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Fly on the Wall @ Postino, Lafayette

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Fly on the Wall @ Postino, Lafayette

Melanie Wong | Mar 15, 2002 08:25 PM

Wednesday I hopped on BART to Lafayette due to a last minute invitation to join some wine lovers for a light supper at Postino before seeing the west coast premiere of “Hic! Or The Entire History of Wine (Abridged)” at the Town Hall Theatre. This was my first time here. I had met Cat Cora, executive chef and partner, in Paris two years ago and was really looking forward to trying her cooking.

As luck would have it, seated next to me at dinner was the chef/owner for one of SF’s top-rated restaurants. This was a splendid opportunity to be a fly on the wall observing his reactions on tasting another chef’s work for the first time.

The roasted garlic spread accompanying the crackly-crusted bread won universal raves. A small bowl of thimble-sized brussel sprouts looked so plain and unassuming at first glance, but what flavor! He described the perfection of her preparation – excellent material in the sweet and tender sprouts, cooked very slowly and evenly to achieve uniform softening and caramelized exteriors. Chopped and sauteed rabe was on point between tender and fresh snappiness and lovingly infused with garlic. He nodded approvingly, and said that he himself is a vegetable freak and could tell that our chef loves veggies equally well. Radicchio and endive were grilled just enough to soften and bring out their natural sweetness, and were accompanied by a killer garlic and anchovy sauce. He pointed out the careful timing needed to not overly wilt the greens and the understanding of carmelization demonstrated here. Toothsome spaghetti swathed in red sauce punctuated with nubs of Sicilian-style sausage and braised onion wedges was complimented for the coarse and juicy texture of the meat, gentle spice and fennel intensity. The braised rabbit garganelli received his highest praise. He stirred the serving spoon in the dark brown reduction sauce, commenting on the deep color, richness of flavor and dense texture. Again, he said, this showed patience and understanding to achieve this kind of concentration and carmelization without a trace of burnt or singed flavor. The tiny ridges of the housemade garganelli pasta caught every bit of that goodness. He was very impressed overall at the amount of flavor packed into each bite and kept saying, “she can cook, this gal can REALLY cook.” Brava, Cat!

Winewise, we had started with a fresh Italian white whose name escapes me. Next up was a Chianti Classico Riserva that we had asked our server to choose. We liked the 1997 Melini “La Selvanella” so much, we ordered a second bottle. Full of plump red fruits with a plush mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and a fat candied finish. Yum!

We had to dash off too soon without dessert to the performance which was a brisk walk away. Yet that was very entertaining in its own right, and I recommend it highly if you have a chance to catch the two last nights, today and tomorrow. [www.hicwine.com] And, don't miss a chance to eat at Postino.

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