Friday, October 23, 2009

WOOD TAVERN - A Home Away from Home

This is a place I've visited on a number of occasions. Every time I leave it I come away pleased. A sense of overall satisfaction. I find it a pleasing place to look at, a pleasant place to eat, a place where once the locale has charmed me, they feed me really well. I like that it's called Wood Tavern, and that the decor is like an upscale secret cabin getaway with a groovy bar. Don't get me wrong. It's not perfect. I don't mean to suggest that, it just has a sensibility I find particularly charming. Something about the design aesthetic and the presentation, that works on me on some vaguely personal level. Like I'm coming home.

So let's talk about the food, and maybe even some of the imperfections. My BH and I went with our daughter (she loves a good free meal) a week or so ago. It's convenient, since she's in grad school at Berkeley and we work in downtown Oakland. We can meet just about halfway, if we meet up just about anywhere along College Avenue. So on this occasion we met there. We began with drinks. It was a work day, but some just don't begin well, and by lunchtime I can be up for a cocktail. This was just such an occasion. The BH ordered the Cool Breeze, but I didn't find anything on the cocktail menu calling to me, so I asked the bartender if he could make me a Ramos Fizz. He did and it was amazing. It made me happy, it was a drink that actually tasted like a good mood.

We were pretty hungry so we ordered a cheese plate with drinks. The cheeseboard choices were a Fourme D'Ambert (French Cow Blue) ~ a Fleur Vert (herb encrusted goat's milk) ~ a Robiola Bosina (Italian Cow/Sheep's Milk mix) ~ Zamorano (Spanish Cow). I found the cheese delicious, particularly the Fleur Vert which was creamy and flavorful. I also found the portions a bit on the skimpy side. I'm really turned off by tiny cheese portions. When the slices are too small for a table of three to tast a mouthful of each, that's just not enough cheese. Doesn't have to be a big mouthful, but there should be sufficient cheese to go around. So that's one of the not so perfect things about Wood Tavern.

For our mains, we ordered for my BH Surf & Turf (Oregon Bay Shrimp, Proscuitto and Avocado with Romaine and a Smoked Paprika Aioli) ~ I had a Chili Ribbed Pork Roast Sandwich (with Roast Poblano Chiles, Grilled Scallion Salsa Verde, Avocado and a Romaine Aioli). Our daughter had the Duck with Wild Rice Soup and the Tomato and Arugula Salad.

I tasted the duck soup and it had an amazing broth. It was the perfect consistency, flavored with sweet corn and carrot. This soup definitely showed a master's hand. I really enjoyed my sandwich. It wasn't too spicy, the meat was moist (pork can tend towards the dry and cardboardy, this was neither). The flavors of the chiles and the onion all blended perfectly. Subtle and delicious. My husband really loved his sandwich as well, but he's never seen a shrimp or an avocado he didnt' want to make passionate love to. The addition of the prosciutto pretty much made it officially the other woman. The grad student also enjoyed her lunch, calling her salad fresh and raving about the tomatoes. So I doubt the tastiness was just the liquor talking, but hey, like I said, this place really makes me feel at home.
My family has a sweet tooth, and on this occasion although we had already lingered over drinks, they wanted dessert so I capitulated against my will. They wanted the blueberry crisp, which was ironically titled the "15-Minute Peach Blueberry Crisp" which of course prolonged the conversation about how much longer lunch was going to take. It turned up in rapid fire time, maybe five minutes after ordering and it was absolutely worth any delay. So crispy on the outside, fresh fruity goodness on the inside, that I didn't resent at all that I would have to put in an extra hour on my computer at home that night to make up the time spent over a long lunch. The ice cream gave it the perfect cold compliment to the just-out-of-the-oven warmth of the crumbling crisp. This was delicious.

Overall the food here is solidly above average to really artful. It's not perfect ~ some dishes really rock while others are just good. They know how to do fish, and they definitely know soup. Sauces are thoughtful and overall the menu offers selections for any palate. The place is welcoming, the food is well presented, and its' tasty with some really good surprises.

Bon Appetit!

Wood Tavern
6317 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 654-6607

Table Size: Adequate!

Dining Time: It really depends on where you work. College is not near downtown, so there's the drive time, and the parking (which on College can be a challenge). The service is reasonably prompt & attentive, so they can get you in and out in approximately an hour unless you order something with extraordinary cooking time, but for me this place is reserved for the lengthier lunch breaks.

Price: Moderately Expensive

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