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The ongoing weekly saga of very good things to eat in the Bay Area. 

Gilda at Aataxe

Gilda at Aataxe 

 

After Marla Bakery discontinued its regular dinner service earlier this year, it kicked off Wood Oven Wednesdays, a weekly dinner prepared predominately within the confines of the wood oven that dominates the restaurant's open kitchen. Given that the place turns out some of the best bread in the city, it's no surprise that its flatbread is one of the very best things to emerge from that oven. This week, one of its three permutations came dressed with peach chutney, endive, spring onions, and fiore sardo, a raw sheep's milk cheese that traditionally hails from Sardinia. Taken together, the toppings formed a salty-sweet-bitter trinity that made for exceptionally good mastication. I'd never before encountered chutney, let alone peach chutney, on flatbread, but now that I have, I hope to do so again soon. As for the crust, it was indeed flat, but puffy in all the right places and delivered with just enough char to keep things honest.

Earlier this week I hit up Aatxe, where, nestled among the pintxos, there lies the gilda, perhaps the most iconic member of the Basque pintxo canon. It's a very simple thing, just an anchovy, a couple of guindilla peppers, and a couple of manzanilla olives, arrayed in such a way to very roughly mimic the curves Rita Hayworth displayed almost 70 years ago as Gilda, but its pleasures are profound. Although Aatxe does far more complicated food very well, it's always the gilda that I come back to, in part because they're so easy to eat that it's hard to stop eating them, in part because it says Bilbao with such clarity, and in part because the only thing better than an anchovy is an anchovy whose salty, meaty virtues are complemented by a shot of heat and a dash of brine.

In a dining era where restaurants keep trying to out-NorCal themselves, Gaspar Brasserie is a refreshing anomaly, a place that wears its Gallic identity with unequivocal pride. There are few things you can eat in this town that are more unabashedly French than Gaspar's plate of crudites, an assortment of radishes (heirloom radishes, specifically, because we are still in San Francisco) served whole and sliced thin, a few leaves of mache, and a little pot of anchovy butter. The radishes are cold and crisp, the mache is pretty but unobtrustive, and the anchovy butter has a satisfying fishy funk to it. C'est superb, purement et simplement.

 

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