Archive for June, 2008



Neptune Oyster

Never let it be said that I don’t travel on my stomach. We scheduled our plane reservation based on the fact that we would arrive in Boston to catch an early lunch at Neptune Oyster. Exactly at 11:30, just as they were unlocking the doors, we were seated, ready and waiting.

The place is cute, somewhat of a hole in the wall with a huge long bar area for those who want to eat there.

My husband started with clam chowder. He happens to like a thicker version, but I thought the chowder was much more authentic as served – not gummy, gluey with too many potatoes and too much cream.

 

 

I had 3 types of Oysters-

From MA. – Cummaquid – medium size, medium salt, plump, buttery leeks and chive hints (They provide you with a cheat sheet that describes the oysters.)

From WA – Kumamoto – small size, plump, sweet, hints of cucumber, creamy

From AK – Windy Bay – large size, low salt, sweet, buttery, briny, melon finish

Now we ordered fried clams. They didn’t realize that we each wanted an order, but as it turned out this worked out in our favor. We ate the first order piping hot and then got a second batch, equally piping hot. I had clams three other places on this trip and I must say that these were the best by far.

 

First order with some eaten, as I just couldn’t wait:

 

 Second order:

Wonderful place and I would give anything to have this restaurant transplanted to Los Angeles.

Lameloise

We had not been back to Lameloise since they lost their 3rd star. We were anxious to see what had changed. Our room was as pretty as ever with a huge bathroom and large sitting area.

We were greeted like “old friends” by one of the Maitre D’s who seem to recognize us.

Champagne in the lounge area with two amuses.

a. Marinated mackerel in a Chinese spoon.

b. On brioche, a slice of hard-boiled egg with chopped up “something”…our server was a mumbler, not exactly helpful.

At the table 5 amuses.

a. Hard boiled egg with tomato coulis and morel cream.

b. Chantilly cream with potato mousse.

c. Tomato covered in sesame seeds—chewy almost caramelized.

d. Almond cream in a cone

e. Ham fritter.

1st course: Oysters from Gillardeau, gelee d’eau de mer, caviar, agrumes acidules — 4 oysters in the shell – one with citrus; tiny (almost 1/16”) diced citrus fruit, one oyster sat in a gelee of “sea-water” and 2 oysters were presented with small (1/8” diced potato) mixed with caviar. An excellent beginning.

2nd course: Pommes de terre ratte grilles aux escargots de Bourgogne suc de vin rouge, et crème persillee. 

We have had this dish before. It is a favorite. The ratte potato is slightly hollowed out and the snails sit in the potato. There is a touch of red wine at the top of the plate with parsley cream sauce to the right. The potato adds the “butter feel” without the butter. Another very good dish, though not quite as perfectly executed as in the past.

3rd course: Grenouille simplement meuniere a la ciboulette rosace de pomme de terre doree—this dish was a disgrace. The frog’s legs were shriveled, tiny and so dry and over-cooked they should have never left the kitchen—letting them stay in the pond would have saved them for some one who knew how to cook them…awful!

4th course: Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we ordered the Pigeonneau en Vessie et ses pates fraiche au foie gras poele.

This is a Lameloise signature dish. If it is on the menu, order it! The pigeonneau is cooked in a pig’s bladder to seal in all the flavors. On the side is fresh pasta with small pieces of pan-fried foie gras. This is a decadent, over-the-top dish. I ended up calling it “one for the memory book—an important dish that should be in everyone’s dining repertoire”. To be honest, I put my analytical mind on hold, as I wanted a completely visceral experience.

5th course: Cheese Cart…

6th course: We were supposed to have a dessert –hot apple tart with granny smith apple sorbet, but 10 minutes became 20 minutes became 40…we decided to skip dessert and have coffee, mignardises and a cigar (for John) in the lounge.

Summary:

Lameloise has lost a star. The question is, “Has it made a difference?” Good or bad? There is a definite sense of frustration and depression. The service is definitely not 3-star. A lot of “chiefs” are wandering around with no one in charge. There are no “eyes” watching the room or supervising. When we think about “eyes” we always think of Pascal in the early years of TFL—he seemed to see everything. Nothing slipped by. Pierre at L’Ambroisie is another great “eye” along with Jean Pierre at Taillevent.

There was a definite miss re the food – the frog’s legs. But then, I start thinking about that Pigeonneau en Vessie and all is forgiven. I just like this restaurant with all its faults. I wish they would stick with the traditional and not try to re-invent the wheel. They do need someone to be the major domo of the dining room – the eye.

French Laundry – Dec 2007

Corey Lee is definitely running the FL kitchen. He has changed the extended tasting menu that he does for us. He no longer wants to do one prep for John and one for me. (We discussed this after service) He feels that he would rather do the same preparation for both of us so that we can be more focused on a particular dish. I see his point. Sometimes we get so caught up in passing back and forth that we lose sight of what we are actually eating. 

During dinner, John and I discussed the evolution of FL. Thomas was obviously always in the kitchen at the beginning. It wasn’t until Thomas’s empire expanded and Thomas spent less time in the kitchen that the French Laundry’s significant alumni put their own stamp on the cuisine. Ron Siegal, Jonathan Benno and Grant Achatz more or less executed Thomas’s dishes. With Eric Ziebold and now with Corey Lee you definitely feel his personal stamp on the cuisine. 

First Dinner:

Gougeres

Salmon Cornets

Santa Barbara Uni with Granny Smith Apple Granite, Persian Lime and a touch of fleur de sel – Corey knows that if I don’t get an uni dish, I am a very unhappy camper. The star of the dish was of course the uni with the granite and salt adding a sub note. 

Oysters and Pearls – always perfect

Monkfish Liver glazed with turnip cream, Satsuma Mandarin, Watercress, Watercress puree – this was just wonderful – the turnip cream was like a custard and enrobed the monkfish liver – unusual and delicious.

Grilled Kahala Belly, (Hawaiian yellowtail) Mizuna, tiny balls of Granny Smith Apple, Kohlrabi, Mustard Seed Vinaigrette – again Corey knows my love of fish canapés. The combination of the kahala, the apples, the shaved Kohlrabi was wondrous. Also when we are passing back and forth, we normally get only one or two bites; as we were getting a ‘full” course, it was much more substantial.

Mushroom Royale – basically a custard with eggs, cream, Matsutake mushrooms and a chicken stock bouillon with scallions and aromatics – rich and delicious.

Sweetbreads with truffle foam, cardoons and White Truffles shaved tableside. The supplement for the white truffles was $150 per person. This was the only real loser of the night. The truffles were completely tasteless and instead of enhancing the sweetbreads, they detracted. To FL’s credit, they deleted the $300 extra charge for the truffles.

Japanese Giant Fin Squid, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Globe Artichokes, Diced Serrano Ham, Piquillo Pepper and Barigole sauce – Back on tract and the dish had a definite nod to Spain. I loved the combination of the squid with the ham.

Lightly Poached Japanese Sea Eel, Small balls of Asian Pears, Perilla, Kabocha Squash Puree

Akita Komachi Rice with Pork Belly, Tamari, Ginger – Probably a first timer at FL would be horrified by this dish – a bowl of rice with pork belly – more or less a glorified fried rice in an expensive tasting menu. I loved it!!! This is when Corey knows that he can take chances with us – he knows this is not the once in a lifetime experience for us so he can play.

Butter Poached Lobster, Sunchoke Puree, Cippolini. Onion, Hazelnut/Coffee sauce – the star in this course was the hazelnut/coffee sauce.

Wagyu with Celery Root Puree, Ribbons of Fuyu Persimmon and Horseradish – a very, very generous piece of Wagyu that matched perfectly with the Fuyu.

Bravo Farms Silver Mountain Cheese with Cornbread and Honey Jalapeno – I have never been a big fan of the cheese course at FL.

We decided to forgo the dessert parade and John had his requisite doughnuts.

Second Dinner

Gougeres

Salmon Cornets

Musque de Provence with uni sabayon and black truffle coulis. This was served in a narrow cylindar and was cold on the top and then hot on the bottom – excellent

Sunchoke and applewood smoked bacon enclosed in deep-fried brik topped with Sterling caviar sitting on a bed of sunchoke puree – absolutely delicious

Kanpachi (yellowjack) sashimi with Satsuma, Young Arugula and dots of 100 year old balsamic – perfect fish

Cod Milt (cod sperm) Brandade topped with toasted brioche crumbs – this was marvelous in taste as well as texture

Cured Salmon Roe, Cucumber Foam and Gold Leaf – 

Saute of Scottish Langoustine, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Shaved White truffles (no supplement – done in the kitchen) – the truffles worked better with the langoustine than the sweetbreads, but still the quality was iffy. I think white truffles of this quality work better with pasta or risotto.

The next couple of dishes is why I love FL – Urasawa a la Corey. 

Sashimi of Spanish Mackerel, Saute of Cauliflower florets, Haas Avocado Espelette Pepper sauce, Smoked Paprika. The Espelette sauce was superb and “made” the sauce. 

Squid, Tokyo turnips, Baby Shiso, Umebushi – perfect

Savoy Cabbage Gratin with Compressed Asian pears, Yuzu and topped with Uni – I adore uni and the combination of the gratin with the uni was novel and extraordinary.

Lightly Fried Eel, Valley Oak Acorn Flan, Fuyu Persimmon, Black Truffle sauce – yippee course

Grilled Tuna Amandine with 1/8 inch dice of carrots, Celery, Belgian endive, Yuzu

Lobster Knuckle, with small carrot balls in a béarnaise custard made with lobster consommé – this was one of the best lobster dishes I have ever had at FL – small pieces of lobster in a béarnaise custard was just decadent

Air-cured Wagyu, Chestnuts, Asian pear, Nicoise, olive oil, Arugula

Buttermilk Fried Quail, FL biscuits, Coleslaw, Wildflower Honey, Dice of Sweet peppers – When Corey went to Tennnesse, he fell in love with Southern food

Crispy Kurobota Pork belly, Cippolini Onions, Globe Artichokes, Caraway and Mustard seed sauce

Brin d’Amour (sheep’s milk) Cheese with toasted pine nuts, crispy eggplant and olive puree

We did have some desserts but no notes and no memory.

Two excellent meals with only one huge loser – the sweetbreads and white truffle dish.

Il Grano

Our usual style at Il Grano is to say to Sal, chef/owner, you cook and we’ll eat. We are right in the middle of tomato season and many of the dishes featured tomatoes, all from Sal’s garden. This menu was an ode to summer.

Before we started our meal, Sal came out with a huge piece of Kobe, letting us know what he had in mind toward the end of our meal. He was like a proud papa and made sure that we saw that the markings said Japan. This was not Wagyu.

First Course – Anchovies, yellow bell peppers, Heirloom tomatoes and red onion slices – light, fresh, ingredient-driven

 

Second Course – Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dungeness Crab and Micro Celery – Again summer in a bowl

Third Course – Japanese Snapper served sashimi style and topped with oven-dried tomatoes, Burrata cheese and basil puree – It is so obvious that Sal goes to the Japanese fish market every morning – absolutely sashimi quality fish.

 

Fourth Course – Lightly Grilled Maine Scallops, Lightly Grilled Blue Fun Tuna with arugala and black truffle sauce – This was an A dish and that black truffle sauce was perfect with the tuna and scallops.

 

 Fifth Course – Heirloom Tomato Salad – I hope that I got the varieties correctly as Sal was rattling off the names very quickly. Starting at the 1:00 o’clock position –Green Zebra, Early Girl, Moonglow and Cherokee, Sunrise, Sweet 1000 with Burrata. (As an aside, the woman at the table next to us ordered a green salad and insisted that there be no tomatoes. Boy, did her eyes open wide when this was served.) Delicious

 

Sixth Course – Candy-shaped Ravioli with buttara. The ravioli was filled with mozzarella and mozzarella cream. The saucing was a tomato and basil sauce.

Inside of the ravioli

 

 Seventh Course – Wild Japanese Snapper that Sal picked up that morning at the Fish Market.

Snapper – simply grilled

 

Sal “works” on the presentation tableside.

Plated – I honestly don’t remember the accompaniments – I just got so excited seeing the fish that I forgot to take any notes.

 

 Eighth Course Grilled Albacore Tuna with Spinach. I can’t read my notes re the saucing.

 

Ninth course – Dover Sole from Japan with fingerling potatoes

Tenth course – Kobe Beef from Japan with matsutake mushrooms, cauliflower and truffle sauce

Eleventh course – Peach Filo with Gelato and Raspberry sauce

Cookies

 

An excellent meal – completely ingredient-driven. This is not haute cuisine, just delicious food presented simply.

 

Cordeillan Bages

We decided to compose our own tasting menu both days.

First Lunch 

We went to the lounge first for our customary 2 coupes de champagne. Amuses in the lounge – a spoon of presse de celery and another of “something.”

In a tall shot glass, there was basil puree topped by pink foam that turned out to be tomato.

We were escorted to the dining room that is quite contemporary with huge rectangular tables for 2. First there is a butter service – 4 different kinds – goat milk butter, sweet butter, semi-salted butter and “avant-beurre” that was served like a quenelle and shaped with 2 spoons. Then the bread service – 7 different kinds of bread are done in house and I would say that these were the best breads of the trip with the nod going to the brioche made with salty butter – outstanding.

2nd Amuse at the table – 3 “sake-type” cups of cream of foie with a crispy cracker on top, tuna tartare and something that I couldn’t identify except for the saffron component.

First Course – Huitre et caviar d”Aquitaine emulsion de pamplemousse – On a large glass plate with a shallow bowl center was a small oyster topped with caviar and grapefruit mousse/foam that hid more oysters. This was a superb pairing – inventive, but also delicious.

Second Course – Saucisson virtuel, craquant de lentilles au lard. I am not sure I can describe this dish accurately. Lucy, our server, who was delightful, wheeled a large serving cart to our table. In a large glass bowl was what looked like a sausage. From what I could gather (and here is where notes and memory are a mess) chopped raw rabbit is encased in a thin membrane and cooked sous-vide. As it cooks, the rabbit coagulates. Lucy breaks the skin and the rabbit mixes with a delicate oyster bouillon. Other components of the dish include oyster foam, garlic and leeks. Served on the side is an amazing cracker of lentils and bacon. This is imaginative cuisine done with the utmost finesse.

 

 

 

Third Course- Turbot à l’huile de l’ostal et croque au sel, épices et lie de vin.

A perfect, thick piece of turbot is cooked in a salt crust and I am not sure what Lucy meant by this but my notes read a confit of olive oil. We were told that olive oil is 38 years old. The turbot sat on a gelee made from the salt of wine – merlot. The sauce was an olive oil emulsion that had the mouth-feel and texture of a mousseline. On top was a long, thin baton of “spicy” bread. This was just an OH MY dish – exquisite in each detail.

 

Fourth Course –

a gift from the chef

Risotto de soja, jus d’huître et truffes. Presented in a small glass bowl, the soybean sprouts are cut like grains of rice and then cooked like risotto with oyster juice, parmesan, butter and topped with a small slice of black truffle

 

Fourth Course- John

Agneau de lait de Monsieur Reyes cuisiné de 3 façons, legumes prepares en cocotte The lamb comes from a small producer, Monsieur Reyes. There is no way I am going to be able to describe this dish. One I didn’t get to taste anything – John was being a hog and two my notes are a mess with just the words lamb confit, lamb sausage, filet, chop. Hopefully, you will be able to deduce the dish from the photo.

The vegetable side dish served with the lamb.

 

Fourth Course – Me

-Spaghetti au ris de veau, cèpes et truffes.

This was exceptional. You are presented with spaghetti that has been wound into something resembling a sphere. The spaghetti ball encases a mixture of cepes, sweetbreads and black truffles. I also thought Lucy mentioned something about farcie de volaille (chicken), but again my memory is hazy and my notes a mess.  This was just a great dish – visually exciting as well as delicious.

 

First Dessert

A chocolate ball infused with passion fruit and a caramel sorbet in an infusion of citronnelle.

 Crystallized eggplant millefeuille with a rich, intense basil sorbet.

 

Baba a la broche, gros bonbon glace rhumn raisin

 Mignardises

 We stayed at Cordellian Bages and itt is beautiful at night.

Second Lunch at Cordellian Bages

Again, we went to the lounge and had our customary 2 coupes de champagne.

Amuses

In the two spoons cantal cheese with ginger and candied pressed celery. In the glaass a bottom layer of goat cheese topped by spinach “foam.”

Amuses at the table.

Again 3 “sake-like” cups

Smoked sturgeon tartare topped by ?, Strawberry Cream and Basil, and a Sweet Cloud of something with ssweet red pepper oil

First Course – Presse d’anguille fumee terre et estuaire, toasts de cereales et pomme acidulees – On the bottom was more or less a foie gras pate, then a thin layer of smoked eel and topped with an apple and port gelee. It was accompanied by toast studded with black and white sesame seeds. The combination of the eel with the foie was just wondrous – a definite “fatty mouth feel.”

Cracker Bread

 

Second Course – Pate de concombre au caviar/galette d’epeautre –

The bottom layer was cucumber gelee, then a layer of onion cream and finally a layer of caviar. The wheat galette was perfect.

Third Course – Huitre/petits pois, opaline de cacahuete – At first glance, this looks like a green pea mousse topped with a cracker and oyster foam. Deconstructing the dish a plump, briny oyster is enclosed in the pea mousse with the “cracker” addding the crunch.

 

Fourth Course – Sardines, pomme a l’huile

The sardine sat on a crisp, rectangular potato chip and was rolled around itself. My notes say something about pommade and fish bouillon, but I don’t have a clue what I meant. To the right of the sardine was potato encased in a gelee square.

 

Fifth Course – Raviole bras croises, pomme verte et hareng fume – The ravioli was filled with green apple and smoked herring, sauce was based on a mozzarella and cream.

 

Sixth Course –

My husband – Filet de boeuf Blonde d’aquitaine fume aux sarments, pomme de terrre confites au jus a quintessence

I just can’t do this dish justice.  The smoky aroma of this dish when the cellophane was unwrapped was absolutely intoxicating. More importantly, the aroma equalled the taste so this wasn’t theater but food. Again, I am doing a complete unjustice to Chef’s Marx’s food. I do remember some sort of burning mixture and from horrible notes I do know that cabernet sauvignon vine shoots were used for the smoking in this package. My husband was literally intoxicated with the aroma and had no intention of sharing. The meat itself was juicy and infused with this smoky flavor.

Me- Caille prete a deguster, arome tagine

The quail resembled a pyramide and the taste a mimic of a Moroccan dish. Next to it was a cold gelee with peas – each pea had been skinned and halved exactly and perfectly. Someone is spending a lot of time in the kitchen doing prep. 

 

Cheese (not pictured)

Mignardises

 

Two perfect meals and I would go back in a heart beat.

 


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