Archive for June, 2008



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.

 

French Laundry

I have pages and pages of notes from my FL meals. There is no way that I can repeat them all here. Obviously, this is a very special restaurant for us. We feel very privileged to have been a part of FL’s history and evolution over the years.

Two write-ups will hopefully give you a sense of time and place at FL.

The tenth anniversary of the French Laundry was a 6 day celebration. Festivities started on Tuesday with a party honoring the Schmidts, former owners of “the laundry”.   The next 4 days were invitation only 12 course prix fixe meals.   Saturday was reserved for the “ultimate surprise” anniversary dinner for family, special friends, and long time guests of The French Laundry.  

This sequence led us to say, “God created heaven and earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Thomas Keller created and groomed The French Laundry over 10 years and celebrated for 6 days. He didn’t rest on the 7th as there was a staff only picnic on Sunday at a winery with all past and present members of the FL family. On the 8th day, Thomas cooked to a full house. (Details on that meal to follow.)

Thomas believed that Saturday would be a re-run of the previous meals and was leisurely taking a shower around 10 am. His Dad interrupted him with the dreaded words “there is no electricity in the kitchen.” Thomas couldn’t believe it. First the fire at Per Se and now after a $ 2 million remodel of FL, no electricity.

He hurriedly dressed and went to investigate. He was astonished to see a kitchen packed with his former and current sous chefs… Grant Achatz, Ron Siegel, Jonathan Benno, Eric Ziebold, Matthew Walsh, Stephen Durfee to name a few.

Laura had arranged for each of them to cook one course of the special anniversary meal on Saturday. Thomas didn’t have a clue what would be served, although he would expedite. The fascinating aspect of this menu was that each chef made a dish reflecting his personal cuisine rather than making it like the Thomas Keller dish that inspired it—quite a treat for regular FL diners.

At 7:00 64 people met in the garden for passed appetizers and champagne. The guest list was an eclectic group of significant people in Thomas’ life– loyal customers, press friends, family and literary associates. The one thing we had in common was our love of good food and wine and our appreciation for what Thomas had accomplished.

A number of former front of the house staff had also come back for a “one night stand” to work once again as a part of the FL service team.

Appetizers included the salmon cornets, a small baguette of tomato marmalade topped by proscuitto, gougeres and the most amazing foie sickle or think foie tootsie pop– A ball of foie had been tempuraed and mounted on a stick. You then dipped your pop into a port reduction sauce. Even though, I knew a lot of food would be served, I just couldn’t resist having 4 of those foie pops.

The FL had been rearranged with round tables, each seating 8.

First Course – Doug Psaltis and Thomas Keller

Oysters and Pearls – Absolutely no need for me to describe this dish. One person at our table summed up this dish – no matter how many times  you have eaten this dish, it is always a perfect taste sensation..

Second course and Third Course – Both were prepared by Grant Achatz – 1996-98, 1999-2001 (Grant is now at Alinea, Chicago)

Rock Shrimp “Tempura” with Santa Rosa Plum, Preserved Meyer Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla FragranceOne This was one of Trio’s signature dishes. Grant had brought with him the special holder for the shrimp. A single shrimp was cooked tempura style and speared on a vanilla bean. The Santa Rosa plum and Meyer Lemon were incorporated  into the batter. The shrimp was delicious.

Black Truffle “Explosion” Broccoli Puree, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano

The soup spoon sat on a small mound of broccoli puree and we were instructed to be sure and dip the spoon in the puree when tasting the “explosion. “ The mouth feel really does explode “truffle” in your mouth. The truffle slice on top of the “explosion” actually had very little truffle taste.

Fourth Course – Summer Potato “Salad” “Barbeque” Vinaigrette and Pickled Celery “Ribs” – Mark Hopper, 1996 – 2003 (now at Bouchon, Vegas)

To the left on the plate was a small mound of the vinaigrette, the secret ingredient being coca-cola. To the right was a slice of fingerling potato. At the top was a salad of tiny diced potato confit mixed with the pickled celery ribs –  The taste sensation was a haute cuisine version of potato salad for the typical Fourth of July picnic.

Fifth Course – “Sashimi” of Blue-Fin Toro, Geoduck Clam “Ceviche”, Cucumber Gelee and “Ama Hito” Sea Salt – Ron Siegel, 1994-1996 (now at Ritz San Francisco)

This was superb. A large triangle shape slice of toro topped by vivid bright green cucumber gelee and on top a small mound of diced marinated geoduck. The toro was the finest quality and this is when the whole equals more than the sum of the parts.

Sixth Course – Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Sweet Cherry Tomatoes, “Crispy Fleur De Courgette” and “Pistou” – Jonathan Benno – 1995-1996, 2001-2003 (now at Per Se) and Joshua Schwartz, 1995-1998 (now private dining chef, Per Se)

Actually Eric Ziebold should also be credited with this dish as, according to Thomas’ father, he got stuck prepping the 90 lobsters.

The lobster was cooked to perfection which is quite a feat considering that 64 people were being served. The accompaniments were a nice component and in particular the crispy cauliflower a nice texture, taste contrast.

Seventh Course – Sauteed Moulard Foie Gras with a “Pave” of Pickled watermelon, Upland Cress and Tellicherry Pepper Gastrique – Gregory Short, 1996-2002 (Now at Masa SF)

The watermelon wedge to the right of the foie was a surprising but thoroughly enjoyable and ingenious taste sensation.

Eighth  Course – “Duck, Duck Goose” Pan Roasted Liberty Valley Duck Breast, crispy Duck “Rillettes”, Royal Blenheim Apricots, Cipollini Onions and Goose “Consomme” – Jeffrey Cerciello, 1995-1998 (Now at Bouchon, Yountville)

A 3/4 inch slice of rare duck breast was to the left of the plate. Just below were the apricot/cippollini onion mixture, to the right were the rillettes.. The server then poured a small amount of intense goose consommé on the plate. This was an excellent dish and the duck was packed with flavor.

Ninth Course – Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte” of Prime Beef Served with caramelized Garlic, Baby Leeks, Crispy Shiiitake Mushrooms, and Bordelaise Vinaigrette – Eric Ziebold – 1996-2004 (now at City Zen, DC)

This was perfect – the sauce was spectacular. It was actually a broken bordelaise which was achieved by adding droplets of beef fat to the sauce.. The meat was of the best quality and served rare.

Tenth Course

“Roquefort”, Bing Cherry “Compote”, Garden Herb salad and Thyme-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Matthew Walsh – 1998-2001

Eleventh Course

Berry Treasure Farm Strawberry Sorbet with a “Madeline Au Citron Et Aux Fruits D’Ete”, “Balsamico Bianco Gelee” and Kendall Farm “Crème Fraiche”- Sebastien Rouxel – 1999-2004 (now pastry chef at Per Se)

At this point we were also on our eleventh wine and these were not pours – your glass was constantly re-filled. My notes look like scrawls done by a 5 year old – basically illegible.

Twelfth Course –

“Coffee and Doughnuts” Cinnamon Sugared Doughnuts with cappuccino “Semi-Freddo” – Francisco Migoya, 2004 (now CIA instructor, Hyde Park)

FL’s signature dessert, executed perfectly.

Thirteenth Course –

“Theoboma” Slow Baked mousse of Stone-Ground Chocolate and Fragrant Spice, “Dulce de Leche” and Rum raisins – Stephen Durfee – 1994-2000 (now instructor at CIA Hyde Park)

This was a tour de force by Stephen…he actually made his own chocolate from cocoa beans…he must have worked hundreds of hours on the dish.  It was absolutely heavenly—light, but solid, full bodied but not over-whelming, the flavor lingered , the Port wine served to accent the chocolate flavor…I don’t imagine anyone  will have this dish soon again…the ingredients alone would make it a $ 50-100 dessert…is it worth it, yes…a resounding yes!!!  Bravo Stephen.

Mignardise and Coffee

 

This second write-up was a response to a Chowhound poster who said their meal at FL had not one memorable dish. As a response, I wrote the following:

I have been eating at the FL, almost since they opened. Not only can I remember almost every dish I have had, I also have the taste memory as well. These are just some of the stand-out dishes between 2002 and 2006. Believe me when I say this is an extremely edited list of what I have eaten there in those 4 years.

1. Oysters and Pearls – “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with malpeque oysters and osetra caviar


2. Cauliflower panna cotta topped with osetra caviar


3. Atlantic Salmon chop with russet potato gnocchi 


4. White truffle custard with ragout of Perigord truffles with veal stock presented in a hallowed out egg


5. Coddled hen egg with perigord truffle beurre noisette and brioche soldiers


6. Turbot collar with fennel and Meyer lemon beurre blanc 


7. Seafood bouillabaisse over a puree of potatoes with olive oil. 


8. “Beets and Leeks” – sweet butter poached Maine lobster with melted green leeks, “pomme maxim” and red beet essence


9. “Pithivier of Cloverdale Farms rabbit (confit of rabbit) with wilted Arrowleaf spinach and Brooks cherries and a cherry sauce reduction


10. Foie Gras au torchon” with green gage plum marmalade and toasted brioche


11. Terrine of Moulard duck foie gras studded with truffles served with frisee salad 


12. House made tagliatelle with black truffles


13. Carnaroli risotto with black truffles


14. Whole roasted Moulard duck foie gras with spiced bread crumbs, slices of Bosc pears and clove gastric. 


15, Russet potato gnocchi, roasted chestnuts, white truffle butter and shaved white truffles from Alba. 


16. “Canard a L’Orange” Whole roasted moulard duck foie gras with orange braised duck leg and confit of navel orange. The foie gras looked liked a petit filet, about 2 x 2 x 2 and was cooked with a slight crunch on the outside, but moist and rare inside.


17. Grilled “Calotte” and poached rib-eye of prime beef, “tortelloni” of roasted root vegetables and oxtail consomme


18. Sashimi of Kona Kahala (amberjack) with Hass Avocado Sorbet and Crème Fraiche scented with lime and to the right a salad of Micro-Cilantro shoots and Ribbons of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Farm. 


19. Shrimp with White Truffle Foam, Truffle Slices and Potato Puree as the base. 


20. Black Bass Shabu Shabu with scallions, pickled ginger, Bonito broth. 


21.Uni Risotto with Black Truffles


22. Uni Sabayon with Chives


23. Maltese Tuna Poached in Olive Oil, Herb Spatzle, Savoy Cabbage, Sauce Goulash. 


24.Australian Wagyu Beef tartare on Koshikari rice, Baby Bok Choy, Chestnut Mousse, Tamari Glaze


25. Pecorino and some other cheese (I think our waiter said foglia de noche) Gratin, Serrano Ham, Cardoons


26. White Truffle Float with white truffle ice cream on the bottom and white truffle foam on top


27. Pistachio butter with White Sturgeon Caviar and Small Brioche croutons


28. Tempura of Rock Shrimp on a bed of Kahala tartar with chives and red radish.


29. Kurobuta Pork Belly with Koshikari rice and Jidori Hen Egg


30. Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with White Truffles shaved tableside


31. Bacon-wrapped Partridge with Brussel Sprouts, Foie Gras Beignet, Tokyo Turnips


32. Uni soup over small Parisian balls of Crimson gold apples


33. Truffle-cured scallop 


34. Confit of Columbia River Sturgeon, green grapes, beurre blanc, white sturgeon caviar


35. Monterey Bay Sardine, crusted with brioche, ragu of cauliflower florets, piquillo peppers, FL house-made chorizo, watercress puree


36. A “pavé” of Spanish mackerel, cured and grilled, Koshikari rice, compressed Asian pear, nori gastric


37. Soft poached hen egg, with French green lentils, chives, chervil and sherry vinegar


38. FL Lobster Roll – The roll was actually pain perdue, FL 1000 island dressing was a tomato-based sauce made with olive oil and egg yolk. Also in the roll was a layer of tomato marmalade and celery


39. Kurobata Pork belly with bok choy leaves, daikon, corn and tamarind jus


40. Uni panna cotta with green orange gelee


41. Russet Potato Gnocchi with cured salmon roe and tomato marmalade


42. Cap of the rib eye (Snake River), golden sweet corn, chanterelles, celery root puree, perigordine sauce


43. Poached Black bass with Red Wine Reduction sauce, Potato Millefeuille, Spring Onion, Grilled Baby Leeks


44. Toro with lemon sauce, Quenelle of Piperade, Roasted Sunflower Blossoms, Toasted Sunflower seeds


45. “Peas and Carrots” Maine Lobster Pancakes (crepe) with pea shoot salad and Ginger-carrot Emulsion


46. Sauteed Moulard Foie Gras with mulberries, Tokyo Turnips, Saucing of Mulberries and Red Wine Vinegar Reduction. This was accompanied by a poppy seed Genoise done with duck fat


47. Four Story Hills farm Poularde with Mousseline of chorizo, Piquillo, Golden Sweet Corn, sage-scented jus


48. Madeleine genoise, Pistachio nougatine, Blackberry spoon tency.


49. Santa Barbara Uni with Granny Smith Apple Gelee topped with Caspian Sea Russian Sevruga caviar and baby squash blossoms


50. Kanpachi belly that had been cold-smoked with Applewood Bacon. As the lid was lifted from the dish, smoky white “bacon clouds” floated in the air.


51. Mackerel with Ginger Gastric on a bed of steamed rice served with chopsticks


52. Omelet stuffed with Italian Castelmagno cheese with truffle Perigordine sauce. Thick slices of brioche are served on the side. 


53. Striped Bass Shank, roasted on the bone with razor clams, a cassoulet of beans with nicoise olive puree fennel


54. Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit Sirloin wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, chanterelles and golden corn pudding. 


55. Butternut Squash Soup served over Glazed Chestnuts 


56. Grilled Nova Scotia Bluefin Tuna, Beech Mushrooms “a la Greque”, Baby Arugula and Meyer Lemon 


57. Brandade with Sweet Garlic Infused Cream, Crispy Spanish Capers, and Parsley Oil


58. Mascarpone-Enriched K&J Orchard Chestnut “Agnolotti’ with Black Truffles 


59. Grilled Dover Sole with Marinated Cauliflower Florets, Raisins, Almonds, Madras Curry 


60. Potato “Dauphinoise” with Russian Sevruga Caviar


61. Monterey Bay Sardine “En Brioche”, Piquillo Pepper and Spanish Caper Emulsion


62. Brook Trout Roe served with salt smoked with cherry wood and grated bonito 


63.”Cheese and Crackers” — Four Story Hills Farm Berkshire Pork “Fromage de Tete” and Fennel Seed Crackers – The head cheese was not served as a terrine. Instead it was finely diced and you were to scoop up the dice and place it on your fennel cracker 


64. Grilled “Pave” of Spanish Bluefin Tuna, Ginger Glazed Baby Bok Choy, Hon Shimeji and Beech Mushrooms and Green Orange “Aigre-Doux – It had been poached in olive oil (confit) and tasted like the best toro. The bok choy had been cooked sous vide and then butter added. The aigre-doux was a mixture of glucose sugar, champagne vinegar and navel orange. 


65. Glazed Wolfe Ranch White Quail, Caramelized Fennel Bulb and “Pruneau d’Agen” -The quail was wrapped around a foie gras mousse, but it was the poached prune and the foie gras emulsion that elevated this dish to a 4 star status. 


66. “Coffee and Doughnuts” – 


67. Santa Barbara Sea Urchin served with a Sake Granite


68. Eggs “Perigourdine” – Poached “Arcuna” Hen Egg with “Thomas” English Muffin, Sauce Hollandaise and Black “Perigord” 


69. “Fricassee” of Maine Lobster “Mitts”, Sweet Corn Pudding, Applewood Smoked bacon and Shaved Summer Truffles 


70. Sea of Cortez Scallops, Beet Vinaigrette, Melted King Richard Leeks, Poppy Seed Tuile 


71. Dungeness Crab Gratin with Melted Leeks with Meyer Lemon 


72. Duck Neck with Perigord Truffles, Foie gras, Sweet Carrots with a bit of 100 year old Balsamic Vinegar – Think of a round 3 inch circle studded with small 1⁄4” dice of foie gras and black truffles 


73. Poularde with Port Wine Reduction, Toasted Brioche “smeared” with the poularde liver which had been sautéed with thyme, shallots and garlic


74. A Toad in the Hole – As the name implies, a hole is made in a 11⁄2 inch round of brioche. In the hole is a lightly coddled hen egg set on truffle coulis 


75. Pickled “Deviled” Egg with Perigord Truffle “Pop Tart” – – Egg pickled in truffle juice, sliced horizontally, yolk mashed with crème fraiche and re-stuffed into the white. The “deviled egg” was set on top of truffle gelee and surrounded by a truffle perigord sauce. 


76. Monkfish first presented whole, then plated and served with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Sautéed Arugula with tiny bits of crispy bacon, whole grain mustard sauce made with shellfish stock. 


77. Nature fed Veal with Crispy sweetbreads, Morels, Jacobson Farm carrots, Yukon Gold Potato Millefeuille Layered with Truffles, Thyme infused Veal Jus, Cilantro, Thyme Garnish. 


78. Smoked steelhead roe porridge with Diane Sinclair butter finished with Persian lime Salt and freshly shaved bonito flakes sprinkled on top tableside by our server with chopsticks. dish.


79. Uni with umebashi (plum paste) gastric with breakfast radish, daikon and black salt. 


80. Veal Oscar – Veal Sweetbreads with Sacramento Asparagus and a succulent piece of crab to the side with hollandaise sauce. An absolute winner.


81. Bacon-wrapped sirloin of rabbit, Cassoulet of Spring Pole Beans, Rabbit Jus, Thyme Infused Olive Oil. 


82. Agnolotti with Fava beans, Mascarpone with Black Truffles, shaved tableside


83. Potato Ravioli, Celery, Beurre Monte, Black Truffles Shaved Tableside


84. Salt-packed Branzino, Roasted Artichoke Hearts, Red pepper, Piquillo Pepper Tapenade with Bouillabaise Sauce 


85. Squab breast and squab “drummette” with, sunchoke puree, brussel sprouts, red onions, sauce perigordine 


86. Snake River Farm’s “Calotte de Boeuf Grillee – Beef cap with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Asparagus, Béarnaise Cheese


87. Thomas’ version of a BLT – Think of a sandwich with first Brioche toast, then a Lettuce/Basil “sort of” puree, White Truffle Slice, Cured Bacon, White Truffle Slice, a touch of the Lettuce/Basil combination, and then Brioche toast. 


88. Scrambled Araucana Hen Eggs, “Mousselline des Tompinambours” (sunchokes) and Iranian Oscetra Caviar 


89. Maine Lobster Tail “cuit sous vide”, Melted Savoy Cabbage, Stew of Winter Chestnuts, Chestnut “Coulis” and Applewood Smoked Bacon “Crisp” 


90. Wolfe Ranch Breast of Squab “Farci aux foie Gras de Canard aux truffle Noir”, Glazed Cipolinni Onions and Butternut Squash.


91. Anson Mills Polenta With Brown Butter/Chicken Stock Sauce with Shaved White Truffles Tableside. 


92. Lobster cooked sous vide with navel orange mousseline topped with a confit of navel orange accompanied by a small herb salad. 


93. Seared eel on apple puree compote, grated daikon and ponzu sauce served with silver-tipped chop sticks. 


94. Sturgeon on a bed of melted leeks with pomme boulangerie and apple cider sauce


95. Confit of foie gras topped with toasted brioche croutons, cipoline onion, fines herbes vinaigrette and a sweet and sour pepper gastric served with 8 different salts. 


96. Roasted Partridge with chestnuts and Perigord truffles. 


97. Roasted Wolfe Ranch White Quail, stuffed with “Musquee de Provence” Pumpkin, “Ris de Veau”, Frisee Lettuce and Curry Balsamic Vinaigrette


98. Marinated Octopus with Tomato water Gelee and shaved dried bonita flakes added tableside..


99. a boneless quail, stuffed with foie, then the quail is”confit it” and preserved whole in a jar. They showed us the jar and the preserved quail/foie, but it was presented sliced with the gelee. 


100. “Toro” of Australian Bluefin Tuna, salad of Japanese sweet rice.


101. “Pork and Beans” – all day braised Eden Farms Berkshire Pork “belly” with a “Cassoulet” of Spring Pole Beans and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce.


102. Pied de cochon farcie aux ris de veau with lentils and a sherry vinaigrette sauce.


103. Needle fish with Walla Walla Shallots, Julienne Carrots and Wasabi Oil. 


104. Sauteed Foie Gras with Transcending Crab-Apple and Wildflower Honey Gastric. 


105. Foie Gras Terrine with Black Truffles and Frisee salad. 


106. Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle with Summer Ratatouille and Crispy Herb-scented Panisse croutons. 


107.Culotte of Beef with beef marrow. 


108. On a Meyer lemon butter sauce, a mound of potato puree and then topped with a postage size piece of thick all-day braised pork belly and finally mounded with a quenelle of caviar. 


109. A duck egg that had been very briefly simmered in water, white removed sitting in an intense reduced almost to glaze black truffle perigord sauce..


110. “Saucisson L’Ail” with a “ragout” of pearl barley and fuji apples, sultana tapenade and a savory-infused olive oil


112. Lyon Cervela with pistachio nuts, lentils and black truffles. Between the casing and the sausage were black truffles as well

 

Now it is 2008 at the FL. Since Corey Lee has now become chef de cuisine at FL, the evolution continues. FL is not a static restaurant and each and every dining experience is an unique adventure.

 

Egg Presentations

I love unusual ways to present egg dishes whether it be scrambled eggs topped with caviar, uni and eggs or the Arpege egg.

 

The penguin is Michel Richard’s creation.

More fun stuff

 

 

 

There is an egg topper from Japan that Michel Richard discovered that actually works.

 

 

Citronelle

We do not walk into Citronelle as unknown diners. We have been personal friends of Michel Richard for years and enjoyed many wonderful meals both at his restaurant and at his house. Also, I have had the pleasure of cooking for him and his family at our house.

Thanks to a certain sommelier at Citronelle, I was instructed to bring a huge batch of homemade cookies, pastries, brownies, persimmon pudding plus my “new” creation coconut sushi. This certain sommelier also happened to mention that if I showed up empty-handed, I just might not have wine with dinner.

Since the chef’s table wasn’t booked for the night, we sat there for champagne and cookie sharing. Who says you can’t start dinner with dessert!

After sampling the brownies, rugelah and other cookies, I decided to see what Michel thought of the sushi. They graciously let me use a corner of the counter to slice the coconut sushi.

Michel contemplates it and looks askance.

He finally declares it a winner.

Jean Jacques also declared it a winner while Mark had to wait to taste some until after he had poured the champagne.

My brownie is always a hit!

We decided to stay at the chef’s table for dinner. Michel asked what we wanted to eat and wisely we let him choose. By the way, everything we had was on the menu, available to every diner. This was not an off-menu dinner – anyone could order it.

Michel’s kitchen is pristine; immaculate is closer to the point. As you watch the chefs, there is a ballet going on – no rushing, no wasted movements, no yelling, and no noise – just intense and focused concentration.

 

Gruyere Cheese Pizza with Bacon. The dough is actually brioche made only with milk with the addition of a bit of gelatin to firm the dough. It is encased in plastic, much like making a sausage and frozen. For service, the chef uses an electric meat slicer to make thin slices and it is baked “a la moment” for service.

 

 

Oyster Shooter – Starting at the bottom cucumber gelee, sliced Blue Point Oysters with Crème Fraiche, Fresh Passion Fruit with Tapioca and Uni Foam on top. This was absolutely delicious. I particularly liked the passion fruit with tapioca in that it mimicked in looks salmon eggs, but you got a burst of fruit in your mouth.

 

Porcini-Green Lentil Soup, poached egg. This dish is first presented with just the poached egg and small bits of pepita and bacon. A Michel Richard dish will almost always have a crunchy component. The server then pours the soup around the egg. The egg had been poached for 45 minutes at 47 degrees Celsius. (The reason my descriptions are so detailed is that Michel was the one describing them to me.) The combination of flavors – runny yolk, firm white, crunchy pepita, smoky bacon plus rich porcini/green lentil soup was just fantastic.

 

 

Foie Gras Carpaccio – This was a painting and definitely hints to Michel’s artistic background. On the bottom was a round circle of cold foie gras. On top of the foie circle were cubes of foie gras gelee, grapes, orange segments, black beans, Chayote and Beet chips. The “saucing” was orange oil and beet reduction. Some foie courses are so rich and heavy that you lose your appetite. This was as light as it was tasty. Another winner.

 

 

 Tuna Napoleon “Nicoise” The ingredients in this dish was a huge nod to a nicoise salad – black olives, fried Spanish capers, beet and tomato gelee cubes, boqueron (Spanish anchovy), haricot verte and “egg.” The tuna was stacked between layers of potato tuile. Ringing the plate were small pools of basil oil, ginger and cream.

 

 

Now take a close look at the “egg.” This is not an egg! The white is actually mozzarella and the “yolk” yellow tomato confit. I love Michel’s whimsy and cleverness. However, he never sacrifices flavor for ingenuity.

 

 Lobster “Begula Pasta” – When they were ordering the tins for this dish, the manufacturer made a mistake and printed Begula instead of Beluga – hence the name. The top layer of this dish is pearl pasta with squid ink, then pieces of lobster, hollandaise sauce and a poached egg. Clever, delicious, very rich and fun – A+.

 

 

Loup de Mer, tomato concasse, spinach pasta. The spinach/egg pasta was the “cap” for the fish and the tomato concasse the base. This was a huge nod to the South of France.

 

Short Ribs, braised 72 hours, Potato Napoleon, Syrah Sauce. I have to admit that I am not a huge lover of short ribs and have had one too many versions of stringy, overcooked meat. Not this one; it was meltingly tender. The potato napoleon was the ultimate in comfort food – a grown-up potato gratin.

As we started with dessert, we decided to adjourn to the lounge for cigars and aperitifs.

What strikes me most about Michel’s cooking is how much it has evolved over the years. This is not the cuisine that Michel was serving years ago at Citrus or even what he was serving a couple of years ago at Citronelle. This is exciting food, using up-to-date techniques, but always with an acknowledgement that cleverness can’t take precedence over taste and flavor. My only regret is that I don’t live around the corner – if I did, I would be there at least twice a month or even more often that that

 

 

 

Regis Marcon

We have been to Regis Marcon many times, but since our last visit he has received 3 stars and has created a new gastronomic restaurant. The original restaurant in the hotel is now a bistro. The new restaurant is brand-new (opened Oct. ’05, closed for the winter and re-opened for the ’06 season in April). The restaurant over looks the whole valley. In many respects it reminded us of Bras without as much futuristic “space-ship” feel. The view is magnificent. The tables are big and well spaced.

 Although the restaurant setting was new, we knew we were “home” at one of our favorite places. We had been expecting Marcon to get the 3rd star for several years. We were also at home because the sommelier, Laurent, assisted us in every aspect of ordering wines and making sure that our service was excellent. We remember Laurent from his first year, 2001, when he impressed us. We knew he was young to be head sommelier at a 3 Star—now 29—ironically born 1977, one year after our son, on exactly the same day, April 19….amazing coincidence.

Saturday night dinner—first meal:

Lounge

Champagne and amuses in the lounge:

 

 

 

1. small snail tart

 

 

2. beignet of frog’s legs with a touch of ginger – my favorite

The server arrives with a wooden box on the top of which is a small woodpecker. With a pull of its tail the box opens and the bird grabs a toothpick. You take the pick and stab your beignet. Regis Marcon discovered these in Japan—naturally we had to have one and I do!

 

 

 3. mushroom toast with a slice of sardine topped with a slice of eggplant

 

 4. In a Chinese spoon, cold potato puree with coquillage (shellfish) topped with some type of cheese.

 

5. Not sure?

 

Regis Marcon has special plates for each season.

 

Amuse at the table

A tall glass of a “cocktail of legumes” — cream of celery, peas and tomato.

 

 

1st course:

Transparence d’ecrevisses au pamplemouosse rose, crème d’ asperges et des beignets croustillants—served in a martini glass, bottom layer of asparagus cream, then on top peas and a 1/4” dice of avocado and pink grapefruit and its gelee, topped by small, whole crayfish.

 

 

In another dish, 2 tempura asparagus spears with some type of vinegar sauce for dipping. This was an excellent dish—an ode to spring—light, refreshing, well conceived and well executed.

 

 

2nd course:

Terrine de ris de veau et morilles noires, petites salades de champignons et aigre doux. Foie gras and sweetbread terrine with wild mushrooms. Superb! The center of the terrine had the sweetbreads and morels surrounded by the foie. This addition added excellent texture as well as taste.

 

 

3rd course:

Dos de Sandre a l’ail des ours et mousserons—fresh water pike-perch sat on top of shallots, spring garlic and some of the mousserons (small wild agaric mushrooms). More mousserons topped the sander and ringing the plate at the top mashed potatoes. Another winner—maybe not the wow of some other restaurants, but fresh ingredients handled expertly.

 

 

4th course:

A special gift from the chef—a mini rendition of his lentil ragout with slices of black truffles and a slightly poached quail egg. We love this dish.

 

 5th course:

Le couchon de lait aux cerises, la coterote au sautoir, boudin et cervelas aux cepes. This was absolutely spectacular. Suckling pig chop with a cherry-based jus, a millefeuille of the liver with cepes and a boudin on toast point topped a cherry. This was a 3 star-signature dish.

 

6th course:

Cheese:

A huge selection of cheeses from the cart—I only took only 2 – John 3…but I was taken by the cheese plate itself. It is made by Revol (France tous les trios design).

 

 

We both thought the additional vegetable/nuts/jam presentation with the cheese, particularly celery and carrots was unnecessary. The raisins, orange marmalade, oats/cereal and strawberry compote just did not make sense.

 

We passed on dessert to have coffee, mignardises and a cigar in the lounge.

 

Sunday, May 14 lunch:

They were packed. You would think it was some sort of a bargain deal. It seems that families from the surrounding area flock to Marcon for Sunday lunch. The private dining room was full. There were large tables (8’s) all over the dining room. There wasn’t one empty table to be seen and all the lounges were packed with guests going in or out.

View from our window seat.

The packed room

In retrospect, we will not do the Sunday lunch in the gastronomic restaurant. Service really suffered although Laurent made a valiant effort.

 

Since we were having dinner at 8:30 that evening and lunch was at 12:30, we decided to keep it light. 

 

Amuses: ( no pictures aas similar in style to dinner amuses)

1. tart with snails

2. beignet with St.Nectaire

3. mushroom toast with a slice of sardine topped by an eggplant slice

4. langousine with a mushroom mousse

5. trout escabeche with a tart of cheese mousse.

 

 Amuse at the table: In a tall shot glass, a bottom layer of hot pea soup with whole small pea and on top a white foam “liquor” of herbs. To the side a small spoon of fairy mushrooms marinated in very light oil.

 

 

1st course: La Brochette Margarrdou version 2006, ris de veau, jambon, morels, brioche leaf —on a silver skewer, a croquette is presented that is filled with lamb sweetbreads, morels and ham. Saucing was a mushroom-based cream-enhanced stock. The brochette sat on greens, to the right were morels, to the left spinach and endive. This is a old favorite that was a good as ever—a 3 star signature dish.

 

2nd course: La vraie crique ardechoise aux langoustines, legumes sautés a cru aux calamars—this dish didn’t work. We might have upset the balance of the dish by splitting it. There were way too many vegetables relative to the langoustines. The langoustines and the veggies sat on a soggy potato pancake.

Our tasting menu the night before was far superior to this meal. This was more like a 1.5 star dining experience…we were concerned about going back for dinner in a few hours—what a problem!!

 

Sunday, May 14 dinner:

We returned to a full but not jam-packed dining room.  Most of the tables were 2’s and the private dining room was dark.  The entire feel of the restaurant was completely different — calm, leisurely, and peaceful; the Marcon we know and love.

 

Amuse same as dinner the night before

tart of snails

beignet of frog’s legs

mushroom toast with sardine and eggplant

It seems the above 3 amuses are the standard beginning in May.  The winner was definitely the beignet.

 

Lobster and tomato confit with a tiny asparagus

 

Foie topped by pear confiture – absolutely wonderful 

 

Amuse at the table: Crème de Champignons—this had absolutely no relationship to USA mushroom soup.  It tasted “of the forest”  because the chef had foraged the mushrooms probably that morning.  Marcon is out at 6:00 AM every day…wonderful!!!

 

1st course: Les asperges aux  morilles (morchella, conica, rotunda( with a light sabayon au gout (taste) de cepes.

4 asparagus spears were on the plate alternating green/white. A “pile” of morels were set at the stalk end.  Then a bright yellow sabayon, intensely flavored, with cepes rings the right side of the plate.  Who would think that asparagus and morels would produce such a heavenly dish.

 

 

 

2nd course: Omble Chevalier etuve plat tout encontraste—jus, mousseline et sorbet.

The fish was spectacular, cooked perfectly with the skin of the fish served separately—crispy and filled with shoestring potatoes and shallots.  Carrots and fennel were to the right of the fish and a carrot mousse served as a sort of saucing.  The “plat in contrast” refers to the fact that the sorbet, jus and mousseline had the same spicing.  You tasted the seasonings in 3 different forms.   Another winner.

 

3rd course: La selle d’agneau de sauges cuit en croute de soin de cistre, epices au loup.

 A small table is set up next to your table.

 

 Regis Marcon comes out of the kitchen.   The staff presents him with what looks like a huge loaf of bread.

 

Chef Marcon cuts around the base of the bread and inside sits the lamb covered with hay.  The lamb had indeed been cooked in hay. Carefully, the chef removes the lamb and turns it one way then another until he finds exactly the right place to slice.

 

4 perfect slices of rosy lamb are presented with a medley of spring vegetables—broccoli florets, fingerling potatoes, peas, pea pods, artichoke heart, turnip, zucchini, spring onion, and baby asparagus.   On top of the vegetable medley is a fried potato filled with lettuce.

 

Second service of the lamb:

Second service of the lamb is served with a medley of mushrooms. Mushrooms really are the king at Regis Marcon.

This is a wonderful dish that we enjoy our last night every visit. It is enough to bring us back in a few years along with fabulous sommelier Laurent and a very beautiful, relaxing setting for the weekend.  The only change big changes…we are looking forward to a new hotel with more luxurious rooms. The current rooms are looking shop worn.  Also, we’ll go to the bistro for Sunday lunch and avoid the 1.5  star food and service.

 

We again skipped dessert and had mignardises, coffee and John’s cigar in the lounge.

 

Summary:

How to rate Regis Marcon.   The two dinners were certainly 3 star. The one lunch was no more than 1 star.  We would definitely go back.  Laurent is one of the best sommeliers in all of France.  He always finds reasonably priced “goodies” for us.  It is a great spot and they are lovely country people with great hospitality.

 

 


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