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.
We said a few hellos, settled at our table, ordered some bubbles and the tasting, and got the party started.
Shot. First up, a fresh, effervescent shot of green tea, shiso, and pomegranate.
Chips and Dip. Kelp chips that I think he said were dried on rocks for a year. Along with sea spinach aioli.
Crispy Potato. Light and crisp fried strings of potato with shellfish sauce.
Oyster. Shigoku oysters with lychee and ginger snow. A nice balance of brine, sweet, and spice.
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.
Flax Cracker. Flax seed crisps topped with apricot and white cheddar.
Wagyu Tartlet. A beautiful tartare of A5 Kagoshima beef with roe and amaranth leaf. A fantastic bite.
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.
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’.
Scallop. A Massachusetts diver scallop cooked in its shell served with its steamed roe, lemon water, lemon balm, and meyer lemon.
Abalone. Monterey Bay abalone and seaweed with oyster leaf and mushroom in a chicken and umeboshi consomme. Killer.
King Salmon. Local king salmon topped with spinach puree, coastal herbs, and pineapple weed. Finished with chamomile broth.
Chicken. Young spring chicken with grapes, chanterelles, charred fermented leeks, and puffed rice. The rice was a nice texture against the juicy bird.
Lamb. Shoulder, loin, and pickled tongue of lamb. An awesome spread of sprouted legumes. Milk skin with lamb heart seasoning. Lovage and whey sauce.
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.
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.
Cucumber Sorbet. With Thai basil meringue, white chocolate powder, finished with melon comsomme. Terrific. Clean, light and fresh.
Pine, Lemon, Yogurt. Superb little bowl. Great texture between the yogurt and the meringue. Super f*cking delicious, with a lingering developing complexity.
Bavarois. Sheep’s milk bavarois with compressed peaches, sable, and nerds. Delightful. An incredible composed dessert.
Chocolate. Smoked milk chocolate mousse with corn ice cream, corn silk, crispy quinoa, and raspberry sauce. A beautiful balance of tastes and textures.
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 www.auberginecarmel.com