Occupation: Tech Trainer & Support Specialist
Favorite Restaurant: The Peasant & The Pear
Reviewed The Peasant & The Pear: Sunday, July 24, 2011
I met Rodney Worth, chef/owner of The Peasant & The Pear, while walking through downtown Danville with my friend, Michael, one afternoon in 2006. He had recently moved his restaurant here from San Ramon and invited us on a tour of his new location, which had been transformed into a very elegant, yet homey, dining space. When we returned about an hour later, the place was packed to overflowing! The gracious hostess soon found us a table, and we settled in for one of the best overall dining experiences of our lives. Chef Rodney stopped by our table a couple of times, treating us to a lovely dessert for returning so soon after our meeting that afternoon.
The Peasant & The Pear’s website mentions that this area was home to the world’s largest pear orchard around the turn of the last century. I was born and raised in Alamo, and remember riding in the trucks near our home as they were harvesting pears, so this is a particularly fond memory for me. One of the advantages of suburban dining is that parking is generally ample, nearby, and free, as it is for “The Pear” (as we lovingly refer to it). We were immediately greeted by the hostess, who acknowledged the notes I had added to my reservation on OpenTable. On our way to our table on the patio, we were warmly greeted by our favorite server, Lisa, and we asked if we could be served by her.
The seasonal menu changes at least once every three months to reflect the available local ingredients, and we dined from the Summer 2011 menu. We started with the smooth and tangy white cheddar fondue -- a perfect way to start a dinner with friends. Noticing that we were soon running low on crusty bread and fresh pears, Lisa had our supply replenished. The corn bisque was smooth and buttery, and the crunch of the fresh-roasted Brentwood corn on top gave it a lovely contrasting texture. There is always a lasagna on the menu, and I was pleased to see that they were offering a variation featuring eggplant. The house-made pasta was creamy, and the subtlety of the sauce, spinach, cheese, and basil didn’t detract from the star ingredient. Since the portion sizes are generous, I was able to have half of this for lunch the next day (well, breakfast … it didn’t make it to lunch!).
The chocolate s'mores cake was a dense, flourless dark-chocolate cake sandwiched between a graham cracker crust and a light marshmallow meringue, which definitely took this campfire treat to new heights. The cherry cobbler used local Brentwood cherries, and had just the right combination of sweet and tart. And the fresh peach crêpe was light and lovely -- a perfect end to the Sunday night $25 prix fixe three-course meal. As we were celebrating our friend, Ann’s, birthday, the cherry cobbler arrived on a plate, which had “Happy Birthday” written on it in dark chocolate and, of course, a candle. The other two remaining tables of guests on the patio joined us in singing “Happy Birthday,” and we returned the favor by joining them in singing for a gentleman’s 70th birthday and a couple’s 13th anniversary.
The engaging Chef Rodney stopped by our table during his rounds of the dining room, making everyone feel as though they were honored guests in his home. The servers and bus persons are among the best I’ve ever encountered: attentive and personable without being intrusive. And I never have to ask to have my water glass refilled (one of my dining pet-peeves)!
As my friend, Jennifer, commented during our meal, “I don't need to eat anywhere else!”
Occupation: Growth and Innovation Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Spork
Reviewed The Peasant & The Pear: Sunday, July 10, 2011
Our excursion to the East Bay began with hesitation due to the distance from San Francisco to Danville, but as the fog gave way to the warm, sunny weather of the East Bay, our mood lifted. When we pulled onto Hartz Avenue in Danville, we were also pleasantly surprised by the easy-to-find parking.
Upon arriving at The Peasant and The Pear, the first thing I noticed was how quaint it was. As I made my way down a pathway, I was charmed by the twinkle lights and nicely manicured garden that framed an outdoor patio, which is at the entrance of the restaurant. We were immediately greeted by the host and given the option to sit either inside or out. Without a moment of hesitation, we choose the outdoor patio, so we could soak up the sunshine.
Our server Lisa greeted us with a genuine smile and hello, some warm focaccia and our menus. She started off our meal on a strong note and seemed great -- well versed in the history of the restaurant, knew the menu inside and out and had a great sense of humor. We especially liked her keen ability to describe the items on the menus and have a decisive point of view around the best things to try.
We began by ordering a round of prickly pear margaritas, the California mussels and the Harvest Rustic Flat Bread. The prickly pear margaritas were refreshing and different in a memorable way. The only problem was one of our diners drink arrived with sugar on the rim rather than the salt described on the menu. When we mentioned it, they offered to make it right. Most places would return with a brand new drink. Disappointingly, they simply dumped the remainder into a new glass with a salted rim. This seemed to be a mismatch for what seemed like great service up to that point.
Onto the starters...delicious! The mussels had a very fresh and light taste, combining many herbs, fresh corn, and a nice wine broth. The ingredients complemented rather than masking the great mussels, and the great grilled bread proved perfect for sopping up the wonderful broth. The flat bread was amazing: it was crunchy and a wonderful balance of salty (from the bacon) and sweet (from the Champagne grapes) with just the right amount of mozzarella. I would drive from San Francisco to Danville for just these two dishes.
As we moved to dinner we ordered a bottle of the Dry Creek Heritage, Zinfandel, 2008, which was a well-balanced wine; what we loved even more was the value. On Sundays you can get 50% off of bottles of wine. Things had been going well: nice ambiance, cocktails were unique, tasty starters and nice-sized portions. We were getting excited for the entrées. I ordered the crab carbonara, and my two friends ordered the lamb shanks and double pork chop.
The crab carbonara, overall, was tasty, but not perfect. The pasta was cooked properly. It had a nice cream sauce -- not too thick or thin. The peas were nicely done and the pancetta crunchy. The crab was definitely on the light side. I would like to have seen more crab and larger pieces (surprising since all their other portions were quite healthy). The ingredients, combined, made the dish quite salty, and it could have arrived warmer. That being said, it still was quite tasty and did not stop me or my friends from enjoying the dish.
The lamb shank was delicious and so moist that it fell right off the bone. It too could have been a little warmer upon arrival. It was a nice, balanced dish, and my friend who ordered it is a lamb lover and gave this dish high marks. The double pork chop was by far the best of the entrees. It was a healthy lean chop, served with spinach, red mashed potatoes, and accompanied by seasonal grilled peaches. The mashed potatoes were especially delightful -- light, fluffy and seasoned with fresh herbs. I’m a big fan of the perfect bite -- the marriage of ingredients, textures and tastes -- and this entrée allows you to enjoy the perfect bite! The only disappointment, again, was that the pork chop was not very warm when it arrived.
For dessert we had their signature warm pear tart and the vanilla bean crème brûlée. The crème brûlée was evenly caramelized, giving a good crunch to the creaminess of dessert. But the winner, hands down, was the warm pear tart with its flaky crust and caramelized pears. What pushed it over the top was the sinful, drizzled caramel and ice cream.
Our service up to the time our entrees came had been impeccable. Then the pacing of the meal hit a wall. We didn’t see anyone for a long time and noticed that our neighbors to our left were experiencing the same thing, making us wonder, “Does anyone know we are still here?” The restaurant team appeared to be understaffed for the two large parties that had arrived and the rest of the smaller tables. When we were presented with our dessert menus, the service became more even and matched our earlier interactions with our server. When she was around, our server, Lisa, was fantastic. She had a clear point of view on the menu, spoke to recommendations with confidence and was very funny.
Overall, the restaurant is charming, serves excellent starters, and has a solid offering of entrees with healthy portions. The experience is rounded out by good desserts, cocktails, and a nice wine list. Improvements could be made around the temperature of meals and the consistency of the service throughout the entire meal, with attention to the details that make a restaurant move from good to great. If in the area, I would definitely return and recommend The Peasant and The Pear.
Occupation: Sales Monkey
Favorite Restaurant: Ristorante Ideale
Reviewed The Peasant & The Pear: Sunday, July 10, 2011
Being someone who lives in the 925, I was looking forward to giving The Peasant and The Pear a try. I've been to another of Rodney Worth's restaurants, but never this site. Clearly from the press on the wall and online reviews from folks who would normally complain about a free dinner at the French Laundry, (thanks, Mr. Ostler), people love this place. After gathering the troops for a quick briefing at a watering hole up the street ("And no matter how much wine you drink, DO NOT spill the beans on what we're doing...and I mean YOU, Johnny-Boy"), we headed out into the 98-degree early evening and into the nicely air conditioned restaurant. First impression: the place looks great. No clutter, cool colors, cleaner than a Muggles concert, and great AC. Who reviews a restaurant's AC? I do when it's valley hot outside, and I've got to get a meal in me. While I'm not complaining about having to take in an overload of calories for the Check, Please! cause, to have to do it without proper climate control would not make me happy.
Everything we had to eat was well prepared, and the quality of the food was top notch. I can see why people get excited about this place. Lots of flavors in everything, lots of ingredients on the plates, and lots of twists on classics. Example of a twist: riffing on classic spaghetti carbonara by changing out the pasta to pappardelle, and adding cream, peas, and crab to the dish is a pretty unique offering. It was clever to use Brie as the basis for a quesadilla, and what's better than Brie and pear? I enjoy house made mozzarella, and it's nice that they take the time to make it fresh on a regular basis. Rolling it with mascarpone to create buratta gave the appetizer a nice touch.
We enjoyed splitting the salad amongst ourselves between apps and entrees. The mix in the Bishop Ranch salad was refreshing, and made for a good set up for the next plates. The entrees were well received. One of my personal beefs over pork is a clumsy cook that turns a nice piece of pork goodness into shoe leather. Never understood why folks continue to believe pork needs to be bound and gagged before cooking the daylights out of it. P&P did a great job of delivering the double pork chop as we asked for it: gently caressed to a delicate medium rare. Loved the stone fruit and bourbon demi-glace.
The lamb shank got the most attention from our table. The portion size was ridiculous. The shank looked like the dinosaur bone that knocked over Fred Flintstone's car at the drive-in. It was properly braised, fell off the bone, and mixed in well with its polenta base. This dish is another that points towards Chef's inventive nature: I surely never would have thought about switching out a lamb shank for a veal shank in an osso bucco-style dish, but they pull it off here. Our guest that ordered the bistro steak enjoyed each and every bite. The strip was cooked as ordered, the maître d' butter coated the meat, and the dish came with a generous side of Bordelaise sauce. The frites were a hit, and so many were on the plate that some went home in a Go Box!
I ordered the sea bass. It was dusted with a paprika mixture, pan cooked, and served over a potato-Brentwood corn hash. The crispy leeks on top were tasty, and added a nice texture to the meal. As with everything else on the menu, there was a bunch of components to this dish. It can't be an easy undertaking for the kitchen to get so many flavors and layers onto a plate, and they need to be commended for working so hard to make each item unique. The service staff was great. Our server worked hard to keep things moving, and it seemed that she always had some back up to help keep things going. It's nice to see a group work as a real team.
The wine list, while not extensive, is well thought out and fairly priced. I enjoy seeing a nice selection of "California's varietal" (aka Zinfandel) on list, and enjoyed the one we selected. Desserts were a great end to the night. After all we ate and drank, the biggest hit of the night was the warm pear tart. Ab-so-lutely spot on. After all that we ate, it was the perfect finish as we walked out of air-conditioned comfort into the hot Contra Costa night. Yep, here I go with the AC rant again....