Thursday, November 08, 2007

"All sides please, we're really interested in dessert"

What brave souls (or crazy by other people's standards) would go to a restaurant run by Tom Colicchio, celebrated culinary figure and host of TV's "Top Chef" program, and in response to "What would you like to order?" say, "All sides please, we're really interested in dessert". Alright, alright, I exaggerate but it almost went down like that. We shared an entree and ordered not 1, not 2, not 3 but FOUR sides! Yes, four sides. Here's our story...

Me and a friend of mine went to dinner at Craft in Los Angeles and just had a ball. We had originally thought we'd each order an entree, share an appetizer and get a few sides before dessert. But in the excitement, we forewent the entrees since the sides were so tantalizing. And thank goodness that we decided to go that way because before our first side/appetizer came, something straight out of The French Laundry playbook came into play...our first "compliments of the chef"...
Amuse Bouche of cured fish and micro greens
This was a cured fish (sorry I don't remember) with a citrusy sauce and greens. My girlfriend, wary of fish - especially raw fish, skipped the fish tasting and just had the sauce. It was nice - but it didn't blow me away. Being that I LOVE sushi, maybe I'm a little more biased, but for craft - it was good. But who am I to complain about something that comes compliments of the chef?! This compliment came as palette teaser and not meant to be like sushi and so based on that, I say it worked.

Ah - onto the Peekytoe Crab & Sweet Corn and Foie Gras, Quince & Pistachio
Peekytoe Crab & Sweet Corn and Foie Fras
This was sooo good! Oh that Peekytoe Crab reminded me of a seafood casserole I had when I was a kid, that unfortunately, I have not been able to find a decent matching recipe for. And of course, the Foie Gras. Oh - wish I didn't like it so much because the serving at Craft is amazingly large for an order of Roasted Foie Gras. I was in heaven, espeically since I had it all to myself because my girlfriend just couldn't eat all that fatty goodness, though, she did like the candied pistachios adorning the foie gras.

Hen of the Woods mushrooms side (AKA Maitke Mushrooms)
Hen of the Woods
Oh - when I first had this at Craft, Las Vegas, I was in heaven. My husband, who absolutely HATES mushrooms, looked at the mushrooms in disgust. But I absolutely LOVED them and told my girlfriend she just had to try it! So she did and loved them. As you can see, these mushrooms are huge! I love them because the leaf like stems get crunchy during the cooking while the meatier base is so full of flavor. I could just eat a few of these mushrooms as my entree really. (well, we kinda did)

Oh no, I am missing a pic should rest our Thanksgiving side of the nite, White Sweet Potato & Marshmallow...

Oh - this was a heavenly creation. It sent memories of thanksgiving and camping through my head. The use of white sweet potato made it surprisingly lighter than I expected and the toasted melted layer of marshmallow at the top was heaven to my taste buds. My friend had to stop after a while, said it was a bit sweet for her but she knew this my my kind of dish. I would like to try to replicate this dish using the lighter sweet potato...hopefully in time for this Thanksgiving.

The one entree we ordered was the Hawaiian Blue Prawns with Lemon Verbena...
Hawaiian Blue Prawns & Lemon Verbena
We both shared this dish and both agreed, we won't be ordering it again. Not that it didn't taste good but the flavor implied more of just a garlic shrimp than of something that contained any lemon in it. "Where's the lemon in this? Where's that yummy lemon verbena taste that we love?" My friend is a lemon lovah and she was so looking forward to this and was so let down.

On to desserts!

First we had the Tom's take on a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Peanut Butter Cup with Caramel Gelato
Peanut Butter Cup with Caramel Gelato
It was nice and interesting...but if you are a Reese's Peanut Butter cup fan (like I am) it's just okay. There is peanut butter in the chocolate disk you see on the right hand side that had a smooth texture with a crisp chocolate crust. It was good - but certainly not better than the candy. The salt was mainly in the crust which is, I think, the complete opposite of a Reese's Peanut Butter cup (most of that salt taste is in the peanut butter from what I've observed). But hey, that's just me and I'm no celebrity chef.

Next: Glazed Donuts with Spice Pear Jam...
Glazed Donuts with Spice Pear Jam, Coffee Custard and Chocolate Pudding
I was trying to avoid drinking caffeine and so was my friend, but I HIGHLY recommend getting caffeinated coffee with this baby. The glaze on the donuts is not your normal glaze. It felt a little tangy and I thought that was a nice touch. The colorful touches to the plate were very interesting. The Pear Jam my friend loved. The chocolate "pudding" was more like a silky yummy ball of chocolate that we liked to eat alone and the greenish swirl was some kind of coffee bean mousse, it was great...but really needed coffee to finish this off which is probably the expectation of the chef because of course, it's meant to be coffee and donuts! This dish was just a lot of fun.

The Ice Cream Machine of Doom!"...the most anticipated dish of the evening, Maple Bacon Ice Cream...
Maple Bacon Ice Cream
I have a bad habit of not wanting to eat dessert before my meal, or even WITH my meal. In this case, the habit is a good thing to have been observed. This dish was not as we had expected. My girlfriend, after her second bite, did not touch it for the rest of the evening. I, on the other hand, didn't think it was too bad until the big chunk of bacon I was left chewing. I would have liked it more if the bacon bits were just that, BITS. I think the ice cream could have been sweeter to offset the salty of the bacon, but I think because it was a little on the lighter side, the bacon took over and then it was all over for us. Too bad, I wanted to give Tom a thumbs up for his Iron Chef like creation using the Ice Cream Machine of Doom but I just couldn't. But I have to thank him for giving us a chance to taste such a creation that I would otherwise only watch on TV since I do not have an ice cream maker of my own.

Just when we thought we were full...more compliments of the chef! Tiny little macaroons and chocolate covered toffee with nuts. Always yum-e...

And last but not least, a spiced muffin to boot, packed and ready for us to take home. Again, compliments of the chef.
Compliments of the Chef

Ahh - so full by this time, we were happy to see the packed the muffin to go and happily left our table. Though, not everything was what we thought or satisfied our individual tasting palettes, we were none-the-less entertained and very happy. We love a chef who is willing to put all kinds of interesting things out there for us to try (& give us so many complimentary things!). Craft's menu plays to our side-lovin' foodie personalities and we are already hoping to come back to Craft to try the plethora of other sides available. Though, we're bringing more people next time so we can order more stuff! LOL.

p.s. Our dinner of 2 was meant to be 3 but unfortuantely, one of our lot came down with food poinsoning the day before. So sorry Rokes! We hope you enjoyed this post and will be able to come with us next time. :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Morimoto, my hero

I was out to dinner with a very good friend of mine when the topic of the Morimoto (a celebrated chef from Japan's hit show Iron Chef) signing at Newport's Sur La Table last month came up. I wrote about what Morimoto had said to me when I was at the signing about a restaurant in Hawaii opening up but I reserved a post about the signing until I could get the pictures out of my phone. Yes, that's right - I FORGOT MY CAMERA when rushing off to the signing and had to resort to my camera phone. So I apologize for the quality of the pics, but at least I got pics.

When I arrived there, I walked in the store to inquire about the signing. I saw the poster on the sidewalk and knew it was happening but didn't know the logistics.
Autographed poster advertising Morimoto signing
I've never done this kind of thing before and Morimoto was going to be the first celebrity chef I had ever met in a signing! I had the privilege of meeting Morimoto at his New York restaurant when me and my husband were on our honeymoon a year back and that was awesome! We even got to take a picture with him! For the signing, I also brought a copy of the picture with me in hopes of having him sign it.

I walked up to the counter asking for a book and also asking about the signing logistics. The clerk replied that they'd probably start sooner since Morimoto had arrived early anticipating traffic. I was like, "he's here?!" (like a star struck idiot) And she replied, "Yeah, don't you see him back there? He's shopping!" LOL - and to my surprise, there he was, in shorts a t-shirt and the signature pony tail. I couldn't believe it. There were some people back there pretending to be shopping trying to get close to him but I could not brave doing the same thing. I just paid for my book, thanked the clerk and took my place in line.

I was about the 10th person in line.
Newport Sur La Table Book Signing - Morimoto
I was starting to get nervous. He had since changed from the shorts and t-shirt into a green kimono, same one from a page in his book - pretty cool! Anyway - I really didn't have much to say because I was pretty star struck. I just smiled and stared in awe at him until the woman said, "would you like a picture with him?" and I obliged. It wasn't until he saw the picture of me and my husband with him that I tucked into my book (sneaky!) that we actually began to converse. He looked at me after looking at the picture almost asking 'is that me?' (jokingly of course) I explained to him, or rather his publicist about our honeymoon visit to his restaurant. He laughed, drew a mustache on his face (omg!) and then signed it. As always, he is such the comedian. Soon we got talking about how I was from Hawaii and he mentioned that he'll be opening a restaurant in Oahu soon. I asked excitedly, "how soon?!" and he replied, "May...unofficial...but May." Wow - Morimoto just told me he'd be opening up a restaurant...little ole me! I know it's something so simple and other people are like, "whatever" but dang - I was just super excited. I thanked him in my best Japanese (arigato-gozaimasu) and did this awkward half bow and practically ran out of the store out of embarrassment. I'm an idiot, but that's besides the point. I had just met Morimoto and it was one of the best culinary experiences of my life.

Morimoto signing my book 2

Signed Poster outside of Sur La Table in Newport

p.s. Thanks J for telling me about the signing! I wouldn't have gotten to see him if it weren't for your heads up. Thanks!