August 5 this year is National Oyster Day, so we ditched our original dinner plans and went out to San Francisco for Hog & Rocks, a poppin’ joint with a broad variety of oysters and pork dishes. Instead of picking a few entrees, we decided to try multiple appetizer-like plates, so that we could sample as many hogs, rocks, and other treats as possible. Considering it was National Oyster Day today, we were surprised when we arrived around 6 pm, still within Happy Hour, and few tables were taken. By the time we left, though, the place was packed and bustling.
Nearly half of the menu covers beverages, so we had to try at least one specialty cocktail. Zach enjoyed sipping a glass of prosecco, while August was immediately drawn to the “Smoker’s Delight,” a delicious take on an Old Fashioned. Laphroaig single malt scotch, aged ten years, plus Tempus Fugit creme de cacao and bitters, equaled liquid warmth.
Ah, the reason we came. The Happy Hour oysters are only $1 each; at that price it was hard to pass up a dozen. There were six other oysters available, so we got one of each including Black Point, Beausoleil, and Kusshi, among others. Savor the variety and try them with a squirt of lemon, a spoon of of mignonette, or two drops of the chef and his brother’s Youks hot sauce.
Ordering the BBQ oysters will get you a plate of three large, succulent, warm oysters with a dash of mild cocktail sauce. The verdant sauce was an herb butter, which added creaminess and an earthy taste to an otherwise maritime bite. August’s eyes lit up for an “OMG” moment when she had her first one, declaring that it may be her new favorite oyster style.
Also in a trio came decadent deviled eggs. What set these apart from the standard potluck deviled eggs were the hunks of smoky, salty country ham and fried oysters. The filling was supremely rich and creamy with a very gentle spiciness – the spice was more flavor than heat. Bridging together the two ingredients of the restaurant’s name, the oyster/ham juxtaposition nestled on each egg worked well, both in texture and flavor. The crisp and crunchy oyster had a cornmeal crust, offsetting the smooth egg. In Zach’s words, these deviled eggs were “the best hands down ever.”
Not many people realize that “pickle” refers to a process, not a particular food. We’ve become accustomed in American English to referring to pickled cucumbers as pickles themselves, but we forget that any vegetable can be pickled. Here we had an assortment with fresh garlic, beet, fennel, carrot, Romano bean, chard, and classic bread and butter pickle. Zach has never been a fan of bread and butter pickles, but he really enjoyed these – they were sweet but not grotesquely so, as he often finds them to be.
Hardcore ham hounds cannot pass up this spread. A sampling of three fine hams from across the globe were each paired with their own special garnish. Suryanno ham from Virginia (top right) came with thin slices of juicy melon; salty and sweet can’t get much better than ham and melon, especially if the ham is lightly smoky and melts in your mouth. Spanish jamón serrano (bottom right) got a sprinkling of candied almonds, inedible for Zach but a delight for August. It had a similar mouthfeel as the Suryanno but was not as smoky. Prosciutto from Italy was topped with house-made ricotta cheese, and like truly artisan ricotta, the cheese was flavorless. All that ricotta should do is provide a creamy cloud-like texture, and this one did its job just right, highlighting the least smoky and most tender of these three little pigs.
It’s not easy to bring a vegetarian here, we imagine. Even the fries come either spiced or with an egg yolk glaze. We went for the glaze, which evenly coated the hand-cut fries. Crispy, fresh, and steamy, a dip of ketchup was all that was needed to make these pretty tempting.
Hog & Rocks prides itself on sourcing locally and supporting neighbors whenever possible, so Firebrand of Oakland provides the delicious pretzels for this appetizer. It was very soft and chewy, but substantial enough to support gobs of rich pimento cheese. Its flavor was that of a basic mild cheddar, but with a sweet pimento pepper essence. The cheese was smooth, creamy, and plentiful – there was more cheese than we could smear on the pretzel, so we tried it on the fries, as well (and it’s not bad).
A beef bone was split and prepared with pickled blackberry, pearl onion, and fresh dill. Buttery toast points were hard enough for us to spread the marrow like it itself was butter. The tangy pickled blackberries and pearl onions contributed a layer of flavor that made the marrow more sumptuous that it already is by nature. After eating this, there’s no need for lip balm for a week.
The plate that we agreed was the most impressive was the Trotter Tots. Their texture and flavor were identical to tater tots and pork cracklins, as if they were engineered by Jeff Goldblum. Shredded pork, smoky and salty, was mixed with tender, fluffy potatoes, then formed into balls to be fried and served on a juniper-pine aioli. We have some inspiration now for something to do for a future football party, like the Big Game (coincidentally August and Zach’s anniversary) or next year’s Superbowl. These hogtied potato bites are sure to disappear fast at an event like that.
A full bar and a few TVs mean this is a good place to catch a sports match, but it is equally ideal for a nice date night; we saw many people here tonight for both reasons. Even with all that we sampled, there was so much more on the menu that we’d like to give a chance to. You can bet that we will be back, for dinner again or maybe for a weekend brunch. We’re curious to see what a Hog & Rocks morning meal would be like.
Yesterday we featured The Source Hot Sauce as the first product in our new Intense Heat category, so before we delay too much, we wanted to test it in a recipe. With a rating of 7.1 million Scoville units, this is an extract that must be handled with extreme care.
Makes 1 half-gallon Mason jar‘s worth of pickled vegetables
4 cups of water
2 cups of vinegar
1 bunch of carrots
1 bunch of radishes
1 bunch of asparagus
4 habanero peppers
1 jalapeño pepper
2 Serrano peppers
4 peeled garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh dill weed
6 tbs. of kosher salt
1 tsp. of celery seeds
1 tsp. of coriander seeds
1 tsp. of rainbow mixed peppercorns
1 tsp. of yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. of The Source
To clean the tongs, Mason jar and lid, even if brand new, boil in water to sterilize. It may not completely boil, but the temperature of the water needs to reach at least 180-190 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Refrain from touching the inside of the jar, the lid, or the cleaned part of the tongs – the whole point is to keep them sterilized – so you may want to use rubber gloves when handling.
Clean, wash, and trim any unwanted stocks off the vegetables. Split the peppers lengthwise. Blanch the peeled garlic cloves and asparagus (in separate pots; the asparagus requires 3 minutes while the garlic needs 4 minutes). Use the 4 cups of water in the ingredients list specifically for blanching the garlic, as you will use this for the recipe. Blanching the asparagus draws out unnecessary minerals and solubles so you will not want to use the asparagus water after blanching.
After blanching the vegetables, shock the asparagus in an ice bath to prevent further cooking and retain the bright color. Transfer the asparagus and the garlic with the sterilized tongs to the Mason jar. Add vinegar, salt, and The Source to the garlic blanching water and bring back to a simmer for 7-8 minutes to ensure that all of the salt is dissolved and the extract is infused into the pickling solution.
Along with the garlic and asparagus in the Mason jar, also add the vegetables, dill weed sprigs, seeds and spices. Pour pickling solution over the vegetables, then cool the jar in a water bath before moving to the refrigerator.
Refrigerate at least 2-3 weeks before consuming so as to let the pickling solution do its job; it will keep for 4 months.
We drove by Beauty’s Bagel Shop yesterday and August noticed the memorable name. We tried it for brunch today and met four spirited crew members, including co-owner Amy. She and her partner Blake, originally from Philadelphia PA, have been running this quaint and very popular shop for only around seven months, but with such great consistency and customer service, you’d think they had been around for ten years.
Spunky Danielle took our order, and invited us to check out the kitchen. There we met Jake who was running the wood-fired oven today (normally Blake’s job but he was out ill today) and Arezki, impressively rolling bagels at the speed of two men.
We began with an order of deviled eggs (two halves). The yolk filling was creamy, mildly spicy, and very refreshing with a hint of lemon to add zing. The whites were very tender and succulent. For how simple it was, each half was a satisfying bite.
This potato salad was great in texture and flavor. It was slightly rich with tender potatoes, but no mushiness. There was some zip and tang, yet it wasn’t heavy on the mustard nor was it overloaded with other unnecessary ingredients like bacon and celery.
Danielle said the assortment of housemade pickles was popular, so we had to try it for ourselves. Cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, beets, and mushrooms as the main ingredients each married with the pickling juice differently to draw out different spices, but none of it was spicy hot. All of the veggies were clearly at the peak of freshness when pickled.
August saw something different on the menu and had to order it. The breakfast bagels come with egg and cheddar cheese, but one of the options to add on is chicken scrapple. Scrapple is an East Coast, or rather Pennsylvania favorite, usually made of pork scraps, corn meal, and wheat flour. Here at Beauty’s, however, it is made with chicken thighs, hearts, and livers. It had a great crunchy sear from the griddle on the outside while being incredibly soft and savory inside. The eggs were tender and fluffy, and the cheese was gooey and rich. Bagels are “Montreal-style,” meaning they are hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, and then wood-fired to provide a hint of sweet and a touch of smoke. Tender on the inside with a thin, crisp crust, these are great bagels for sandwiches. The coffee brewed and served here is Flying Goat from Healdsburg.
The chicken served here is organic, as are the ingredients for their bagels. Additionally, they try to source organic vegetables and produce, like the fresh-squeezed oranges for juice that Zach says was “so fresh it was like eating an orange picked straight from the tree.” The chicken in his bagel sandwich was very flavorful and juicy, and its crust was flaky and crispy in the most delicious way. There was a blend of spices in the creamy beet coleslaw that was tangy and mildly spicy, but the heat stays in your mouth without traveling down to burn your throat. It helps that the beet backdrop is slightly sweet. The salt and pepper bagel is a great choice for this particular sandwich. We might not have tried too many restaurants in Oakland yet, but Zach says this is the best fried chicken sandwich we’ve found on Telegraph so far.
We are looking forward to our next visit. We want to get some plain bagels so that we can try some of the tempting spreads – Sierra Nevada cream cheese, honey butter, and almond butter, to name a few. We’re sure everything is amazing.