blog for a while now, you know that warm fruit crisp and cold ice cream is my absolute favorite dessert.

I stuck the crisp back in the toaster oven for a few minutes when it was time to serve it, and it heated up again nicely.  I don't think anything was lost by bringing it home and re-warming.

Although described as peach and huckleberry, the crisp was mostly peaches.  There were a few tiny little huckleberries that added a touch of color, but there were so few that I didn't taste them.

The peaches were naturally sweet, but they were not over-sweetened, which can often be a problem with fruit desserts.  The fruit was allowed to speak for itself, in the way that ripe stone fruit at its peak can do.  They were nicely cooked, soft but still a good texture, not too mushy.

There wasn't much crisp to the "crisp" though.  None on top as I expected from a traditional preparation, and only a little under the fruit.  It did add a bit of crunch, and the edge was a bit caramelized which was awesome, but it was lacking in the "crisp" component of the crisp.
Tarragon Apricot Ice Cream.
The crisp also came with ice cream, which they packaged up so nicely, in its own separate container, over a cup of ice.  It didn't melt at all on my walk back with it!  I'm so glad I took the risk and went for a dish with ice cream, I was a little worried it would be a complete mess for take out.

The apricot flavor wasn't very strong, but it was refreshing.  Hard to see in the photo, but there were whole tarragon leaves as garnish as well.

It wasn't the creamiest ice cream, almost more like sorbet, but I just absolutely love hot fruit desserts paired with cold ice cream, so I was quite pleased.  I thought the pairing of peach with apricot might be a little too much sweet on sweet, but it worked.

The $10 price, for a warm dessert and ice cream, was right on target.
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