Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wolvesmouth

After 3 months of RSVP-ing for a Wolvesmouth dinner, I finally got the response to attend!  I had no idea how difficult it would be to get into this mysterious dinner party, so try and try again, I responded to almost every date as they were released.  As the week's dinner date approached and my reservation request pending, I would check my email Thursday mornings in hopes of getting the confirmation.  No response means no reservation, so I became accustomed to seeing the usual slurry of flash sale and retail emails each Thursday with the missing confirmation email to be expected.  I'd check my spam, just in case, but no luck there either.  And finally, there is was, this last Thursday, an email from Dim Sum Pup, and I was in!

Chef Thornton started these dinners in San Diego over 5 years ago and thankfully has moved the operation up to downtown Los Angeles.  His career path has spanned from sushi to Bouchon and to has led him to his current solo endeavor where ingredients and presentation equal any fine dining experience but with a personal and relaxed atmosphere.  Where else can you go where the chef comes to your table to describe the dish you are about to eat?  I wanted to totally food-geek out and ask a ton of questions, but I held back in a moment of shyness.  I'll be trying for a second invite and can hopefully feel a bit more brave.  For more of Craig's story, check out a few links here, here and here.

The pace of the three hour dinner was casual but not drawn out and left us with more than a full belly.  I should have paced myself early, but each dish was just too good not to try to lick the plate.  By the time the sixth and seventh courses were served, I had to take it easy and leave a few bites for my homies.  A total of nine dishes were served with three fish courses, one veggie, three meat and two desserts.  After dinner, I eavesdropped on a conversation the chef was having at our end of the table in which he outlined why the courses were planned in each order. The pork belly with buttermilk and crystal hot sauce, was planned as the first course to shake up the order a little bit.  Serve a big dish and go in with a bang, followed by three more delicate and light seafood dishes.  Then take a pause with a veggie dish and bring the diners back up with two meat courses.  The finale of fruit-centric desserts ended the meal on a light note with fresh citrus and strawberries (Craig is not a fan of heavy, chocolatey desserts).

This dinner experience is something special that you can't experience in a restaurant and can only come close to in your own home (given you have a gourmet chef in your family).  Check out this link and persistently RSVP.


Refrigerator menu.  Over half way through at about 9pm.


Bone mobile


Centerpiece



Ingredients- Note the green strawberries



More ingredients- cocoa, green garlic, what looks like black fennel?

Sous Vide - magic for pork belly course

Yellowfoot mushrooms 
Morels

simple kitchen, only 4 burners



Pea "risotto" and tile fish


Chef Craig Thornton



The chef and his "staff".  I could watch chefs cook all night.

Prepping borage flowers


Lamb 


Plating veg


Plating rabbit




And now the dishes:


2 day dry-cured and 10 hr sous vide pork belly, buttermilk & crystal hot sauce, blueberry-shallot garnish and fried green strawberries


Tile fish with pea risotto, wasabi peas, carrot

Sea scallop, morels, onion & bacon relish, fiddlehead fern, asparagus and asparagus puree



Crab salad with cheddar fritters and fresh picked favas





Veggie- brussel sprouts, avocado, kale, cabbage, apple sphere, cucumber, twice cooked potato in carrot top-horseradish- dill sauce.

Rabbit, ricotta, mint, parmesan, rabbit jus, ramps, ramp pasta.  Ramp leaves were impressed within the pasta.


Lamb, potato puree, cocoa, rhubarb-beet verjus, cat grass, nasturtium, borage flower

Buttermilk pana cotta, freeze dried mandarin, clementine, tangerine, vanilla shortbread

Coffee pound cake, donut ice cream, strawberries, strawberry merengue, whipped coffee






Thursday, February 02, 2012

Across the Pond, 3 Days in London

Life is pretty short and my travel list is pretty long, so I just couldn't pass up the chance to tag-along on one of Tobin's work trips across the pond.  Having just come back from a holiday vacation, I couldn't be too indulgent and spend the much required week or more in the city, but we covered as much ground as possible in the two and a half days I was there.  You absolutely cannot get bored in this city with quaint shops and pubs around every corner and an outdoor market for everyday of the week.

We arrived on a Saturday around noon and by the time the cab fought traffic into the city, the afternoon was slipping away.  We rushed over to the Borough Market, bordering on the south side of the Thames. If you like food, you will love this food-lovers' paradise.  Stalls prepared everything from paella to duck sandwiches washed down with a to-go mulled wine.  I would have no problems spending my entire paycheck on the gourmet sausages, local oysters, and fresh baked bread.  I have read and heard about the Indian influences on the food and dining scene in London, however, I was surprised to see so many Spanish purveyors selling cheese, chorizo, olives and the like.  No matter what you are craving, you will find something you love here.


Borough Market




for the adventurous, perhaps some Haggis?  After all, it's award-winning

 





Duck Sandwich & Mulled Wine, how could I resist?



One of several lovely bridges connecting the north and south sides of the Thames
 While still on the south side of town, check out the many bridges as well as the Tate Modern museum and a stop at the OXO restaurant and bar for a cocktail and bite with a view of the city from across the river.
Not the greatest pic, but view from the lounge at OXO


Our hotel was situated in Leicester Square which reminded me of Times Square with the bright lights, huge flagship tourist stores (our lobby had a two story M&M shop!?), and Broadway theater marquees.  Connecting Leicester Square with the upper-scale Soho neighborhood is China Town, glowing in lantern-strewn streets lined with crowded dining rooms.


Every major city must have a China Town.  Our hotel, in the background, lit up in blue.






Day two had another market itinerary, up north in the Spitafields neighborhood.  This area has several different markets within about a mile radius area, comprising of vintage clothing and home accessories, locally made jewelry and clothing as well as an international indoor food court with portable burners cooking everything from Sri Lankan and Thai dishes.  Too early for lunch?  Grab an Irish Coffee from the small bar set up inside.

Spitafields



Indoors, prepared food awaits.






Outdoors, sweets and juices





Beer

I had not had a proper beer until I had one in London.  These guys (and gals) know how to craft and pour an amazing pint.  These beers are nothing fancy, just from a tap in a regular old pub.  But there is something about the frothy head and the rings around your half-empty pint glass that make even a light lager seem luxurious.




before

after




Old London Charm

What you would expect to see in London, you do.  From the double decker busses, red phone booths, clock towers and Union Jack Mini Coopers, you will have plenty of opportunities for touristy photos.


Yes, there really are double decker busses, and they are not used for city tours












Shopping Districts-  Kensington, Soho and Carnaby

While shopping was not on my list of to-dos with the pound still not within my price range, it was still worth the visit to see the old glamour of Harrods, the quaint brick lanes of Carnaby and the gorgeous white buildings curving along the streets of Soho. 

Town houses in Kensington

Harrods windows








Glimmering night lights in the Soho area