Friday, July 31, 2015

Benu Restaurant San Francisco, CA

photos and descriptions for Kim:

My husband turned 45 years old, so we made our way to Benu in San Francisco, California. This is California's fourth 3-Michelin Star Restaurant. Korean Corey Lee, chef/owner, is a creative genius.
We started with "small delicacies," that lasted over an hour and a half. (starting at top and moving left to right)
1. Caviar with winter melon and chicken cream
2./3. Mackerel with lotus leaf and pickled plum / Tomato seasoned with plum sauce
4. Grilled sea snail with citrus and chive petals
5./6. Cured unlaid hen egg with bacon and lily bulb / Acorn black truffle Imberico ham Parmesan pickled red onion
7. Oyster with pork belly and kimchi
8./9. Wild bamboo fungi stuffed with scallop and butter / Fried okra with salted shrimp and shrimp roe
Traditionally, Korean meals were served with brass chopsticks/spoons. Thus the meal began with a beautifully hand-hammered brass charger and brass flatware.
 10. Eel taco
Finally at 9:00pm we started with our meal:
11. Thousand-year-old quail egg, potage, ginger
Chef notes in his new book "Benu" that if this egg comes back untouched, he knows that this restaurant isn't for that diner. He has a point. This restaurant isn't for everyone, it does take a very specific type of diner to thoroughly enjoy this meal.
12. Caramelized anchovy with potato salad
13. Cucumber, sesame, black truffle (served with black truffle bun and black truffle puree with black truffles--I could eat these all day.)
14. Foie gras xiao long bao
14b. Sea cucumber stuffed with shrimp, fermented pepper, cucumber (supplement, for my husband)
15. Steamed hen, abalone, lettuce, black trumpet mushroom
16. Beef rib, tomato condiment, charred scallion
17. Porridge, “shark fin,” dungeness crab, Jinhua ham
18. Shaved milk and honey (photos out of order . . . see below, then back up)
21. Dark chocolate with seeds and marshmallows, The End.
19. Coconut, almond, strawberry
20. Date cake with vanilla icing (supplement for my husband) out of a music box
My husband felt loved because I know that he "suffers" from not having anymore aged wine. I ordered him some wine with age to make up for it: 1989 Dominus and a 1988 Sauterne (though that wasn't served so that we could have a nice Grüner Veltliner). The evening was a total success, all the way around. The four diners were ecstatic, the kitchen was creative, and the service people were kind. 

Our fellow diner went to culinary school. He noted, "I didn't learn any of this in culinary school." True, this food comes from the heart (wanting to share), and mind (a melding of left and right brain). It is a definite gift to be able to put this kind of knowledge, taste and energy on a plate.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charity Auction Dinner

When faced with an Auction theme "An Evening in Paris" to benefit a local church/school, I thought, "What if my friend Chef Dave Cruz came down from Napa (California) to cook dinner?" Called up another friend, who has a great house for entertaining, and asked if she'd like to co-host a dinner with me. Neither of us knew the full extent of what we were getting ourselves into. It was a lot of work, but worth it.
Photo: François Mori/AP Photo
Part of the fun, and issue, was the theme for the dinner: Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. My wedding china is based on the Loire Valley, which is considered France's valley of kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace of Versailles isn't too far away, so Marie's Petit Trianon was an ideal theme for the dinner in mind. Queen casual.

The co-host and I mixed and mingled our china, silverware and glass sets. Each of six courses had their own setting. This caused hundreds of pieces that needed washing, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend going this route again. Instead, rent the place settings, go with fewer courses or hire help.
First course: crudités vegetables with 'green goddess' dressing. Also, an Asian-dressed watermelon and shrimp appetizer were served in the bar area with the co-host's grandmother's china. Two French Champagnes were served: Henriot Rose Champagne along with H. Goutorbe Rose Champagne. The guests liked the fruitier H. Goutorbe better. 
The second course was served at the table. Chef prepared a beet, leek, frisée and hazelnut salad. Edible flowers were gathered from the co-host's garden. This was paired with a mixed drink the co-host's husband devised that we called "Cheers to 1774," the year Marie Antoinette was gifted Le Petit Trianon by her husband.
Third course was sea bass wrapped in a French Prosciutto-style ham on top of yellow corn and red pepper. This was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley: Comte LaFond 2013 Sancerre. My favorite food and wine pairing of the evening, the balance and acid of the wine complimented the sea bass so nicely.
Our entree for the evening was Rib Eye beef, with potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms. Coupled with a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley: Domaine Grosbois Chinon 2011 Gabare. The beef melted in one's mouth, the chef was magic.
For the cheese course we served the co-host's 2009 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes with Roquefort, and a triple creme cheese called Pierre Robert Rouzaire. While shopping for the cheese, we were told that it's becoming increasingly difficult to acquire French cheese in the US. I loved this food and wine pairing, but most guests were becoming quite full. The antique Canton Famille Rose porcelain plates from china added to the luxury of the evening.
I made a lemon basil palate cleanser from lemons and basil from the co-host's garden.
Finally, the sixth course of dessert was strawberries, crunch and coconut ice cream. The co-host made chocolate truffles, which the guests thoroughly enjoyed. We served percolated coffee or Tea Forte to the 10 guests and 5 hosts. The chef, who'd been working from 8:00am to 10:00pm (plus 2 hours of driving on both ends), gave a few words; then we drove the sated guests home with "Queen's Honey" soap and a breakfast bread to enjoy the next morning, Father's Day. We succeeded in doing a modern version of a dinner Marie Antoinette would have at her private Petit Trianon.
Napkins that matched the wedding china were made on a sewing machine 
especially for the occasion. Wrapped soap became place cards.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Brix Restaurant

Talk about blessings in disguise. Our friends wanted to take my husband out for his birthday and suggested Bottega in Yountville. I contacted an acquaintance, James Darden, on Facebook to ask him if he could help us obtain a reservation, as he works there. Instead of responding, "sorry, can't help you," he simply 'unfriended' me. This seemed a rude thing to do, as the friend hosting us said, "Food is only as good as the people."
Lucky, lucky us, our chef friend Dave Cruz [who’s currently working as the Head Chef at Brix Restaurant located at 7377 St. Helena Hwy in Napa, CA  94558, just north of Yountville--(707) 944-2749] was excited to host us for dinner. It was easy for us to obtain reservations on, for the time we wished. When we arrived Saturday evening we had a lovely table on the corner of the patio. The wedding in the distance looked ideal and beautiful; the weather perfect.

Chef Cruz sent out a wonderful selection that pleased our palates. It was beyond expectations, simply a relaxing, well decorated and manicured place to have a meal. A friend once commented that Brix was her parent's favorite place to eat, and they would go there each time they were in town. I don't have to wonder why anymore. Brix is sensational.
figs with manchego
polenta with pesto
pork belly
salmon tartar
sweet and sour chicken wings
flat bread
butter lettuce salad
beef short ribs
beef rib eye with smashed marble potatoes
apricot beignets and salted caramel ice cream bars
chocolate layer cake