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Rye and Woodward's Garden - Delightful! (Long)

fine wino | Jun 19, 200604:29 PM

My date and I had a great Friday night of eating and drinking at two places we hadn't tried yet. We will go back to both...soon.

Stopped in Rye on the way to BART. It was around 7:00 pm and it was pretty quiet but for a group of about 6 people in the "smoking cage". That cage looks much more appealing from the inside than from looking in off of Geary St. The whole space is pretty inviting with a nice long bar and lounge seating. We sat the bar and I had a delicious, refreshing Basil Gimlet. Man, what a great summer cocktail. Nice and tart from the freshly sqeezed lime juice, a pinch of sugar and a subtle hint of basil. I really wanted another but it was strong and I had to pace myself to share a bottle of wine dinner. My date had his usual vodka martini up with olives. He liked. The bartender on duty is a co-owner of the place and was really friendly. We chatted with him the whole time we were there about other cool bars in the hood. We'll definitely be going back to Rye often.

On to the main course. I've been reading about Woodward's for a while now and finally made a reservation after walking by one morning and reading the menu. Upon arriving, we were given a choice of a few different tables (in the front, where you get to see the cooks in action, or in the back, where it's quieter). We sat in front to fully experience the place and I'm glad we did except that it was HOT. It was pretty warm on Friday and even at 8:00 it must have been 65 degrees out. It was 75 in the front room! But it was part of the "rustic charm" of this place, right?
I loved the vibe there. The floors were a little uneven, the plates mismatched, pretty curtins veiling the busy intersection right outside. I loved that the whole operation was run by women too. The service was pretty laid back and it took about 10 minutes to get more than water. But when our waitress (co-owner) came by she was pleasant and helpful with wine suggestions. Once we ordered, the food delivery was well paced and yummy!

I started with this great salad of belgian endive, favas, shaved raw baby artichoke hearts, a few oil cured olives and thin slices of lemon that seemed to have been blanched and salted (or maybe a quick version of preserved lemon?). The creme fraiche dressing was a wonderful compliment to all the bitter, sour and salty flavors and was nice and light.

My date had the smoked salmon appetizer. I know it had shaved cucumber (and maybe cress) and a creamy horseradish dressing. I was too busy eating my salad to pay attention to his plate. He said it was the best, most buttery smoked salmon he's ever had.

My entree was a grilled pork chop with perfectly ripe roasted plums and whole roasted shallots. The plums just melted around the plate and their juice melded with the pork jus to made the sauce (there was probably a tad of butter in there too). The chop sat on a slightly sweet cornbread stuffing and sauteed green beans. The cornbread stuffing had fresh corn kernals too. The whole dish just tasted like summer.

My date had the grilled rib eye, which was cooked to perfection and scaled down to a normal 8 or so oz. portion. There was an artichoke heart ragu of sorts and a creamy potato gratin nestled under the meat. Again, I was too busy with my pork chop to notice more than that. Funny, we rarely ever want to share!

The desserts looked amazing but we licked our plates and had no room for more food. I forgot to mention the warm, crusty bread with flecks of wheat bran that came to the table upon ordering. That was as good as dessert as far as I'm concerned.

I'm looking forward to going back to Woodward's Garden soon. Maybe on a cooler night. :-)

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