Thursday, November 29, 2012


It is no secret that I like frozen treats.  Ice cream, frozen yogurt, I enjoy them all.  A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Whole Foods, and ran into a station sampling Genuto, a local vegan gelato line.  It is nut based, has no dairy, and is loaded with probiotics.  The ingredient lists are impressively short.  The "Simply Pistachio" flavor lives up to its name, containing only water, pistachios, sugar, and salt.  That is it.  The other flavors are all made from cashews, almonds, water, sugar, and a few spices.

The woman giving the samples, one of the founders, was really friendly, and truly believed in her product.  If I needed to avoid dairy, I'd certainly consider these, as they were fairly creamy and flavorful.
  • Crystallized Ginger: Tasting notes: nice chunks of crystalized ginger throughout, fairly refreshing and light. [ Really good ginger flavor, large chunks of ginger, fairly refreshing.  Not very creamy though. ]
  • Madagascar Vanilla: Tasting notes: subtle vanilla flavor, decently creamy for nut based product.  I wish the vanilla flavor was stronger.
  • Chai Latte: Tasting notes: Chai flavor too subtle, meh.  Least favorite.
  • Chocolate Cardamon: Tasting notes: Good cardamon flavor, chocolate not very intense, fairly creamy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Crab Night @ Camino!

[ Originally posted January 16, 2012.  Moving to blog in anticipation of crab season! ]

Every Monday night in January, Camino in Oakland does a special crab night.  For $34, you get a starter, half a roast crab, sides, and dessert.  $12 more gets you a full crab.   The starter, sides, and desserts change weekly, but the roast crab is always the star.  We went last year, and couldn't wait to return this year.  With so many fantastic restaurants in San Francisco, there are few reasons to cross the bridge into Oakland, but this is one of them!

The restaurant features an open kitchen with a huge fireplace in the center.  Most everything is cooked on the fireplace, and it is really fun to walk back there and watch.  The restaurant is mostly all giant communal tables, but they do put space between people, so it isn't like you are bumping into your neighbors.  The entire space is open and comfortable.  Eating there was a really relaxing experience, almost like being in a friend's home.  Service was sufficient and unobtrusive.  They provide complimentary house filtered sparkling or still water, which is always nice.  The cocktails and champagne my dining companions ordered were all tasty.

Tonight's dinner review is pretty much exactly the same as it was a year ago: appetizers are forgettable, crab and the salad it comes with are amazing, and dessert is bad.  But the crab, oh the crab.  Amazing.

This is probably my favorite of all Monday night specials I've ever had.  It certainly does not fall in the category of places running specials in order to get people in on Monday nights when they are using subpar ingredients or staff.  This is just ... special.  I'd go back again, any night!
Pickled carrots, celery.
Complimentary starter.  Just random pickled stuff.  Fairly uninteresting to me, but I eat pickled stuff pretty much daily, so I think I'm kinda spoiled and it takes a lot for me to find pickled veggies particularly interesting.  They are never/rarely as good as the "famous" ones my great aunt makes!
Epi, slabs of butter.
Complimentary bread, but you have to ask for it.  Served cold (boo) with giant slabs of hard butter (double boo) that was hard to spread on the bread.

That said, I enjoyed dipping it in sauces later on in the meal, so I'm glad we had it.
Wood oven-roasted local oysters with absinthe, breadcrumbs and yac√≥n salad.  $13.
Not part of the Monday night special, we added this on.

The oysters were pretty forgettable.  No interesting flavors at all, lots of breadcrumb.  I'd definitely skip this in the future.

The yacon salad that came with it was delicious!  Crisp and the dressing on it was addictive.  I don't really understand why it was served as an accompaniment to the oysters though.
Spicy crab broth with leeks, parsley root and wild nettles.
First course of the Monday crab special.

I'm not really a soup person, so this wasn't all that interesting to me.  The veggies were cooked well (not too mushy, not too crisp), and it was impressive how much crab flavor they were able to impart into the soup, but I found it a little too salty.

The aforementioned bread dipped in the broth was nice.

Full Dungeness crab grilled in the fireplace with farro, chicory salad and mint.
And finally, what we were there for!  Grilled crab!

The crab itself was seasoned wonderfully and the fireplace gives it an amazing smokey flavor.  So, so flavorful!  There is a hollandaise sauce hiding on the plate as well, that wasn't really needed because the crab had so much flavor on its own (particularly when still warm), but as the crab cooled, having some bites with the hollendaise worked really well too, the flavors from the crab seasoning mixed nicely with it.

Hiding under the crab was a really nice farro, the grains perfectly cooked with a nice crunch to them, and very flavorful and well seasoned.  The chicory salad was a mix of both bitter chicory and other greens.  This combined well with the farro and with the hollendaise.

I managed to make up a few "perfect bites" that included farro, greens, crab meat, and hollandaise   A bite with all of that in it was pretty much amazing and had such great flavors that worked together sensationally!

The leftover bread dipped in the hollendaise was also quite nice (yes, I'm a sauce person ... I love everything with sauces!)
The aftermath!
After all that hard work, here is the leftover carnage.  Not a drop of crab meat remaining, I promise.
Cara cara orange sorbet with pomegranate granita and citrus.
This was the included dessert, not something I'd ever order.  It was incredibly meh to me.

The citrus was fine, but I have better citrus at the farmer's market 3 times a week.  The sorbet was fine, but sorbet is just kinda boring, and I have better sorbet at the farmer's market (Scream) every week.  The pomegrante was a nice tart component.  I guess if you like fruity, light desserts this was good.
Rice pudding with mastika and cardamom.  $9.
Since I wasn't satisfied with the previous dessert, I added on one of my favorites: rice pudding.

It came with some almonds, topped with whipped cream.  It was not particularly flavorful, very goopey, the rice cooked inconsistently, and served cold.  Disappointing.

I can really enjoy rice pudding, but I like it to have some defining characteristic: nice flavors, warm, custardy ... something. This was really just sorta there and not very good at all.  I should have just had another crab for dessert :)