Fun Nibbles At Oro in San Francisco

 

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

San Francisco’s Mint Plaza has been a revolving door of restaurants over the years.

So many have come and gone that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Here’s hoping Oro, which opened last year, has sticking power.

I think the downtown location, while an easy hop across the street from the Fifth & Mission garage, can be a hurdle. It’s hard for people to remember that behind the imposing ornate edifice of the historic Mint Building is indeed a plaza ringed by restaurants.

The three-story Oro presents a sleek veneer with floor-to-ceiling windows and a steel-cable glassed staircase that dominates the first floor.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The artsy dining nook.

The artsy dining nook.

The restaurant also has a lot going for it, most notably Executive Jason Fox of San Francisco’s marvelous Commonwealth restaurant.

When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, I started with a Scarlet & Gold ($13) cocktail served in a pretty retro glass. This is the perfect sip for those who want something delicate and not-so-boozy. With gin, fennel, lemon, soda and a froth of egg white, it was light and refreshing.

What makes the menu so fun is that you can make a meal out of a traditional appetizer and entree or several snacks and single bites if you’re more in a grazing mood.

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Petit Pot — Pudding and Cookies, the French Way

Dark Chocolate Petit Pot with Vanilla French Mini Cookie.

Dark Chocolate Petit Pot with Vanilla French Mini Cookie.

 

When you shrink down desserts, they just get so adorable, don’t they?

Not to mention irresistible since you so want to covet one all to yourself.

Petit Pot’s pot de cremes and shortbread cookies make that easy to do.

The South San Francisco company was founded by Frenchmen, Pierre Coeurdeuil, a former Valrhona food engineer; and Pastry Chef Max Pouvreau, who has worked at Coi and Radius restaurants, both in San Francisco.

They specialize in certified organic French pots de creme in various flavors that are sold in individual glass jars, as well as little round shortbread cookies. Of course, the two together make for a perfect dessert duo. I had a chance recently to try samples.

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Back in the Day — Brown Sugar Bundt Cake with Butterscotch Glaze

My idea of a post workout snack.

My idea of a post workout snack.

 

Back in the day, my friend Julie and I would spend the few minutes after before our cycling class trading stories about our baking conquests.

Yes, it’s not uncommon for me to talk about food at the gym. No matter if my fellow gym rats know what I do for a living or not, we somehow always manage to gab about what we’ve cooked or eaten lately.

But then again, I guess that’s why we all go to the gym in the first place — to do penance for all the calories we’ve either already consumed or are about to after that grueling class ends.

Like me, Julie loves to bake. After pedaling like there’s no tomorrow, she’d tell me about the fruit pies she baked during the holidays and the biscuits she labored over to perfect, even going so far as to mail-order just the right flour to ensure they’d bake up extra light and flaky.

BackInTheDayCookbook

Although Julie has since moved on to do her pedaling at another gym, I remember how she was especially excited about traveling to the South to take a few baking classes. When she came back, she surprised me with a gift: a copy of the “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” (Artisan, 2012). Autographed, too, by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day, the owners of the Savannah, GA Back in the Day Bakery.

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Sprogs — A Fun-To-Eat, On-The-Go Snack

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

 

Are you a fan of onigiri — the Japanese rice balls wrapped around centers of pickled plum, cooked seafood, veggies, and pretty much anything else the imagination can come up with?

Then, you’ll love Sprogs, the small “rice scooters,” that take them to the next level.

The San Francisco company was created by Ching-Yee Hu, a busy mom who was looking for the perfect snack for her kids, as well as herself. When she couldn’t find exactly what she was craving, she decided to make it, herself.

It’s such a brilliant concept that you wonder why someone didn’t come up with it sooner. Hu was already making pressed fresh brown-rice squares for her kids when she decided to expand on the idea with more inventive flavorings.

She uses Northern California haiga brown rice that is partially milled to remove the tough outer bran to make it easier to digest yet retains the nutritious germ inside. Then, she created both “Veggie” (vegan) and “Meatie” varieties.

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The (Cheese) Table

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery's Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery’s Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

 

Last week, San Jose’s The Table was transformed into the cheese table.

The popular Willow Glen neighborhood restaurant hosted its inaugural cheese dinner. This one spotlighted the cheeses of Bohemian Creamery of Sebastapol in a $75 seven-course dinner that included paired beverages. I was lucky enough to be invited in as a guest of the restaurant, which plans to make the cheese dinner an annual event.

Owner and cheesemaker Lisa Gottreich was on hand to talk about her hand-made cheeses, which are sold at retailers such as the Cheese Board in Berkeley and Sunshine Foods in St. Helena, and featured at restaurants such as Ad Hoc in Yountville, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Nopa in San Francisco and SPQR in San Francisco.

Gottreich makes her 13 types of cheeses the Italian-way, with little salt. The goat cheeses are made with milk from her own herd of goats. The other types of milk that go into her cheeses are purchased from nearby farms.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

The kitchen at work with Chef "AJ'' Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The kitchen at work with Chef “AJ” Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The first course brought her Bodacious five-day-old goat cheese with a bloomy rind in a spring dish of asparagus and Oro Blanco grapefruit that was paired with Sikyo “Mirror of Truth” Takehara Junmai sake. What a great way to start with a creamy, tangy cheese and a floral, clean sake that worked well with the always tricky-to-pair asparagus.

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