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French Toast and Moscato at Eccolo, Berkeley

Melanie Wong | Jul 4, 200510:14 PM

After yesterday's non-meal at Katana-ya Ramen in El Cerrito, I needed to find somewhere else to eat before returning to the City. I headed over to Fourth Street for ice cream at Sketch. But then I noticed that Eccolo was open and decided to have an appetizer and glass of wine. Since there was a wait for table in the atrium or out on the patio, I took a seat at the bar right next to the open window instead.

From the weekend brunch menu, the sourdough French toast with strawberries and creme fraiche, $11.50, sounded like a good way to get the taste of bad noodles out of my mouth. I asked the bartender if she had bracchetto or moscato by the glass, and when she said both were available, I had to have those berries to accompany some sweet fizz.

While I waited for my food, I nibbled on the rustic green olive bread served with a round of room temperature Vermont cultured butter. Even though I had a starchy meal coming up, it was hard to stop eating this bread, mostly because it was a vehicle for consuming the luscious butter.

Two thick and large slices of French toast topped with some of the best strawberries yet this season and a dollop of creme fraiche were bathed in a pale-colored delicious syrup. It tasted like light maple but had something extra, perhaps the richness of butter and some citrus for the clean tangy finish. It hit just the right tone to enhance the berries and not drown them out. The sourdough was firm on the well-browned surface yielding to a soft center with tender eggy custard filling the voids in the crumb. Everything came together so well.

As it turned out, the bracchetto I was hoping to pair with the strawberries was sold out. But the 2004 Icardi "La Rosa Selvatica" Moscato d'Asti, 5.5% alcohol, $8, was very fine as a back-up pick. Effusive with rose petals, apricots, honeysuckle, and citrus zest in the grapey nose and palate, the light-bodied fizz was medium-sweet with good acidity holding the sugar in check. I liked the hint of grapefruit pith in the aftertaste showing the characteristic bitterness of the Muscat grape. It was wonderful with the fresh fruit.

At $24 with tax and tip, this was definitely a splurge. But I left very content with a happy and relaxed buzz that caused me to pause for some window shopping and wander a bit before driving again. And, this was one of the few times that I'll ever depart Fourth Street without any Sketch ice cream.



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