Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cafe Provencal

You know it was a fabulous meal if I forgot to take pictures for half the night and spent two months figuring out exactly how I would describe it. And still...I should be arrested for the injustice my words are about to commit.

Through the gracious invitation of one very awesome Mr. Randy Farber (my Mr. Miyagi of the food world), I had the good fortune to eat real, bonafide, amazing, FANTASTIC FOOD. Actually, you can't even really call it food. Edible art. Yeah...that's better.

First, let me set the scene. We ventured to Sherman Oaks to attend the Farber family's 8th annual donor dinner to fund a new generation of awesome ASCers!

The dishes were themed. THEMED! Four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire!

Here's the rundown of the awesomeness that paraded its way into my stomach:

Hors d'houevres
stuffed mushrooms
wine: wycliff california champagne NV (which I learned stands for non-vintage)
Verdict: Yes! There's not a stuffed mushroom I've met that I haven't loved, but this one was particularly scrumptious! Also, the champagne was bubbly, flavorful, and in my limited experience, the best I've ever had. My favorite cup of the night!

First Course
frog legs vol au vent
escargot in basil polenta
wine: arcadian 2006 dierberg pinot noir, Santa Maria Valley
Verdict: Interesting, and delish in a way I've never tasted before! When I initially read the menu, I was gearing to chew on some straight-from-the-pond, intact frog appendages. But as it was vol au vent, the legmeat was cooked into a puff pastry. INCREDIBLE! It tasted heartier than seafood, which I appreciated! And I like escargot. But the best part about the first course was the presentation. Just look at the colors!

Second Course
jumbo scallop, sweet chili sauce
clam chowder profiterole
wine: arcadian 2006 sleepy hollow chardonnay, santa lucia highlands
Verdict: My favorite dish of the night. The taste of the sweet chili sauce (the ice cream-looking white bit in the wine glass below) had the best, but most indescribable taste that has ever danced across my tongue. Just looking at the picture makes my mouth water! And the clam chowder was, like the frog legs, a hearty flash of yum!

Third Course
oven-roast bison, black truffle bourbon sauce
duck magret, pink peppercorn and cherries
wine: arcadian 2005 stolpman syrah, santa ynez valley
Verdict: Definitely the most interesting combo of the night. To be honest, I didn't know which was the duck and which was the bison. But they were both cooked to perfection, and so incredibly savory! So, if you go to Cafe Provencal, order the bison...or the duck. With the truffle bourbon sauce!

baked alaska flambe
chocolate wine
Verdict: Flambe to the max! They poured...I think it was bourbon...around the dessert and set it on fire! But the focus of the dessert was the chocolate wine. Once again, in my (as of then) extremely limited wine experience (like...1, maybe 2 cups ever in my life before), I'd never, ever tasted anything quite like it. I wouldn't even say it tasted incredibly like chocolate, but there was a sweet, sparkly? quality that cleared my nose up real quick! :) Try it!

Check out that egg shell!

To say I recommend Cafe Provencal would be like saying I recommend, I don't know, cookies. Go, please. You'll be a better eater for it.

Also, if you're a wine buff, check out the Arcadian Winery in Santa Ynez. They provided all the drinks for the night!

Great food, better people!

Thanks Serge and friends!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spain: Dispatches from the Edge

Hello foodiesphere!

This is Stephanie, coming to you jive and alive from Granada, Spain. Life has been pretty insane since I arrived on September 23rd. Namely, the culinary experience. I feel as if I am little Red Riding Hood, except rather than creeping cautiously through the woods to Grandma's dilapidated cabin, I am skipping merrily through FunFoodland Forest, where the trees are filled with fresh bread, the roads are lined with tapas, and a babbling creek of Spanish wine leads to the way to Grandma's house...which overlooks a Paella garden.

What is the best way to describe Spanish cuisine? Imagine that steamy, rebellious culinary college drop-out, who suavely threw his poofy, white chef's hat to the wind when those stuffy administrators told him that good food didn't excuse poor presentation.

"But ze food should speak for eetzelf," remarks our crooning culinarian, as he slams the door behind him forever.

AKA, spanish food preparation is spent on maximizing flavor, at the expense of presentation. But is so, so, very delish. Feast your eyes on the photos that do absolutely no justice to Spain's food scene...but still look pretty tasty!