Monday, June 21, 2010

Teppan and Cupcakes

These are the lovely cupcakes that Sibby's Cupcakery made for me this weekend - for my daughter's 10th birthday.  The theme was the color blue, and I think they looked lovely!  The ones in the middle were especially yummy - the special flavor for June - lemon meringue.  In a vanilla cake with a dab of lemon curd in the middle.  I wish they were on the regular flavor rotation!

We had them after an epic meal at Benihana.  Now, why is it that kids love Benihana so much?!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Secret Sea Cove Dinner

Last year, a girlfriend and I had discussed going to one of the Outstanding in the Field farm dinners.  But we were a little late and most of the ones we were interested in were already sold out.  So when the tickets were released for this year, we were determined to get our top choice.  So were a lot of other people.  So much so that the website went down upon ticket release!

A week later, with an upgraded server infrastructure on the back end, everything worked fine and we got our tickets to the Secret Sea Cove dinner with guest chef Mourad Lahlou, Iron Chef winner and chef at Aziza in San Francisco (recipient of one Michelin star).  Apparently, we were lucky - the event sold out in 7 minutes.

We were not given directions nor the location of the event until about a week prior, and it involved finding a small road about 7 miles south of Half Moon Bay.  As you can see from the photo above, the site was truly magnificent!

We arrived around 3 pm and were handed glasses of rose (or in my case, a lovely cool water).  They were passing appetizers of moroccan flatbread with dill yogurt and roe (yum), crispy fried chickpeas with harissa (very yum) and pickled sardines on toast (meh).

Around 4 pm, the founder of Outstanding in the Field, Jim Denevan, spoke about the farm to table connection.  Or in our case, the ocean to table connection, with Hans Haveman as our speaker - he sourced all the fish and has been fishing off the Northern CA coast all his life.
Then there was a mad rush for seats at the big long table - we were outrun and were finally seated almost all the way at the far end.  Where the waves got dangerously close to us as the tide rose - it was all part of the fun!
Our first course was roasted and marinated yellow beets with wild arugula and pumpkin seeds.  It was a beautiful salad and the arugula was particularly nutty, just the way I liked it.

Next we had grilled mini meatballs with grapes over a jicama salad in a green herb dressing (Green Goddess!).  Yes, those green things that look like pasta were julienned sticks of jicama.  This was excellent but a little skimpy on those meatballs.  The dishes are served family-style to a table of 8, and not everyone got a second stick.

Then we were served a mound of slow roasted black cod with some marinated carrots, chard and mushrooms and roasted meyer lemons.  Plus the best couscous I have ever tasted!  It was brown butter couscous made by hand (as they apparently do in Aziza) - they make the dough fresh, then press it through a sieve, into a steamer.  Freshly made couscous!  It was divine.

Our dessert was fresh strawberries served with a wonderful lemon verbena cream - and a rhubarb crostata (which I didn't get a picture of, because we descended upon it like locusts).

There was wine with all the courses - which I mostly ignored except I did like the 2008 Bridesmaid White (or at least the one sip I had of it).  And the fisherman, Jim the founder, the sommelier and all sorts of people circulated to chat with everyone.  There was a very convivial atmosphere.

Alas the weather was pretty foggy and then started misting then drizzling lightly by the time we got to dessert.  We wrapped up just before 8 am and gratefully got into the warm car to head home.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Weekend in Napa

We went up to Napa recently and stayed at Meadowood.  It's been about 11 years since I last stayed there and I had forgotten how family-friendly everything was.  We had a nice relaxing time, with good meals at Press in St. Helena (wonderful outdoor seating area and a bacon sampler appetizer that we thoroughly enjoyed) and Tra Vigne for Sunday Brunch (a reliable standby).  But the whole reason we went was to dine at Meadowood's signature restaurant, The Dining Room, with Christopher Kostow's cuisine having been graced with two Michelin stars this year.  Plus 4 stars from the normally stingy Michael Bauer at the SF Chronicle.

We had first experienced Chris' cooking when he led the kitchen at Chez TJ in Mountain View - and had earned them two stars as well (one of which they have lost since his departure).

We left the kids to order themselves room service and walked down to the main building.  As we were seated, our waiter indicated that the chef wanted to "cook for us" - which we gladly agreed to.  Because of that, we never really looked at the menu and the names of the various dishes we had are pretty hazy in my memory.

We started with a cute little amuse of a small pastry filled with goat cheese.  Delicious but I could have easily eaten a dozen of them!
OK - it's already starting to get hazy.  The lovely little crudite selection on the right had little carrots and radishes, with a wasabi ice and some other delicate sauce.  But for the life of me, I really just can't remember what the little morsels on the left were.  By the way, if I had actually blogged right after the meal as originally intended, this would be a lot easier...
We next had a lovely vichyssoise soup in a petite portion.  This is why I love tasting menus.  Little plates of delicious food that keeps you wanting more, followed by course after petite course!
Next came wagyu beef cured with pine from the Meadowood property with little bits of hamachi, served with a little bun that was just like a chinese bao but with rye or pumpernickel.  I really liked this dish!
This was also yummy - poured tableside.  But honestly, I have no idea what it was.  Except to recall there was some cauliflower involved.  And maybe beans.  What a useless food blogger I am!
Next we had a small dish of frog's legs with I believe some ravioli filled with cremini mushrooms.  I honestly only like frog's legs prepared in a Thai or Chinese style (fried with garlic).  Frog's legs in French or other cuisine has never done it for me.
I think this was goat.  It was yummy.
I began wondering if this meal would ever end.  And just then, we were brought the cheese course, which was a mild cheese that was deep fried.  Reminded me of a highly refined version of the cheese sticks I used to love at Chili's when I was in college!

There was also the most delicious lemon sorbet palate cleanser that I just loved.  More than the actual dessert pictured below.  There were too many elements and they didn't tie in very cohesively.  I had the little chocolate fudge square and handed the rest to Sean for him to finish up, which he gladly did.
In between, the kids came down to visit and got a kitchen tour and some candied raspberries.  And a photo with our favorite chef!
We're already making plans to return soon...