CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Redd State (Redd -- Yountville, CA)

Last weekend Jon and I decided to take our sorry asses up to Napa for a weekend of much needed relaxation and gluttony. Never mind the fact that it was hotter than balls, we were heading inland.

Thus it was that I found myself sitting on the patio of the glorious Redd. "Inside or outside?" the hostess inquired. As the dining room had been chilled to below freezing, I opted for outside. I figured we wouldn't roast too much. I mean, how long can you spend at lunch?

I seemed to have forgotten that I was dining with my husband, whose "the more the merrier" philosophy in all things culinary seemed to have slipped my mind. Upon seeing there were options for a four AND a seven course tasting menu, he promptly declared that we'd be having the seven course. Our dinner reservation at Bistro Jeanty was a whole seven hours away after all.

Our server, who I'll call Z, was personable, nice and relatively knowledgeable. He was a bit wet behind the ears (as most servers in the valley tend to be, I find) but was full of only good intentions and made our meal incredibly fun as well as pleasant. The sommelier tending to us was a gem and presented our tasty num nums half bottle of Bruno Paillard beautifully. Major brownie props (it's the new brownie points) for keeping that fucker chilled throughout our meal.

Jon also had a mai tai, which was a damn fine example of the mostly-relegated-to-tropical-isles drink. I had my fair share of it, and I'd be hard pressed to say that I've had a better MT than that.

What's that now? You want to know about the food? Hold your damn horses, bitch, I'm getting there.

The first thing you need to know about Redd is the menu will make everyone happy. EVERYONE. They have some innovative shit for all us gastronomic geeks, but they also have things like a Chinese chicken salad for their neighbors who maybe get sick of seeing menus where everything is fluffed. I might want a weekend of porn, but the regulars are just looking for a family film. Redd delivers on all counts.

I did not take a menu with me when I left, so I won't do a play by play, but I will give you some of the highlights.

The second most fucking rad thing about the tasting menu (the first I'll reveal later) is that Jon and I received different dishes for EACH course. I don't think I've ever seen that anywhere, except when we got a his/hers tasting menu at Acquerello on Valentine's Day years ago (back when we were still stupid enough to go to a restaurant on Valentine's Day). Now that is some labor intensive shit. I was crazy impressed. Stay tuned, because there is more where that came from.

Our first course was one of my favorites. We both received raw preparations, and I honestly could not decide which of those babies I liked better. Chef Richard Reddington is crazy gifted in this department. I received yellowfin tuna and hamachi tartare with avocado, chili oil and crispy fried rice while Jon received a sashimi of hamachi with sticky rice, cucumbers, edamame and a lime ginger sauce.

These people had no idea who we were but they gave us exactly what we each would have picked. We traded about halfway through anyway, though, because neither one of us wanted to miss out. The tartare had a nice balance of flavors and textures and was the kind of dish that bitch slapped you something fierce (in a good way). The sashimi was a little more sultry and smooth and provided the perfect complement to the tartare.

We're both big soup junkies. So hooray for the fact that our second course was soup. Jon's was a corn, mine a cold melon consomme. Mine was a miracle in that it had none of that cloying melon aftertaste. Jon's, however, was a revelation. Some diced veggies sat in the middle of the most perfectly creamy corn soup. It was almost like a foam, but not really. I can't even describe it. The kicker was that this is a totally vegan soup. How on earth can you get a soup that creamy with no, well, cream (duh) but also no butter??? Like most other things at Redd, they get it that way by a lot of fucking hard work. After removing the corn from the cob, they scrape the cob to get to the sweet nectar of the kernals. I honestly cannot believe how much work this kitchen puts into their food.

As the lunch progressed, our server started to get a kick out of our guessing game. We'd try to predict what we'd receive next based on our silverware (and yes we are big fucking dorks). We were dead on for both our dishes on only one course. Jon received a trio of foie gras preparations, while I got a ricotta, marscapone and herb ravioli.

Jon enjoyed his foie gras (the terrine and mouse more than the pistachio rimmed torchon), which was accompanied by some lovely brioche and variations on rhubarb. I was thrilled to receive the ravioli, because I often find that vegetarian dishes are the slacker dishes and I wanted to see if Redd took the easy way out. They did not. My pasta was perfectly cooked, the green garlic sauce a scrummy accompaniment. There was a dice of beautiful seasonal veggies in my dish as well (and again, a demonstration of and immense amount of work -- these were perfect vegetables...but hmmm...didn't I see these in the corn soup?).

Petrale sole, our patron saint of fishes here by the bay, often bores me. Not so at Redd. Anytime you put chorizo in something I'm game. Add some squid bits and saffron and I'm your girl. Not only was this a perfectly composed dish but my fish could not have been cooked better.

Another highlight of the meal was Jon's beef, which came in slices but also in the form of a braised shortrib. One bite of this shortrib and Jon's eyes went wide and rolled back into his head. Once I was sure he wasn't having a seizure, I asked him how the food was. He declared that, without a doubt, it was the best shortrib he's had anywhere, ever.

More fish, shellfish, pork belly, chicken -- you name it -- and we were ready to burst. We were thanking the good Lord above when they removed our bread plates (P.S. the bread was fab)because we thought it was our entry to dessert. Not so, the removal was a mistake and we had to power through one more entree. Not a problem in the desire/taste department, just in the belly department. We did it, though, and then opened our second stomachs for dessert.

If I had one complaint about Redd, it would be the redundancy factor. As I've mentioned, there are a lot of labor intensive dishes. Because of that, several ingredients get reused (that beautiful vegetable dice for example). I'd imagine this is only noticeable in the tasting menu, and I totally get why they need to do it but I did start to get ingredient fatigue with a couple of things.

Even though the menu says seven courses, you get eight. That's because before the dessert course, they let you choose to have a scoop of one of their sorbets of the day OR pick one of the cheeses from their list. We did one of each. The berry tea sorbet for me and the Largo from Andante for Jon (that Soyung can make herself some cheese, yo). The sorbet was almost effervescent and was an appropriate palate cleanser. Jon's cheese was great (but then we knew that already).

(Side note: on a trip to the loo, I forgot to latch the door. This lead to an awkward encounter between me and the woman from the table next to mine).

I was already pretty wowed at this point, but dessert really took the way dope factor to another level. Jon had a gorgeous looking strawberry shortcake with marscapone and all sorts of fine lovins, but I didn't much care because I was so enamored with my dessert. My confection involved a perfectly cold chocolate milkshake (really great considering I was a mite sweaty after sitting outside for 3 hours), a ice cream sandwich with delicious chocolate wafers and mint chocolate chip ice cream made with the freshest mint. There was a parallel to this in the form of thin pieces of chocolate sandwiched around some mint creme (think a delicate peppermint patty). Despite having already busted the elastic on my undies, I ate the whole entire plateful of sweetness. And licked the plate.

After lunch, we went to the kitchen to thank the extremely bitchin' Mr. Redd himself. "Chef," I said, "we owe you an apology for stealing from you." And that is the fucking truth, yo. Seven (eight) courses for....wait for it...$75. Seventy fucking five dollars (this would be the first most fucking rad thing about the menu that I referred to earlier). That is the most crazy ass bargain of the year if you ask me (and since you are reading this, I'm assuming that you are, indeed, asking me).

I left that meal with a full tummy, a lighter heart, a new favorite Napa destination and a sweet ass farmer's tan from sitting out on that there patio for more than three hours. What more could a girl ask for?


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

To The Fucking Bitch Server at Ti Couz Tonight

Dear Fucking Bitch Server,

I love Ti Couz. I generally find that it has good service. That was until I met you.

If I've said it once, I'll say it again. I love servers. Idolize them even. I know they work harder than most people are willing to. But I do not love you. No, I do not.

I'm sorry you hate your job. Or perhaps you had a bad day. That does not give you an excuse to act like a complete and total twat. I didn't fuck your boyfriend or piss in your perfume, so don't take your crap out on me.

For example, I know that there is a board to sign up on. Tonight, however, there were several folks waiting for tables and yet the counter had but one lone diner. I figured it would not hurt to ask about counter seating. I did not need you to snap at me when I asked for guidance.

Also. I think it's complete crap that your place of employment now charges two fucking fifty for bread unless you order soup or a salad. There was a nicer way of informing us of that policy when we asked for some bread, however. And by the fucking way, we would have had salad had you had the advertised organic greens in stock so I think that you should have just given us the goddamn bread.

I've had a shitty ass couple of weeks. That did not prevent me from saying "please" and "thank you" and treating you in a cheerful manner. I showed you respect. I played nice. And yet you were still a complete and total twat. If this is how you treat nice customers, I'd hate to see how you treat the average diner who expects you to wipe their ass for them. I'd imagine it's an all out bloodbath.

Seriously, bitch, lose the 'tude. Because it makes you suck at your job. The fact that I tipped you 20% anyway was a fucking gift because I know you theoretically work hard for the money. Now start earning that shit. I'll be watching you.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Butterfly Effect

So Garrett tagged me for this here meme. Bastard.

Here's the lowdown, from the good folks at Saltshaker:

"My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some “oh, it’s the first time I didn’t put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead” sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That’s the key - it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment”. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder - an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don’t have to be big splashy things - sometimes it’s something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world - the famed “butterfly effect” (and I’m not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you’re so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:

1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life"

Here goes...

1. An ingredient. Kosher salt hands down, bitches. I discovered Kosher salt when I began watching M. Diddy on a daily basis. No single ingredient can transform a dish the way salt can. Shitty table salt just won't do, and that's why Kosher salt is my partner in crime.

2. A dish, a recipe. Since I'm the Restaurant Whore, I'll talk about a dish in a restaurant. The first time I tried Loretta Keller's harvest pizza (back when Coco500 was still Bizou), it changed my life. I mean there were grapes! On pizza! It totally shifted my thinking about how to use ingredients. LK is the shit fo' sho.

3. A meal. This is difficult to narrow down, but I would have to say Alinea. I had no idea you could do that with food. That said, so many other meals have affected me in profound ways, have rocked my world and made a permanent impact.

4. A cookbook or other written work. It's so cliche and annoying to pick this, but I have to say Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I was a pretty responsible eater before I read this book, but afterwards, I couldn't even pick up a piece of non-organic fruit without feeling dirty. And I don't mean the good kind of dirty.

5. A food "personality." Jacqueline Margulis, the chef at Cafe Jacqueline. There is no greater love than the love this woman puts into her work. When I walk through her kitchen to visit the loo, and see her gnarled hands whisking away with a huge bowl of eggs by her side, I am awestruck. Her beauty and craft are breathtaking. Such devotion is rare in this world.

6. Another person in your life. My cooking instructor in college. Learning proper cooking technique and putting it into practice made me a much more skilled and educated diner. That's why when I'm served crap, I know why it's crap.

I ain't taggin' nobody because a)I'm lazy, and b) I don't want no haters. If you want to do this, go for it.

I'm crazy behind on my shit here, but I have more than one amazing meal in the pipeline. A weekend in Napa gave me some good (and much bad) fodder, as did my first meal at the glorious Shanghai Dumpling King. Hang in there, kids. I'll get there.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris, Oh My!

Due to the circumstances of last week, our trip to NYC is on hold. I just don't think that we'll be able to squeeze it in before I need to go back to school on (oh dear Christ!) August 23rd. Until that point, my dance card is looking just about all full up.

We are, however, hitting Europe in the fall -- no doubt about that, bitches! Due to some frequent flier action, we are able to layover in Amsterdam for two days, so what began as a trip to visit heaven on earth (and also to meet Jon's family in Nice at the end) became a multi-city tour.

I am, however, completely fucking overwhelmed by how to possibly choose where to eat. Help! For the love of God, please!

Our destinations are as follows: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Nice. And, despite the fact that I have wanted to visit Paris since I was 12, I have been to none of these cities before. I know, I suck. Now someone please tell me how to choose where the fuck I'm supposed to go.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Soul Food

I am, without a doubt, the luckiest girl in the world.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's Hard Out Here For A Whore

Dearest ones, I know I have been in absentia.

We have been dealing with a slight medical emergency here in the RW household, and while everyone is and will be OK, it may be a little bit o' time before I can get back to my regular blog-o-rama.

Please bear with me, I'll be back as soon I can.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Berry Good

Um, OK.

I have 13 pounds of strawberries and 7 pounds of olallieberries sitting on my kitchen counter right now. We seem to have had a little cessation problem at Swanton Berry Farm this morning, where we went for a little berry picking action.

The berries are beautiful, and I've got a strawberry rhubarb pie (or seven) just waiting to be made, but what the fuck do I do with the rest of them?

This wouldn't be a problem if Swanton's berries weren't so super tasty. Since they are, I need to find a use for every last one of them. Anyone? Bueller?


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back From the Heartland

I have returned from the cabin in the woods on the lake in Minnesota. And I am glad to be home.

There was very little restaurant going but I did make the most bitchin' s'mores that you ever did see.

I've got some eating (and writing) to catch up on. While you are waiting might I suggest that you try out the soft serve Straus ice cream (with olive oil and sea salt to boot) at Pizzeria Picco for a perfectly tasty summer treat. Bring some home for me.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld