Walking around downtown Berkeley in the crisp Fall air, I had no idea what was waiting for me just a few blocks away. Being a local gal I was accustomed to dining at low key places with standard grub. Nothing high end or expensive was in my repertoire at this time. However, after marrying my (ex) husband all of that changed. The world of food and flavor opened up to me, all starting on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.
Corso. A small Italian restaurant in Berkeley combining the simplistic Italian cooking techniques with the flavors and flare of the Bay Area. Entering through the flowing beige curtain into the dimly lit dining room, I felt instantly older and more important. It’s as if my “coming of age moment” decided to finally occur at the ripe age of twenty. Taking a seat at the chef’s counter, my eyes became mesmerized by the fast paced yet perfectly synchronized dance that was taking place in the kitchen. My friend, Alex, the sous chef, let me know that I was in for quite the treat!
My favorite part of any meal typically resides with the bread, however, at Corso the perfectly golden brown bread simply tantalized my palate, leaving me wanting more. Before I had time to demolish all of the soft and crunchy bread, a platter was set before me. The shades of reds and pinks were vibrant and dotted with that spectacular color of white: FAT! Salami, prosciutto, and capicola. These delicate meats cuts so thin they just melt when they hit my mouth. The prosciutto had this velvety buttery texture while the salami was a bit rougher due the all the pepper and spiced that dotted it.
Alex put two heaping tablespoons of a light yellow, only slightly softened butter into a sauce pan. Then came a glistening pink chicken breast, sizzling as it hit the pan, gently splattering grease. When the chicken breast was turned that once white, wrinkly fat cap had now turned a stomach rumbling shade of brown. And oh! what was done next got my mouth watering like Pavlov’s dog. Alex tilted the pan so all the butter ran toward him and he spooned the butter over the chicken, basting it over and over again. Something so deliciously simply yet making all the difference as it moistens and browns the chicken.
Finally the dish arrives, being served in the same pan it was cooked in. The chicken makes the loveliest crackle when cutting through the crisp skin. Butter drips from the fork as I bring a piece to my mouth. Rich buttery goodness fills my moth a once, never before having tasted something so delicate. The chicken quickly gets devoured, the only left being the beautifully melted butter at the bottom of the pan. Thank god for bread! The once crunchy bread dissolved in a few seconds of soaking in that rich clarified butter.
I was stuffed, I didn’t think I could eat another morsel of food. And then there came this exquisitely white panna cotta topped with bright red raspberries and deep dark blackberries, dripping down the sides. The panna cotta was dotted with black flecks of a vanilla bean. I barely had to apply pressure for my spoon to slip through the custard. The egg-y bounty of the custard dissolved within seconds on my tongue. The berries burst like fire hydrants during 1989 in Oakland! Exploding with flavoring.
By the end of this extraordinary meal I felt like I needed a wheelbarrow just to make it back to the car four blocks away. But the entire meal, every calorie was completely worth it! I will definitely be back for the chicken!!