Diavola: Maybe the best restaurant in the World?

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Dino Bugica has something incredibly and edibly special going on in Geyserville, California.  Dino is the Chef owner of Diavola, one of my favorite places to eat in the world.  What I like most is that it is a regular spot featuring amazing farm to table cuisine with an Italian touch.  The food is mind blowingly simple yet so rich and textured in it’s flavors and combinations.  The menu offers everything from amazing pizzas baked in his wood fired oven, like our perennial favorite the Cha Cha Cha, a house smoked pork belly pizza to pan seared Iberico pork loin in a white miso and mustard sauce.  Even dishes I would rarely if ever order, like tripe or tuna heart, are brought to majestic new heights at the Chef’s talented  hand.  If it is on the menu, I am ordering it.

Next time you find yourself in Northern California and you are wondering where to eat go visit Dino at Diavola Pizzeria http://www.diavolapizzeria.com/

Geyserville Diavolo and Coppola 15

braised Beef Tripe alla Fiorentina with a sauteed Farm Egg

Here is a gallery of photos I have taken over the last few years of eating there, enjoy!

Moroccan Donuts with Harissa Hot Chocolate

Moroccan Donuts

Who doesn’t love a great donut?  Mmm, those sugary feathery light deep fried puffs rolled in sugar warming your belly and soul.  Donuts are pure magic.  They transport me back to an earlier time when food could cure all that has gone wrong in life.  Donuts, confectionery alchemy at it’s best.  Flour, sugar, butter and eggs transformed into sweet delectable pillows.  Donuts, proof that God does exist.  All this donut talk has nearly caused me to short out my keyboard from the anticipatory drool.  I do understand why I am fat.  I love food and quite honestly food loves me.

I won’t kid you, making these donuts at home will take some skill and patience.  Anyone can do it.  Just set aside some time, follow the recipe and prepare to enter Food Nirvana.

Makes Four Servings:

Moroccan Donuts

1 /2 cup        Milk

2 1/2 t.           active dry Yeast

3 cups            all-purpose flour

8 T.                  cold unsalted Butter, cut into 12 pieces

1/4 cup         Sugar

1 t.                   Sweet Paprika

1 t.                   Cinnamon

Pinch             Cayenne

1 t.                   Sea Salt

2 large           Eggs

2 large           Egg yolks

Heat milk in a small saucepan until it is just lukewarm.  Your body temperature is 98.6 degrees.  If you stick your finger into the milk it should be just slightly warmer then you.  Pour the milk into a small bowl and add yeast. Use a spoon to stir in 1 cup of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until it is bubbly and slightly risen, about 20 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the butter, sugar, spices, salt, eggs and egg yolks. Pulse till butter is finely chopped and equally distributed throughout the mixture.

Add yeast mixture and pulse to mix. Add 1 cup of the remaining flour and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and pulse again until well-mixed. Let the dough rest in the food processor for 10 minutes.

Weigh out two ounces pieces and roll into a log shape.  Pinch the ends together, put in a warm place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and let rest till it doubles in size.

Deep fry in 350 degree oil till brown and crispy on both sides.  Roll in granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon.  At the restaurant we are lucky to have deep fryers.  At home I use a large heavy gauged pot filled half way with vegetable oil.  I use a deep fryer thermometer to check temperature.  Be careful not to crowd pot with too many donuts because they will cool the oil and cause the donuts to soak up more fat.  Drain donuts on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.

Harissa Hot Chocolate

2-1/4 c          whole Milk

¼ c.                Water

4 oz                grated Valrhona bittersweet Chocolate (Manjari)

¼ c.                Sugar

1                      Cinnamon Stick

1                      Star Anise

1 t.                   Harissa, or to taste

Pinch              Saffron

Combine everything, boil, pour into a mug.  Caution this hot chocolate is rich and full of flavor.  Your favorite powdered version will not taste good anymore.

Tonight’s Specials: OK, sorry Kitchen Crew, I had too much coffee and want to CRUSH IT TONIGHT at FIGUE

Figue+Desert+Smash+hi+res-106-2399067727-Opictured is my opening Kitchen Crew, some have moved on and some are still with us!

SMALL PLATES

Soupe de Poissons $10

Marseilles’ famous puréed Fish soup, Rouille, Parmesan

Little Flamenco Dancers $12

Pork, Serrano Ham and Fontina Cheese involtini; Tomato, Olive and Caper sauce

Margherita Pizza $14

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella

Amatriciana Pizza $16

house cured Guanciale, San Marzano Tomatoes, Pecorino

Pizza alla Diavolo $16

shaved Salumi, Garlic and Red Chili Flakes

Scallop Crudo with Piquillo Pepper Granite $16

Mint and Citrus cured diver Scallop, organic Sicilian Citrus Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper Moroccan Calamari and Octopus $18

deep fried Calamari and Octopus with Harissa powder, Green Charmoula

AMERICAN BERKSHIRE PROSCIUTTO AND BURRATA $18

Di Stefano Artisan Burrata, Brioche Crostini, Fig Jam

Carpaccio of Octopus $18

Truffle Aioli, Arugula, Asparagus & Truffle Salad, shaved Manchego, Brioche Crostini

New Caledonia Sweet Blue Prawn Crudo $18

Sashimi grade Spot Prawns, Tomato Confite, Artichokes, Basil

Papillon of New Caledonia Blue Prawns and Burgundy Truffles $30

crispy Butterflies of sweet Blue Prawns, Cabbage Salad, Truffle Beurre Blanc

Paleta Iberica de Bellota $42

Cinco Jotas pure bred Iberico shoulder Ham aged two years

Tomato Olive Focaccia, Green Tomato Jam, shaved Idiazabal Cheese

BIG PLATES

Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta in Guazetto $28

Greek Branzino, Mussels and Shrimp in a Saffron Tomato Brodo, hand cut Squid Ink Pasta

BUCKWHEAT PASTA WITH RABBIT RAGU $28

hand rolled Buckwheat Pasta, Rabbit Ragu, Sicilian organic Citrus Olive Oil, aged Pecorino

Crispy John Dory $32

New Zealand St. Pierre, Chorizo Croquette, Saffron Aioli

SPIT ROAST JIDORI CHICKEN $26

Chickpea Fries, Ratatouille, Preserved Lemon Jus

Daube of Slow Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek $36

baked Ricotta galette, Cherry Tomato confite, Pumpkin Seed Crumble, Micro Arugula

Filet of Beef with Artichokes and Truffles $48

Potato Puree, caramelized Onions and Bacon, Artichokes & Burgundy Truffles

SWEETS & TURKISH COFFEE

Moroccan Donuts and Harissa Hot Chocolate $9

house made Donuts, Cinnamon Sugar, spicy Hot Chocolate

Turkish Coffee $10

Honey and Cardamom flavored Coffee prepared and served in a copper Ibrik

When asked by a social-climbing Paris hostess how he liked his truffles, Curnonsky replied,
“In great quantity, Madame. In great quantity.”

 

~ Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland), French writer (1872-1956)

Food Porn: Truffles, Pizzas and Octopus Carpaccio… Pictures from Last Night!

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“The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber, and after two thousand years of argument and discussion their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated, and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord.”

– Alexandre Dumas 

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AMERICAN BERKSHIRE PROSCIUTTO AND BURRATA $18

Di Stefano Artisan Burrata, Brioche Crostini, Fig Jam

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Since we’ve opened I have always treated the charcuterie bat like a sushi bar.  My cooks Michael and Chris kibbitz with guests offering them dishes that aren’t on any menu. It is a beautiful focal point for our restaurant.figue 2013 15 figue 2013 14 figue 2013 13

 

Carpaccio of Octopus $18

Truffle Basil Aioli, Arugula and Asparagus Salad, shaved Manchego, Brioche Crostini

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The octopus carpaccio is something I wanted to do for ten years now.  Last night was the first experiments.  I kept it fairly classic in liberal sense.  I mean we all know carpaccio Is raw beef drizzled with an olive oil dressing and garnished with shaved cheese. Invented in 1950 by Mr. Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice.  The dish was inspired by the Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo whose doctor had recommended she go on a diet of raw meat.  Mr. Cipriani had visited the art exhibit of the famed Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, known for his brilliant reds and whites.  Like any legendary dish, it mutates and morphs into something new.  Change always comes whether we want it to or not.  Our character is decided on how we handle it.

Turban of Sea Scallop and Burgundy Truffles $30

Spaghetti, shaved Truffles, Cabbage Salad, Beurre Blanc

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This is one of my favorite Joel Robuchon inspired dishes.  A single strand of spaghetti is wrapped around the interior of a savarin mold, filled with scallop and truffle mousse and big hunks of scallop then steamed.

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Turned out onto a pasta bowl, paired with a cabbage salad, slivers of fresh Burgundy truffles and an old school beurre blanc made with French butter.

figue 2013 06While I had my camera out I took a few more food shots…

figue 2013 38Buckwheat Pasta and Squid Ink Chitarra waiting to be cooked…figue 2013 22

Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta in Guazetto $28

Greek Branzino, Mussels and Shrimp in a Saffron Tomato Brodo, Hand Cut Squid Ink Pasta

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Kibbe│ Lebanese Lamb and Bulgur Wheat meatballs, Cucumber salad, Hummus – 14 

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Daube of slow braised Wagyu Beef Cheek $36

baked Ricotta galette, Cherry Tomato confite, Pumpkin Seed Crumble, Micro Arugula

figue 2013 12Sticky Toffee Cake

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Moroccan Donuts and Harissa Hot Chocolate $9

house made Donuts, Cinnamon Sugar, spicy Hot Chocolate

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Morgans at La Quinta Resort

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Sunday night, Lisa and I got a reprieve from Warden Beau and were furloughed for three hours, just long enough to escape for dinner at nearby restaurant Morgan’s.  I have been wanting to eat here for a long time but it always seemed impossible.  I guess my mind wanders to LA hotspots rather than what is in my neighborhood.  Michael Vaughn, executive Sous Chef of the property, has been a regular customer at Figue and every time he comes in I always feel bad I haven’t visited one of his places always promising to get in.

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We arrived promptly at 5:30 for cocktails at their beautiful bar for a round of leisurely drinks.  Lisa started with a Tangerine and Ginger Margarita while I had the Rum Old Fashioned.  The drinks were perfect.  I loved the decor of the bar area as it kind of reminded me of an old steak house with a it’s luxurious wood and glass.  The bar had a beautiful glass case with cheeses.  Next to the bar was a gorgeous outdoor dining area.  While we were enjoying our drinks Brian Recor, Chef de Cuisine, came out to visit.  Jimmy Schmidt is the name brand behind the concept but Brian is the guy who actually cooks.  I don’t mean to slight Jimmy, it’s just for the immediate purposes of filling my stomach with delectable bites I was more interested in Brian’s well-being.

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The hostesses lead us to a beautiful table in the back corner of the dining room.  Our waiter arrived and offered the regular menu and a tasting menu featuring apples.  With too many good choices to decide from we picked one tasting menu and a few dishes of the regular menu.  We started with a plate of oysters topped with Riesling and Hard Cider Granita.  Normally I am a guy who wants brine and more brine but these oysters were delicious.  The brine complimented the sweetness of the granita.  Lisa started with a Gruet Brut and I had the ‘Le Cengle Rose’ from Provence.  The sparkler highlighted the Sea while my rose brought out the apples.  Two great choices for this dish.

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After the oysters came their Apple and Chanterelle Ravioli from the tasting menu and Ahi Tuna and Pomegranate Tartare.  I had asked the waiter to pick whatever he wanted.  The Chef kindly sent out his Baja Shrimp glazed with spices and a ragout of cauliflower and white beans.  We both found the ravioli a tad too sweet but the tartare and shrimp were stellar.  With the round of appetizers Lisa and I shared a glass of Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia highlands.

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Our main courses were Smoked Pistachio crusted Rack of Colorado Lamb served with White Beans and roasted Garlic dressed in a Pomegranate reduction and Lisa’s Apple Cider cured pan roasted Duck Breast.  Lisa paired it with the 2008 Vietti Castiglione Barolo and I had a zinfandel who’s name eludes me.  Both dishes were tasty and by now we started thinking about our curfew.

Lisa had forgotten about her dessert but thankfully the waiter remembered.  Her Apple Cinnamon Donut Poppers arrived drizzled in Cinnamon Brittle with Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  Sated we left, returning to warden Beau and his army of balloons.

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To make reservations or for more information on Morgan’s or any of the other restaurants at La Quinta resort please go to their website.  It is a gorgeous property with wonderful rooms, shops and best of all several restaurants to choose from.  http://www.laquintaresort.com/resort/

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Sunday Family Day: Tibetan Dumplings: Who’s Your Momo?

Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam267

We shared the richest and fullest family day to date.  The day started early as it always does when you have a precocious two and a half year set on proving his place in the family structure.  I just wish his coordination matched the age of his mind and he could act on his thoughts.  Beau wakes us up with promises of ‘presso.  My half awake early morning brainwaves conjure images of the perfect espresso rich and creamy with it’s crema perfect like at Insight Coffee in Sacramento.  Thoughts wander to Antoine St. Exupery’s passage from his amazing book “Wind, Sands and Stars”, “The joy of living, I say, was summed up for me in the remembered sensation of that burning and aromatic swallow, that mixture of milk and coffee and bread by which men hold communion with tranquil pastures, exotic plantations, and golden harvests, communion with earth.” .  My java filled dream bubble rudely popped by Beau’s impromptu impersonation of a dinosaur complete with screaming at the top of his lungs and menacingly lunging at us.  I suppose in the long run, a two year old screaming Dinosaur gets me out of bed faster than coffee.

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Lately mornings have been more tolerable as cooler weather patterns have moved in.  We decided on a walk in the Desert just south of the Top of the Cove, where we live.  The slow season out here is great in the sense that you rarely see anyone walking in the Desert.  The explanation is two fold, (a) most people leave this are for the hot summer months and (b) only a fool takes a long walk in the Desert with 126 degree temperatures.  We walked through an area that  a flash flood recently ravaged.  The devastation was amazingly surreal and permanent, forever altering the landscape, where piles of rocks once stood, only dried plates of dirt and sand remain.  Beau enjoyed himself jumping on these natural tiles and smashing him imploring Daddy to join the destruction.

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Sunday Family Day 092213 03I was set on cooking an Asian based fest for Gary and Joan, Lisa, myself and Beau.  I had purchased three pounds of calamari, one whole Tai Snapper, fresh pork from De La Ranch and some ground beef to cook with.  The menu was Tibetan Beef Dumplings with Ginger Tomato Sauce, Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with a Ginger dipping sauce, Salt and Pepper Calamari, Crispy Tai Snapper with Green Papaya and Scallion Oil, finished with barbecues Pineapple with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream drizzled with a (Pyrat) Rum and Vanilla Bean butter sauce.  I prepped feverishly for two hours trying to get as much done as quickly as possible.  Strange, you’d think I hated cooking on my day off.  Truth be told, cooking is love and what a great way to show love, one stomach at a time!

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We ventured to Beau’s favorite playground, the Blue Playground, just off of 111 and Adams.  Beau danced in the water like a dervish spinning and whirling to some hidden, ecstatic inner voice and rhythm, endlessly circling the fake palm tree squirting water all over. The women of his tribe chased him as he ran around the tree stopping momentarily in the safe harbor of mama or dada’s lap.  Water had transformed our little dinosaur.  WE stopped at Home Depot for a few things to garden with.  I converted our Guatemalan drink cart into a garden planter and made a pot of herbs for Joan and Gary as a thanks for the help they give us raising Beaumont. Beaumont passed out hard, for twenty minutes, not as long as we hoped but enough to re energize him and prime him for Dama and Putz (grandma and grandpa) arrival.

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For seven years I dwelt in the loose palace of exile.
Playing strange games with the girls of the Island.
Now I have come again to the land of the fair and the strong and the wise. Brothers and Sisters of the pale forest. Children of the night. Who among you will run with the hunt? Now, night arrives with her purple legions. Retire now to your tents and to your dreams. Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth. I want to be ready.
– Jim Morrison

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Dama and Putz arrived and Lisa elevated the mood with her Golden Lions.  One day I will have to transcribe the recipe for Daniel Boulud’s amazing cocktail, fresh ginger juice, Pyrat rum, lime.  Together we shared plates of Sha Momo (Tibetan Beef Dumplings), Chinese Pork and Cabbage Dumpling, crispy fried Tai Snapper, Salt and Pepper Calamari and a refreshing roasted Pineapple with Vanilla Bean and Pyrat rum sauce…

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Beaumont sporting his Pumpkin Lights from Dama

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Long after the night ended and our dinosaur was fast asleep, we enjoyed a flute of Prosecco promising that every Sunday should be like this…

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whole Tai Snapper frying, waiting to be covered with julienned green papaya, scallion oil and a Thai fish sauceSunday Family Day 092213 06Kaffir Limes look so much like a Shar Pei crossed with a Lime

 

 

Sha Moma: largely stolen from Andrea Nguyen’s amazing dumpling book that ought to be a part of everyone’s cook book collection called “Asian Dumplings”

Filling:

3/4 pound ground Beef

1/2 cup Onion, chopped fine

1/3 cup Scallions, chopped

1/4 cup Ginger, minced

1/4 cup Garlic, minced

Salt and Sichuan Pepper

2 tablespoon Canola Oil

6 tablespoons Water

Mix everything together, rest one hour

Dumpling Dough:

2 cups Flour

3/4 cup boiling water

Mix in food processor with plastic dough blade, rest two hours.

Cut small lumps of dough and roll thin with wine bottle or rolling pin.  Take a big spoonful of meat and wrap around.  Put into a cabbage leaf lined steamer and cook 12 minutes.  Serve with a tomato sauce made from scratch adding cumin, hot peppers, copious quantities of ginger root, mint and cilantro.

 

Friday Night Specials at Figue, A Photographic Journey

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Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta with Uni $18

chilled hand rolled Chitarra Pasta with fresh Dungeness Crab

Sea Urchins and Zucchini Blossom Pesto PBS Filiming 09

Diver Scallop, Piquillo Pepper Granite and Lime Crudo $16

Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette

Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil

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Crunchy Moroccan Scallop $16

Mexican Diver Scallop wrapped in Potato, Green Charmoula Vinaigrette, fried Mint

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Bistilla Spring Rolls $16Ras el Hanout spiced Chicken with Green Onion Spring Rolls, Marcona Dipping Powder

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Di Stefano Artisan Burrata Caprese $16

Slow cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Sicilian Organic Citrus Oil

House Pickled Currant Tomatoes, Fig Vincotto and Di Stefano Burrata

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Carne Cruda $19

hand chopped raw Beef Filet Mignon tossed with Lemon Juice, smoked Maldon Salt, Arugula and Truffle Pesto, shaved Parmesan, Brioche Crostini

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Turkish Coffee $10

Honey and Cardamom flavored Coffee served in a Copper Ibrik

Figue Food Sept 2013 21Mignardises: Basil and Pine Nut Milkshake with fried Basil

 

Photographed by Chef Francois de Melogue 2013

 

 

 

168: Our Amazingly Lucky Number!

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In the Chinese culture, the number “1 6 8” is filled with the promise of abundance, good fortune and prosperity, and means “may your journey be prosperous from beginning to end.”
May your journey be prosperous from beginning to end…  That is an epic understatement when it comes to the talents and cuisine of Chef Hisashi Yoshiara.  Lisa and I went to 168 in Pasadena because of my connection with their General Manager Phil Roberson.  I was sitting at my desk working and had some fond thoughts of Phil exactly at the same time he texted me.  After some idle chat he told me about this cool pan Asian restaurant he was working at.  Being an avid fan of Asian fusion I could hardly resist the temptation.  I google where he worked and read up on their Chef.  I have to admit I came with super high expectations and was absolutely blown away by the food, service and atmosphere.
168 25 168 27We were promptly seated by the gracious hostess at an outdoor table in a beautiful small courtyard.  We chose outside because 93 degrees in Pasadena just seemed cool compared to the 108 degree day at home when we left La Quinta.  We chatted with Phil for a few moments and asked him to have Chef Yoshiara honor us with whatever he felt like cooking that day.  I absolutely love when Chef’s pick what I eat.  The complete surprise of the moment not knowing what is coming next is amazing.  I often wonder why restaurants do not offer that and why guests do not ask for it.  Try it next time you eat out.  You may get a course or two you do not like but overall you will get food you probably would not have ordered and after trying wonder why you never ordered that.  The surprise of having a table laid with eating implements and trying to figure out based on that what you are about to eat is amazing.  Chef Yoshiara is exactly the guy you want surprising you.
168 06Round One: Three Coolers and Asian Bagna Cauda
Phil brought us three coolers to sip while our first course was being prepared.  All three were delicious but the Strawberry Basil one blew both our socks off.  The other two were an orange juice and star anise flavored one and a cucumber and mint one.  The orange one was good and perhaps could of used a bump more star anise flavor.  I like the cucumber and mint one a lot.  Lisa felt it was the plainest. Despite minute differences they were a fun way to start the meal.  Phil brought us two amazing cocktails, Red Dragon made with soju, watermelon and kaffir lime syrup and a wingspan, made with sake, house made ginger beer and honey mint.  Both were perfect and yummy.  Soju is kind of a distilled version of sake.
While we were sipping our drinks the bagna caudo came out.  Now you are probably thinking ‘hey, what is an Italian dish doing on a pan Asian menu?’  Yes, so was I.  It turns out that first of all Chef made an Asian version deliciously crafted with white soy and more traditional ingredients and secondly he did it as a tribute to his Italian wife.  That may have earned him brownie points but got me into a bit of trouble with the Mrs.  I know have to put something Asian on my menu and tell my wife it is because I adore her that it is there.  The Bagna Caudo was brilliant.  We dipped bok choy, carrots, peppers and bit of bread into the insanely delicious anchovy and white soy dip.  I would have drank the remaining dip had we not been sitting so close to the waiter station.  It was that good.
168 07A spicy Ahi Tuna taco with Asian Guacamole followed.  WOW.  It was everything the name implies… crispy, crunchy, tasty, spicy, yummy.  I am not sure what else I could say.  As the picture clearly shows, the shell was absolutely spot on perfect.
168 09 168 10What followed next is a prime example of something I probably would not have ordered but holy crap is it amazing.  It was simply, and Chef forgive me for botching the ingredients, simply an eggplant steamed in miso sauce.  Yes, that simple.  Simple food is something people take for granted.  A lot of Chefs believe more is always better.  To me, the true talent of a Chef lies not in how much he can stick onto your plate but how much can the Chef strip away and blow you away.  This dish had two components.  No hiding behind slabs of foie gras, truffle shavings ort a plethora of other things… this was a simple fat slice of Japanese eggplant and miso sauce.
168 13 168 12The next dish absolutely made me cry in it’s beauty and taste. A potato wrapped sea scallops cooked and served in an emerald green pool or green Thai curry rich with galangal.  The sauce had this beautiful warming glow to the lingering taste.  The potatoes and scallops were just cooked so perfectly.  I could have eaten five more orders they were that good.  Phil served us a beautiful sake served in a shot glass sitting inside a small wooden box.  It is a sign of prosperity when you pour an over the top a shot of sake.
168 11The cool sake offset the lingering spiciness of the curry.  BRAVO!
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About this time we started to get fuller and wondered if this was the last main dish.  Chef prepare a beautiful dish of Alaskan Black Cod lacquered with Ponzu sauce and served with micro croutons and a steamed baby turnip filled with even more ponzu sauce.  It was amazing.  Those familiar with the chain of high-end Hawaiian restaurants Roys will be familiar with that fish though they call it Butter Fish.  The fish just falls apart in creamy heavenness.  Yes that is now a real word.  We finished eating and wondered what dessert would look like.
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Just then, our waiter brought a tray of serving utensils that indicated dessert was not forthcoming.  Two smaller bowls appeared then the mother ship came out the kitchen area and towards us.  Having peeked at the menu early I knew we were getting a ramen noodle soup.  The slight awkwardness of our waiter lended a wonderful level to the dining experience.  He was a young fellow who seemed just as excited about the food and 168 as we felt being newbies there.  It added to the Christmas like feel of wondering what you were getting next.  The noodle soup was made with Kurabuta Pork, noodle and thin shaved Japanese peppers.  It was phenomenal.  Phil paired this course with a Syrah that danced with the spicy flavors quite well.
Lisa had hit saturation point.  I did too but could not stop eating the noodles and broth.  They were addictive.  By then the heat of the day coupled with too much food and alcohol got me sweating.  Phil noticed and dragged us inside for the dessert course.
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I normally am not prone to eating desserts.  It melted in my mouth and made me wish I had the balls to ask him for the recipe.  So feathery light and perfectly cooked.After dessert the Chef came out.  I complimented his abilities and vowed to return soon.
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It truly was an honor eating there.  Phil was an amazing host and we enjoyed catching up on his family and what was going on with his life.  I strongly recommend w=eating at 168 in Pasadena if you love Asian Fusion.  They are located at : 168 west Colorado boulevard, old Pasadena, ca 91105 and can be reached at 626-793-8008.  To see their web site please go to http://www.168pasadena.com/
Phil took us on a small tour of the vast complex.  Private dining, great bar, outdoor seating…
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cool, practical decor made with orange spray painted dead tree limbs168 28
Chef’s Play Ground168 26
Private Dining Area
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Cool fixtures from their Sushi Bar168 23 168 27

Sunday Family Day Part Deux, Apples, Pear Tart and Hard Cider

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“It was definitely a Sunday tart, gazed at with admiration and eaten with relish on those Sunday noons, with the narrow street outside on the same level as the room and the sky purplish-blue when the weather was stormy, or aflicker with gold when the sun was shining.” – Proust

How could I not make it?  We began the day with the chief goal of not leaving the house and enjoying the bounty of foods bought from small farmer’s and ranchers at the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market the day before.  By eight a.m. we were dunking slabs of Phillippe’s rustic boule slathered in hand-beaten French butter into our plate of Oeufs a la Coque, made from De La Ranch eggs cooked precisely three minutes.  Beaumont was intent on copying our actions verbatim, deliberately piercing the runny yolk with his bread spear splashing saffron hued eggs onto his fingers and plate.  He seemed like a miniature gourmand trapped inside a small child’s body frustrated by the new bodies inability to follow the old minds thought.  For a flashing moment I saw Beau as an old man deliberately enjoying his meal.

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I looked over to the wall of books in our dining room and “Dining with Proust” just caught my attention as if it were meant to be.  I flipped through the pages and immediately stopped on this line:

“The chief reason for going to the farm when they felt the need of a little refreshment was a wish to see her and to be in her home, much as some people frequent certain restaurants, though the reason they give may be that the cider is better there than elsewhere or the cheese particularly good.”

That line set about a catalyst of food dreams inspired by books needing to become realities.  The first food dream manifested itself as apples bought from the Asian woman at the market stuffed with a mixture of leeks, creme fraiche and goat cheese.  Lisa and I both read Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis.  Rue Tatin is the kind of book that is so graphically written that you feel like you are there eating with her at her home in Normandy.Ultimately Lisa, Beau and I will live in France and this book accelerates the process.

Baked Apples stuffed with Leeks and Goat Cheese (paraphrased from Susan Loomis)

4 Apples, I used Fuji – peel and core creating a large cavity to stuff

5.5 ounces fresh Goat Cheese

2 T. Creme Fraiche

2 Leeks – use mostly just the white part.  I cut into large dice and soaked in salted water to remove dirt and grit that hides in the layers

4 T Butter

2 cups hard Cider

Directions:

Saute washed leeks in two tablespoons of butter till super tender.  You want to cook the leeks slow so they do not color.  Mix with goat cheese and creme fraiche.  Pour into apple cavity.  Top with remaining butter.  Put into baking dish with cider and cook for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  Enjoy with a beautiful green salad.

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After a long walk in the Desert with Lucy we rested and prepared for round two.

Proust’s Pear Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Ingredients for one nine inch tart

One sheet Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

Four Pears

2 ounces Butter

1 c. Powdered Sugar

Directions

Roll puff pastry sheet out slightly larger on a floured surface.  It should drape over your tart tin by two inches.  Fold over edge and crimp with fingers.  Quarter pears and remove core with paring knife.  Cut each quarter in half and arrange in a circular pattern in tart shell.  Brush pears with melted butter and sprinkle with half of the powdered sugar.  Bake at 400 till tart is brown and pears are lightly browned.  Cool slightly, sprinkle with remaining sugar and serve with powdered sugar.

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Barlata: My Spanish Tapas Diner

I love Barlata.  I am not sure exactly what tickles my fancy about the place.  I have eaten better tapas, had better service and seen better decor but yet something still pulls me to the place.  The last time I was there was a few short Image

hours after gorging at Cotogna.  I decided on Barlata as I can sit outside with my dog and my two year old son can run around without offending any serious diners.  Lisa and I were meeting dear old friend Jim Laffer and hopefully Cindi and Jackson.  We were the first there and immediately commenced ordering food and two bottles of Spanish wine.  We plowed through the menu of familiar dishes and laughed with Jim.  I love going to Barlata because it feels like putting on an old comfortable well worn shoe.  No surprises – you know exactly what to expect.  A perfect place to enjoy being.

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One of my favorite category of dishes there are their Latas.  They use old tin cans as serving dishes.  It is a novel concept in our country where everything is disposable and we certainly dispose of it.Vacation August 2013 Nacimiento Road 164After stuffing ourselves for a second time we headed to our car completely sated… I chuckled at the Beer is Good sign and thought of all my beer making buddies who would raise a pint at such a sentiment!

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Barlata is located at 4901 Telegraph in Oakland.  Reservations can be made at: 510.450.o678 and you can see their menu at: http://www.barlata.com/index.html