Lexus Culinary Classic: Q&A With Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

Youngest Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy

A couple months back, I was able to spend a weekend in Sausalito at the phenomenal Cavallo Point while attending the inaugural Lexus Culinary Classic. To say there was some of the best food prepared by some of the best chefs in the country being served in view of the Golden Gate Bridge would be mostly accurate – and I’m so honored I got to be a part.

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First Moments at Curtis Stone’s Maude

Chicken Terrine, Pain Perdu, Dijon Mustard Ice Cream

A reservation at the tasting menu-only Maude will present you with 9 courses, with the first course actually being a series of precious but oh-so-delicious bites. Expect to be here from 3 – 3.5 hours. Naturally, you’ll have a conversation with the server about your allergies and preferences, to tailor your meal to you. Here are my foremost thoughts on my experience:

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Orgasmo de la Boca: The Underground Supper Club of the Senses

Duck Breast, Roasted Cauliflour, Basil Puree, Dried Fig and Brandy Gastrique, Crispy Fennel | Photo credit: Tricia Romano

When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.

Oyster Two Ways: Sauteed Cornmeal Crusted Oyster on Red Wine Onion Confit & Fanny Bay on the Halfshell With Red Wine Shallot Mignonette | Photo by Tricia Romano

It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.

And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.

Dining the Orgasmo de la Boca Way | Photo by Tricia Romano

I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom Salad was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powdered basil on themselves as a scent and figs were Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!

Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagus and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.

Coriander Crusted Salmon, Sunchoke Puree and Latke, Tomato and Asparagus Broth | Photo by Tricia Romano

Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruit and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.

While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.

For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.

All food and wine were hosted.

Special thanks to Tricia Romano for the photos.

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Orgasmo de la Boca

Undisclosed location

Dinners organized on case-by-case basis

Average cost: $125 per person

The Dionicess VIII Double Header: The Bruery Lunch & Dinner at The Foundry on Melrose

The people (and The Bruery beers) you need to know: Nate Sellergren, Dave Watrous, Gev Kazanchyan, Chef Eric Greenspan, Randy Clemens and Ben Weiss

I’m always game for a Dionicess event. What that means is, pairings of top-notch brews with delicious food. But this time, the ante has been upped and the result looks to surpass anyone and everyone’s expectations.

Late February’s extravaganza yields not one meal but two – in the same day. It’s Placentia-based Famille Rue’s brewery, The Bruery, taking center stage at The Foundry on Melrose. I think the only way to do justice to this amazing event is to go for all 10 courses and make a day of it, because $115 is sooo worth Chef Greenspan’s amazing food, alone.

And the beer. At this event, only, will you be able to experience 2 beers not normally distributed past The Orange Curtain plus 3 others that are limited release or non-release special edition brews. The Bruery is one of my favorite local breweries – or anywhere – and along with their Provisions store, ties my dentist as the most common reason I will make a drive to Orange County.

Take a gander at the menu below for what is in store on this day:

Lunch Menu (The Bruery beer pairing)

  • Goat Cheese and Orange Rillettes / flatbread / herbed oil (Orchard White)
  • Endive Salad / taleggio / Asian pear / hazelnut oil (Saison Rue)
  • Confit of Rabbit / lemon / date / olive / harissa (Loakal Red)
  • Pecan Coconut and Cocoa Tartlet / bourbon ice cream / corn flakes feuilletine (Very Rare Dessert Beer)

Dinner Menu (The Bruery beer pairing)

  • Charred Mackerel / grapefruit juice / oil (Saison de Lente)
  • Crispy Skin Loup de Mer / spicy lemongrass broth / siriacha kimchee mushroom ragout (Mischief)
  • Fried Chicken Oysters / cheddar cheese / biscuit bread pudding / collard greens / honey & black pepper gastrique (Premiere)
  • Mascarpone and Black Pepper Gelato Quenelle / strawberry gooseberry cranberry compote / balsamic reduction / tarragon (Very Rare & Limited Release Beer)
  • Duck Breast “Reuben” / mustard / sauerkraut (Rugbrod)
  • Dark Chocolate Crepes / burnt orange marmalade / cinnamon and nutella ice cream (Very Rare Dessert Beer)

If you have scheduling conflicts and must only go to either lunch or dinner, separate pricing options are available. So go forth and reserve your space now, because spots will fill up! And do report back so I can live vicariously. Loves are loves, and this love of beer and food unfortunately conflicts with my love of snowboarding (I’ve committed to Colorado).

Enjoy.

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Sunday, February 27, 2010

Tickets:
Lunch – $45 (1 PM)
Dinner – $85 (6 PM)
Both (no repetition in course or brew) – $115

The Foundry on Melrose
7465 Melrose Avenue.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Kicking Off LA Beer Week: Pairing Cheese With Russian River Consecration Sour Ale

Funky Cheeses In Question: Which can stand up to Consecration?

It all started out with a contest. Hot Knivez, the beer-loving, meat-hating blogger-chefs in town, sent other bloggers and me a proposal. Said the email in my inbox: Pair cheese with beer. And write about it. If we love it, the winner with the best post will get to attend a private beer-cheese pairing symposium at Verdugo Bar with The Bruery.

Consecration Under Investigation

I love a challenge, and beer and cheese are two of my favorite things. Factor in Verdugo and The Bruery, and I am yours. I am a native Wisconsinite-turned-Angeleno, after all. Thankfully, Barrie Lynn Krich of The Cheese Impresario came to my aid by reconnecting me with my roots and her supply from Wisconsin cheese-makers.

Of course, the fun part was coming up with the control – the beer that would be lucky enough to have so much lactic love paid to it. Inspired by a particular Orange County-San Diego beer tour in which I discovered the wonders of sour ales, I found Russian River Valley’s Consecration within walking distance of home. Just knowing there was good beer stock so near was really the icing on the cake. It wasn’t the only sour ale but indeed probably one of the most approachable ones I’ve ever had. It isn’t a beer to smack you upside the head with overpowering citrus. In the 10% ABV Consecration is a blend of five different beers, including dark malts, which are then aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for 4-8 months. Tobacco and fruit are prominent notes, particularly cherry (oh, look at that: currants are added). Carbonation comes from having fermented the beer in the very bottle it comes packaged in – and this further adds punch to its sour, my tasters and I found. Not only was it fun to pair this particular beer with cheese, it served as a palate cleanser as we went from candidate to candidate. Perfect.

Research Fellows

Barrie Lynn had given me five cheeses in all, which ranged in funkiness with the intention of standing a chance against the sour ale’s…well, sour properties. We tried the first, aptly nicknamed “Cheese Sex,” – which was an aged cheese spread, or a blend of Widmers Aged Brick Cheese and aged cheddar. No, it wasn’t funky. Yes, it was divine; it reminded my friends and me of a really well-executed version of the cheese in the Handysnacks cheese and crackers snack pack we all got in our lunches as kids. That is, probably the best execution that we had never dreamed of. (Seth noted as a parallel that we’re still waiting for the gourmet chicken nugget.) Don’t underestimate the Cheese Sex, okay? As far as a pairing, however, Consecration – and probably any other sour ale – overpowered the dream. The beer was too strong for even its slightly salty aftertaste, but all the same, I could understand why this spread is in such high demand, as evidenced by the sliver we were given. There be rations!

The next cheese candidate was Italico, which was appropriately named because it reminded us of mozzarella. It was an ivory-colored cheese and was even milder than the Aged Brick Spread – without any finish at all. It was almost like there wasn’t any cheese at all. After some research, I found that Italico is better paired with fruit. Truly, there would be stronger cheeses that could hold their own in this tasting.

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Pizza and Beer Pairing To Benefit Real Medicine Foundation

What better way to celebrate and benefit a charity like Real Medicine Foundation than to pair pizzas with beer? Real Medicine is a charity which provides humanitarian support to people affected by disaster, post-war, and poverty – and Gev Kazanchyan & Stone Brewing Co. led the charge for their benefit one Sunday afternoon at Citysip, a local wine bar located in Echo Park on Sunset. The result was an impressive $1000 check towards research whereby we guests tasted delicious beers with pizzas delivered fresh every single round by Tomato Pie.

We started out with a palate cleanser – Stone Levitation Ale. I don’t know if it’s so much a palate cleanser so much as a beer that simply tastes good. But sure, it’s not heavy – still is a Stone (i.e. strong) brew so it has some weight to it - and therefore, a good beer to whet the senses.

The first Tomato Pie pie came out, which was of a breakfast sort with bacon, sausage, spinach, white onion and egg as toppings. I can usually eat breakfast any time of day yet – lo and behold – I had been sleeping on a cemetery lawn a few hours prior. It seemed a proper way to wake amongst the dead. But Stone’s Smoked Porter is one of my favorite beers, and it was a nice, rich start to the tasting and matched the sausage on the pizza well.

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Dionicess IV Beer & Chocolate Pairing

I had the privilege of joining a few others in Glendale at Sidebar for a beer and chocolate tasting featuring brews from Stone Brewing Company, based in Escondido. Yes – we paired chocolates and beer – and I can positively say I’ve never even given the combination a thought. But pair they did, the tastes of which we were all there to experience. Gev Kazanchyan (our host) and Nate Sellergren (Stone’s Los Angeles rep) had paired up five brews with five Mignon chocolates – the identities of which were kept incognito under the doily in each of our individual chocolate boxes.

Fellow bloggers including CarolineOnCrack, FoodGPS and John of Social Domain were on hand to share the sometimes peculiar matchings. As far as the beer itself, I enjoyed the Smoked Porters the most. The Smoked Porters even came in three degrees of “smokiness.” Since porters, however, as dark beers are rich – I had a hard time reconciling the richness in both the chocolate and the brew. This was especially evident in the dark chocolate truffle with Dutch cocoa powder matched with the smokiest Porter.

Not coincidentally, I enjoyed the first pairing the most. It was the lightest beer at 4% content – the Levitation Ale. The pairing with a chocolate-covered orange peel was perfect, I thought. The orange peel highlighted the lightness in the ale with its own citrus zest very nicely.

I enjoyed both Indian Pale Ales but the Ruination IPA had notably more hops in it than the others. It was paired with a dark chocolate piece filled with lavendar ganache which brought a nice, lighter essence to that match.

My least favorite coupling admittedly had to do more with the beer than anything else – and that would be the Arrogant Bastard Ale. My palate doesn’t prefer especially strong ales so the oaked version of the same brew wasn’t cutting it. Still – I was surprised they were both paired with a sweeter, milk chocolate. I’d think that the sweetness might throw off the potency of the Arrogant Bastard (had I preferred it).

Pairing chocolate with beer is evidently a challenging thing to do. There were more combinations in this experience that threw my palate off than I thought worked well or even made sense. But perhaps for those few pairings it was worth it. Now if I could just find some chocolate-covered orange peels and some Stone Levitation ale…

Sidebar
1114 N. Pacific Ave.
Glendale, CA 91202
(818) 241-4542

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