Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mini Tastes Around Rockridge

I'm taking a break from my Honolulu vacation posts to blog about something closer to home. We've been having a heat wave in the Bay Area, but it finally started to cool down this weekend, making it nice to be out and about.

In my neighborhood of Rockridge, the merchants' association put on its first Taste of Rockridge. It's supposed to be the spring answer to the popular Out and About Rockridge event in the late summer/fall. While Out and About is like a huge block party, Taste of Rockridge is more a sampling of food stuff at participating stores and restaurants.

The neighborhood looked really festive with all the balloons out on the streets, but I have to say that there really didn't seem to be much happening as far as food tastings. If restaurants were providing special samples or discounts, it was hard to tell from the street. Seemed like most of the food happenings centered around Market Hall and the various food stores under that roof.

Well, it was fun just milling around Market Hall and meeting some of the vendors who were out for Taste of Rockridge. Hopefully next year participating restaurants and stores will have posted signs of what they're offering.

They were offering raw oyster tastings outside Hapuku Fish Shop. You could see that the guy could barely keep up with shucking the oysters before people would grab a taste. I tried a small oyster called "kushi," which I never heard of. It's from Canada and was pretty good. I liked the sweet flavor and the plump body despite it being pretty small like a kumamoto.

This is the spread outside the Market Hall Produce shop. Doesn't that fruit salad totally say summer?

Here's Rachel of Blue Chair Fruit Co. Rachel was sampling her jam and marmalade, and was nice enough to tell me the difference between the two. (I can't really explain it thoroughly, it's more a show and tell. You can ask Rachel yourself because she'll be starting a booth at the Temescal Farmers Market every Sunday at the Claremont DMV in Oakland.) I was really impressed at all the different places she's been able to sell her jam and marmalade to and she's only been in business for about a year and a half.

I thought it was really interesting that Rachel calls her company Blue Chair. She says she wanted that iconic image of the blue chair in a family kitchen. You know, like how you see at those country homes. It really gives her jam a unique name instead of just "Rachel's Jams." Oh, I tried the marmalade and it was really nice, not overly sweet and very authentic to the fruit (which was some kind of orange).

Inside the Pasta Shop at Market Hall, they had a table with tasting of this olive oil from California. It had an interesting, rich taste that was slightly green. It was pretty good for a California olive oil (you know I mostly buy Italian and French).

Here's another discovery that I saw at Taste of Rockridge. This is a sparkling juice called Vignette and that's the founder, Pat Galvin, serving up his juice. The flavors are based on wine grape varietals, but the drink is non-alcoholic. Pat started his company in Sonoma more than a year ago and his drink is sold at the Pasta Shop and Whole Foods.

Vignette's current offerings include a Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Noir. The juice was fantastic, with a subtle wine grape taste without the alcohol. The fizz adds a nice touch to it, almost like sparkling wine. I also loved the bottling and packaging, which really gives it that summer picnic in Napa (or Sonoma) feel. In fact, I think this juice would make a great summer picnic drink to serve to friends because they'll really feel like you're a fancy host. It is a bit on the premium price side ($2.50 per bottle), so reserve it for times when you want to show off that you have taste. ;-)

Finally, here's a look at the cheese table, also at the Pasta Shop. This is a truffle goat cheese and it tastes as rich as it sounds. Small little specks of truffle is mixed in with this goat cheese, made in the Bay Area, and it was excellent. Another perfect picnic item. Hmm, I think it's time to pack up a basket and head out to enjoy the beautiful weather and good food.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the report. i wanted to go, but didn't have time. looks good for the 1st time, hope it gets better in future yrs.

Ammie said...

I live on the Temescal/Rockridge border, and I am not surprised at your assessment of the sparse food offerings at a Taste of Rockridge. The Rockridge Merchant Association seems to be quite ambitious, but I feel like there's a disconnect sometimes between collective ambitiousness and the reality of the individual shop. Sad to hear the event wasn't up to snuff, given that Rockridge really is a food destination.

I do hope it will get better as time goes on. First time is always rough.