The wait is over. Contigo has finally opened.
It took Brett Emerson two years to build the restaurant of his dreams in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. He shared the long process, from his original inspiration (on a trip to Spain, of course) through the long construction phase to the final result that is Contigo on his blog In Praise Of Sardines. He first came to our attention here in Berkeley when we noticed him repeatedly shopping for large quantities of clay cazuelas in various sizes. Knowing that where one sees cazuelas, good food often follows, we waited patiently for his efforts to bear fruit. That patience (on our part as well as Brett’s) has paid off as Contigo is now up and running, serving excellent food inspired by Chef Emerson’s Iberian experiences.
Now open seven nights a week, Contigo serves a well chosen selection of hot and cold appetizers, several larger dishes and a mostly Spanish selection of wines . The small dishes include fresh seasonal vegetables (asparagus and fava beans – and leaves – are currently featured), seafood (fried anchovies, local squid cooked in their own ink) and several more meaty choices (ox tail croquetas, pork belly bocadillos). From the wood burning oven come a few pizza-like flat breads and several main course sized meat and seafood dishes cooked in those clay cazuelas we love so well. Paired with a glass of dry Manzanilla Sherry, a bubbly Cava or a rich Vino Tinto the food at Contigo evokes the traditional flavors of Spain coupled with Brett Emerson’s skill and imagination.
Happily, the public embrace of Contigo has been immediate. Amanda Gold’s review in The San Francisco Chronicle came out today so expect even larger than usual crowds (my strategy at present is to go after the dinner rush on Monday when the wait is minimal – wait, why am I telling you this? That’s supposed to be my little secret!).
In Berkeley we are currently seeing new vintages of some trusty favorites as well as trying an experiment in wine packaging.
In response to the overwhelming popularity of Capote Velho Tinto I am now carrying the same wine in the economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size. While I am confident that the wine in the bottle is identical to the wine in the box (I tasted both the bottle and the box versions side by side to make sure the same flavors carried over from one to the other), only time will tell if you, our customers, are willing to set aside preconceptions about ‘box wine’ and give this a try. The combination of low price and high quality makes the decision pretty simple.
Also coming in this week is the new supply of Basque apple cider (Sagardo!) that many of you have been waiting for as well as our short lived annual allotment of Txakoli Rosado. Additionally, this week we have a couple of new reds from unique grapes, including a new Mencía from Bierzo as well as a new Prieto Picudo from the newly created Tierra de León region.
In response to the numerous inquiries regarding Tapaswalk (a wine and food class/walking tour that winds its way through downtown San Francisco stopping in at several of the Spanish styled restaurants that are shaking up the local dining scene) I have created a summer long schedule that should give everybody time to pick a date that works for you.
I will be offering Tapaswalk every other week on alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting May 27th. The Tuesday classes will be on June 9th, July 7th, August 4th, September 1st, September 29th and October 27th. The Wednesday classes will be on May 27th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 19th, September 16th, September 30th and October 14th.
The classes all start at 6 pm and last approximately 2 hours. The cost is $65 per person. More details can be found here. Reservations should be made via email at salondelvino(at)gmail(dot)com.
Capote Velho 5 Liter ‘Bag in Box’ My original review of this wine said “What A bargain! This non-vintage red wine from who knows where in Portugal has absolutely no pedigree but really delivers on freshness and versatility. This wine possesses gentle berry-like fruit character and moderate tannins coupled with a moderate level of alcohol (11.5%). Like a no name house wine in a little Portuguese bar or restaurant, this red tastes great by itself and will also accompany, but not overshadow, a broad range of foods.” We now offer this same wine in the more economical, environmentally friendly ‘Bag in Box’ size that contains five full liters of wine for $6.00 per liter (equals $4.00 per regular 750ml bottle). The pour spigot keeps the air out, maintaining the freshness of the wine for as long as it takes to finish the whole thing. $29.99
Isastegi Sidra 2008 The new vintage of Isastegi has arrived and , hey, the price is better this year! This tart, yeasty hard apple cider is a refreshingly different drink to accompany a full range of pintxos (Basque tapas). Try it with sizzling chorizo from the grill or bacon wrapped dates. $8.99
Ameztoi Rubentis 2008 It appears but once a year and now is the moment. The dry, crisp Txakoli wine from Basque country is rarely found in the rosado version. The abundantly mineral Txakoli style is supplemented with pale pink color and the barest whiff of tart strawberry. Pour this one when the weather is hot and experience true refreshment. $19.99
Guitian Sobre Lias 2005 This is my current favorite white wine at Daniel Olivella’s Barlata in Oakland. Made in the Valdeorras region from the local Godello grape, this wine spent several months ageing on its lees (the skins, pulp and sediment from the wine making process) to give an added note of yeasty complexity to the gentle, white peach and melon fruit character. $11.99
Castro De Valtuille Mencía Joven 2006 This unoaked young wine from the Bierzo region was, in previous vintages, called Castro Ventosa. Newly repackaged, this fresh young red displays the typical Mencía style in an unadorned, pure version. Twiggy, dried leaf aroma adds intrigue to the cranberry/pomegranate fruit character and underlying minerality. White beans and chorizo would make a good match here. $14.99
Preto Tinto 2007 Tierra de León is one of Spain’s newest wine regions. One of the unique local grapes of this region is Prieto Picudo, a fruity, high acid variety that was almost extinct before efforts in this region to recuperate the variety. Preto Tinto is dark garnet colored with leafy Mencía-like aroma, flinty minerality and mulberry fruit character. This unoaked wine expresses the Prieto Picudo grape in a pure, unadulterated form (this is the same producer as the Preto Rosado mentioned a few weeks ago). $21.99