Tuesday, September 8, 2009

San Francisco Pt 1: The Diva Dines at Picco!

Monterey Bay Grilled Squid

Divas, I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted, but I've been on a road trip with the entire family (see the National Lapoon's Vacation for details), and unfortunately, hippie cabins on the coast of Oregon offer little promise of Internet access. I planned to post when we finally reached Portland for Kuzak's brother's wedding, the blessed event that spurned this trip, but as fate would have it, our entire hotel was overrun by a massive anime convention.

What does that mean, you might ask? 

Well, it means that 6,000 Japanese-cartoon obsessed nerds all dressed in crazy costumes had taken over the entire hotel, and besides being in costume, they were also armed with a variety of weapons. This led Kuzak to ask on more than one occasion if he could join them on their unicorn hunting trip.

So, needless to say, I was so busy fending off costumed kids, that I had little time to do anything except attend all the wedding events, but let me report that everything went beautifully, from the prenuptial dinner, to the wedding, to the brunch! Thank you all for hosting such a beautiful event! And no costumed kids crashed our party. But they did stare at us strangely when we paraded through the hotel in our formal dresses, making me wonder if they thought we were the costumed freaks after all, not them!

Now onto the important business that brings me here every week! What did I eat on my trip? Let me tell you I had many fabulous meals, but three in particular stood out on this trip, and one was the best meal I've had all year (my Top Chef Brother agrees). The first outstanding dinner I was fortunate enough to enjoy took place at Picco, my Top Chef Brother's restaurant in Marin County. The restaurant focuses on local, seasonal ingredients and serves their dishes family style to be shared. Now, while this isn't the first time I've eaten at Picco, because their seasonal menu always changes, every time I dine, I get to sample new flavors! This trip was no exception.

Tomales Bay Kumamoto Oyster
The meal began simply, with Prosecco and Picco's famous kumamoto oysters, plucked out of Tomales Bay, and served with a chile-cilantro mignonette. These little suckers are fabulous beyond belief, crisp, refreshing, tasting of the ocean. This is the perfect way to begin any meal and they're a must have at Picco. I can't recommend them enough.

After the oysters, we sampled a variety of starters, but a few offerings really stood out. The first was the risotto, made from scratch on the half hour, which changes nightly, but ours was a vegetable risotto, full of summer squash and roasted peppers. This dish was so delicious, it had us all licking our bowls.

House Cured Salumi

The second must try when dining at Picco isn't actually on the menu in the main restaurant because it's served out of the pizzeria. It's also my Top Chef Brother's specialty: his house cured salumi! A trip to Spain inspired him to craft his own cured meats, and these are truly a highlight when dining at Picco. I especially loved his mortadella, studded with pistachios, light, delicate, flavorful, but all his meats are fantastic.

Wow, and to think this was only the beginning! After polishing off our dishes, we moved onto the main courses. While everything we tried was delicious, a few really stood out from this menu. First, was the grilled Monterey Bay squid served with a sweet corn and bacon relish. This was without question the best squid I've ever tasted, sourced locally, succulent with smoke flavors that paired beautifully with the fresh corn and bacon. The presentation was also quite stunning, with the purple squid charred, and even tiny little baby squid scattered around the plate.

California Black Cod

I also loved the California black cod with manilla clams, wild mushrooms, miso and curry oil! Black cod is one of my favorite fish to cook, rich and buttery, and this fish was cooked to perfection, and the accompanying clams and mushrooms added great flavor to the dish.

Mesquite Grilled Quail

The final main course we sampled was truly the highlight of the night for me. It was the mesquite grilled quail, served with a prosciutto chip dramatically jutting out of it, over fingerling potato flan, scallions and roasted grapes cooked in Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine. Everything about this dish was perfect, from the crispy pig chip, to the sweet flavors of the grapes cooked in Vin Santo, to the mesquite smokiness of the quail.

And then we came to the end: desserts arrived in the form of milkshakes, chocolate Madelines, but my favorite by far was the bread pudding. It's the best I've ever had and a must try here. My mouth is watering just thinking about it right now.

As a final note, I love their new wine list! Bravo! We drank a Copain Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, followed by a Stolpman Sangiovese, two of my favorite California producers, and we finished with a delicious bottle of Moscato d'Asti. All in all, this was both a perfect meal and a perfect way to kick start our family vacation. Also, on a personal note, a big thanks to my Top Chef Brother for treating us to a fantastic meal! You are truly a talented chef and, even more importantly, a wonderful brother.

Stay tuned to discover where I had my other two fabulous meals, including the best of the year so far!!

Businesses Mentioned:

Picco Restaurant
320 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, CA 94939

(415) 924-0300

My Top Chef Brother's restaurant! They feature a family style restaurant next to a pizzeria and wine shop. A must visit when in the area!

Click here to visit their website!
Music On Tap:
Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head
Air - 10,000 Mgz Legend
Beck - Modern Guilt
Fleetwood Mac - Greatest Hits

This is just a sampling of some of the CD's we listened to on our road trip from San Francisco to Portland!

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