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Just back from the San Francisco bay area, I had a chance to visit Market Hall Foods, a cluster of stores and one restaurant, Oliveto, in Oakland. This collection includes a bakery, cheese shop, coffee, dry goods (pantry items), fish monger, and butcher under one roof. We carry some of the same olive oils and dry goods, so you could say it was a bit of a scouting trip. It was definitely worth the side trip, but not a full substitution for my current craving: a return to Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

We selected cheeses and purchased Mugolio. Just this week Florence Fabricant wrote about Mugolio in the New York Times. (We carry it at Olio2go, but I hadn’t packed a bottle in my bag!) We purchased a bottle of this piney goodness for dessert. Drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream, it called out for a crunchy topping. Further experiments will determine whether toasted pine nuts or glazed walnuts will be superior. A novel, artisanal, gourmet goodie!

Lunch at Oliveto was the highlight of the trip. We shared four small plates plus fried Ceci beans (just how many calories do you think those have?) The squash with pesto was our favorite, followed closely by the Brussels Sprouts salad. Our third favorite was the Pinzimonio with fennel, celery, and radishes. Each was a close favorite followed more distantly by the Potato Arrabiata, which was missing a good bit of fire. With a basket of crispy brick oven bread, and a few generous pours of a zesty, green, and fresh extra virgin olive oil, this was the kind of meal that makes memories. While we don’t know what oil they used (likely a Californian), Frankies 457 Olio Nuovo has just the right characteristics for this meal.

We were among the last of the lunch time diners as we savored our meal and our coffees, with the conversation and analysis only two 50-year Italian cousins could share!

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