Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Melt in My Mouth Moroccan at Aziza

I love Moroccan culture for many reasons: the desert-like climate that resonates with my desert girl roots, the opulent architecture that places homes around central, open courtyards where people can gather beneath the stunning blue sky, and the ancient colors and patterns that adorn every cloth, nook and cranny of the culture. A few years ago, my good friend and artist Noah Haytin, was on residency in the city and he brought me back a real goatskin upon request. 'Til this day it hangs on the wall of my childhood bedroom waiting for me to adorn it with India ink illustrations of my impressions of the place once I finally get the chance to go.

But most of all, I love the food and on our recent trip to San Francisco, the Cute Gardener found me a gem of a place in the unassuming Richmond District called Aziza, where gourmet Moroccan was being served in a modern setting. It was quite a notch above the norm with master mixologists and a meal that took time between each course because yes, it was that fresh. It became my second favorite dinner of the trip.

Our Aperitifs: For me a springy, zingy sugar snap pea, calvados, and bitter orange concoction and for him, a tincture of pomegranate, floc de gascogne, and angelica root. This was actually a synchronistic drink because I’ve been itching to grow angelica root for some time and to see it served in a contemporary cocktail affirmed my urge.

This essential staple was supreme with freshly made dense and hot flatbread and spreads that included a creamy, traditional chickpea with olive oil pool, a piquillo-almond whipped delight and a yummy, thick and rich yogurt-dill.

Big fin squid, preserved lemon, king oyster, radish, and ginger made such a pretty presentation on the plate with out of the ordinary colors, textures and tastes.

Our Entrée Cocktails: For me, a musky, muddy and poignant mix of fig, balsamic, maple and bourbon. For him a spicy tarragon and cardamom cachaca. These were really creative drinks here without overdoing any of the traditional spices.

This duck confit basteeya consisted of generous amounts of shredded duck meat studded with just the right amount of raisins and almonds as to not make it too cloyingly sweet. This is my kind of potpie and I would take it any day with its flaky baklava reminiscent dough over the fatty, cream-laden, white bread American version.

Another piece of sweet meat that was right up my alley came in the form of this fall apart tender short rib with carrot jam, date and the tiniest, cutest little mustard cube that had the consistency of brioche.

He had a lamb shank, also fall apart tender accented with barley, prune, and saffron. It was a very basic tasting dish but in a comfort food sort of way.

I had picked this out before any other food item when I first glanced at the menu. Who can resist an item with words like “brioche,” “chocolate” and “French toast” in the description. The chocolate bread was made into a cube, eggy in the middle and caramelized from the pan on the ends, equaling an amazingly rich and sumptuous combination. A sweet dollop of cardamom ice cream accompanied. Being that cardamom and coriander are two of my favorite tastes, I was a happy girl.


Unnecessary extra mini-cream puffs – but of course, we ate them before weathering the San Francisco cold to hike it to our bus home and bed, fat and happy.

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