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Piperade report

Reese in Rockridge | Dec 27, 200402:53 PM

Last Tuesday we braved the big city for a birthday dinner for my boyfriend at Piperade. He deemed my choice "perfect" -- the hearty food, warm atmosphere, and good service were right up his alley. We've been together three years, so my choice was hardly a shot in the dark :)

BF has an endless appetite, so we made this into a four course affair, with two rounds of apps.

Round one: The cream of mushroom soup (soup du jour) and the sheep's milk and ham terrine. He ate the soup himself, but I did have a taste. I found it a little bland, but certainly mushroomy, if you're into that. He liked it alot. The terrine, which I split with him, was very good -- I enjoyed the accompaniments of sundried tomato relish and frisee to cut the rich saltiness a bit. I was surprised that I would have preferred a little less salt -- this is unusual for me.

Round two: Seared tuna and stuffed peppers. The tuna was pretty standard, but he really liked the saffron potatoes that came with it. The stuffed peppers were terrific -- goat cheese, raisins, and pine nuts wrapped in a roasted red "piquillo" pepper. I thought the flavors blended very well, and BF, who ate more than half of this one as well, thought it was better than his tuna.

Round three: Lamb chops and Niman Ranch Pork Chop. The lamb was enjoyed by BF and came with a really tasty potato gratin. I thought the seasonings of the lamb were good, but I really don't like lamb... My pork chop was absolutely divine. It was the dish I had been craving without knowing it. The chop was served over cabbage and topped with apples and onions. The whole dish had a robust flavor like it had been stewing all day -- Perfect for wintry weather. The cabbage was laced with bits of chewy bacon -- yum! I really wish I had saved more room at this point. I was surprised by the portion; it seemed much bigger than the lamb. Really, this is the dish I am still thinking about and that's pretty rare for me.

Round four: Dessert! We chose a pear and almond tart, but they forgot the candle (not requested by me anyway), and so followed quickly with a mousse topped with candied almonds on the house. The tart was nice -- a tasty shortbread-like crust. The mousse was not very sweet at all and rich and creamy, and those almonds would be perfect atop breakfast cereal or yogurt. Both good, but we were stuffed and I was still coming down from my pork chop high.

Service: Very efficient. Always a busser ready to take finished plates and a runner showing up rather promptly with the next course. They apologized for the delay on our first course, but we hadn't noticed, what with the distraction of chewy bread and olive oil. It wasn't chatty, and we felt well cared for -- that's the style we prefer...we aren't looking for the server to be our third dining companion.

Damage: With our epic meal (4 small plates, 2 big plates, 1 dessert that we paid for), 2 big bottles of San Pellegrino, 1 coffee, and 1 espresso, the bill came to $112 before tip. I felt that this was a remarkable value. This really feels like a special night out, but at neighborhood-joint prices.

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