Easily the best new opening in Oakland in 2010, Daniel Patterson’s long-anticipated Plum delivers his impeccable technique in heartwarming food. Despite communal seating on uncomfortable wood stools, one is warmed by skillfully prepared food under $20. Chef Charlie Parker recently took the reigns, serving impeccably nuanced soups like ham hock and brussels sprouts or turnip apple soup with miso. Deviled eggs benefit from caperberry tarragon relish, while a rich beef cheek and oxtail burger welcomes the contrast of accompanying Autumn pickles. Patterson’s power continues to be used for gourmet good, and this time Oakland is the recipient.
FARMSTEAD, St. Helena
Farmstead may not be the most exciting restaurant to open in Wine Country in 2010 but I find it among the most satisfying. Part of Long Meadow Ranch, a welcome package of winery, poultry farm, herb garden, grass-fed beef ranch, and olive press, it’s in a modern, converted barn with fireplace, tractors and chairs on the outdoor patio. Inside it’s funky light fixtures, cavernous ceilings and leather booths. Their grass-fed beef is, in a word, exemplary. It makes for a decent steak, but my money goes towards the meltingly-good cheeseburger. On a house potato bun, it’s lathered with addictive mustard (they don’t skimp on the horseradish), cheddar and arugula. Order “potted” pig: tender, shredded pig packed in a mason jar with a layer of lard on top, served with toasts and that fabulous mustard. Another humane, locally-sourced restaurant, Farmstead brings a casual playfulness I don’t see often enough in Wine Country.
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