The second annual Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week kicked off with a bang with a Chef Collaboration Dinner on February 17 and continued for 10 delicious days.
Held at Sabio on Main in Pleasanton, the collaboration dinner sold out within days with 48 on the waiting list. Busy preparing, the four chefs beamed with energy for the launch event.
“The opportunity to work with three top chefs in my kitchen was special. The benefit for Open Heart Kitchen was an added reason to cook together,” said Sabio host chef Francis X. Hogan.
For chef Tullio Rosano, owner of the three Tri-Valley Locanda restaurants, dinner was an opportunity to mingle with other chefs. “I know Chef Eduardo Posada from Posada Restaurant because he stops at our new wine bar Locanda in Livermore, and I met Hogan and Chef Matt Greco from Salt Craft,” Rosano said.
At dinner, Erika Keene of Pleasanton said she knew the restaurants. “Eating from many of Tri-Valley’s top chefs in one evening is so unusual,” Keene added. “We enjoyed Posada’s sea bass ceviche and Sabio’s five-spice Liberty duck, and will also be trying other specialties from the restaurant’s weekly menu.”
Keene had an array of dining options — 32 restaurants with several partner wineries and two breweries participating in the event that lasted through Feb. 27. Sponsored by Visit Tri-Valley, Restaurant Week’s mission was to encourage locals to dine out and attract others to experience the many dining options in the organisation’s four member communities: Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Danville.
Menus ranged from American and Asian/Indian to Italian and Mexican. With lunch prices ranging from $15 to $25 and dinner prices from $35 to $50, restaurateurs said they aim to keep costs reasonable.
The Restaurant Week concept began 30 years ago in New York City, said Clark Wolf, founder of restaurant consultancy Clark Wolf Company. During a political convention, Clark added, “The restaurateur of Windows on The World and the Rainbow Room presented a week-long lunch special to give visitors an affordable taste of the city. spread for dinner, then spread nationwide to activate dinner interest in slow or difficult times.”
During the 10-day event in the Tri-Valley last week, Sabio was busy on weeknights in addition to weekends, according to Hogan.
“It felt like a renaissance of people dining in restaurants with friends and family as the pandemic subsided,” Hogan said.
Highlight food and drink
Leigh De La Torre, owner of De La Torre restaurant in Pleasanton, attended the inaugural event last year when only alfresco dining and takeout were available.
“Regulars and new guests dined this year. We added a winery partner after Larry Dino, owner of Cuda Ridge Wines in Livermore, contacted us. The majority of guests who chose the special menu also enjoyed the pairings food and wine that we have offered.” said De La Torre.
Serendipity is the Dino proprietary word used to describe the collaboration. “We dined at De La Torre several years ago and loved their food,” he said. “When I phoned Leigh, she insisted on bringing some not-so-common wines because she wanted her guests to try something new. Our signature wine is Cabernet Franc, which pairs well with beef and ricotta ravioli with marinara sauce.”
With three participating Locanda restaurants, Rosano customized the special menu by location.
“Since Locanda Wine Bar became a date night destination, we highlighted this angle with a shareable antipasto of meats, cheeses, fruits and nuts, then each guest chose an entree. With Locanda Ravello in Danville open since 2015, we highlighted customer favorites like Neapolitan stew with rigatoni and Margherita pizza,” Rosano said.
Bridges and The Vine and Spirits, two sister restaurants in Danville, also featured popular Restaurant Week menus.
Manager of both restaurants, Jeff Leiden noted Bridges’ best sellers were salmon and herb chicken. At the beverage-focused Vine and Spirits, a glass of wine was included with lunch for $20 and dinner for $50.
Many restaurants offered excellent prices for daily specials. Burma! Burma! in Dublin also served large portions.
According to managing partner Bradley Wills, almost a quarter of guests chose the special dinner for two menus with an appetizer, two entrees from the long list of seafood, chicken, lamb, pork, beef or vegetables plus two sides of rice. The meal prompted many take-out boxes.
Gobi Mongolian Grill in Pleasanton featured several value choices for lunch and dinner. At the restaurant, customers take a bowl, fill it with meat, vegetables and noodles. After passing the bowl to the chef to cook the ingredients on the grill, the guests then season their dish. Prices ranged from $20 for one medium dinner and one children’s dinner to the $50 option for four medium dinners.
bring the fun
Taste Tri-Valley also featured two members of the Tri-Valley Beer Trail, BottleTaps, the beer-focused restaurant in Pleasanton, and Shadow Puppet Brewing in Livermore. As a first-time participant, Shadow Puppet Brewing offered two events, a beer and food patio event and a three-hour “Beer Blending” experience.
“Beer Blending” on February 18 presented an unusual opportunity for guests to experiment with various mixers and unlimited beer from 24 taps to create personalized drinks. Shadow Puppet shared their “secret menu” for mixes such as the “Creamsicle” with their Cinch Vanilla Cream Ale and a Blood Orange IPA or Orange Soda.
BottleTaps held a two-hour beer judging event and a five-course “Foods around the World: Beer versus Wine” dinner that quickly sold out. Owner Eric Wall and Heather McGrail, owner of winery partner McGrail Vineyards, hosted a second dinner.
“We’re excited to be sharing wine pairings at full tables again,” said McGrail, who admitted she didn’t like beer until she partnered with Wall for these events. .
After each course, guests voted for their favorite pairing, McGrail’s wine or BottleTaps-selected beer.
California inspired the first dish prepared by the chef of BottleTaps, Andre Muller: crostini with date jam and Mont Tam fondue accompanied by McGrail Chardonnay or Chimay Red Belgian Dubbel. At the first service, guests voted for beer; in the second, the wine largely prevailed. The second course of Polynesian-style ceviche was a victory for McGrail’s Peyton Page Sauvignon Blanc over a hazy IPA.
The Asian noodle salad with edamame surprised everyone – the winning McGrail Merlot is usually paired with meat.
Keene also attended the BottleTaps “Foods around the World: Beer versus Wine” dinner and confessed that she was not a beer drinker. Still, she voted for the Flemish Red Sour Ale paired with the main course of coq au vin rather than the Cabernet Sauvignon.
“The delicious sour beer pairing completely surprised me. The event was a lot of fun,” she said.
With restaurant and beverage partners eager to try new pairings and special events, Robin Fahr, Vice President of Visit Tri-Valley, plans to continue Taste Tri-Valley as an annual event. Stay tuned for more local food and wine adventures next winter.