Archive for the 'General' Category

Spago – Beverly Hills

I haven’t been to Spago since the new renovation. We finally made it back and the space is lovely. We sat at our regular table which was the table closest to the garden. We were greeted royally by Tracy and Laurent. Chef Tetsu Yahagi even came out of the kitchen to greet us. This is service that is A+++.  We didn’t know if they still did a tasting menu that was specially created for frequent diners. Chef Yahagi said he was happy to do a special tasting menu and we where thrilled as he is a terrific creative chef who executes each dish to perfection. Bottom line – Spago is still one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles and we won’t wait so long to return. We ordered Pierre Peters champagne from their list to start. We BYO’d our white and red wine.

S- white wine

BYO red wine

S - red wine

BYO white wine

S - tuna in cone

Signature dish – spicy tuna tartar in a sesame miso cone

S - 2nd app - macaroon

Smoked salmon mousse in a tomato cracker on the right, oscetra caviar, maple syrup macaroon, bacon confit, egg yolk jam on the left

S - 3rd didh - caviar:egg

Sterling Farms white sturgeon caviar, sunny side up egg, rye crisp, potato chip espuma

S- oysters

Tomales Bay Oysters 3 ways

a. Raw oyster with leek ash mignonette

b. Fried oyster beignet with squid ink aioli

c. Oyster salad, chili caviar, baby leeks marinated in oyster juice

S- chawan mushi

S- chawwan mushi 2

Six Hour Abalone “Chawan -mushi,” Petrified Chicken “Dashi” Faux “Bottarga,” Chives

S- uni

Buckwheat noodles, Santa Barbara uni, nori compote

S- dover sole

Multi-grain crisp Dover Sole, mascarpone emulsion, deep-fried bones (edible and crisp) English peas, bacon ragout

S- pasta with truffles

Sweet pea agnolotti, celery root, parmigiano reggiano, French black truffles


Grilled Sonoma Lamb Rack,  Homage to “Pre-Sale”, French Brittany seaweeds, “Kobu-jime” Cucumber, Glasswort, Olives, Emulsion of mushroom, lamb jus and chicken stock

A wonderful meal served beautifully – can’t ask for better than this.

Superbowl Spectacular

Our friends Corry and Martha are key executives with California Specialty Farms—Where Produce Meets Art. We were treated to the beauty of their product filled with wonderful fruit in these fabulous watermelon sculptures made especially for our Super Bowl Party. They have designers who sculpt fruits and vegetables. For the Super Bowl they had their experts carve up watermelons with the team logos—amazingly creative.

For more on their fabulous company:


The incredible watermelons




This recipe is from Epicurious and is delicious.


Makes 6 servings

This is also terrific with yellow tomatoes. Garnish with thin cucumber slices and some chopped red onion, if desired.



  • 2 pounds large tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 pound country-style bread, crust removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
  • 1 cup chopped peeled English hothouse cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup water


Working over bowl, gently squeeze tomato halves to release seeds and juices. Strain juices, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible (about 1/2 cup). Discard seeds. Chop tomatoes. Transfer chopped tomatoes and tomato juices to large glass bowl. Add next 9 ingredients. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Working in batches, puree gazpacho with 1 cup water in blender until smooth. Pour gazpacho into coarse strainer set over large bowl. Press on solids to extract as much soup as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Serve cold.


Water Grill- Santa Monica

Before I give you my impressions of this new Water Grill outpost that just opened in Santa Monica I need to underline the general slant of this blog. Most of the restaurants I review are establishments that are chef driven. This can be a casual restaurant but the key is that there is a passionate chef cooking the food. When I go out to eat I am looking for a dining experience that emphasizes top notch ingredients that are prepared with “finesse.” Great wine is also part of the experience and we often BYO though not at Vin Bar or The French Laundry. That being said Water Grill Santa Monica is what I would label “Water Grill Junior”. Unlike its counterpart downtown this not a chef-driven fine dining experience.

Water Grill ambiance

Water Grill ambiance 2

They have spared no expense with the ambiance and the facility itself is well-done and comfortable. One weird thing though is that the restrooms are located in the adjoining office building and you need a code to open the door – somewhat of a pain.

Water grill - lauren

Our server, Lauren was delightful and couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Water Grill Oysters

Oyster Sampler – they choose the oysters for this dish – they weren’t the tastiest oysters I have had. Bouchon’s are far better. Oysters – Witch Duck, Stingray, Wianno, Laguna Bay, Skookum, Kumamoto

Water Grill uni

Uni Toast on toasted brioche – This suffered from the meager portion of uni – one small uni. The uni was lost in this dish. I would rather have uni at a first class sushi bar or the wonderful uni dish from Valentino.


Valentino’s uni dish – now that’s a hefty portion of uni

Water Grill crudo

Crudo Sampler – Kona Kampachi, Wild Columbia River King Salmon and Alaskan Halibut – again a chef with a deft hand would have cut the fish to perfection instead of 3 chunks of fish. Two nights later we dined at Chinois that could be classified as casual but is a chef-driven restaurant. Just look at the tuna served at Chinois:

Chinois tuna

Chinois tuna cut beautifully with a fantastic sauce.

Chinois albacore

Chinois albacore also cut beautifully with another fantastic sauce.

Water Grill soft shell

Wild Maryland Soft Shell Crab Banh Mi, pickled red onions, daikon sprouts, cucumber salad, Maeploy Sauce served with Peruvian Bonito Sweet Potato Fries – the sauce plus the additional ingredients on the sandwich completely overwhelmed the soft shells – my husband had the better idea and just ate the soft shells. The Sweet Potato fries were delicious.

Chinois softshells good

Chinois soft shells – perfectly cooked without a lot of extraneous ingredients just crispy spinach with a side of cilantro honey sauce on the side  – I am not against casual dining just poorly executed food that has little or no regard for the ingredients or finesse with the saucing.

Water Grill clam chowder

New England Clam Chowder – there were too many vegetables and not enough density to the broth plus a somewhat meager portion of clams.

Water Grill Polenta

Crispy Polenta with Melted Fontina – a nice dish but again not exactly a chef-driven dish – perfect for a casual bite

Water Grill Wines

BYO Wines – what is extraordinary at Water Grill Santa Monica is that you can bring your own wines and there is no corkage.

Bottom line – don’t expect the quality and finesse of Water Grill downtown – this is geared more to the beach crowd with casual food that is not a chef driven restaurant.  Bottom line – this is not our type of restaurant.

Bar Bouchon

Bar Bouchon just gets better and better – the food is delicious, the service perfect and the ambiance on a late Saturday afternoon absolutely delightful.

B- white wine

BYO White Wine

B- oysters

Misty Point and Kusshi Oysters

B- tuna

Thon a la Nicoise- yellowfin tuna, bibb lettuce, haricot verts, potato, radish, egg sauce gribiche – this was a half portion – we always do one dish for two – the tuna was as good as you would get in a first class sushi restaurant

B - Red wine

BYO Red Wine

B- steak tartare

Tartare de Boeuf – prime steak tartare with a quail egg yolk, confit garlic, caperberries and black pepper,  lavash – absolutely perfect

B- Boudin

Boudin Blanc – white sausage with pommes aligot and pickled medjool dates – we are nut cases and order soft scrambled eggs on the side

B- better scrambled eggs

Soft scrambled eggs

It just doesn’t get better than this – run don’t walk to Bar Bouchon!

Up North

Refined Palate will be on the road so there won’t be any new posts until next week. But what will be forthcoming should make you salivate:


2 meals at French Laundry


Bouchon Yountville

Bistro Jeanty

Stayed tuned!

Cracking Eggs – Scrambled/The Arpege Egg

This is the egg cutter I use. Michel Richard discovered it and it is by far the best that I have found.

I find that if I hold the device this way, I can gently crack the egg.

Gently push on the egg where the cutter made the crack.

To remove the white clinging to the shell, let the cracked egg simmer in water. Then carefully with your thumb peel the white clinging to the shell.

A perfectly cleaned egg.

Now you can fill the egg with softly scrambled eggs and top with caviar or you can make the Arpege egg.

A word of advice – you can make the shells a day ahead and just let them sit in the refrigerator covered. Normally I will use the eggs for either scrambled eggs or if I am doing the Arpege egg use another batch of eggs. The key is to have the eggs shells ready to use ahead of time.

See here for soft scrambled eggs:

Arpege Eggs with Maple Syrup

At the restaurant Arpege, Wells says, “one dish that won me over immediately was this adorable palate pleaser that appeared out of nowhere at the beginning of a meal: a surprising mixture of egg, cream, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar all served in the shell – an appetizer that properly awakens your palate with a jolt of surprise and a clap of acclamation.”

4 tablespoons heavy cream (I increased the amount of heavy cream to a 1/2 cup and used 3/4 teaspoon of sherry vinegar. The recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of heavy cream which is too little and 3/4 teaspoon of sherry vinegar for that amount of heavy cream is way too acidic.)

About 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or to taste

Sea salt to taste

6 very fresh eggs at room temperature

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

About 2 teaspoons maple syrup


An egg cutter or a very sharp knife, 6 porcelain egg cups

1. Place a bowl in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. In the chilled bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Season with the sherry vinegar and sea salt. Set aside.

2. Place an egg in your hand, tapered end up. Using an egg cutter or a very sharp knife, carefully slice off about the top third of the eggshell. (See above for cutting the eggs). Carefully pour the egg white out of the shell into a small bowl, holding back the yolk with the flat side of a knife. (Instead, I separated the white from the yolk out of the shell after I cut off the top third and then returned the yolk to the shell.)
With a damp paper towel, wipe the bottom of the shell. (See above for cleaning the shell). Place the shell in a porcelain egg cup. (If you return the eggs to the egg carton, they are likely to stick and will be impossible to remove later.) Repeat with the remaining eggs. (I’ve never had a problem returning the eggs to the carton)

3. Select a large, shallow skillet that is large enough to hold the eggshells in a single layer. Add water to about 2 inches in depth. Bring just to a simmer. You want the water temperature to be between 165 to 175. I use a thermometer to hold the temperature steady.

4. Carefully lift the eggshells from the egg cups and place them in the simmering water (the eggshells should just bob on top of the water). Cook just until the yolk begins to set around the edges, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Using your fingertips, carefully remove the eggshells from the water and return them to the egg cups.

5. Sprinkle each cooked egg yolk with minced chives. Season with sea salt and pepper. Then carefully spoon the whipped cream over the yolk up to the rim of each egg cup. Drizzle with maple syrup, and serve immediately.

6 servings

 The Arpege Egg done by Chef David Kinch at Manresa