April 11, 2007

What happened in Vegas

Emily and I went to Vegas last weekend on rather short notice. We had been meaning to go there to visit friends and see the sights before everybody I knew scattered around the country. We also wanted to check out a restaurant or two, see a show, and get some pictures of the strip. Sally got us some really good seats for Mystère (it helps to know people).

When we got in Friday, after going to the office, we went to a nearby mexican place, Viva Michoacan, to have a late lunch. That night we went to Bouchon, which was very disappointing. Since we had a late lunch, we weren't very hungry and ordered the petit plateau. The oysters were good, but everything else was badly overcooked (shrimp, mussels, and lobster). Friends whose taste I trust do like the place, so maybe they were just having an off night. I remember liking the food there when I lived in Vegas, but that was a few years ago.

Saturday we went to a Cuban restaurant (Cool Place cuban cafe), which was quite good. I wanted to see if their Tequila Chicken was as good as I remembered and get more data so I could reproduce the dish. That night, we went to Mesa Grill. We split three appetizers, so we could get a variety of dishes. My favorite was a tuna tartar dish with a habanero sauce. Emily liked the Queso Fundido best (chèvre was involved), and the quesadilla was also good, but I would have made a few changes. After that, we went to see Mystère. A good friend, Sally, got us excellent seats, right up front. And the show was very good, as usual. (We refuse to go to musicals in Vegas - they tend to cut half of the material out of them.)

For lunch Sunday, we went to Mon Ami Gabi. There was a wait for the patio, and we were hungry, so we ate inside. I didn't expect much from previous experience. I almost got the croque monsieur (one of my favorites), but decided to try the steak sandwich after grilling the waiter (pun intended) - the meat was medium rare, as promised, but it seemed to lack flavor, was under-seasoned, and the jus was unimpressive (pale yellow with little flavor).

Sunday night, we had Easter dinner with the Macy's and Jamie. It was a lot of fun, steak for all and kids running around looking for easter eggs.

On Monday, we finished up our sightseeing. We went to Supermex for lunch, another lunchtime hangout from my days in Vegas. This place inspired my chile verde, and I wanted to try theirs again. It was good and the meat was very tender, but I prefer mine. (I don't think they used any tomatillos - even though they have a nice tomatillo salsa, they didn't roast the peppers, the sauce was thinner, and there was less of it.)

Vegas was never my thing, although I've said that it isn't bad to visit occasionally. It was a good trip, but I don't think I'll be heading back that way. Many of my friends are leaving, we've already got our pictures - and, given the state of the restaurants, there really isn't anything there for me. Perhaps we'll head back up to Oregon or visit Billy in San Diego next.

April 03, 2007

French Laundry

Last night Emily and I dined at French Laundry with Rob and Traci. It was definitely the best meal I've ever had, and probably the best I will have. The company was great, the service was excellent, and food was perfect.

The reservations were for 5:30 pm, we arrived on time and left around 9:15 pm. By the end of the meal, the first few courses were a pleasant memory. (And, consequently, this will be a long post.)

The Menu

They started us off with gougeres and their famous salmon ice cream cones. (Salmon on top, crème fraîche inside and a savory cone.)

The first course was "Oysters and Pearls," a Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca and Point Reyes Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar.

Then some cute loaves bread were delivered, with two different styles of butter. (And butter baked inside.) They made sure to inform us that the breads were all from the Bouchon Bakery down the street. (Emily has some pictures of that, too.)

For the salad course, most of us got a salad of glazed sunchokes and navel orange suprêmes. (Emily's was served without pine nuts.)

I opted for the foie gras dish, which came with an assortment of sea salts and brioche.

For the first fish coarse, we had a choice between a sea urchin dish and a Japanese Suzuki (some kind of sea bass, I believe). Both were excellent.

The "gratin" under the sea urchin was one of the best sauces of the meal, and the clear ginger sauce around the peas was also amazing. I'd love to have the recipes for both, maybe if I wrote the chef...

The second fish course was a main lobster tail, poached in butter, with an asparagus/serrano ham "omelette" (more of a roulade) and a tarragon coulis.

The first meat course was milk-fed chicken, with a truffled sauce inside, swiss chard, and Michigan cherries. The meat was very tender and flavorful; the cherries were perfect.

Emily got an off-the-menu duck dish, which was also quite good, but I didn't quite catch the full description.

For the second meat course, we had a choice between a lamb and beef dish. The lamb dish had to be ordered for two, so both couples got it. It included three different cuts of lamb, artichoke, a "garlic pudding," and a rosemary jus. I think the reddish lump was the garlic pudding, but it had a lovely roasted red pepper taste that made more of an impression than the garlic.

The cheese course had a washed-rind cow's milk cheese. The flavor kinda reminded me of Italian Fontina. It was accompanied by poached onions and some greens.

The first dessert course was a rhubarb sorbet.
Emily got a mango sherbet on something resembling angel food cake for her first dessert course. (Again, it was off the menu, so I'm not exactly sure what it contained.)

We had a perfect espresso. The cup was narrow and tall, which caused a nice, thick layer of crema on top.

For the second dessert course, I had a green tea and white chocolate dish with a passion fruit jelly and a passion fruit foam. The foam was quite amazing, the flavor way more intense than I'd expected.

Emily had the Baked Alaska with coconut ice cream, persian lime, pound cake, and compressed pineapple.

"Mignardises" - French for assault by desserts. The ladies were given a small Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, the gentlemen got a meyer lemon pot de crème. Then they gave us roasted macadamia nuts coated in chocolate, and a orange tuile.

Then they came around with a tray of truffles. About six varieties, we were encouraged to choose whatever we wanted, but were so full that we only went with 2-3. (I chose coffee and banana ones, the others were caramel, praline, peanut butter, and raspberry.)

Finally they gave us some shortbread as a parting gift.

And, the laundry bill...

April 02, 2007

Braised Oxtail

One last fancy dinner before Emily is spoiled for good (we're going to French Laundry tonight). For this one I use Zuni Cafés braised oxtail recipe, my parmesan mashed potatoes, and some glazed baby carrots (per Keller's instructions for glazing vegetables). The inspiration for this meal was the carrots - I've seen pictures of baby carrots prepared this way, saw some in the farmer's market, and had to try it. There is a little bit of a disconnect between the potatoes (homey) and the carrots (fussy/cheffy). Turned potatoes would have matched better visually, but Emily wanted my mashed ones, and the cheese goes well with the rest of the dish anyway.