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Duck Duck Duck á l’Orange

By Sari Friedman Special to the Daily Planet
Friday January 04, 2002

North Berkeley. 1975. A bunch of poetic, jazz-lovin’, co-op-minded, espresso-drinking beatniks want to start a place to get delicious food in a comfortable setting.  

They name their corporation Ananke, the Greek concept for divine necessity, also the name of one of Jupiter’s moons. Throw in Jack London’s story of the Sea Wolf, and an ex-English professor’s identification with in the old English saga of Beowolf… with Beowolf’s nemesis, the monster Grendel, somehow representing corporate America.  

Fast forward through years of debt and struggle. Years of seeking out the best seasonal foods in the East Bay and transforming them into melismatic (which means a melody runs through it) and sensual creations that earn the BayWolf Restaurant, now located in Oakland, altitudinous marks in the ZagatSurvey. 

Now – thanks to founder-owner Michael Wild, executive chef Lauren Lyle, pastry chef G. Earl Darny, writer Adele Novelli Crady, and photographer Laurie Smith – we get The BayWolf Restaurant Cookbook, a collection of BayWolf Restaurant recipes divided by month, so that the home chef may best use East Bay seasonal and traditional foods in the most exciting of ways. 

The January section of the cookbook is titled “The Wolf at the Door” and includes recipes such as Chioggia Beet and Tangerine Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Citrus Vinaigrette, and Babas au Rhum with Lime Cream and Caramelized Pineapple. 

As Michael Wild explains: “In January we prepare the sort of heartwarming, nurturing, robust dishes that would get anyone through a gloomy winter.” 

The remaining months’ offerings are rich in duck dishes and include a decidedly citrus-minded influence. Since the BayWolf Restaurant is famous for its duck dishes, I decided to try out several of the January recipes, and I also made March’s Duck á l’ Orange with Turnips and their Greens.  

As an example of technical writing, the directions given in The BayWolf Restaurant Cookbook aren’t ideal, especially if you are – as I am – used to the detailed, easy, comfortably explanatory, and numbered steps found in, say, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  

If you’re the type of person who isn’t sure how to reduce a stock or render duck fat; or if you want estimates on how long every recipe is going to take, or totals on your materials – you might want to simply call BayWolf directly and make a reservation.  

But if you’re courageous, know your way around a paring knife, and want to end up with a lusty, luscious, sumptuous, and evocative meal, the BayWolf Restaurant Cookbook profoundly delivers.  

With recipes such as January’s Mushroom Barley Soup with its variegated mushroom tastes and textures and kicky sherry aftertaste, you’re given the means to lavish a memorable meal upon yourself and any super-lucky companions. 

I found myself groaning while licking the completely lascivious Duck á l’ Orange with Turnips and their Greens glaze off my fingers, and if my boyfriend wasn’t watching I would absolutely have licked the plate. The Chioggia Beet and Tangerine Salad with Celery, Walnuts, and Citrus Vinaigrette with its robust flavorful reds, crunchy pomegranate seed subtext, and paper-thin celery shaving and meaty walnut crunch was the very definition of superb.  

In February the recipes turn to the romance of Venice, the April offerings were inspired by Paris, and…. moving right along… in September one reaches famous BayWolf "Double Duck" recipes such as Braised Duck Legs with Pinot Noir and Summer Succotash.