Barlata

 In one of Abraham Lincoln’s anecdotes, he tell this tale:  Upon being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, the gentleman was reputed to have said: “If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I would just as soon walk.”
That’s kind of what being on the board of a non-profit is like.  It sounds glamorous, but it mostly consists of donating time, money and effort to some cause with very little recompense.  Still, it seems like the thing to do when asked, and that’s how Gail got on the board of the Ruth Bancroft Garden.
All of this builds up to the party we are hosting next month (Saturday, May 14th)–an evening of Spanish delight in the garden, which was offered to all comers at $75/person and we have 40 or so takers.  Still room for more if you want to have a fun night with music and tapas and sangria and art, benefiting a world class garden right here in Walnut Creek.
Where this is going is that tonight we went to dinner at Barlata, an authentic Spanish Tapas bar in the Temescal district of Oakland, 4900 Telegraph Avenue.  We were scouting dishes and wines and atmosphere to make out party a smash, along with Becky Rice, director of the garden, and her husband of 1 year and 1 week, John.
It looks like a Spanish bar, with relatively rough wooden tables, including a large community table that seats 14 or 16 and is filled with random people as the opportunity arises.  The menu is written on the wall in chalk as well as printed, although it doesn’t seem to change very often.

A flight of gazpacho, including the rare and delightful white one.

Gail will often have a flight of wine, three shorter glasses of differing varieties.  Barlata is the only place I can get a flight of soup–three utterly different versions of gazpacho, including the white one which is made with almonds instead of tomato.

Piquillo peppers stuffed with shrimp and white asparagus

The stuffed Piquillo peppers are a treasure–they aren’t the least bit hot, the filling is creamy and cheesy, the plate is beautiful.
The bread plate comes with a ramekin of oil mixed with ground olives and anchovies.  People think anchovies will be fishy tasting, but they aren’t .  They just give depth and richness to the flavor.  Gail never enjoys oil on her bread, tonight she had 3 slices.
No Spanish restaurant could function without a paella, the classic dish of rice and whatever else is in the house.  We chose the Arrroz Caçadora, rice with chicken, rabbit, pancetta and mushrooms–although I had them hold the mushrooms, of course.  We ended up scraping the bottom of the pan for the crispy bits, it was that good.
The wine was Spanish.  It was consumed with gusto.  That’s my report on the wine list.
The Iced Tea was plain, the way I like it.  Sadly, they don’t have any artificial sweetener except the pink stuff, which is dreadful but cheap.  One minus mark for the place.
Chorizo and garbanzo beans were acceptable, but not exciting.  The meatballs seemed extra salty to Gail, but the sauce they were in was great.
The bill for four of us, with wine and tea and even a highball for John, was only $105, which seems awfully reasonable for a pleasant, different, varied dinner for the 4 of us.
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