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Last week I parted with Da Vinci restaurant in Beverly Hills. Why? I’ll get to that, but first I want to tell you what I was making there during the last few days, even hours…

Jason Fullilove, the executive chef and my mentor, makes one of the best breads I’ve had in my life. First and foremost, his creations remind me of home. Home as in Poland. I don’t know if it’s the water or the quality of grain (must be either one as those are the main components of any bread) in European breads that make them so voluptuous and fragrant. Each loaf slides out of the oven dressed in that brilliant crust all around while it’s slightly chewy yet airy, and perfectly delectable on the inside.

Don’t even think for a second that I am comparing those bakers’ diamonds to the stuff you normally find in your grocery store in America. Those pre-sliced, cotton-like, packed with artificial ingredients and god-knows-what-other-crap “breads” frankly don’t even deserve to be called that. Ask Michael Pollan.

If you ever tasted a homemade bread, especially the French style bread, you get my blues. You hear my music. You understand also why so desperately I wanted to master the skill of making that perfect loaf. Chef Fullilove granted me the space for the exercise. He also crumbled some of his secrets before me. The last few days that I worked at Da Vinci I was making breads. Lots of them. Breads with dates. Dill rolls. Whole-wheat loaves. The most luscious, aromatic, fluffy and almost creamy Focaccia bread with Olives.

These dorky photos, taken with Jason’s iphone, don’t even come close to the true beauty resting on those sheet-pans. Nonetheless, have a glimpse…

Oh, my dear Zeus and the rest of the Olympian gods that must have looked after me from the top of their holy mountain. Between the two languages that I use fluently on a regular basis there are not enough words to express the hedonistic moment of ecstasy that electrified my entire body upon the first taste of that Focaccia. My whole life flashed in front of my eyes in a form of movie clips as well as cartoonish clip-arts, and I saw a light in the end of a tunnel…

AM I IN HEAVEN NOW?

But I was still alive. Though I could not comprehend that I was given a chance to taste such delicacies on this Earth still.

Ok, I am not quite trying to toot my own horn here. This bread was made with a close supervision of the chef and his sous-chef Nichole. Herself, she can whip those babies out in the middle of the night, blind-folded and with a glass of Dirty Martini in one hand, if she chose to. However, it was me who lost her virginity that day, and the Angels Choirs sang to announce my becoming… of a bread maker.

My appetite only grew from here. The following day I arrived at the restaurant and from the door I screamed to the chef:

CAN I MAKE BREAD TODAY????

Thanks to my untamed enthusiasm, I was entrusted with making butter rolls. And a few hours later yet another success! I was on the roll, and hell yes, pun intended!

I know you’re on the edge of getting grossed out by all the sugar-coated descriptions of my personal glory, but wait till you see what I did with those puffy buns of buttery euphoria… I turned it into authentic, very realistic, explosive, steamy and moaning FOOD PORN…

Just imagine the taste of this home-roasted and juicy turkey along with voluptuous avocado, sun-ripened tomato and lots of sweet roasted garlic squeezed in between two legs of that tanned and muscular Butter Roll…

I’ll leave you with that image for a moment.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s also my definition of Lunch With A Happy Ending!

Aaaand back to reality. A few days ago an article on LA Eater made chef Fullilove’s departure from Da Vinci public. Allow me to add my three pennies to the story.

What led to chef’s exit were months of his struggle with the circumstances of this troubled Beverly Hills eatery. The owners’ dearth of experience in running a high-end restaurant became obvious to most parties involved early on. Additionally, the lack of true management only expedited the venue’s fall despite the executive chef’s tireless efforts to promote Da Vinci and attract real enthusiasts of culinary artistry with his extraordinary creations.

I think it says volumes that three other staff members walked away along with their chef, myself included.

Without looking any deeper into the ugly eyes of the monster, know that I deeply cherish the days I spent at the chef Fullilove’s side in that kitchen for I have witnessed and tasted the fruit of his labor. I was lucky enough to observe him at work, and to be so generously offered his secrets and his knowledge in general. Yes, I have learnt a ton. I have enriched my culinary vocabulary and expanded my kitchen horizons. I was taught cooking techniques I only had heard about before. I was given a place to experiment and exercise my passion.

It has nothing to do with respect, but for all the above I am grateful even to the (still) owners for making the space available to me as well.

Chef Jason, I thank YOU! And I look forward to the day (in the near future I hope) when your beautiful food is accessible to public again.

I could answer this with two words. OK, I will.

TASTING MENU.

Most self-respecting restaurants of higher caliber offer their patrons an opportunity to ride a roller-coaster of flavors, textures, colors, and aromas in the form of a tasting menu. Don’t even bother so much as glancing at it, however, if you only have one little hour for your meal. Exploring a Tasting Menu is like buying an open plane ticket to a secret destination without even having to pack so much as a change of underwear. Depending on the venue and the creativity of their chef, there may be five, eight, or even ten courses on those pre-set menus.

With all the cooking I do at home, and thanks to its variety, we  seldom feel the urge to eat out. There are many benefits to living off of self-made meals–from one’s finances (we’re saving a shit load of money each month), to comfort, health, and convenience and –last but not least by any measure– a reduced carbon foot print. Nonetheless, once in a blue moon, when you’re PMS-ing (girls AND boys), when you’re celebrating an occasion or a lack their of, when you get some ice-cream money from your granny, or when you are simply in the mood for an adventure, then treat your very self to a Tasting Menu at a good restaurant. Go ahead and let the chef impress you. Allow the best chefs in town to show off for YOU. Let them showcase their skills and various techniques they’ve been mastering over the years for you and only you!

I must warn you however. The experience is so highly thrilling and satisfying, you may get addicted. You’ll spend about 3 hours at the table, but time will no longer matter. You’ll be mesmerized, smitten, shocked, surprised more than once, maybe even disappointed for just a second only to be blown away with the next dish. Pair the food with wine for an extra buck (or bucket!) and land on your imaginary private island called HEAVEN.

It’s like a drug, and you’ll want to keep flying back, higher and higher. Don’t. Do not throw your money left and right. Be smart about it. Keep it special so the magic doesn’t wear off.

Prices vary from one place to another. With my Jason, we’ve eaten at those where once I saw the bill I went blind for about 24 hours straight. We’ve also eaten in places with incredible food for just a fraction of the others’ price tag. I am incredibly excited to say that all of you here in LA, as well as those willing to travel, can take such a culinary journey for a mere 50 smackers a head at Da Vinci restaurant in Beverly Hills, the very one and only where yours truly is busy cutting her teeth.

Here are just a few examples of the true pieces of art that happen to also be edible, all creation of the executive chef Jason Fullilove. All photos were taken by–coincidentally–my fellow Pole, Monik Schiller.

 

Fried Artichokes

 

 

Foie Gras Terrine

 

 

Heirloom Beet Salad

 

 

Pan-Roasted Salmon

 

 

Kobe Hanger Steak

 

 

Squid Ink Linguini

 

Have I mentioned $50 for a 5-course meal, each one coming with two options to choose from? Yes! Fifty dollars is all it takes. For another $30 you will be offered a different wine to go with each meal.

What are you waiting for? Call this number (310) 888-0090 and make a reservation at Da Vinci (9737 S. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills). I’ll be there today through Saturday and promise not to mess up your salad!

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