Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cav of the Heart

A yummy time was had by all at Cav, the Market street wine bar and restaurant that sits next to Zuni Cafe. In fact, it's so close that for many years, I'm sorry to say, I've sailed past it on my usual mission to get a margarita and shoestring fries at Zuni's copper bar. You have to respect a place though, that can thrive right next to one of San Francisco's most beloved eateries.

My Omnivore and I stopped in there a few weeks back, lured in by their extensive, EXTENSIVE (did I mention that it's extensive?) wine list. They serve food at the bar, but we were on a different mission to rant about politics and life and down some Italian wines.

After a recent bout in the Exploratorium's fabulous Tactile Dome and a stroll out to the Wave Organ with Mr and Ms. Art Attack, we worked up a hefty appetite. She highly recommended Cav, so off we went.

Cav's fare is of the California fresh-from-the-market style. There's nothing earthshattering on this menu, but it is well done.

To start off, because we're so hungry, a bowl of olives and some of the famous Fried Sweet Potatoes with Tomato Jam.

I'm a total sucker for olives in good olive oil warmed to just a little past room temperature. But those fries--bulky and starchy, they were just what I needed at the moment.

Wine we leave up to my Omnivore, who comes up with a Gruner from the Wachau, guaranteed to go with our asparagus and salads and various nibbles. The Limerick Lane, not as dense as one might expect, but a nice match for the red-meat eaters at our table.

I might as well mention here too, that we had a long discussion about service. Ms. Art Attack had just been to the fancy-schmancy Maya, where she was unimpressed by the state of the service. The staff evidently messed up part of her party's order, bringing the vegetarian a meat dish and assembling the vegetarian's dish along with the meat-eater's order. But after the error was pointed out--and corrected--Ms. Art Attack was surprised to see that they had been charged twice, for both the incorrect and correct orders. It took some arguing with the manager to have the incorrect order taken off the bill, but we marveled that any restaurant would go so far as to double charge the customer and then also argue with them. Especially in this day and age, when any noodnik can get on a blog and broadcast to all about the bad experience.

Well, this was not the case at Cav, where the staff was attentive and accommodating. We were initially seated very near the door. On such an Arctic summer night as we have in San Francisco, we were getting a blast from the door everyime someone oh-so-kindly held it open for the next person. So I asked--if it wouldn't be too much trouble--if we could move to the back? No problem. Lickety-split we were in a nice warm corner.

The charcuterie plate, which in this evening included (clockwise from the top) a quenelle of duck liver mousse, more duck liver with dried dates, pheasant pate, beef tongue with grated parmagiano and pickled baby onions, a slice of head cheese, pickled carrots, beef bresaola, and some thin slices of duck prosciutto. In the center with the caper berries, are housemade mustards, including an apricot mustard, and a delicious piquant whole grain mustard made with cider vinegar.

For her appetizer, Ms. Art Attack had the Ragout of Morels, Fava Beans, and Asparagus under those nice shavings of Parmagiano. A loverly earthy sauce that went quite nicely with the Gruner, thank you very much.

Her main included some light, summery raviolis stuffed with beautifully sweet corn and ricotta, and garnished with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil.

My Omnivore and Mr. Art Attack went for the Pork Tenderloin stuffed with chanterelles and served on a bed of braised cabbage with porcini confit. Extremely tasty, although in my humble opinion, a touch on the dry side.

I can't believe we didn't take a picture of the cheese course. Must have been the champagne.

I was actually excited by the cheese menu since it actually included several cheeses I've never had, no easy feat.

For the record, we had a slice of the Haystack Mountain Haystack Peak, a pyramidal goat cheese with a bloomy rind. I picked that one because we liked the tang of Haystack's Snowdrop, but I have to say, the Snowdrop is superior, maybe a little less assertive. We also had the Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill double cream cows milk cheese from Thomasville, GA. Tasty, but I'll forever be looking for young raw milk cow's cheeses...

To finish up our selection, the Caciocavallo Silano from the Basilicata region in Italy. Cut from its normal teardrop shape, it has a nice nutty taste, but I thought wasn't necessarily enhanced by the dried fruits that came with it. Also on the plate were assorted nibbles, currants, marcona almonds, quince paste, apple jelly, that sort of thing. As I said at the top, not exceptionally imaginative, but hey, made us happy!

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