2020 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley CA, 94704 (510) 926.6300
Sunday thru Thursday 5:30-10pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30-11pm
Front bar opens at 5pm nightly
Sunday thru Thursday 5:30-10pm
Friday & Saturday 5:30-11pm
Front bar opens at 5pm nightly

Was Pizza Invented in Mexico?

Friday, January 10th, 2014


On one besotted night during my last visit to Oaxaca, the mezcal distiller Alex, who was among my company, made the ludicrous claim (with complete earnestness) that Mexicans invented pizza.  His logic was this: the pizza is just a bastardization of the tlayuda, the thin, crispy masa “flatbread” that is a staple of the Oaxacan diet.

According to Alex, many Italians came across the water to fight alongside Mexican rebels during their war for independence from the Napoleonic French government that had decided that Mexico was part of its empire during the 1860’s.  The ragtag Mexican Republican army aided by these Italian compatriots waged a guerilla war against the well-equipped French army, carrying tlayudas as a source of food.  By nature, since they are dry, tlayudas have a long shelf life, the Oaxacan equivalent of the hard tack that sailors of that era used for sustenance during long voyages at sea. The Italian soldiers were so enamored with the tlayuda, that after the war, they brought them home with them to Italy, ultimately morphing into the pizza that the whole world knows and loves.

Of course I called bullsh*t on this story.  Nonetheless, I often have difficulty describing a tlayuda to the uninitiated.   I suppose the most accurate description is that it is like a Mexican pizza, but with the monstrosities that Taco Bell has trotted out in the past with that name, I am hesitant to describe it in such words.

While in Oaxaca most often tlayudas will be simply topped with beans, shredded cabbage, queso Oaxaca and tomatoes, the version that we currently have on the menu is firmly rooted in Northern California.  It is smeared with a black bean puree, and puya chile salsa, melted queso Oaxaca, and lacinato kale that is stewed down with olive oil, garlic, a few capers, and spiced with toasted arbol chiles.  A dusting of queso fresco finishes the dish.  In my opinion, it’s a much more delicious way to get your daily dose of kale than via smoothie.

Now, did anyone ever tell you about how matzo balls were invented in Zacatecas?



Comal Favorite Matthiasson Wins SF Chronicle "Winemaker of the Year"

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Last year it was Arnot-Roberts.  This year, Matthiasson, another of our favorite winemakers, wins SF Chronicle “Winemaker of the Year” for 2013. Click here to read the full article.


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SF Weekly Names Comal's SPF 2020 a Top 10 Cocktail of 2013

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Lou Bustamante from SF Weekly names Comal’s SPF 2020 (not currently on our menu – it’s a summer drink) as one of his favorite cocktails of 2013.  Click here to read the full article. 

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Two of Comal's Mainstay Wineries make "Ten Key Wines for 2013" List

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 1.05.05 PMTwo mainstay wineries from Comal’s list make Jon Bonne’s ‘Ten Key Wines for 2013’ list – Bedrock, for their Evangelho Heritage Red (featured at our Bedrock wine dinner in Abajo earlier this month) and Wind Gap for their Old-Vine Sceales Vineyard Grenache.  Congrats Morgan and Pax!  http://www.sfgate.com/wine/thirst/article/Tradition-and-change-in-10-key-wines-of-2013-5096924.php


Special NYE Punch: Medianoche

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

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“Punch Royal dates back to the end of the 17th century,” says cocktail historian David Wondrich in his book Punch, or the Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl. “It was drunk by courtiers, pirates and everyone in between.”

Punch in general has a long and storied place in the annals of festive gatherings.  As self-proclaimed “Georgian Junkie” Emery Lee points out, “The Georgian era is widely known for its excesses, the least of which was heavy drinking. A typical Georgian gentleman of leisure would spend his days frequenting one of the myriad coffee rooms and his evenings, many times into the wee hours, in a gaming house, tavern, or gentleman’s club roistering with his cronies over a brimming punch bowl.”

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Painting by William Hogarth from the mid-1700s

While I don’t expect our NYE party to have a Georgian theme, and we may not have a lot of courtiers or pirates in attendance, I do like the idea of “roistering with … cronies over a brimming punch bowl.”

Barman Matthew Campbell has crafted his take on the classic Punch Royal with winter in mind.  It’s called Medianoche, and according to an email from Matthew it goes like this:

Bubbles are a given since it’s NYE.  Add Matusalem rum because it’s delicious and clean.  The classic recipe calls for raspberry syrup but I made a more seasonally appropriate spiced huckleberry compote. It also calls for orange juice, as many punches do, so blood orange makes perfect sense for the winter – and it adds dramatic color.  Passion fruit purée & a bit of mango tea for a slight island kick and also to provide tartness in lieu of lemon or lime.  Definitely more fruit forward than winter spiced.  Ladle into a flute and start dancing…

JP (with input from MC)