What is Bottarga and why do you want somePosted by Ben Garfinkel on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Tags for this Article: bottarga, bourbon and branch, cask, four barrel coffee, la ciccia, san francisco, spaghetti bottarga, Tartine
Two Foodists flying to a new city ready to eat is a little like dangling a raw side of beef in front of a hungry tiger…
Last week fellow Foodist founder Mark Busse and I headed to a conference in San Francisco. A quick tweet or two and we had a list of places we had to hit to eat, drink and otherwise destroy our svelte figures with. On short notice we were having some trouble getting into Delfina, a fave, but in the mood for something Italian and delicious we forced the lovely co-contributor to Foodists, Pailin Chongchitnan to pick a place and meet us there. And pick she did!
A relatively quick car ride later we were at the chef’s table at La Ciccia, a family run Sardinian restaurant, in the good hands of our server, Petra.
When you skydive you stand at the door of the plane, then jump. What happens next isn’t really in your control and you have to give into the experience. That’s precisely what we did this night, and the reason why we took no photos and turned off our instincts to record and document. But, as it is in parachuting, it’s also great when things go your way: I’d spotted something on the menu that looked very appealing, Spaghittus cun Bottarga (Spaghetti with Bottarga), but did not order it. We let our server decide our meal. Clearly the planets were aligned since this dish arrived as if divined by the universe.
Bottarga, it turns out, is the salted, cured roe of the mullet fish. In this simple dish of olive oil, garlic and parsley, it’s cooked into the oil as well as shaved onto the top in lieu of Parmesan. It also makes the whole thing float about six inches off the table it’s that good. The neat little wrapped bundle of spaghetti was plated off-center on the dish. Maybe on purpose, to give the ethereal umami some room?
Needless to say, the rest of the meal was also remarkable, including the well-matched wines, also selected for us. I half-joked about another order of the Bottarga for dessert. Four days later, while comparing highlights, Mark and I were both still thinking about this dish. Turns out he was just as into a second helping as I’d been, but gave way to the cerebral pulses instructing him to move along to dessert. Oh well.
I asked Petra about where one gets mullet roe and she led me to believe it was terribly difficult to locate and I’d have no luck short of a trip to the Old Country. Seems though, that it might actually be available here at La Grotta del Formaggio on the Drive. I will check shorty and report back. I asked for the recipe and she replied, “It’s just garlic, olive oil and bottarga”. I took this as a casual ‘you can’t really have the recipe’ response, but you know what, I found it. One their own website! Yes, yes, here’s the La Cuccia recipe for this sublime dish:
Spaghittus cun Bottarga (Spaghetti with Bottarga)
Boil a pan of water with a pinch of salt on it, when the water is boiling add the spaghetti, While the pasta is cooking in another pan sauté the garlic and then remove it from the pan, remove the pan with the oil from the stove and stir in half of the Bottarga, when the pasta is cooked drain the water and add to the pan with the oil and the bottarga, mix in the rest of the Bottarga and the parsley. (Eat immediately)…..Great with Vermentino.
You’ll have to use your instincts for the proportions, but I’m guessing you can base it on a recipe for Spaghetti Aglio Olio, or use this other recipe for Bottarga I found online.
Pailin, you are as beautiful as your choice in restaurants.
Speaking of which, despite no less than six people tweet back that we had to go to Tartine, we tried, but opted to catch our plane rather than wait 30+ minutes in the line snaking out the door and down the sidewalk. We did however, make it to Bourbon and Branch for a cocktail and the most fabulous, kid-in-a-candy-store fine spirits store ever, Cask. Love their tagline: Artisanal Beverage Purveyors! Literally, floor to ceiling and wall to wall lined with brands and bottles we can only dream about buying in Vancouver. Last stop was Four Barrel for a coffee and chocolate star anise donut. Then, sadly, airplane food.