The month of October was Epicure SB; a “month to savor” said the brochure. I went to a number of the events last year, especially the free or inexpensive ones. This year, I wasn’t able to go to many, or maybe the events fell outside my radar, but I did attend a couple of them.
Ca’Dario offered a lunch special for the event, Monday-Saturday, and I attended the final day it was available. Their special was a choice of insalata, choice of pasta, a glass of wine, and a coffee with almond biscotti. There were five options each for the first and second courses, and a choice of Brander Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc for the wine. Cost: $25.
This was the menu available:
There were two of us, and we opted for the fava bean salad, and the octopus salad, and ordered a glass each of the white and red wine to pair respectively. We also got a basket of ciabatta and a little bowl of olive oil lightly infused with fresh rosemary.
I’ve only eaten the warm octopus salad once before at a different Italian restaurant, coincidentally that was when I happened to sit next to a chef participating in Epicure SB last year, which turned me on to the whole event. Ca’Dario’s octopus had a lot more octopus and in very big chunks! Much slicing and dicing was needed to bring them down to bite size pieces. Chewy, too. This was a much bigger starter than I was expecting. The extra ciabatta came in handy to soak up the extra juices.
On the other side of the table, the fava bean salad was very fresh looking and tasting, and a portion more like I was expecting. The beans were lightly cooked, shelled, and a delight to eat, paired with the salami and pecorino. Both were good – one was better for a bigger eater, while the other was for a lighter eater. We did completely finish these courses.
Next came the pastas. My dining companion got the fregola pasta with clams and sausage. We didn’t even know what fregola was, but they turn out to be these dainty little pasta balls, about the size of peas. Our waitress said they were handmade, but I have no idea how they were done. Any ideas? The dish was good, but one ingredient not mentioned on the menu was garlic, and lots of it. Just look at one average spoonful of the dish, with all the garlic. I believe there was a whole head of lightly cooked garlic sliced into this one serving of pasta, adding some heat to the dish, and post-meal dragon breath for us. It’s okay! We like garlic. Maybe our friends, not so much. The Italian salami was great, as were the delicate little clams that were in the dish.
I got the pasta with the black squid ink sauce. This portion seemed big, and very black. It gave me black/purple zombie lips, which I could vaguely get away with on a Halloween weekend, but still – wiping with a napkin after every bite was required. So glad I happened to be wearing a black shirt, too. Swirling the strands of pasta on a fork could have whipped some drops of sauce off into space and onto my shirt. For those curious about how squid ink tastes, well, it seemed a little salty, and maybe a little smokey, and there was probably also some garlic added. The ink sauce was quite thick, and even with some rings of calamari added to the dish, it wasn’t fishy – at least not in a bad way. If the opportunity arises again, I would order a squid ink dish, but only if I’m wearing a dark shirt.
Wrapping up with a coffee and biscotti was great. I love biscotti and don’t make it enough at home. We dunked the cookies in our coffees, listened to the people around us chattering in Italian, marveled at some of the luscious desserts being served at other tables, and then got on with the rest of our day.
Looking over the menu posted at Ca’Dario’s website, it doesn’t look like these dishes are available on a regular basis, which is a pity, but that’s what made October that “month to savor” according to Epicure. I hope next year is just as good.
Epicure SB website: www.santabarbaraca.com/epicuresb