Sunday, July 16, 2006

Opposites attract

On days that I sit back and take stock of my life, I am often surprised by how J's spontaneous and somewhat chaotic approach to his stressful life as an entrepreneur has blissfully tempered my sometimes worrisome nature. Such reflections periodically remind me that life's unpredictability could bring very pleasant surprises when one is not so set on living according to set modes.

Apparently this advice is just as applicable, if not more so in food, as in other areas of daily living. For example, while few inexperienced or unadventurous in food would have dreamed up a dessert with a liberate use of sea salt, the combination of big salt flakes and dense chocolate proved to be formidable at the chic A16 in San Francisco.

We went to A16 for pizza, which was, well, good, but not exceptional in my opinion. The crust was a bit thicker and chewier than what I tend to like and the middle got a bit soggy as the pie sat. Perhaps a quick eater wouldn't have had that problem, but a nibbler could only report from her own snail-paced perspective. The sauce on the margarita pizza was, however, delicious with just the right amount of tang.

The most exceptional savory item that we experienced at A16 was the appetizer meatballs. BY Italian meatballs standards, they were rather small at about the size of golf balls. Despite the size, the meatballs packed a tremendous flavor punch. The fresh Italian seasonings of parsley, oregano, and thyme shone through the perfectly viscous tomato sauce generously doused over them. They were as good to look at as they were to eat. Unfortunately, Pictures of the pizzas and meatballs were accidentally deleted while my camera was passed around the table during one of our many dinners later than weekend. I suspect the massive amounts of wine that we hauled back from Sonoma had something to do with it, but oh well, at least a good time was had by all.

After one appetizer and two pizzas, my two lunch companions were about to call it quits, that is until we saw the dense chocolate cake with sea salt and olive oil on the dessert menu. Not being able to curb her curiosity, auntie M ordered the chocolate cake with sea salt and olive oil. Always polite and not wanting anyone to feel like the lone glutton (right), I also thrown in an order for apricot panna cotta. I suspect auntie M partly expected the olive oil and salt to be integrated into the cake batter and baked. When the cake was presented, a proud chcolate cake drizzled with olive oil and flaked with big pieces of sea salt on top, she was stunned. A bit hesitantly, auntie M picked off a small piece to try and her eyes went wide. "This is gooood!" We all went in with our forks at this point. It was indeed good. The very dense and dark chocolate softened and benefited from the smoothness and slightly "greeness" of the extra virgin olive oil. The salt stimulated the savory part of the palate and allowed the tongue to better detect the rather subtle sweetness hidden under the dark chocolate tone. This was a great combination that covered all the basis.

If there is such as thing as a palate cleanser after a heavy dessert, the apricot panna cotta was it. The creamy and light texture and fruity brightness lightened some of that dense chocolate weightiness in the mouth and ended our meal on a lighter note, if that's possible with very full stomachs.

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