Monday, August 31, 2009

Divine Providence

Ever since I heard him sing the praises of Korean supermarkets at this Zocalo event, I've been a fan of Chef Michael Cimarusti. I'd never even eaten his food, but I was impressed that he beat Chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef and earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant, Providence.
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Recently, Chef Cimarusti was a most gracious competitor on Top Chef Masters, handily winning the quickfire challenge and making the best of the seafood-less box of ingredients that meanie Chef Jonathan Waxman gave him. Despite Chef Waxman's cowardly move, Chef Cimarusti was a beacon of good cheer and sportsmanship. Chef Cimarusti even taught his competitors, including Chef Waxman, how to use a pressure cooker during the challenge.

Do you love this guy yet? You should. We do.

Providence is all about the sea, from the tablescape to the barnacles on the walls.
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I started with a Martini Fresca ($14).
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This pineapple-infused Appleton rum, limoncello, St. Germain, fresh-squeezed lemon, and mint danced in my mouth. Tart and refreshing.

The chef's menu ($160) was the perfect way to cap off our third anniversary celebration.

Greyhound, mojito, gin and tonic.
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This is how fancy people do cocktails, my friends. Squeeze the lime onto the cube for the mojito. Pop the wobbly sacs into your mouth for the greyhound and gin and tonic -- neatest shots ever.

White soy/wasabi marshmallow, cured trout, gougeres, carrot soup/vadouvan.
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Eat this left to right. Start with salty fish, follow it with a mildly spicy marshmallow and a warm cheesy puff, and finish with orange glory in a teeny-tiny mug. Yum x 4!

Hokkaido scallop, nasturtium blossoms, fresh-grated wasabi, crispy rice cracker.
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Not sure if I was supposed to eat this in one bite, but I did. It was a really big bite. Maybe I should've taken two bites. The cold slipperiness of the scallop, kick of wasabi, and crunch of the rice played well together.

Kanpachi sashimi, endive, summer truffle vinaigrette, soy crème fraîche.
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This kanpachi was firmer than I'm used to, but it was so wonderfully fresh and lovely.

Santa Barbara sea urchin served in a farm fresh egg, champagne beurre blanc, fines herbes, and American Transmontanus caviar.
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Everything is better when it's served in an eggshell. I liked dipping my spoon all the way down and ensuring I got all the flavors. And there were a lot of flavors -- flavors that you might not think would mesh, but they were one happy family in this little egg home.

Santa Barbara spot prawns grilled over Japanese binchotan charcoal served simply with French olive oil and lemon.
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So simple. So good. So mmm. That's really all that needs to be said about this.

Now here's where I get a little confused. According to the handy-dandy menu that was sent home with us in a sealed envelope, the next course was eel.

Well, it wasn't.

And, having been told that we'd get a menu at the end of the meal, I didn't bother taking notes. But I do know that the next dish was a scallop dish. I think those were chanterelles accompanying it, and I'm pretty sure that was fried burdock on top.
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Perhaps a mistake in service, as we already had scallops? Maybe. A delicious mistake nonetheless. The scallop was perfectly seared. The sauce was beautiful and the burdock an excellent crunchy contrast.

I can't lie, though. When I saw we were supposed to have eel when I got home, I was a little sad. I love me some unagi.

Wild French turbot, matsusake, sake, rosemary.
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Our server said, "tur-BOH." It's actually "TUR-butt." But who am I to correct someone who works at Providence, the L.A. seafood Mecca? And who cares when it tastes awesome? You could call this "ugly flatfish," and I'd still be thrilled. And how cute are those dots?!

Niman Ranch pork belly, carrot-orange purée, pickled ramps, mizuna, carrot-ginger butter.
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I've never met a pork belly I didn't like. Why, hello there. Get in my belly, belly.

Klamath River wild king salmon, kumquat, peas, Jurançon.
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Neither of us *loves* salmon, but we enjoyed this very much. The fish was beautifully tender, and the skin was super deliciously crispy. One of my favorite things about fine dining is having my mind changed. That's how powerful good cooking can be.

Loin of Colorado lamb, eggplant, artichoke, celebrity tomato.
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Lamb! Like the damn lamb that Chef Waxman bestowed upon Chef Cimarusti on Top Chef Masters! Well, the lamb was tasty, but it's clear that sea creatures are the specialty here. I really liked the eggplant in this dish, maybe even more than the lamb.

Cheese selection.
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Look at Mr. Monkey cut the cheese! Mr. Monkey is not a cheese fiend like I am, so I asked for my favorite genres -- soft and mild. You typically get a choice of three, but our cheese dude wanted us to compare and contrast an American goat cheese and a French goat cheese, so that's why there are two goat cheeses on the left. Both were delectable. The right was a cow's milk cheese that was very brie-like and our favorite. The center was a sheep's milk cheese that was a tad strong for Mr. Monkey, who said, "Eating this is like I'm right there in the petting corral."

Kalamansi gelée, white chocolate coconut soy milk soup, litchi-shiso sorbet.
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Mr. Monkey and I were split on this. He loooooved it. All of it. He even raved about it at the table. He doesn't do that often. I, on the other hand, found the combination of the very tart kalamansi gelée and the sweetness and milkiness of the other components of the dish very jarring. I liked everything in the bowl. I just didn't love them together.

Blackberry gelée, melon soup, lime granita, vanilla ice cream, mint.
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Perfect in-between cleanser on a hot every night we've been having for the past week or so. I wish I could shoot these throughout the hot, hot day. Nice all at once, but the lime granita was my favorite part.

Harry's Strawberries, basil ice cream, balsamic marshmallows, pistachio.
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Of course, I Googled who "Harry" was. I'm hoping that "Harry's Strawberries" refers to this dude and not to these dudes. They were damn good, Harry. Thank you.

Milk chocolate-whiskey panna cotta, Bailey's ice cream, coconut raviolo.
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Yay! We made it through the meal and didn't burst! I clapped when this came out. Yes, I get that excited about food. The waitstaff seemed rather amused by my enthusiasm all night. I effing love those cute edible sacs and was delighted to end with another. It was a marvelous meal, and this was an amazing mellifluous conclusion.

Petit fours.
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I haven't been too impressed by mignardise anywhere for awhile. This was no exception. The truffles, gelées, and salt-and-pepper caramels were pleasant sweet treats, but nothing to write home about. In fact, I think I preferred Wan's bacon caramels over these.

At the end of our meal, our server took us to the kitchen for a peek.
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As if that weren't thrilling enough, in addition to having spoken with us briefly in the dining room during our meal, Chef Cimarusti took a short break from cooking and plating to chat with us a bit more in the kitchen.
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We even got this picture with him. [insert more clapping here]

Seriously nice guy. Seriously talented. Seriously go to Providence if you haven't already.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Friends Are Sweet

On Friday, we had one of our semi-regular help-the-Monkeys-use-up-their-country-club-minimum dinners. dapotato and Wan-nabe both brought tasty homemade treats.

Here is dapotato's creation all wrapped up.
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A delicious yellow cake with lemon frosting!
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Eat a little slice.
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Eat some more.
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Mmm. Read about how she made this lovely little cake here.

Wan-nabe brought bacon caramels for everyone. This is how she made them.
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Thank you, sweeties.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Bazaar Brunch

For those of you expecting a recap of our anniversary weekend in Vancouver, prepare to wait. For those of you ready to see the whimsical, creative food of The Bazaar by José Andrés in the daytime, rejoice!
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Like the magical dinner we had earlier this year, brunch is innovative and entertaining. Sitting on the patio makes it even more so. We felt like we were in the outdoor library of a crazy person with a penchant for orange and predilection for organized clutter. I felt right at home, of course.
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Bloody Mary with freshly-made tomato juice and celery-wasabi foam ($16).
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Our friend let me have a sip. Very interesting and appreciated, but not really my speed. Mr. Monkey liked it, though, but he is a fiend for tomato juice and wasabi.

Housemade lemonade with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and rosemary syrup ($6).
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Tart and lovely. The touch of rosemary gave it a little extra something.

"Evolving" iced tea with pineapple flavored ice cubes ($6).
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I enjoyed this freshly brewed premium tea, but I was hoping for a bit of sweetness. All I got was the essence of the fruit, no sugar.

The brunch tasting menu ($40), which is ever-changing, is a convenient and cost-effective way to sample a strong array of morning-appropriate tapas. We especially enjoyed experiencing this with friends. Few things are better than communal feasting.

All of the following tapas were included in our tasting menu in May (when I was still using my kit lens, mind you). Prices in parentheses are regular non-tasting menu prices.

Bagel and lox cone ($5 per person).
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So dainty! So delicate! So fun! The globules go pop, pop, pop in your mouth! The little cone is light and crisp!

Watermelon tomato skewers with Pedro Ximenez reduction and lemon dressing ($8).
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I was skeptical about the combination but quickly converted. Very refreshing.

Boneless chicken wings with green olive purée ($9).
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Why can't all wings be boneless? Seriously, just like this. I'm not talking about wing-shaped reconstituted chicken nugget faux boneless shit. I'm not even a big fan of wings (yeah, I know, total weirdo), and I loved these crispy crunchy bites. They left grease stains on the paper. You know that's good.

Organized Caesar with quail egg and parmesan ($8).
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Cutest salad ever! And tasty to boot! None of the ingredients will surprise you, perhaps save the quail egg, but the composition is exquisite. There is something to be said about beautiful presentation.

12 tiny eggs sunny side up -- huevos a la Cubana "Andy Garcia" ($12).
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I have no idea what Andy Garcia has to do with this, but mad props to him, the 12 tiny eggs, the bacon shreds, the toasty bed of rice underneath, and dollops of tomato and what I think was banana purée. Whatever it was, the mixture of the different flavors actually worked very well. Such a merry morning morsel!

Beef hanger steak with piquillo pepper confit ($10).
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As modern as the culinary wizardry is at The Bazaar, the kitchen still turns out solid Spanish classics, and this was evidence of it. Ah, if only all evidence were this rich and succulent!

Catalan spinach with apples, pine nuts, and raisins ($8).
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When I lived in D.C., one of my favorite things to eat was espinacas a Catalana at Jaleo just down the street from my law school. With each delicious bite, I was transported back to my first encounter with the artistry of José Andrés. This spinach still makes me swoon. Yes, I swoon over spinach. It's good spinach, damn it.

SLS tres chocolate mousse ($12).
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How often do you get to pipette chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate? And then eat it all? This lovely combo of various textures is sure to please any chocolate lover. It even pleased me, and I'm no chocolate lover. In fact, I'm a tad allergic. Shh.

Greek yogurt panna cotta with apricots and muscat gelatin ($12).
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Just as yummy as the last time I had it.

If it's not obvious already, I absolutely adore The Bazaar by José Andrés. (And, for what it's worth, I'm totally rooting for Michael Voltaggio on Top Chef, who was the executive chef here when we dined.) If you haven't visited yet, brunch is easier on the wallet and still gives you a decent glimpse of all the fun to be had. Go!

Now I just need to try high tea here. It's only $26. Who's in?
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