After burning 4-5,000 calories at Vineman 70.3, it was time to consume copious amounts of delicious food without guilt or hesitation.
The destination: SCOPA.
SCOPA is an Italian restaurant, nestled in a former barbershop, apparent by the signage remaining above the entrance ("PLAZA BARBER SHOP"). It's located in Healdsburg, the gastronomic capital of Sonoma County, if not the entire Bay Area.
We ordered a lot of food.
To start: grilled dry creek peaches with arugula, purslane, shallots and white balsamic vinaigrette. The peaches were out of control; soft, sweet and smoky from the grill. The vinaigrette's acidity and tanginess balanced out the fruit. Well done SCOPA, you've set the bar high.
And they set it even higher, with homemade burrata, served with with grilled bread, arugula, grilled eggplant and sundried tomatoes. Burrata is one of my favorite cheeses. It's made by taking mozzarella, my other favorite cheese, and injecting it with heavy cream. It's a combination made in dairy heaven. SCOPA knew what they were doing, with just the right amount of olive oil, salt and pepper on top.
Next up was Tomasso's sugo calabrese with spaghettini, tomato braised pork and rib sugo and pecorino romano cheese. This was essentially bolognese sauce on steroids. The pork and rib were slow cooked, tender and flavorful. The sauce was complex, with just a hint of heat. Again, the bar was set even higher, only to be outdone by chicken. Yes, chicken.
When dining at a nice restaurant, I, like most food-lovers, generally avoid chicken. I cook it a lot at home. It's not very exciting - most of the time. I made an exception at SCOPA, as their chicken dish, known as Nonna's tomato braised chicken, has rave reviews.
Holy fucking shit.
Nonna's chicken isn't just chicken. It's a testament to what chicken can - and should - be. All the time, every day. To call it life-changing isn't an exaggeration, as I didn't know chicken could be this fucking great.
Allow me to paint a picture.
Our waiter placed a small, cast iron pot in the center of the table. He removed the lid. Smells of herbs, tomato, and chicken fat escaped, making my stomach - despite being happy at this point in the meal - jolt. Inside were several pieces of boned chicken, camouflaged by tomato sauce, chopped vegetables and sautéed greens.
We began to pick at the chicken, which fell off the bone like perfectly cooked spareribs. I didn't know chicken could be this tender. At this point, I knew it was going to be good. The chicken was was soft and packed with subtle flavor. Combined with creamy polenta and sautéed greens, an orgasmic explosion* in the mouth commenced - one that's hard to put into words.
SCOPA served one of the best meals I've ever had. It was a reminder that Italian can be much more than the standard spaghetti-and-meatballs-pizza-salad type cuisine we consume more often than not.
If you find yourself in Sonoma County, or the vicinity of Healdsburg, do yourself a favor and go to SCOPA.
*When I began writing about food again, I made a conscious decision to avoid using the word "orgasmic" unless truly warranted. In this case, it is.