Archive for April, 2011

Vin Bar

Another perfect meal at Vin Bar/Valentino. It just gets better and better. As usual we didn’t order or look at a menu. We just let Nico devise our menu.

Mumm champagne to start – no picture.

Piero and I were chatting before our meal began and I mentioned the pop-up dinner David had just done at Royal T and that he had devised an all uni menu in honor of me. At that moment, our first course arrived – Sea Urchin with Blood Orange Segments and Blood Orange Juice – delicious.

First Wine – This wine is made by the monks in a convent near the Austrian border – clear simple crisp white wine

A perfect bread basket

Oscetra Caviar on a quenelle of burrata cheese with a touch of olive oil on the bottom and a dot of beet sauce. This is a classic combination and one that I am definitely going to steal and do at home.

Coniglio in porchetta – rabbit wrapped  in porchetta served with pear slices, a dried apricot and a sprig of rosemary (In the Italian language, “coniglio” means “rabbit” or “hare”.  The name is from the Latin “cuniculus”, which also means “burrow”, “tunnel”, or “waterway”.) Another winner.

Polenta, Quail Egg, Artichoke, Butternut Squash – Piero described this as a torta. From a google search, I found the following description – “Torte of various designs are made all over Italy today, but the Ligurians seem to produce the thing in its purest form—just dough and filling, unelaborated, undecorated, elemental. The only potentially complex Ligurian torta, in fact, is torta pasqualina, or Eastertide torta, which is filled with either artichokes or Swiss chard (mixed with eggs, cheese, and herbs).” I am not sure that this was Nico’s take on the Ligurian torta, but it did seem to encompass many of the same ingredients.

Mancini Mezze Maniche pasta with smoked proscuitto, broccoli, percorino cheese, romesco sweet onion sauce. A word about Mancini pasta:

“Massimo Mancini is a man on a mission: making the finest dry pasta in the world, buoyed by the intense belief that it’s the small choices that make all the difference when it comes to true quality.” … “The Mancini farm has been producing fine pasta for 60 years. All the wheat is harvested from their own crops. Three kinds of durum wheat are mixed to create the unique flavour of Mancini pastas.”

“Just like his country’s top winemakers, Massimo knows that greatness requires meticulous execution of every phase of the production cycle. The results of his painstaking labor are stunning: in a double blind tasting of top-tier pastas, Pasta Mancini was the unanimous pick of our panel of five NYC chefs and journalists.”

Piero plans on selling the Manicini at Primi Al Mercato at Santa Monica Place.

Piero and Fabio, the amazing pasta chef

Red Wine from their list – we do not BYO at Vin Bar/Valentino given Piero’s extraordinary wine list

Chocolate Garganelli with Lobster Ragu (“Garganelli are hand rolled pasta shapes (similar to penne) and they’re usually made using a little board called a ‘pettine’ – comb”)

Quail Breast from Napa Valley on a bed of risotto with gorgonzola and radicchio with a red wine based jus – perfectly executed risotto with succulent juicy quail

Cheese Plate – I was getting lazy and didn’t write down any of the names of the cheese

Colomba Pasquale (“Easter Dove” in English “is an Easter counterpoint of the two well-known Italian Christmas desserts, panettone and pandora. The dough for the Colomba is made in a similar manner to panettone, with flour, eggs, sugar, natural yeast and butter; unlike panettone, it usually contains candied peel and no raisins. The dough is then fashioned into a dove shape (colomba in Italian) and finally is topped with pearl sugar and almonds before being baked.”

The Colomba Pasquale was served with a sabayon and Straub Chocolate Syrup Sauce.

The defintion of Colomba can be found here:

What a wonderful meal and I said to Piero as we were leaving, I could eat here every week.


French Laundry Cookbook

“As noted by Decanter, over 100 sake breweries have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami. This is not just an infrastructure issue; the planting and tending of rice fields in 2011 will be especially difficult with the shortage of raw materials, fuel, and transportation while the threat of radiation looms.  The money raised from this auction will go to the Japan Sake Brewers Association to distribute the funds to those that need it most. We thank you for taking your time and money to help preserve this vital part of Japanese culture.”

Even though the silent auction has closed, another item has just be added.

Item 34: Personalized signed copy of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook

Chef Thomas Keller will sign his legendary The French Laundry Cookbook just for you, a one & only treasure from the Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor. This item can be shipped from Chef Keller to anywhere in the US, so this bid is not just for Los Angeles locals!

Starting Bid : 150

Current Bid : —

To secure the current bid, match the starting bid or increase the current bid by increments of $10. Bidding ends April 25 at 11:30 PM.

This is one of my most treasured items — The French Laundry Cookbook that Thomas Keller personally signed to me. I treasure it so much that I bought a second copy to “use” or better known as mess up so that I could keep the signed copy pristine.

Unused Clean Cover

My signed copy – your copy will be personalized to you

Messy copy – great recipe – Salmon Cornets

Magnum Pop-Up at Royal T

I posted about the upcoming Magnum Pop-up at Royal T here:

It was a wonderful event and the Magnum Crew did a great job. John had the 5 course menu and I, of course, did the uni tasting menu.

The room at Royal T

Another view of the room

Set-up for the wine pairings

The Silent Auction – For the record and thanks to Dr. Tomo, the silent auction raised more than $12,000 –  quite a feat!

One of the tables for the Silent Auction

Von Buhl “Brut”: Riesling: Bad Durkheim, Germany paired with the amuse and the Oyster/Brown Butter

Amuse Bouche – Cured Thai Snapper/Shrimp Chips/Leek and Ramp Emulsion

Brown Butter being poured on the Oyster dish

The finished dish – Oysters/Brown Butter/Lemon

Uni/Oyster/Soy Mignonette paired with

NV Jacques Lassaigne “Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blanc”: Chardonnay: Champagne, France. David explained that for the uni menu he wanted the wines to elongate the uni flavor all the way through.

Potato Chip Soup (basically a potato Vichysoisse)/Ramps/Cucumber/Potato Chips/Fried Oysters paired with 2008 Batic: Pinela: Sempas, Slovenia (no picture)

Uni/Tuna Tartare/Dashi Mayonnaise paired with

2006 Chateau Giraud “G”: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion: Bordeaux, France

Braised Baby Octopus/Leek Risotto/Shaved Cashews/Pancetta Vinaigrette paired with

2009 Jean Paul-Brun: Chardonnay: Beaujolais, France

Uni Tartine/Cucumber Balls/Brined Halibut/Toast Point/Chives paired with

2005 Schoffit “Vielles Vignes”: Chasselas: Alsace, France

Uni/Cauliflower Royale

The Royale “uncovered” – fennel, uni, diced apple and cucumber, apple/cucumber cloud, nori powder paired with

2009 Riviera Ligure di Ponente: Pigato: Durin, Italy

Uni/Pizza/Bone Marrow – on grilled flatbread uni with slices of bone marrow paired with

2005 FX Pichler “Smaragd Loibner Oberhauser”: Riesling: Wachau, Austria

Miso Cured Hangar Steak/Creamed Spinach/Shitake Mushroom Tempura/Sesame seeds/Ponzu Sauce paired with

2008 Domaine de Majas “Three Trees” : Grenache Noir, Carignan: Cotes Catalanes, France

Uni/Veal/Shitake Tempura Mushrooms, Bordelaise sauce paired with

2003 Jacques Puffeney “Vielles Vignes”: Poulsard: Arbois, France

Uni/Venison/ Risotto with sesame seeds/Green Shiso Pepper Sauce paired with 2004 M. Sorrel: Syrah: Hermitage, France (not pictured)

Yuzu Creme Brulee/Poached Apricots/Kumquats paired with D. Delecheneau Domaine La Grange Rose: Cab Franc, Cot: Loire, France (not pictured)

Bottom line: we went, we saw, we conquered and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Daily Grill – Brentwood

The Brentwood Daily Grill is located on the second floor of the Brentwood Gardens shopping center. This Daily Grill was the first to be opened in the country. This is American comfort food served in large portions with fast, efficient service. This is not a destination restaurant, but definitely a decent restaurant in a very convenient location that is particularly good for lunch.


Tuesday Soup Special – Mushroom/Barley – my husband’s favorite

B.L.T. – Thick Cut Double Smoked Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, French Fries – lots of bacon and another favorite of my husband

Ahi Tuna Wrap – Seared Rare with Blackened Spices, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumber and a Wasabi Aioli, Wrapped in a Whole Wheat Tortilla, Served with Peanut Cole Slaw – good, but a huge portion. I ate half and took the rest home.

Another view of the wrap

A nice lunch, if you are in the neighborhood.

Magnum Pop-Up at Royal T

MAJOR SHILL ALERT : I am David Haskell’s mother and no I am not impartial.

“This latest rendition sees Mahon using more Japanese flair with the menu. His past two pop up locations have seen their individual influences reflected in the menus as well. At Biergarten, we saw a bit of Korean, and at Pal Cabron some oaxacan show up in a few dishes.On top of the Japanese influence, a portion of the proceeds from the 3 day pop up will benefit a to be named Japanese restaurant or sake brewery in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami.”

Where: Royal T Cafe

8910 Washington Blvd

Culver City, CA 90232

When: April 17-19

Another major feature of the current pop-up is a silent auction to benefit  the Japan Sake Brewers Association in the hopes of helping the devastated sake industry.



Updated 4/11/11 to include wine pairings:

Oysters / Brown Butter and Lemon

WINE: Von Buhl ³Brut²: Riesling: Bad Durkheim. Germany

Potato Chip Soup/Ramps/ Cucumber/ Fried Oysters

WINE:  2008 Batic : Pinela: Sempas, Slovenia

Fennel Royale/Sea Urchin/ Apple Cloud/ Nori Powder

WINE:  2009 Riviera Ligure di Ponente: Pigato: Durin, Italy

CrispyTofu/SunflowerSeeds/Cilantro/MarinatedVegetables/ Dashi Emulsion

BEER:  Hitachino White

Tuna Rolls w/ Crab/ Jicama/ Mango/ Spicy Mayonnaise

WINE:  2008 Francois Pinon Silex:  Chenin Blanc: Vouvray, France

Braised Baby Octopus/Leek Risotto, Pine Nuts/ Pancetta Vinaigrette

WINE:  2009 Jean Paul-Brun:  Chardonnay: Beaujolais, France

Ocean Trout/Peas/ Mint/ Morels/ Lobster Jus

WINE:  2007 G. Rescombes ³Villes Vignes²: Gamay: Brouilly, France

Sliders w/ Grass Fed Beef/ Potato Chips/ Bibb Lettuce/ Chipotle Aioli

Sake:  Jukusie Funabuchi:  Junmai Ginjo: Nigata-Ken, Japan

Miso Cured Hangar Steak/Creamed Spinach/ Shitake Mushroom Tempura/ Sesame Seeds/ Ponzu Sauce

WINE: 2007 Eric Texier ³ LA Vaison Romaine²:  Grenache: Cote du Rhone , FR

Yuzu Crème Brulee/Poached Apricots

Wine:  D. Delecheneau Domaine La Grange Rose : Cab Franc, Cot: Loire, Fr

5 course:      62.00

wine pairing  45.00

7 course:        80.00

wine pairing  62.00

10 course:     118.00

wine pairing 92.00

To celebrate David Haskell’s 35th birthday, there will be a special all-uni menu available on April 19th (Tuesday), at Royal T Cafe. There will only be a LIMITED number available on Tuesday and it must be ordered in advance. To request this menu, please call 323-798-4648 or email

  • Uni/ oyster/ soy mignonette
  • Uni/Tuna Tartare
  • Uni Tartine/ Cucumber/ Brined Halibut
  • Uni/Cauliflower Royale/
  • Uni/ pizza/bone marrow
  • Uni/Veal/tempura Mushrooms/bordelaise sauce
  • Uni/Venison/shiso pepper sauce
  • dessert

Tasting Menu – 130

Wine Pairing – 80

According to David’s tweets, the uni menu is ” honor of my Mom, hpe she able 2 make it. shes spent 35 years making sure i’m happy. this one is frm @josephmahon and i.” I am so very touched – thank you David.

David is absolutely correct that uni is one of most favorite ingredients. One year, Thomas Keller called my husband, asking what ingredient was my favorite and of course John mentioned uni. Thomas created 3 “new” uni dishes for my birthday dinner. (I don’t have pictures of that meal as I didn’t start taking pictures until about 2 years ago.)

Some of my favorite uni dishes over the years:


MANRESA – Los Gatos

PROVIDENCE – Southern California

URASAWA – Southern California





Check back here after April 19th for the newest uni dishes from Magnum Pop-up.

Bouley and Chef’s Tasting Menus

I was watching the Victor Borge special on PBS and his daughter mentioned that he had a special trick; at the beginning of every performance he would “exhale” a puff of smoke. If the audience laughed, he knew that he could perform his comedic routines to the fullest. If the audience was unresponsive, he knew that this particular audience was more interested in the music and he would adapt his performance accordingly i.e. less comedy and less of what Victor Borge was rightfully famous for and justifiably named a genius.

This reminded me of a “trick” that Chef David Bouley used to “judge” his clientele. (I got this piece of information from Chef Bouley himself). He would serve them as a first course his  “Homemade Silken Tofu, Trout Roe, Soy Gelee, Shiso, Santa Barbara Uni, Yuzu Sorbet, Apple Foam.” If the clients ate every bite, he knew he had adventurous diners and would adjust his chef’s tasting menu accordingly. If, on the other hand, they left the dish barely eaten, he would alter his special chef’s tasting menu to a safer route. Needless to say, we belonged to the former group.

To give you some idea of Bouley’s cuisine, below is a representative sample of some of his dishes from various meals in 2010.

Typical Canapes:

Corn Tuile filled with corn and dusted with nutmeg, Sashimi of yellowtail in a brik cone topped with soy gelee and micro greens, a “taco” filled with avocado, tomato and basil, baby sweet corn cannoli, parmiagiano “sandwich” and a tuile of baby yellowtail tartar.

Malibu sea urchin with sea trout roe, soy milk gelee, soy sauce gelee, shaved shiso, yuzu sorbet and yuzu gelee with apple foam. This is just a great dish – one of the best preparations of uni I have had anywhere. “I wanted to go on eating it forever.”

On a bed of jasmine rice, small pieces of “Japanese Xmas Tree Leaf”, 2 thick slabs of Seared Toro from Spain and topped by a Kumamoto Oyster. This was another spectacular dish with such an extraordinary balance of texture and flavor. The Toro was fatty and unctuous and I hated having finished it.

Skate with tiny diced capers to the side, topped with 24 hour tomatoes, ringed with a bit of truffle oil and a line of yellow powder which was camonile flowers. This had a decidedly Basque feel and again the over-used word perfect.

Young garlic soup with a coconut base, bits of ginger in which were Florida shrimp poached in wine and Sauteed New Zealand Langoustines. An Organic Hen Egg had been dropped in the soup so that the warm soup “cooked” the egg . This was very rich and equally delicious.

Line caught cod fish with tomato/green apple gelee, cucumber sorbet, fresh wasabi, olives and a touch of vanilla dust. This dish was a study in temperature as well as sweet/sour contrast. The cold sorbet with the cod, the bite of the wasabi with the vanilla added up to a visually, textural, hot/cold contrast.

Roasted Sturgeon, Oscetra Caviar, Shallots, Chives on Jasmine Rice served with Grey Goose Vodka sauce. This was an A+ and one of the best dishes I have ever had.  The whimsy of the dish – sturgeon, caviar and vodka  – an ode to Russia. The flavor was mind-blowing and the sturgeon cooked perfectly.

Poached Lobster from Massachusetts with a light Beurre Blanc served with Watermelon Glazed with Ginger, Ox Heart Tomato Sorbet and Organic Avocado Crabmeat Roll and Tomato water. A visually stunning dish that was as delicious as it looked.

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Muscat Grape, Apple/Rosemary Puree with Mango caviar and Armagnac Sauce. Absolutely superb and the mango caviar is an important and delicious element in the foie gras dish.

The loin and rack of Organic Baby Lamb from Cooperstown and the loin and rack of pork from a small farm near Bouley’s home in Connecticut on top of hand-made fettuchini with serrano ham, a sauce of simple jus, mushrooms and on the side fingerling potato puree.

New Zealand Red Axis Venison crusted in black truffles with baby Brussel sprouts, Fingerling potatoes, White salsify, Red Delicious Apple Puree with Port wine and Asian Celery Puree with Balsamic Vinegar —  A beautiful rectangular approximately 2″ piece of meat that was rare, juicy and tender. The apple puree with port wine was equally delicious.

Moral of the story – be the adventurous diner.


Bar Bouchon

The best place to be at 3:30 in the afternoon is sitting on the patio at Bar Bouchon. The ambiance is perfect, the service from Alex is absolutely the best and the food is just delicious.

Wine from their list

Oysters – Kusshi and Kumamoto – perfectly shucked oysters that were just waiting to be slurped

BYO Red Wine

Soft Scrambled Eggs – in advance, we had requested the scrambled egg dish with black truffles as it was so good the last time we had this. What a treat and worth the extravagance

Italian Black Truffles from Modena being shaved on the scrambled eggs

The finished dish of eggs and truffles – An A+ dish

A lovely, buttery croissant that accompanied the scrambled eggs

Truite aux amandes – pan-roasted trout with haricot verts, almonds and beurre noisette – no bells and whistles, no foams, no extraneous ingredients – just perfectly executed trout with a classical saucing. There is one word I often use describing a “Thomas Keller establishment” meal and that is perfect.

Roast Chicken with spring nettle greens, riz rouge, Michigan sour cherries, bacon lardons and chicken jus – the chicken was moist with crispy skin and the riz rouge was unbelievably delicious. This is a half portion! I was getting full and had them pack this up “to go.” It was equally delicious the next day – reheat the chicken in the oven and briefly microwave the riz rouge with chicken jus.

A lovely meal and one I would have again in a heartbeat.