Archive for July, 2009

BreadBar – Hatchi Series

I loved it when Chef Rugelio cooked a special dinner for us at Breadbar and then Chef Rugelio arranged for  Chef Noriyuki Sugi to cook a special dinner for us. When I heard that Chef Sugi would be consulting on a series of Hitachi dinners at Breadbar in Century City, I made a reservation immediately!  Little did I know at the time that I would know one of the main “players.”

The guest chef was Michael Voltaggio. We have tasted his talents at Bazaar, but have yet to taste his revamped menu as executive chef at The Dining Room at The Langham in Pasadena. I did meet his mother and father (who are wonderful) and can’t wait to watch Bravo’s Top Chef when Michael and his brother, Bryan go against each other on Season 6 Top Chef, premiering Wednesday, August 19.

To see Michael’s bio go to:

When I made the reservation I didn’t know that my son, David would be doing the wine pairings and working the event. What an absolute treat and pleasure and to say I was one proud mommy is a massive understatement. Our wine pairings were not as listed on the menu as David had brought wine from our cellar so we had the unique experience of some very special wines.

david bb



Chef Mike 1

Chef Michael Voltaggio


Gosset BB

Gosset champagne to start


salmon BB

Artichokes “Barigoule” 

Salmon Belly, Philadelphia Cheese, Smoked Salmon Roe – this was sensational – fatty salmon belly, popping salmon roe, the “blobs” were artichoke liquid that had been strained and jellied, artichoke heart with stem and “flakes” of cream cheese formed with liquid nitrogen.

The reason that I am able to accurately describe these dishes is thanks to Edwin – Michael’s sous chef. He is talented, knowledgeable and just a wonderful guy.

Edwin bb



Lafite - BB

White wine with the Tomato Tartare


Tomato - bb

Japanese Tomato Tartare 

Green Almonds, Parmesan “Overeasy”, Tapenade Powders, Basil – This brief description doesn’t do justice to this dish – absolutely extraordinary. What appears to be a poached egg on top is not an egg at all. The parmesan is cooked in water, sits for 24 hours and then mixed with LO2A. (I hope I got this right, Edwin!) 


Tomato - bb 1

The yellow color is from yellow tomato coulis – clever plus delicious.


Badol - BB

Bandol with the Hamachi


hamachi - bb

 Hamachi Crudo 

Smoked Egg Yolk, Sea Sponge, Watermelon, Wild Rice – Another complete winner. Sushi grade hamachi was perched on a watermelon rectangle that looked exactly like tuna sashimi. The sea sponge was actually Dashi broth (70% cold – 30% hot), watermelon gelatin compressed with soy sauce then added, the egg was smoked at 63 degrees celsius for 90 minutes and finally wild rice that added a perfect textural component of crunch. (I hope I am giving accurate descriptions of these dishes and any mistakes are mine not Edwin’s. I need to add, he was very patient with me at the height of service.)

Edwin plating

Edwin plating


sherry - BB

Sherry for the Sweetbreads (regular pairing)


sweetbreads - BB

 Veal Sweetbread 

Poached Egg, Pea Consomme, Coffee-Cardamom Soil –  The sweetbreads were excellent and the coffee-cardamom “soil” a perfect seasoning. I did find the egg a touch underdone – the yolk was perfect, but the white was too loose and runny.

sweetbreads - consomme added

The pea consomme was added tableside


Ale - BB

Deus Beer with the chicken (regular pairing)


chicken - BB

 Crispy Chicken Thigh 

Cuttlefish, Green Garlic, Sweet and Sour Mushrooms- this was an interesting take on surf and turf  – a piece of crispy chicken thigh was the base, thin slices of cuttlefish were perched on top, a green garlic foam covered the cuttlefish. The sweet and sour element , I am guessing, is the orange blob on the left and on the right are the  Hon Shimeji mushrooms.


Red Wine - BB

 Red Wine for the Wagyu


Wagyu - BB

Wagyu Beef 

Short Rib, Saul’s Pastrami, Tamarind, Broccoli Textures, Horseradish “Styrofoam” – Saul’s Pastrami is Saul Copperstein’s – Managing Director of Business Development for SBE Entertainment Group.  It is made by trimming the external fat before the meat is brined.  The brine is made from:  water, salt, brown sugar, pink salt, black pepper, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, all spice berries, bay leaves, ground ginger, coriander seed, pimentone and garlic powder. The pastrami is not put in ice after smoking to get to 90 degrees F, rather it is cold smoked over ice so that the temperature during the smoking never exceeds 90 degrees F. The immersion circulator process is 48 hours. The “styrofoam” is made from horseradish stock that is strained, whisked with egg white powder, then gelatin with seaweed mixed in so a meringue is formed. Also on the plate was broccoli puree plus a take on crispy broccoli (Edwin explained the process, but I have had quite a bit of wine so…….) This was a very, very rich dish and I ended up taken half of it home.


FRV - wine BB

Wine for the desserts (regular pairing)


dessert - BB

 Miso Cake  Jasmine “Rice Cream”, Strawberry, Yuzu – The strawberries and rice cream were the standouts in this dish. Edwin explained that the cream was yogurt, dried coconut, Greek yogurt and agar agar.


dessert 1 - BB

 Fool’s Gold 

 Hazelnut Praline, Salty Caramel, Nitro Coffee Mousse – 


I started dinner at 6:00 (as soon as they opened) and left around 12:00. Needless to say, I had a wonderful time, met wonderful people and was introduced to the contemporary cuisine of Michael Voltaggio. I can’t wait to try his food at The Langham in Pasadena.


Takao – Brentwood

Takao is our neighborhood sushi bar. We just do omakase – chef’s choice. I will let the photos tell the “story.”


Takao app

Appetizer Plate

takao egg pudding

Home-made Egg Pudding with caviar

Takao jello

Jellied Hamo White Fish – Nikogori

Takao giant clam

Giant Clam with Miso sauce

Takao Natto

Natto with Cubes of Tuna, Nori Strips, Green Onion

Takao scallop and uni

Raw Scallop and Uni, Wasabi, Nori Wrap

Takao way to eatscallop

The uni/scallop was to be eaten wrapped up


Takao sardine

Finely chopped (tataki) sardine, Miso, Ginger, Spring Onion – Namero


takao grilled spanish

Grilled Spanish Mackerel, Daikon, Radish, Pickled Ginger

Takao soup bowl

Soup Bowl

Taakao hamo

Nabe (steampot) of Hamo Fish with Burdock and Egg “Yanagawa” Style

close- up of soup

Close-up Of Hamo

Takao uni hand roll

Uni Squid Shiso handroll

Salmon Skill Roll (not pictured)

Tako toro

Toro Sushi

Takao toro rolll

Toro Tataki Roll


This is not Urasawa, but for a neighborhood sushi bar, it is excellent.

Caviar, Blinis, Krug

We celebrated our anniversary with a champagne and caviar tasting at home.

First up was making the blini batter:

Blini Batter

Blini Batter after rising for 2 hours 

Blini batter with egg whites added

Blini Batter with Egg White added


Krug Champagne

Krug Champagne

3 kinds of caviar

Golden Imperial caviar

paddlefish caviar

Hackleback caviar


Blini cooking

blini cooking 1

Blini cooking


Blini plated with Creme Fraiche

Blini plated with Caviar and Creme Fraiche


Toast point with caviar

 I also decided to serve the caviar with toast points, HB egg whites, HB egg yolks and minced onions.

Toast point

Toast point – half-eaten




Martha Stewart’s Blinis

1 package of active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 eggs separated

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of sugar

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter


Additional clarified butter for cooking


Proof the yeast in warm water and a pinch of sugar for 15 minutes

Put the yeast mixture, milk, flour, egg yolks, salt and melted butter in a blender or food processor. Blend at high speed for 40 seconds. Turn the machine off, scrape down the sides of the container, then blend for another few seconds. Pour the batter into a bowl that is large enough to accomodate the rising. Cover loosely and set in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Do not let the batter rise much longer or the blini will taste overfermented.

At cooking time, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold them into the batter.

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle. Brush with melted clarified butter. Drop batter by teaspooonfuls onto the hot griddle. Turn the blini when the first side is lightly browned and cook briefly on the second side.  I like to cook this to order at our bar.


The blini batter will hold overnight.

My husband’s breakfast.

John's breakfast


Riva – Santa Monica

Riva has changed their menu for dinner and is now featuring Stuzzuchini – Italian tapas. Pizza is no longer on the dinner menu, except for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It is on the lunch menu, but unfortunately none of their fabulous crudo is offered at lunch. This was a lunch, but next time it will be dinner.

Dinner menu: 


Riva meatballs

Tuna Meatballs, Tomato Sauce – this was to be served with pasta, but we asked for just the meatballs. Excellent.


Riva tartare

Hand-cut Beef Tartare, Chives, Shallots – This was superb and I can’t wait to try it with the bacon sabayon at dinner.


Riva pizza

Molto Maiale – sausage, bacon, meatballs, pancetta, caramelized onion, tomato, cheese as an addition – always delicious


Riva dessert

Milk Chocolate Cremux, Brown Butter ganache,  Coconut Sorbet, Pecans

Riva is such a comfortable restaurant with no pretensions –  just market-driven food, expertly prepared.

Redd – Yountville

We have had hit and miss experiences at Redd with the biggest miss being at brunch. But it is a perfect spot for lunch, particularly before a French laundry dinner.

Redd wine again

Wine – Schramberg Blanc de Blanc


Redd hamachi

Sashimi of hamachi, sticky rice, edamame, lime ginger sauce – this is always excellent and a perfect beginning


Better Redd tuna

Yellowfin tuna and hamachi tartare, avocado, puffed Jasmine rice, Jasmine Asian pear, chili oil, whole grain mustard vinaigrette, micro cilantro – even though this is a duplication of an ingredient – the hamachi, it is a completely different flavor profile. Another excellent course and the crunch from the rice a wonderful textural contrast.


Redd salad again

Rdd close-up of salad

Shrimp salad, butter lettuce, avocado, bacon, caesar dressing – this is a half order! What a surprise dish – absolutely delicious


Redd Soup

Chilled Corn soup with basil oil – Our server was excellent. I had added this as a last moment thought and expected it before the salad. He decided to serve it after the salad as he said it was very rich. This is a 1/4 portion. In any case, it was like eating sweet corn ice cream – a perfect ending to a delightful lunch.


Redd bread with soup

Smoked salmon and cheese panini served with the soup – nice

Redd is back on track and definitely recommended.

Bistro Don Giovanni – Napa

Bistro Don Giovanni is a casual restaurant with good, simple Italian fare. It can get very crowded and service can go downhill so we always show up for an early lunch around 11:45. The key to Don Giovanni is to keep it simple. The wood-fired pizzas are good and the best one is something not on the menu called pizza Bismark with a fried egg in the middle. We weren’t in the mood for pizza so went with pasta instead.

Dg front

The view from the highway


DG 1

Close-up of the “sculpture”


DG garden

The back garden


DG garden 1

Another “sculpture” by the entrance


DG patio

The patio


DG inside



Dg inside 1

Another view of inside


DG bread

Bread – delicious


DG bread 1

Bread with Olive Oil added for dipping


DG wine


All menu items were ordered as splits – one for two served family style.

DG carpaccioe

Carpaccio – thinly sliced filet of beef, capers, arugula, parmigiano, bistro breadsticks – we always order this and it is very good


DG frito

Fritto Misto – calamari, rock shrimp, smelt, fennel, onions, green beans, spicy aioli – I wish there had been more smelts (only 2), but it was a decent version of fritto misto. The spicy aioli was excellent.


DG pasta

Paccheri Bolognese, Sonoma Duck Ragu, Sage, Aged Provolone – I love their duck ragu and this was as good always. Pasta was toothsome – not at all overcooked


DG pasta close-up

Close-up of the Pasta

A nice early afternoon meal in the valley. Just don’t expect haute cuisine and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

French Laundry – Yountville

This was our last meal with Corey Lee at French Laundry, but stay tuned, as he is opening a restaurant in San Francisco. Sous Chef Timothy Hollingsworth will be taking over for Corey and knowing Thomas and his organization, everything will be fine.

Corey knows I love uni and had prepared 4 different preparations. What was interesting is that Corey used 3 different types of uni from Mendocino, Santa Barbara and Japan; each type of uni had a different taste and mouthfeel. 

FL gougere



FL cornet

Salmon Cornets


fl- champagne



Fl - spoon

“Lonsdale” – gin, apple, mint, coconut “snow”, a small dab of chili on top – this was a pop in your mouth “cocktail” in one bite.



Island Creek Oyster with Raspberry Vinegar and Cucumber Foam – another one slurp wonder


fl- uni 1

Mendocino Uni with Green Apple Granite – what an incredible combination – the icy cold granite with the smooth unctuous uni


FL - eel

Fresh Water Eel with Akita Komachi Rice, Marinated Trout Roe and Perilla Leaves – This had a pronounced Asian flair – the trout roe was spectualar, the rice a perfect complement and the eel delicious


fl- white wine

White wine


fl - frogs

Frog’s Legs with Filet Beans from the French Laundry Garden, Heirloom Tomato, Parsley, Lemon –  Sometimes I hate the less is more theory of the French Laundry


fl- uni 2

Ensui Uni (Japan) with Almond Panna Cotta, 1/16″ dice of apple, Black Truffles, Edible Gold Leaf – this uni was very different than the Menocino uni – it had a salty ocean taste. Who would have thought that almond panna cotta would even work – it did.


fl- fish after uni

Sauteed Big Fin Squid from Japan, Confit of Eggplant, “Tossed” Navel Orange, Cashew Nuts, Scallions, Mizuna – I love squid, but too many restaurants cook it until it is rubber – not Corey. The citrus orange brightened the dish and the cashews added texture.


fl - omelet

Hen Egg Omelet, Santa Barbara Uni, Red Ribbon Sorrel, White Sturgeon Caviar, Creme Fraiche – This was THE dish of the evening – absolutely spectacular. Scroll down to see my notes taken that evening.


fl - brioche soldiers

Brioche Soldiers

fl- inside of omelet

Inside of the Omelet – gorgeous!


FL notebook

I have a small notebook in which I take notes. I had our server take my notebook back to the kitchen to show Corey. He loved his grade!


fl butter

Now Butter and Bread is served: Animal farm Butter – the newest calf is named Keller and Andante Dairy Butter (Petaluma) – The butter is made by Soyoung Scalan, the Andante cheesemaker. She lets the butter sit with the cheese so the butter picks up the bacteria and texture of the cheese and therefore its texture becomes more cheeselike.


fl - second white

Second White Wine


fl - tuna

Japanese Blue Fin Tuna with Sunchokes, Pinenuts, Cherry and Nicoise Olive Emulsion – nothing fancy- just a pristine piece of fish


Fl - langoustines

Prawns from Louisana, Roasted Deep-fried Garlic, Globe Artichoke, Chorizo, Garlic Foam, Romesco Sauce – This is when Corey demonstrates his ability to do cuisine that represents many different styles and what I find most fun about eating at the French Laundry. This was definitely a Spanish influenced dish. 


fl - gnocchi

Russet Potato Gnocchi, Uni, Uni Emulsion – Pairing gnocchi with uni is a first for me – the gnocchi were as light as air and then—-


fl - gnocchi with truffles

Australian Winter Black Truffles were added tableside.


fl - red wine

Red Wine


fl- chicken

Fricasse of Pork Belly, Milk-fed Poulet, sliced into ribbons, Golden Corn, Filet Beans, Romaine leaf, Buttermilk Ranch Dressing – This was almost like eating a haute cuisine chicken salad.


fl- after chicken

Sbrinz, a cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland (the “godfather of Parmesan), Sweet 1000 tomatoes, Mustard, Pain Perdue, Frisee, Cippolini Onions


fl - sorbet

Nectarine Sorbet, Boysenberry Puree, Ginger Gelee


fl - coffee and donuts

Coffee and Donuts


fl - dessert 2

Vanilla Custard, Grilled Pinenut Cake, Silverado Trail Srawberries, Cherry Sorbet


A huge thank you to Corey Lee and the staff for so many wondrous meals. I never take our dining experiences at The French Laundry for granted. I appreciate the effort, the dedication, the thoughtfulness, the extraordinary sourcing of unusual ingredients and the unique combinations. Yes, it with sadness that I bid Corey good-bye, but I look forward to a Timothy Hollingsworth meal.