Tag Archives: wood-fired meats

Spit-Roasted Goat (Cafe Rouge, Berkeley CA)

Spit-Roasted Goat

Spit-Roasted Goat - Cafe Rouge, Berkeley CA
Spit-Roasted Goat - Cafe Rouge, Berkeley CA

Goat is not a big culinary deal (yet) for most Americans who aren’t born into those cultures who can masterfully cook goat (e.g., Greek, Argentinian). So goat is a bit of a treat, albeit a daring one, when I find it.  Cafe Rouge in Berkeley is an unassuming little bistro-style restaurant, but it offers an extensive list of house-made charcuterie items in a shop adjacent to the restaurant. And the restaurant’s approach to meat: spit-roasting in wood-fired oven. So I dared for the goat.

With mixed results. The waitress said the roasted goat plate would include goat leg or loin, but never came back to ask me which I wanted. Sadly, without being consulted, I was served up the leg: a tougher, stringier portion with less meat than the loin. The small accompanying goat bits on the plate (under the leg) were tender, medium-rare, and wonderful in the jus, and the roasted fennel beneath was terrific. So most of the plate could qualify as great. 

But a scrawny goat leg as the dish’s leading man diminished the experience. Perhaps if  both goat legs were on board, to justify the chew-through. The waitress did apologize, saying they only have 1 or 2 goats when they’re on the menu so they had to serve what they had available. But if only leg was available, that would have shifted my decision to another dish. Hopefully, a lesson learned.

Despite the faux pas, I really like the sweet atmosphere of Cafe Rouge and what executive chef/owner Marsha McBride is doing there. The service is very good; the wine list is diverse and reasonably priced; and their spit-roasted meats are really a shining moment that would keep me and many others coming back for more.

Now if only their butcher shop was open during dinner hours so I could take some charcuterie home….(hint)

The Grade: Very Good

The Damage: $18

The Inside Tip #1:

Reserve or request upstairs seating because downstairs gets extremely noisy and tables are also a bit close together. (It’s a bit warmer, but quieter.)

The Inside Tip #2:

When Cafe Rouge has softshell crab (seasonal), you MUST get it as your appetizer. They serve one of the best fried softshell crab dishes I’ve ever had…that includes Baltimore, Washington DC, and New York.  Perfect julienned beets, Russian dressing, crispy crab…too bad the season is so short.

The Skinny: Cafe Rouge

1782 – 4th Street, Berkeley CA 94170
Phone: (510) 525-1440
Website: http://www.caferouge.net/
Reserve your Cafe Rouge table directly now via Opentable.com.

Awesome Fried Softshell Crab - Cafe Rouge - Berkeley CA
Awesome Fried Softshell Crab - Cafe Rouge - Berkeley CA

Wood-Fired Pork Shoulder (Big Sur)

Wood-Fired Pork Shoulder

Wood-fired Pork Shoulder, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant
Wood-fired Pork Shoulder, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

The Dish: Pork Shoulder

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant offers fantastic dishes of meat, wood-grilled and roasted to enhance each meat’s warm, rich, and natural flavors. Their roasted pork shoulder is an absolutely awesome plate, grilled with a smattering of whole-grain mustard aioli. You can pick your choice of sides from several great seasonal options. i thought the white French beans with pancetta and braised greens were perfect. Overall, this was one of the best pork dishes of 2008: tender, flavorful, just simply magnificent. The understated decor in the restaurant and the sweetness of the staff just made the dish, and the evening, terrific.

The Cut: What’s Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder is the more contemporary term most restaurants use when describing the pork shoulder butt, or what butchers call simply pork butt. It’s a tender, more fatty, and thoroughly delicious portion of the pig if done correctly. But if you call it ‘butt,’ people get the wrong impression and you won’t sell many.

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA
Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA

The Spot: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Big Sur CA

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant is my favorite place to eat in Big Sur, hands down. It transforms from a funky little bakery in the morning that serves up incredible pastries to a lovely and heart-warming little spot for a romantic dinner in the evenings. Every pastry, every dinner I had there was excellent.  Two of the three folks behind this little gem are are an emigre couple from Los Angeles, pastry chef/co-owner Michelle Rizzolo and her husband, chef Philip Wojtowicz.

What’s great about Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant is its straightforward, unpretentious excellence and down-home, rustic simplicity: picnic tables on the patio and heavy little wooden tables and chairs inside.

The service is friendly and sweet and, if any place can demonstrate the inexpressibly tender magic of one of the most magical spots on Earth, Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant certainly does. It’s the gastronomic soul of Big Sur, and Rizzolo & Wojtowicz capture Big Sur’s zeitgeist in every bite.  It doesn’t just get to your stomach; it stays in your heart.

The Grade: Awesome (5 out of 5)

The Damage: $27

The Skinny: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

47540 Highway 1, Big Sur CA

Phone: (831) 667-0520

Website: http://www.bigsurbakery.com

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