Monday, December 27, 2010

FLORA OAKLAND... Ruminations, Reflections and a Happy New Year to all!

Flora's Gin Daisy
As the end of the year approaches, I find myself surrounded by notes from visits to so many delectable restaurants over the last year that I have yet to write about. While I must accept the reality that I won’t get to them all before January, at least I can end the year with one of my best experiences as Twenty Ten fades to a distant memory. It really has been a whirlwind of a year. They go faster with time, but I have enjoyed meeting many new friends with similar interests. The opportunities to experience the world as a writer have expanded. In November I was invited to judge the prestigious Chocolate Salon put on by Taste TV. Earlier in the year I was able to travel to New Orleans for the Jazz Festival... in the fall we joined our oldest in New York while she prepared to work Fall Fashion Week. Looking back, I have been one busy but blessed little foodie.


My year-end review of my notes, I came across a meal I had last October, that needs to be shared. It pretty much rocked my world. It was that good. But I digress.

Flora Oakland is one of the new-ish culinary lights in Uptown; situated about a half a block from the refurbished Fox Theater — a smallish space that formerly housed a florist. It’s decor is lovingly evocative of the 1950's, tiles adorn its walls, sleek lines shape the interior and high on the right wall hovers a giant retro poster of a Carter the Magician. Cool.

Chicken, Beans & Corn
But it isn’t the decor that beckons me to return. Flora has one of the best bars in Oakland. There are a few places around town whose mixologists really know their craft, turning out well-balanced and imaginative cocktails consistently. Though the list of excellent bartenders in Oaktown is growing rapidly, Flora was among the first to make a statement with their specialty drink menu. I for one really appreciate that drinks have evolved from the clumsy, overly sugared concoctions of the seventies and eighties into mixtures sporting fresh fruit, captivating flavors and inspired combinations.

It was at Flora that I first experienced one of my newest favorites, the Gin Daisy. As with many of these beverages the modern Gin Daisy is adapted from a drink recipe of a bygone time. A light, airy, blend of lime, lemon or other citrus flavors balanced smartly with the savory kick of gin. I can’t get enough of the version they serve at Flora. Sheer perfection. A traditional drink rescued from the pages of a dusty old bartender’s guide and the zeitgeist of another era to a tantalizing new realization. (I should note that Flora’s version will also kick your ass just a little) Cocktails and their history are a new delight of mine. Perhaps they rate an essay of their own, someday...


Poached Egg, Ratatouille and Polenta
 But on to the meal portion of the experience. The Better Half and I had been meaning to get to Flora to check out the menu offered by the newest chef, as we’d heard there was a changeover. After we ordered our drinks we made our decisions and committed to a meal. BH ordered a fried chicken dish accompanied by an amazing chile sauce and a delectable corn relish. It was both hearty and gratifying. My bite of his lunch was a perfectly balanced combo of tang, spice and crunch.

Now to my order, the Pi├Ęce de Resistance. My dish, described simply as a Soft Poached Egg, Polenta Cake, and Eggplant Ratatouille. Sometimes it is the simplest set of ingredients that when properly prepared can come together to rocket the tastebuds to ecstasy. It’s been months and I can still taste every mouthful of this dish. I am a sucker for softly coddled egg yolk over, well, almost anything. In this case, the combination of the buttery polenta and the tangy vegetable ratatouille combined with that egg yolk was blissful. I wanted to keep eating it forever. But alas, one can only eat wonderful things one meal at a time.

At the time, we were unaware that the Chef had changed yet again. Props to Chef Rico Rivera for this stellar combo of egg, veggies and corn. I’ll definitely be back soon to see what else you have in store. As year end approaches, I’m short on time. So tonight I will close out my notes by saying do drop by Flora and see what new creations they have going on here.

Check it out! And by all means have a cocktail.

Flora Oakland
1900 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 286-0100
http://www.floraoakland.com/