Farewell to Foie – The Last Supper at Waterloo

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

What better way to spend June 30th than with a double date with our friends Cassandra and Brian! Together we bid farewell to foie at my and Alice’s favorite local gastropub Waterloo & City with a 6-course menu entitled “The Last Supper.” Unfortunately by the time this entry is posted, SB-1520 would have passed and these dishes will be a fond memory. But without further ado, here is the play-by-play of The Last Supper:

Ahi Tuna & Foie Gras Torchon

The most eye-catching explosion of colors of the entire meal, the ahi tuna and foie gras torchon was an attention-grabber of a dish early on in the tasting menu. We were expecting Chef Brendan to balance all the fatty foie with other sweet and tart flavors and he did just that in this dish. A generous chunk of foie on top of the lean slice of ahi with the pork gelée and prune jam was one delicious bite after another. The micro greens provided a much-needed textural contrast between the foie and ahi. Well-rounded dish and tied the chicken liver and foie gras mousse as my favorite dish.

Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Mousse, Toasted Petit Pain

Second course consisted of a foie gras addition to the charcuterie menu’s Chicken Liver Mousse, which gave it a smoother texture. Again, Chef Brendan kept in mind the richness of the foie and included a sweet potato jam to balance the dish. However, it was a little too sugary. Also, the ratio of toast to mousse was a little off to me – I could’ve used another pair of toast (although the mousse was delicious on its own as well).  The plate was completed with a caper berry, cornichon, pickled onion.

Foie Gras Ravioli, Duck Broth, Wild Mushrooms

Third course is a foie gras ravioli and wild mushrooms in a duck broth. Alice was a huge fan of the broth which reminded her of a favorite Vietnamese dish she had as a child (mì vịt tiềm). For me, the broth was a little too salty and we both agreed that the pasta was undercooked. We were both a fan of the mushrooms which provided an additional umami flavor. The explosion of foie gras out of the ravioli was especially pleasant to the palate. Unfortunately, one of my raviolis was missing a filling but that was promptly rectified by Cecily, the Maitre D that night.

Halibut, Manila Clams, Foie Gras Sauce

Fourth course consisted of a beautiful piece of halibut, perfectly seared and served with manila clams, potato cubes, peas, and bacon (or pancetta?) in a foie gras sauce. The sauce had great depth of flavor with the rich foie and the smoky bacon. The halibut was beautiful and delicious but as the star of the show we really wanted to see the sear on the halibut so it was confusing as to why the clams were placed on top of the halibut. Nevertheless, the combination of the halibut, bacon, and foie sauce all in one bite was heavenly. It was one of Cassandra’s favorites.

Slow Roast Duck Breast, Seared Foie Gras, Plum Jam

The fifth and main course was a generous piece of seared foie on top of a slow roasted duck breast and complemented with micro greens and a plum jam. We’re always a fan of dishes that compose of different parts of an animal and this dish was exactly that. The duck breast had its own jus but also worked surprisingly well with the plum jam. The seared foie definitely needed the plum jam to cut the fat and the ratio of foie to jam was perfect. This dish serves to only reaffirm my belief in the duck. All hail the duck!

“Twicks”, Chocolate Panna Cotta, Butterscotch Mousse, Shortbread, Caramel

The sixth and final course is something we haven’t seen on the menu before, although Alice had seen it mentioned as a new menu addition. The “twicks” is kind of like a deconstructed Twix candy bar when eaten all together. Individually, I was a big fan of the chocolate panna cotta and the shortbread. We did not recognize it at the time, but we later found out that it was topped with foie gras ice cream. As delicious as this dessert may be, we almost regret not finishing the meal with the bourbon glazed donuts as we usually do.

All in all, we were very pleased with this last farewell hurrah for foie. We popped in to say hi to Chef Brendan at the pass, and he seemed to be having a great time going all-out to work with this delicacy before midnight. Waterloo & City never fails to disappoint, and even though it was Cassandra and Brian’s first visit, they’re already looking forward to coming back and trying dishes off the regular menu.

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Check out Waterloo & City: www.waterlooandcity.com

12517 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here.

Follow them on Twitter @WaterlooandCity!

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Cowboy Star – A Taste of the Wild West

Food Adventures, San Diego

During our meal at Melisse’s Norcal vs. Socal Foie Battle we had the fortune of meeting Angie Weber, one of the owners of Cowboy Star in San Diego. So this past weekend we decided to take a trek down to the Gaslamp District for Memorial Day Weekend and paid a visit to her restaurant and butcher shop. Angie invited us to sit at the Chef’s Counter that evening and we delightedly accepted. So follows is a recollection of our taste buds’ adventure to the wild west!

View of the open kitchen from the 6-seat chef’s counter.

Painted Lady: Absolut wild tea, elderflower, cucumber.

I selected one of their many beers and Alice chose the Painted Lady. It was an interesting cocktail concoction with pretty little flowers. Alice recalled the vodka being a little sharper than she expected. Paired fairly well with her skirt steak.

Amuse Bouche: Salmon Tartare on Toast

Table Bread: Molasses Bread, one of three choices

Honestly we didn’t really care for the amuse bouche. The salmon was good but the toast wasn’t very crunchy – it felt as though they’ve been sitting out for a while. A little bit on the dry side as well.

Dinner began with a small selection of breads with the Molasses Bread being one of our all-time favorites of table breads. Great by itself but I love to spread a generous amount of butter over it.

Starter: Off-the-menu foie gras terrine with huckleberry compote and toasted brioche

This is where it gets exciting. C-Star has two off-the-menu foie gras dishes – the terrine and the seared foie. We really wanted to get both but, having already mentally decided on our favorite preparation of foie, went for the terrine.

Very vibrant dish with an assortment of eye-catching colors and tower of brioche. The terrine had a smooth consistency and easily spreadable over the brioche. Extra brownie points for one of the line chefs providing seconds of the toasted brioche after noticing how quickly we plowed through them. I discovered that the best way to eat this was to combine a hefty chunk of terrine with the huckleberry compote and sauce on a piece of toast and eat it all in one bite. The huckleberry flavor is reminiscent of blueberries and really cuts the fatty foie with its sweet and tart flavors. I think we made a good call on this one.

A’s Entree: 10-oz American Wagyu Skirt Steak

A’s Side: Roasted Bone Marrow, nice and fatty

C-Star really takes a lot of pride in cooking their steaks to perfect temperatures, advising no more than medium rare for all their cuts. This makes me smile because I have seen too many wasted steaks being ordered medium or well-done. People just don’t know what they’re missing out on!

Alice had been debating which of the variety of steaks to select for her entree but finally settled on the skirt steak. Clearly described as American Wagyu hailing from Snake River Farms in Idaho, the skirt steak was tender, cooked perfectly rare to order, and had just a bit of a chewy texture. It was served with a slightly sweet jus that balanced the flavors well. The roasted bone marrow blew her away. It was rich and decadent and piping hot straight out of the oven. She liked piling a little scoop onto each bite of steak, while I preferred to enjoy its flavor on its own.

M’s Entree: 8-oz, 21-day aged Filet Mignon w/ Seared Sea Scallop

M’s Entree: Beautifully rare center, perfect temperature

The filet was, as expected, delicious and melted in my mouth. The scallop was a great supplement to the filet, even temporarily stealing the limelight with its depth of flavor and golden sear. A quasi surf-and-turf arrangement to please the palate.

There was quite a bit of black pepper but this wasn’t a problem for me because I like copious amounts of black pepper on my steaks. However, I could definitely see how this could hinder others’ enjoyment of the dish if they are not especially fond of black pepper to begin with.

The accompanying sauteed asparagus and mashed potatoes helped to balance the umami flavors of the steak and helped to enhance the star of the dish.

Dessert: Fromage Blanc Cheesecake w/ Candied Kumquats and Honeycomb

A light and fluffy contrast to a high-protein dinner – fromage blanc is an excellent substitute for cream cheese. The candied kumquats which used mainly the sweet peel complemented the cheesecake without bringing an overly tart flavor. The honeycomb added extra excitement with a burst of sweetness but unless you want an unpleasant taste and stickiness of wax in your mouth, it’s better to suck on the honeycomb rather than to chew it. Overall a wonderful light end to a heavy dinner. I wonder if C-Star has a pastry chef?

Too bad their merchandise page isn’t up yet. I want one of those C☆ hats all the staff wears.

Cowboy Star is definitely on our list of must-eats in the Gaslamp district. The food was delicious and the service was fantastic. We’re telling all of our friends and family about it, starting with you our readers!

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Check out Cowboy Star: www.thecowboystar.com

640 10th Ave
(between G St & Market St)
San Diego, CA 92101

See their Yelp reviews here!

Touche Pas a Mon Foie Gras – CHEFS Dinner at Melisse

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

The other night (on Monday, May 14th) renowned chefs from Northern and Southern California united to celebrate foie gras through fundraising dinners held simultaneously at four different venues in Los Angeles for CHEFS – Coalition for Healthy and Ethical Farming Standards in an effort to overturn the ban on foie gras soon to take effect in California. We decided to splurge and come out to the one at Melisse, and the menu and experience were absolutely incredible.

With a celebrity lineup featuring Brendan Collins of Waterloo & City (easily our favorite local gastropub!), Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra and Ame, Raphael Lunetta of JiRaffe, Justin Wangler of Kendall Jackson, Josiah Citrin and Ken Takayama of Melisse (of course), and Mark Dommen of One Market, we knew we were in for a treat! From start to finish, it was a beautifully orchestrated dinner that truly does this decadent ingredient justice.

Don’t touch my foie! Alice picked up a t-shirt to commemorate the event.

Amuse Bouche #1: Cold Foie Gras

Amuse Bouche #2: Shot glass containing a cold gelée of fennel with a sphere of foie gras and topped with an apple-foie mousse. Served with a foie cookie for texture.

Dinner started off with two amuse bouches, with my favorite being the cold foie gras. The cold foie was delicate and a great starter, also very similar in size to the foie macarons finale, but I’ll get to that later. The softened foie contrasted well with its crunchy crumb coating.

The shot glass was comprised of layers and while each layer tasted fine on its own, it was the combination of all three components that made it work. The foie cookie was very interesting with a center flavor oddly reminiscent of Pandan Leaf Bánh Men (a Vietnamese yeast cookie). It could very well be, since the creme was the familiar mint-green color of lá dứa.

Table Bread: Basil brioche and bacon focaccia

This pair was Alice’s pick from an assortment of 6 or 7 varieties. We wish we could’ve tried them all but realistically we didn’t want to fill up on bread so quickly. The basil brioche had a very powerful basil flavor and aroma to it but went well with a conservative scoop of butter. Alice loved how spongy and moist the center of the brioche was. The bacon focaccia was flavorful and even more amazing with a generous helping of butter. Bacon and butter, one of my favorite combinations!

First Course: Pressed Terrine of Foie Gras, Duck and Foie Gras Parfait
Orange Marmalade, Summer Truffles, Micro Basil
Brendan Collins, Waterloo and City
Pairing: Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir Rosé

Very well balanced dish here and Alice’s favorite pick of the night and a close 2nd for me. Chef Brendan Collins’ of Waterloo & City prepared an orange marmalade that really helped cut the fatty foie, making the dish bright and vibrant with pieces of orange peel and bits of micro basil. Thinly sliced summer truffles helped add an earthy note to the overall dish but still allowed the foie to be the star of the show. Despite its size, it’s actually quite a bit of food when consumed in conjunction with the toasted brioche. Paired with the Pinot Noir Rosé, this dish made a very grand and vibrant entrance to begin the meal.

Second Course: Pistachio Crusted Foie Gras
Caramelized Mango, Confit Baby Tomatoes, Mango Verjus
Raphael Lunetta, JiRaffe
Pairing: 2009 Zilliken, Forstmeister Geltz, Spätlese, Mosel

Prepared by Chef Raphael Lunetta of Jiraffe, the second course brought its own pizazz with foie gras textured with pistachio bits. Perfectly seared foie and finely roasted pistachios gave a delightful crunch to the dish. The foie was balanced by the sweetness of the caramelized mango slices and the crispy tart topped with caramelized shallots. The confit baby tomatoes brought the acidity to complement and finished on a sweet note with the mango verjus. Unlike the previous first course, the foie here complemented the other elements rather than running away with the spotlight. When paired with the late harvest Riesling, this course provided a nice sweet balance to the foie.

Third Course: Maine Lobster
Foie Gras, Ramps and Salsify
Justin Wrangler, Kendall Jackson
Pairing: 2007 Pinot Noir, Seco Highlands, Kendall-Jackson

I was extremely excited to get to the third course, prepared by Chef Justin Wrangler of Kendall Jackson. Unfortunately, my butter poached lobster was a little overcooked. This little misstep was redeemed in the seared salsify and wilted ramps which added a crisper texture to the dish. The vanilla-flavored foie looked a little lonely all by itself on the top left and at first I did not know how to incorporate that with the other elements. The sharper flavor of the pinot noir paired well with the overall flavor of the dish.

Fourth Course: Foie Gras Tortelloni
Game Jus and Forest Mushrooms
Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, Terra and Ame
Pairing: 2008 Mi Sueno Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Here we go! My favorite pick of the night prepared by Chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra and Ame. (Apparently it was also the favorite of EaterLA judge Kat Odell!) Perhaps the most umami tasting dish of the 6 courses, the combination of the forest mushrooms, perfectly cooked tortellonis, and foie gras worked extremely well together. Once you reach the inside of the tortelloni, there is a burst of flavor that we guessed to be truffle. Alice thought this was overwhelming but I wish there was at least one more tortellini! Paired with a younger Pinot Noir than the previous dish, the bold umami flavors from the mushrooms were happily married to the foie tortelloni.

Fifth Course: Wild Alaskan Red King Salmon
Courgettes, French Radish, Shaved Foie Gras, Jus au Vin Rouge
Josiah Citrin and Ken Takayama, Melisse
Pairing: 2009 Vineyard 29, Cabernet Franc

The fifth course prepared by Chefs Josiah Citrin and Ken Takayama of Melisse diverged from giving the foie the limelight the entire time. Shaved on top of the dish, the foie gras quickly melted into the landscape of the warm dish. This divergence, however, was very welcomed since by this point we were getting a little overwhelmed with all the buttery too-much-goodness of the foie. The red king salmon was beautifully cooked and paired amazingly with the red wine sauce. Moving into darker territory, the cabernet franc pairing worked well with the salmon but felt redundant with the red wine sauce already making its presence very known on the dish.

Sixth Course: Artisan Foie Gras and Liberty Farms Duck
House Made Duck Andouille, Crayfish, Celery Root Purée
Mark Dommen, One Market
Pairing: 2008 Darioush, Cabernet Sauvignon

Intended to be the main dish of the 6 courses, Chef Mark Dommen of One Market prepared a reunion of sorts with the Liberty Farms duck, duck andouille, and artisan foie. Alice and I absolutely loved the Liberty Farms duck slices, juicy and enhanced by the sauce. The duck andouille was a little too spicy for me but Alice thought it was exciting. We both liked the celery root puree which highlighted a lighter side of the dish. The artisan foie, to me, was too fatty. It could be perhaps this was a larger serving of foie of the 6 courses and served at the very end. Nevertheless, the various elements of this dish sat side-by-side with a cabernet sauvignon, my favorite of the reds.

Dessert: Foie Gras Butter Kuchen
Murray Farm Cherries and Foie Gras Ice Cream
Lissa Doumani, Terra and Ame with Ken Takayama, Melisse
Pairing: 2009 Grgich Hills, Late Harvest Violetta

Dessert was a foie butter cake with macerated Murray Farm cherries and foie ice cream. My favorite element of this dish was the foie ice cream. Hell, I would’ve been perfectly happy with just a heftier scoop of it. The cake could also have been more moist but the plentiful sauce and ice cream assisted in balancing the cake. Alice loved the first-of-the-season cherries but they’re just not on my list of favorite dessert ingredients.

Wine Pairings, in order as mentioned above from right to left other than the first glass in the foreground which is the Violetta (Alice’s favorite!)

So we both felt really bad for not being able to finish all 7 glasses of wine (well, other than the Late Harvest – Alice drank both glasses of that!). We also didn’t really expect such heavy pours, the 7th glass, or really any wine at all. When we made the RSVP, we had completely overlooked the inclusion of wine pairings with every course. I guess you can say it was a pleasant surprise!

Complimentary Foie Gras Macarons, a pleasant palate cleanser

The dinner ends just as small as it began (with the amuse bouches). Delicate bite-sized macarons with a fair amount of foie flavor in them. I’m a big fan of the cream filling.

With Brendan Collins of Waterloo and City! So great to finally meet in person! :)

We received impeccably friendly and helpful service from Sullivan, who even went back to the kitchen to ask for Chef Collins so we could finally meet him in person! It was a phenomenal opportunity to not only experience dinner at a (well deserved!) two-star Michelin restaurant but also a historic event to celebrate a luxurious and downright tasty ingredient. We would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts all of the chefs and all of the people who made this fantastic event possible (that means you too, Tiffany “from Facebook”!). Here’s to hoping for change between now and July 1st!

Fresh Baked Focaccia – Quick and Easy

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes

While wasting time on Facebook I came upon an amazing image of freshly baked focaccia from my friend Tru. She was generous enough to share her recipe with us and we replicated with some minor changes. Best if eaten the same day with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tastes amazing with Global Garden’s Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Peach Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar that we picked up during our olive oil tasting.

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Fresh Baked Focaccia – 1.5 hour prep, 40 min bake.

Ingredients:

1 packet of instant (active or rapid rise) yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups of flour
Olive oil or butter
Garlic powder
Dried Rosemary
Dried Thyme
Parmesan (optional)

Instructions:

1. Dissolve one packet of instant (active or rapid) yeast in 2 cups of warm water.

2. Add one tablespoon of sugar, one teaspoon of salt, and four cups of flour.

3. Mix together thoroughly and until mixture forms a dough ball and pulls away from the bowl.
4. Knead the dough ball for 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Generously grease a 9″x13″ pan and place kneaded dough ball to best fit the pan. The final product will stick so be generous!

6. Let the dough rest in a warm place for one hour.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
8. Generously drizzle olive oil over the dough. You could also choose to melt a stick of butter instead and drizzle the same way.

9. Sprinkle garlic powder, dried rosemary, dried thyme, and parmesan (optional) over the dough.

10. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
11. Let sit to cool before slicing and serving.
12. Voila!

Day Eight: San Francisco – The Codmother and Our Last Meal of 2011

Food Adventures, San Francisco

A short walk away from Fisherman’s Wharf, the Codmother is the an eye-catcher of a food truck with its noticeable pink-puckered lips of a cod. Once “inside”, you’ll meet the very friendly, British-accented owner, Suzanne who greets both regulars and tourist lookers alike.

We shared an order of the fish and chips not because we were skeptical but because we were planning to eat several more times at other places. The fish was great, fried in batter seasoned with salt and black pepper, a simple addition something a lot of fish and chip places tend to overlook. The fish was neither super moist that it melts in your mouth nor overcooked and dry but maintained just a firm enough texture expected from deep fried fish filets. Our only criticism is that the chips were just average and could use some more crunch to them – perhaps a thinner cut version or longer frying time.

Fish and Chips – seasoned with salt and pepper.

With a small menu, the Codmother is able to make whatever they offer taste very good.

We also got a free order of deep fried Oreos from a Yelp! check-in. Thumbs up already for having deep fried Oreos on the menu which is something you can only get either in a theme park or at a fair. The Oreos went into the fryer as sandwich cookies one would buy at the supermarket but emerged as a delicious piece of enveloped cookies and cream that is reminiscent of a tadpole emerging from the water (or rather vat of oil). The batter used for these tasted a lot better than those at a fair where it’s produced for the masses and the oil reused day after day for everything. Suzanne used only a specific deep fryer for just the Oreos so the deep-fried delights wouldn’t pick up the fishy flavor from the fish and potato-ey smell of the chips. These efforts may seem simple but makes a huge difference in keeping flavors separate from each other.

Looks like tadpoles don’t they? Yum!

The water is actually frying oil!

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Check out The Codmother Fish and Chips:

2824 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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We waited until the very last minute to book NYE dinner and that was a BAD idea. You would think we would know better but after having eating so much throughout the entire trip, we could barely think about more food nearing the end of our trip. Luckily we made a few calls and managed to find an open table at Le Charm, a quaint French bistro a few blocks from Market St. Although this was a semi-random find, it did not disappoint.

As expected, Le Charm was PACKED but we finally got seated at 9:45 pm, a little more than an hour before their closing.

Trust me the little suckers are hiding in there!

Continuing on with the  escargot in a parsley garlic butter in an escargot dish. It was delicious but so buttery. The escargot itself were soft with a slight crunch to them.

Duck Confit Traditional Cassoulet: White Beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon.

We shared the duck confit traditional cassoulet which was very hearty and filling. Ultimately we didn’t end up finishing this dish because there was so many white beans in it. All the parts comprising of this dish, white beans, duck confit, lamb, garlic sausage, and Toulouse sausage and bacon all added different flavors. The sausages, however, were too salty.

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Check out Le Charm French Bistro:

315 5th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

See their Yelp reviews here.