I’ve already talked about how good I think Chiaroscuro is on The Cured Ham a couple of times. I'm amazed how little coverage Chiaroscuro gets from the Bay Area food scene, especially for how authentic and consistent it is. I have a special place in my heart for pasta and I feel confident that Chef Alessandro will cook better pasta than I can most nights. I’m sure Chef has off nights, but my birthday dinner was not one of them. And considering Chef's Mother was also in the kitchen, everything had to be good.
I’ve attached the meal as presented that evening. On the cheese plate, a cherry leaf wrapped goat cheese from Basilicata was the standout. A house cured lamb prosciutto had a punch of pepper to it that was unexpected. The desserts that evening were a raisin gelato (that had absolutely no chewy raisins in it), strawberry shortcake, and profiteroles. The profiteroles a.k.a. cream puffs, had nearly the same density, texture, and softness as my Italian Grandmother’s. And yes, both pasta dishes were outstanding. The rigatoni was challenging to the palate with one secret ingredient (which we had to ask Chef about. He was being sneaky about that addition and no I'm not divulging it here).
What I didn’t plan for that evening was a special look inside La Folie. One of my cousins is close to Chef Passot. I was allowed to view kitchen operations at the height of service. Basically a step away from the pass, as I watched Chef inspect and arrange nearly every dish. The kitchen is small, efficient, and very busy. No room for idle chit chat, only communication about their stations and timing. What a delight to watch.
After service was over, Chef sat with my cousin, a good friend, and me for nearly 45 minutes. We talked about food of course, but also family, travel, and living in the Bay Area. Chef suddenly became another friend at the table. Way cool. Chef Passot was extremely generous with his time.
I couldn’t have had a better birthday. Welcome to 40 years on Planet Earth.