Friday, December 31, 2010

A Happy Ad Hoc New Year's Eve to You!

The real reason we were in Napa around the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 was to dine at my favorite Ad Hoc restaurant with long-time friends.  Originally mother-in-law was to join, so brother-in-law generously donated his timeshare Thursday night for the cause.  The indecisive weather covered us with a cap of clouds, a strong sun trying to shine through, and a band of clear sky along the horizon.  It added to the mystery of the last day of 2010.
Hubby needed a drink thirty minutes before our reservation so we took a seat at the bar in Ad Hoc.  He gulped down champagne to start his New Year's Eve, inhaling immediate relaxation.  Then our glamorous friends and their traveling stuffed turtle joined us for dinner.
TJ the Turtle browsing the night's menu
endive, watercress, pear, candied walnut, blue cheese and bacon bit salad
a pile of beef wellington, just foraged chanterelle mushrooms and truffled mashed potatoes
broccolini with hollandaise sauce
Tomme de Recollets, 12 lucky grapes, and pistachio butter on toast 
coconut brittle, tangerine sorbet, fudge brownie on something creamy
Visited some surprised friends on Howell Mountain and drank mapley-sweet chocolaty rum.  At Summit Lake Vineyards joined friends for a game of Wit and Wagers with the adults, then gathered the teenagers to watch the New Year's 2011 ball and large snowflakes fall.
Happy New Year 2011 !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Omakase Morimoto Napa

Met up with my husband when he finished work on Thursday.  A zippy trip through San Francisco and up to Napa landed us on-time for dinner reservations at Morimoto Napa.  This is the only one of Masaharu Morimoto's restaurants that he owns without investors.  Perhaps the chef will retire to Napa--not a bad idea.
Being our first time there (the restaurant opened back in August 2010), went with the variety of the Omakase.  Omakase is Japanese for telling the chef "it's up to you"--i.e. chef's choice.  Morimoto is a great chef with whom to leave your Japanese meal decision.
Started with the bluefin tuna tartare (toro).  Using the metal spatula scooped the toro and added one of the six accompaniments, deliciously sustainable and beautiful.
Greater Amberjack
Greater Amberjack (kanpachi) came next.  It was ever so slightly cooked, virtually raw and very edible (this means something coming from someone not initially adventurous with sushi).
A temperately hot (melted butter with garlic over a candle) sauce served fondue-style called bagna cauda (an idea from northern Italy) arrived.
Based on the premise of being "steamed in a teacup," a chawan mushi egg custard with duck went down smoothly on the cold night.
We spoke with three tables on either side of us.  One couple visited from San Diego, another from Seattle, the third from Oakland.  The San Diego couple offered us free tasting coupons to Bounty Hunter.  The Seattle couple swapped "good eats" stories.  He strongly suggested the next time I visit my brother in Seattle to go to Paseo and order the pork sandwich.  Really, all were simply adding to the boisterous atmosphere of Morimoto.
The palate cleanser of kombu green tea did very little but salt my palate a bit, though the presentation was cute.
Artistically, carefully created sushi laid out was the best tasting and formed sushi consumed.  Next time at Morimoto I'll order simply the superb sushi.  The soy sauce is made in-house.
Our main course of surf, turf and turf included lobster balanced with cream, beef and pork belly.  The cream sauce for the lobster made something already wonderful over-the-top appetizing.
Dessert of frozen Japanese apricot ume and toasted rice mousse came with pomegranate sorbet and toasted rice bran shortbread.  With the calorie count ratcheting up, didn't think it necessary to finish the half-spheres of frozen mousse.  The restaurant mills their own rice, so instead of throwing out the rice bran, they use it well in the crisp shortbread.
Not sure when we'll be back to dine at Morimoto, so we ordered the donuts for dessert, too.  They were quite a treat.  
Our neighboring table couldn't finish their ice cream sandwiches, and offered us a taste.  The trio included (left to right) dark chocolate with tangerine, peanut butter milk chocolate, and the girls' favorite kaffir lime with white chocolate sandwich.
Morimoto opening a restaurant in Napa saved us a flight to Philadelphia, PA.  We've admired him from afar on Iron Chef Japan.  It will be lovely to see him in his Napa restaurant in the future.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Afternoon Tea

Drove Friday night to my hometown to host a table at the Eighth Annual United Methodist Womens' Advent Tea where 100% of the proceeds go toward charitable endeavors.  It takes 45 volunteers to serve up to 150 guests.  Though I was a little fuzzy on what I was suppose to do (it was my first time hosting a table for this event), I learned quite a bit about serving a huge group of people a wonderful tea.
At 8 a.m. I showed up ready to set-up my 8' long table for 8 people.  Knowing that my tablecloth was dusty rose, it was interesting to walk into a room filled with red and green.  My consolation was that one of the Advent candles is pink:  my table was not necessarily Christmas-y, though it was a nice afternoon tea table.  
The room looked so beautiful; and reflected the time, effort, energy and love that came from all the volunteers.  It is a wonderful event, and an unbelievable amount of work.
1.)  Tables are set-up (by helpful husbands) and set (by assigned table hosts) on Thursday.
2.)  A volunteer made recipe cards of items served at the tea for every guest, and every volunteer, to keep as take-home gifts (with color-coordinated decorative bands).
3.)  Two women cleaned and prepared fruit and then hand-placed fruit salad into table-specific bowls/plates for the first course.
4.)  A team of volunteers cleaned dishes all day long.  Another team of volunteers helped prepare and plate tea sandwiches and desserts.  Each sandwich-making volunteer brought 175 tea sandwiches; and each dessert maker brought 175 of their individual dessert.  (bright idea:  assemble desserts onsite to prevent marring cute treats)
5.)  Second course was four tea sandwiches per person.
6.)  Third, a blueberry orange scone (4 volunteer scone makers) with cream and lemon/orange curd.
7.)  Finally four small desserts delighted guests.  Decaffeinated Earl Grey tea was served before, during and after every course.
8.)  After guests from the 11 a.m. first seating vacated, the table hosts reset their tables for the 2 p.m. second seating, and the process started again!
9.)  The Grace of "Silent Night" was sung by the entire gathering to begin each tea.
I paid attention to the proceedings as I wished to recreate this event where I live, however it's too large an undertaking.  Mom's under the impression it might not be as successful in the Bay Area.  It's too bad, because it's a lovely way to begin the Advent season.  Our version apparently is the "Ladies' Christmas Dinner," which is a dinner for over 100 women in a restaurant.
This large community event will likely morph into an intimate afternoon tea for a dozen as a fundraiser.  We'll have to keep going home to enjoy the largest afternoon tea I've experienced.