Saturday, August 15, 2009

César on Piedmont Avenue

It is customary in the Mediterranean region to enjoy Tapas with friends and family. Tapas are small bites or appetizers or little mouthfuls. In Spain, this tradition began in the southeastern region where sherry is made when innkeepers would put little plates on top of the sherry glasses (copitas) to keep out the flies and dust. In time, they began to add little bits of bread, cheese or ham to the little “covers,” or tapas, and a wonderful tradition was born. Tapas bars and restaurants are popping up all over the United States and are a wonderful way to enjoy an abundance of flavor profiles. They can be enjoyed before the meal or as the meal – you decide.

Chef Maggie Pond, chef at César recognized the Tapas tradition by offering authentic tapas made from the finest Spanish ingredients combined with the unparallel fresh meat, seafood, and produce found all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Maggie has traveled throughout Spain and continues to go back each year to scour the markets for new ingredients, and to eat and cook in the finest tapas bars in Barcelona, Madrid, and San Sebastián.

Today my long time friend Helen and I ventured to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland to try this recognized restaurant – César. We enjoy adventuring to new places around the Bay Area and César certainly did not disappoint. From the friendly service to the intensely delicious flavors of the tapas, we were in foodie heaven.

We decided to sit outside, since the temperature was a perfect 78 degrees and not windy. (Great people watching too) We figured it was 5:00 somewhere in the world and ordered a couple Sangrias. One word – WOW! The red wine flavored with a ting of brandy and fruit and finished with fizzy water was absolutely refreshing.

Reading through the menu there were so many choices that looked incredible. We started with the Gazpacho and it was like no other gazpacho I have ever had. Not the typical diced vegetables in tomato juice. It was finely pureed yellow tomatoes pushed through a sieve and water was added. Lightly seasoned with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and accented with small dices of cucumber, red bell peppers and red onions. Garnished with a rustic piece of toasted bread and a drizzle of olive oil.

Next we feasted on “Albondigas con Garbanzos” which was lamb meatballs with garbanzos and spinach in a smokey paprika broth. Rich, hardy and extremely flavorful. Now onto the “Montaditos on Toast” and we had the dry cured pork loin on a baguette slice with quince jam. The combination of sweet, yeast and earthy pork was out of this world. Final tapas were “Fried Manchego Cheese with Romesco Sauce”. It was perfectly executed with a crispy crust of herbed bread crumbs and an earthy romesco sauce that had just a slight crunch of almonds.

What would a great meal be without a dessert? Staying true to the Spanish tapas theme, we decided to share the “Churros con Chocolate”. The churros were still warm with sweet sugar coating and the warm chocolate dipping sauce has a slight orange flavor. Perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

4039 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 985-1202

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