One thing that is interesting about being on the West Coast is being in proximity to my family. My parents and sister are in SoCal. My brother lives 45 minutes away in Fremont. I have an aunt and uncle in Cupertino and a cousin who lives in the city. It’s been great to have my Mom come up and help me unpack on a day’s notice.
A few weeks ago my sister and her boyfriend were in the Bay Area for a weekend getaway. They organized dinner for us at the Bay Wolf restaurant in the Piedmont section of Oakland. Dinner included myself, J, my sister and her boyfriend, my brother, and my cousin. That’s a pretty big chunk of family. Dinner at the Bay Wolf was excellent.
Located in a nice stretch of the Piedmont area and only a 10 minute drive from where we live, the Bay Wolf is a great dining experience. Like most fine dining in the Bay Area, Bay Wolf is elegantly designed but casual at the same time. Most high end places in the Bay Area seem happy with business casual dress, even with a fine dining environment. I loved the warmth of the wood interiors mirrored by the warm efficiency of the staff. Reviews that J read said that the duck was the highlight of the menu. This seasonal spring menu did have many duck dishes that we sampled.
For appetizers, we split the duck charcuterie that consisted of duck liver flan, glazed breast and confit-stuffed gougère. The flan was a nice version of pate and the gougere was excellent, the saltiness of the duck highlighting the cheesy flavor of the gougere pastry. For dinner, everyone except me and my sister ordered the duck two ways, a seared duck breast and a duck sausage. I had the goat cheese souffle with grilled squashes and my sister had the chicken breast. While our non-duck dishes were well made, the duck dishes were extraordinary. The duck was perfectly seasoned and the sausage was tender and moist. I liked my goat cheese souffle but found the squashes to be surprisingly bland and watery.
Our server asked about dessert but I already had lemon panna cottas waiting for all of us at home. I’ve been itching to make pana cotta for years but I usually have two of the three ingredients necessary. Sometimes I’ll have the gelatin (from making marshmallows) and the cream (from desserts) but not the yogurt. Anyway, I made a conscious effort during my last shopping trip to get all of the ingredients necessary for panna cotta. J’s brother had been taking them on for a while in his new culinary adventures and my brother, who totally does not cook, has an incredibly prolific lemon tree in his backyard.
With the bounty of lemons snatched from my brother’s tree, I made lemon panna cotta with blueberries and strawberries. It’s an adaptation of a Mario Batali recipe I found on epicurious.
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups whipping cream
zest of 1 lemon (can be in large strips)
1 1/4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
For panna cotta:
Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until softened, about 15 minutes. Whisk 1 cup cream, yogurt, and lemon juice in large bowl to blend. Heat remaining 1 cup cream , lemon zest. and 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and cream comes to simmer. Remove from heat and strain. Add gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Mix hot cream-gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture in bowl. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins, using about 1/2 cup for each. Refrigerate desserts uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with sliced strawberries or any assortment of berries.