||[Apr. 16th, 2006|10:56 am]
Food Nyah Nyah
|||||Yo Yo Ma - Obrigado Brasil||]|
Culinarily I've been exposed to a lot of really neat experiences lately what with my new job up here in Humboldt (Restaurant 301 at the Carter House), our terrific Saturday dinners at our house and the willingness of my friends to explore (except for the meat :) ). I'd like to share briefly with you all an experience I had recently.
Last week we were visited up here by our dear friends Josef and Harli. On a Friday night I was working prep and noticed that we only had six reservations. So I decided that I would see if my friends wanted to go into my restaurant to experience the ambiance and get some apps and desserts. I made a quick reservation and asked the host to let our new chef know that I was coming in so that they could prepare. He didn't and consequently we only received one middle course on the spur of the moment, but it was still tasty.
After dressing up (quite a shock to my roomies who always see me in checks and whites) we headed over to Eureka and found parking. We took a quick walk by my restaurant's garden so I could show them where I pick out fresh bitter greens, herbs and other culinary tools to use daily. Then back by the harbor and onto the restaurant where we were greeted very warmly and shown promptly to our table. We were one of the first tables seated that evening, but the pace eventually picked up and the restaurant was packed by the time we left. What originally was to be a quick stop off for some apps and dessert turned into an almost two-hour meal...
We were given the wine list (a 90+ page book!) and the menus and left for a few minutes. I felt a bit out of place being on the other side of the dining room's double swinging doors from where I had cooked all morning. I think josef and harli were also very impressed by the posh-ness of it all as well. I dissuaded my companions from ordering any of the soups (which are good) or salads because they just don't have enough zing for our experience. The server Samuel was telling us which wines would go best with the apps we selected and I thought he was trying hard to sell up, but a few minutes later he arrived with three glasses sent out by out sommelier and GM to compliment our evening. We received a Napa sparkler, a Northern CA rose and a French wine similar to a sauternes (made from semillion and sauvignon blanc). Our apps would come out in two courses as there is only so much room at the table and there was a clearly stylistic division between them. For starters we had the bone marrow, the foie gras and the raw kumomoto oysters.
The bone marrow arrived with three short pieces of bone, glistening with fat propped up on each other at an angle. In the crux of this marrow sculpture was a small parsley salad with maytag blue cheese, lemon juice and olive oil. leaned on the salad were pieces of lightly oiled, S&P grilled bread. The rose paired beautifully with the marrow, cutting the fat with it's light sweetness and complementing the blue cheese and affectionately named "super parsley."
Out raw oysters came out on a bed of rock salt with a ramekin of mango mingnonette (brunoised mangoes, minced shallots and champagne vinegar, which I had made that morning). The effervescence of the sparkler went well with the oysters complimenting the fresh briny taste of the local north HUmboldt bay oysters.
Our foie dish is beautiful and delicious (which is to be expected, c'mon it's foie gras), but a little on the small side so ordering it was questioned, but with the 50% off we got it was only 6 bucks :). The piece of foie gras was seasoned and seared and set atop toasted brioche points and quince paste triangles. The plate was artfully decorated with a swoosh of continually smaller drops of reduced balsamic vinegar. Sauternes and foie gras are a classic pairing to which this similar wine lived up to fully. The sweetness of the wine was matched perfectly in contrast with the rich saltiness of the foie gras and it's fat. The residual sugar also complimented the sweetness of the quince paste and deeply syrupy balsamic.
Thomas our sommelier came over and asked if we had any questions about the wine list to which I responded with the couple pages I was considering. I was actually thinking of a viogner or an off-dry riesling, both abotu 45 bucks. He pointed out a "super small release" pinot blanc which was recently aqcuired for the wine list. It was a Lazy Creek Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Blanc 2004. The bottle is individually numbered (#176) and the residual sugar was listed on the back as 0.4. This off dry wine had just enough sweetness, but arrived too late for out first apps and would serve us well through our next and desserts. After Thomas left joe turned to me and asked "Was any of that in English? I understood the words, I could find definitions of them, but I couldn't understand what you were talking about."
Our next course was the rabbit which we pound flat, stuff with a prune mousse, roll up and wrap in caul fat. the thing is sauteed at pickup and sliced. This was served over a bean ragout with thick sliced of rabbit and pistacio sausage. The earthiness and gaminess of the rabbit offset in contrast the light sweetness of the wine. After this course we were sent out our middle course which was grilled asparagus with an herbed cream sauce and saba. There was a tower of zuchinni in the middle of the plate with moist grilled chicken on top.
Score three for the things joe and harli have now eaten list :)
Next for dessert we ordered two courses (three desserts and a cheese plate). Our first dessert was brioche ravioli stuffed with minted chocolates. Deep fried and tossed in sugar they sit in a warm brandy cream sauce and mint syrup topped with chocolate shavings. Our next dessert was a chocolate dome. There is a circular chocolate cake base topped with a dome of orange-chocolate mousse and covered with a shiny, hard ganache shell. This is plated with a dulce de leche sauce and a lavender creme anglaise and a chocolate tuile sticking out of the side of the dome. Our last dessert was the special dessert offering of the evening. It was a similar construction to the chocolate dome, but there was a vanilla cake base, a lemo0n raspberry mousse center and a white chocolate ganache covering. It was served with a lemon creme anglaise, raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries.
Our cheese plate arrived with apple slices, flatbread and three cheeses. Im not sure what the earhty, stinky ones were (although they were clearly favored by the table), but the room temp triangles of midnight moon (a goat's milk cheese made byt he local Cypress Grove cheese company) were positively delightful.
While finishing our wine Samuel came up to us and mentioned that it was currently Y2K and we couldn't pay. He assured me that they would catch up with me later, we said our cheerful and wine-tipped goodbye's and left without being presented a check.
Joe said as we got to the car, "I can't believe we left without paying."
Near the end of my shift the next day I was determined to settle my debt and Thomas had one of the servers get me a check. Our food was 50% off. The 50$ bottle of wine turned into an 18$ wholesale cost (I'm assuming), the three glasses of wine were free and the middle course was compliments of the chef. Grand total, just a hair over sixty dollars. I was expecting over 120$ before tip and left our server a very nice gift.
In total it was an amazing experience. I love the treatment you receive at four star restaurants and this was no different. I'm glad that I was able to share this experience with my dear friends.
More to come later on my culinary adventures as soon as I get some free time. We're rolling out our spring menu on Tuesday and it's a one-day switch. Gonna be fun :)