I’m not going to say where, and I’m not going to say who, but someone I know sat on a small supply of foie gras before it was banned from sale in California. Some bits appeared recently at a home, seared in beef fat, and topped with chopped Japanese style rib eye cabs. I ate it, we all did. Then there was swimming and hot tubbing.
On 1 July, California will effectively be banning the sale of foie gras. In the weeks leading up to this change, a number of restaurants have been serving up their last remains of the liver, and I’ve done my best to assist them.
First: butter lettuce soup and seared foie gras
Second: smoked foie gras mousse, duck prosciutto, mustard, rye.
Third: 3rd: Seared sea scallops, with shaved foie gras, radish, turnip, mizuna, turnip puree.
Fourth: 4th: foie gras and donuts, with market berry compote.
And then the meal was over…or so we thought.
Fifth (surprise!): foie gras ice cream.
A pity it had to be the ban of selling foie in California that prompted such a tasty meal. Adieu, my little livers.
This was my second time attending a supper club hosted by Red Star and La Tour. And as a first, Pink was the guest chef. This excited me to no end, as I loved her food when she was at Square One (RIP). Her commitment to the farm-to-table approach to food resonates well with me, and she’s so fun and approachable as well.
I didn’t take any photos. This time, I wanted to fully enjoy the experience.
The event took place in Al’s funkzone loft on Helena Street, a large industrial space tastefully designed with local art. This evening’s dinner was set on two round tables, each seating 8 people. Decorating the diagonal space adjacent the tables were flickering fires which added a feeling of warmth to the room.
As with other dinners, we started the evening with a glass of sparkling pinot in vintage-style champagne glasses. We got to mingle upstairs and make introductions. When we sat down for our meal, this was the awesomeness presented to us.
First: Bacon brioche.
Second: Jamón Ibérico De Bellota, with crisp albino acorn squash polenta.
Third: Shaved fennel, chioga beet, Buddha’s hand, handmade chevre.
Fourth: Potato potage, smoked truffle compote.
Fifth: Brown butter sable cookie, foie gras, walnuts and pomegranate.
Six: Squab with pork belly and prune,“dirty rice,” curly mustard, armangac reduction.
Seventh: Pumpkin moussaline, spiced chocolate ribbon, ancho-chile anglaise.
Pink and crew put together this amazing meal using little more than camping stove equipment, a feat in itself. The back wall of the loft, where the gang worked, opened out into a vast open field. It opened the space even more, let people work in a cool environment, and further added to the “camping” appeal of working under the stars.
It’s time to start off-loading old routines and making new ones. With the passing of an old friend – my First Thursday tradition of getting dessert at a little restaurant that has now closed – I had to begin looking for a new one. There are many places I enjoy grabbing a small plate or dessert. Needless to say, it should be a work of art since it is First Thursday, an evening devoted to appreciating art.
My First Thursday companion and I share an interest in good food and pleasant company. Lately, we’ve walked around the exhibits, joined the Art Walk crew, walked away, rejoined, then wandered off in search of food. We’ve huddled in galleries, made notes of what’s on the wall and who’s looking at them. We run into friends. Then the magic starts.
First, we step into La Tour. For only having five chairs, and for it being First Thursday, it’s a miracle when the last two seats are invitingly open. Graham knows me now and is respectful of my limitations. He gives me half a glass, tonight it’s a “very special” rosé. My friend goes with a tasting flight and finds everything beyond pleasing. That’s the joy of sitting with Graham. Tonight he’s playing Toro y Moi on vinyl, both 2010′s Causers of This, and 2011′s Underneath the Pine.
After my glass, he adds a splash of just one more, something he thinks I will like. An Italian Müller-Thurgau 2010, Südtirol-Alto Adige. Of course I don’t know it, duh! But I do like it. Instantly and deeply floral scents, like a bouquet of flowers for your mum on mother’s day. But crisp and dry to the taste, but not too sweet. Oh what, $17 a bottle? I’ll take two. Graham wraps them up for me to pick up later, once I get a bite across the street. We give up our seats to some friends from the CAF and the woman who performed at their Forum Lounge that night.
We could get the $35 prix fixe at Seagrass, and Reuben first assumes we will. But no! Tonight we are in a la carte mood and we are hungry. Tonight, no holding back. But also, no pictures! :) I’m just going to enjoy the food.
Our amuse buche is one little bite of raw halibut on a silver spoon. We are excited!
We both get the Kukomoto oyster shooter, with ginger gelee, salmon roe, scallions and ale foam. It was too hard to share one of those the last time we came.
Next, the special that night, to commemorate Cinco de Mayo: a tamale with foie gras whipped into the masa, stuffed with tender stewed pork. It is topped with fine dice of bright white jicama and a brilliant green cilantro juice that makes my mouth tingle.
Then, piccata of Hudson Valley foie gras, with caramelized unagi, blood orange “pudding,” English peas, carrot puree, and emulsified olive oil. This is beyond good, I love unagi in just about any shape or form, and this was set upon foie gras lightly seared outside and pink in the middle.
I had been eyeing up my main dish for some time, but since I’d been going prix fixe it hadn’t previously be available to me. It seemed so simple, but also a decadent splurge. This was a bowl of house-made spaghettini with bottarga de mugine (mullet), lemon zest, parmesan and parsley. Bottarga is the sun-dried roe of mullet, something I’d only heard about from the spoof British series Posh Nosh, where the Hon. Simon and Minty Marchmont explain it is the “cashmere of fish” and only best acquired from the source, directly on the docks of Sardinia. “We do our bottarga run in March.” I did mine on this First Thursday. The pasta dish was tender and creamy, still a little toothsome. It was briny and tangy from the lemon and bottarga grated in. At times it was almost too salty from the fish and the parmesan but overall it was excellent. And just $12! Ripert is right, good food can be affordable.
Finally, champagne and butter poached Main lobster, with smoked hanjuku egg, Nueske’s apple-wood smoked bacon, fava beans, brioche crostini, sherry sauce accented with tomato and a hint of curry. Oh. Dear. This so was good! The bacon was deeply smokey and imparted the flavor into the fava beans. The tomato was a great balance to the richness of the butter and lobster. This dish was available as a first course for $22, or a main for $44. The small plate, along with all the other bits we got was enough. We did not even need dessert.
But we did still get a dainty toasted coconut macaroon and a little shortbread cookie each at the end of the meal.
It was not a busy night, everyone else was out partying it up for Cinco de Mayo, so Reuben, Robert, and even Joshua in the kitchen were able to come out to chat with us. The tamale was Joshua’s creation it turns out. Foie gras in the masa! How cool is that.
Our bill was just over $100 before tip, including one glass of good white wine for my friend. At about $55 a person, we feasted and walked out in a dreamy giddy state. Thinking back, we could have gotten a couple margaritas each in a loud bar or club for about the same price. Instead, we had a fabulous dining experience.
Passing through La Tour to grab my wine, we stumbled upon some winemaker friends who initially look at us walking in the door like intruders of their secret space. But everyone relaxed, hugged, and chattered for a few moments. Then it was time to go home.
A little bird told us that the food was actually good at Blush, just pricey and lost amongst the fauxhawks and cougers clamoring for steak and salmon fillets.
Case in point, they had a foie gras special running this weekend and on Friday not a single person had ordered it. At the same time, there was no promotion of the special outside of Blush that could actually entice a foie gras lover to it. But I got word of it, thanks to my little bird, and I went to try it on a Saturday night, way before the CDB crowds arrived.
We sat at the bar, and ordered some nibbles. First, a cocktail. All were pricey, but not as pricey as the “Treetini.” I also hate the overuse of something-tini. The only tinis around should be MARtinis. BUT…at $15, it was a good cocktail, and any purchase of the drink provided funds to plant a tree somewhere in some needy country. That made us feel better.
Also by recommendation, we tried the hanger steak bites. This was hanger steak with blue cheese butter, madeira demi-glaze, chive mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.At $14 it’s not the best price in town, but it’s still hanger steak, which is a tender cut and never widely available. The sauces were great and I loved the mushrooms.
The foie gras was perfect! It was seared “rouge” foie gras, chocolate brioche bread pudding, brandy poached pear, brandy gastrique, $14. For what you got, this was the best priced item on the menu. But isn’t it sad that I was the first person to order it after two days of it being the appetizer special? Sigh.
I have no doubt that Blush is a popular place. They have nice lounge areas, two swanky bar areas, and people going out for a night on the town will find this to be an ideal spot for the best bachlorette party ever, or the best bachelor party ever, or the best omg Megan is 21 party ever. My issue is that it’s a bit douchebaggy, and that the price of things goes towards the quality of the atmosphere (not to my tastes) while the passion behind the food is woefully ignored by its patrons. With that, I want to say that Blush does not respect its chefs. Or maybe it wants to, but it doesn’t need to, because people are going for other reasons that are sufficient to keep the business afloat. I wouldn’t begrudge them for pulling specials like the foie gras off the menu, because they aren’t doing enough to promote it, and their clientele doesn’t care for it anyway.
I still feel that wrapping up a good evening on First Thursday is complete only by going to Square One.
T had to go off for cocktails at another bar, so it was just me. Supposedly like the good old days, but this time I had some of the staff actively keeping me company. As it turns out, tonight was their five year anniversary.
We all chatted at the bar while I worked on my dinner. First was a spinach salad with poached egg. I loved this spinach – it was flavorful and robust, which I don’t often see these days thanks to the mass produced baby spinach seen in common salad bags or bulk warehouse shopping. And the egg was perfect, oozing over the spinach to make a thick dressing.
Second was one of their last servings of the foie gras torchon, with crisps and quince jam. As always, rich and delicious. I wish they went back to serving soft baguette, though. There isn’t enough in the thin crisps for me.
This meal was one where I had to stake my reputation on it, and it made me quite nervous. I contacted the chef and the owner beforehand to make sure things would be alright. And it was! The only thing glitch was that I didn’t bring my good camera. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to have a good dinner with some good business partners and I intentionally left the good camera at home.
Still, the guys knew I normally took photos and let me grab some snaps of the appetizers. By the time the mains came out, the good light was gone, so there’s none of that.
First, though, I have give Big Ups to Square One for putting a SWING in at the front desk. How cool is that. Between that, the wagon for carrying the market produce, and the bowl of snacks out front, they’ve got a little microcosm of coolness going on. Love the swing.
Anyway, apps. We had a beet salad with Humbolt Fog cheese. Normally the cheese is crumbled throughout the salad, but one of the diners was lactose intolerant, so the kitchen put the cheese on the side. The other appetizer was beer battered shishito peppers. I was surprised and happy to see shishitos on the menu, it seemed like only last year that hardly anyone outside of Japanese food enthusiasts had even heard of shishitos. The only place I could get them was in asian markets in LA or my mother’s garden. Now, available for munching at Square One.
The appetizer of the night was the foie gras torchon with quince confit and little toasts. One of my guests admitted to not knowing what foie gras was and I was the lucky gal that got to introduce this wonderful smooth pate to him. Yum!
We dined on pork chops, sweet potato gnocchi and lamb, braised short ribs and fish, then piles of butterscotch beignet and some of the most amazing sorbets I’ve ever had. No photos of those, however. But it was a great meal. I’m so glad it worked out.
Much disappointment. 2.5 stars, if I could give halves.
Red Square was the perfect example of the facade that is Las Vegas. Beautiful themed ambiance, with little substance to back it up.
The menu has pages upon pages of cocktails, and on the surface it appears impressive. But read the descriptions, and it reveals cheap ingredients.
Moskovskaya vodka is listed in several drinks. Sounds impressive? It’s that $8 bottle from Trader Joe’s. You can have a shot of it in a cocktail here for $13. Worth it? Depends on how much you value the cocktail over the 10 seconds of the guy pouring it with great flourish into a pyramid of glasses.
We got the tasting menu, at $65 each +$10 for foie gras. The food was good, but overshadowed (pun intended) by such a dark interior we could hardly see it. Dark restaurants don’t do service to the dishes, it makes me think there’s something to hide about the food.
We both received an amuse buche of caviar and creme fraiche in a cookie. It was fine. The breads we got with our food, honestly, was the best part of the meal. Wish we’d taken home the leftovers.
My foie gras appetizer was not photogenic. Instead you get T’s fried calamari. How Russian is that, I wonder. We both received a good salad plate. No complaints about that.
For our main courses we had the beef stroganoff, not easily identifiable under the crunchy sticks, and a steak with blue cheese and mash potatoes. Lots of blue cheese. Too much! I had to scrape most of it off.
We were both given a small glass containing sorbet and vodka, to cleanse the palate. It was good.
Dessert was strawberries and cream, with a very fancy looking cookie, and creme brulee with very non-crunchy burnt sugar. Sigh.
We shared a cocktail, supposedly Russian, but not memorable. I can’t even remember what it was.
My feeling is that Red Square doesn’t appreciate its own food. And we walked out, $200 poorer, feeling the same.
The house won this time.
ps. no restrooms. There are hotel restrooms outside, around the corner, by a fountain.
Photos by Ted Mills.
They bought a 58 pound lamb and have been cutting it up and doing awesome things with it for the past few days.
The special of the night was lamb mixed grill. Lamb ribs, lamb kefta and lamb something-or-other it was on a skewer and yummy.
Coincidentally, I’d recommended Julienne to some friends celebrating a birthday, and this was before I even knew about the lamb nirvana. That must have been a nice surprise for them.
Some changes I should note:
* mailing list, as noted before. If you want a heads up on all the new things happening with Julienne get on their mailing list.
* tasting menus are now for the whole table. When I came here some of us ordered a la carte, some got a tasting menu and all our tasting menus were also different.
I love their Natura water. It turns tap water into fizzy or still filtered water. It’s also on the house.
Dessert was the maple creme brulee, although I hemmed and hawed over the “coffee and doughnuts” where the coffee was coffee pot de creme. The custard was soft and not cloyingly sweet, the burnt sugar was hard and thick. Yum! And of course there was real coffee.
A red wine called l’Hiver was recommended to go with the lamb course and it was lovely and smooth. Thanks for that!
ps. looks like they’re having a special dinner on halloween night.