Scratch Bar – Beverly Hills, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Last month, Chef Phillip Frankland Lee caused a positive stir in my industry by announcing that he would offer any back of house (BOH) employee a free six-course tasting menu throughout the month of February and 50% off for any accompanying guest or additional food ordered. This meant a lot to line cooks like me who make little money (or took a severe pay cut) in order to pursue their passion in the culinary field. He called it Back of House Appreciation Month and boy did I feel appreciated!

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Our romantic date night started off with drinks: Martin had the Piraat Belgian ale, which reminded him of his favorite Trappist ale, Chimay. I selected the Supplies! – a cocktail of unfiltered sake, pineapple, and lemon. It was so good that I had two. It was so refreshing and reminiscent of something I’d want in my hand as I lay out tanning by a pool.

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Scratch|Board – smoked goat cheese, gravlax, air dry cured beef, pork pate, beet dijon, prunes, pickled onions, house sourdough. The pork “pate” was SO GOOD. It was not a country pate but rather bore more resemblance to the headcheese terrine i made during my time at Waterloo & City. And the beet dijon? Our server Mark phrased it profoundly accurately — “The beet dijon is money!” Get this.

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Course 1: Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter – I usually don’t like being told how to eat my food, but this shooter was a fun exception. First, eat the pick with ceviche green mussel, pickled onion, and serrano. Then, shoot the unfiltered (nigori) sake and lemon. Finally, spoon out the uni and avocado mousse at the bottom. Delicious!

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Course 2: Pork Belly & Raw Oyster – braised (?) pork belly topped with raw oyster and coconut-chamomile foam with chamomile dust. This single bite was a surprisingly hearty rendition of surf & turf.

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Course 3: Roasted yet Raw Prawns – raw prawns topped with a lime and fish sauce (?) vinaigrette, toasted nuts, and shaved smoked white onion. It tasted exactly like the meat served in the Vietnamese vermicelli bowls (bun thit nuong) that I grew up eating. The super charred nuts gave the dish a pleasant “roasted” flavor even though the shrimp themselves had not been cooked at all.

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Course 4: Blackened Cauliflower – cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower, lemon, chip made from cauliflower stems. This dish is 100% vegan which is unbelievable because the puree tasted so rich and silky that I thought it had to be mounted with obscene amounts of butter and/or cream. Martin loves cauliflower so this homage was perfect for him. We were pleasantly surprised to find bits of romanesco in there as well.

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Course 5: Prime Hangar Steak – mashed potato puree, roasted asparagus and mushrooms, sugar blistered cherry tomatoes. OMG THE TOMATOES. So freaking sweet and juicy. This puree was smooth and decadent as well, though with the help of animal fat, and the steak was a perfect medium rare.

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Course 6: Dark Chocolate & Cayenne Candy Bar – sugar cookie, cayenne-infused dark chocolate, raspberry jam, house made whipped cream, chia seeds. The cayenne aroma was intoxicating and I was worried it would be too spicy for Martin, but the spice was barely perceivable on the palate. Beautifully composed.

At this point, Mark came back to our table to see if we wanted to order any additional supplements. “Didn’t we just have our dessert?” I teased. As if he had read our minds, that’s when he pointed out the savory-but-sweet foie gras s’mores.  Why not?

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Foie Gras S’mores – cinnamon-nut “graham cracker,” seared foie gras, house made marshmallows, tangerines, tangerine vinaigrette (?), chives. Sweet, savory, sour, bitter, plus just the right amount of fatty (I know that’s not one of the “tastes”). Sure it’s not a conventional dessert but it was still a worthy way to end our meal.

Thank you again to Chef Phillip Frankland Lee for this opportunity to spend $100 on a dinner that would have easily cost (and rightfully so) $200-300. It was a dinner that we will not soon forget.

#DropFlavorNotBombs

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Check out Scratch|Bar: scratchbarla.com

111 North La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Hatfield’s – Hollywood

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

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For my birthday this year, my dear boyfriend treated me to dinner at Hatfield’s, a restaurant that had earned one coveted Michelin star back when the Guide was still in LA. He knew that I love tasting menus, although it proved surprisingly difficult to find one with availability on a Sunday night. (As I am constantly reminded, I work the same nights that normal people want to go out!)

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The first thing I noticed that the odd sense of familiarity when we walked into the dining room. And that’s when it hit me — this is the dining room from the movie Chef! So our date night started out with plenty of jokes involving “He’s NOT getting to me!” “I’m NOT needy!” “It’s f*cking molten!” (If you still haven’t seen the movie, stop reading right now and go track it down!)

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We sat in the center of the dining room and got an amazing view of the open kitchen. I was mesmerized by the brigade and how calmly and deliberately everyone seemed to move; it was almost unreal, especially compared to my experience in a closed kitchen where organized chaos breaks loose every night.

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We opted for the chef’s 7-course tasting menu (priced at $110 per person). We were told that it would be served “in tandem,” which was described to mean that each of us would receive a different dish each course. Long story short, we got to try a total of 14 dishes! I defined the dishes that I received first as (a) and the ones Martin received first as (m). Please forgive me if I missed any details; there’s quite a bit going on in every dish and by the end, I was really feeling the gin in my cocktail! (Also, the photos aren’t too stellar thanks to my camera phone and low lighting.)

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Speaking of cocktails, I had The Hendrix Experience: Hendrick’s Gin, Thai basil syrup, lemon, prosecco. It was a lovely bright green color and tasted as refreshing as it looked. Martin mentioned that his usual libation of choice is the sazerac and our server suggested The Innsbruck. I remember nothing about it other than that it is rye whiskey based, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, and went down oh so smoothly.

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Amuse Bouche: Cured Fluke, Egg Salad Remoulade, Potato Chip. A delightful first bite of cured white fish to whet our appetites for more.

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Course 1(a): Croque Madame: Yellowtail Sashimi, Prosciutto, Sunny Side Up Quail Egg, Grilled Brioche. One of their signature dishes, we were thrilled to see this as part of our tasting menu. The “grilled” brioche reminded me of this one time when we fried brioche croutons in clarified butter. Butter + butter = love. The combination of cured jamon and fresh hamachi doesn’t sound like it would work out but somehow it does in this adorable little sandwich.

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Course 1(m): Kanpachi Sashimi, Persian Cucumbers, Mango. A refreshing and light starter, this is the way I generally like to begin my dining adventures.

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Course 2(a): Butternut Squash Flan, Coconut Froth, Maitake Mushrooms, Curried Sweetbreads Croquette. I loved this dish. I may even go so far as to say it was my favorite of the night. Hidden beneath the froth of fragrant coconut and Thai-inspired flavor is a delicate butternut squash flan. The silky texture and the smooth broth paired wonderfully while the croquette added an extra level with its crunch. The maitake mushrooms were just the icing on the cake to remind you that, indeed, Winter is Coming.

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Course 2(m): Squid Ink Garganelli, Dungeness Crab, English Peas, Pea Tendrils, Pearl Onions. We are both huge fans of squid ink pasta; there’s just something about the gorgeous black color hiding away a surprising burst of citrus and briny flavor that we can’t get enough of. The pea tendrils were fried as a crispy garnish and the crab added a lightness to an otherwise creamy sauce.

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Course 3(a): Slow Cooked Salmon (Sous Vide), Eggplant, Charred Scallions, Salmon Roe. I had never had sous vide salmon before and I’ve got to say, I’m just not a fan. The peculiar cube of gorgeous medium-rare salmon looked beautiful but had a soft texture that I could not get past. I did enjoy how the roe added a finishing touch of saltiness to the dish the way a sprinkling of fleur de sel would have.

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Course 3(m): Red Wine Braised Octopus, Charred Shishito Peppers, Orange Rind Gastrique. The octopus was pleasantly tender, and as I am a huge fan of shishito peppers, I much preferred this dish over the salmon.

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Course 4(a): Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Strawberry Sambal Gastrique, Braised Radicchio & Hibiscus, Fennel & Gold Beet Salad, Cashews. I felt that this dish really embodied the time of year — the transition between summer and fall. I actually really enjoyed the radicchio and hibiscus, which I found to be extra bitter (Martin was not a fan but loved the duck).

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Course 4(m): Buttermilk Chicken, Arugula Pistou, Mushroom Duxelle, Crispy Shallot. The chicken was incredibly succulent and completely changed my view on ordering the poultry at a fine dining establishment. The crispy shallots were a fun garnish, making me think of fried chicken, while the sauces underneath melded well with one another.

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Course 5(a): 36 Hour Slow Cooked “Pastrami-Style” Short Rib, Shimeji Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Frisee Salad. The short rib was incredibly tender and paired with the mustard vinaigrette that dressed the salad beneath it, I was transported to a very high-end version of a Jewish deli. I just have to say though — I’ve never been able to look at a plate of frisee without feeling a lot of appreciation and a little bit of guilt, because I know what a pain in the butt it is for the person who has to pick the yellow leaves from the bitter white stems.

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Course 5(m): Braised Short Rib, Celery Root Puree, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Red Wine Jus. A second preparation of the short rib, this was almost lacquered in red wine and tasted wonderful for it. I’d say this dish was the most no-frills one of the bunch, and I appreciated that. Nothing beats a good plate of beef, brussels, celery root puree, and red wine sauce.

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Course 6(a): Pavlova, Freshly Whipped Cream, Strawberry Chamomile Sorbet. The paylova was crispy and airy, the whipped cream was delicate, and the sorbet was the star of the show. It was fruity yet fragrant and not-too-sweet, just the way I like it.

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Course 6(m): Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Watermelon Granita, Blackberry Banyuls Sorbet. I usually dislike tangy dairy, but the buttermilk panna cotta was the perfect counter to the sweet fruit. I was also really looking forward to tasting the blackberry banyuls sorbet (banyuls is an expensive French vinegar made from Grenache grapes) and it exceeded my expectations.

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Course 7(a): Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Crunchy Chocolate-Peanut Tuille, Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream. I don’t know how they knew. Martin said he didn’t tell them. I didn’t mention anything. It’s like they’re mind readers, but our server placed this plate down right in front of me and I was thrilled. (What can I say? I love to feel special.) The semifreddo was delicious and if you managed to take a bite with a little bit of everything on it, it was like the world’s best candy bar.

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Course 7(m): Sugar & Spice Beignet, Venezuelan Chocolate Fondue, Vanilla Malted Milkshake. I love beignets and I love even more that this one is dusted in cinnamon-sugar rather than confectioner’s. The chocolate fondue was incredible — super velvety and bittersweet, perfect for someone who loves the darkest of dark chocolate (like me!). I really liked the playfulness of the vanilla milkshake, although I couldn’t help but make the comparison to Michael Mina’s root beer float (which, with its edible chocolate straw, wins by a slight edge).

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Bon Bons: Homemade Mallomar, Dark Chocolate, Marshmallow, Graham Cracker, Sea Salt. I will be perfectly honest — the first thing I did was poke it. It feels squishy. How do they get it coated in chocolate that is malleable enough to squish with the marshmallow enrobed inside? It was mind boggling, and I pondered it as I devoured the last, satisfying bite of our meal.

It’s no wonder that Hatfield’s still holds strong on Jonathan Gold’s list of 101 Best Restaurants in LA. This husband and wife team (Chef and Pastry Chef, respectively) creates intricate dishes that highlight so many seasonal ingredients, often combining a multitude of flavors in new and exciting ways. Some dishes were more amazing than others, and a few just had a bit too much going on for my taste, but overall, I had no complaints about our meal at Hatfield’s. Keep it on your list for a romantic date, special occasion, or cause for celebration!

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Check out Hatfield’s: hatfieldsrestaurant.com

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

See their Yelp reviews here!

Michael Mina – Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

For us, food is an event that can stand completely on its own. So in retrospect, it was really no surprise that for our four-year dating anniversary, we spontaneously decided to hop in the car and drive through the desert to Sin City for a short weekend getaway capped off with a tasting menu dinner at Michelin-starred Michael Mina at the Bellagio.

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The service from being greeted by the hostess and GM to our dedicated waiters (plural!) to the ever-attentive bread and water guy was impeccable. The decor was beautiful and the whole experience felt sophisticated but not snooty, a delicate balance for white tablecloth restaurants of this caliber.

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There is a great-looking a la carte menu that includes luxuries like a caviar selection rolled out on a serving cart and a whole lobe of foie gras roasted and carved table-side, but we had our sights set on doing a tasting menu. Even then, there were two options – the Signature, which features the six courses of the restaurant’s greatest hits, and the Seasonal, which changes from time to time based on what is available. Since it was our first visit, we opted for the Signature which is a steal at $115 per person. We were tempted to do the full wine pairing alongside our tasting menu but decided to each select one of the suggested pairings instead. Just before we received our 2011 Cantina Terlano pinot bianco (Martin’s) and 2012 Dr. L riesling (one of my favorites), we were surprised with champagne to toast our anniversary!

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Bubbly in hand, let’s get started.

Course 1: Domestic Caviar Parfait – alderwood smoked salmon, creme fraiche, shallot potato cake.

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A beautiful tower consisting of layered crispy fried potato, cool and creamy creme fraiche, smoky cured salmon, and a generous dollop of domestic black caviar, this dish was an innovative presentation of a classic flavor combination. I also couldn’t help but appreciate the simple yet elegant little piles of brunoise shallot that garnished the plate.

Course 2: Tartare of Ahi Tuna – asian pear, pine nuts, scotch bonnet infused sesame oil

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Photo-takers beware, this dish is finished table-side. Our waiter was observant, however, and paused so I could take my before and after photos. So kind! We felt it was a sizable portion to be part of a tasting menu; we later saw another table order the a la carte version and ours seemed to be about two-thirds the size! The Asian-inspired flavors were delicious and more reminiscent of a Hawaiian poke than a tartare.

Course 3: Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass – shellfish dumpling, dashi broth

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Possibly the best preparation of Patagonian toothfish I have eaten! The buttery fish was perfectly cooked and unbelievably succulent. The dumpling looked handmade though it was unremarkable compared to the delicate yet flavorful broth. The garnish of mustard frill and shaved radish gave a welcomed freshness to the earthy miso and shiitake.

Course 4: Lobster Pot Pie – seasonal baby vegetables, brandied lobster cream

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This course was hands-down the most filling and I know when winter comes, I’ll be craving its rich and creamy lobster-brandy sauce bathing fingerling potatoes, lobster knuckles, and other hidden treasures beneath a golden and flaky pastry crust. This too was finished table-side as the waiters carved the crust cleanly, making it easier to lift the “lid” and peek at the filling below. My heart started to hurt from the obscene quantity of butter but it was so, so worth all of the rave reviews.

Course 5: American Wagyu Ribeye “Rossini” – hudson valley foie gras, pinot noir reduction

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Perhaps the most exciting part of leaving California is being able to consume the contraband decadence that is foie gras. Though we were warned that this particular morsel would be quite small, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the gorgeous slices of seared rib-eye were garnished with shavings of black summer truffle a la Tournedos Rossini. I don’t recall their asking how we wanted the steak prepared, but when it arrived, we saw that it was perfect — bright red medium-rare/rare with an even, crunchy sear. An excellent dish!

Surprise Pre-Dessert: Mascarpone Cheesecake with Huckleberries and Vanilla Crumble

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In addition to the champagne to start the meal, we were surprised with an extra dessert course, complete with chocolate writing that announced “Happy Anniversary!” The cheesecake was airy and light, just the way I like it, and I enjoyed the huckleberry compote to add a sweet and fruity element.

Course 6: Lincoln’s Candy Bar – peanuts, valrhona chocolate, pretzel

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This course was actually a trio featuring the “candy bar” (an elevated Snickers of sorts), a warm chocolate chip cookie, and a root beer float. The candy bar was sinfully good and I could take or leave the cookie, but what stole the show was the float! I first sipped it through the chocolate “straw” before digging in with a spoon. I only wish I had more room in my stomach to polish off every bite!

We had high expectations from reading online reviews, perusing the menu, and of course, having specifically selected Michael Mina for its one Michelin star rating. Though the tasting menu and service were both impressive, I was most amazed that the quiet, calm, open kitchen delivered such consistent and beautiful dishes. (I work in a mostly-closed kitchen and it can be sheer chaos back there!) Though there are so many high-end dining options in Las Vegas, I definitely recommend trying the Signature menu here if you get the chance!

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Check out Michael Mina: bellagio.com

Bellagio Resort & Casino
3600 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

Clio Restaurant – Boston, MA

Boston, Food Adventures

When we were planning our trip to Boston, we knew we had to pencil in a special dinner at Clio. I’m absolutely fascinated by the crazy food science that molecular gastronomic wizards like Chef Ken Oringer whip up in the kitchen, so Clio was a perfect fit. From the moment we took our seats, our friendly server Katherine led us on a magical journey through ten stunning courses. We had mentioned that we traveled a long way from the land of Foiehibition and would appreciate all the indulgence we could get. They certainly delivered, and I daresay the Chef had at least a little bit of fun with it.

Clio, right at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Ave

Clio, right at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Ave

We decided on the 10-course tasting menu. Here at Clio, the tasting menus are chef’s whim… basically a kaiseki omakase. Some courses hail from their a la carte menu while others are completely new spur-of-the-moment concoctions. The 10-course selection would be broken down into  7 savory courses, 1 cheese course, and 2 desserts. Just be sure to mention any allergies or dietary restrictions… then sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Table Bread

Table Bread

I knew it was going to be a good night when even the table bread was delicious. Thick slices of a rustic loaf with a hard crust and a fluffy middle, a generous dollop of silky whipped butter… I had to resist from filling up before the dishes had even begun!

Amuse Bouche: Foie Gras Mousse

Amuse Bouche: Foie Gras Mousse

The Amuse Bouche: foie gras mousse garnished with cacao nibs and microgreens. Chef did not mess around and started us off with foie right away. The mousse was smooth and not at all gritty. We were excited for our first taste of foie gras in a very, very long time!

Palate Cleanser: Tomato "Martini"

Palate Cleanser: Tomato “Martini”

The Palate Cleanser: tomato water “martini” with caperberry and a tomato puree “popsicle.” The drink itself was super refreshing and playfully decorated with drops of oil presented table-side. What stumped me was just how clear the tomato liquid was! With our palates sufficiently cleansed, we were ready to move onward.

Course 1: Hamachi Toro Sashimi

Course 1: Hamachi Toro Sashimi

Course 1: hamachi toro sashimi – a crudo of yellowtail belly slices topped with crispy pork belly crackling “croutons” and a black truffle vinaigrette… SO GOOD. A dish from Uni (the sushi bar / lounge next door), the balance of the fresh fish, a tart and citrus-y vinaigrette (was that yuzu I detected?), and crispy and decadent pork cracklings made for an excellent first course. This turned out to be one of Martin’s favorites of the night.

Course 2: Live Uni

Course 2: Live Uni

Course 2: live uni from Maine – raw sea urchin with dashi gelee served with a thin spinach wafer. The presentation was stunning, although the wafer didn’t break quite as we expected (or as the chef intended, I’d imagine). It just split in half and fell onto the table. Sad face. Good thing we abide by the 5 second rule!

Course 2: Live Uni (the reveal)

Course 2: Live Uni (the reveal)

Here’s a close-up of the golden uni. If you look really carefully you can spot the flavorful bits of dashi gelee.

Course 3: Foie Gras Torchon

Course 3: Foie Gras Torchon

Course 3: foie gras torchon – torchon topped with bread crumbs and served with pickled rhubarb and a nori croquant. Delicious! This dish, featured on their a la carte menu, really reminded us of how much we missed foie. The richness of the torchon was well-balanced by the tart rhubarb, and the sweet, crunchy crisp added another textural dimension to the dish.

Course 4: Maine Fluke

Course 4: Maine Fluke

Course 4: Maine fluke – butter poached with black lime, umeboshi, fava beans, and shiso relish. It’s no fluke (pun intended), this dish was genius! The buttery white fish coupled well with the acidity of the lime and umeboshi dancing on the palate. We also found it interesting that the shiso relish tasted distinctly of fish sauce (in a good way).

Course 5: Fresh White Asparagus

Course 5: Fresh White Asparagus

Course 5: fresh white asparagus from Southern France. These beauties are among the first of the evanescent three-week-long season… so exclusive that only one case was delivered to Clio’s kitchens. They had beautiful texture and were served with black trumpet mushrooms, foie-infused broth, and a flavorful foam.

Course 6: Foie Gras Laquee

Course 6: Foie Gras Laquee

Course 6: foie gras laquée – seared foie gras with piquillo pepper jam, milk & honey puree, cornichons, topped with grains of paradise and candied rye. This breathtakingly stunning dish had me at hello. The glazed (or per its namesake, lacquered) foie gras was a delicious combination of savory and sweet. Even the garnish was thoughtfully constructed – a crisp made from a rye bread base that was then candied and pulled like taffy. Fascinating!

Course 7: California Squab

Course 7: California Squab

Course 7: California squab with wild rice, charred Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, vanilla caramel, duck confit roulade with a foie gras center. This entree is on their a la carte menu, but the roulade stuffed with foie was made just for us! The squab was sous vide with a beautiful rare scarlet red and a crispy seared-off bottom, and Martin, who had never had wild rice before, enjoyed the long, dark grains paired with the sweet vanilla. Another one of our favorites (but really, it would be so hard to pick just one!).

Cheese #1: Sheep's Milk with Apricot

Cheese #1: Sheep’s Milk with Apricot

The Cheese Course (Cheese #1): Katherine brought out two cheeses. The first one, a hard sheep’s milk cheese paired with apricot, was more to Martin’s taste. It had a strong, aged aroma which contrasted nicely with the honeycomb.

Cheese #2: Soft Cow's Milk Cheese with Raisins

Cheese #2: Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese with Raisins

The Cheese Course (Cheese #2): The other selection was a soft cow’s milk cheese with syrupy golden raisins and a bit of honeycomb. I preferred this one to the former, and I loved the texture of the reconstituted raisins in the sweet, cloying syrup.

Course 9: White Grapefruit Panna Cotta

Course 9: White Grapefruit Panna Cotta

Course 9 (Dessert #1): white grapefruit panna cotta with grapefruit & rose sorbet, sorgum tuille, and candied grapefruit peel. Personally, I’m a bit fan of the tart-bitter notes that naturally accompany white grapefruit so this dessert was perfect for me – refreshing and not too sweet. The tuille had a roasty-toasty flavor reminiscent of a brittle sans nuts. The panna cotta base was creamy, and although the texture was a bit more dense than I am used too, it went well with the cool and light sorbet.

Course 10: Violet Vacherin

Course 10: Violet Vacherin

Course 10 (Dessert #2): Violet Vacherin with violet meringue, lychee creme, moscato gel, chocolate sorbet and edible flower garnish. A relatively new creation by Pastry Chef Monica, this was almost too pretty to eat and I had no idea where to start. There was a lot going on in this dessert (including something in maltodextrin?) so every bite was like a new experience.

Bon Bons

Kumquat Bon Bons

Farewell: dark chocolate covered kumquat bon bons. I had expected more tartness from the kumquat but this was actually quite sweet and the perfect little bite to end the night.

While we were most certainly satisfied with the food, we were also very well taken care of by Katherine. She eloquently described, from memory, every element of each elaborate dish and answered our questions without hesitation. I would not be able to do that without sounding like a rehearsed script, but she was very personable and truly made our experience complete.

The tasting menus are not cheap, but our experience was definitely worth every penny, especially if you enjoy dinner as the main event, as we do. The 10-course adventure left us pleasantly satiated and thoroughly entertained throughout our three-hour dinner. I’m already looking for reasons to end up in Boston so we could return for more!

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Check out Clio Restaurant: cliorestaurant.com

370 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215

See their Yelp reviews here!

Tagine – Beverly Hills, CA [Valentine’s Day 2013]

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

As if the bacon roses weren’t enough, Martin also surprised me on Valentine’s Day by snagging one of the last reservations for dinner at Tagine, a quaint, 10-table Moroccan restaurant in Beverly Hills. I thought he was exaggerating but when we walked through the green and blue facade, I literally counted eight 2-tops and two slightly larger tables made for 3-4 people each. The ambiance was fitting for Valentine’s Day — dim candle lighting, jazzy 20’s music, cozy pillow-covered benches. I was pretty excited (and unsure of what to expect from a restaurant co-owned by Ryan Gosling).

Bubbly

Bubbly

We decided to celebrate with a bit of bubbly – two flutes of Crémant rosé. (By the way, please bear with me with these photos. I was going to forgo them altogether because of how dimly lit the restaurant was, but here are my attempts!)

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

It went wonderfully with the amuse bouche: goat cheese and fig on a spoon, warm savory soup garnished with sliced almonds, and samosa-like rolls. Yum!

Course 1: Mezze

Course 1: Moroccan Mezze

Course 1: Moroccan Mezze – a stone tablet laden with shot glasses containing an assortment of delicious Mediterranean starters. Marinated olives, eggplant puree, hummus, grilled pita, Moroccan spiced beef, and a refreshing cucumber salad. My favorite was definitely the hummus. Homemade hummus is SO much better than any store-bought variety… amazing. A close second was that cucumber salad, a shot glass layered with beets, tomatoes, vinegary cucumbers, lemon sorbet, and topped with a raspberry. The layering of sweet then tart then earthy flavors was really fascinating.

Grand Cru du Potager

Course 2: Grand Cru du Potager

Course 2: Grand Cru du Potager – sautéed seasonal vegetables. Farmer’s market fresh baby zucchini, heirloom carrots, thin asparagus, and a super juicy cherry tomato, all drizzled in a paprika-y, lemon-y sauce. (It was with this meal that I realized how much I love the Moroccan spice palate!)

Course 3: Scallop Bastilla

Course 3: Scallop Bastilla

Course 3: Scallop Bastilla – a light layer of phyllo with scallops, caramelized shallots and brussels sprouts, topped with a honey sauce. “Light layer” is an understatement – the plate arrived with a very prominent disc of crispy, golden phyllo glazed with honey. Dig a little deeper to find the seared scallops and below that, a bed of perfectly seasoned and sautéed brussels sprouts.

Course 4: Black Tiger Shrimp

Course 4: Black Tiger Shrimp

Course 4: Black Tiger Shrimp – herb crusted tiger shrimp, served with sautéed vegetables, Harissa cream sauce and shiitake mushrooms. The shrimp were a tad overcooked but tasted delicious. The sautéed shiitake in the Harissa sauce were an excellent complement to the dish.

Course 5: Sea Bass Tagine

Course 5: Sea Bass Tagine

Course 5: Sea Bass Tagine – roasted pan seared sea bass, served with fingerling potatoes and sauteed mixed peppers, topped off with a lemon sauce. The sea bass was STUNNING – beautifully flaky and buttery. The lemon sauce was light and the touch of acid was perfect for the fish.

Course 6 (I): Baklava

Course 6 (I): Baklava

Course 6: Chocolate Soup – served with vanilla ice cream, baklava, and mint tea. We were served the baklava first, garnished with an orchid. The layers crumbled with a satisfying crunch with each bite.

Course 6 (II): Chocolate Soup

Course 6 (II): Chocolate Soup

Then came the ice cream, over which our server poured the steaming chocolate soup. It was like smooth, creamy hot chocolate meets an Italian affogato. A bit too cloyingly sweet for me, but delicious nonetheless. My only complaint? They ran out of mint tea and I was so looking forward to ending the meal with it… sad face.

Cute, kitschy heart-shaped candles for Valentine's

Cute, kitschy heart-shaped candles for Valentine’s

Overall it was a stellar experience with charming atmosphere and fabulous food. The highlights of the night, for me, were the hummus, the brussels sprouts, the sea bass, and the baklava. Incredible. If you’re looking for a hot spot with a hole-in-the-wall feel and delicious food, I’d highly recommend Tagine. I cannot comment on the authenticity but I can definitely tell you that the spice palate was very enjoyable.

Dear readers, you just might start seeing more Moroccan experiments on this blog…

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Check out Tagine: taginebeverlyhills.com

132 N Robertson Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

See their Yelp reviews here!