A Taste of the Second Annual Taste Tri-Valley

Five-spice duck breast with puffed farro served at the kick-off at Sabio on Main for Taste Tri-Valley.
Five-spice duck breast with puffed farro served at the kick-off at Sabio on Main for Taste Tri-Valley.

When the inaugural Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week debuted in February last year, the pandemic was still raging in full force and vaccinations had only begun to roll out, making for a subdued event intended to showcase the restaurants in Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton.

This year, however, with vaccination rates high and Omicron petering off, the second annual Taste Tri-Valley has kicked off with a bang, not to mention spring-has-sprung weather, as I found out last week when I was invited as a guest to the kick-off dinner at Sabio on Main in Pleasanton.

With supply chain issues and labor shortages coming on the heels of a roller-coaster list of restrictions over the past two years, local restaurants and wineries still very much need your support and business. So, there’s no better time than now through Feb. 27 to check out the special indoor dining, outdoor dining, and takeout promotions at dozens of these Alameda County establishments.

Among the highlights are a $35 three-course dinner menu at Danville Harvest, dinner for two for $35 at Burma! Burma!, a $50 three-course dinner at Bridges, a $50 three-course dinner at Sabio on Main, and a $15 small stuffed pizza at lunch at Zachary’s Pizza. For the full list of participating restaurants, click here.

Gotta love a chef who wears an apron like this one. Executive Chef-Owner Francis X. Hogan of Sabio on Main.
Gotta love a chef who wears an apron like this one. Executive Chef-Owner Francis X. Hogan of Sabio on Main.

A benefit for Open Heart Kitchen, the largest hot-meal program serving those in need in the Tri-Valley, Thursday’s festive kick-off dinner at Sabio on Main sold out in no time flat, and even had a 60-person wait list, an encouraging sign as any that folks are definitely excited about dining out again. Tables were filled inside and out, the latter being where my husband and I dined on the cozy patio at the side of the restaurant.

Each of the four courses was prepared by a different participating chef, following the welcome cocktail, the gin-based Makrut Lime Gimlet that was as fragrant as lemongrass and bursting with tangy, floral lime.

Makrut Lime Gimlet.
Makrut Lime Gimlet.

Chef Eduardo Posada of Livermore’s Posada Restaurant got things rolling with a zesty seabass ceviche with the cubes of fish mingling with spicy serrano, tropical mango, smoky chipotle aioli and sweet tomato-fig chutney. Piled atop crispy tortilla chips, it was the perfect bite paired alongside a glass of 2020 Las Positas Vineyards Estate Verdelho, the Spanish-Portuguese varietal full of tropical mango, pineapple, and pear notes, and measured acidity.

The main dining room at Sabio on Main.
The main dining room at Sabio on Main.

That was followed by the comforting artichoke Rockefeller served in house-baked individual sourdough boules by Chef Matt Greco of Salt Craft Bakery & Catering in Pleasanton. Think a gourmet version of your favorite artichoke dip, creamy, rich, and full of artichoke heart chunks, all served in a warm, super crusty loaf with its own little toasted top. With a glass of 2020 Nottingham Cellars Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard, full of pear and a touch of minerality, it’s a duo you wish you could unwind with every Friday night.

Seabass ceviche.
Seabass ceviche.
Artichoke Rockefeller served in a house-baked mini sourdough boule will certainly make you feel like a gazillionaire.
Artichoke Rockefeller served in a house-baked mini sourdough boule will certainly make you feel like a gazillionaire.

Chef Francis X. Hogan of Sabio on Main created the main course, a thick slab of Liberty Duck breast, tender and juicy, and seasoned with 5-spice. The plate also showcased some of the farms that he regularly works with, including a sunny, sweet puree of squash from Green Bee Farm, and potato chip-crisp broccoli leaves from Happy Acre Farm. Puffed farro added even more playful crunchy texture, and dried cherry agrodolce the perfect sweet-tangy fruitiness that duck always craves. Winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou came by to introduce his accompanying 2017 Lineage Red Blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, an exceptionally smooth wine like velvet on the palate.

Mascarpone mousse with berries.
Mascarpone mousse with berries.

Last but not least, Chef Tullio Rosano of Locanda Restaurants created the layered dessert of mascarpone mousse, with its tangy cheesecake-like taste, over a mixed berry compote. Instead of wine, it was paired with a Tiramisu Martini. It was plenty coffee-forward with St. George Coffee Liqueur blended with rum and creme de cacao, giving it sweetness but also a subtle bitter edge that played nice with the dessert.

Copies of my "East Bay Cooks'' cookbook, which features Sabio on Main, and which Chef Francis will be only to happy to sign for you.
Copies of my “East Bay Cooks” cookbook, which features Sabio on Main, and which Chef Francis will be only to happy to sign for you.

It’s high-time to give yourself a well deserved treat, and check out Taste Tri-Valley.

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