This past Tuesday, we were delighted to be invited by General Manager Dagny Brown to Bay Wolf’s Double Duck dinner. The dinner celebrates Bay Wolf’s 38th Anniversary!

For Brown, the event was really to commemorate the Bay Wolf community. “Its a reunion and celebration. Over 38 years, we’ve cultivated amazing relationships with our guests, winemakers, and our purveyors,” said Brown. “It is 3 nights that we get to see all our friends, eat beautiful food and drink our favorite wines together.”

From the initial invitation, we could see how much Bay Wolf valued community and connection. Dagny had written us because she enjoyed our piece on Homestead, and welcomed another restaurant that would make Piedmont a dining destination. I would say that this attitude feels very Oakland to me. Time and time again, many restaurant folks are cheering each other on, knowing that rising tides are lifting many boats in Oakland.

Owner Larry Goldman remarked that  “Simply put, Oakland is a beautiful city made up of very distinctive neighborhoods. It has had the strength to confront the problems of urban places. We had the opportunity to follow our dream almost four decades ago when we arrived on Piedmont Ave. Our restaurant became our second home. It has always felt good as we grew, expanded and crafted it to a place for wonderful food and conversation. We like the diversity of Oakland — it is such an interesting place.”

That kind of love of community was well reflected in our dinner on Tuesday. Jonathan and I are not professional food writers in any formal sense. We’re always hesitant to tell the front of house people we are guests of management, but Dagny knew us right away and gave us a warm welcome.

Throughout the night, we felt this sense of homecoming at Bay Wolf. There was a couple in the corner where it felt like every middle-aged person in Piedmont was walking over to give them hugs. The folks in the table next to us were three foodie sisters, one of whom volunteered with an organization that baked cakes for foster children.

The food itself was extraordinary. Brown mentioned, “You will see some of our most loved dishes: head to foot duck soup, duck tagine, and duck egg pot de crème. These are the delicious, beautiful dishes that people have been coming to eat for 38 years. On other dishes, we apply our culinary knowledge and impeccable technique to new flavors and dishes. You’ll notice this specifically in the deconstructed/reconstructed Caesar salad and south of the border duck. These dishes bring new and exciting elements to the menu while honoring our heritage.”

Jonathan and I decided to take two different takes on the menu. I went whole hog with the Bay Wolf’s venerable duck dishes and Jonathan decided to focus on the non-duck dishes. We trusted the kitchen and bar and went with the perfect wine pairings that included a rose with starter, a pinot noir with the main, and a dessert wine that was surprisingly light.

First course

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Jonathan had the grilled scallops with pancetta, fried black-eyed peas, mustard greens and pepper relish. It was great that that Tuesday night had a bit of chill in the air, because even though scallops are made with such a light touch, this dish was surprisingly filling. The scallops were perfectly seared and that caramelization highlighted the savory flavors of the pancetta, mustard greens and carrots accompanying them.

On the recommendation of our server, I let go of my preconceptions of Caesar salad and ordered the deconstructed reconstructed Caesar salad with quackers. That was a true revelation, as the little gem lettuces were grilled and really worked well with the duck skin cracklings. Again, caramelization was a theme as the grilled lettuce really connected with the cracklings and the slight sweetness of the wonderfully restrained Caesar dressing.

Main Course

Filet mignon

Filet Mignon

Jonathan said he was in the mood for something substantial and the server recommended the bacon-wrapped filet mignon with sauteed duck liver, pain de mie, mushrooms and red wine sauce. The server wasn’t kidding when he said that dish was substantial! That was a giant piece of meat for sure. A dish like this walks a tightrope since it’s all in the execution. Anything less than great execution turns something like this into hotel food.

Luckily, Bay Wolf has 38 years of delivering and they delivered. The bacon really imparted its sweet smokiness to the meat and the accompanying liver gave a depth of flavor to the whole dish. I decided to go with the old standby of the grilled duck breast with potato galette, summer onions, Gravenstein apples and cider sabayon. While the duck was perfectly cooked, my palate really gravitated to the vegetables. Both the summer onions and apples were caramelized to give them a smoky flavor to offset their inherent sweetness. All of those played well off the gamey duck flavor.

While we didn’t actually eat this dish, we wanted to highlight the south-of-the-border duck wings with mole poblano and duck-queso fresco chile relleno. Our delightful dining neighbors were raving about the dish and loved it so much they ordered a portion to go. I am going to keep an eagle eye on the menu and order it on my next visit.

Dessert

Summer berry pudding

Summer berry pudding

For dessert, Jonathan had the Santa Rosa plum cobbler with toasted almond ice cream. While both the fruit part of the cobbler and the ice cream were fine, the biscuity crust was the true star of that dish. It was a great mix of biscuit and cake, having the lightness of a piece of cake with the crumble of a biscuit and a slightly sweet flavor to pair with the sweet-tart of the fruit.

I had the end-of-summer berry pudding. Rather than the traditional summer berry pudding being bread soaking in berry syrup, this was an interesting cardamom-scented cake with a fresh berry sauce on top. Like the cobbler crust, the cake was an interesting mix of the lightness of an angel food cake with the chew of a traditional cake. We both appreciated the light fruitiness of both desserts after such a hearty meal.

In the spirit of community that infused the evening, we also got a taste of the duck egg mocha pot de crème. It was nice to taste the not-too-sweet, and slightly bitter edge of the pot de crème. I appreciated the restraint the pastry chef exercised against something too heavy and sweet after such a rich meal.

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