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Everything posted by Renka

  1. QUIAL and persimmon: Pan roasted quail, grilled Fuyu persimmon, roasted chestnuts, caramelized onions, and essence of clove. Each member of our party were presented with a messily plated (was this supposed to be artistic?) platter with tiny quarters (or more like eights) of quail (an already tiny bird!), two measly triangles of persimmon and a third of a chestnut. I was not impressed by my portion, seemingly leaving me the butt of all possible jokes (talk about even less of an edible portion!). The only thing generous was the grainy caramelized onion puree that was overly salted. I did hit a personalize high on this dish when I was sure that the persimmons had a tart pickled flavour, and while my dining companions educated me on the taste difference between young and ripe persimmons, the kitchen did confirm my discernment. Our server informed us that the fruit was buttered, salted, grilled, and then sprinkled with white wine vinegar. Bonus points for me! Wine Pairing: Susana Balbo, Brioso, Mendoza 2001 Oaky, full body, warm and robust with complex flavors. After partaking in half of our grand tour, we were invited to the kitchen lab with goggles for a laser demonstration. Smoke produced from laser heated orange powder was captured into wine glasses that were used for our next pairing. Combined with the Tre Rossi Shiraz, our oaky wine was made all the sweeter with a nice autumn fire side feel. Chef Cantu also introduced us to his crew and told us of some upcoming exciting projects with his edible paper. Homero then led us back upstairs and was kind enough to take a picture with the Torontonian and the LTHers. (Picture not shown.) LAMB with kielbasa: Pan seared Colorado rack of lamb, stone ground mustard braised cabbage, puree of kelbasa sauce. Rich and full of umami flavours, the lamb was cooked to a perfect rare consistency. Yummy. Wine Pairing: Carlei Estate, Tre Rossi, Shiraz, Heathcote 2001 MAC and cheese: Lychee fruit noodles, white chocolate sauce (fresh triple cream cheese), crispy rice paper, spiced crab apples, and vanilla braised red curry squash. The interesting capture the floral aroma of lychee juice into a heavily agared "noodle" was fun in concept, but unappealing in consistency (too crumbly), while the thick white chocolate "cheese" that was lighted with cream cheese in my companions dairy-fied versions, was super sweet. However, when these components were combined, they did indeed taste like mac & cheese! The airy rice paper chip was dusted with icing sugar and similar to a non-oily, non-fishy shrimp cracker or thin Japanese sweetened rice cracker. Hidden beneath the rice chip was a wedge of squash was similar to poached pumpkin and a chunk of crab apple flavoured with apple pie spice. We were told that we should consume the apple with the white chocolate sauce as a fondu sort of experience. I found the dish more like a crispy deconstructed apple pie. This was a cleaver course that transitioned our meal progression from a savory course by name alone into a sweet course by flavour. 3 COTTON candy stages Cotton candy was presented in three diabetes inducing forms. As kadaif, crunchy fried noodle like strands, a grand reminder of sweetened funnel cakes and beaver tails from the carnival of yesteryears. As a truffle, an orb of white chocolate spotted with an assortment of jimmies, and a thick shell that implodes in the mouth into a gush of sweet liquid sugar. As edible paper, patent pending printed with edible ink an image of the honorary course, sweet and melting on the tongue. BONUS: PARSNIP PARSNIP dippin' dots ice cream in graham cracker foam. Not really my cup of tea as the foam was still thick and powdery as if I were spooning up the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of graham crackers or consuming pre-digested wafers. FLAPJACKS prepared tableside Organic maple syrup from Michigan. FLAPJACKS being prepared tableside: Final product: "Cooked" on a liquid nitrogen plate into bellini sized disks, the milk-pancake mixture was set onto a spoon already dished with organic maple syrup from Michigan. The pancake puck tasted of pureed pancake ice cream with maple flavoured cough syrup. PEANUTBUTTER and jelly: Innards: Peanut butter cream surrounded by grape jelly ball paired with a French toast brioche on a pool of peanut butter puree (mine without mascarpone cheese). Likened to a large grape flavoured gummy egg yolk, the jelly was like a purple rubber ball that spilled out a bath of peanut butter liquid when cut. This course was a bit too cloying for my taste, although I could see where the mascarpone cheese in the accompanying sauce would have lighted the flavours of the peanut component substantially. BANANA split: Roasted banana stuffed with (chocolate and) brown sugar, wrapped with kadaif, frozen maraschino cherry marshmallow, banana caramel (chocolate) sauce. This course brought me to my youthful days of Chinese restaurants, red bean soup, and especially those deep fried candied bananas! Of course, what meal at Moto is complete without... DOUGHNUT SOUP and pancake: The signature doughnut soup consisting of strained blended Krispy Kream was only mediocre to my palate. I found it too viscous and sweet, and more hype than it was delicious. The doughnut pancake on the side was cute, but the course failed to impress me. CHILI-CHEESE nachos: Close up: Candied corn tortilla chips, diced kiwi with mint syrup (peppers), frozen mango puree (cheese), (ground milk chocolate as the beef), drizzled with a yogurt & cream cheese mixture (sour cream). This course was a winner, fruity, clean, crisp and a great success to both the eyes and to the mouth. COCONUT cream pie: Presented in the form of a puffed corn starch coconut base, this Styrofoam peanut morsel was more fun in presentation than it was to eat. Final thoughts (of which I posted on eGullet shortly after the meal): My recommendation for anyone interested in dining at Moto is to expect it to be a meal of diner interaction with the food. Moto may not be a place of four star cuisine, but one would certainly be greatly amused in the whimsical nature of each course and find much to talk about (a video recorder to document the reactions of Moto virgins would be neat too - I recall our child-like giggles when we popped in the cotton candy bomb!). Lastly, my favourite courses of the evening were the Maple Squash Cake (just lovely), the Passion Fruit and Crab (perfection in flavour when all the components were consumed together), the Rabbit and Aromatic Utensils (that reminded me of Chinese BBQ pork), and the Chili-Cheese Nachos (so cleverly deceiving and tasty - a perfect contrast in taste, colour and texture).
  2. GOAT CHEESE snow and balsamic: a better look: The musky creaminess of the goat cheese which was finely ground and lightly chilled to look like snow was cut through by the light dose of tart balsamic. HAMACHI and orange: Action shot. Can you see the frozen carbonated bubbles? Final product: Hamachi sashimi in yuzu, fried shallots, micro greens, pureed celeriac; carbonated orange. We were instructed to squeeze the orange juice from our orange on top of our strongly yuzu flavoured sashimi. The extraction of frozen orange juice tasted of orange crush, foamy and citrus-y over our raw sashimi. This latter addition was rather odd, and I didn't appreciate it as much as I would have, if say, I was to squeeze this frozen carbonation over, some white chocolate or vanilla ice cream (a sort of creamsicle in the making). At this point in the evening, mysterious black boxes were placed on our table. We were asked to let them sit there for the next while as it would be a surprise. PASSION FRUIT and crab: Butter poached kind crab legs, buttered popcorn puree, coconut milk powder, shiso syrup, passion fruit noodles. A surprising course that was both interesting in flavour and in presentation, each plate was like an artist palate with two streaks of contrasting yellow pureed buttery popcorn and sweetened green shiso syrup topped by generous morsels of meaty buttered poached lobster and topped by a long strand of agared passion fruit as long as a piece of spaghetti but having the texture of a heavily gelatinized fruit puree, and freeze dried coconut milk. I enjoyed the contrast in textures (smooth paste, liquid syrup, meaty chew, crumbly powder and dense gel) as well as the way all these independently heavily flavoured components (sweet, aromatic, rich and tart) balanced out so well when everything was taken in in one bite. FALL FRUITS and aged sherry: Cape gooseberry, Cape gooseberry gelée, pomegranate soup. Smooth cape gooseberry gelée tasted of like its primitive neighbour, light and subtle, but like a cubed jello version of the puree. The contrasting pomegranate soup was similarly lacking impact. As a palate cleanser, this course didn't leave much of an impression. BASS baked tableside and eggplant The "eggplant" part of our BASS baked tableside and eggplant: A concaved bowl was brought to our table with an opposing set of spoon and fork, On the fork was a chanterelle mushroom lifted away from the pool of grilled eggplant puree with bacon flavour. During our "passion fruit" course crimson coloured polymer cooking boxes with smoked paprika scattered on their surface, were brought to our table and left to sit there. We were instructed not to touch the boxes as they were heated to 450F and that there was something cooking inside. The Hawaiian sea bass that was to accompany this dish was hidden within the boxes brought to our table two courses earlier, and had been steaming over citrus water. My companions raved about how these flavours worked wonders with the wine they had paired with this course (the smoky Fox Valley Winery, RESERVE, Chambourcin, IL 2004) however, without the wine, I found this course forgettable. RABBIT and aromatic utensils: Close up: Marched out to our table on the infamous battleship plates, our "rabbit" course came on stainless steel shelving that housed Moto's customized aromatic utensils. Based on the premise that 75% of our taste is based on our sense of smell, corkscrewed metal handles wrapped around fresh sage leaves. Georgia Scarlet runner beans and their puree dressed the "plate" while a mound of shredded rabbit leg confit was stained red with the sweet kiss of beet powder sat in their midst. In another corner were two toothsome medallions of rabbit loin that were pan seared and rolled in beet powder, and although addictively delicious, were strangely reminiscent of lean cha sui without chemical processing. Puffed rice and white truffle powder rounded off the very rouge dish, adding both an airy crunch and sweet white chocolate like flavour. More of a sweet revamping of BBQ, this dish challenged my perception of what a fine dining protein course could be. My favourite item was the pan seared loin, whose thumb shaped sizes had me longing for more. Wine Pairing: Huia, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ 2004 The color is deep and rich, there is a bold black fruit aroma has hints of boiled black tea. Bright and silky flavors are rich and textured, supported by firm refined tannins. The wine finishes with ample fruit and good length. JALAPENO, cilantro and avocado Jalapeno ice cream, lemon myrtle cream, diced avocado and puffed quinoa. The slight heat of the jalapeno was mellowed out in the creamy textured amuse, while the avocado and quinoa added some subtle textural contrasts. Taken together in the same bite, this amuse reminded me of a quesadilla, without the tortilla shell (and tomatoes).
  3. A few evenings after my night at Avenues, I had the pleasure of dining at Moto in the company of three others. Dr. GAF organized the dinner on the LTHForum, where we were joined by another two food enthusiasts from Chicago who hadn't had the Moto experience before. Excited by the prospect of tongue-in-cheek dishes, especially having heard of the Time write up of the LTH dinner that featured raccoon roadkill, our group went against Dr. Fine's suggestion and voted to partake in the GTM. The following were the twenty courses that we were offered. (Side note: As I have too much experience in the lab, I found my experience from this evening hitting too close to the science nerd in me. Second note: it was rather dark in the dining room, so I appologize for the dim images.) The menu for the GTM: I'll quote all the dishes in the same CAPS lettering. The wine pairings: While my dining companions had the full pairings, I splurged only on the five. As I was the last to arrive, I found the trio of LTHers at the bar. Dr. Fine offered me a sampling of his MARTINI LIBRARY: The MARTINI LIBRARY consisted of long plastic pipettes filled to the brim with Gatorade-esque like concoctions that were kept chilled in a bed of ice cubes. More whimsical than tasty, we injected the fluorescent mixture into our mouths and noted the differing tastes that ranged from fruit punch to lime. (The presentation of this drink drove me to wonder about the plastic pipettes we use in the lab... and whether it was food safe, if you catch my drift. I haven't pursued this further.) Table decore: Noted to be white washed and imparting a sterile feel, I found the dining room of Moto rather warm and cozy with white or sage backwashed walls and stained oak furnishings. Although we were in for a science lab of a journey, my dining companions and I felt at ease in the comfortable chairs belonging to Moto. Our table runners were white linen, lit by candlelight and decorated with square pots of wheatgrass, and it wasn't until later in the evening that we noted the Japanese character of Moto stitched into its surface. When asked, our server mentioned that the character meant something to the effect of "idea, taste and desire." The "Edible" Menu: Oh, but look a little closer: The first tease of the evening was the signature edible menu listing the three possible dining options available. Printed on rice paper with edible ink, and glued to a crispy layered flatbread that was dotted with mixed Italian herbs, our party inspected the menu before digging into its savory goodness. We also noted the kind note at the end of the menu acknowledging our evening's host, Gary Fine. We were all impressed with the attention to detail. Dr. Fine mentioned that perhaps he should have told the kitchen that I was the "special" guest instead. That would have been amusing, imagine, my name embossed on edible paper! NITRO sushi roll Step 1: Pre-nitro: Step 2: Frozen sesame oil: Step 3: Topping the "roll": Step 4: Admire and consume: Tasmanian salmon tartar, crispy yuba, lime vesicles, and liquid nitrogen frozen sesame oil powder. We were instructed to take a bite and breathe out to produce billowing pillows of cold fumes appearing much like a dragon. (I have an amusing picture of PJD and his impression of a dragon, but that will have to wait for another time. Hee hee.) ITALIAN food - Cheeky Pizza, Caesar & Beer: Pizza soup; Caesar salad soup, crotons, Caesar dressing cream, parmesan and cracked black pepper. The temperature difference of the warm pizza soup against the chilled Caesar was a play on the traditional fare and, although in new and purified form, tasted exactly of their heritage. This was paired with a Unibroue 2005, Chambly. To play on the classic pairing of pizza and beer, our "Italian food" was matched to a beer from Quebec. Not a personal fan of the yeasty flavour in beer, the pairing of the Unibroue was surprisingly clean and light. I found the bubbles really tiny and light, the flavour sweet and almost prune juice like. MAPLE squash cake: You can appreciate the fine frozen crumb here: A favourite of the evening. Delicata squash puree, expanded and then frozen, cut into caked form; candied maple flakes, warm spied soup of cooked squash, diced bacon and sage. The squash cake was like a Japanese soufflé cheesecake, light and airy, but surprisingly savory, exceptionally delicious. The chilled cake also has a slightly sweet topping of maple, while the soup was like poached pear puree spotted with tough cubes of bacon jerky. The flavours of the overall dish were superb and made me longing for another slice. SYNTHETIC champagne The "pour": The drink: Apple cider and Californian Verjus. Ejected from a large syringe into our champagne glasses, we were presented with a visual chemical reaction between the two liquids to produce a champagne like drink that tasted both sweet and tart, and containing many bubbles. Although I didn't find the taste much like champagne, I did find this a fun little juice drink that would probably amuse the kiddies who also appreciate sparkling apple cider during the holidays. (Side note: I also wondered about the sterile plastic syringes also used in the lab. Again I didn't pursue this thought any futher.)
  4. Thanks for the kind words. Moto is coming right up!
  5. Brief interlude with a few images from LavAzza. Lucky me as the hotel I was staying at was right next to the coffee stop. I had the Cappugiro a couple times. Yes it's molecular gastronomy in a cup The "beverage" comes as either a cappuccino, the half milk/half espresso or all espresso variety. Just like a slightly chilled mousse, the edible coffee was fluffy and light, and with stood the upside down test. Tastewise, the milk portion was like a vanilla soft serve, while the espresso component was refreshing and clean. Notice the cute specially designed spoon for the "drink." I enjoyed it as it was a novel find ... as was the display above the cappuccino machines. BTW, if you see Alex, the barista, say hi. He was super nice and patient (to explain the differences between all the varieties). Totally unrelated, he also has friends in TO. LavAzza 27 West Washington Chicago, IL
  6. I suppose I should have attached an image of the creation I mentioned: Has this dessert been developed on since my visit in November? The rest of the images from the tour could be found here.
  7. Pistachio Dusted Elk Tenderloin: Bread pudding, heirloom carrots, date puree The superstar of the evening, the elk tenderloin was extremely tender, juicy and full of bold bovine greatness. Lean and succulent, this rare piece of meat was gorgeously crusted with jewels of vibrant pistachios, colours that boasted of exotic Moroccan influence. At the foundation of the tower were rods of heirloom carrots, separating the flavourful portion of bread pudding from the delectable sweet date puree pool below. In two words: delicious, perfect. Hudson Valley Duckling Breast: spiced raisins, squash coulis Tender slices of perfectly rare duckling breasts boasted of grand flavours of the wild laid gingerly over a generous dollop of sweet pumpkin puree which likened to a sweet butternut soup, while warmed spiced raisins unjustifiably cowered beneath the duckling. All these flavours were an embodiment of comfort and the flavour from a perfect harvest in one bite. South Dakota Bison Shortribs: Carolina grits, swiss chard, sassafras barbecue Intense and supple portions of boneless shortribs were deep in colour and similarly in flavour. Falling apart to the pressure of the fork, the easily lost strands of bison were rescued by the creamy pool of snow white grits and smoky bitter chard which corralled each bit of sticky goodness. Dehydrated corn kernels and herbed oil finished the dish by glorifying it in a nouveau interpretation of foods from Native American History. American Kobe Strip Steak: potato beignets, mushroom fricassee, merlot essence Having stellar competition on the same plate worked against this otherwise highly sought after menu item. The initial taste of soapy lobster and oyster mushrooms lost me. And although the promise of a beignet aspired to lift this dish to new heights, its soggy nature only mimicked the disappointment I found in slices of Kobe that lacked any taste relation to being that of bovine origin. All biases aside, the beef was cooked a perfect medium rare and the presentation was divine. Is everyone still with me? It might be a disappointment to most on this forum that I had to forego the cheese course as I was too satiated after the parade of mains. Instead, I moved straight into dessert. To appease my cocoa allergy, the kitchen presented me with their sole non-chocolate item. Berry Shortcake: gently poached berries, key lime curd, mint infused syrup Rustic cheeks of fork tender white chocolate flavoured biscuits hugged a sumptuous lime curd, while mammoth sized out of season fresh berries surprised me with their aromatic in season taste. Finishing the plate was a mint jelly and sinful crème fraiche ice cream. Mignardises: Rosemary and White Chocolate Macaron Parting gift I left Avenues with more than just having experienced dining bliss. I came home with my messy notes, a signed copy of the menu and some savory fruit and nut shortbread from the pastry chef which I had the next day with a cup of coffee from LavAzza. Overall impression: Rich oaks and low lights illuminate from the dining room, with intimate spacings between diners at the same table, while minimizing crowding. Comfortable seating ensured that those intending to partake in an evening of luxury would feel apt in staying all night, if possible. The busy body kitchen is bright and neatly packed with chef Bowles, his sous-chef Alex Martinez and three line cooks who all get along like bread and butter. Behind the magic is a back pantry, dishwashing station hidden from view, but just as magical as runners zip in and out discreetly somehow restocking the public open kitchen. Sitting at the bar allowed for my participation with the preparation of the entire dining room's meals without breaking a sweat, and strangely scandalous as a voyeur, that somehow enhanced my overall experience. Chef Bowles was more than gracious to answer all my questions, his friendly welcome of my visit and personally seeing to it that I was satisfied. I relayed how impressed with how the Chef was able to so smoothly coordinate his kitchen, be able to send out course after course of the numerous tasting menus in the dining room area, ensure smooth service between each of my courses with minimal if absent wait times, yet still exude his cool, calmness and control. Chef Bowles confessed that this was one of the busier evenings and apologised that he wasn't able to direct more attention to me, which was a surprise as I almost felt as if world revolved around me. Furthering our discussion regarding the modern cuisine that Chef Bowles has brought to the superb dining room of The Peninsula Chicago, he confessed that he had just filmed an Iron Chef America: The Series competition against Bobby Flay. Although tight lipped about the victor and the secret ingredient, he did let leak that the episode will air on February 11, 2007. (Update: I was so disappointed with the results, personal bias aside and beside.) It is apparent in the courses that I was presented with that Avenues excels on their modern take of high end fare. Interjecting his cuisine with some of the latest trends in the food movement (yuzu and white truffle foam, cucumber noodles, sage marshmallows), Chef Bowles is still able to incorporate classical presentations and food pairings. Notably, he presents those same classic components with subtle twists (vanilla reduction, soy caramel) that bring his cuisine into a league of their own. Although not much of a wine connoisseur, the aid of a wonderful sommelier gently guided this amateur palate into pairings that were both friendly and delicious. If all pairing were this successful, I wouldn't hesitate to participate in further experimentation (which I did, within limits, for the duration of my Chicago adventure). The only drawback of my dining experience was the pastries sent out by their in house pastry chef. I must confess my no-cocoa limitation has worked against many chefs, but at the same time this challenge could also showcase the success or failures of a pastry chef's ability. The limited repertoire of menu choices has also proven itself an ongoing challenge for my personal taste of four categories of possible desserts: shortcakes/cheesecakes, cookies, pies/tarts, or chilled delights (ice creams, custards). The fact that the kitchen provided me with a rustic shortcake already worked against the them as the progression of previous courses grew more and more elegant, heightening the diner's expectation which all came to a crashing conclusion. The taste and texture was mediocre, and had it not been for a desire to finish things off with a bit of something sweet, I would have left the item to wallow in loneliness. Furthering that, my bias towards macarons run strong, as I do believe I've had some of the best made macarons that would make even Pierre Herme jealous. Thus said, I do appreciate the effort that the pastry chef made in the complex cookie, the cute little morsel that I was presented with left me longing for something better. Finally, the kind gesture of the restaurant of their shortbread parting gifts was over the top. When I did partake in them the next day, I found them mediocre, better sliced thinly for a cheese course than to pair with coffee as was suggested. Commendation must also be given to the service staff for their gentile nature, kind attention to details, friendly unobtrusive service, and willingness to ensure that everything was perfect. Between the servers and Chef Bowles, everyone at Avenues was keen on ensuring the diner's delight and greeted each guest with a pair of delightfully savoury parmesan, pecan and cranberry shortbread from the pastry chef as they departed. If ever I felt like a celebrity perched on (a) high (stool), then it would have been the delightful evening I spent at Avenues. Avenues The Peninsula Chicago 108 East Superior Street Chicago, IL (312) 573-6754
  8. Hand Harvested Diver Scallops: Brussels sprouts, poached salsify, beet paint A perfectly seared medium rare scallop the size of a child's fist sat with great confidence between two bold streaks of beet pain. Sweet and succulent, the bivalve ended its glorious life honourably at the hands of Chef Bowles. As if they were floral tributes to the grand creature, petite turned turnip and baby brussel sprouts added fresh colour and a tender buttery essence, without the presence of butter. Savory Toasted Almond Bisque: pickled pear, candied proscuitto, sage marshmallows Part 1, before the bisque: Part 2, action shot: Part 3, final product: With much fanfare, toasted almond bisque was poured onto unsuspecting brilliance of crisp candied proscuitto chips, delicate buttons of sage marshmallows and a perfect tower of pickled pear chutney. As the light milk like bisque slowly enveloped the unsuspecting solid elements, each spoonful of soup was a new taste sensation. The slow dissolve of the marshmallows gently infused sweet and spicy notes to the neutral palate, while the crisp proscuitto hinted at smoky sweetness. Sips capturing bits of pear resulted in tart and spicy surprises, while providing great textural contrasts. I appreciated the thought and originality behind this course and the nouveau method of infusing sage into the otherwise bleached out soup, I was most blown away with the delicious flavours presented through the use of fluffy half-dissolved marshmallows. Interlude: White Truffle Scented Risotto: pearl onions, forest mushrooms, truffle cream Buried beneath a sinful cloud of chilled thickened whipped white truffle cream, were gorgeous pieces of black trumpet mushrooms and a soupy risotto. Whimsically served in an elegant miniature copper pot, woodsy and ethereal musky essence of the forest bed were contained by the unctuous foam, while the generous pour of homemade white truffle oil reiterated the luxuriousness of this course. The start of my surprise... Trio of Fish (replaces the lonely sole course ) Instead of receiving a sole fish course, Chef Bowles surprised me with a trio of aquatic treasures. Wine: 2004 Peter Lehmann Semillon A zesty dry white wine, with lemon/citrus flavours was paired with my entrees. The limited production wine had a firm finish and was very nice. I later on found out that it was the silver medal winner of the 2006 International Wine and Spirit Competition and the bronze medal winner of the 2006 Decanter World Wine Awards. Pumpernickel Crusted Tasmanian Salmon: celeriac mousseline, savoy cabbage, sauerkraut bubbles Playing with my mind and senses, stellar succulent morsels of fork-tender salmon burst into sweet song as it passed between my lips. The dazzling rich salmon colour, that put to shame all other related North American species, contrasted the thick earthy crumble of the savoury fine pumpernickel, garlic and shallot crust that also teased my senses with another finely minced pickled component. Both the freshness behind the celeriac mousseline and the refreshing bite of the sauerkraut foam cut through the flavours of the rich fish. My tongue shouted out cries of brilliance as I tasted the entire dish, moping up the reduction underneath my tower, swearing that somehow I was also detecting hints of citrus. Unfortunately for me, I have been converted to devote my love towards Tasmanian salmon, leaving behind Sockeye which I once set on a high pedestal. Now the next question is where would I be able to find this species to get my fix? Line Caught Dover Sole: crisp polenta, braised lettuce, raisin chutney Seared Dover sole cradled unctuous raisin chutney, which was heightened by a brown butter emulsion. Under the fish laid a golden brick of polenta that broke gently with each forkful, moping up all the juices raining from above, while cooked Boston lettuce gave enough crunch and tannins to balance out the sweetness of the dish. Grilled Hawaiian Ahi Tuna: French lentils, Belgian endive, lavender jus Seared rare Ahi propped itself on a bed of braised lentils and brunoised celery and carrots, while a silky vanilla reduction reminisced of braised beef stock with subtle floral essence. The latter was a foreign flavour to me; however the pairing was like a seductive ballet between the masculine muskiness of the chunky, hearty lentil bed and the perfume of the luscious feminine sauce. If they say the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then Chef Bowles won over this (wo)man with the following. This plate was another surprise from the kitchen of Chef Bowles, who in passing, whispered that I would be receiving the entire menu on this tasting, but in smaller portions. Imagine my delight at such awesome news? I think you'll excuse my posting of a second angle of this beautiful plate: Wine: Jordan Chardonnay 2002, Napa Alexander Valley "Crisp green apple, kiwi, honey and lightly toasted oak flavours. On the palate, the wine is lively and complex with flavors that include pear, fuji apple and limestone balanced with toasty oak. All of these refined flavors contribute to the balanced expression of fruit aroma, flavor and finish, making this the perfect complement to many types of cuisine." The wine was smooth with a slight body and tasted fruity fresh.
  9. Last November I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago for a conference, and although this post is overdue, I still think the experience I had is worthwhile of sharing/posting. I hope the eGullet community feels the same. In the handful of days I was in the city (it was 5), I was able to secure reservations at Avenues, Moto, and Alinea. Subscribing to the "go big, or go home" philosophy, I decided to lose myself to the entire experience by (saving and) taking advantage of the chef's palate/GMT/tour menus. I started the trip off with a late dinner reservation at Avenues, located at the Peninsula Chicago. I was instructed by a fellow eGullet-er to reserve at the kitchen bar, such that I could see Chef Graham Elliot Bowles and his Sous-Chef, Alex Martinez, at work. Little did I know what was in store for me as the two appear to be great buddies and Chef Bowles was pre-warned of my coming. Without revealing my overall impression until the end of this post, I'll bombard this thread with food photos. The menu for Avenue's Chef's Palate: The kitchen bar: That's Alex (blurry) on the left corner. Chef Bowles at work: Table setting: I thought the wooden place setting was worth a shot. Amuse: Parsnip Pudding in Cream Puff The light as a feather choux burst in the mouth with a chilled rich buttery goodness of parsnip cream. Both sweet and smooth, the piped replacement for traditional whipped topping was a pleasant, yet subtle surprise. Tartare of Venison Loin: parsley custard, fruit compote, juniper gelato My first introduction to the cuisine of Avenues consisted of unctuous venison diced into perfect morsels that slipped between bites down the throat. Each succulent bite was coated with the lightly infused juniper ice cream that melted in the mouth. Both the velvety smooth tartar and chilled custard were contrasted with a decadent and heavily spiced mixed fruit chutney which was both sticky and chewy, and was a superb harbinger of holiday cheer. Happy emotions were stirred from this amuse sized appetizer and signalled for an amazing dinner ahead. Avenues Deconstructed Caesar Salad: baby romaine, grated parmesan, brioche twinkie I watched Chef Bowles neatly trimming a small head of greens from behind the bar and gingerly perch that atop a perfect golden cube. Soon afterwards I was presented with a perfect pickled anchovy filet perched atop a ruffled quenelle quarter of baby romaine. Beneath the sushi like cap sat a crisp foundation of toasted brioche, filled with a luxurious parmesan cream. Cutting a bit from each layer I experienced an explosion of the buttery rich and creamy smooth base juxtaposing the crispy and crunchy layers, all washed down with the tart and refreshing elements. The manditory cross-section: Raisin pecan bread served with Italian parmesan butter, grass-fed Wisconsin salted butter, house thyme and lemon rind butter Three breads were offered by the kitchen, and although the sourdough and multigrain varieties appeared lovely, I was drawn to the fruit and nut option. Still warm from the oven, the mini-boule was soft and spongy, having a chewy crust and moist crumb. Sampling bites of the bread with the butters offered I found favour with soft and rich flavours of the grass-fed Wisconsin salted butter. However, noting the progression of the oncoming procession of courses, I decided to slowly snack on the lone boule for the duration of the evening (a significant achievement for those who are familiar with my carb addiction). I wished I sampled the other two options, however, in retrospect, I am glad that I left my stomach space free for the real superstars of the evening. Wine: Dirle(??) 2002 Muscat. (I can't make out my notes). Not being much of a wine drinker, the sommelier was kind enough to introduce my amateur palate to a light fruity white wine that had notes of citrus notes. I found this wine friendly and lovely to sip on while enjoying my next couple courses. Carpaccio of Maine Lobster: cucumber noodles, yuzu foam, soy caramel Angle 2: Since I first saw glimpses of this course in photographs from a friend's previous dinner at Avenues, I was in much anticipation for this dish. The ear shaped porcelain vessel contained a delicate streak of soy caramel that ran across the surface of the plate, scattered spicy strips of julienned cucumber "noodles", and a center pool of cucumber jelly strips buried beneath an ethereal spicy and tart yuzu ginger foam. The bright flavours of the yuzu bubbles further lifted the lightness of the slippery cucumber jellies, while the al dente strips of fresh cucumber provided a bit of bite. These components acted collectively as a refreshing palate cleanser, leaving the lobster pieces behind, almost as an afterthought. My favourite component was the soy caramel, an ingenious sweet temptation of smooth blend of soy powder with rich caramel, leaving my tastebuds in pure ecstasy. Vichyssoise in Dual Preparations: potato terrine, roasted garlic, petite herbs The pretty terrine of leak and potato was more pleasing to the eye than a friend to my taste buds. I found the steamed potato pieces were a tad too firm for my liking, while the strips of leek too sinuous, making it difficult to properly slice the two components to consume in a lone bite. Interestingly enough, the stars of the plate were the surrounding peppery slices of spicy artisan radish, and the dollops of bright green herb oil and umami flavoured roasted garlic cream. Overall the dish was visually appealing and was like Spring on a plate, decorated by the gentle sprinkle of micro-greens.
  10. Thanks DaleJ. I'll keep that in mind. Would anybody happen to know about or been to Antica Osteria del Vino Buono (Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, Bergamo Alta)? I hear it's a branch off of da Vittorio but in Bergamo. Can anyone give me clues as to where it might be (even though I have the address) as google mapping it doesn't seem to help.
  11. tupac17616, I'm headed for Bergamo-Venice-Milan in the next couple weeks, and have my reservations at Le Calandre (and dal Pescatore) but was wondering if I'm still wise to select the Adesso menu, especiallly given your experience with the more extensive In.gredienti. Not sure if you were able to see the menu offered for the former and could shed some light there or if you just went straight into the larger one without a second thought (something I would normally do). Thanks! It's been great to hear about your trip and be able to take notes before mine.
  12. jenc, I think you must have meant the mushroom accompaniment to the beef. JK Wine Bar Set Still on the look out for the best steak frites, but I think I've given up after tasting horse fat fries and beef that originates outside of what Toronto restaurants may offer. Does anyone know of any restaurant in the city that either serves or would be up to the challenge of serving those delicious horse fat fries?
  13. Thanks russ and vigna for the tips! Noting your faves, vigna, I'm pleased to have reservations for both Le Calandre and Dal Pescatore during my short visit. Looking forward to the meals and experiencing all the positive notes that have been posted on this threads.
  14. Any notes or advice on how to get to Dal Pescatore from Venice? I'm traveling by train, but am finding it a tad difficult to plan the route/times. I was told by Antonio to get to the Canneto Sull'Oglio station, but for some reason I'm not having much success with RailEurope (and only one option with Trenitalia which I can't seem to duplicate on RailEurope). I'd appreciate any words of wisdom that can be shed here (it's my first time in Italy and I don't want to get lost nor, even worse, miss my reservation!).
  15. I have the good fortune of being in and around the Milan area in the middle of September. Although it's not a vacation, I will be extending my stay for a few days to "explore" the offerings of that area. As I will be in Bergamo for the first part of my stay, it would be great if there are suggestions for where I should visit for some great eats or treats. I have tentative plans to follow up with a trip to Le Calandre (many thanks to all the rave on this forum), then swing by Venice and try out Harry's Bar, come back around to dal Pescatore and then depart from Milan. I'm wondering if this is too ambitious a plan (specifically the side trip after Bergamo) or if there are better suggestions from the group. I don't know if Harry's Bar is just hype, and if I should skip it. Also, I really had my heart set to try Gambero Rosso, but it is out of the way. I'm also planning to get to all these places by train (and subsequent trips by taxi). Finally, I've never been to Italy before, so I do want to be as prepared as possible (and I want to make sure that all my reservations are set way in advance). Thank you so much for any assistance or tips you can provide to me. Looking forward to some amazing meals.
  16. IndolentAgain - re: pictures - I hope not! Regarding my favourite restaurant that serves steak frites, I'm afraid I'd have to pass on this question as: 1) I usually don't order steak frites as I'm lured by other the other rustic offerings; 2) I prefer the other red meats (preferably in the form of venison, elk, lamb, etc.); and 3) a large part of my youth was in Alberta (where AAA Alberta beef comes about so easily), 'nuff said. Frankly, a lot of the beef served in Toronto lacks texture (lovely in USDA Prime. Kobe/Wagu is in a class of its own) and taste (AAA is best). Above all, the colour is off (i.e. orange beef vs. deep red/purple)! I'm not saying this about all beef served in the city, but I've been disappointed enough to know better. However I have come across some great beef at a handful of fine dining establishments, but the price doesn't always justify the order. I usually fill myself up with bovine goodness when I head out west. This is why I'm curious about where people would go for this dish in T.O.
  17. IndolentAgain - Regarding pictures found in the photostream, I have to admit I didn't start posting much before last fall. I do have quite a number of images taken of restaurants I'd been to before that time which are not posted (except for a handful of higher end meals); perhaps I'll get to adding those one day. With time, I'd also had a chance to learn about how to use my camera a bit better, so settings and (hopefully) experience has helped me get better shots quicker. Thank goodness, as I can now take one or two pictures and then dive into the meal. I have to admit, taking images does get in the way and detracts from the dining experience a little, so it doesn't always happen. In addition, not every dining companion would appreciate nor understand this "obsession." Sometimes I get to use a friend's camera (especially a DSLR!) and that's really fun. Perhaps I'll upgrade one day. In the meantime, I'm still searching to find a wonderful point & shoot to replace my little aged wonder which is starting to fade on me. (Besides, compact cameras fit better in dainty purses.) It looks like there is still debate on the best steak frites in the city. Thanks IndolentAgain and GordonCooks. I'd been to the restaurants you've suggested but had never tried their steak frites (I'm personally into game meats). I will pass on your suggestions (and yes, the frites are quite important), but would be glad to entertain any more.
  18. Hello there, IndolentAgain. Thanks for the kind words regarding the pictures of Le Select that I posted up. I don't know what your taste is like, but I found the food ok. Service was unpretentious, atmosphere and value was mid-range. Nothing pressing me to return in the immediate future, but it was passable (what else can one expect, it is, afterall, Bistro fare?). That being said, the steak frites ordered did look nice (did you see its beautiful interior?) and I heard that the cassoulet was satisfying. I have a friend who is search for the best steak frites in the city. If you don't mind my adding onto this string, I'm curious to see what recommendations will come from our fellow eGulleters.
  19. Hi Panda, If you have the chance to meet up with Endy_, jenC or I, we could perhaps convince (although it doesn't take much to convince) Barista Matt to pull more than a few shots in your honour. We're waiting for him to set up shop, but knowing that he's brining in the magic from out west and also supplies us with Intelligentsia coffee, we've no doubt that Toronto's in for a treat. Matt's most recent mention in the Toronto Star
  20. Hi George W. I've read various accounts about his character and would be interested in trying his cuisine vs. being his BBF. Thank you for sharing your experience. If you are heading back, I'd love to hear about your meal. Judging that one of your top meals in 1999 was under Couillard's direction, I might bump Spice Room up on my list of places to try. I have a feeling you might be there before me. (And no worries mkjr, if I head there, you'll probably see the images on my flickr. )
  21. I didn't think that but I immediately thought of the famous Seinfeld episode that involved muffin tops - where the bottom was ripped off and only that big glorious crunchy top was being sold. Is there such a beast as a muffin pan where the body of the muffin is really shallow and a big wide crown is allowed so you end up with mostly muffin top? ← I remember seeing the muffin top pans years ago (I must have been in high school, in my pre-baking days) and thought what a great idea. Funny thing is, when I actually started baking, I couldn't find the thing and people were telling me it was a figment of my imagination. That is, until I found it one day! I've been happily baking with my muffin top pan ever since. Many times my "muffins" end up being like fluffy moist scones. I'm not complaining! Blueberry Muffin Tops
  22. I'm curious if anyone has been to Greg Couillard's Spice Room & Chutney Bar inside Hazelton Lanes. I've passed by the last couple weeks on my runs to Whole Foods and have seen activity at the Manyata Courtyard Café but haven't been around the area late enough to see how the Spice Room is when it's open (for evening service). Has anyone dined at the Spice Room? If so, what did you think of it? I'd also be happy to know of any previous experiences you might have had of Couillard's work if you haven't eaten at this establishment. Thanks!
  23. some say Terroni (think there's one on Queen West nearish you, haven't been), I like Grazie better, but neither is a revelation. please do post your thoughts on Doku 15 if you go...it's around the corner from me but the whole Asian fusion vibe scares me. ← Endy' Something tells me it's time for another taste comparison. This time, I'm thinking pizza.
  24. Looks like I went on the same night as you did. As usual, I've posted my comments on the experience on my photostream. Of the items we ordered that night, my dining companion and I agreed that the skate was the real winner, the ribs were alright, while the duck breast and scallop ceviche required a little work (in the case of the duck, less work in the cooking aspect). I'm curious to hear about the items you ordered.
  25. Nice pics ← GordonCooks, Thanks But you know, seeing pictures is not the same as actually eating the food presented in the pictures. (Unfortunately I don't have any images of my meal at Geroge to share with those who are also interested).
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