Monday, January 30, 2012

food: Caffe 817

Sunday morning I joined a number of other Bay Area food bloggers and writers for a special tasting at Caffe 817 in Old Oakland. I'd been there some years back, but I heard new owners had purchased it and it was definitely worth checking out again.

Oakland owner/chefs Emily and Scott Goldenberg previously worked at Zuni Cafe, so they're not new to the food business, but they are new to ownership. Because Caffe 817 has been around a while with a loyal customer base, they didn't swoop in and change everything, but have been making smaller changes over the past year.

owner/chefs Scott and Emily

At first glance, they're doing things some other new Oakland cafes and restaurants are: sourcing from local, sustainable farms; simpler menu; rotating displays from local artists; open, airy space with an Old World vibe to hang out; etc. But they're passionate about local, sustainable food. They know not only where their ingredients come from, they know the people behind them. The grass-fed beef for their homemade corned beef hash, for example, comes from a ranch cooperative in Marin county and a similar cooperative in South Dakota. The Gruyere cheese is made locally, and the coffee comes from Oakland's Mr. Espresso, and they know all the people there.

homemade preserves

But they go a step further than local and sustainable, they go slow, too. Rather than poach the eggs, they have an old Italian-made egg steamer. The orange juice is fresh-squeezed. Emily makes the preserves (which are also available for sale by the jar) and the extremely delicious chocolate chip cookies. Scott makes the mostard di frutta spread that takes 2 days to prepare, and the slow-cooked corn beef hash.

OK, the food is local, sustainable, slow, but how does it taste? I only tried the items without meat, but it was all delicious. The Italian steamed egg, toasted levain, and olivada was amazing. The homemade honey yogurt and granola was simple but flavorful and not overly sweet. The coffee (they roast it over oak wood fires at Mr. Espresso) was extremely good, and a Prosecco mimosa made with fresh-squeezed orange juice is a whole different experience than your average brunch accompaniment. And did I mentioned the chocolate chip cookies? K agrees they're extremely delicious.

Italian toast

The food is also beautiful to look at, as evidenced by how much fun Paula Wirth was having photographing it. Even the dishes with meat looked appealing to me, a long-time vegetarian.

In short, I loved it. I'll definitely be going back.

more pictures:

coverage by other Bay Area bloggers and writers:
(I'll be updating this as other coverage comes online)
If you're an Oakland Local advertiser and interested in a similar event, or interested in advertising with Oakland Local, contact Susan Mernit.

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