all photos by Christina Mitchell. tapas at Barlata
The folks behind Battledish and Canvas Underground teamed up to create a completely unique food experience: Canvas Dishcrawl. It's a 4 course meal at 4 different restaurants, kind of a taste of what Oakland has to offer. I planned to have a light lunch so I would be able to adequately sample all of the dishes. Unfortunately, my lunch was a little too light so I was a little too hungry when the event began.
A group of 25 people met at Barlata Tapas Bar, the first stop of our adventure. We snacked on assorted hot and cold tapas: Jamon Iberico, Ceviche and Morcilla (grilled blood sausage). The one that stood out, however, was the Boquerones: fresh anchovies with slices of pear and Idiazabal cheese on top of toasted bread. It was slightly sweet, tangy, salty and crunchy - all in the same bite. With my empty stomach, it was hard to say no when the Dishcrawl crew kept circulating with platter after platter of Spanish delicacies.
To get to our second stop, we walked down Telegraph Avenue to Burma Superstar, sat down and started chatting. A Dishcrawl staffer nonchalantly gave some very valuable advice: pace yourself. At that exact moment, dishes started parading out of the kitchen and I told myself to slow down if I wanted to make it through the night. The first plate to arrive at our table was the tea leaf salad I'd heard so much about. The server expertly listed all of the ingredients (check out the video), and then gently mixed everything together tableside. The romaine confetti was lightly dressed, but I couldn't dig in like I wanted to because I don't do peanuts. A few minutes later, another server delivered a big bowl of Vegetarian Samusa Soup. With cabbage, falafels and samosas throughout, this dish was the perfect representation of the influence of other cuisines on Burmese food.
We had to drive a couple miles to the final destination of the night: a private residence in Oakland. As I walked up to the house, I immediately noticed the intoxicating aroma of the third dish: Primo's Parilla. The Argentine asado wasn't quite ready, so I took the opportunity to talk to the chef, who was in the backyard grilling. Javier Sandes was slow-grilling free range chicken and grass fed tri-tip. And by slow-grilling, I mean sloooooow. Javier put whole chickens and steak, seasoned only with salt, pepper and lemon, on the grill more than hour before we arrived. Javier takes the all natural approach and uses almondwood and mesquite, no charcoal or chemicals. As he passionately spoke about his food, his years of restaurant experience were apparent as he used his chef's knife to swiftly break down chicken after juicy chicken. After a few more minutes, compostable to-go containers were passed around with portions of the chicken and tri-tip inside, as well as a flaky chicken empanada and garlicky chimichurri sauce.
At this point, I was stuffed and started to get worried I wouldn't be able to finish this marathon of a meal. But, I didn't have to worry long because the Canvas Underground portion of the night was about to commence. Traditionally, local artists and food artisans are part of their monthly dinners, and this was no exception. Brad Barton, "The Reality Thief" was the guest for the night and provided a much needed break from all that food. Brad did some card tricks, but he's so much more than a magician. He's an expert in the art of persuasion. After getting volunteers to offer objects like a phone, watch, lighter and chapstick, he announced could make me choose one of them. Well, long story short, he somehow coerced me into choosing the watch, and then proved to everyone that it was, in fact, the object he wanted me to choose. While it was fun, he definitely freaked me out, and I kinda sorta avoided him the rest of the night.
Chef Peter Jackson must be a mind reader too, because he sent out strawberry tangerine shortcakes just as I started to wonder about dessert. Quartered sweet-tart berries and citrus segments were dressed in fresh strawberry puree and then nestled in a split scone with a dollop of whipped cream. If you ask me, it was a pretty good way to end the night.