Maude Morels - the Meal
From all the seasonal menus listed, I most looked forward to Maude's morels menu. I love mushrooms and wild, earthy, spongy morels are among my favorite. To add to the excitement level, we got seated at the counter - Maude's equivalent of a Chef's Table.
Most of these dishes had over a dozen steps or components before it was fully plated, in unison for each table.
And it involved domes. And smokers.
Oh, and did I mention fresh truffles, shaved tableside, over the amuse bouche of popcorn in a paper bag? Why of course.
1. popcorn with shaved truffle and morel salt
I got the center seat with birdseye view of the bustling open kitchen activity. Throughout the meal I could not pull my eyes away. It felt like watching a very suspenseful movie. Since there as as many staff as customers, there is a lot to see. On top of that the chefs were friendly and informative.
The service at the counter might be even more attentive than the already impressive service. I dropped my phone at some point and it was picked up for me before I even noticed it fell. Each time I returned to the seat, I was pushed in toward the counter, with the napkin placed again on my lap. One can get used to this.
2. Risotto with a morel stuffed with chicken mouse
The risotto texture was impossibly silky, creamy and earthy.
3. Cream of morel soup with rosemary oyster crackers
4. Kampachi with avocado puree, herbs, passion fruit snow, togarashi, lime zest
5. Scallop with wild garlic puree, pickled watermelon rind, roe powder, fava beans, morel foam
6. duck egg, summer squash, horseradish, smoke, crumbles, spinach powder
Easily my favorite dish of the night, full of texture and bold flavor. Only the taste rivaled the complex preparation.
7. Raviolo with scallop and morel, morel consomme, truffle crumble, watercress
8. Pork belly, savory panna cotta, fresh and pickled vegetables
9. Lamb, eggplant puree, baby leek, green garbanzo, poached morels
10. cheese course: taleggio, onion, charred peach sauce, nasturtium, morel salt
11. Pre-dessert: ice cream bar with coffee ice cream, dehydrated morels, coffee beans
12. black forest floor, dark cherry, chocolate, hazelnut, caramel worms and soil
Even though this dessert was light and foamy, I could not handle more than 2 small bites at this point. They have a policy where they do not provide food to go because the texture would change to a pool of liquid by the time one gets home. I picked out the candied morels of course, never imagining I’d ever be eating that!
13. Petit fours: blueberry financier, pineapple/mango/coconut/passion fruit tart, rasberry chocolate truffle
And finally this epic meal ended with a gift tin of the morel salt.
For more photos of the kitchen, please go to Part 2, Maude Morels -View from the Counter, here.
Maude Rhubarb Menu
It’s hard to resist continued posting about Maude. But having a multi-course meal with rhubarb as the star is worth celebrating. Outside of pies and jam I have not eaten much rhubarb and went in not knowing how it would work in savory applications.
Well, needless to say, as challenging as it must have been to the chefs to develop this harmonious meal, this May dinner turned out to be one of the standouts in good company of innovative meals.. Highly seasonal and personal to Chef/Owner Curtis Stone, who grew up with rhubarb growing in his garden, the passion was evident in every bite.
The flowers at Maude always make me smile, and the peonies matched the rhubarb theme perfectly.
Here is a course by course replay of the exquisite meal.
Whipped rhubarb - cucomber sorbet, marigold flowers
Chicken wing with traditional accompaniments - pickled rhubarb, rhubarb ranch dressing
This was a fun, deconstructed dish and if pickles and rhubarb ranch accompany all wings, I wouldn’t mind.
Escabeche - Santa Barbara spot prawn, cilantro, shaved rhubarb
The prawn was part crudo and part cooked.
Asparagus - asparagus custard, brown butter croutons, rhubarb vinaigrette, white asparagus
Branzino - fennel, pickled peppers, squash blossoms, fava beans, dehydrated olives
The seabass preparation with all the spring components showed a lightness.
Chicken liver parfait - spring garlic, pain perdu, pickled onions, pickled mustard seeds
If there was one course I could eat over and over, and according to the staff, I was not alone in that wish, this was it. One could easily eat a dozen of those browned, buttery bread cubes and the pickled mustard with the chicken liver mousse worked in unexpected ways.
Sweetbread raviolo - rhubarb beurre blanc, turnip remoulade, puffed rice “rhubarb popcorn”
Much like in previous meals, this was also a favorite course. Flavors and textures contrasted and melded together perfectly.
Duck breast - savory granola, smoked beets, leeks, pastrami
Awesome dish. I loved the savory granola idea.
Comté - Madeira-rhubarb gelee
The creamy, tangy and bitter cheese course lightened the palate after the prior hearty course.
Pre-dessert - rhubarb consommé, rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb pieces
The rhubarb trio looked like stained glass and brightened our palates beautifully.
Ginger Parfait - vanilla-rhubarb gratin, salted honey, almond streusel, mascarpone
The light and airy dessert rounded off the meal.
Petit fours - rasberry rhubarb marshmallow, strawberry rose rhubarb pastry, chocolate cacao nib truffle
We ended the meal with this beautiful gift to take home of yogurt with rhubarb compote.
Tacolandia - A Taco Lover’s Dream
Last weekend I met a group of foodie friends at LA Weekly’s Tacolandia event, in the very heart of L.A., El Pueblo de los Angeles. Walking past Olvera Street brought up so many pleasant childhood memories.
When “Tacorazzo” Bill Esparza curates an event, and brings over Baja Califonia chefs, I am there! The event included 40 of LA’s and Mexico’s best taco restaurant, truck and cart purveyors.
My friends and I have been to enough of these large events where we have strategies to make best use of our time. We made a b line to the Baja section and had a taco in hand within 5 minutes.
My favorite bite of the event was a fantastic seafood tostada from Ensenada street cart, La Guerrerense. Topped with a base of bacalao (salted cod), crab salad, octopus and a juicy scallop, they added the hand crafted salsas according to one’s heat preference. I was happy to see the roasted chile and peanut salsa among others on my tostada.
The luminous and legendary Mrs. Sabina Bandera was on hand cooking and stopping to smile for photos without missing a beat. It made me so happy to see her in town.
We also encountered the unexpected Dickhead Taco from Chef Javier Plasencia’s Finca Altozano - also my favorite Baja restaurant.
The taco consisted of a spicy mixture of beef cheek, beef tongue and bull pizzle. Not for the unadventurous, but it was definitely tasty. My taco got served to me with a “YOLO!”. Out of all the excitement I missed taking a close up shot of the taco.
I did not get a chance to try Taco Kokopelli while in Baja, so truly enjoyed their smoked salmon taco.
After this first round, we broke up into smaller groups and also touched base with tips during the event. My strategy was to try the places in town I have not yet tried, and then the favorites.
The longest line was at Guerilla Tacos, and tasting their taco, I can see why. The vegetarian taco with porcini mushroom, roasted hazelnut crumble, garlic, chile and fresh shaved Australian truffles, really sang. I only wish I could get a better photo of it.
Chef Jeffrey Saad's La Ventura served up a lobster chorizo fundido with tequila cheese sauce,that he torched on the spot. Mine was bubbling hot. His effortless charm reminded me that he was a first runner up on The Next Food Network Star. He engaged everyone that came to the booth.
And that brings us to the tried and true.
Mariscos Jaliscos' extraordinary shrimp taco took home the prize.
Coni’Seafood's marlin tacos always make my day.
Corazon y Miel, also a favorite restaurant of mine, served a smelt taco. Mine had roe in it as an extra surprise.
While I adore Eggslut, and concur it is as good as the hype, their taco looked and sounded a lot better than it tasted. They featured Nueskes bacon, fried quail egg, roasted garlic ricotta, salsa roja, pickled potato radishes.
Due to a healthier diet, aversion towards crowds/lines and hot weather, I haven’t attended many food festival type events in the last year and a half. And honestly, the lines were not too long. There were areas of shade and seating, as well as tables to perch with plates.
It was a kick to be so close to the freeway, and essentially block it off. Looking forward to doing it again next year!
Chef Farid Zadi’s Doner Revolution
Last weekend, after a long time, I got to check out a unique Pop Up at [blank] kitchen - Algerian Chef Farid Zadi's Doner Revolution. Doner Revolution. [blankj] kitchen is a commercial test kitchen, which housed this fast casual pan-Mediterranean concept, referred to as an anit-chain.
Doner, one of the world’s original street foods, is marinated meat slow roasted on a rotisserie. The meat is served sliced, much like shawarma, gyros, al pastor, kebabs, etc. Having had a fair amound of doner in Turkey, the original home of doner, the prospect of fresh, wood fired doner sounded perfect.
Chef Zadi exudes charm and energy. His fluent English with a French sounding accent indicated that he must have lived in France during his life.
Shortly after walking in, he offered a trip to the back to see the lamb as it was finishing up.
This lamb was hand butchered and skewered horizontally, rather than the traditional vertical spit, and seasoned with fresh harissa (chili pepper paste), herbs and spices.
Our beverage of choice, the iced matcha mint tea smelled of minty earthiness and perfect level of sweetness.. It tasted fresh and refreshing. They also had posts of fresh housemade Orangina, Algerian lemonade and almond rice horchata. All came with a refill.
I absolutely loved the fresh dressings of sliced tomatoes, spicy pickled carrots, thinly sliced cucumber onion escabeche and an outstanding Algerian spiced cabbage slaw.
The sauces could also be bottled and sold in droves. As my dining companion noted, they all tasted like they looked - completely vibrant and bold. In order of increasing heat there was green, red, yellow harissa sauces, a mild and creamy white sauce and a delectable Garlic Bomb Sauce. The menu states that nobody will kiss you after you eat the garlic sauce, and that intensity is how I like my garlic.
My friend and I shared a couple of dishes, beginning with the doner plate. Yes, the doner satisfied in tenderness and flavor. They also served a halal chicken plate.
Our side dishes were salad, couscous (they ran out of rice at the time we ordered), avocado hummus, Bissara (bean salad), Zalouk (spicy eggplant dip) and a cooked kale and spinach combo. I enjoyed the hummus very much, but the fesh condiments outshone most of the sides for me as I prefer bolder flavors.
The chef brought out a perfectly light and semi crispy flatbread to dig into the hummus.
We also tried the Merguez and Lentil Chili special. This very tasty dish appeared a bit different than expected - at a glance it looked like ground beef chili. So it was a loose merguez (spicy lamb) sausage. Upon closer inspection I could see the small yellow lentils. I enjoyed it more with a bit of heat from the harissa and would have enjoyed it with fresh onions too.
Due to the bench seating, we go to chat with almost all the other diners and look at or even taste each others’ dishes. A steady stream of takeout customers also arrived, making it clear Chef Zadi has a following.
I got up to take a look a the Briks and falafels being fried up.
A fellow diner we met there stated that she was a culinary student of Chef Zadi. She was planning to wait a couple of hours to partake in the paella he was going to make later that evening.
She gave us a taste of her dessert,Sfenj. Sfenj are Algerian donuts dusted with almond sugar with orange cardamon custard sauce. I did not expect the very subtle sweetness, which is right up my alley, and enjoyed the strong cardamon flavor from the fresh pods..
Experiences like this definitely open us up to other cuisines cooked to perfection, all at very reasonable prices.
You can find Chef Zadi updates on his website.
Scratch Bar’s Inventive Dishes
My first taste of Scratch Bar's food was this Green Mussel and Sea Urchin Sake Shooter. The 2 bite and 1 sip creation really impressed me in both taste and creativity, which led to my first visit there. My first taste was served by Owner and Chef Phillip Frankland Lee, followed by a pleasant, short conversation.
We tried a lot of highlights on their menu, and many items stood out. Puffed Smelt with Bone Marrow Mustard (which looks like a fossilized stone), Smoking Goat’s Milk Cheese (in a glass rectangular cover) and the Roasted Bone Marrow n Sourdough all were superstars, and all worth checking out on the gallery at their website’s home page.
The Bone Marrow n Sourdough consists of a piece of toasted sourdough bread to replace where the bone would be, and is topped with pickled onions and vegetables. The marrow seeps into the bread and it’s refreshing to just eat the whole piece, versus scooping it out.
The drink menu features beer, wine and sake based cocktails, including the “champagne of beers”. Many of the menu items bear whimsical names as well.
Recently a few friends and I returned for the 9 course chef’s tasting menu. The repeat courses were even better the second time around and the new (to me) dishes exceeded expectations. In addition to the food they provided excellent service on all 3 encounters, by very attractive staff - not unusual in L.A., but it still adds to the ambiance. Even the phone reservation confirmations with them were extremely pleasant.
As the name indicates, everything there is made from scratch. The meal began with several small bites, all coming out rapidly.
Popcorn with Garlic and Thyme
Kale Chips with Lemon and Parmesan
These kale chips are the crispiest and least bitter of any I’ve had.
Green Mussel and Uni Sake Shooter
The green layer in the shooter is pureed avocado. For this and quite a few of their dishes, they give you instructions on exactly how to eat it. I’m sure it would taste just as good any way it’s consumed, but they do take pride in the chefs’ vision for the dishes. I purposely ignored the instructions for one dish and they noticed right away.
Pork Belly and Raw Oyster
I believe the foam was a chamomile flavor. Really great flavors and textures.
"Chicken" and Waffle
The chicken is in quotations because the protein in this dish is sweetbreads. I found it a bit too sweet for me, although the flavors meld together well. The waffle’s texture is more crispy, cracker like than what you’d expect.
The plates began coming more substantial.
This dish celebrates the cauliflower in many forms - puree, roasted, dehydrated, smoked. The flavors and textures, as well as the crushed pistachios make for a very exciting plate.
Roasted Yet Raw Prawns with Cabbage and Pistachio
I loved the slow kick of heat on this dish, not to mention the uni infused olive oil around the outer edges. They were generous with it too.
Cured Pig’s Head
The pink sauce is beet mustard, which helps cut this extremely rich dish.
Squid in a Box
The ‘box’ in this case is an impossibly thin fried potato bowl, held in place with a charred eggplant puree. The contents are squid as well as mushrooms and tomatoes.
Dry Aged Hangar Steak
This tender steak with pureed potatoes and wonderfully fresh asparagus and tomatoes was a table favorite.
Dark Chocolate and Cayenne Candy Bar
Dessert provided the perfect ending to a memorable meal. The cayenne pepper infused dark chocolate was topped with a salty cream and surrounded with a raspberry puree, chia seeds hydrated in olive oil and a crumble. The portion size and flavors were absolutely perfect.
Pastry Chef Margarita Lee brought out unforgettable marshmallows as a pre-dessert the first time we dined there.
Whether you go a la carte or with a tasting menu at Scratch Bar, one cannot go wrong with these handcrafted dishes.
Mimi’s House’s Golden Fish Balls
This Mother’s Day my mother and I went for a late afternoon snack at Mimi’s House in Diamond Bar.
We tried these made to order Golden Fish Balls stuffed with fish roe. After my first bite, they exploded and splattered all over as as the roe popped in our mouths.
We washed it down with a rich, hearty beef and tendon soup with wide noodles and a side of bean sprouts.
It was a fun, early dinner after a big brunch.
Chinese Sesame Scallion Bread
Several weeks ago, I got a wonderful opportunity to visit my long time friend, Vivian, while I was on a business trip. We had not seen each other in close to a decade and I had not seen their kids since they were toddlers.
Although I suggested she shouldn’t bother about preparing any food, I was very impressed to find her rising dough in the kitchen with a mushroom soup on the stove. She was making both sesame scallion bread and one filled with bacon.
After the trip she sent me her tips Zhi Ma Da Bing recipe:
- Use fresh scallions and add them, oil and salt to each layer of dough
- After rolling up the dough into a log shape, coil it into a snail shape. Repeat again to get more layers.
- Split the dough in half to make two portions, which makes the cooking and flipping it in the pan easier
- Cook about 5 minutes each side
- Serve with a dipping sauce of oil, soy sauce, sugar, minced ginger OR hot sauce OR as a side dish to your favorite meat
Making bread intimidates me but watching her grace and simplicity in putting this together, not to mention the memory of the steaming, crunchy. layered bread fresh off the stove, it definitely is worth a try.
I don’t even eat bread anymore but managed to try 2 pieces of this one, made with love.
Thank you Vivian for feeding me such a satisfying meal while I was stuck alone at a hotel. Love you.
Spring Peas at Maude
March artichokes theme brought a lot of creativity to the table - another brilliant raviolo complete with artichoke ricotta cheese, bacon, eggs and sprinkled with everything bacon crumble; smoked artichoke ice cream and even mini Cynar-cream filled macarons (Cynar is an Italian bitter liqueur made with artichokes).
But April fresh picked and shelled peas really brought out the spring time in a fresh, light and creative meal. With cherry blossoms and peonies in vases throughout, the spring vibe really showed in a city that does not reflect seasonal changes too well.
On to the meal, which started with the small bites.
Burrata. The creaminess of the fresh burrata with pea puree and the buttery crostini made us want to eat several of these.
Rabbit Pie. Same as above.
Dim Sum. Who doesn’t love a sugar snap pea? Filled with a delicately steamed mousse. I enjoy his nods to Asian cooking.
Fritter. I absolutely love salt cod fritters and with peas, they left us wanting more.
Gyro. This mini lamb gyro had just the right amount of pickle and fresh flavor.
Spring Salad. Cucumber lemonade, radish flowers, asparagus. This petie salad was fulll of surprises, including the lemonade foam and purple potatoes.
Peas and Carrots. Pea, carrot puree, mint. Once the large spoon was set down, we knew it was a soup course. For artichoke month they condensed 12 whole artichoke into a tiny consomme. This delicate foam turned the familiar peas and carrots into a cloudy dream.
I love that the chefs bring out each course and describe it. On top of that, Chef/Owner Curtis Stone himself brought this out himself for us. We were so engrossed in conversation and he was so tall, that it took a few minutes to register. He politely waited for us to pause our chit chat, and gave us a pat on the shoulder before leaving the table. So charming…
Ocean Trout Crudo. Pea leaves and flowers, Wasabi snow. I squealed with delight when they described this dish, since the crudos have been among my favorite Maude courses. But tasting it was even better. I never tried yellow pea shoots, which were lovely.
Vitello Tonnato. Sweetbreads, pearl onions, wood sorrel. This brought on another squeal as I love the classic dish. However, the additon of sweetbreads along with the pea sauce and pickle really made it sing.
Bouillabaisse Raviolo. Crab, shrimp, goat cheese. Our lovely server gave us a clue that the raviolo dish was up next. They freshly shaved the citrus goat cheese on top of the plate. In a long line of amazing raviolo at all Maude meals, this one stood out as well.
Lamb Neck. Chanterelles, ramps, potato. The meat course was impossibly tender and savory. I never met a mushroom I didn’t love, and the whole plate was sprinkled with kale dust giving it an even more earthy vibe.
We then moved on to the dessert courses.
Pea and elderberry ice cream wrapped in white chocolate. This pre-dessert exuded spring once again, in a most imaginative and delicate combination. The white chocolate was the first I’ve had that was not cloyingly sweet.
Frangipane Tart. Strawbeery, tarragon cream, tangerine sorbet. After a meal like this, I did not expect the dessert to be a flavor bomb. Both the plating and the fruit and herbal flavors were delightful and light as air.
Petit Fours. Matcha almonds, cookie, yuzu salt caramel, chocolate truffle. They really thought of everything here, including the bite of chocolate for those craving it in a very fruity finish.
Although I did not try the tea and coffee, our table was very happy with it. And to top off a stellar evening with friends with a sumptuous meal, we were given a parting gift that made a mouth-watering breakfast the next day.
Do I even need to say the perfectly toasted, crunchy granola was not too sweet and went beautifully with the tart and creamy yogurt?
Until next time.
This blog created this post about my home.