Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kicking Off Summer at Ducca

We’re just half-way through spring, but it’s been feeling more like summer in the Bay Area these days. So it was perfect weather for Ducca’s “Bocce Ball and BBQ” event Friday night.

I wasn’t really clear what the party was for, but it seemed like another chance for free drinks and food from Ducca’s chef Richard Corbo, who was named a “Rising Star Chef 2008” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

I’ve never eaten at Ducca, but it promotes itself as a Northern Italian restaurant. It’s centrally located right in SOMA, very close to the Union Square area. I arrived soon after work, and within a half hour Ducca’s garden was so packed it looked like any other Friday night happy hour, but outside. (I got an invitation awhile back for this private event, but it looked more like the crowd grew from word-of-mouth as one friend brought along another and so on.)

Grilling just screams summer, so seeing the big grill setup in the center of Ducca’s garden and patio was very exciting. Unfortunately, I never really got a taste of anything from the grill. For some reason, I kept seeing food being grilled, but none ever made it among the crowds. I initially saw blackened pig heads and then some grilled peppers and artichokes along with some whole chicken, but never got to taste them.

So some of the things I did get to eat where various appetizers circulating the crowd. There were house-made foccacia, one topped with carmelized onions and another with prosciutto and asiago cheese. (The bread was soft and thick.) Then there were cups of spring risotto, which had peas and was really tasty and warm. Of course, the most popular item was the deep-fried fish chips with fried polenta. I passed on the deep-fried tray, but everyone seemed to love it.

I have to say my favorite bite was the one dessert item being passed out, and it was this panna cotta topped with strawberry. The panna cotta was so incredibly creamy with a nice vanilla taste, but I just couldn’t get over the texture. So rich and thick but still smooth. Only one tray came out early on and I was glad I grabbed one before I left.

The drinks were hosted by Svedka vodka, a Swedish vodka I’ve never heard of. I think it’s new. Of course, they were pushing the flavor-infused vodka, which I’m not a big fan of but, hey, I’m willing to try any vodka that’s free. There were a few specialty drinks for the night, and the first I tried was the “Spring Cooler” made with vanilla vodka, cranberry juice and Triple Sec with a cucumber slice. This sounded really refreshing to me, and it was. The vanilla actually made the drink taste more full-bodied, and I enjoyed it. I also tried the “Clementine Crush” made with Clementine-infused vodka, orange juice, lime juice and bits of fruits. This was the prettiest but the taste was kind of boring for some reason. I think because the vodka flavor was a bit overwhelmed by all the fruits. There were also sangria and beer making the rounds.

Here’s Chef Corbo hard at work in a makeshift prep area in the back of the restaurant. I think he was a bit surprised when he looked up and I was there snapping away. But when you’ve got two vodka drinks under your belt, you’d be daring too!

I snuck into the restaurant to check it out since I haven’t eaten there. The lounge is really seductive with its red chandelier and plush settings. Looks like a fun after-work hangout. The restaurant was totally empty since it was closed for the BBQ event. (I’m assuming they started serving dinner after the event ended at 7 p.m.)

I think this is the chef de cuisine manning the grill, which didn’t serve up anything while I was there. So much for the BBQ.

And here were a few friends of the restaurant making an attempt at the “bocce ball” party of the “Bocce Ball and BBQ” event. It never really got going since most of the crowd was into the free drinks and food.

Even though I didn’t get any barbeque and the bocce ball game was pretty lame, it was still a fun way to kick off my weekend. Everyone seemed to enjoy hanging out with friends and soaking in the peeks at summer.

Ducca, 50 Third St. (between Market and Mission Streets), San Francisco. PH: 415.977.0271


Jenster said...

I wonder who got to eat all the barbequed items?

foodhoe said...

from the look of the pictures, some of the stuff looked inedibly burnt! looks like a nice day for a bbq though.

Single Guy Ben said...

Maybe it's a technique to blacken the pig's head to tenderize the meat? I don't know, but I didn't try it. Maybe the bbq were for that night's dinner menu.

Carolyn Jung said...

What?? You didn't try your hand at bocce ball? I was waiting for a photo of that. ;)

Mrs. L said...

Svedka Vodka has been around a while. It's a lower priced/lower end vodka but it's not bad when you mix it with fruit and such. We used it this past weekend to make pomegranate martinis.