Tag Archives: chefs

Top Three Spring Forward Dishes in SF

20 Apr

The bunny has hopped on, your clocks have sprung forward, and now it is time for your springy palate to do the same. I’m anti-wearing pastel but pro-rabbit and vegetable eating. I may be Jewish but I have a special place in my heart for the Easter bunny. My favorite spring time dishes include: rabbit, asparagus, peas, and eggs. Because asparagus leaves behind an unpleasant odor, I am ignoring it from the list. Deal with it.

#3 Deviled Jidori Eggs at Wayfare Tavern

It’s the season of crucifixions and rebirth, of ying and yang, of the white and the yolk. And while hard-boiled and creme-filled might be good enough for some, what if you want to delve into the darker, dare we say more devilish side of the egg? The egg dish that’s so controversial that when it appears at church potlucks it has to go by an alias?

Deviled eggs just don’t have the same ring when they bear the euphemism “salad eggs” or “dressed eggs.” The “deviled” part comes from the spice, mustard and paprika mainly, though those can seem way too vanilla these days. If you’re looking for a heightened level of devilishness, head to Wayfare Tavern. Its deviled Jidori eggs ($9) feature mustard- and crème fraiche-whipped yolks, radish, celery leaves, and bottarga.

That’s what we like about TyFlo: He could go all out and give us caviar on our deviled eggs, but like Jesus he’s a man of the people, so he features roe of the peasant variety. It’s the salty edge to the sinfully delicious yolk concoction, filling the cavity of the otherwise pure egg white. That’s hot. [Read SFoodie post]

#2 Chicken-Fried Rabbit, Rabbit Toast, and Celery Salad at Comstock Saloon

I have written about this dish in such length because I absolutely adore it, it is one of the best things I ever ate. Rabbit several different way, a hot sauce to pour over it, and a fresh and crisp celery salad…sign me up! This is the year of the rabbit, this is the season for rabbit, and as a single girl living in SF rabbit is always in season. Pair the rabbit with a whiskey cocktail at the saloon and I can guarantee that you will be all bright eyed and bushy tailed.

#1 English Pea Flan at Fifth Floor

Peas, the shoots of life, have never been presented in a way more beautiful than the flan that The Baz created. David Bazirgan has brought a new level of hotness to Fifth Floor, he was even voted the hottest chef in America by Eater reader votes. The savory custard has snap peas, pea shoots, cumin, and carrot air. The aroma is intoxicating and the texture is so decadent. I am an uni fanatic, I even own the URL Looney Uni dot com, and I was under the impression that nothing could top the uni flan that The Baz created his first month in at Fifth Floor, but he outdid himself. The pea flan is where it’s at, so get it before it is out of season.

Fleur de Lys: The Black Feast

6 Jan


White Parties a la Puff Daddy are so 2000 and late. The new trend is Diddy and Black Feasts. Fleur de Lys is home of the other chef Keller, Hubert, and is notorious as one of the classiest joints in San Francisco; even if one of the housewives spit out foie in her napkin, sacrilegious!

Anyway, on January 21st, Fleur de Lys will be home to a Black Feast of epic proportions known as, Le Regal Noir. You get dressed up in black velvet and black diamonds and enter the private dining room for 5-courses of “Black”: think black truffles, black cod, and everything else black and decadent. The drinks poured during the special night are as impressive as any Hamptons party:

  • Krug Champagne
  • Black Bottle Cabernet wine with dinner (valued at $1,000 per bottle)
  • Pouring of Angel’s Share International’s The Black Mirror, a 47-year-old single malt scotch whiskey from Scotland (valued at $375,000 a cask)
  • Exclusive, not available to the public, specially created black, hand-rolled Payne-Mason cigar for each guest ($120 value)

The price tag isn’t cheap but it is well worth it and it includes tax, tip, valet, and a ton of other perks and specials that are available for this night only.

Head over to Gilt City and make your ticket purchase and feel free to buy one for me while you are at it!

http://www.giltcity.com/san-francisco/fleurdelys

Here’s to making 2011 as luxurious, black, and wonderful as possible!

 

Benu: Where the Whole Menu Will Blow Your Mind

22 Sep

If there is one thing I stand for, it is curves. I love them on my body, on my plate, and in my words. I am currently enrolled in an Art of Languaging writing class where we try and look at words in different ways, whether it be the sounds or lines. Looking at the word Benu to me is the epitome of curvaceous. The b and  e are a bubbly opening and then you have the up and down, yin and yang, open wave form of n and u. I am not a design person, so excuse me for explaining this clumsily, but as I walked down the steps from the host to the carpeted dining room and I looked up, I somehow saw the word “benu” in the design. The ceiling had the “nu” hilly form. It is a rare thing when the aesethic style perfectly matches the name and idea of the establishment. White, minimal, clean, and bosomy.

The design of this place was rather overwhelming. I kept trying to remember the last time I saw plush carpet in a restaurant and how nice and luxurious it was. Only one painting adorned the wall in the dining room and it was far away from me. I was convinced that I had the best seat in the place. The silverware design with the fork with five tines and knife on a handcrafted smooth wood rest was as elegant as can be. My favorite musician, Regina Spektor, was playing throughout the restaurant and the mood was set. My eyes and my my ears were stimulated and I was waiting for my mouth to get in on the action.

When the hard deciscion of the day is whether to get the tasting or a la carte menu, you have what I like to call Princess Problems…life ain’t bad. My dining partner already had the tasting menu and it was the description of the duck entree that swayed me to the a al carte side. Have no fear, we still each ordered a dish from each menu section. The first thing to come to the table is the Buckwheat Lavash, seasonsed with nori and seasame, which are stood upright in a slotted box, similar to that of Dexter’s blood files. Next, is the amuse bouche, pictured above, it is a dashi broth with a tomato water sphere and summer blossoms. It was a lovely pop to the proverbial cherry (tomato) of the meal.

Under the small appetizer section I chose the apple, bacon, celery branch, walnut, mimolette, mustard, beer. Once again, the hilly form was showcased and I was really excited by the textures and tastes. The apple was peeled and perfectly sweet, the bacon was thin and crispy as can be, and the beer was a foam. This was a playground for the palate and I was going from the cheese swing to a dip in the mustard pool. Everything in this dish was fun and whimsical. My dining partner ordered a much more grown-up appetizer, the monkfish liver torchon, almond, endive, cherry. It was creamy, decadent and silky. The pairing, with the cherry and bread on the side, showed me that this is the foie gras of the sea.

The following menu section was pasta, and I chose wisely with the risotto, sea urchin, corn, lovage, black truffle. The dish came lid on and as soon as the server removed it the aroma of truffle filled the air. Uni is one of those foods that literally changed my life. I own the domain Looney Uni dot com and everything about it is the sexiest food ever. It reminds me of a tongue that just perfectly melts itself in your mouth. It is like velvet. I have heard it described in much more sexual terms but this is the ingredient that does it for me. This combination of the creamy risotto, sweet corn, fragrant black truffle, and fresh uni worked beautifully. This is quite possibly the most perfect dish I have ever had. My dining partner had this dish on his first visit and although he said he wants three of these dishes he ordered the rigatoni, sea cucumber, oxtail, wood ear mushrooms, star anise, red wine, butter in effort to try something new. It was rich and earthy but it couldn’t hold a candle to the risotto.

On to the fish and shellfish portion, I ordered the big fin squid, pork belly, turnip, cucumber, mizuna, preserved plum. The squid was thick, but not rubbery, and it worked well with the plum sauce. The pork belly was fatty and crispy, as it should be. My companion had the more interesting dish, the shrimp boudin, snapping turtle, vegetable matignon, burnett. The boudin had plump chunks of shrimp and the snapping turtle in the broth was rich and flavorful.

As I mentioned, it was the description of the duck that brought me over to to the a la carte side. Duck, artichokes, chanterelles, coriander, lemon, olive oil are all of my favorite ingredients, so clearly this was my dish. This dish did not disappoint in any way. It was a beautiful duck breast and then duck mousse under the crispy skin. The artichoke puree and the hearts themselves added this creaminess to the plate that complemented the duck very nicely. Part of the reason I love artichokes so much is because of the aftertaste, that herbal aftertaste that reminds me so much of green tea. This crisp flavor along with the lemon and coriander left the most delightful taste in my mouth and mind. My dining partner, thankfully, preferred his own dish more, which was dry-aged, “pré salé” lamb rack, garlic sausage, cauliflower, date, pine nuts, ginger. I liked this dish a lot, especially with the lamb dipped in the cauliflower puree but I preferred my tailor made dish. It is always nice when the orderer prefers their own dish.

When it came to dessert we ordered the soft chocolate ganache, feuille de brick, banana ice cream, Bourbon caramel, ginger and the blackberries, douglas fir meringue, candy cap sablé, natural cream. Both desserts were interesting, but that candied ginger several different ways and the banana ice cream were the stars of the dessert show.

At the end of the meal, you receive a lovely treat along with your bill and seasonal magnet, you get a box of chocolate. Forrest Gump is correct, life is like a box of chocolates and at Benu you can be assured that life is pretty damn good and delicious. There was not a bad dish in the meal and everything was meticulously made, presented, and served. Clearly Chef Corey Lee’s time at French Laundry was well-served, as nothing about Benu seems like it comes from a restaurant that is only six weeks old. This is a well-designed and executed restaurant and if there were any kinks that still need to be work out I, as a diner, did not see them. Sommelier Yoon Ha was on point with every single wine he paired for us, and a meal here without consulting with this guy is just plain silly. My favorite pairing of the night was the late harvest riesling for the monkfish and uni risotto from C.H. Berres.

This entire meal was a Mission Fruition accomplished. I left the restaurant, full, satisfied, and with all of my senses on overload. When you walk back on to the street from the serene courtyard you can spot a window into the kitchen. It didn’t occur to me until now, but there are no windows in the dining room. You are completely removed and truly get to embark on a culinary journey. It was until I downloaded the picture did I spot the Chef, Corey Lee, in my kitchen picture. Holla! This guy and his masterpiece of a restaurant are well on their way to earn Michelin Stars all their own. Bravo Benu!

Benu

22 Hawthorne Ln
(at Howard St)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA

(415) 685-4860

www.benusf.com

Frances SF: Pride All Around

8 Aug

Imagine this if you will: You are a little over a week in to living in a brand new city, you’re there on one of the city’s biggest event days, and with dinner plans at the hardest place to get a table in town. That entire situation was me at Frances on the first big day of Pride. I was walking from my new apartment to this restaurant that I knew very little about, except that it had a waiting list that was in the “months” time frame. My walk had me tweeting away as sports cars were blasting Bob Dylan, plums were falling off trees and onto my head, and I began seeing naked men in pink tutus on every block. I was invigorated. Being able to walk less than a mile through a maze of entertainment and energy to a fine dining establishment had me more than excited. The reservation was early and the excitement of Pride was just beginning to brew. If you can see from the main picture the restaurant is nestled just away from the heart of the Castro in subdued colors and minimal signage, but on this night to the right was a man with pink hair and short shorts and black angel wings.

My dining companion had to wrestle the special day parking situation and I was seated. My waiter was adorable as can be and when I said I wanted a cocktail but needed help deciding he recommended I’d get the Strawberry Fizz because today was such a festive day. The drink was refreshing, fruity, and full of champagne…all of my favorite things. The restaurant was modern, minimal, and a perfect juxtaposition to all of the excitement going on this day.

My dining partner The Dapper Diner joined me for dinner a few minutes later and I had been so busy perusing the menu that I knew exactly what we would have. One of the coolest things about Frances is their wine blends. You choose either red or white and  you get it in a glass pitcher, but the best part of all is that you only pay for what you drink, a dollar an ounce.

For me, the most interesting thing on the menu was the Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple creme fraiche. I loved the concept of this dish but unfortunately they weren’t as light as I would have liked and the dipping sauce was off. Perhaps our batch wasn’t straight out of the oven or something but I wasn’t in awe. However, this dish has such a potential and sounds so promising that I am sure I will always order it, even if I don’t absolutely love it.

The Panisse Frites on the other hand, a dish that I wasn’t that excited about, blew me away. The concept was simple, chickpea fritters that could be dipped like french fries into a Meyer lemon aioli and yet these were addictive little suckers. They were gorgeous to look at and the most awesome consistency, think of the smoothest mashed potatoes known to man.

The Dungeness Crab Salad, was yet another dish where Frances fooled Carina. This was an appetizer that we added to our order at the last minute, neither of us really thought much of the description. It was crab served with cherokee tomatoes, sweet herb vinaigrette, and baby lettuce. This dish was on my top 2 dishes of the night it was well-balanced, light, and perfectly dressed. It is funny because for the most part I thought I have reached the point in my life when I can look at a movie trailer, a dress on a rack, or a dish on a menu and know how it will fit and what I will love. I cannot tell you how exciting it is when I am more than surprised. Melissa Perello, the chef /owner of Frances, takes her dishes to places that can’t be captured by simple menu descriptions and therefore the element of surprise is always there. Perhaps this is why Fifth Floor received a Michelin Star under her leadership.

The White Corn Soup with shrimp, basil, and creme fraiche was all in the presentation. I was sure that this was going to be a favorite, but sadly it was not. It was a beautiful dish but the taste didn’t quite match the elegance of its description.

I am a sucker for pasta and will pretty much always order either mac and cheese or gnocchi on any menu when it is offered. The Ricotta Gnocchi with green garlic, english peas, and morels was denser than I would have liked and again didn’t match up to the perfection that was the crab salad.

For the entrée, I had the Herb Stuffed Guinea Hen, which was served creamy polenta, chanterelles, white corn and an apricot. This site is called Mission Fruition and I love all dishes with fruit components and this was quite good. The sauce was way too salty for me, as I am ultra-sensitive to salt but between the polenta and the apricot I was able to cut most of it. The mixture of light meat and dark wrapped together in crisped skin was perfection.

My dining partner had the Napa Valley Lamb with summer squash, baked ricotta, and braised lamb crespelle.

We finished off the meal with a shot, shot, shot, shot. At Frances they have these Market Shots, which according to them are: “Whatever we find at the market gets juiced, spiced and spiked.” On our night we had a delicious berry shot, which was a perfect end to the meal and got us ready for dessert.

For dessert we had the Bittersweet Chocolate Pot de Creme and the Almond and Semolina Crostata. I am a girl who likes my men like I my desserts: Fruity! So the chocolate belonged to my dining partner and let me tell you that it was as rich and decadent as can be. I wasn’t sure what to get on the dessert menu and nothing was really jumping out at me so I ordered the crostata basically because of the red plum, nectarine, and raspberries. It was also served with the most delicious English thyme ice cream. Once again, the dish that I was look forward to least was the dish that won my heart. The pastry on this dish was to die for, as was the fresh fruit and savory ice cream.

While were having dessert in this quiet tranquil little restaurant nestled in the Castro, all of the sudden we were shaking with the loud sounds of a gang of motorcycles riding by. I asked “Dykes on Bikes?” and within seconds the restaurant agreed and confirmed that it was Dykes on Bikes who just rolled through the streets. I smiled and when we were walking out I tweeted: “Dykes on bikes just rode in front of @FrancesSF. I love San Francisco fine dining.” The next morning, I received a tweet back from the restaurant saying, “We love our neighborhood, too.” This was really the most fantastic restaurant and dining experience. Perhaps it was because of the excitement of Pride or me settling in to my new home but this is my number #1 on San Francisco restaurants. I may have had a more put together meal at Prospect but this was non-corporate and just felt like what you’d imagine a great San Francisco restaurant to be: fresh, local, neighborhoody, and full of great people and great food.  I was happy to learn that my favorite bookstore (Omnivore Books) owner took famed NYT food writer Frank Bruni to Frances when he was in town. I, in turn, will take my favorite foodie friend The Minty there on Friday when she is visiting from Los Angeles. If you want to see real SF Pride, they are serving it up beautifully at Frances SF.

Frances SF
3870 17th St
(between Pond St & Noe St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Neighborhood: Castro

(415) 621-3870

frances-sf.com

The Dapper Diner

http://twitter.com/thedapperdiner

The Minty

http://twitter.com/theminty

http://theminty.com/

Omnivore Books on Food: Just Devour It!

28 Jun

I have now lived in San Francisco for a little over a week. I have been on two dates, tried countless new restaurants, and I have already fallen in love. This isn’t a crush this is a full blown love affair. It all began a few days ago when I was driving to meet someone. Side Note: I am trying so hard to lose my LA car tendencies but it is so hard. I just heard the fact the other day that any place in the city is within two blocks of some kind of public transportation, so my driving is unnecessary and has proved to be dangerous. When you are as big of an eater and shopper as I am and in a new city, every drive is a prowling. I turn my head to one side and then to the other and I forget to look at the road. There is a Thai restaurant to my left and a wine bar to my right. I need to remember these names and yelp them later, they are in my hood and that means they are now mine. On this particular day, I drove past a bookstore that looked adorable. While I was being honked at to do my main job of driving, I registered the words “Books on Food.” I imagined the best. I just discovered an entire bookstore based on food writing, cookbooks, and everything else a gourmand would need. I didn’t know a place like this existed and I was pissed that I didn’t think of this sooner. I had places to go but I made a note to thoroughly investigate later. I kept remembering the time when I was in Europe and I tried Magners (Bulmers in Ireland) for the first time. I was in heaven. That drink was something I never could have imagined and yet it combined all of my favorite things. There was a fruit component, there was alcohol, it was nice and vinegary, and I was able to drink it fast unlike beer. It was a drink that was tailor made for me and something that was impossible to find in any LA bar. However, blocks from my house, at the Valley Tavern in Noe Valley along with bars all over San Francisco it is on draft. I thought that was my favorite thing in Noe Valley and then a better suitor  and  combination came along.

After a night at Bourbon & Branch I had my first San Francisco sleepover. Unfortunately, it was not with a man but perhaps even better it was with my best friend d’Auria. After a night of strong cocktail drinking, I was thrilled that I was waking up next to her. We grabbed bagels (that were boiled and not baked) at Holey Bagel and then as I was going to drive her home without the awkward morning-after-nonsense I asked if I could take her somewhere that looked amazing but I wasn’t sure. She was her normal agreeable self and I drove by memory to the site of my near collision. Ceasar Chavez and Church and there I found Omnivore Books on Food. I was relieved. I wasn’t making it up. It really did exist. I still didn’t know what to expect as I only had a relationship with the sign. As we got to the door we first saw the sign with Oscar the Oyster. d’Auria is big on design and aesthetics and is currently helping me redecorate my life: from my new apartment to my new websites. I knew instantly that if she had all the time and money in the world she would make a bookstore that looks exactly like this.

We were two girls in our version of a candy shop. Bourdain was in front of us and Ruth Reichl to the left of us. There were farm fresh eggs at the counter and a converted meat locker. This old restaurant space seemed like a shrine to all that encompasses food. The woman at the counter was my favorite kind of store owner, she is in her element and she loves what she does. She wasn’t pushy at all and I could see her smile when I talked trash on chefs and food writers. Perhaps I felt too at home here, but this is now my neighborhood and this store held everything that I value: food and words. I asked d’Auria if she could make Indian food because she is a woman that is a Jill of All Trades and she said that she wants to but would rather learn from an expert. Later when we talked to the owner she said, “I heard you mention Indian food and we have one book that is fantastic because it is all built off 5 spices and the author walks you through it.” She knew the whole backstory and I was so captivated by the store she told, I bought the book. I told d’Auria that we would be working through it as soon as my kitchen is unpacked and d’Auria helps build me  a cabinet for my appliances and cookbooks in my kitchen. She easily agreed and we spent the whole car ride marking recipe pages. I will let you all know how the Indian cooking goes.

So that is it, this is my love story. I love Omnivore and can’t wait to devour more of it. Like any good love affair, I am getting so excited about being able to introduce this place to my family and friends. The owner gave me great restaurant and book recommendations but, perhaps more importantly, she also gave me a place that I naively feel was made for me. I know this sounds corny (I can even make that punny) but this little place showed me that Noe Valley is my neighborhood and home. Finding this gem was more significant and grounding then my new mailing addresss and apartment keys. Anyway, I will gladly take you here at any point and don’t forget to check out their awesome events. I am most excited about Frank Bruni on July 25th. In it’s perfect omnivorous fashion you can find new, vintage, and signed books throughout the store.

3885A Ceasar Chavez St
San Francisco, CA 94131
Neighborhood: Noe Valley

(415) 282-4712

www.omnivorebooks.com

FIG: A Restaurant Worthy of A Date

11 Jun IMG_2540

I love corny, I love food (especially fruit), and I love pick-up lines. One of my favorites is: “Want a raisin? How about a date?” When I went to FIG the jokes and lines in my head ran rampant. FIG is a hotel restaurant, which I know bothers some people but for me it is such a bonus. As much as I love restaurants, I love hotels more. My college application essay was entitled, “Why I deserve to be like Merv” after my idol, Merv Griffin, and the first business plan I ever wrote was for a hotel called Hotel Fruition. I told you fruition was my favorite word. Anyway, this particular night several weeks ago was exactly what I needed. I was with good friends and I got served fantastic food, exactly what the doctor had ordered. Edward, Minty and I were joined by Jackie who reps FIG for a dinner on the patio facing the pool. The Fairmont Hotel is gorgeous and as much as it is historic and classic looking it is still hip and you can do yoga classes down the hall. All in all, a perfect Santa Monica establishment. My favorite point in any relationship is when the other person gets to know my palate. Selfish? Perhaps, but for me that is the most important thing anyone can know about another person. When Matthew Lehman, the Director of Food and Beverage of FIG, came by our table and told us the specials as soon as he said “rabbit” the table went wild. Minty and Edward pointed to me and said, “We know what you are ordering.” I have had a bit of an affair with rabbit (note: not “the rabbit”) and it is now my must have on any menu. I thank Mark Peel and Campanile for making me fall in love with this  bushy tailed critter on a plate all over again. I shouldn’t say that, it tastes like chicken…only way better. Anyway, my entree was decided for me early on so the rest of the meal was a breeze.

Not long after being seated we received a beautiful cherry salad from the chef, Ray Garcia. Tis the cherry season and after going cherry crazy all week, I was happy to have some more in a lighter fashion. Instead of popping them like peanuts all week while watching tv like I was doing at my house. This dish was elegant and light and perfectly highlighted what was in peak season, the main concept behind FIG. We were served a very nice Pinot Noir, called Bonhan-Dillon, with an even cuter story regarding pictures of the cat that was bit by a snake drawn by the wine maker’s daughter. It didn’t stop there, our table also indulged in cocktails. This Blueberry & Thyme one that Minty ordered was my favorite.

Under the Snacks and Starters sections of the menu we had the Buffalo Mozzeralla with Hand-Mashed Pesto, which I loved even though my sweet thoughtful Edward warned me that it may be too salty for my liking. He knows that I am salt sensitive and I know that he thinks that pesto is a dish made from the gods. We also had the Blistered “Little Gem” Romaine Hearts, which was like a deconstructed caeser salad with white anchovies.

Just like all good Jewish girls, I then had a delicious special of Sweet Prawns and the famous Bacon Wrapped Bacon. The shrimp was sweet, succulent, and plump and my favorite of the starters. Eating in this way, where the Chef gives you only what is in peak season really provides you, the eater, with the best quality of ingredients.  I know that this blasphemy for any foodie to say but I don’t love bacon. I like it in its thicker pork belly form but bacon alone just doesn’t do it for me. This bacon wrapped bacon was a whole different story, it was a nice thick piece of pork belly and then the thin crispy bacon surrounded it.  it was a nice change to both and it is funny how the same ingredient can still complement one another.

Manchego with Olives and Almonds was the last of our snacks, it was good but all cheese at FIG is, I will get in to that a bit later. Let me just say the second coming may be FIG’s very own personal “Cheesus.”

For my entree I had the special of the day, which was Rabbit in a White Mole Sauce. This is not a typical dish here at FIG but it should be. Apparently, on this particular day, Chef Ray Garcia was at the Farmer’s Market and saw that they had rabbit and decided then and there to buy it and make a meal around it. I, of course, have heard of white chocolate but never have I heard of a white mole sauce. It was sweet but not too sweet. The rabbit was still the main focus of the dish but it had the most perfect accents. I, like Grace Adler, love raisins in everything and this dish had them and the golden variety. There was a nice chard underneath that cut some of the sweetness, and all around this was a perfect dish. Edward said that he can’t remember the last time he tried such a good entree, and quite frankly neither can I. Mission Fruition completed, this was a foodgasm-tastic dish.

Jackie had the Red Beet Risotto, which was the most beautiful and healthiest of all of the dishes. There simply isn’t enough colorful dishes and this one filled the quota. The beautiful reds and purples of the beets dyed itself onto the rice. Underneath the risotto was creme fraiche and on top of it was mixed greens and golden beets. If beets are nature’s candy, which I believe them to be, then this dish was nature’s art and symphony. It was as pretty as it was fresh, tasty, and healthy.

Edward had the Twelve Ounce New York Strip, which was not quite as exciting as the other dishes but I do remember that I stole quite a bit of his fries. It was one of those nights where we all sampled off of our neighbors plates. Minty had bunnies as a kid, like the story goes two bunnies lead to many, and so she has an aversion to eating rabbit. I completely understand but normally Minty and I will be torn among the same dishes on the menu, so she is a good friend to have around the dining table. If the special of all specials wasn’t offered then I would have easily ordered the plate she had Short Rib and Pancetta Meatloaf. I love meatloaf and this was unlike any other I have ever had. With the specials excluded, this is the dish that is a must have at FIG.

The desserts were another place where we went crazy. Each person ordered one and then we also got a cheese plate. We had the Citrus Panna Cotta, Chocolate Pot Au Creme, Nutella and Chocolate Tart, and Peach Sorbet. I can’t even pick a favorite, they were all so fantastic. Alright, gun to my head, the Nutella Tart with candied hazelnuts and marshmallow cream. I am normally a fruity dessert girl but this dish was really fantastic. I couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites, but when it comes to dessert that is all that you need.

I mentioned “Cheesus” earlier but he really is a mystical presence at FIG. When we first saw him at the restaurant, I made a comment that he reminded me of a mad scientist. He is crazy but about the most sacred of things, cheese. He greeted the tables with such authority and when we ordered the cheese plate for dessert we knew we needed his guidance. Funny enough, as I am typing this “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West  just came on my iTunes shuffle so here is my homage: “I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Cheesus” I have no idea what kind of cheese we got, nor do I remember the order he recommended we eat it, but I do now that I trusted him and he didn’t lead me astray.

Final verdict, yes, FIG is a hundred percent worthy of making a date for. You will have delicious fresh seasonal food, be told interesting stories about wine, have a cheese savior come to your rescue, and maybe even get to the next level with your friends. This was the night that Edward and I took our relationship to the next level, he got to know my palate. Swoon!

Some more reading:

Minty’s recap on this dinner

The Delicious also just wrote about FIG

I also sampled their new Hot Dogs by the pool at TOTNLA, the Taco Dog is OMG good!

The Last Night of LudoBites 4.0: It didn’t Bite, It Ruled

8 Jun 4667937069_47bcbf4e26
Friday, the 28th, was the last night of LudoBites 4.0. I don’t say this mildly, Ludo is without question the most interesting and exciting thing in the LA food scene. He dominates the Twitterazzi and has been written about and seen everywhere. The establishments like LA Times has made him a cover-story, my idol Ruth Reichl has given him a nod, and the food renegade The J Gold just can’t get enough, girls melt for him as a Top Chef Master contestant and all of LA loves their Ludo. We can talk about what makes him so appealing: the tattoos, the French accent, the fact that you make your reservations via Twitter but really what makes Ludo phenomenal is his imagination. The purpose of this new Mission Fruition project for me is to reach the elusive foodgasm and as we all know that is impossible without some foreplay. The key to foreplay is playing hard to get and LudoBites rules at this. His most awesome wife handles reservation via Twitter and they are booked within hours. As you probably know I am in the process of moving to SF so these last few weeks have been hitting up some famous LA spots that I have never tried. In the week of seeing Ludo I went to Animal and XIV, I am sorry waistline and wallet. A few Fridays ago was going to be a mellow eating day and then I was going to go crazy on Minty’s Gays and Dolls crawl in EaHoLA (my made up neighborhood name for Los Feliz/Silverlake). All I had was lentil soup for breakfast and was walking in to Mi Piace for a glass of wine and pizza with the Baron (yup, his family has Baron status and owns 80% of the Kosher wine market) when I got a DM on Twitter Kevin Eats saying he had an open spot at LudoBites at 6p. It was 2p then and I was well aware that it was the final Ludo night. The following day I was heading up north to SF to go apartment hunting and I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. I responded “yes” with no hesitation and when he wrote back saying that we would be ordering the entire menu my order at this late lunch went from pizza to a side salad. I was beyond excited and moved around my whole schedule. Took a shower and rushed over to Gram and Papa’s for Ludo Bites. I was in such a fluster that I didn’t realize til Chinatown that I didn’t think of bringing a bottle of wine and of course Ludo is so cool and underground it is BYOB. I looked at the time and realized I should arrive first and think about walking across the street to get wine later. Gram and Papa’s isn’t in the best part of downtown and I was in a booty clinging skirt for the gay bars later but not appropriate for this hood. I was rattled, excited, nervous, and unsure of what this totally unplanned night held.

My table mates were already seated and there were 4 bottles of wine welcoming me. There were 5 of us, Kevin Eats, Epicuryan, Cookie Chomper, Food, Je T’Aime, and myself. They were wine armed and camera armed and I felt safe and able to relax. The first thing that was presented to us was a warm baguette. Everyone shot away and when it was my turn to snap, I said I had no interest in photographing bread and the table reminded me that this was Ludo Bread with Honey Lavender Butter and Smoked Lard. This was the last MF’n night of Ludo Bites 4.0 I better take pictures.

A few sips of wine later and the actualization that I was at the last night of LudoBites and probably wouldn’t be in LA for all of the future stints and I was happy. I let the plates be brought out and put in front of me. This was the lying there phase and it was fantastic. The food was gorgeous. And we didn’t even have to take time to think and order, we simply had it all coming to us. We got 11 appetizers, 5 main courses, and 2 desserts. Brace yourself. First up, was the Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste. This dish was, unfortunately, prettier than it was tasty. It probably would have worked better with more acid but dorade isn’t the tastiest of fish.

The next dish up had the texture of the most heavenly of dishes, it was cloud-like and delicious. I am not a huge fan of soft cheese, I like my cheese like I like my men. However, this cheese took brie to the next level and it is was as high as the sky. The Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Balsamic went together so fantastically. As mentioned, I have been dining very well lately and I have seen fresh honeycomb everywhere but it is almost always paired with blue cheese. Let me tell you, it goes so much better with this whipped brie.

Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce was probably my least favorite of all of the dishes, but that was just based on my own personal food discrimination. I am neither a fan of cold shrimp or avocados. This dish started showing the Ludo creativity that I love but why did it have to be frozen avocado shavings? Every time I see my mom she always asks me, “have you finally come to your senses, do you NOW like avocado? Sadly the answer is no, but let’s just say that I loved the Corona granita that came a bit later.

Marinated King Salmon, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche was the absolute prettiest dish. I snapped this one endlessly and I think it was around this time that our table got reprimanded by the chef and we were caught on TwitPic where a 1,000 people caught us in the act. Sorry Chef Ludo, but this dish was like the most beautiful watercolor and you were the artist. If I had to name the biggest food crime, it would be cooked salmon. Ludo gave this to me just how I like it: raw, pickled, and with cream. Oops sorry, I forgot, I am trying to no longer be uncouth.

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce was a heavy dish with strong ocean tastes. One of the people at the the table didn’t get any veal in her bite and was unable to identify which menu item this was. I liked the veal tartar very much but it really played back up to the strong oyster and tonnato flavors.

The next dish up bothered some people at my table because it came across as a kind of fusion sushi that you would see done at a Wokano or something of the sort. It is not that big of a stretch because it was in a cone and because the words “spicy mayo” were used on the menu. However, Ludo’s Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite dish was anything but amateur. This is where you see the true imagination of Ludo’s food. It is childlike but oh so sophisticated. The cold component is outside the cone and it has that perfect refreshing Corona taste. The cone was made of regular and black sesame seeds and filled with a fried soft shelled crab and the topping that you may expect on your cone was mango. I loved this dish. I was one of the few at the table who was at LudoBites 4.0 for the first time but apparently those numbers kept track of how many were served. Some of the people that went to the opening of LB 4.0 got single digits. On this closing night, I got lucky number 327! C’mon guy, we can talk numbers, we all shared the same dish….what number were you?

Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consomme, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil Alright folks, I don’t want to blow my load too early but this was the dish. I only took one picture and giggled about how ugly it looked on my camera screen. But as any serious dater or eater knows, looks are deceiving. I will say that I did read earlier that day in The J Gold’s review that he loved this dish but the word kimchi in the title just made me shrug. I took a bite and knew that this dish was perfection. This was a perfect marriage between my culture, my palate, and my gourmand-ness. I have not really written very much yet about my dining companions but the one that invited me was Kevin Eats, who is probably best known for his infamous piece entitled, “Why are there so many Asian food bloggers?” Truth be said, if you like it or not that question comes up all the time, especially when I introduce people to this small incestuous little community. It is a reasonable question and at our table of 5 I was the only non-Asian and those are similar percentages to most blogger dinners I attend. I don’t mind at all and consider myself Asian in my heart. In fact, my next comment after hearing that question posed is, “If they are not Asian, then they are probably Jewish.” Asians and Jews are very culturally similar and you can draw many parallels in Kevin’s answer to that question. In fact, I have just as many memories making Chinese dumplings with my Jewish grandmother than I do making matzoh balls with her. This brings me to why I loved this dish so much. My grandma is no longer alive and one of the dishes that she made and I loved was stuffed cabbage. I have spent numerous hours looking for the perfect recipe online but I haven’t found it yet. Another thing I love is a good wonton soup and this had the exact same taste in the broth, probably from the vinegar, cabbage, and sesame oil. So not only did I have two strong comfort foods and flavors but then Ludo took this simpler comfort food to the next level and stuffed the cabbage with foie. The next level was reached and I was in heaven. For once, a whole table filled with food bloggers agreed that this was THE dish of the night.

For an encore, I bring you another dish that is rooted in comfort but kicked up to elegant fine dining. The Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney was something that I really wanted to have during my two times at LudoBites 2.0 but both times it was sold out. I now can clearly see why. It is reminiscent of a childhood sandwich, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly. The bread is not white, it is black and dyed with squid ink. Instead of peanut butter you had a delicious and unctuous piece of foie gras, creamier and better than any butter. Rather than a plain jam you had a cherry-amaretto chutney that complemented the foie better than peanut butter goes with jelly.

The Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guinness was reminiscent of something I had at LudoBites 2.0. In that older Ludo pop-up I had a cornichon, cantaloupe, and chorizo soup that I wasn’t that sure about. If there is one thing that I am sure about it is that I love cornichons. In fact, during a trip to the South of France I took a glass jar of cornichons back with me in my luggage. For the love of pickles, I risked all of my belongings ruined and plagued with the smell of pickle juice. I was happy that ingredient stayed. I went from one spoonful to many more saying “give me a second” as I was trying to gather and announce all of the tastes in my mouth. Not only was it a treasure hunt for tastes it was also a treasure hunt when someone discovered that there was bread with cheese on the bottom of the soup. It was another adventure and an all around fun dish.

One of my oldest friends in LA is Filipina and I remember her telling me long ago that as a kid she loved blood sausage but she never knew what it was. She simply called it chocolate and her parents gave it to her whenever she asked for chocolate. This seemed like the oddest confusion to me but after tasting the Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Puree, Wasabi I have a much better understanding for the confusion. It is chocolaty and nutty, the apple and wasabi were nice and made this scary black square more appealing and gentle. I had a few bites but due to its rich characteristics I probably couldn’t eat more than that. Also, unlike my friend, I didn’t grow up with the dish and I know very well exactly what it is.

Alright, now we are on to main courses. The Squid “Carbonara”, Pancetta, Poached Egg (63°), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers was another dish that I heard about a lot on Twitter and the blogosphere. It sounded fantastic. However, I am a girl that loves her pasta so as fun of a a surprise ingredient the squid was I really wanted something nice and starchy to curb the heaviness of the parmesan.

Another thing I read prior to going to dinner that night was an article on how to eat your way to a tan. The next dish Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices must have improved my coloring with all of those carrots and oranges. The flavors were all very sweet and took away from that beautiful piece of monkfish.

The next two dishes Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant and Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint I didn’t pay as much attention to. Ludo was at the table then and I was getting all of the requisite shots. I heard that Ludo 5.0 would be in July and probably still be in downtown because he loves it there. I also remember saying that I wanted an entire artichoke to myself and so I selfishly grabbed that and was less interested in the meat on the plate, after all, I had a hot piece of  (*refrain*) with a French accent talking to me. I also remember eating that cube item stupidly by itself. It was a reduction of the beef au jus and black currant. It was super salty and probably paired nicely with the meat but, well, I am an idiot.

It’s all about Ludo’s Fried Chicken and damn it’s good. I first had it at the LA Street Food Fest where I was volunteering. A friend was waiting in line for hours to get a couple of those golf ball size pieces of chicken and kindly gave me one. That day was infamous for long lines and a ton of people and I can tell you that chicken has never tasted so good. After a long full dinner where I was totally satisfied and reached a mission fruition on the 5th appetizer, I can tell you that his chicken is just as good. The meat is dark and tender and the the fried batter is sprinkled with rosemary and thyme so it tastes as good as t smells. On this night, it wasn’t just the chicken the dish it was Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce. The coconut polenta and the grilled corn gave it a nice summer tropical vibe and the diablo sauce was a nice accompaniment but I like my “LFC” as is and without sauce. Look for the Ludo Fried Chicken Truck hitting the streets of LA this summer!

There were two desserts on the menu this night. Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue and Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream. While Ludo is not typically known for his desserts I thought both were quite nice. The strawberry dessert had the surprise element of poprocks and reminded me of the stereotypical girl dessert and the chocolate souffle was decedent and the boy version. While I am sure that I probably shouldn’t admit this or say it in this post about a Michelin starred chef but I thought the two dessert were as cute as McDonald’s when they ask if you want a girl or a boy toy with your Happy Meal. Yes, I occasionally want a Happy Meal with boot-shaped chicken nuggets and sweet n sour sauce (you see that Mickey D’s fried chicken needs sauce, Ludo’s does not). Anyway, I totally mean this as a compliment, the whole meal was a sophisticated culinary wonderland that brought in key elements from my childhood and my comfort spots.

All in all, this was the most fantastic dinner. I loved the food and it is sad how much of fine dining doesn’t have that imagination that LudoBites possesses. I am excited about all of his projects and remember to follow him and his awesome wife on Twitter to discover everything that will be unfolding this summer. As I said, in the beginning, they are a huge part of what is making the LA food scene so exciting! Yes, I will soon be living in San Francisco but I am sure that whenever I come to visit I will make LudoBites and the LFC truck a top destination. Here are other reports on this meal from my dining companions that will keep you updated on all the new exciting LA food trends from Ludo to beyond:

Kevin Eats

food, je t’aime

Epicuryan

Cookie Chomper

Taste of the Nation LA 2010: Tasty & Fruitful

7 Jun 4677390243_f6dccc2e9b

I am not sure about what I believe in but, without doubt, I know that I believe in synchronicity. I wrote in my UG and LA Goodbye post that you could see us, Josie and Carina, the OG UG girls at Taste of the Nation LA. However, then I had no idea how significant this event would be. For the last week, I have been up in Nor Cal apartment hunting and trying to get my new life in order. What I have really wanted to do more than anything is write on this site about all of the fantastic LA food that I have had in the last few weeks. I have been busy but on Friday night I finally completed and then accidentally deleted an entire post I wrote about the last night LudoBites 4.0. I was livid but had no time to fix it or rewrite it because I had to be in bed by 10:30P and out the door of my family’s house in Santa Cruz by 5:30A to make it to my TOTNLA volunteer duties back in LA. I was tired and after a very caffeinated Venti Chai and 44oz Diet Coke (which oddly enough was cheaper than the 24oz at the gas station) I was wide awake but with the need to pee every 20 minutes. I made it to the beautiful Media Park in Culver City just in time for my shift. I grabbed my volunteer shirt, went to the station, saw Josie and within minutes we were back to our old antics. We “worked” and, of course, began the day with the most healthy offering at the event…red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles.

If you really want to know how bad I am, I went directly from those to a St. Germain Cocktail. It was my drink of the day and what I kept drinking even on into the after party.  Champagne, St. Germain, club soda, and a lemon peel was exactly what I needed on a sunny day after driving for 6.5 hours.

After some sugar, a drink, and the realization that I was no longer in a car with the need to pee, I was finally ready to delve into the food portion of the day. Just like last year, the food was beautiful, abundant and definitely did not disappoint. Some of the first dishes I had were actually my favorites and I don’t know if it was just me but I noticed a big crispy rice trend in many of the dishes and frozen adult slushies, both of which I loved immensely. The first dishes I tried were from a Culver City restaurant called K-Zo it was spicy tuna over crispy rice and then a spicy albacore roll. There was also a marinated albacore sashimi with radish and carrots that I loved. It was fresh, fatty, and oh so delicious!

Patina had a beautiful hamachi dish but I think it was a tie between K-Zo and XIV for the better sashimi.

Another common dish was meat and a starch or as Mattatouille said on Twitter, “Nice to see so many familiar faces at @TOTNLA. Food was good though too many beef/mashed potato the like dishes on a hot day.” Several  restaurants did it several different ways. Hatfields had short ribs over mashed potatoes with crispy rice, caramelized onions, and sea salt sprinkled on top. XIV had beef cheek with liquid corn on the cob. Tavern had a really nice piece of meat on a crostini with cheese on top. Lastly, there was the BLT Steak short rib tortelli that was another winner, it was delicate and well seasoned with fresh corn and mushrooms. Tavern was probably the most tender and delicious piece of meat, XIV had the most interesting side, and Hatfield’s was just a nice and solid dish. In fact it was really funny at the Hatfield’s tent because there was a huge line and the chef was thoughtful plating each dish an ingredient at a time. As soon as the meat was atop the mashed potatoes a guy in front of me in line was being polite and told me to take a plate. I said, “Thank you, but I don’t think he is done plating.” After we waited for the last three additions to be added, I happily took my plate first and this man in line with me looked very defeated. Thankfully this well put together dish cheered him up.

As previously mentioned, the other trend that I loved and supported were adult style slushies. They were refreshing on this hot day and alcohol is always a fantastic accompaniment to food. I had The Bazaar nitrogen Caipirinha and the cucumber adult slushie aka “Brain Freeze” from Marcel at Bar210

In attendance were some famous Top Chef Alum from Marcel to Michael Voltaggio. Michael did a live cooking demo for the event and I was unbelievably impressed by his dedication. He could have easily shown us an amazing and decedent dish to prepare but instead he really promoted the cause and did something much more meaningful. He made a healthy and delicious meal for 8 using $10 worth of ingredients. Also I never noticed it before but Marcel looks an awful lot like Ryan from The Office, although he is not this Michael’s crush. This Michael, Michael Voltaggio has another crush and that is ending childhood hunger. He was so impressed by TOTNLA and Strength that he got their famous apple logo tattooed on his calf, that my friends is dedication.

If you want to know about dedication, then I am the wrong person to ask as much as I was volunteering I was more interested in food. Josie and I had “Talent” on our name tags that wasn’t because we were the talent but rather we worked that station. It was our job to make sure the talent made it to  the stage and that the stage area was clean. The very funny Sklar brothers were the hosts and we offered to walk with one of them to hoard food for his wife and child who arrived late. While we were walking the tents, I ended up only getting food for myself. Side Note: the brothers had a funny bit about the TV show Hoarders and how they couldn’t delete any episodes of the show from their DVRs because they had so many memories of watching each of the episodes. Anyway here were some more of my favorites and even some Mission Fruition worthy dishes.

This one bite dish from Church & State totally allowed me to reach the elusive foodgasm. It was eggplant on the softest most delicate chickpea pancake. As soon as I took my first bite I reacted by saying “Baba Ghanoosh, that is good!” Another dish that I loved was no surprise, because I loved it last year as well. The miso ginger black cod in butter lettuce from Nobu West Hollywood is quite simply one of the greatest dishes ever. It is always perfect on hot days and Nobu has been doing this dish for years and way better than everyone else.

Another perfect dish that I loved was the Burmese melon salad from Susan Feniger’s Street. There were nuts, sesame seeds, fresh melon, and delicious coconut shavings that made this dish perfection. I love fruit and this dish brought me to fruition at first bite. Another sweet and seductive dish was the vanilla bean panna cotta from Mozza that came with fresh berries and a brittle. It was the creamiest panna cotta I have ever had and I loved that this dessert was not too sweet.

By far the most filling thing I ate was the hot dog from Fig. I had the one with pork belly and Fritos but I preferred the taco dog that Josie had with just about every taco topping smothering it. When we realized that we needed a picture of the two of us we each had a hot dog and I also had the lamb burger from Ford’s Filling Station (where I ended up last night at the unofficial after after party) in my hands. It was synchronicitic and something about yesterday just felt like old UG times.

The last Taste of the Nation LA event was an entirely different experience, for me, from the event this year. Both events had beautiful weather, delicious food, and both times I was overwhelmed by familiar faces and new tastes in my mouth. Last year, Uncouth Gourmands was just starting to make a name for itself and everything was exciting and new. I met new people, famous chefs, and reached multiple mission fruitions in my mouth. This year I arrived and it was more about closure. Yes, the food was fantastic and it was a good cause. But I really wanted to see old and new friends and say goodbye before I make my move. I rushed for that aspect of the event rather than just the food. I really feel that in going yesterday it made me more ready and able to move on. I have had a ton of amazing LA restaurants experiences, many of the restaurants were featured at this event, in the last few weeks to share with you and perhaps I needed this closure to start the ball rolling on this new site, more blogging, and my new life. I have already proved that I will drive down from NorCal in the wee AM morning hours and trust me a move to SF will not stop me from attending Taste of the Nation LA 2011…this is THE food event of the year! Just to tie it all together and prove that life really is synchronistic as I was downloading photos of the event on iPhoto I hit the Last 12 Months folder and this picture of Josie and I was taken exactly one year ago yesterday. We are still girls eating hot dogs but we are eating our own dogs and heading in two different directions.

A Gourmet Celebration: Ruth Reichl and the Legacy

24 Jan

I came back from my trip to NorCal on Tuesday. I drove in a storm and followed a police car that went 5 mph through a giant puddle. The reason for my return in this storm was the talk at Skirball with Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, and Laurie Ochoa. I had a food filled weekend with the Tasty Awards and the Fancy Food Fest that the storm kept me away from in SF, but it was LA that had the real food event I was looking forward to. I greatly admire all three of these people. I made it off the 405, an hour before the event. I changed my shirt in the car and met up with our friend, Kane, before Josie arrived straight from work. When the event started was when I knew that Evan Kleiman would be the moderator for the evening. I was thrilled. I met Evan when Josie and I volunteered to work the cookbook table at Taste of the Nation LA, she said one of the wisest comments I’ve ever heard. Josie and I gave her our business cards and she said, “Why does a blog need a President and a Chief Creative Officer?” Josie responded, “Well, it’s kind of a launchpad to something bigger” Evan didn’t skip a beat and said, “Honey, life is a launchpad to something bigger.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Evan put everyone at ease and the conversation flowed beautifully. Ruth, Jonathan, and Laurie came into Gourmet Magazine as renegades. They brought the idea of conscious food to the forefront, branched food out of the high-end restaurant/hotel world, and kept the literary excellence and journalistic integrity that Gourmet Magazine has always been famous for possessing. The night was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The magazine that had contributions from such writers as Maya Angelou,  David Foster Wallace, and F. Scott Fitzgerald closed with no dignity. Ruth had the December issue all ready to go with January, February, and most of March completed. These issues never saw the light of day and the magazine was closed with zero warning. However, this night was a celebration but the loss in all of our food lives could not be ignored. The video below was one of my favorite moments of the evening and the whole night can be seen and heard on Zocalo.

For me, the most uplifting part of the night was when an audience member asked what the legacy of Gourmet Magazine will be. Laurie Ochoa responded by saying that they never talked down to their readers. I loved that. In a world of oversimplifying and 30-minutes meals, it is nice that integrity is still held. Jonathan Gold made a joke about “Paula Deen’s Gourmet,” which gave everyone a chuckle and a genuine worry. I loved that neither Jonathan Gold nor Gourmet magazine ever gave restaurants a star rating. It is so much more than that; it’s a story. Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold loved being able to write 3,000 words on a single restaurant review in the magazine. He even told this great story about how at Gourmet you had to visit more than 8 times to write a review and at one of the later visits at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in NYC he had an worm in his salad. He played with it. The staff went crazy and someone tipped off the NY Post but he shrugged it off saying, “Look, I am from California, I understand. It means it’s organic.” This story was the perfect example of an Uncouth Gourmand and got me thinking a lot about Josie and myself. As most of you know, Josie and I bonded during a trip to Europe where the idea of the UGs was born. We spent more money than we spent on all of our hostels for 3 weeks on a $500 lunch at Le Louis XV in Monaco, also an Alain Ducasse restaurant. It was at this time when we put together the words uncouth and gourmand. We realized that sometimes a Doner kabob at 5am is just as good as a 5 star meal and that the dining experience must be a fun one.  The first time we met Jonathan Gold and said that we were the Uncouth Gourmands, he said that is who he has been his entire career. It is true, he is an idol of ours.

As much as we love him, it was Ruth that was the star of the evening. What a career and what a genuinely thoughtful woman. She sat on the floor and spoke with everyone afterward. We were waiting in line next to Teenage Glutster and Gastronomy Blog (photographed with us) and it was nice to see how excited they were to meet her. I know some people believe it is the fast paced blogging world and tweets that are putting an end to the print business but that doesn’t make the two things enemies. Bloggers are also thoughtful and have ethics, integrity, and “intellectual rigor” that the WSJ tributes to Gourmet Magazine. At the same point, Ruth talked about how much she was looking forward to the future technology for Gourmet magazine and enjoys reading blogs. In fact, when I met her I told her that I live in Pasadena, which was home to what she claimed was the best egg salad (the place was Euro Pane and I totally agree). I knew this information from her Twitter and I also read on her Twitter about the end of Gourmet magazine from the source. What I am trying to say is that clearly the medium has changed but the legacy that Gourmet pioneered lives on and I am thrilled it is so prevalent in my fellow LA bloggers.

I knew I wanted to write this post today, but there was one problem. I was hungover and starving. I remembered that Ruth said that the recipe collection is still on the Gourmet site and I felt compelled to make something. I woke up this morning dreaming of perfectly roasted chicken and found a recipe on their sadly no longer updated site. Even better it was in the easy to make category. I made the Chicken and Parsnip “Fries” with Spicy Vinegar recipe from the Gourmet site and I photographed it with my new camera. Look at that, I am upgrading my photo equipment. I am really not trying to use a Melvin Udall line but Gourmet Magazine and Ruth Reichl make me want to be a better Uncouth Gourmand, writer, cook, food photographer, and person.

Manresa: The Best Birthday Dinner and Perhaps the Best Meal of My Life

21 Oct

Uncouth Gourmand with Chef David Kinch

After a full work week and endless birthday surprises from my partner, I headed home to see the other woman in my life, my mama. I flew in to San Jose on Saturday afternoon and I began celebrating a long weekend in Santa Cruz with my family. My mom picked me up at the airport and I told her that all of LA is abuzz about a restaurant in Los Gatos called Manresa. Los Gatos is a small affluent town in between Silcon Valley and the beach town of Santa Cruz where I grew up. It is where I spent a lot of my high school days when I wanted to get away from my hippy upbringing and wanted to get in touch with my preppy side. I actually think that the reason I live in Pasadena is because it is so similar to Los Gatos except in a big city. Pasadena is equipped with a Bentley dealership, J. Crew, and an Old Town area just like that of Los Gatos. It is close to interesting areas (read: a LOT more culture)  but somewhere where I, as a girl, am totally comfortable living alone and walking freely at any time of night.

Manresa is closed from Monday to Wednesday so we made a reservation and showed up on Sunday night at 5:30 just the two of us as my brother had a babysitter. I told the babysitter that we would be back at 9pm at the latest. I know how tasting menus work and yet we didn’t even finish dinner until 9:40. My mom said when making the reservation that it was my birthday and upon walking in we were seated right by the window and there was a discreet birthday card waiting for me signed by all of the staff at Manresa. It was a charming touch. My mom and I both wanted the full restaurant experience from Chef David Kinch, who beat out Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, and went with the tasting menu. It was not cheap at $160 a person with no wine included. I had a few glasses of a sparkling riesling and my mom got a chardonnay. We were told by our fabulous waitress, Debbie, that the menu would start at the sea, go to the garden, go back to the sea, then to land with a poultry and a meat dish, and finish with two desserts. She mentioned that it changes over the course of the night and that it is best to get there early. The first thing we were served were some amuse-bouches.

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The very first thing looked just like dessert but was actually quite savory. It was a black olive madeline and a red bell pepper gelee. The next thing we were served came on the waiter’s platter and was a foie gras croquette they recommended taking it all in one bite as it was hot and could squirt. I really am not trying to be uncouth/vulgar, I swear. However, I had to eat so quickly I forgot to take a picture and I was kindly asked by the host to not use flash, I apologize for the sub-par photo quality. However, this foie gras one bite was hot and delish, it warmed me up and definitely tantalized my palate.

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soft boiled egg

The next amuses were a foie gras soup with a fried squash blossom on top and a soft boiled egg with sherry vinegar and maple syrup. It was all delightful little one bites and I could tell my mom was loving it but wanting something substantial. It was around this time they brought out fresh bread and butter. My mom has never been to France and I always tell her that the number one reason to go is for the butter. She has yet to have french butter but was going crazy about the butter they presented to her. She told the waitress and she mentioned that they have a cow in Watsonville and that they make their own butter. My mom used to teach special ed in Watsonville and was once again impressed by all of the touches.

eating bread at Manresa

Manresa in Los Gatos

garden salad

The real courses began with oysters that were a little to salty for both of our tastes but I could tell instantly that they were extremely fresh. I wish they were plain instead of covered in seaweed and buckwheat. However, I heard the table next to us with a surfer remark that it was so salty it reminded him of just picking an oyster up and eating it on his surfboard. I think that is a great compliment. I have always been more a fruit person and my mom has always been a little bunny (it’s no wonder I am a funny bunny) that loves vegetables so she loved the Into the Vegetable Garden salad. We learned that they have 2 acres on a farm in the Santa Cruz mountains area of Bonny Doon where they grow everything. This sealed the deal. I was in love. It was like he was making and serving my backyard. Chef David Kinch even oned up his Bobby Flay victory when it was revealed that he lives in Santa Cruz. I knew I had to meet this man and the waitress arranged a kitchen tour for us at the end of the meal. I was now on my second glass of bubbly and was ready for whatever courses would be thrown my way. The next one was by far my favorite, it was an abalone soup with sea urchin and foie gras in a light gingery broth. It was incredible. Sea urchin has become one of my favorite foods and I was amazed that we had now seen foie gras in 3 dishes.

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black cod

manresa chicken

The next few dishes were black cod and a farmed chicken breast both were good but not mind blowing like that soup. The last dish once again won me over. It was a Napa Valley spring lamb and tongue confit with carrots with orange purée and exotic spice. It tasted very Moroccan to me and as someone that normally doesn’t love either lamb or tongue, I was truly impressed. I couldn’t get enough of this particular dish.

lamb manresa

We asked if we could get both dessert courses at the same time as we had a babysitter to get back to and they happily obliged. I am quite positive that this is the kind of restaurant that never says the word, “No” unless of course it has to do with camera flashes. The dessert course was the The Flavors of New Orleans equipped with beignets, bananas, and pralines and then a pumpkin soup which was poured over ice cream. One of my other favorite touches was that the last thing brought out looked just like the first, except it was a regular madeline cookie with a strawberry gelee. It was the perfect bookend to an absolutely exquisite meal.

dessert manresa

We were taken back to one of the cleanest and best run kitchens I have ever seen. The only one that compares is the Baazar and they have a much larger operation going. There was something so charming about seeing the chef working, knowing the area where their garden is, knowing where their cow and thus butter comes from that made this meal so enjoyable.

manresa kitchen

Chef David Kinch made sure we enjoyed our meal, which of course we did and I can honestly say it was one of the top dining experiences of my life. It was also so special for my mom to get a taste (pun always intended) of the food world that I have become such a fan and groupie of. The next day my mom made me lasagna and she was back in her own kitchen. We may not have had our napkins folded back in to a cone every time we went to the bathroom but it was no less of a great experience. I think 2 weeks is a long enough birthday celebration. I am done. I can buy my own food and drinks now, but thank you to all that joined in my festivities. I am sure that this will be a truly great year in my life.

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Janis Ost and Carina Ost

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