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Archive for the ‘decadence’ Category
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
We had a full weekend of food, wine and no kid. He went skiing with a friend in Tahoe for the weekend. I don’t think there was a time, aside from when I first woke up, that I wasn’t full and/or a teeny bit tipsy. We didn’t need to drive anywhere, we just needed to eat and drink. Friday night we had dinner at Central Kitchen. Saturday morning we slept in then walked down to the Ferry Building and had brunch at Marketbar. We wandered around Chinatown, walked back to our hotel, had a couple of gin and tonics in the bar, took a nap, then headed out for the next round!
I have a tremendous admiration for Chris Cosentino. He makes edible things which most people would go nowhere near. He’s getting people excited about nose to tail cooking. He’s elevating to gourmet levels things that most people cast away or at best use for stock. I just have one problem…I don’t like offal or pieces-parts. At least none I’ve ever tried. Still, I wanted to eat Chris’s cooking, I would just order everything from the middle edges of the pig rather than either end or the center ;-)
We had no trouble finding non-pieces-parts dishes. The arugula-feathercress salad was lovely. Our waitress was fun and knowledgable and just made the evening fun. She recommended wines that we may not have picked but went with each dish wonderfully.
One problem I kept having, I’d forget to take pictures! So, most of my shots are after I’d eaten some and messed up the presentation. *SIGH* But when the food is so good, you don’t want to grab a camera, you want to grab a fork!
The PORK BELLY (Spicy pork belly, asparagus, scallions, pistachios, mint)! Oh good lord. Sooooo creamy and delicious. It looked like it would be fatty and greasy but it was pure pork heaven. Spicy from the pepper topping and … just damn good!
Handkerchief pasta and rustic pork ragu was comfort food. I wanted to take the plate to a fireplace with a blankie and my glass of Brunello. It was baby-it’s-cold-outside kind of food. Comfort food like this is where the law of diminishing return goes out the window. More more more!
The cod was perfectly cooked with artichokes, potato and lemon. I had to talk my husband into this one since wine and artichokes don’t mix but the Brachetto was nice with the dish actually.
The table next to us got the In-CAN-to dish which was tripe and trotters served tableside in a soup can. Really fun presentation and the woman said it was great. At one point I saw Chris expediting but also with his phone out. I slipped my phone out of my purse and checked and, yup, he was tweeting pics of the dishes as they went out. Our’s didn’t make the photo shoot!
Dessert was the first lemon meringue pie that rivals my mom’s. She set the bar high. Her lemon pie is amazing. They called this one a lemon curd torta but it was a lemon meringue pie with a shortbread crust. It’s my perfect dessert. I love it. I didn’t leave a crumb on that plate.
After we were done I asked our server if Chris was still around and available for me to play fangirl. Luckily he was. He came out, said hi and we chatted for probably longer than we should have kept him out of the kitchen but he was a gracious host. I felt like I was talking to an old friend and he seemed pretty convinced that I’d be eating offal sometime in the future. I’m not ruling anything out.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Sleeping in on Sunday morning was a welcome treat. We were on vacation, I didn’t want an alarm but on Saturday we had to catch the catamaran at 9am so we had to drag our butts out of bed (very worth it!!). Brunch on Sunday didn’t start until noon though so no alarm was necessary and we had a leisurely morning. We dropped our son off with every other kid affiliated with the cookout at the Kids’ Brunch where they’d make their own food and be maniacs. We headed to drink champagne and eat oysters. Sure, there was a lot of other food there….I did exactly what I did last year and hit the oyster bar at least 5 times (the plates are small!!).
I grazed at a few other tables too of course: sushi, charcuterie, oysters…oh, I said that already.
While all this is going on there’s real cooking happening on stage. Emceed by Spike Mendehlson and the same blonde who didn’t do a good job last year, the contestants cook with local ingredients and the curveball of pomegranate thrown in at the last minute. The judges sit in front heckling Spike and putting up with fangirls like me asking for photos.
They’re all so incredibly nice. Even Anthony Bourdain but don’t tell anyone.
Mo, who competed last year but got 2nd, won it this year. Her son is her sous chef. It was a feel-good moment.
Sunday is the laziest of the cookout days building up to the most stressful event which is the Gala Dinner. My husband attended, I bowed out this year. I can’t deal with the pressure and I’m not even cooking! He owes me a report, the menu looked amazing and it was printed on WOOD! Not even paper but WOOD! Crazy.
While he was Gala-ing, my son and I went to Periwinkle and ate in beach chairs while watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Much more relaxing.
Saturday, October 27th, 2012
Sunday, April 15th, 2012
You really can’t knock starting a foggy spring Sunday morning with a glass of 2003 Dom Perignon. I don’t typically drink DP, unless it’s given to me. I don’t think it’s bad champagne by any means but it’s not what I tend to buy. 2003, if you recall, was the year that hundreds of people died in France from the crazy heat wave. The summer was scorching but the spring had unprecedented freezing temperatures. This did not treat grapes well. DP lost 70% of their Chardonnay. This is why I was so interested in attending this tasting. That and the description of the wine made me chuckle: “The intensity of this wine is unique and paradoxical, hovering between austerity and generosity.” I really wanted to try what hovering between austerity and generosity tasted like. Turns out it tastes like lovely champagne. Minerality, slight sweetness, quite enjoyable. I had a pleasant chat with the winemaker as well, lamenting my horrible experience in Paris and praising the French countryside.
After finishing my glass of champagne and turning down a second, I made my way over to the Equestrian Center for the Lexus Grand Tasting. It was a huge, crowded tent full of who knows how many people, 200 wineries and 25 chefs. Along with some random Lexuses…Lexi…shiny cars…because, you know, when you’re drinking lots of wine, you should make decisions about car buying. There were also Fiji girls walking around handing out water, like old-school cigarette girls or umbrella girls at MotoGP. There were many face lifts and fashionable yet impossible to walk in heels. A lot of the Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival is too much Pebble Beach and not enough Food and Wine but that doesn’t mean that the food and wine that’s there isn’t great!
My first bite was from Michael Cimarusti from Providence in LA. Beautiful crispy-skinned fish with a plethora of pickled veggies. It was hard to get things together in one bite but all together the tart and tangy pickles with the mustard sauce and the perfectly cooked fish was a great plate of food. It was one of my favorite plates of the afternoon.
I then went next door to Gabriele Ask from Montage Beverly Hills. He had a bison ribeye tartare that absolutely loaded with truffles. I commented on that and he said, “Yes, we spent a lot of money!” I surely didn’t mind…oddly…since usually truffles are overwhelming for me but I very much enjoyed the tartare. He was also serving a duck confit with foie gras but I passed since foie is not for me. Everyone raved about it though.
My favorite plate of the day was the Pig’s Tail with herbs and fish sauce in gem lettuce served by Bryant Ng of The Spiced Table in LA. I didn’t even know you could eat the tail of a pig! I don’t picture there being much there. This was braised in slightly spicy, beautifully balanced sauce and had a generous amount of fish sauce but it wasn’t so much that it was offensive. It was a wonderfully composed dish. If you look at the picture, the things in the lower right corner…those are pig tails…mmmm…tail.
I saw Fabio Viviani by his table and I stopped by to say hello. I admit that I really love watching Top Chef and have since Season 2 when I discovered it. I saw Fabio at MotoGP at Laguna Seca a couple of years ago and could not figure out why I knew him for the longest time. I thought I actually personally knew the guy. I was convinced he worked with my husband or something and that I’d had a conversation with him because I could picture him laughing. No, I just watched him on TV so much I thought I knew him! I told him that; he was really nice.
I saw a table for Restaurant 1833 in Monterey and I’ve really been wanting to go there. It looks like such an interesting space and now I really want to try it. The dish Levi Mezick was presenting was a crispy pork with “BBQ” sauce which was more like a spicy mustard sauce. It was crispy, hot, spicy, tangy. My first bite from 1833 definitely moved the priority of getting a reservation there up.
I tried a few other dishes that were fine but not as good as the four I described so we’ll just move on to the few wines I dropped in on. The first was Almaviva. The lost grape. I was surprised to see them because I never see the bottles anywhere but my husband orders them from somewhere and I really love that wine. I had a taste of their ’09 and, although young, was drinking well and obviously could be put down for a few years.
I had to stop by Ridge. We’re members of their wine club and love almost everything they produce. I found it quite telling of the crowd there that they kept running out of Chardonnay. To be completely blunt, I don’t like Ridge for their white wine. To me they are all about Zin and their Petite Sirah is heavenly. Their big wine is the Monte Bello Cab blend. We have many bottles of that we won’t open for years. I wanted to get a peek at what I have waiting for me so I had the ’06 Monte Bello. Damn. That’s good. Can’t wait to open it! But I will. It will be even better later.
My last stop was for a glass of ’07 Alexander Valley Silver Oak Cab. I always love Silver Oak. They are consistently good and consistently not cheap. They were also pouring an ’07 Napa Valley Cab but from doing tastings at the winery I’ve found I prefer the Alexander. The other reason I picked it was because the Napa was in a fancier bottle and I went for the more austere…Oh, blending austerity and generosity! HA!
As I was leaving, there was a woman passing out free lettuce. She asked the gentleman in front of me, “Would you like some artisan lettuce to take with you?” He said, “What kind of lettuce?” She said, “Artisan lettuce.” He said, “You mean lettuce.” She said, “Artisan lettuce.” He said, “Does it grow in the dirt?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then it’s LETTUCE!” It was really funny and summed up the Pebble Beach portion of the event!
I had a nice time at this event and would love to attend on a press pass again but truly the Cayman Cookout spoiled me for any future food event. The intimacy of that gathering can’t be beat. Please send any donations to get me back to the Cayman Cookout next year to email@example.com ;-)
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
The morning started with sleep! We didn’t have a 10am event, our son didn’t have a 9:30 camp. We got to wake when we woke, slowly get going then walk our son down to the Les Chefs Petits brunch. This was supposed to be the kids making their own brunch in the Seven kitchen. This was bad planning on someone’s part since the Seven kitchen has their regular Sunday brunch happening and they couldn’t pile 30 kids into the kitchen! So they set them up out at one of the event tents on the beach instead. I’m sure this was better for the kids anyway, they got to have great food and still be maniacs.
Meanwhile we headed in to the ballroom for an incredible Champagne brunch. I never have high expectations for brunches. Even the one at the Waldorf in New York City failed to impress me. This one however…WOW. The champagne never stopped flowing, I wouldn’t be surprised if I consumed an entire bottle over the course of the morning. The level in my glass never dropped even though I was sipping the whole time. I piled my plate high with every seafood bit I could find. I don’t think I’d recovered from the meat-heavy Friday night BBQ so sushi, oysters, caviar, they all sounded wonderful and rejuvenating and they were. I basically just kept hitting the oyster bar until the brunch was over!
As we are all joyfully noshing away, there is an intense competition happening on stage, Top Chef style. The two finalists from the Cayman Cookoff, Maureen Cubbon and Eric St. Cyr, are frantically putting together a dish and a drink (the twist added to the competition by Richard Blais) for an intense table of judges: Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, Jose Andres, Dana Cowin and the Governor of Cayman. I think I’d pass out from the stress! They are better prepared than me however and they completed their dishes and drinks and thoroughly impressed the judges. Eric St. Cyr came out on top and after the winner was announced, the crazy judge crew got on stage with bottles of Moet and a huge saber! Luckily, no blood was drawn, champagne just sprayed anyone in the vicinity. All we needed were some umbrella girls…the MotoGP of food celebrations.
We hung out on the beach with our son for some of the afternoon, perused the artisan market, picked up some cookbooks and got them signed by Eric and Tony, then had some time to relax before the Gala Dinner. Unfortunately, the evening didn’t go as planned. I gave my “Food Aversions” card to the restaurant manager. I knew this was going to be an intense, stressful evening for the kitchen and the waitstaff. I thought the card would make things easier for all involved, I mean, that’s why I have them. What it did was make them fuss over every course of mine and over me which I don’t deal with well at all. I did get to enjoy a little before I went into panic mode though.
The first course was Wahoo Sashimi, Ume, Garlic and Shiso by Laurent Gras. Wahoo is just the best fish around. I could have eaten nothing but this. The fish paired with Laurent’s grace was a perfect dish. This is actually where the stress began. They didn’t bring me this, they brought me some sort of veggie salad instead. I didn’t want to be a problem but I wanted the wahoo! I saw them take the dish back to the kitchen…the kitchen activity is being broadcast to the whole dining room…I saw Eric talk to my waiter, look at the card, eventually the wahoo came out. I was humiliated. It was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I was truly bummed that my chef-idol was being inconvenienced by me.
I ran into Eric’s wife Sandra in the restroom after this. She is so incredibly awesome, I love that woman (hell, she babysat my kid!!). Anyway, I told her what happened and she joked with me about it and I felt much better. Then the next course came out and I had a substitute where I should have. The dish was Foie Gras Mulligatawny and I don’t like Foie. I got a gazpacho-like dish just bursting with flavor. We were temporarily back on track.
Then the waiter kept coming up and checking on me, making sure everything was fine, over and over. The service was so incredible, I had an anxiety attack. I took my fabulous glass of wine and sat outside for the next two courses. I couldn’t deal. I was completely blowing an amazing dinner. Then I found out my son was having a meltdown upstairs with his babysitter. I guess it was in the air. This gave me an out. I switched from foodie-mode to mother-lion mode and went to my kid. I said goodbye to Sandra grabbed my wine and headed up to the room.
My husband stayed and said Eric’s Venison was the highlight of the evening and he doesn’t even like venison. I’m sorry I missed it but something wasn’t meant to be. It was too fancy and uptight and stressful for me. I loved that we could be sitting around the table with people we’d never normally associate with. They were from different generations, different occupations and very different political worlds than us but we found common ground in the food. Food can bring us all together. It is a leveling ground.
I wish I could have experienced the full Gala Dinner but I truly enjoyed the courses I had. If we make it back to the Cookout next year, I know the Gala isn’t for me. It was icing on an already sweet weekend, truly not needed to complete the adventure. It was a non-stop bacchanalian escapade. I really hope we can do this again!
Read about Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3!