With sexy, pinup-girl names like Sharlyn, Ambrosia and Goddess and sweet perfumey flesh, melons are the darlings of the dining world right now. Through September, these pastel-colored fruits are in the height of their glory, so you'll see them on menus all over town. Check out the slide show below to see nine imaginative ways Bay Area restaurants and bars are showcasing these beauties.
Melon and Prosciutto with Basil and Luxardo at Shakewell
At this newly opened Oakland hot spot, chef Jennifer Biesty showcases a variety of boldly flavored, Spanish-Mediterranean small plates, including this starter. Chunks of Star Route Farms summer melon are wrapped in Serrano ham, topped with fragrant opal basil and finished with smoked sea salt, Arbaquina olive oil and Luxardo (a maraschino cherry liqueur). It's sweet, smoky, boozy and delicious in every bite.
Avocado, Dungeness Crab and Melon Salad at Boulevard
Chef Richard Crocker showcases balls of Full Belly Goddess melon in a composed salad ($18) with summer's other greatest hits: Dungeness crab legs, Brokaw avocadoes, Cape gooseberries and charred scallions. The melons are so ripe right now that all they need is a pinch of Maldon salt.
Galia Melon Granite with Compressed Melon and Fresh Thai Basil Buds at Parallel 37
The palate-refreshing intermezzo to Michael Rotondo's three-, five- and eight-course tastings menus is pastry chef Andrea Correa's granite. Tiny chunks of compressed Galia melon and fresh Thai basil buds are sprinkled over Galia granite that’s been seasoned with lemon and simple syrup and hand-shaven using a fork to yield the most delicate, fluffy texture.
Vietnamese Heirloom Melon Salad with Watermelon Radish at Slanted Door
Who says melon is all-American? Chef de cuisine Michelle Mah mixes upwards of four kinds of heirloom melons from Zuckerman Farms with watermelon radish and Crystal lettuce in this Vietnamese-inspired salad ($12) that's tossed in a sweet and spicy Thai chile-cucumber-lime sauce.
Parmigiano-Reggiano Soufflé with San Danielle Prosciutto and Sugar Kiss Melon at Rivoli
This savory cheese soufflé ($15) is a top seller every time chef-owner Wendy Brucker puts it on her menu. The current version riffs off the classic Italian dish prosciutto e melone. Hunks of sweet Sugar Kiss melons act as a foil to salty prosciutto and creamy cheese. A fig-and-saba marmalata adds sweet and sour elements.
Grilled Peach and Roasted Golden Beets Salad with Dehydrated Watermelon Chips at Five Restaurant
At this restaurant inside The Hotel Shattuck in Downtown Berkeley, France-born chef Stephane Tonnelier transforms all-American watermelon into a unique crispy garnish for this summery beet and peach salad, dressed with champagne vinaigrette and herbed ricotta ($12). The chips are made from dehydrated watermelon rounds, sprinkled with a touch of cayenne.
Heirloom Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Pickled Watermelon Rind at Scala’s Bistro
The old adage “what grows together, goes together” is the logic behind the classic watermelon-and-tomato salad. Chef Larry Finn dresses up the combo ($13) with fresh herbs and an unexpected twist: pickled watermelon rind for added texture and acidity.
Melon Creamsicle with Anise Hyssop-Molasses Candy, Dirty Habit
Leave it to pastry whiz and former 30 Under 30 winner Francis Ang to create a grown-up Creamsicle ($8) utilizing fresh melons. To make it, Ang submerges a melon-Riesling sabayon popsicle in liquid nitrogen, dips it into melon purée and then dips it again into liquid nitrogen to create a hard melon shell. Don't try that at home.
Painted Ladies Cocktail, Trick Dog
Fresh off the new tourist-themed menu is The Painted Ladies ($12), a summery vodka drink mixed with mint, honey, lime juice and housemade melon soda. To make the soda, the bartenders steep fresh cantaloupe in sugar and honey to draw out the juices, then they dilute it with mint-infused water. They put the final mixture into a soda syphon to carbonate it. Et voila.