Friday, April 16, 2010

More LA Food

A few more notes about eating in Los Angeles.

At the fantastic Campanile, I asked if Chef Mark Peel was in the house. I told the Maître D’ that he was one of my favorites from Top Chef Masters.

Truthfully, I didn’t remember if I had said anything horrible about him, but I didn’t think the Maître D’ would pull up my blog at the front desk and accuse me of treachery.

Funnily enough, Chef Peel was in Palm Springs on that very day at a food festival. We had JUST come FROM Palm Springs and I had actually wanted to wander over to that festival, but I had no other takers.

It didn’t seem to matter that the chef wasn't in the house. The food was amazing.

But it’s not only food I’m interested in whenever I’m in LA. I always have my antenna up for famous people.

I was really spoiled the first time we went to California, maybe 12 years ago. We were staying at some hotel near Universal Studios and as I walked into the hotel just after we arrived, THIS is who I saw!!! Awesome, right? I really hope you’re not saying you have no idea who that is. It’s the father from the Wonder Years, of course. Fantastic, huh?

Anyway, so I’m always on the lookout. So, listen to this! Right next to us at Campanile was a guy, who for the first 45 minutes, I was completely and positively sure was Paul Giamatti. AND I wasn’t the only one at the table that thought that.

THEN he turned and we saw more than his close-cropped beard and sturdy glasses profile and, NO, it wasn’t the Oscar winner. He turned out to be some kind of wine fundi, who, with a cast of rotating characters, spent the evening tasting wines, MANY wines, and making a ruckus and being generally completely full of himself. I’m sure Paul Giamatti would have been much lower key.

I also think that someone doesn’t have that look by accident. He WANTED people to do a double take and think he was a movie star. Incidentally, not all wine experts are painful. I know at least one or two who are completely delightful.

This is exciting. I didn’t realize until I looked back at any potential scurrilous remarks I had made about Chef Peel (there were none) that one of the things we ordered was what he cooked for Neil Patrick Harris at the Magic Castle on Top Chef Masters! It was the Tai Snapper With Scallion Oil. I didn’t actually taste it, but it got raves from the person who did.

The fish on Top Chef Masters was in parchment, though. And these were Mark Peel's Top Chef scores for that dish:

Diners 4

Critics - Gael 4½, Gail 4, James 3½

Total 18½

Other dishes we had:
Fresh Pappardelle with Parsley, Wild Mushrooms, Spinach, Mascarpone

Seared Sea Scallops, bacon lardons, stewed leeks, lemon relish

Duck Breast with Garlic Mashed Potatoes (I think)

Chocolate Cake and a Pavlova (mmmmm):

Another stellar meal that could have been the star of the entire trip (if I weren’t so spoiled and had so many culinary highlights) was
Michael’s. Open since 1979, it has embodied “California Cuisine” for decades. The garden is the place to sit and since it was a Monday night, we had our choice of tables.

The food was incredible. The service was friendly and warm, yet unobtrusive.

House-Cured Gravlax, Toasted Brioche, Mustard-Dill Sauce

The salmon gravlax was so buttery and luscious that I could have made a meal of it.

Wild Quinault River Salmon Tartare Jicama, Avocado, Oro Blanco Granita

The salmon tartar was a work of art. It was so gorgeous and the salmon itself was freshness-personified. I would have liked a bit more of a punch of flavor, but I admired every bite.

White Asparagus with Serrano Ham

The White Asparagus with Serrano Ham was a special that evening. Even though I lived in Spain through several springs and always ordered it in season, I actually preferred the similarly shaped, but crunchier and more flavorful, hearts of palm. THIS dish though was a lovely balance between the asparagus, the ham and the Parmesan.

Liberty Farms Duck Breast, Leg & Thigh Confit, Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi, Asparagus, Roasted Garlic, Duck Jus

The duck breast was rare, as ordered, and just perfect and the skin was lovely and crunchy. But I wish they had just forgotten about the confited leg. It was the first time I had ever had a DRY duck leg. It almost seemed like an afterthought. Luckily, the breast was the star.

Wild Steelhead Salmon, Creamy Polenta, Manila Clams, Chorizo, Scallions, Blue Lake Beans

Moist and really tasty salmon (3 salmon dishes in one meal was definitely not too many). The dot of polenta under the fish was bland and a bit too runny.

Roasted Oregon Black Cod, Butternut Squash Risotto, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Poached Cherry Tomatoes, Beurre Blanc

WHY didn't I take pictures of the Trio of Sorbets and Ice Creams and the Bread Pudding? I must have been in a fabulous food coma. Okay, that's it. Until the post that follows this one...


Ciao Chow Linda said...

You certainly did some fabulous eating in California!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Not sure what was making me drool more - the desserts or the duck breasts.

If that guy really wanted people to think he was Paul Giamatti, he should have started screaming about how wrong it was to drink Merlot.

While I never saw him there, Paul Giamatti took riding lessons at my barn to learn how to ride for his role in the John Adams movie. He rode my friend Beth's horse. She said she would have preferred someone like Brad Pitt riding her horse.

A few years prior Hugh Jackman (speaking of someone hotter) also took lessons at my barn to prepare for his role in Kate and Leopold. My friend Lorraine (sadly now passed away) taught him and received a credit in the movie.

I guess my barn is popular with celebrities because it's close enough to the city (about an hour away) but still far away enough from everything to ensure privacy. The area is pretty rural for NJ.

Sue said...

TOO good.

I'm with you. BOTH of them were great.

OMG, why didn't I think of that!?? I should have started yelling about Merlot.

You should have your camera ready whenever you go to the barn. Hugh Jackman on a horse? Wow! That beats Dad from the Wonder Years every time. (That's sad about your friend.)

Emily said...

I love the dad from the Wonder Years! Well, I loved the Wonder Years. I think that's pretty exciting.

All of the food looks incredible. I know I would love at all. Actually, I've never liked scallops that much. What's wrong with me?
I really want that duck and the desserts.