Thursday, September 16, 2010

Test Kitchen: Young Team

This food blog has become both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing because I am reconnecting with old friends and also making new friends.  People are just coming out of the wood work wanting to eat and try new places with me.  It is a curse because dining at this level is burning a hole in my wallet and unless I start moonlighting or robbing banks, I'm gonna be showing up to LA Free Clinic for my medical care.  Also, I'm starting to feel waaay unhealthy and my GERD is acting up.  Oh, this blog also takes a lot of time to maintain!   The witty writing and dazzling photos don't just magically spill onto the page.  In any case, I plan to stay the course for now because making new friendships and keeping up the old ones over some good food is too much fun.

Case in point.  I haven't talked to Hungry Douche since graduation probably.  But he discovered a fellow "food-liking" (Hungry Douche dislikes the word foodie) friend in me and was excited to have some new dining companions.  He already had been to Test Kitchen for Michael Voltaggio, Starry Kitchen, and some other ones that I forgot.  He found it hilarious that almost EVERYONE, save himself and his sister, busted out their SLR cameras for the Voltaggio night.  So he was amused to find out that I had a food blog and that I obnoxiously snapped photos of my food in the same way.

When he invited me to "Young Team" night at Test Kitchen, I was curious.  Sous chefs collectively from Bastide, Water Grill, L'Orangeries, Ludobites, and the Bazaar were to be cooking up a surprise menu which later on was revealed to include foie gras donuts.  At that sound of foie gras donuts, I immediately said yes.    Then we were hypothesizing who these "mystery chefs" could be.  We thought one of them had to be Marcel from Top Chef since he works at the Bazaar.  We found out there would be no Marcel, but instead there would be Amanda from this season's Top Chef.  Sorry Amanda, but I found you really annoying on the show and it really seemed like your food sucked.  Tom Colicchio told you to go to Italy to learn what Italian food tastes like.  Plus you had what looked like a cold sore on your face for a good deal of those interviews.  So not only was Ed dripping his personally seasoned sweat into all the food, you were shedding viruses into the food.  I kid, but these are the things we joke about sometimes.  Enough of this since I'm beginning to drone on like some other people.

Foie Gras Powdered Donuts shallot jelly dressing (Dan Moody of Ludobites)
The most anticipated dish of the night turned out to be the most disappointing.  Don't put the words "foie gras" into the title and not present any "foie gras" that any of my senses can pick up because thats just criminal.  Apparently they took tapioca starch with rendered foie gras to make the "powder." 

It didn't even taste like a donut either, more like a dinner roll.  And it wasn't even warm!  The filling was more interesting, slightly sweet from beets and figs, but with hints of savory from the shallots and leeks  It had more of a paste texture than a jelly texture.   I really liked it and wished there were more of it to go around.





Soft Shell Crab corn relish, tomato, bacon vinaigrette (Amanda Baumgarten of Water Grill)
Ok Amanda, you have TOTALLY redeemed yourself.  This dish was completely and utterly delicious.  Granted there was nothing innovative about it.  I still had a party in my mouth.  It was a good size portion of crab that was lightly breaded and deep fried served atop a little corn relish.  As I've said before, everything tastes better with corn.  The corn alone was great.  It was fresh, sweet, and really kept the dish light.   Every bite of crab oozed juices and wonderfully melded flavors from the bacon vinaigrette.  That was what probably gave this dish that extra oomph!


Mmmm, cooooooooooorn....


There was some significant lag time in between the 2nd and 3rd courses.  We joked that it was all Alex's fault, as he was expediting that night.  You remember Alex from this season's Top Chef.  He's the one who "stole the pea puree" which he adamantly denied to Hungry Douche.  Nice guy, took a picture with me.  I was like a retard, saying I was nervous around celebrities, and how he is like a celebrity, but that of course he is "no Brad Pitt."  He was like "oh thaaaaaaaaaaaaanks."  After I stuck my foot in my mouth like that, I tried to scurry away to see if I could yank it out and have dinner as planned.  


Tartine of Chanterelle Mushroom bone marrow and herb salad  (Dylan Hallas of Farm Shop)
I've never had bone marrow done this way, not served still in the bone.  I wish to have more bone marrow done this way please!  This dish was saturated in richly flavored fat juice.  Each little bite had a bit of thinly crisped baguette, mushrooms, frisee, roasted garlic, and bone marrow.  It was an incredible combination of textures and flavors.  A bit on the salty side, but I forgave them.


Pan Seared Striped Bass vadouvian beets, yellow coconut, curry hollandaise, fried spinach (Dan)
This dish really packed a punch of flavor flavor flavor.  Not everyone appreciated the concentration of flavor here.  LoMa-Linda and Hungry Douche's sister kept going on and on about how they did not appreciate the pureed beets or how the frozen curry hollaindaise sauce on top was just too much.  I saw their points, but happily ate ever last bite of it.  The fish was cooked to perfection.  The fried spinach didn't add much I think.  The combination of the curry, beets, coconut was really strong, and not for those who are used to bland flavor profiles.  What was off putting was the cold frozen nature to the hollandaise sauce.  It was like "Mmmm, warm fish, warm sauce, BAM cold sauce!"   Sometimes I think fish, being a mild protein, needs a little kick in the pants like this to get the party started.


Ok with all the lag time in service, my stomach was starting to shut down on me.  LoMa-Linda kept complaining of gastritis.  Hungry Douche kept telling her how she would perforate soon and need his deft skills to put her back together.   Then we started to talk about other food bloggers, their real names, their daytime jobs, the quality of the blogs they keep.  Hungry Douche is much more of a "food-liker" than myself, which was both impressive and surprising.  But those extra 15lbs he put on since graduation didn't come out of nowhere.  Also I was feeling slightly impaired by this point, and then very sleepy.  The cocktails are really good, but really stiff!  I'm going to remember NOT to order any next time.

Wild King Salmon sauce soubise, leek and date compote, chickpea cakes, sherry reduction (Amanda)
My salmon was overcooked.  Boooo.  I still appreciated the concept of the dish.  The salmon skin was so perfectly crispy and salty.  I loved it so I just picked off the skin and devoured it.  The fish was otherwise nothing special AND Hungry Douche found a bone!  Despite this, the different components is what really dressed up with dish and made it special.  The chickpea cake had a lemon scent to it, "Like soap," exclaimed LoMa-Linda as she happily ate it up.  The leek date compote was really tasty, but you didn't need more than what was served.  It was another flavor punch.  I really liked the dish if the fish were not overcooked.


Burrata with Peaches (Dylan)
I'm not quite there yet when it comes to cheese for dessert.  This preparation was probably the most desserty since it was actually sweet.  The burrata looked like ice cream, but really it was a slightly salty, creamy blob sitting in a pool of sweet Italian milk.  I really liked the milk, but could only have small bites of the cheese.  The toasted almonds were a palatable addition to the dessert which overall was well balanced.  Tart fruity peaches.  Sweet luxurious milk.  Nutty toasted almonds.  Salty creamy cheese.  Not my favorite dessert, but I can appreciation the innovation. 


We were all pretty impressed with the night's offerings.  Considering the chefs were all sous chefs, they really had a great deal to offer.  I hope to see more from them in the future and wish them well in their careers.  They were also so nice and allowed us to come back into the kitchen to get autographs and snap some photos.  Only Hungry Douche and I went to meet the chefs, who seemed pretty busy, but were gracious enough to indulge our groupy love.  Being our personal groupies, LoMa-Linda and Hungry Douche's sister were peering through into the kitchen watching us try to schmooze and shamelessly flatter the chefs. 












I hope to go to more Test Kitchen offerings, but I heard this gig is up in a month or two???  And with DineLA coming soon, how I am to split my time, money, and stomach space??  Life really comes with tough decisions sometimes...


Test Kitchen
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Los Angeles, CA 90035


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5 comments:

Brian at September 16, 2010 at 5:05 PM said...

Alex? Couldn't you find someone better?

Lynn at September 17, 2010 at 12:31 AM said...

so demanding! you're just jealous cuz it could have been you taking a picture with alex!

Brian at September 18, 2010 at 3:51 PM said...

i woulda told him to take the picture ;)

Tuan at September 19, 2010 at 9:06 PM said...

i'll have to hand it to you--this was one of the better posts of late (save for mine, of course). so what on earth was alex doing there? running the front of the house? and that's cause he was so good at it, like on top chef, berating the wait staff and acting like an overall douchebag? it's funny that you saw the two of them (amanda and alex) there, since she was really the only one who had any respect (or at least admitted it on camera) for the enormously bespectacled one.

anyways, good post. go forth, eat, and blog. thank you for sacrificing the poundage and gerd for us...you're a saint.

JN at September 21, 2010 at 12:01 AM said...

i agree... it takes a lot of work to keep a blog fresh and feastful... but doesn't it make you feel good when you develop a following and people seem to appreciate your efforts?

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