Archive for July, 2007

Manresa (Los Gatos, CA) – Summertime Report

Summertime at Manresa – the season I’ve been waiting for. The fish is not in season but the biodynamic garden is in full swing – tradeoffs. Many of the dishes were new with just a few being variations on previous themes. I didn’t take extensive notes but I’ve raved about the restaurant so much in the past that I will let the pictures of the food speak for themselves. Needless to say, I never leave hungry nor disappointed.

The full menu is presented below with some commentary. New dishes were photographed; if a photo is missing, it’s an old dish and/or the photo did not turn out.

Refined Palate had the same menu one day earlier – read their review.

Petit Fours “red pepper – black olive” - the traditional beginning.

Vegetables from the garden – another tradition that has begun.
Manresa (Los Gatos) - Vegetables from the garden

Sorrel & Olive oil ice – a great bridge between the first two amuses. The ice/granita/consumme/gelee amuse is always one of my favorites of a Manresa meal. They are always cleansing and refreshing – they wipe the slate clean yet provide hints of the surprises to be. Intense flavor is always a trademark. They also remind me of the late, great Bastide – his Deconstruction of Bloody Mary, various “Cevhiches”, or Ceasar Salad Bastide. Ludo, please find a home – fast!
Manresa (Los Gatos) = Sorrel & Olive oil ice

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

French Laundry (Yountville, CA) – Calculated Cuisine

The French Laundry has taken on a mythical status, an impossible restaurant firmly entrenched in foodie pantheon. There may not be a more oft-mentioned destination restaurant besides El Bulli. It’s tucked away in Yountville, California, a less and less probable place for Thomas Keller’s vision – a Disneyland-type simulacrum for those following the Napa Valley wine trails. Indeed, the restaurant’s critics might say the location is representative of the food one will encounter – a perfection without blemish or character, sanitized, safe, and soulless.

There is considerable debate as to whether an American Michelin 3 Star restaurant is the equivalent to French 3 Stars. I disagree with Michelin’s San Francisco 2 Star picks, but there’s no question a meal at The French Laundry is akin to 3 Star French dining. This was my fifth meal, the fourth in the past two years (see last review.) Things rarely go wrong here; and the food even less so. But the myth has taken on a life of its own. The expectations are so high that philopsophical and practical consideration must be taken into account before eating. Many food bloggers, particularly Refined Palate, have had transcendental meals at TFL. Others, while pleased, expected more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

La Maison du Chocolat (NY, Paris, London) – Macarons, The New Collection

Many bloggers have been wowed by La Maison du Chocolat’s chocolates (even Salma Hayek) but seemingly few have commented on the macaroons. The macaroon debate, among the informed, seems to be Herme vs Laduree with various regional suggestions (Payard, Jin Patisserie, Boule, Bouchon) if the writer is stuck in America for the moment. La Maison du Chocolat (LMC) has a slightly stuffy Parisian image without the long tradition of, say, Laduree but their macaroons deserve to be included in the debate. In fact, on American soil, there may not be much of an argument – they reign supreme.

There’s no shortage of accolades for their chocolates – and rightfully so. But their macaroons are deserving of the same attention. The chocolate ganache filled centers, a variation on the typical macaroon, is not so much a point of distinction as it is a confidence in their chocolatier experience. It might sound overpowering but the ganache is subtle and balanced; a complement, never a deterrent, from the shell. The flavors aren’t daring ala Pierre Herme; instead, they are more traditionally paired with the chocolate center. One approach is not necessarily better than the other as long as the execution is exemplary.

La Maison du Chocolat has a more corporate feel than Pierre Herme or Laduree. There’s no cult of personality nor a century-long tradition, but expansion does have its benefits – you can buy them in the States. Eat 2 Love says they are shipped from Paris twice a week. Surprisingly, even with this delay, they keep longer than Pierre Herme or Laduree. The macaroons had their best texture on day two but were still going strong on day four – you can bring these back for friends.

So what are the flavors and how do they taste?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Club Chasse et Peche & Brunoise (Montreal) – Very Good and Good

Montreal was not a complete disaster like Colborne Lane or Au Pied du Cochon. We had a few meals that were good; fine if you’re visiting but nothing worth traveling for.

Club Chasse et Peche

The name, “Hunting and Fishing Club”, and design are in-line with today’s irony as expression. There’s the requisite small sign that barely distinguished the restaurant from its neighbors – a faux exclusivity considering the restaurant is open to anyone with a reservation. The hunting theme continues inside – subterranean dining room, leather club chairs, low ceilings, antler motifs, and dark shadows – you could be eating on the 17th century frontier. The room does capture the charm of the cobbled-street Old Montreal. And the food does live up to the promise of its name – heartier fare with plenty of fish and game options.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)