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November 17, 2010 in BITE ME | Tags: Bravo TV, chef, Desert Rose, dessert, Jason, Jason Fullilove, kitchen, Los Angeles, Los Feliz, Mediterranean cuisine, Seth Caro, tasting, Tasting Menu, Test Kitchen, Top Chef Pastry, vegan, wine pairing | Leave a comment
Months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, two days of hard work, and now it’s all over with. My two days at Test Kitchen with chefs Jason Fullilove and Seth Caro were not only educational, thrilling and satisfying on so many levels, but also those two days in the freezing kitchen (an oxymoron, true nonetheless!) turned simply into a big family event.
There was an army of us helping chef Fullilove present his big guns, his culinary creations. Despite the stress and long hours with no food (the cobbler’s children walk barefoot) there was a sense of camaraderie and thrill among all of us. When I first saw the menu penned by Jason Fullilove I thought out loud:
HE’S SUCH A SHOWOFF!
…only to hide my intimidation with the dishes he had put together for his Test Kitchen stint. Take a glance at what we served and drool with compassion:
Black Rice Beignets w/ Goeduck & Sea Urchin Crudo, Cherignola Olive Powder, Salmorigio Aoili, Lemon Confit
Pear Ravioli, Telaggio Cheese, Marcona Almonds and Fresh Cardamom
Barramundi, Black Octopus Sausage, Smoked Lobster Nage, Aerated Sorghum Seeds
Ras Al Hanuot Spiced Lamb Belly, Fresh Chick Pea Puree, Heirloom Carrots, Salsify
Warm Gianduja Cake, Butternut Squash Pudding, Pear Yokan and Fenugreek Ice Cream
Knowing the Los Angeles market and its ever growing demand for vegan options Chef Fullilove also served such bites ala carte. One of the biggest hits of the night was vegan pink pasta, cutting which was a floury task just hours prior:
The desserts, conceptualized and executed by chef Seth Caro (a recent contestant of Bravo’s “Top Chef Pastry”), were an artistic exposition in their own right. I was lucky to observe and participate in the process of their creation, never anticipating the final result to be that electrifying to my palette.
Jason, my better half, came to the restaurant for the tasting along with our good friend Dana. When I stepped out from the kitchen to check on them, Dana was squealing and squeaking with a mouthful of the above delight, wiggling her tiny butt across the chair she was sitting on. When she saw me approaching, she exclaimed:
WTF? THIS IS UNREAL! HERE, YOU MUST TRY IT.
…and a spoonful of the cake with the oozing hot chocolate entered my mouth at once.
Dana couldn’t help herself. Her joyful exuberance caused by the explosion of flavors in her mouth urgently needed an outlet. Born entertainer, not only was she the perfect companion for Jason, who celebrates the culinary arts with similar passion to mine, but also she befriended everyone in her vicinity from the patrons at adjacent tables to all the wait staff swiftly sweeping across the room.
Dana, with her expressive nature, was a perfect example of the satisfaction all our guests experienced on both nights. All the food was impeccably paired with wine by the Test Kitchen co-owner and sommelier, bringing each dish to a new level. We served close to 200 people, and smiles were ever present, emails and comments of gratitude still pouring into chef Fullilove’s inbox.
I forgot how much fun I had by his side at that other restaurant in Beverly Hills some months ago. After those two 14-hour days I was ready to play again. Hence, as of this week I’m sharing my restaurant time between Animal and Desert Rose in Los Feliz, a Mediterranean kitchen Jason took over last month. I’ll be reporting more. Stay tuned.
June 10, 2010 in BITE ME | Tags: chef, Da Vinci, Foie Gras Terrine, food, food photography, fried artichokes, Kobe, Monik Schiller, pan-roasted salmon, restaurant, squid ink linguini, Steak, Tasting Menu | 2 comments
I could answer this with two words. OK, I will.
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.
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!
April 20, 2010 in BITE ME | Tags: baked chicken, Beet soup, Beverly Hills, chef, Da Vinci Restaurant, mascarpone cheese, One Bite, pistachio, pooped, restaurant, soup, spaghetti, Tasting Menu, vegetarian | 2 comments
Midnight’s around the corner and I’m buzzing like a hummingbird in the midst of its mating ritual. I walked into our house not long ago after a full day at Da Vinci’s kitchen, where I was on my feet hour after hour after hour. There’s no way around it—I’m pooped. However, the thrill and satisfaction that fill every cell of my body are irreplaceable.
Since I must rise with the sun tomorrow in order to make it to my yoga class before I race back to the restaurant, I will only share with you a few quick notes from another day of my apprenticeship.
I was announced “The Queen of Soup” by the chef, which was accompanied by an imaginary drum-roll and crowning. I didn’t do a good job with imagining the crown though, as it’s kind of tight and makes my head itch. I took the title nonetheless and made SPICED BEET SOUP finished with fresh parsley flakes.
Also, it seems I’m in charge of the Family Meal every time I’m there. No problem; let me do my magic. Today I was given three whole chickens to run with anyway I desired.
My vegetarian friends, now comes the part where you should close your eyes; or better, think of it as a commercial break and go make yourself tea, or run to the bathroom, or go feed the fish, or clip your nails, or… you know. You may not like the next paragraph.
I decided to cut the chickens into separate parts, and bake them in the oven (at 375°) seasoned with spices, a bunch of fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and white wine. Thirty minutes later I pulled out a hot tray of tenderness hard to describe. I used the drippings from the tray to flavor spaghetti that completed the meal, and tossed it with a handful of freshly chopped parsley. Was it a light meal? Hell, no. Did I want to bath myself in that tray? God, yes!
Among a dozen of other tasks, I was also entrusted with making so called ONE BITE of my own design. One Bite is literally a 1-bite dish that is served as a gift from the chef in many high-end restaurants, or between courses, when guests choose a full tasting menu. (The tasting menu requires a whole new entry, which I will surely get to in the near future. That’s so much fun!)
Let me have drum-roll again tonight, as if I don’t toot my own horn, who will? Here comes my ONE BITE, Ladies and Gents:
This is PICTACHIO-MASCARPONE CREAM OVER A CUCUMBER DISC FINISHED WITH LIME ZEST AND A CROSTINI thank you very much. This little thing could serve as an appetizer at your next house party, so feel free to take the idea and make it your own. I’ll tell you what I did, and you may get inspired.
Into a food processor I tossed a handful of toasted pistachios, one clove of garlic, about a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, and a few cracks of black pepper. The machine did the work for me and turned the nuts into a coarse meal. Next, I added softened mascarpone cheese (maybe 1-2 tbsp), a big handful of fresh cilantro and let the blade spin again until everybody merged into a coherent mass. If the mixture seems too thick, you can add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Small circles I cut out of my cucumber slices; then I topped them with the cream, lemon zest and the cracker. Voila! ONE BITE for ONE MORE BITE.
I take just a tiny bite of credit for it though. Chef Jason Fullilove is such an inspiration. Not only does he experiment and finds new flavor connections every day, but also he encourages us all to dig deep and find our own ingenious voice. He challenges us, but never leaves unsupported. He’s available at all times, and finds sheer enjoyment in sharing all his knowledge with anyone interested. I think I’ve found my hen that lays golden eggs (no offense, Chef). I will follow him as far as I can before he files for a restraining order.