Archive Page 2

Valentino

We are lucky to have friends, Sybil and Simon who enjoy and savor food and wine as much as we do. Simon Majumdar needs no introduction given his frequent appearances on The Food Network and his best selling books Eat My Globe and Eating for Britain. He is about to embark on a trip around the world with Sybil, his beautiful and talented wife with some time-out time to write his newest book Fed White and Blue – his incredible journey to American Citizenship. We were thrilled they joined us at Valentino, one of our most favorite restaurants and to me the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Piero orchestrated the wines and Chef Nico devised the menu. Many of the dishes Chef Nico brought out himself and explained what we were eating in rapid Italian. Trying to take notes was futile but to demonstrate how tremendous and gracious Chef Nico is he sent me via email the menu in English. That is going above and beyond to the utmost degree!

Bottom line – this was a fantastic meal with exquisite wines, exceptional food and terrific, entertaining friends. I have added some additional notes to Nico’s menu to give you a sense of the exceptional quality of the ingredients, the perfect execution and where necessary a brief description of Italian terms.

Vin first wine

First Wine

Vin uni

Catalina Island sea urchin on lemon-prosecco sgroppino ( a boozy Italian smoothie made with lemon and prosecco – my words not Nico’s) – I love sea urchin – Chef Nico knows this – what a perfect beginning

Vin beef tartare

Little Bite of beef crudo and white truffle Albese style – a one bite wonder

Vin pata negra

Fermin patanegra on fettaunta, a rustic bread rubbed with heirloom tomato and unfiltered Sardinian olive oil – this is when first rate ingredients shine

My addition to Chef Nico’s menu notes: “Two years of air curing and aging in the mountain breeze allows the complexity and flavors of this incomparable Ibérico ham to develop and deepen. In the indigenous oak forest and savanna-like grassland dehesas of southwestern Spain, the Ibérico hog, a descendant of the wild boar, finds its natural habitat. Popularly known as the Pata Negra, or Black Hoof, the Ibérico breed’s characteristics are responsible for the unsurpassed taste and quality of this traditional dry-cured pork ham. Produced by the Fermin family, the original exporters of Ibérico hams to the US.”

Vin - second wine

Second Wine

Vin furst pastaDSC07348

Calamarata paella style of conch, seppie, shrimp, guanciale, chicken, frog legs and Romanesco beans – Calamarata is a wide tubular pasta shaped like a large ring – a perfect combination of exceptional ingredients

VIN - pici

Pici with grappa-thyme wild boar and fiore Sardo pecorino – pici is a thick, hand-rolled pasta that originated in the province of Siena in Tuscany. “Fiore Sardo is produced on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy. This is a cheese with very ancient origins, thought by some to date back to the Bronze Age. Partly as a result of this, Fiore Sardo was awarded DOP (name protected) status in 1996. Although there are now industrially produced variations of Fiore Sardo that are sometimes made from a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk or even pasteurized milk, traditionally Fiore Sardo is made from fresh, unpasteurized sheep’s milk, sourced from native Sardinian sheep from a single flock.”

Vin- third wine

Third Wine

Vin - rabbit

Black truffles and green apples stuffed rabbit with its own demi and grilled polenta – there is no way that words can convey how delicious this way plus handled with finesse

VIN - duck

Roasted Muscovy duck breast with grape sauce and porcini – equally perfect

VIN - cheese

Formaggi – La Tour caw –  sheep and goat milk creamy goodness from Piedmont and Moliterno Tartufato – sheep milk truffle cheese from Sardinia and the southern coast of Italy

VIN - dessert wine

Dessert Wine

VIN - dessert

Dolci –  Pear sorbet, cannoli and chocolate cake

What a meal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely A+++++

David Kinch’s New Cookbook – Special Event at Rustic Canyon

We were very fortunate to go to the event – Rustic Canyon welcomes Chef David Kinch celebrating the release of his cookbook Manresa: an Edible Reflection. Manresa in Los Gatos is one of our favorite restaurants and David Kinch is an extraordinary chef. This celebration of David Kinch’s new cookbook is so much more than a cookbook or a bunch of recipes. It is an inside look at an extraordinary person; an artist who realizes his visions. In the second chapter “An Homage to an Egg” David writes: “Some chefs are good because they’re great technicians who do their job well. But the great ones are those who are thought provoking (and thoughtful) and capable of making you connect to an almost childlike joy. Anyone can feed you; few can make you feel.”  David Kinch’s food makes you feel and each and every meal at Manresa has been memorable. His cookbook also makes you feel his passion through his writing and the extraordinary photography.

Just a little tease – some of our meals at Manresa:

http://lizziee.wordpress.com/category/northern-california/manresa-los-gatos/

For this event Jeremy Fox who used to be chef de cuisine at Manresa and is now executive chef at Rustic Canyon reunited with David Kinch to create a memorable evening of wonderful bites that made you “feel.” Each chef prepared “their” dish for each course. I will let the photos tell the story using the theory “less is more.”

David - champagne

To start: Champagne from their list

SNACK/AMUSE

David - amuse

Crispy cassava and oyster (Manresa) – the oyster refers to the oyster “cream”

Jeremy - amuse

Lavender almonds (Rustic Canyon)

We brought wines from our cellar to enjoy throughout the meal.

Daavid wines

BYO Wines

FIRST COURSE

David - first course

sea bream, lightly cured with persimmon, savory granola (Manresa)

Jeremy first course

radish crudite, nori creme fraiche, pear mustard, yuzu (Rustic Canyon)

SECOND COURSE

David - second

mussel, gooseberry and tomatillo escabeche (Manresa)

Jeremy - second

pozole verde of scallops and their tripe (Rustic Canyon)

THIRD COURSE

David third try this

mijote of sunchoke and chestnuts, brussel sprouts with brillat savarin milk (Manresa)

Jeremy third

monterey bay abalone with turnip (Rustic Canyon)

FOURTH COURSE ( the next photos were taken with an i phone as my photographer was having too much fun)

David's main

our boudin noir and toasted buckwheat (Manresa)

Jeremy's main

potatoes a la flammande, salt cod alfredo, green garlic (Rustic Canyon)

FIFTH COURSE

David dessert

hibiscus pears and gingerbread, smoked pecans (Manresa) – half eaten

andante dairy’s minuet, beets and berries, pistachio soil (no photo – both photographers having double fun)

There is no way I can do justice to this meal and the two dedicated and passionate chefs who produced it. In terms of David Kinch’s first cookbook Manresa: An Edible Reflection it a must read for anyone who is passionate about food. I am thrilled to add it to my collection and intend to devour every word.

Valentino

I have said this many times before but it bears repeating – Valentino is the BEST Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Piero Selvaggio ranks as one of the finest restaurateurs in the country. Chef Nico Chessa is absolutely a genius – his execution is faultless. We are very lucky as we never look at a menu and we always rely on Piero to choose our wine from his extensive wine list. The wines this night were outstanding with the truffles. We could’t have picked a more perfect time to go to Valentino – they just got white truffles from Alba. Many restaurants will serve you truffles but few serve the real thing – Alba white truffles of the finest quality.

Vin - first wine

First Wine

Vin- meatball

This was described as a meatball – a complete misnomer! This was marinated prime beef served like steak tartare topped with Alba white truffles. We were instructed to eat this in one bite – a wondrous one bite wonder.

Vin swordfish

Swordfish Carpaccio, Crab Salad marinated with citrus olive oil on a bed of sliced mango, sliced heirloom tomato and dabs of raspberry sauce – a creative dish with impeccable ingredients handled with finesse – A+

Vin - second wine

Second Wine

Vin - bean salad

Fagioli (beans), Puntarelle, Porcini Mushrooms topped with Black Truffles from Umbria. Puntarelle “is a classic Roman dish; the word puntarelle is Roman argot, and until fairly recently there was a certain amount of discussion outside of Rome as to what puntarelle are. Turns out they’re chicory shoots of a variety known as Catalogna, picked while still young and tender.”

Vin - flan

Lousy photo – great dish! A flan of cardones, Jerusalem Artichokes, Cheese topped with Alba white truffles – I was in truffle heaven!

Vin - cardone

The Cardone

Vin - 3rd wine

Third Wine

Vin chesnut crepe

Chestnut Crespelle (crepes), Radicchio on a bed of fondue parmesan sauce topped with Alba White Truffles – there are no words to describe how good this was

Vin - raviola

Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and “something” (can’t read my notes), butter and sage topped with Alba White Tuffles – this was mind-blowing

Vin - 4th wine

Fourth Wine

Vin - pigeon

Pigeon breast marinated in pineapple on a  bed of squash gnocchi – terrific combination of flavor and texture

Vin - cheese

La Tur Cheese with Candied Walnuts

Vin - dessert

Sorbet – lemon, pear, mango, prickly pear, raspberry

Vin - more dessert

Sweets to end – after a lot of wine I stopped writing!

This was a sensational meal with A+ service. It doesn’t get better than this. Run don’t walk to Valentino – you just won’t get a better meal anywhere in Los Angeles or for that matter the country.

Il Grano

Usually I end with a bottom line comment about my overall feeling about a restaurant. This time I am starting with my bottom line – A MUST GO restaurant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It has been way too long that we haven’t been back to Il Grano – my last post was 2008. What a mistake on our part. Chef/Owner Salvatore Marino dazzles you with his unbelievable sourcing of the freshest of fish and given that we are at the end of tomato season the most amazing array of every imaginable tomato known to man. Ingredient sourcing is extraordinary but what sets Sal’s cuisine apart is his deft ability to let the ingredients “speak” or what Thomas Keller would refer to as “finesse.”

Grano - Sal

Sal was terrific. He came out to greet us, helped us pick our white wine and then said the magic words – just let me cook!  His enthusiasm is contagious and I was excited before my first bite.

Grano - white wine

A terrific white wine from their list

Grano - bread

Bread served with olive oil to be placed in the white part of the dish

The next two dishes we shared – we ate half although my significant other is not great about sharing!

Grano - greengazpacho

Green Zebra Tomato Gazpacho with olive oil and dried black olives. On the side a tart filled with purple carrot puree with a touch of schewan pepper

Grano - red gazpacho

Sunrise Tomato Gazpacho with olive oil, dried black olives and the purple carrot puree tart – both Gazpachos were absolutely terrific

Grano oyster

Luna Oyster served in a dish designed by Mori ( the famed sushi chef of the famed Mori restaurant)

Grano - crudo

Crudo – from left to the right – Japanese snapper, burrata cheese, Indigo tomato, basil — Wild Blue Fin Tuna, Saffron aioli, arugula —- Hokkaido Scallop, Squid Ink Sauce — this was off the charts A+ – I could go to Il Grano and have an entire crudo menu!

Yellowtail Tasting:

Grano yellowtailtartare

Yellowtail Tartare with Shaved White Truffle

Grano - yellowtail tasting

The dish as presented – grilled loin of yellowtail, grilled belly, grilled collar and the tartare – I am in fish nirvana.

As I mentioned earlier Sal is the tomato “KING” of Los Angeles. He grows them, pampers them and gets the best from each variety.

Grano - tomato tasting

Caprese with 12 different kinds of tomatoes, burrata, wild arugula – there was no way that I could get our very patient waiter Fabio to get me the name of every tomato but what a wonderful seasonal dish

Grano - red wine

BYO Red Wine

Grano - uni pasta

Bigoli al Nero- Squid ink Pasta, Santa Barbara sea urchin sauce – I love uni and this is a justifiable signature dish

Grano - octopus

Maccheroncini Polipo – artisanal maccheroncini, octopus bolognese, bone marrow – spicy in a good way

Grano - bad pic of fish

An absolutely horrible photo – Black Cod, Autumn Caponata, Butternut Squash, Celery Root, Lobster reduction – delicious

Grano - duck

Anatra – duck breast, brussel sprouts, black mission figs, smoked duck demi glace –  saucing was perfect, the meat perfectly cooked, what more can one ask for?

This was a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back to Il Grano. This really is a must restaurant for anyone who loves great food executed by the talented and gracious Sal.

Takao

This is our neighborhood go-to sushi bar. We were the very first customers at Takao when it first opened and we have been going ever since. We just let Takao do “his thing.”

Taiko 1

From upper right corner – marinated jellyfish with cucumber, Abalone, Japanese tiny shrimp with caviar, Blue Crab with Spicy Mayo Sauce

Taiko - Spanish

Spanish Mackerel with scallions, ginger, carrot and daikon

Taikoo - truffle

Japanese fresh scallop, uni, shaved summer truffles, pink peppercorns

Taiko - mushroom wrapped

Dish presented

Taiko - mushroom open

Matsutake mushrooms, shrimp, Ginko, Pickled Ginger, Japanese lime

Taikko - tempura

Tempura of a Natto Roll, Tempura Green Onion

Taiko - whole fish

Grilled Yellowtail, chopped ginger, onion

Taiko - toro

Toro Sushi

Not pictured – Salmon Skin Hand Rolls

Taiko - uni squid roll

Uni Squid Hand  Roll

For the freshest fish, for the most interesting preparations – the is THE place to go.

Chinois – Venice

It is hard to believe that Chinois just celebrated their 30th year anniversary. We were pleased to be able to go. The food and service is always A+.

Chin room 1

The room was decorated to the hilt.

Chin - room

But for us it was the wall of old photos on the right of the photo above. We have been going to Chinois almost since the beginning and the staff has remained stable over the years and have become “old friends.” We have all grown older together! It was fun to see the staff in their younger years.

Chin - champagne

BYO Champagne to start

Chin - oyster

Complimentary appetizer of their warm sweet curried oyster with cucumber sauce and salmon pearls and vegetable spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce

Chin - yellow tail

Yellowtail with yuzu lemon, brown sesame seeds soy vinaigrette

Chin - white wine

BYO White Wine

Chin - soft  shells

Soft Shell Crabs, Cilantro, Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Chin - red wine

BYO Red Wine

Chin quail

Crispy Glazed Quail with Grilled Pineapple – lousy photo – photographer too busy just eating and enjoying

Chin fried rice

Duck Fried Rice

Chin - dessert

Complimentary dessert – Macadamia Nut Tart, Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries and a Chocolate “Foam”

Chinois will always be one of our favorite restaurants and I wish them another 30 years of success!

Connie and Ted’s

Connie and Ted’s is by far the best new restaurant in Los Angeles. The seafood like Providence, its fine dining counterpart, is the best in the city – absolutely spectacular. Michael Cimarusti and Donato Poto have given us a restaurant that is a casual restaurant with fine dining ingredients. In fact every ingredient is the best of the best. Sam Baxter, executive chef is absolutely terrific. His resume is as impressive as his deft handling of seafood. Sam was chef de cuisine at Providence and Michael Cimarusti wisely chose him to be executive chef at Connie and Ted’s. Also I must say that service is terrific under Matthew De Marte – General Manager.

Connie - Sam

The wonderful Sam

We decided to just let Sam compose our meal keeping in mind that our last course would be a steamed lobster – just had to try it!

Connie - placemat

Connie and Ted’s drink placemat

Connie - champagne

BYO Champagne

Connie - oysters

Sam chose our oyster selection – Kiwi Cup, Fisher Island and Sweet Petite. It is served with Horseradish and Mignonette Sauce and if you ask Cocktail sauce. My husband uses cocktail sauce but I just slurp each oyster “naked.” Who needs sauce when you get this quality of oysters?

Connie- tartare use

Connie- taratre 2

Prawn tartare topped with prawn roe and on the side fried prawn heads – the best way to eat this was to put the tartare on the fried heads – this was not only delicious but so inventive – A+

Connie - 1st white wine

BYO White Wine

Connie- shrimp toast

Shrimp and Scallop Toast with a Lobster Tomalley sauce – WOWIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You dip the “toast” in the sauce and honestly you are in seafood heaven. Another A+

Connie- baked clams

Baked Clams with herb oil and bread crumbs – again sourcing is the key plus a deft hand with seafood – Sam and his team do both!

At this point Sam asked if I wanted a little order of fried clams with the bellies – how could I say no?

Connie - clams with the bellies

Fried Clams with the bellies

Connie - 2nd white wine

BYO White Wine

Connie - rolls

Parker House Rolls – superb

Connie- tomato salad better

Tomato Salad – fresh, light handled with precision

Now it is lobster time. Sam knew in advance that I don’t eat the claws or the tail. I want the belly and I planned on eating every drop.

Connie- lobster with claws

My husband’s claws and tail served with drawn butter

Connie- lobster with roe

My belly with an obscene amount of lobster roe

Connie- lobster waste

I sucked every tentacle and there was not one drop left in the belly – that is how you eat a lobster!

This was a spectacular meal and I can’t wait to go back. This should be a must restaurant on everyone’s list.


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