27 April 2009

Can't Pronounce it but it Eats Well! Dining at Aubergine

This week was amazing for eating out. I was nervous because this place is pricey and it suggested that I wear a jacket. Well all I had was a suit and I found at Sardine Factory I was the only one in a suit. Happily most men at Aubergine wore at least blazers and many wore suits. This is the outside of the hotel. Very nice.

So I was the first one patron to arrive for the night. This room is the entire restaurant. Very cozy. What was cool is the Maitre'd knew my name before I said anything. I guess I was the only one that night with a 1 person reservation. Anyway, I thought it was cool. Before long plenty of diners filled the room. Then in walked the Chef.
Cristophe Grosjean is the Executive Chef here. It is always comforting to see the Chef actually there. So I was inspired to get the 8-course Chef's Tasting Menu which means: 1-The Chef had carte blanche to pick my courses as he saw fit and 2-all my courses were not just overseen but cooked personally by Chef Grosjean. That's a serious bonus. Before we get to the food let me say that the service was amazing. I had a server for my water, a server that made sure I never ran out of bread and my main server who wore white gloves. That was kinda neat. Now none of the help was in tux but they all dressed very fine. I think it really enhanced the atmosphere. Also, the help seemed to know a lot of the patrons personally. I don't know who can afford to eat at a place like this on a regular enough basis to ask about the Maitre'd's children but I'd like to be that person. On to the food!
This was my veggie plate. Dipping sauce was good. Not my favorite veggies. I don't even know what most of the vegetables were but they were radishy.
This was my Amuse Bouche. I think that translates to "yummy corn mush." OK so it's meant to jump start your taste buds before your first course arrives. Mission accomplished!

I know what you're thinking. Roy once again has no idea what his dishes are called. Wrong! I got them to print me my menu! So you're about to get all the details! So the above 1st course is Watercress and Sweetneck Oyster with la ratte potato, creme fraiche, and California osetra caviar on seaweed butter brioche. That's a lot of fancy words. Anyway, I'm not the biggest fan of oysters and caviar is too salty/fishy for me. When i slapped it on the bread it was pretty OK. I'm sure for oyster fans it was pretty good. Anyway, it looked pretty!
2nd Course was the Fennel & Crab with rouille, tarragon and dungeness crab bisque. I've been dying for crab so this was perfect. This was the most delicious thing I put in my mouth that night! The crab dissolved in my mouth but I could have drunk a gallon of the broth. Thank you Cristophe!
It's like the Chef was reading my mind. 3rd Course was the Artichoke and Halibut with "pata negra" ham (the thin slice you see that could be used for a water filter!), manilla clam, and paprika. So halibut is my favorite fish. It has such a great flavor. Even the artichoke was good (read: I don't like artichoke). It was very tender. It just melted on my tongue.
Course the 4th! This is my Potato and Duck with a potato and truffle ravioli, wild spring onions, "vinaigrette d'abat," and foie gras. This duck was much better than the duck I had at Pacific's Edge (which was also good). Delicious sauce, delicious ravioli. The potato slices on top: I can't tell if they were really sliced and fired or just potato chips. Either way it worked.
5th Course and the 2nd best of the night. This was the Mustard and Veal with morel, crushed potato, and shallots. Those morels (I think they are a type of mushroom) were amazing and the veal was so darn good! Very tender and the sauce was radical. By the way, I don't know why my red meat pictures always turn out so dark.
OK so 6th Course was my cheese plate with a raisin bread. I was told to eat from left to right. I had four cheese with respectively pistachios, macadamias, grape slices and goo. Pretty darn good. I now love grapes and cheese. Who knew?
This is my 7th Course and my first dessert course. It is a Citrus and Yogurt with blood orange coulis, meringue, tangerine sorbet and yogurt panna cotta. Mmm. I call it a parfait! It was really good and the panna cotta was like finding a little cookie treasure in my dessert! Mmm mmm!
Final Course was Raspberry and Chocolate with a dark chocolate tart, raspberries and white chocolate ice cream. This was also very good. Not as good as the dessert I had a Pacific's Edge (read below! Now!) but it was darn good. I appreciate my chocolate a little bitter especially with fruit and it was just right.
And here is my "while you pay for a meal that cost the same as a cheap roundtrip ticket" treat. Cookies, chocolate and marshmallows. All were good but I was leary of the marshmallows. I thought it would be like popping a staypuft in my mouth but they were really soft and coated in some sort of lemon powdered sugar. It was really good. have I said that before? Well it's always really true. Now let's talk about the overall experience. This was the second best meal of my life. The food I ate at Chef Mavro's last year in Hawaii was just a little better. The filet and scallops I ate at Mavro's are the 2 best pieces of food ever to enter my mouth. But this meal was very comparable. What set this place apart is how it felt so refined and yet not uptight. It was absolutely delightful. This could set it apart as the best dining experience of my life. Thank you Chef Grosjean! I wish I could afford to come back!
Oh! This is when I went to Willy's Smokehouse and pigged out on appetizers during $4 appetizer night. I was stuffed and it only put me out $15. Fine choice.

19 April 2009

Eating on the Edge of a Loose Noodle!

This very weekend I ate at Pacific's Edge at the Highlands Inn in Carmel. I have been looking forward to this for a while. Chef Ayer's restaurant is the recipient of a 15 toque review from Gayot (my restaurant guide of choice) and consistently is in the top 10 U.S. Restaurants with a View list every year. I wasn't against the window but the view was spectacular. Now on to the food.
Let me start out by saying that as the sun faded my poor phone camera was inadequate. Sorry. However, I had plenty of light for my grilled prawns! This was the start of my 4-course (I eventually turned it into 5) meal. The grilling brought out a really nice unexpected flavor. And the presentation was nice. Look! They're friends! Hey! No spooning!
OK so the second course was a grilled duck breast on top of a rutabaga puree. Look at the cute little quail egg on top! The flavor was good, not amazing and one of my slices of duck wasn't as tender as I had hoped but the rest was pretty darn good.

Stupid candle light! Anyway, the dark glob above was my lamb on an I have no idea what kind of sauce (I guess I should take notes). But it was very tender and very tasty. I love lamb! A lot!
This was my dessert course. A Strawberry and Rhubarb Crisp with Mascarpone and some sorbet. Oh my freaking gadget that was one of the tastiest things I've ever consumed. It kinda looked like a graham cracker sandwich but it was very light and super tasty.
However I was still a bit hungry (I wish they offered a 5 course meal).
So I added the creme brulee. Creme brulee is always good and especially with fresh fruit. So Pacific's Edge was a very enjoyable experience. The view was fantastic and the food pretty good. It was a bit noisy but it's a lot of people in a small place so what can you do. Plus they have a live singer doing Rat Pack-ish music and that's always good.
Now as for Saturday I went to the Loose Noodle. OK I had soup, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Dessert for $23. And the spaghetti was freaking awesome. I could be talked into going back in a heartbeat. Plus it looks so pretty! No I did not lick the carrot garnish off.
Instead I got some carrot cake. Probably my favorite kind of cake and they did a good job. What else can I say? I continue to enjoy eating well in one of the best dining areas of the country. Next week I'm looking forward to a little place called Aubergine. So stay tuned!

The Extremely Haunted Winchester Mystery House

This weekend I went with John Snow (Val's brother) to the Winchester Mystery House! I've wanted to do this for a long time. Some say it's the most haunted place on earth except really that's just me. But some people swear it's haunted. Our guide said he'd never seen anything but maybe he just only believes in science.

This is the extremely huanted Gingerbread representation of the Winchester Mystery House. In fact it is so haunted it would be deadly to eat it (or because it's 19 years old).

This is the extremely haunted staircase that leads to nowhere. Pretty weird.

This is the extremely haunted bedroom where Mrs. Winchester died. Probably while being haunted.

This is the extremely haunted front door where President Teddy Roosevelt was told to go away. He probably haunts it.

This is the extremely huanted front staircase where I hope someone once got murdered. They didn't say as much but it's just perfect for it. I mean look at it! And I love the lamp.

The extremely haunted organ where ghosts may or may not play scary music.

The extremely haunted door that leads to nowhere. Mrs. Winchester killed scores of unwanted visitors by asking them to see themselves out late at night through this door. Except not really.

Shot of the house from the extremely haunted (but gorgeous) gardens. OK so I didn't see any ghosts but only because they hurried us through this toor so fast you would think the guides had laxatives for lunch. The place is really cool both inside and out. So go, right now! If you dare...

I Know What Roys Like...Roys Like Food!

Two weeks ago (I'm sorry I'm behind!), I ate with my brother-in-law John Snow at the Montrio Bistro in Monterey. It has been voted the favorite restaurant in the city by readers of the local paper for several years in a row so we had to check it out. Above you see the interior. Rather groovy I thought but if you look at the ceiling you'll notice that it has what I think are supposed to be clouds but they really look like pealed potatoes. Well what can you do?
We started with Sunchoke Soup and some calamari. I had no idea what sunchoke was. I thought it was pretty good but sunchoke turned out not to be my choke of choice.

I love halibut! This was pretty good. I liked it better than the sturgeon I had a few weeks ago at Passionfish but maybe just because I like halibut so much. It was very fresh and the honey mustard was a good sauce choice.
We decided for dessert to get their "dessert bites," kind of a sampler platter of everything. Starting at the top left and moving clockwise we have the Lemon Raspberry Tart (John's favorite), the Salted Caramel Cheesecake, Carrot Cake with Ice Cream and Creme Brulee. I loved all of them. I think my favorite might have been the salted caramel cheesecake! I would go back just for the desserts.

The next day I was in Socal visiting my family so we had to go to the Saugus Cafe where James Dean had his last meal. I hope his Biscuits and Gravy weren't luke cold like mine. They would have been so yummy warm! Anyway, it didn't warrant a picture.

But the Cherry Pie did! Everytime I go to a dinner I think of Agent Cooper and I feel obligated to get some cherry pie. It was a good choice. This was a good weekend of dinning highlighted by desserts galore!

09 April 2009

More Monterey Eats!

OK so last Friday I ate at Passionfish. Pretty tasty and reasonably priced too! So I got for my appetizer a spicy Mango Calamari salad with red peppers and other stuff. Mmm. Yeally yummy. The mango...I can't make up my mind on how well that worked with the rest of the salad esp the spicyness and squid. It would have been a great salad with or without the mango.

OK so I went here based on rave reviews on Yelp. And most of the people loved the above fish. It's a sturgeon with some kind of crazy sauce that was really good. Sturgeon isn't the strongest fish but the flavor in the sauce and the tenderness of the fish was wonderful.

On Saturday I ate at the India Ambrosia Bistro. OK I love indian food. Way. I told myself I wasn't going to repeat any restaurants while I'm here. I may have to break that rule because of this place. This chicken Samosa was very good. And look at the presentation! Beautiful and yummy!

Couldn't decide what I wanted so I got the Feast. I LOVE lamb and it came with some yummy lamb. My favorite stuff was the two dishes at the top. The sauces were freaking fantastic. Great food, great presentation great restaurant. Gonna try and talk my brother in law into going there with me tomorrow. Anyway, can't wait to post again after I eat more free food!

03 April 2009

Eating Out!

OK so this is going to be part 1 of a series. I am here in Monterey right now and the government is giving me plenty of dough to eat so I'm exploring the fantastic Monterey Restaurant Scene.

I got this appetizer at the old Fisherman's Grotto on the wharf. Their Chowder was fantastic! Also, I loved their presentation. So above is my crab cakes with a honey mustard garnish. It was pretty yummy.

This is the Chocolate Creme Brulee the waiter recommended. Good Choice! Notice there is no picture of my main course. This is an unfortunate trend. It comes to my table and it's so yummy I just dig in! Sorry! It was a lobster stuffed with scallops and shrimp! Yeah!
This is at the Chart House. A little swankier than the Fisherman's Grotto but the chowder wasn't as good. This appetizer is the coconut shrimp. I love this stuff.

Here's my lava cake. The chef was from Hawaii! Anyway they are famous for this desert and it's pretty darn good. Again no pic of my main course. It was a prime rib. It was very tender and it came with a dipping sauce that was fantastic.

This is a friend of mine at the Sardine Factory. We ate here for my birthday. This place is pretty famous and the waiters were decked out. This room is called The Conservatory and I was hopping we'd be able to eat here. We all got the Abalone Bisque (they are famous for it ever since serving it at President Reagan's Inaguration). It was very good.

This was my pallet cleanser. You can't see but between the wings it a cup of mango sorbet. The waiter told me not to lick the ice sionce it is lightly irradiated (hence the glow). Wow! An atomic dish!

Here's my free Birthday desert. It was pretty good (and free!). For dinner I got the Steinbeck Duo (Prawns and a VERY tender Filet Mignion). It was a lot of fun to dress up fancy and eat there. This weekend I am eating at Passionfish and Ambrosia Indian Bistro. I'll take pics of my main courses this time, I promise!