As featured in Bay Area Bites, September 23, 2009.
The last rays of sun warmed my shoulders as I drank in the waterfront views, sailboats bobbing happily beneath a hillside of pretty pastel homes, and made my way to a charming trattoria spilling out onto the sidewalk. A leisurely seafood supper awaited me, complete with crisp white wine, homemade pasta, and hospitality as warm as the balmy breezes floating in from the wide-flung doors. Was I in Capri? Positano? Close. Sausalito.
Located below Sausalito’s landmark Casa Madrona, Italian trattoria Poggio seems like the perfect place to milk the remnants of an Indian summer.
I was invited to do just that at last week’s Festa del Pesce, a celebration of local seafood during the last days of summer. On the menu was a selection of mostly local and sustainable fish served raw, cured, marinated, oak grilled, wood fire roasted and fried.
Speaking of which, the pesce at hand.
The evening’s special menu consisted of five Crudo (raw/marinated/cured) and five Cotto (grilled/braised/fried) seafood antipasti, along with two whole-fish preparations – oak grilled Branzino with cherry tomato confit and broccoli rabe; Snapper baked in sea salt, with lemon, arugula and young green beans – and a Risotto ai Frutti di Mare with scallop, shrimp, mussels, clams, saffron and tomato.
For me, the most special dish was the stuffed Monterey Calamari braised in its own ink. The flavor was so unique – rich and earthy (in a sea-faring kind of way). There was something…visceral about eating this dish. But, don’t disturb yourself by getting too psychoanalytic here. Just dig in and enjoy the utter deliciousness.
Also of note was the wood-grilled local Swordfish Spiedini (skewers) served over slightly charred, tender radicchio. The swordfish was screamingly fresh, tender, almost buttery, and the accompanying bagna cauda was perfectly garlicky and anchovy-y.
The Mussels cooked in paper were like a magic trick, as the translucent package was cut open tableside. Inside, we were rewarded with succulent gem-like mussels, sweet as could be.
On the crudo end, Chef Peter did a phenomenal job highlighting two very under-appreciated fish: sardines and anchovies. Our table decided the poor things just needed some good PR, because oooh they are tasty! Anyone have a new sexy name we can instate?
We veered off our pescetarian diet to indulge in some of the prized house-made guanciale (cured pork cheeks). The perfect vehicle to highlight that deeply porcine flavor? Spaghetti alla Carbonara, naturally. Not for the faint of heart, this dish is a serious calorie bomb. It left a little too much lard flavor and mouthfeel for my taste, but I could appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making it. I was also pleasantly surprised by how much the aroma reminded me of Chinese lap cheung (cured sausage) when the dish was set in front of me.
Just the thing to refresh my taste buds before dessert, a sparkling glass of this delightful Prosecco Moscato from Carpene Malvolti. Our sommelier was jazzed about sharing this beauty, and at the first sip, I understood why. A perfect harmony is struck here between the light fruitiness of the Prosecco and the flowery notes of the Moscato. Flavors of apricot and orange blossom danced in my mouth as I savored each bubble.
You’d think we’d be stuffed to the brim after such a feast, but there is always room for dessert. This Lemon Mousse was just what I wanted after this big meal, with its citrus punch and light-as-air texture. And the homemade meringues and toasted pistachios on top were the perfect touch. I love the flavor combination of lemon and pistachios. It is pure Italian sunshine to me.
Lucky us, Chef Peter McNee was kind enough to share his recipe! Perfect for dinner parties too because you can make all the components ahead of time.
And here’s another bonus tidbit, just cause. Apparently Poggio is quite the hub of celeb sightings…Pierce Brosnan, Huey Lewis, Carlos Santana…who by the way was dining steps away from me! I hear he’s a fan of the Bistecca here 🙂
With a good citrus punch and light-as-air texture, this dessert is perfect after a big meal. Plus, I just love the flavor combination of lemon and pistachios. It is pure Italian sunshine to me.
- 7 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Zest of 1-2 lemons
- 3 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup egg whites
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup pistachios
- Combine all the ingredients, except the butter, in a mixing bowl. Place over a pot of boiling water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and whisk until curd sets up thick. Whip constantly so that your eggs don’t curdle. Remove from heat.
- Add butter, continue mixing. Pass through a fine mesh strainer or sieve. Pour into a container, placing a sheet of plastic wrap over the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill overnight. The lemon curd will stay fresh refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- Preheat oven to 100 degrees F. Whip egg whites with a mixer. Before soft peaks form, add the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Using a pastry bag, pipe the meringue into .5 inch diameter lines, onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake the meringues for 3 hours, or until they are crispy and without any color.
- Can be made a few days ahead of time, but must be wrapped airtight once cooled to prevent them from being soggy.
- Lightly toast and chop pistachios. Whip cream to stiff peaks. Combine the lemon curd and whipped cream, folding the two together until homogeneous. Place one half tablespoon of pistachios into each of the glasses. Using a star tipped pastry bag, pipe the lemon mousse into each of the glasses. At this point the mousse may be refrigerated up to 3 days once covered. Before serving, garnish each with the remaining pistachios and broken pieces of crispy meringue.
Recipe courtesy of Peter McNee, Executive Chef of Poggio.
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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Sausalito, CA 94965