I had a blast with my husband and the Diabolinas back in December, so I was thrilled when Will at FoodDigger invited me to dinner with seven other food bloggers. You should check out the FoodDigger site. It's pretty neat!
I love the vibe of Church & State. As I said in my original post, it reminds me of the Meatpacking District in New York City. Note that I made this observation in December 2008, whereas the L.A. Times said the same thing in March 2009. Stop copying me, S. Irene Virbila!
More important, though, is the food, which is fabulous, thanks to Chef Walter Manzke, who took over the kitchen just shortly before my first visit.
And it's even more fabulous now, several months later.
Chef Manzke and Sommelier Josh Goldman crafted a special 10-course meal with wine pairings for us. It was quite the fancy affair, complete with placecards.
Aperitif -- Floc de Gascogne and a gougère
Lovely little starter cheese puff.
Beignets de brandade de morue and iced Kumamoto oysters
I loved the fried cod -- little balls of perfectly salted yumminess paired with creamy saffron aioli. And I sucked that fresh oyster off the shell in one fell swoop. Mmm. Slurpy. Chewy.
Another lovely little salty bite. The smoked herring was quite the contrast to the fingerling potato salad.
Gambas à la niçoise
These Santa Barbara spot prawns were so fresh and meaty. Dressed simply with lemon, olive oil, and some vegetable relish, they needed little embellishment.
Assiette de charcuterie
We were in awe when we got this huge selection of artisan and housemade pâtés, saucisson sec, terrine de foie gras with port wine gelée, and rillettes de porc with prune confiture. Porn for fans of salty cured meats! I was particularly enamored with the foie gras and rilletes. Slathering my brioche with them was heavenly. Some places are stingy with this stuff. Not Church & State. Huge jars, my friends. Again, heavenly, I say.
Asperge à la Tashiro
In an homage to Marshal, one of our beloved FoodDigger dudes, Chef Manzke whipped up this fantastic Maine lobster (provided by Marshal) and Hog Farm's asparagus. So simple. So good. I could've eaten the whole plate myself.
Escargots de Bourgogne
These snails baked in garlic and parsley butter were just as delicious as I remembered from my first visit to Church & State. You absolutely must get this when you come. The puff pastry is such a happy, flaky, buttery blanket over the luscious garlicky snail. Oh, man, nom nom nom.
Caramelized onions + bacon + Gruyère = Sweet Jesus! I adored this sugary, thin, crisp masterpiece. I thought my dining companion on my left was crazy for not feeling the same.
Moelle de boeuf
Ok, so this is where people might think I'm crazy...because I'm just not that crazy about roasted marrow bone, whereas everybody around me seemed to go bananas for this. As Mr. Monkey said the last time we were here, "It's just a fat cracker." We may lose cred for this statement, but, hey -- you can't tell me it's not a fat cracker, can you? Fat. Cracker. We're so gauche.
Surprisingly, the steak was overdone. Sad face. Thankfully, it was well-seasoned, and there were béarnaise and au jus if we were really desperate for some juice. The frites au lard were freakin' fantastic, though -- hot, glistening, and irresistible. Like, duh! They were fried in lard!
Crème brûlée, cherry tart, apricot tart, croustade aux baies, pot de crème au chocolat
The desserts were pleasant, but none of them truly impressed. This is something that Church & State could stand to improve.
At the end of this eating marathon, I pulled out my wallet, but then I noticed nobody else did. I whispered to a nearby blogger, "Sooo...are we paying now or what?"
And we weren't. I'm such a rookie. Heh. Thank you so much, FoodDigger and Church & State!
That being said, my love of the food was genuine and relatively uncolored by the comped meal, seeing as how I was under the impression the whole time that I was paying for my meal. Ha!
Before we left, we chatted and took photos with Chef Manzke. He is vibrant, friendly, and so passionate about his food.
We closed the place down. See the soap suds on that open kitchen counter?
I happily clutched my autographed menu as I walked to my car. You can click to enlarge to see all the wine pairings, as I didn't list them above.
My fellow bloggers:
gas.tron.o.myThanks again, FoodDigger, for inviting me! I had an amazing time!
i nom things (her charming account here)
Kat's 9 Lives
kevinEats (his gorgeous documentation here)
Kung Food Panda
L.A. and O.C. Foodventures
Right Way to Eat!