Wednesday, April 16, 2008

South of France Dinner at Lalime's

Well, this is turning out to be a major Berkeley week for me...four days of meals in this wonderful city where food is very important.

Last night it was off to Lalime's for dinner. In honor of tax day, in addition to their usual à la carte menu, they had a special fixed price ($39) dinner that featured chef Steve Jaramillo's personal tribute to Food and Wine of Southern France.

While J was tempted by the à la carte Filet of Sole, he decided to go for the Special dinner; I never had a doubt that this was what I wanted.

Our meal started with a bowl of White Wine Braised Green Olives. The olives along with crusty bread and unsalted butter tided us over until the next course, Paté de Campagne

...a generous slice of paté garnished with coarse grain dijon mustard, cornichons, a radish, a pickled onion, and toasted bread.

Next up was a plate of two of the largest Grilled Sardines that I have ever seen.

The man at the next table commented that the Sardines were more the size of baby trout. This course was garnished with a watercress salad. I've never tasted fresh sardines and, while I enjoyed the flavor of the fish, having to deal with removing the spine and watching out for small bones is not what I like to do when I eat fish. Guess I will leave this taste treat to others who have more courage than I do.

The main course was Lamb and Potato Stew with Olives and Orange...very tasty, very hearty.

Finally, for dessert was Chef Jaramillo's version of an Almond Dacquoise.

This was the only course that I did not enjoy and which I did not finish. It was more like a strawberry had fresh strawberries and some sort of marshmallow sauce and the plate was decorated with what was described as "velvet mocha sauce." The sauce tasted like coffee caramel with no hint of chocolate that would make it mocha flavored. I had a little chat with our server about the dessert, explaining that when I make Dacquoise, I have always used Julia Child's recipe. My understanding of this dessert is that it is made with large disks of almond meringue that are layered with whipped cream or buttercream filling. What we were served was not a Dacqoise. Meanwhile, J enjoyed his and ate every last drop.

A special selection of three wines was offered with the dinner ($23 for three 4-ounce pours). I would have loved to have had all three glasses of wine, but as designated driver, I opted for just one glass of the 2005 Bandol Rouge from Domaine Tempier, the wine that was paired with the Lamb Stew. It was delightufl. I am pretty sure most of Lalime's French and Italian wines are imported by Berkeley wine merchant Kermit Lynch.

Lalime's is the kind of restaurant where I'd love to dine about once a week. Its clientele is made up of neighborhood folk who do just that. Single diners and large groups are equally welcome and equally comfortable. The building itself looks like it once was a is comfortable and cozy and the staff is always friendly and efficient.

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