Nibblers Eatery: A Deep East Bay Oasis

| January 4, 2011 | 10 Comments
  • 10 Comments

Nibblers Cheese Plate

When you think of artisan cheese, fine wine, and a diverse, sustainable menu, most people don’t think of Pleasant Hill, a small city nestled between Concord and Walnut Creek. Pleasant Hill isn’t known for its exotic food culture, so the few gems that are hidden within the town’s borders are not only rare, but well hidden. Locals know the game, though. They know about Nibblers Eatery.

While the name doesn’t exactly evoke visions of decadent cheese plates, locally grown produce, or handcrafted chocolate desserts, that’s what you’ll find on the menu at Nibblers. With a constantly changing cast of dishes, the offerings at Nibblers are not your run-of-the-mill Contra Costa County fare. Guests will be tempted by the large selection of small plates — indeed they make up the entire menu — all developed by owner and Chef de Cuisine Daniel Clayton. Clayton’s background is diverse, with stints at Culinary Institute of America’s Graystone campus and Lark Creek restaurant in Walnut Creek. Passionate about fresh, seasonal foods, he brought those values home when he opened Nibblers with his life partner (and Nibblers pâtissier) Trace Leighton.

Fritters

Nibblers' Fritters

With a creative small-plate menu that rotates monthly, Daniel and Trace keep diners on their toes with a host of new things to try. Here’s a sampling of their January dinner plates:

  • Crispy duck confit & fuyu persimmon salad — baby lettuces, Indonesian long pepper, sundried cherry vinaigrette
  • Butternut squash risotto cake — romaine chiffonade, sweet pepper aïoli
  • Pan fried Iacopi brussels sprouts — roasted shallots, sunchokes, farm egg, aged sherry vinegar
  • Prosciutto wrapped Knoll kadota figss — Shaft blue cheese, pedro ximenez glaze
  • Skillet fried Peruvian Lantern scallops — Buddha’s hand julienne, baby fennel, maitake mushrooms, citron emulsion
  • Frog Hollow warren pear flat bread — Sonoma goat cheese, pignoli, Buddha’s hand zest

Sliders

Sliders

Besides the dinner offerings, Nibblers’ cheese selection is enough of a reason to make the trek out to Pleasant Hill. Just a few of my favorites off their recent cheese menu:

  • Achadinha capricious, portuguese style olive oil rubbed goat cheese
  • Azienda tetilla, galician semi-soft cheese with sweet milk flavors
  • Cypress Grove truffle tremor, triple créme goat with flecks of truffle
  • Matias torta la serena, buttery sheeps milk cheese with complex nutty flavor
  • Synnøve gudbrandsdalsost, norwegian caramelized goat’s whey cheese

For those inclined to imbibe, I recommend taking a close look at the Nibblers beer and wine list. As one of the premier wine bars in the far East Bay, Daniel and Trace are known for stocking notable yet short-run vintages that will intrigue, possibly even educate, the most learned San Francisco wine snob.

Overall, Nibblers is a gem in the otherwise drab culinary culture of the deep East Bay. There are only a handful of fine restaurants east of the Caldecott, and Nibblers is definitely one of them. Perhaps, though, the Nibblers can best be described by their mission statement:

Why small plates?

Small circles of friends & family.  Small communities in big cities. Small family owned farms.  Small artisan dairies & bakeries. Small neighborhoods. Small, intimate restaurants. And many, many small plates of irresistible food.

Satay

Satay

Creamy Red Kuri Squash Shooters from Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar
Recipe provided by Daniel Clayton and Tracy Leighton

Ingredients:
1 medium red kuri squash, rinsed, quartered, seeded
2 T butter
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
1 carrot, peeled and diced fine
2 celery stalks, diced fine
1 bay leaf
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
Pinch white pepper

Method:
1. Fill a 5 quart pot halfway with cool water. Heat to simmer.

2. Add quartered squash and cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes to blanch. Remove squash to cool and reserve blanching liquid.

3. In medium pot, melt butter and add onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, scoop or cut squash out of skin.

5. When vegetables are soft, remove bay leaf, add squash and stir. Add 1/2 cup blanching liquid to squash and stir until moisture is evaporated. Repeat this several times, until squash is mostly melted.

6. Add another 1 1/2 cups blanching liquid and stir in completely. Add milk and cream and mix. Add nutmeg and white pepper. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Puree mixture with immersion blender or run 2 cups at a time through food processor. Press through a fine strainer, return to pot, adjust seasoning, and heat to serve in tall, warm shot glasses.

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, beer, hospitality, local food businesses, recipes, restaurants, bars, cafes, reviews, wine

About the Author ()

Stephanie is a writer and cookbook author recovering from her former tech-startup life. On the side she's also a media consultant, specializing in all forms of digital goodness: audio, video, print, design, and social media. After leaving the tech world nearly a decade ago, Stephanie made a career jump to her lifetime love, writing. She currently writes for the Huffington Post, KQED's Bay Area Bites, NPR, and other select media outlets. Her first cookbook,Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, is due out in fall 2013 on Little, Brown with coauthor Garrett McCord. Being a recovering techy leaves an indelible mark, and everything Stephanie does is infused with her deep fascination with digital technology. She has been blogging since 1999, before blog engines even existed and a great readership consisted of a handful of friends who occasionally thought to check out your site. In 2005 she started her first food blog, which she repurposed in 2007 to become The Culinary Life. Stephanie can be called many things: food writer, essayist, professional recipe developer, cookbook author, social media consultant, videographer, documentary maker, website developer, archivist of life. Despite all of these titles, she most commonly responds to Steph.
  • Veronica

    Nibbler’s is by far one of my favorite places to eat in the greater Walnut Creek area. The food is always delicious and fun, and I love the atmosphere!

  • NoPotCoooking

    I love small plates. This sounds like a place I would really like.

  • Susan

    The photos alone make me want to dig in. Yum!

  • Alisa Bowman

    I want to eat every single photo on this page.

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart

    OMG. I love eating this way and the menu/food looks terrific. We sometimes make what we call “snack buffet” dinners at our house, which I suppose is a sort of small plates concept.

    And, I’m with Alisa … kudos to you for the great photos.

  • Sheryl

    These photos are amazing. And so are the creative dishes. Wish Nibblers was in my neck of the woods!

  • http://chezsven.blogspot.com Alexandra

    Whoa! I think I would have a really hard time choosing what I want to nibble. Sounds like an amazing place to eat!

  • Dennis LeGear

    Hoping all who read this share it on their social networks, especially those close enough to go…..your friends will thank you…….I love the place its small plates done in such a tasteful (double mean intended) and delicious way always leaves a simile on my face and a happy belly.

  • Jeanine Barone

    I definitely prefer eating small, tapas-sized plates. And the photos are making me very hungry right now. This would be a perfect place for me to visit should I be in the area.
    Jeanine

  • http://www.MyKidsEatSquid.com MyKidsEatSquid

    Thanks for including the recipe. We’re trying to find restaurants like this in our area. Small plates are just so good–you can try a variety of things and not get too full.