Archive for the 'California' Category

Manresa, Los Gatos (September 2013)

Quite awhile back I was talking with my good friend BLT(the Beltless Tiger) about all the meals we had intended to write posts about but never got around to. We both had a good number we were too lazy busy to put up promptly and by the time motivation struck it seemed to be too late or irrelevant and he (jokingly I think) made a suggestion that we start doing Throwback Thursday posts. It seemed like a good enough idea and I thought for months that I would get going on it any day now. At last the moment has come. Manresa for a few years now has been my favorite restaurant in the US. Until an accident thwarted my planned 2014 trip, the Los Gatos restaurant was the only place I had made an effort to dine at each year since 2009. My nights there are consistently among the best dining experiences of my life. As I’m sitting in my Wall Street apartment looking forward to my next meal at the hands of David Kinch and team in mere weeks, and even more so feeling thrilled at the announcement that Michelin has finally awarded them a third star, I am getting around to posting about my dinner with Rocky from roughly two years ago.

manresa table setting

At my preferred table, ready to rock.

manresa red pepper black olive

manresa red pepper pdf black olive madeline

Petit fours “red pepper-black olive” Kinch’s signature opener of red pepper pate de fruits and black olive madeleines. Good vegetal balance in the PDF and lightly sweet, nicely dense madeleine.

manresa garden beignets leaves

Garden beignets and leaves  Light savory beignets with crispy kale leaves.

manresa 25 tomatoes

25 tomatoes, coriander  A beautiful expression of the fruit in the height of the season.

manresa almond tofu

Almond tofu, berries and verbena, melon snow  Not really sweet, but almost dessert-like. Tart dried fruit and expressive almond flavors.

manresa abalone milk panna cotta

Abalone and local milk panna cotta  Monterey Bay abalone, braised and in gelée, with breakfast radish and panna cotta.

manresa summer beans octopus

Summer beans with octopus, horseradish  Ever slightly charred Moroccan octopus with summer beans and lychee tomato. The acid-starch balance was kickin.

manresa fava bean risotto

manresa fava bean risotto

Without rice, fava bean risotto, sheep’s milk cheese  With summer truffle and mushrooms. Mind-blowing legume treatment combined with mushroom earth and an enchanting, almost hypnotizing truffle and cheese perfume. Rocky put this in heavy contention for dish of the trip.

manresa into the vegetable garden

manresa into the garden

manresa vegetable garden

Into the vegetable garden…  A consistently stunning homage to Le Gargouillou by Michel Bras. A flawless journey of pea leaves, lambs quarters, nasturtium, beet, malabar spinach, ice plant, arugula, wild dandelion, and many other vegetables, leaves, and flowers.

manresa albacore puttanesca

manresa albacore cassava

Albacore “puttanesca,” lightly smoked, crispy cassava  The acid and brine in the puttanesca was great support to smoked meaty fish.

manresa summer clams beans pine mushroom

manresa clams beans mushroom

Summer clams and beans in a pine mushroom broth  Various clams with seabream in a dashi broth accompanied by matsutake mushrooms, seaweed, beans, and peas. Badass savory layers.

manresa duck figs fennel milk honey

Duck, confit of figs and wild fennel, milk and honey  An outstandingly great roasted aged duck breast with leek, fennel, and turnip and a touch of sweetness from figs and honey.

manresa lamb dates olives

manresa lamb

Lamb with dates and olives, onion fondue  Straight forward and damn delicious.

manresa cheese cart

manresa cheese plate

A selection of cheese from the cart. Varying styles from California, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and New York.

manresa plums butterscotch buckwheat black walnut

Andy’s plums with butterscotch, buckwheat, black walnut  Smoothly rich butterscotch with perfect plums, crisply buckwheat, and popcorn. Perfect.

manersa strawberry white chocolate milk pebbles yuba

manresa strawberries white chocolate

Strawberries and white chocolate, malted milk pebbles, crispy yuba  Fresh strawberries, strawberry ice, and strawberry mousse in a white chocolate shell over crunchy malt crumbles with small bursts of mint.

manresa raspberry chocolate coffee parfait

manresa raspberry chocolate

Raspberries, chocolate-coffee parfait, golden raspberry sorbet, almond

manresa bon bon macaron

Mint bonbon and coffee macaron

manresa strawberry chocolate

Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”  The signature closer of strawberry pate de fruits and chocolate madeleines.

manresa take home muffin

And a treat for breakfast. An outrageously superb meal.

Date of visit: September 7, 2013

Manresa. 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA  408 354 4330


Aubergine, Carmel, CA

Last month the restaurant I work at closed for the week around Labor Day to give the staff a break. That seemed to me like the perfect time to make my yearly trek out to California. So I put together a nice little dining itinerary and headed west.

My first destination, after retrieving Rocky from a family visit in Hollister, was a night in Carmel-by-the-Sea to see what Chef Justin Cogley was cooking up by the shore. I had read up on him and what he’s working with on the Monterey Peninsula and was excited to check it out. Really excited.  We drove into town, stopped by our hotel for a moment, spent a gloriously warm and sunny few hours on the beach, then prettied up and made our way to dinner at Aubergine, the Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel.

aubergine carmel place setting

We said a few hellos, settled at our table, ordered some bubbles and the tasting, and got the party started.

aubergine carmel shiso green tea shots

Shot. First up, a fresh, effervescent shot of green tea, shiso, and pomegranate.

aubergine carmel kelp chips and dip

Chips and Dip. Kelp chips that I think he said were dried on rocks for a year. Along with sea spinach aioli.

aubergine carmel crispy potato

Crispy Potato. Light and crisp fried strings of potato with shellfish sauce.

aubergine carmel oysters

Oyster. Shigoku oysters with lychee and ginger snow. A nice balance of brine, sweet, and spice.

aubergine carmel quail egg

Quail Egg. I kind of missed the details, but the eggs were either cooked or cured with some lapsang souchong, which gave them a nice bitter tea leaf flavor.

aubergine carmel flax cracker

Flax Cracker. Flax seed crisps topped with apricot and white cheddar.

aubergine carmel kobe wagyu tartare

Wagyu Tartlet. A beautiful tartare of A5 Kagoshima beef with roe and amaranth leaf. A fantastic bite.

aubergine carmel sea urchin caviar

aubergine carmel caviar milk gelee

aubergine carmel uni

Uni, caviar. Canadian sturgeon caviar laying with sea grapes on a bed of raw milk and kombu gelees with some sea urchin alongside to mix in. The pop of the sea grapes and the salinity of the caviar and kombu were great with the creamy, sweet uni.

aubergine carmel foie gras

aubergine carmel foie gras gift

Foie Gras. Super smooth rich foie wrapped in grape gel with ash roasted leeks, hibiscus jelly, and a slice of brioche. Rocky said it was her new favorite ‘PB&J’.

aubergine carmel diver scallop

Scallop. A Massachusetts diver scallop cooked in its shell served with its steamed roe, lemon water, lemon balm, and meyer lemon.

aubergine carmel abalone

aubergine carmel monterey abalone

Abalone. Monterey Bay abalone and seaweed with oyster leaf and mushroom in a chicken and umeboshi consomme. Killer.

aubergine carmel king salmon

aubergine carmel salmon

King Salmon. Local king salmon topped with spinach puree, coastal herbs, and pineapple weed. Finished with chamomile broth.

aubergine carmel chicken

aubergine carmel spring chicken

aubergine carmel young chicken

Chicken. Young spring chicken with grapes, chanterelles, charred fermented leeks, and puffed rice. The rice was a nice texture against the juicy bird.

aubergine carmel lamb

aubergine carmel lamb

Lamb. Shoulder, loin, and pickled tongue of lamb. An awesome spread of sprouted legumes. Milk skin with lamb heart seasoning. Lovage and whey sauce.

aubergine carmel wagyu

aubergine carmel kagoshima wagyu beef

aubergine carmel wagyu beef

Beef. An amazing offering of A5 Wagyu from Kagoshima grilled and rested in sake and rock salt and wrapped in nori. Accompanied with sake lees and meyer lemon, plum puree, pickled baby ginger, soy salt, and an incredible porcini. Truly decadent.

aubergine carmel cheese

Cheese. Ossau-Iraty, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese served warm with a crumble of Thai Long pepper, Japanese barley, and a rich, earthy chicken and black truffle sauce.

So I follow Aubergine Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza on Instagram. His desserts always look effing stunning. I was amped to try them for myself.

aubergine carmel cucumber sorbet

Cucumber Sorbet. With Thai basil meringue, white chocolate powder, finished with melon comsomme. Terrific. Clean, light and fresh.

aubergine carmel pine lemon yogurt

Pine, Lemon, Yogurt. Superb little bowl. Great texture between the yogurt and the meringue. Super f*cking delicious, with a lingering developing complexity.

aubergine carmel bavarois

aubergine carmel peach bavarois

aubergine carmel peach nerds

Bavarois. Sheep’s milk bavarois with compressed peaches, sable, and nerds. Delightful. An incredible composed dessert.

aubergine carmel smoked milk

aubergine carmel smoked milk chocolate

Chocolate. Smoked milk chocolate mousse with corn ice cream, corn silk, crispy quinoa, and raspberry sauce. A beautiful balance of tastes and textures.

aubergine carmel madelines


aubergine carmel petit fours

aubergine carmel tapioca coconut lime

aubergine carmel chocolate mint rock

Mignardises. Coconut lime tapioca pudding cracker with nasturtium. Tangy and crunchy. Chocolate mint rock. Coolly minty.

A fantastic dinner and a great taste of the coast. Certainly worth a trip to the shore to see what’s going on at Aubergine.

Date of visit:  September 2, 2013

Aubergine. Monte Verde at Seventh. Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA  831.624.8578

Benu, San Francisco

I maintain a fairly lengthy list of restaurants in the Bay Area that I want to visit. Each time I cross the country from East to Left I seem to be overly constricted by time or budget, which makes for very slow progression through my ever increasing line-up. Last November, by the generosity of The Bro, I was able to make a decent little advance through my SF roster.

benu san francisco table setting

After a run along the water, a kick-ass lunch at Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food, a tour of really long staircases, and a hike through the Sutro Baths, The Bro and I were amped for dinner at Corey Lee’s Benu.

The Menu:

benu san francisco 1000 year quail egg

Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger. A two week preserving process yielded a superb quail egg. The potage of cabbage and bacon was a nice supporter. Of the dozen+ quail egg openers I’ve had at as many restaurants over the past several months, this was easily my favorite.

benu san francisco oyster pork belly kimchi

Oyster, pork belly, kimchi. A great contrast of the cold oyster to the hot belly. A good pepper-like spice with the lingering pork richness was great.

benu san francisco potato salad anchovy

Potato salad with anchovy. With celery and caramelized Fresno Chile curls. Another fantastic contrast, this time of the sweet crunchy anchovies to the soft starchy potato salad.

benu san francisco pumpkin tofu

Homemade pumpkin tofu. Soy bean and butternut squash tofu with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin juice, and Korean sea salt. Not a particular standout for me, but the pumpkin seeds and juice were very enjoyable.

benu san francisco abalone porridge matsutake pine

Chilled porridge, abalone, matsutake mushroom, pine. The abalone had a good texture. A thorough chew of the mushroom rewarded with great earthy flavor. The pine nuts were a nice little surprise.

benu san francisco monkfish liver persimmon mustard

Monkfish liver, persimmon, turnip, mustard, brioche. We were told this used to be made with duck liver before the foie ban. I thought the monkfish liver had a bitterness that made the dish more interesting than I imagined the foie to be. Good compliments of mustard spice and sweetness from crystallized mustard seeds. The crunchy turnips were nice to break up the flavors and cleanse between bites.

benu san francisco frozen sake lees chestnut apple yuzu

Sake lees, chestnut, green apple, yuzu. I thought this dish was terrific. The frozen sake lees were phenomenal; very exciting when paired with rich chestnut puree and sweet apple gelee. The yuzu foam had a vibrant, bright energy that heightened the ensemble.

benu san francisco eel feuille de brick

Eel, feuille de brick, crème fraîche, lime. Beautiful umami combination of eel wrapped in filo. To be dipped in a cooling, tangy creme fraiche with lime zest.

benu san francisco omasum tripe scallop chive lovage

Omasum tripe, scallop, yellow chive, lovage. The dish was well-spiced. The tripe in particular was a pleasure, with a great density and snap.

benu san francisco salt and pepper squid

Salt and pepper squid. The Bro was a huge fan of the squid chip. A cracker flavored with squid ink topped with confit squid, pickled serrano, garlic creme fraiche, cilantro, garlic and chile powders. I got pretty excited about the pickled serranos.

Lobster in two courses:

benu san francisco lobster xiao long bao

– xiao long bao. Shanghai style soupy dumplings filled with a perfect lobster broth. Contrasted with a potent Banyuls/fermented soy vinegar.

benu san francisco lobster noodles fines herbes

– fresh noodles with fines herbes. Damn! Delicious. Like a refined high-end bolognese. Lobster stock, veal stock, bacon, garlic, red wine vinaigrette, and classic Italian fines herbes.

benu san francisco rabbit cassoulet black truffle bun

Rabbit cassoulet with black truffle bun. As delightfully rich as it should be with good starchy beans. Accompanied by a steamed bun flavored with black truffles wrapped around a dense but soft rabbit sausage.

benu san francisco beef rib pear broccoli burdock

Beef rib, pear, broccoli, burdock, charred scallion, fermented pepper. As expected, a flawless cut of beef rib. I adored the fermented pepper sauce with its lasting smoky heat that was mellowed by the asian pear puree.

benu san francisco sharks fin soup dungeness crab

“Shark’s fin” soup, dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard. Chef Lee’s famous faux shark fin soup. The crab lent an oceanic salinity for the ‘fin’ and broth. The grand earthy truffle is always good.

benu san francisco shiso white chocolate almond pomegranate

Shiso, white chocolate, almond, pomegranate. The dryness of the frozen shiso was really cool..haha..get it? I loved the herbaceousness of the shiso against the rich white chocolate snow. The pomegranate seeds gave a fun bright pop.

benu san francisco spice cake hucklyberry

Spice cake, huckleberry, yogurt, oatmeal ice cream. Seasonally appropriate. Possibly a little distracted and disjointed, but a fun dish to eat.

benu san francisco chocolates

Chocolates. White chocolate with dried fruit. Sesame chocolate with a good crunch. Dark chocolate with cognac. Walnut chocolate with walnut liquor.

Some wines we were served:

benu san francisco winebenu san francisco winebenu san francisco winebenu san francisco wine

Date of visit: November 8, 2012

Benu. 22 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA. 415.685.4860

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco

It seems that a practice I’ve adopted in my life is visiting San Francisco once a year. Different reasons have brought me to the Bay Area during different seasons each year. Last November my annual trip to the Left Coast was sparked by a childhood friend’s wedding. The timing worked out such that I had just quit my job in NYC and hadn’t yet started at my current one, so a few extra days for dining with The Bro seemed like the right thing to do. My first evening in town landed me at my most anticipated table of the trip: Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn.


We had a choice between a five course menu or Chef’s Grand Tasting Menu. Naturally, The Bro and I chose the Grand Tasting, which was presented as a poem. As Chef dubs it: Poetic Culinaria. Each course of the menu matched up with a line from the poem:

Autumn whispers the untold memories

Mellow serenades of colors of red and green

The glowing ocean and light écume de mer

Wherein a moon burns orangey bright

Nature rejoice, chasing childhood memories.

As the breeze caresses

A gentle smell, oceanic, of yummy feeling

A subtle smokiness has arrived, and a new start.

Fallen leaf of crispy autumn scene

Birth which gives its morning mystery.

And birds flying free.

Autumn is here


atelier crenn cassis kir britton

Autumn whispers the untold memories. A Kir Breton to begin. Inside a delicate white chocolate shell, pressed apple cider. Topped with a reduction of creme de cassis. Following the burst of the shell came a flavor that at once took my mind to the Kirs I’ve been served at Brittany-style creperies in France.

atelier crenn hamachi

atelier crenn hamachi beets

Mellow serenades of colors of red and green. Hamachi with Osetra, fennel, apple and celery sorbet, beet puree, and lardo, finished with a wonderfully savory broth of crustacean shells and beets. The sorbet melted into a bright, lively acidity that heightened the fresh fish and balanced the broth. Bites of fennel lent a cool finish.

atelier crenn oyster cucumber

The glowing ocean and light écume de mer. Washington Kumamoto Oyster with creme fraiche, compressed cucumber, elderflower sake gelee, sea grape, and wheat grass. The astringency of the wheat grass was compelling against the sweet, mildly briny oyster. The fresh cucumber flavor with the sweet and floral gelee made an excellent setting.

atelier crenn carrot

atelier crenn carrot rutabaga grapefruit

Wherein a moon burns orangey bright. Carrot sorbet, dehydrated carrot, and baby carrot with coconut powder and coconut foam, aloe vera gelee, and rutabaga and grapefruit tea to finish. I enjoyed the texture of the coconut powder with the sorbet as well as their different sweetness levels, which balanced well with the bitter tea.

atelier crenn mackerel

atelier crenn mackerel rice cracker

Nature rejoice, chasing childhood memories. Ginger cured Mackerel atop a jasmine rice cracker with onion marmalade, plum and smoked lardo emulsion, and wasabi leaf. A superb celebration of the fish. Sweet and salty notes surprise and supplement the feature.

atelier crenn hibiscus granita

As the breeze caresses. Hibiscus granita, meyer lemon sorbet, frozen fennel mousse. Tartness from the meyer lemon and cool herbaceousness from the fennel brought together by the sweet, floral hibiscus.

atelier crenn grains seeds dashi

A gentle smell, oceanic, of yummy feeling. Buckwheat and quinoa grains with pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds, house made bottarga, dashi, and yuzu kosho. Perfect snap/crunch to the grains. The yuzu kosho provided some sporadic pop-up spice. Beautiful layers of savory salinity going on amidst the seeds and grains.

atelier crenn lamb tartare

A subtle smokiness has arrived, and a new start. Lamb tartare marinated with beet and shallot and infused with smoked eel, sesame powder, rice tulle, blackberry, creme fraiche cubes, horseradish pudding, cured eel. Many pieces and flavors that all came together to make perfect sense.

atelier crenn walk in the forest

atelier crenn mushroomsatelier crenn mushrooms pine meringue

Fallen leaf of crispy autumn scene. Mushrooms: king trumpet, maitake, and pioppini: roasted, pickled, pureed, and dehydrated. With hazelnuts, shaved and in a praline, thai basil, pumpernickel chiffon, sorrel, and foraged flowers, all set off by an insane brûléed pine meringue. Three months later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one.

atelier crenn corn silk nest

atelier crenn warm duck consommeatelier crenn corn silk nest duck consomme

Birth which gives its morning mystery. Corn silk nest, corn and duck fat pearls, chocolate branch with porcini powder, vanilla and apple sauces, served with warm duck consommé. At the first couple bites, The Bro and I both thought this might be a dessert, though a sip of the consommé brings it all full circle and suddenly the sweet flavors sensically melt into savory harmony.

atelier crenn squab sunchoke

atelier crenn squab huckleberry sunchoke

And birds fly free. Sonoma squab cooked sous-vide and seared, liver mousse, fumet beurre blanc, sunchoke chips and puree, huckleberry, squab-madeira-truffle jus, kaffir lime leaf. A well-executed, well-balanced slate of bird. The kaffir leaf seemed to reset the richness with a lasting bitter/fresh quality.

atelier crenn

The option was presented for a supplemental cheese course. We of course were happy to oblige. Being that at this point I hadn’t yet been to bed from the night before and had received a steady stream of alcohol, I was starting to get a little fuzzy. Sadly, I don’t remember any specifics. Photo looks yummy though.

atelier crenn autumn dessert

atelier crenn orange squash infusionatelier crenn spiced autumn brioche

Autumn is here. Fall spiced brioche, celery ice cream, pumpkin seed, apple, hibiscus. With an infusion of orange, butternut squash, anise, allspice clove, cinnamon, vanilla. The faux acorn was caramelized sugar with apple puree and nocino. Quite the full-sensory celebration of autumn in dessert form. Beautifully balanced warm flavors and aromas from Pastry Chef Juan Contreras.

atelier crenn petit foursatelier crenn mignardises

Petit fours:

Pate de fruits: Mango celery, guava coriander, strawberry peppermint. Marshmallows: pictachio almond cherry with rice paper nougat, passion fruit. Maldon salt caramel. Chocolate: white chocolate with cardamom, caramelized white chocolate, espresso-chocolate ganache, Valrhona dark.

Some wines we were served(in addition to Champagne):

atelier crenn wineatelier crenn wineatelier crenn wineatelier crenn wine

More than an amazing meal at the hands of Chef Dominique and her team; the experience was cerebral, sensual, and intimate. I look forward to returning with Rocky for this year’s trip out west.

atelier crenn dining room

Date of visit: November 7, 2012

Atelier Crenn. 3127 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA. 415.440.0460