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Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos


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Any bay area eGullet-ers planning on going to one of the two Tomato Modernista dinners held Tuesday, September 18 and Wednesday, September 19?  I would love to go, but am without dinner companions as of yet, or even transportation for that matter (minor details :cool: ).  Let me know!

I hope you find some companions, tupac! Everyone, please send a PM to tupac to make arrangements or convey regrets. Thanks.

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Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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A quick note from your forum host:

I've placed a link to our event guidelines in the pinned announcement section. Please give it a try . . . I can help you establish a planning thread for regional events or get-togethers. In a planning thread members can freely discuss their plans and questions for a single dinner or event. Please PM me if you have any questions. :smile:

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Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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This is what I love about egullet! Inspiration! I've booked a table for the end of the month -- pretty much the only day I can make, as lovely as the theme meal sounds (as you might not know I'm an out of towner, by about 3.5K miles) and I'm already looking forward to it.

Thanks to all who've posted reports in this thread! I'll be sure to post back after my visit.

Read about what I've been eating at http://theeatingwell.blogspot.com/

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wednesday night was my third visit to Manresa, and technically the shortest journey I've endured to get there yet (just a 1hr 45min drive this time! :wink: ). On my previous two visits, I had done the grand tasting menu, giving up all control to Chef David Kinch and his team behind the stoves (at that time, with Jeremy Fox as chef de cuisine). Each of those meals proved to be magical. There is a simple elegance, an understanding of contrast (of texture, flavor, temperature, aroma, color...), and an incredible depth permeating Chef Kinch's cuisine that I find nothing short of captivating. I also cannot fully express what a beautiful sense of place this restaurant possesses. You immediately feel that the restaurant is right where it should be -- a small town nested in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The chef toiling away in the kitchen, instead of signing cookbooks or selling clogs. The distance between earth and plate blessedly short, thanks to Cynthia Sandberg and her crew at Love Apple Farm, who supply the restaurant with much of its bounty. And if you’ve just walked in the door, you realize that you, too, are right where you should be.

Both of my prior meals (August of last year, March of this year) had been nearly 30-course, 5 1/2 hour affairs, so I knew very well that the kitchen could produce a compelling epic. With this Tomato Modernista dinner, I was interested to see what they would do in a much shorter meal format. It was still 10 courses, of course, but creating a harmonious progression of 10 dishes versus 30 dishes is a remarkably different thing.

I am happy to report that Chef Kinch and his team write short stories as nuanced and inspiring as their novels. I’d rather not go into much dish-by-dish detail; frankly, it seems almost unnecessary accounting to describe another meal from a chef whose cuisine is startlingly consistent, and startlingly good. But I would be remiss not to mention the “seaweed-citrus granite and nori croustillant, corn and tomato vers.4.2.” It nearly brought me to tears. I’m not sure what all has been tweaked in the versions since the first time I had this dish last August, but it’s not every day your taste memory lets you re-live the greats. (The version last August remains the single best thing I have ever had the pleasure of eating.)

To say I admire this kitchen’s work is a vast understatement. To say I am spellbound by what they put on the plate is much more accurate. When I describe to friends my experiences at this restaurant, I often liken it to going to a world-class opera performance. You are sitting on the edge of your seat, watching a master at work, waiting for the next pause in the action to applaud the brilliant spectacle. That is not to say that Chef Kinch’s cuisine is flashy. Far from it. But it speaks to me in a way I’m not even sure I fully understand. I feel like he is connected so intimately with his own food that you cannot help but to immediately join in that connection. You’re not getting a brand name chef and his/her “signature recipes”. You’re getting a chef’s passion and vision on a plate. You’re getting soul.

He is, for example, so in tune with what is coming out of his gardens that he knows exactly when to just get out of the way and let nature sing on its own. Clearly indicative of this point is what turned out to be my favorite course the other night: two wedges of perfectly ripe tomato, coarse sea salt, and olive oil. You immediately see that the work a chef doesn’t do can be just as important as that which they do.

His cooking, though, invites your attention, and your appreciation. Each dish is a small piece in a larger puzzle. Before you’ve even tasted the dish, you start to take it all in. The smell, the look, the texture, and ultimately the flavor all set this piece apart from the others. But the way this one piece fits in with everything else, that’s the real beauty. And it’s not until you’ve finished a meal there, until you take a step back and look at the big picture that start to realize... Damn this guy is good.

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I also cannot fully express what a beautiful sense of place this restaurant possesses.  You immediately feel that the restaurant is right where it should be -- a small town nested in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains ... And if you’ve just walked in the door, you realize that you, too, are right where you should be.

Sounds like you feel right at home in the Left Coast. Welcome to California, Aaron!!

That is not to say that Chef Kinch’s cuisine is flashy.  Far from it.  But it speaks to me in a way I’m not even sure I fully understand.  I feel like he is connected so intimately with his own food that you cannot help but to immediately join in that connection.  You’re not getting a brand name chef and his/her “signature recipes”.  You’re getting a chef’s passion and vision on a plate.  You’re getting soul.

Your poetic post is inspiring. Just add a couple of photos (i.e., the two tomato wedges with sea salt and olive oil ...) and send it in to a magazine for publishing ...

Have you noticed the "California Cuisine/Chez Panisse" influence on Chef Kinch?? And Passard, as well?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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:wub: and *envy!*

Can you explain the "Ratattouille" course a little more. Specifically, what is the green "stuff" (for lack of better description) beneath the fried torpedo-shaped object (squash blossom/Robuchon "Langoustine"-looking thing)?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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I'll jump in, as I was at the dinner on Wednesday night, also. The "green stuff" is sheep's milk ricotta. And, Aaron...GREAT pictures!!!

Edited by samgiovese (log)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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fascinating: this was wed night, right? because the "ratatouille" in your photo is much less deconstructed than the portion I had on tuesday--which looks like a definite inmorovement

Otoh, I prefer the way the dessert plate was done on tues--with the ice cream alongside the brioche--rather than on top, where it might have interfered just a bit with the crunchiness of the brioche

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Your poetic post is inspiring. Just add a couple of photos (i.e., the two tomato wedges with sea salt and olive oil ...) and send it in to a magazine for publishing ...

Ah, if only life were so simple! :cool:

Have you noticed the "California Cuisine/Chez Panisse" influence on Chef Kinch?? And Passard, as well?

I see many different influences in Chef Kinch's food. It's hard to know, of course, which of this are just perceived and which are actually there. But I see sparks of different places: France, Spain, Japan, Italy, and certainly California. It's hard for me to see a very close connection between Chez Panisse and Manresa, aside from the fact that there is clear respect for the ingredients at both places. What are your thoughts on that, Russell, having been to both not too long ago?

I honestly know very little about Chef Passard, not having been to his restaurant just yet. It would be easy for me to sit back comfortably with this ignorance and declare that the only influence of Passard on Kinch is "L'Arpege egg", but clearly that's not the case. Certainly Chef Kinch's connection with the land through Love Apple Farm is reminiscent of Passard's kitchen garden. The exploration of vegetables as opposed to meat/fish is certainly another aspect of this. While this is not Kinch's sole focus at Manresa, it very well could be, as he can make vegetables sing like no other. The first restaurant recommendation I would make to a meat-eater? Manresa. The first restaurant recommendation I would make to a vegetarian? Manresa. The produce coming out of Love Apple, into Chef Kinch's kitchen, and onto our plates is really top notch.

:wub:  and *envy!* 

Can you explain the "Ratattouille" course a little more. Specifically, what is the green "stuff" (for lack of better description) beneath the fried torpedo-shaped object (squash blossom/Robuchon "Langoustine"-looking thing)?

Your recent adventures in and around NYC have me envious right back at you! :raz: I'm looking forward to reading what you thought about Blue Hill @ Stone Barns, in particular. And I'm still looking forward to trying Tailor the next time I'm back in the city, now that it's up and running finally.

But anyway, as for the ratatouille, let me see if I can't break that dish down a little better for you. The golden torpedo-shaped object is indeed a fried squash blossom. It is resting on chunky, almost crumbly sheep's milk ricotta that has been mixed with a pesto presumably made with herbes de Provence or maybe even just basil. Under that is the "sheep's milk as a sauce" mentioned in the menu description. In the bottom left corner you've got tiny zucchini, basil leaves, sweet roasted red peppers, onion and maybe a little garlic. There was one beautifully ripe, peeled small green tomato poking out there on the right. This all rested on a very refreshing tomato gelee, if I remember correctly. (Any others who were at this dinner, feel free to chime in and correct me on these details!)

[...]GREAT pictures!!!

Grazie! They came out much better than expected, considering I was in a really dark spot of the table.

fascinating: this was wed night, right? because the "ratatouille" in your photo is much less deconstructed than the portion I had on tuesday--which looks like a definite inmorovement

Otoh, I prefer the way the dessert plate was done on tues--with the ice cream alongside the brioche--rather than on top, where it might have interfered just a bit with the crunchiness of the brioche

Yep, Wednesday night. I would be curious to see the plating you got on Tuesday for those two dishes (don't worry if the pictures are a little blurry...it was pretty dark in there!). I read on your blog that you weren't exactly thrilled with the ratatouille, so I'm curious to see how they changed it for the second night. I absolutely loved the ice cream on the brioche, although I can understand your comment about the textures. It was just right for me, though, as my mind fleeted back to the time I spent in Sicily in June. Brioche "sandwiches" stuffed with gelato was one treat I enjoyed there again and again. I don't know whether the olive oil for poaching the tomato in that course and making the ice cream was the same one drizzled on the chunks of tomato with sea salt, but if it was, I sure need to figure out how to get my hands on some. It was fantastic.

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Ah, pesto... yes, it all makes sense now. I was wondering what might have been incorporated with the ricotta. tupac, I'll let you know when I get all of my notes from my meals in and around New York organized into a coherent form.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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sorry: I didn't take any fotos other than the prawn dish and the rabbit--which on Tuesday were plated identically to your photos.

As to the influence of Passard on KINCH: HUGE. They were both cooking at a conference the name of which has fled from my brain and stayed up half the night talking about the role of vegetables in a modern restaurant. Passard came to Los Gatos earlier this year, cooked with David for two nights and then spent the next day with David and Pim up at Love Apple Farm. The Chez Pim blog has lovely fotos about this.

I was in Paris in June, had a fantastic lunch at Arpege and spoke briefly with Passard, who told me he's looking forward to coming back to cook at Manresa: (read with French accent)

"I LOVE California. I LOVE San Francisco. And I really LOVE David."

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Have you noticed the "California Cuisine/Chez Panisse" influence on Chef Kinch?? And Passard, as well?

I see many different influences in Chef Kinch's food. It's hard to know, of course, which of this are just perceived and which are actually there. But I see sparks of different places: France, Spain, Japan, Italy, and certainly California. It's hard for me to see a very close connection between Chez Panisse and Manresa, aside from the fact that there is clear respect for the ingredients at both places. What are your thoughts on that, Russell, having been to both not too long ago?

In one respect, I would agree with you re: the respect for the ingredients both restaurants have. I was asking that question more on a philosophical basis. To me, the resulting presentations of the courses from both places can be quite different. Mind you, Kinch's tomato wedges with sea salt and olive oil is so "Chez Panisse," so "simply prepared" ... I suspect that Kinch is not so extreme in terms of an "either-or" situation concerning his presentations. Namely, there is room both for culinary creativity and for "letting the food speak for itself." Am I making sense?

Perhaps I'm a bit fixated, trying to find a Chez Panisse influence under every foraged mushroom. Are you getting a philosophical grasp on California cuisine, Aaron? As for David Kinch, do you have an idea what his culinary philosophy is? You might have to go back to Manresa and ask him. I know, life is so hard ... :biggrin::biggrin:

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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  They were both cooking at a conference the name of which has fled from my brain and stayed up half the night talking about the role of vegetables in a modern restaurant.

Casey:

I believe it was the Masters of Food & Wine at Highlands Inn in Carmel.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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Tops my list of memorable dining experiences while living in SF.

IMO service is it's weakest point in an otherwise excellent restaurant. Fix this and the third star should come strolling by very shortly...

Edited by SG- (log)
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