Not really an earthquake predictor, but an hourly updated map of California that shows the probability of an earthquake in the next 24 hour period. I came across this website about a week ago, and after today's 5.4 quake out near Diamond Bar, I decide to see if the colors had changed.
Below is a close-up of the Los Angeles area. You have now been forewarned!
July 29, 2008
Not really an earthquake predictor, but an hourly updated map of California that shows the probability of an earthquake in the next 24 hour period. I came across this website about a week ago, and after today's 5.4 quake out near Diamond Bar, I decide to see if the colors had changed.
Robert and I went to City Walk to see the IMAX version of Dark Knight. Over the course of the movie, I couldn't help but recollect acts of terrorism of the recent past. The Joker's use of diesel and ammonium nitrate is a reminder of Oklahoma City just as his Cupid OTF (Out The Front--like a box cutter) recalls the 9/11 hijacker's tool for airline passenger control. Quite gratuitous to the forward movement of the plot are the post-pyrotechnic scenes of fire and rescue teams responding to the disaster. But in a corporate mediated world, we don't often get to see the bombs exploding, but the resulting aftermath and rescue efforts. So when an abandoned Brach's Candy factory is relabeled as Gotham General Hospital and building demolition crews are augmented by Hollywood pyrotechnics, is it that far of a leap to think of real hospital bombings?
In other parts of the movie we get to see cinematic versions of (re-presentations of) responses to these violent acts. The interrogation room created on a back lot sound stage contains the basic elements found in video of interrogation rooms at Abu Ghraib.
I'm not alone in these types of associations with Warner Bros.' latest Batman movie. Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent has created analogies between Bruce Wayne and Dick Cheney, and the Joker and Osama bin Laden:
Confronting the Joker, a nihilistic enemy whose motives are both unexplained and beside the point, the Batman faces his biggest dilemma yet: whether to abuse his power in order to save Gotham City. Again and again in the movie, the Batman's moral hand-wringing results in the deaths of innocents. Only by becoming like the monster he must vanquish can Batman secure a victory that even he understands is Pyrrhic.In the comments section to the above quoted article, other analogies emerge:
Batman, the film's hero, played by Christian Bale, sees this as a morally devastating paradox. Dick Cheney and his ideological allies in the Bush administration, however, clearly view this as a righteous challenge. Cheney, Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others can go to to this sixth Batman movie to see, in the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger, a perfect reflection of their view of Al Qaeda. He presents an enemy unbounded by any scruple; striking out for no rational reason; hell-bent on causing civilization-threatening destruction, and emboldened by any adversaries' restraint.
(The) Joker is also a reflection of the administration’s dark tactics in Iraq and in the GWOT (Global War on Terror -ed.) more generally. The Joker is a force of radical destabilization who does his utmost to generate fear-driven class conflicts of all kinds (criminals v. law-abiding citizens; citizens v. politicians; police grunts v. police officials) while providing cover for the mob. Sounds like Bremer in Iraq, and Rove at home. The difference of course is that the Joker does not represent the interests of the mob whereas the Bush administration does. But even that discrepancy might bring us closer to an understanding of how Bush and Cheney operate in creating a global instability which both promotes exploitation and endangers capital at one and the same time.In The Dark Knight, two possible ways out of the moral dilemma are portrayed by the Harvey Dent/Two Face character (the hero we want) and the Bruce Wayne/Batman character (the hero we deserve). In the end, both tactics fail either morally or logistically. Even commissioner Gordon falters: as the police are about to converge on the Joker, mob, and money--and thus put an end to the chaos, death and fear--they instead divert to the hospital, reacting to the effect, rather than the cause of Gotham's problems. The same kind of ethical conundrums presented in the movie are told and discussed in Philosophy 101 classes:
You're in a switch house, in a train yard; a train is coming down the tracks. If the train continues on course it will hit and kill ten people standing on the track. If you throw the switch in front of you, the train will divert to another track, saving the ten people from a certain death. On the other track stands one man. You have two seconds to react. Do you throw the switch?In the movie the Joker uses Batman's ethical hesitancy to slip away and continue to reek havoc. As another commenter put it:
In another version, is a similar scenario--ten people on the tracks, a train heading towards them. This time you can stop the train by pushing one man from the platform in front of the oncoming train for the same outcome--one dies to save ten. Do you push?
Batman breaks the hold of the mobsters on Gotham with his theatrical brand of vigilante justice. The reaction is the emergence of the Joker, an equally theatrical, equally intelligent enemy who sees batman’s ‘I want to give people a symbol to give them hope against ceaseless corruption and violence’ and responds with ‘I want to give people a symbol that kills the goodness in them and shows they don’t deserve anything or any protection’. More to the point THE JOKER WINS. Harvey Dent is destroyed and Batman resorts to unreasonable means in his attempt to defeat the Joker. The people on the boats are the only ones who at all ‘win’ against the Joker, who doesn’t really care if he is captured or killed, the people on the boats choose to die rather than murder each other to survive.Setting aside Hollywood's history of making metaphorical versions of people and political events, I am left with the idea of action vs. inaction, both the good and bad kind. An example of the good kind of inaction are the folks in the ferry who didn't trigger the other boat's demise. In real life we have wildcat strikes, Ghandi's pacifism, and soldiers who become conscientious objectors who refuse to be redeployed. An example of the bad kind of inaction is the media that doesn't cover the realities of the Middle East, so Americans' culpability becomes more like flipping a switch than pushing someone in front of a train. Or perhaps instead of taking action, it's an American citizen who goes to see a movie instead.
July 23, 2008
The preamble to a Southern California movie-going experience usually includes a commercial for the L.A. Times. For years these spots revolved around different aspects of the movie-making process, including a segment on Foley artists; the people who create the sound effects to go with the action on the screen. After seeing a bunch of celery wrapped in wet burlap being whacked against a padded bench, I will never hear the sound of a fist connecting with a face in the same way again.
Likewise, after participating in two semesters of Andrea Bowers class, "In Conversation," I will never read an interview with an artist with the belief that it is a document of something that actually took place. Because spoken conversations don't include footnotes and often end in a prepositional phrase, one has to look through the polish to have a sense of what actually took place. Because traditional art making practices often involve a high level of manipulation (in private) before presenting the finished object (in the gallery) the artist interview can be polished until the presentation of the self reveals the real thing about as much as a Noh play represents daily life in Japan.
A.R.T. Press recently published a conversation between Andrea and Cathie Opie as part of their ongoing series, Between Artists. In a field where the presentation of the self counts sometimes as much as the quality of the product, one can imagine this being especially true for two successful artists in an field that creates more obstacles than pathways for women. Especially in the early pages, the conversation seems to be played to the microphone as much as it is to each other.
After seeing the show Just Different at the Cobra Museum, I couldn't help but think about some of the similarities between Robert Mapplethorpe and Opie's practice; at one point Opie curated a show of the former's work. Both photographers produced highly formal and aesthetic work that even the most conservative art collector would feel comfortable hanging in their living room. And at the same time both Mapplethorpe and Opie are best known for their more confrontational images of queer sexualities. In reading Andrea and Cathie's conversation, their bifurcated practice can be seen as a manifestation of an interest in things both aesthetic and political, more so than a strategy to both make a statement and pay the bills.
At the same time their conversation made me realize that the world has incredibly changed, as have artists' responses to the world around them. My former classmates have grown up in a world of judgement, retribution, and fear, while my peers of my age who grew up in a world with fewer commodities and more possibilities. It also made me pine for situation that doesn't play to the viewer--or the microphone--but instead speaks to one's internal sense of integrity.
July 22, 2008
Through August 10 is Against the Grain, the Christopher Russell curated reprise of Dennis Cooper and Richard Hawkin's show Against Nature which took place at LACE's Industrial location some 20 years ago. Artforum has a description of the current show and it's historical context, harking back to J. K. Huysmans novel of the same title.
According to Cooper, there was some talk about putting together an updated "group show of works by homosexual men," but it seems that Russel had already approached LACE with the idea of producing the unhomoexual and Gothic version that is on display today.
Like the worst days of the AIDS catastrophe, contemporary artists are functioning in a world they have little control over, and rife with catastrophic problems. While a gossamer link can be made between the themes of these two shows, considerable differences remain. Like the plague of the Middle Ages, gay men in the 80's where eyewitnesses to (and participants in) the death around them, unlike the distance created by representational wars and disasters of today. Unlike the death-by-RPGs that can occur from the beaches in Gaza to the mountains of Pakistan, HIV fused the barrel of a gun with the shaft of a penis. For gay men writing and making art, death/desire and art/life were incredibly overlapping magisteria, unseparated by a cathode-ray tube, liquid crystal display, or forward slash.
What made the first iteration more interesting was the way so many of the artists in Against Nature turned to the 19th century to make sense (and art) of their present circumstance. A tighter-themed group show can be stronger and more cohesive; it can also draw criticisms for what is left out. Missing were the Gran Furys and General Ideas that are used to represent the art history of artists responses to AIDS.
Thinking back to the earlier show--and wandering through the current exhibition--makes me wonder about some of the unintended similarities. Are Goths the Dandys of the 90's?
Surprising to me, a large number of the artists in Against Nature are still alive today--and still making art. It would have been impossible for the curators to know who would survive and who would succumb, but for the historical record, Against nature became a history written by the survivors. Perhaps by following Huysmans' model of retreating to one's room and sublimating desire onto the page (or canvas) one can avoid the fate of the Mark Morrisoes and F G-Ts of this world; voices immersed in the body fluids and experience that are missing from both versions of the show.
July 16, 2008
By way of example, let me use a painting I stumbled across about a week after leaving Spain. The painting is by Vincent Van Gogh in the museum in Amsterdam that bears his name. It is just one of a couple of hundred paintings by the artist in their collection. I could have divided my time equally among all the works on display, which would have allotted about 30 seconds per piece. Another choice would be to pick fewer works and grant them a little more consideration.
In a similar way we approach food and eating. When our stomach sends the signal to the brain that we hunger, we can shovel food in our mouths until that signal is sated, or we can be mindful of the experience, focusing on the flavors, textures, smells, temperatures, colors, arrangements, and memories that our eating provides.
Like food, the possible avenues of thought when looking at a glass of absinthe and a bottle of water are innumerable. I can think about how post-impressionism (in general) and this painting (in particular) fit into the continuum of art history. I can think about the psychoactive properties of thujone—a component of absinthe—and how it might have contributed to Van Gogh’s struggles with his own mental health. As someone who’s picked up a brush and attempted to render, I can appreciate the way the artist portrayed sunlight reflecting off the horizontal surfaces in the room. The ways of slicing up the work and giving it thought are endless, and the same could be said for an evening at el Bulli.
There was one point during my dinner when I thought, “There’s an incredible about of joy in this food.” I wasn’t thinking of joy in the ecclesiastical sense, but of the joy that is the byproduct of an unbridled immersion in play and imagination. For a small kid, it’s the difference between the joy that comes from a trip to Disneyland and the joy found in the discarded box the washing machine came in; when play transforms it into a pirate ship and the lawn becomes the high seas. In the six months that the restaurant is closed and the team moves to the Portaferrissa workshop in Barcelona, reflection, daydreaming, and play can occur. The following spring, when they return to Cala Montjoi, these essential components become manifest through memories, surprise, and harmony in the cuisine.
Rather than effuse in a general sense, let me give some examples from our menu.
The traditional dichotomy between the sweet and savory worlds are abolished, combined, and variously messed with:
- Sponge cake becomes savory in the Black Sesame Sponge Cake with Miso (sweet technique used in a savory preparation).
- Expectations of sweet are thwarted when biting into a cold chocolate truffle filled with warm truffle oil.
- Likewise with the unsweet mandarin flower sorbet given rich undertones with pumpkin oil.
- The inverse happens with the veal tendon, which became caramelized through low-temperature cooking.
- Not all food memories come from ingredients prepared in a home kitchen; many come from commercially processed and prepared foods that use techniques not readily available in a home kitchen. (Who bakes an Oreo, or puffs a grain of rice at home?) The Shiso Soft Candy (Ume JuJu) or the Honey Pearl with Elderflower are examples of that.
- Childhood memories were alluded to when a bowl of buffalo milk, strawberries, and honey evokes a morning bowl of cereal.
- The prime example would be between the cadence and pacing of a omakase menu and the Catalan tradition of serving tapas.
- Also, the flavors play out sequentially in similar ways, unlike the fairly traditional blending of flavors and textures of emulsified sauces and stews. As a sushi example, I can think of popping a piece of mirugai in my mouth. It may play out first with the rice, starchy and notes of sweet and vinegar, then the chewiness of the clam (which can play out as yummy or disappointingly tough) then briny then the saltiness of the soy and perhaps a note of yuzu and horseradish (or if you’re lucky, real wasabi). In a similar way the Gnocchi of Polenta played out sequentially, starting with starchy/creamy followed by notes of coffee, then capers, then saffron.
- Irony was in play with the LYO-cream where alien-seeming nouvelle concoctions were “finished’ through mastication and the result was a classic comfort food like spaghetti carbonara.
- The various flavors and textures were decontextualized in Peas 2008, and then placed side-by-side, startling the eater into the realization of the variety of elements in the lowly vegetable.
- Negotiating a spoonful of soup to one’s pie hole can no longer rely on muscle memory gained over years of mindlessly shoveling glop. With a shortened handle (or using one’s fingers) the process of putting food in one’s mouth becomes fresh too.
- Rather than the traditional tripartite of protein, starch, and vegetable (or food, sauce, and garnish) components of a dish are scattered about, and assembled in one’s mouth—like the suckling pigtail with melon miso soup.
“You will try many different elaborations and it means many different products. It is very important for his confection to know in advance if some problem exists, like allergies or any other product that we could not include for anyone of you.”If you don’t spontaneously order offal or “variety meats” off the menu at your favorite bistro, then I don’t think there’s anything the Ferran Adrià, Albert Adrià, or Oriol Castro can concoct that will change your view. Spending an inordinate amount of time outside one’s comfort zone can easily ruin a wonderful dining experience. If you’re afraid of heights, dinner at the Eiffel Tower will not be a pleasurable experience no matter who is slinging hash in the kitchen.
In the world of modern art, many folks made a name for themselves by being the first to pull some idea, concept, or technique under the umbrella of fine art. The novelty of that singular action—be it painting abstractly or signing one’s name on a factory-made object—was enough to grant them a place in the cannons of art history. For my taste, the better artists took what was essentially a trick, and incorporated it into the vocabulary of their artistic practice.
This was my first el Bulli experience. From TV, publications, and websites I have a Cliff Notes understanding of the restaurant’s history and development. It’s one thing to deconstruct a sauce or inject it with so much nitrous oxide that it becomes a foam. It’s something completely different when those techniques are elaborated and expanded upon, as well as incorporated, adapted, and reinvented for new preparations, cuisines, and techniques.
I look forward to a return to el Bulli to have this summer’s surprises become another year’s gastronomic memory—or to have the washing machine box become a spaceship and the lawn the Milky way.
July 15, 2008
Buitrón and Logan Loiter
In our last episode (where I describe how I got a reservation and the trip to Roses), the gates had just opened and the four of us made our way down the hill. We were about a half an hour by taxi from town and a handful of people were making use of the small beach in the cove.
We made our way across the crunchy gravel to the entrance where the host asked if we would like to see the kitchen. It was an open and well-furnished space, as nicely decorated as the rest of the restaurant. Ferran Adrià got up from a small desk to the side, and greeted us all warmly.Reflection into the Kitchen
The Pastry Kitchen
Michael Logan, Michael Buitrón, Ferran Adrià, Diane Calder, and Robert Kojima
Next we were led out to an outdoor patio, a bit jumpy with anticipation. The view from the patio and the breeze off the Mediterranean does help one relax.The View From the Lanai
Like any good host, the cocktails were quickly brought out. A foamy yuzu (a bitter Japanese citrus) slush floats on top of some sake with a splash of tonic. Very refreshing with a hint of alcohol. The proportions were perfect so the last bit of citrusy slush held out to the last gulp.Aperitif: Yuzu/Sake/Kyoto
Michael Covets His Neighbor's Cocktail
Some blogger's account of an el Bulli experience mentioned that they started with a bottle of Cava. This seemed like a brilliant idea for several reasons; we were in Spain, and dinner at el Bulli with your friends is reason enough to celebrate! The specific beverage choices worked out between Logan and the sommelier are at the bottom of this post.Logan Susses the Wine Tome
This came out with the aperitif. Like the crunchy salty snack mix at a Japanese bar, but rather than a mish-mash of flavors, this deconstructs and pulls out texture (crunch) and salty seaweed. Robert's notes called in an assault by MSG, which gave something so light a moment of unctuousness. I also expect that the residual flavors help bring out the citrus and tonic in our cocktail.Nori-Trias
Snacks - Clockwise, starting with the plate of cocktail napkins:
- Shiso Soft Candy
- Spherical Olives (in jar and on spoons)
- Parmesan Crisp and Tomato Biscuit
- Pine Nut and Chocolate Bonbons
- More Averantos
Where the cocktail and seaweed touched on flavors, the Shiso Soft Candy (Robert called it Ume JuJu) seemed to take Umeboshi as a starting point (somewhat like a Mexican salted plum, but instead of being dried, it's stewed). In it were the same elements--the sweetness of the plum, a touch of bitter from a shiso leaf--and though it's hard to see in the picture--a few grains of sea salt are perched on top. Unlike umeboshi, the volume on all the knobs is turned down, and something completely different emerges on the tongue.
Robert's Ratatouille Moment
It's easy to see why the olives have become a signature dish. Lore has it that every year in their laboratory in Barcelona the chefs taste and pick the best olive they can find. The olive's "essence" is removed and encased in a thin sphere of gelatin. To my taste buds it seems that all the cellulose--the woodiness of the olive eating experience--is removed. Either way, what you have left is a POW! of pure olive flavor, and since there are no solid bits, there's nothing to carry the taste away: it just lingers and lingers even though your mouth is empty!Spherical Olives
The flavors are from Tuscany even though we're still munching on bar snacks. The sun dried tomato (garnished with a fleck of gold leaf) hangs on for quite a while.Parmesan Crisp and Tomato Biscuit
I should say something about the serving pieces. I love the stainless steel (gold-plated under the olive jar) that looks like rumpled fabric. Like a sushi place, the dishes change with each course. This makes sense, since like a sushi restaurant, a greater number of smaller courses are being served. The screen under the cookies follows this theme by looking like a bit of unfolded origami. Under the bonbons what looks like a vacu-formed plastic tray from a box of candies is actually ceramic.
The bonbons are filled with a hazelnut foam with a nicely bitter chocolate to contrast on the outside. Mmmmmm......
At this point we're feeling happy and relaxed. Would anything else be possible? We're on vacation, by the beach, and it's a beautiful evening. Enough of the cava has entered our bloodstream so we're relaxed, and feeling well-taken-care-of. The service is both professional and friendly, and not stuffy. We ask for a second round of the olives as we finish off the cava.Snacks
At this point, we're seeing the first of the next round of guests being seated on the patio. I'm guessing the restaurant has a little over 20 tables, and about a third as many outside. It's time for us to move inside to our table.
Patiently Waiting While the Moment is Documented
I didn't walk around and scope the whole place out, but it felt like we got the best table in the restaurant. To my right was this view (above) of the trees and the rocks and the sea. Behind me was a wall that separated us from the rest of the dining room. To my left, behind Diane was a short wall and a step up to a row of banquets that could look over us and out to the view. Behind Robert (and in front of me) was an old credenza that was used as a side station for our table.The View From Our Window
Logan, Diane, and I were poured agua sin gas, and Robert ordered Vichy Catalan. Did you know that the carbon dioxide in fizzy water interacts with the H2O to form carbonic acid? That what gives water with bubbles a slightly acidic taste.
This is the kind of stuff you hear when you have dinner with a chemist.
This wasn't on the final menu we were presented with, so I don't know it's name. Our server told us to pick up the paper and quickly lick it off. It started off tasting like eggs (but creamy) and finished with curry.Amuse Bouche
To go with the first courses we asked for a white from the area, and the sommelier recommended the Clos d'Agon, similar to a white Rhone. It was a great food wine, with fruit and not too dry. We wound up getting a second bottle partway through our dinner.
Like sushi, you pick it up with your fingers and pop it in your mouth. Interestingly, the coconut brought back the curry flavor from the amuse bouche back on the tongue, and came together in a way reminiscent of a Thai coconut curry with mint. I wonder if the coconut outsides were coconut shavings, or some kind of essence. After crunching the mint wafer on the bottom, the whole thing seemed to disappear in your mouth.Mint Leaf with Coconut
Another gossamer food moment. I wonder how they got so much air and still got the sponge cake to hold together; super fluffy! This was a nice balance of savory and sweet.Black Sesame Sponge Cake with Miso
When we first sat down, our server told us that when we left, each of us would be getting a copy of the menu with everything we ate and all the wines we ordered. They didn't want however, to bring out the menu ahead of time, so that there would be surprises along the way."Brazo de Gitano"
That being said, I didn't know this as a "Gypsy's Arm" when I popped it into my mouth. A super thin candy shell over a beetroot concoction and a yogurt tibia. Does this mean that gypsies arms are easy to break, and soft and red inside? I don't know, but this was a very delicate balance of flavor and texture. You pop the whole thing in your mouth and chew to blend.
Creamy flavor for days! Followed by a sip of the Clos d'Agon, it totally accentuated all the fruit characteristics of the wine. And even after the alcohol, the Gorgonzola lingered. Wonderful!Gorgonzola Mochi
This was one of the few dishes where the name added something to the experience. A grilled strawberry? WTF? You can easily imagine something greasy and mushy that falls through the grill onto the coals, but what is presented is perfectly intact. I think that this dish best showed how they incorporate the element of surprise into their cooking.Grilled Strawberry
So how does a grilled strawberry perform in your mouth?
It had the texture of a very ripe, sweet strawberry. Biting in gave off a juice with strawberry flavor, but not overly sweet; it was probably injected with a bit of gin. The first surprise was that it was hot, and second that it finished with a smoky flavor.
Brilliant after the Gorgonzola; it cleared the palate and brought back the herbaceous character to the wine.
At this point we all commented on how much we liked the wine. It was like Ginger Rogers: in perfect compliment with the various flavors, and doing backwards and in heels.
A freeze-dried meringue.LYO-Cream, Part I
You eat them together. The meringue has a surprising amount of texture, a sip of the spoon tastes like olive oil, then bacon, then tiny cubes of Parmesan release their flavor. A little more chewing and then all this strangeness becomes suddenly familiar: it's pasta with a carbonara sauce!LYO-Cream, Part II
Now we move on to solid food. A fresh raw razor clam (one slurp, briny and fresh) is followed by an agar packet filled with a liquid and bits of seaweed (second slurp). It was like walking out into the surf and getting wet from a wave, followed by a salty spray. Nice. And there's just enough acidity in the wine to pair well with this.Razor Clam/Laurencia
Logan is allergic to shellfish, so there were a couple of places in the evening when his meal took a divergent course. This is buffalo milk with freeze-dried strawberries and a layer of honey at the bottom. I didn't get a taste, but he said "It had everything:" liquid/solid, sweet/savory, chewy/crunchy. There were some herbaceous flavors and the flavor of the milk changed as the alpine strawberries reconstituted and the honey dissolved. He was very happy, and not missing the razor clams at all.Buffalo Milk
At this point there's a brief (and well-needed) pause in the food coming out of the kitchen. From the beginning to the end the pace became slower as more time was needed to process and chew. Overall the cadence of the evening was very similar to having friends over for dinner. The restaurant felt like a beach house, modernized but not contemporary in style. You start on the patio with cocktails and snacks, watching the sun set. As the cool evening air rolls in, folks move indoors for dinner. As everyone becomes sated, the courses come out slower, until you linger over an espresso and sweets. In the end, everyone rolls out the door happy, tipsy, and full.
Like a tangerine sorbet with pumpkin seed oil. Robert said it was the best thing all night; a perfect balance with the pumpkin seed holding it all in place. Unlike most intermezzos, this did not just clear the palate. The richness of the oil foreshadowed the more solid food to follow. A perfect nexus for the change in tone.Mandarin Flower/Pumpkin Oil with Mandarin Seeds
This is course number 18, the numerical half-way point. We're now getting normal place settings that are changed with each course.
Almost roe-like yolks floating in dashi-like whites. This dish accentuated the differences between each part of the egg. The sesame seeds and spices around the edge gave very different tastes to each bite, accentuating salty/not salty parts of the ingredients.Savory/Spun Egg with Egg Yolk Gnocchi
The veal tendon reminds me of really good Chinese BBQ Pork or really good slow-cooked ribs, except more chewy (not tough) and much much richer. It's placed in a tarragon soup and the spoon off to the side holds a bone marrow soup. It makes me think that when you cut the muscle tissue off an animal and cook it (a boneless chicken breast for example) you're removing it from all the parts with the really good flavor. This was a personal highlight of the evening.Veal Tendon
Marrow Soup (detail)
You pick up the nasturtium leaf and pop the whole thing in your mouth. I thought the outside was slivered almonds, but it's thinly sliced mushrooms. The pepper of the leaf makes for a nice finish.Mushroom Canapé
Diane's Canapé Meets it's Demise
A peppery, fruity soup. Robert called it, "A dish about pepper without salt." Logan said, "Spring meets summer." The wine tasted even more fruity with this dish.Water Lily
And desperately searches for salt.My Lotus Flower Gazes into the Water Lily
With cacao; starts with a sweetness (liver?) then finishes with chocolate. The complexity of the wine returns.Game Meat Canapé
I love the presentation on this. The pigtails look like Sumi-e brushwork. The liquid on the left has bits of melon, tofu, and flower petals. Logan called it "Barbie's Miso Soup." The ham flavor and melon makes me think of prosciutto and melon, but the textures and volumes of the flavors are all different. With this dish the wine became bracing and helped accentuate the salt in the pig.Suckling Pigtail
This was a big favorite all around the table.
Not a great photo. It's a big honkin' white asparagus tip with miso butter and a nasturtium flower propeller on the end. It reminded Robert of botan (Japanese rice "candy").Asparagus with Miso
This dish was a personal favorite. On the left was a pure pea essence, similar to the treatment with the spherical olives. A really wonderful intense pea flavor. The divider was fresh pea leaves which brought back the crunchy cellulose and took you right out to the garden, on your knees in the dirt with your nose in the vines, searching out those last elusive green-on-green pods. On the right are dried split peas which brought out a third distinct flavor profile and texture. I believe on the right is a touch of Catalan sausage, giving it a hint of meaty unctuousness. Superb!Peas 2008
Robert in Pea Bliss
Robert called it a food speedball. Creamy/starchy/familiar explodes in your mouth, ending with spicy slaps of coffee, capers and piles of saffron.Gnocchi of Polenta with Coffee and Saffron
At course number 28 and the end of our third bottle of wine, I've become so enthralled by each new dish that I started eating before photographing. My frontal lobe has been pleasured into submission. This is probably the best cooked piece of fish I have ever eaten. No tricks, no gimmicks, just chef being a great chef."Negrito" 2008
The fish (prepared sous-vide?) comes with amaretto risotto and a cucumber/ginger jelly. This was definitely an OMG moment all around the table.
We are now nearing the end of our savory courses, and Diane is all wined out, so we settle on a half bottle of Rioja. It's well balanced with a nice musty note.Diane's Unblemished Negrito
Abalone with tiny shitake mushrooms and a ginger consommé. Sorry for the crappy picture. There's a better one here.Abalone
Logan got a fruit soup with pumpkin and mango.
This was the perfect ending to our savory courses. Lightly seared sweetbreads with a shitake soup. A nice meaty-marrow richness to the soup which makes the thymus gland seem less rich than it is. A nice combination of textures, fragrance, and flavor.Castanets
Robert Enjoys his Organ Meat
Logan Savors the Offal Moment
There's a pause while we switch to a dessert wine. A much needed breather after 30 courses. The sommelier brings us a Spanish white in the style of port, a golden Don PX Gran Reserva 1971. Very complex (like me). Our first dessert was very nice, and wonderful compliment to the wine.Cypress Honey with Fresh Mozzarella and Blueberry Ganache
This was an amazing bit of pastry chef prestidigitation. Our server came around with a Lucite box filled with cocoa powder and four chocolate truffles. You're supposed to pick it out, pop the whole thing in your mouth, and bite down. Crisp and cool on the outside, you crack it with your teeth and out pours (surprise!!) warm truffle oil with the hint of an overripe cheese. The flavors finish on a salty note."Trufitas"
It was like having someone break into your house while your asleep and giving you a blow job. You're not quite sure what's going on, but it feels incredible nonetheless.
Chocolate formed into various bits of forest floor detritus. A light dusting of cocoa powder concealed creamy insides. An enjoyable play of textures and sweet to bittersweet notes. A happy ending to our dessert courses.Autumn Countryside
Robert thought the spoon warranted a picture.Espresso
Diane ordered herbal tea, and this garden-covered trolley was wheeled to the table. After Logan saw this he switched from espresso to tea. The herbs are clipped into a glass infuser which was filled with hot water.Herb Tea
Diane is Explained her Botanical Choices
After espresso, the last three courses are called morphings. Does this mean we are all close to turning into pumpkins?Morphings
These are strawberry and mint filled chocolate bars. It's just a wauffer thin mint...it's wauffer thin...
Mango jelly with almond oil on a cookie. Robert said it was like eating a marriage counselor, meaning it met with both our approvals despite our dissimilar sweetness preferences.Biscuit with Amaretto
Our last course. The server put them down, and then she chimed, "Good-bye!" We were nearly the last ones left in the restaurant. Five hours, thirty-six courses, and four-and-a-half bottles of wine later, we ambled out into the cool night air. Thoughts and conclusions to follow in my next post.Honey Pearl with Elderflower
Outside we started with a bottle of Cava:Dead Soldiers
Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2004Inside we told the sommelier that we were interested in trying wines from the region. The first was a Catalan white in the style of a Rhone:
Augusti Torelló @ Cava-Penedès (D.O.)
Clos d’Agon 2006At this point, he very cordially suggested that we stay with a white at this point in our meal. I asked if he thought it would be OK to stick with what we were drinking. He said yes and brought us another bottle. As the second bottle evaporated (volatile fluids, you know) We asked for a half bottle of something a little more dramatic. Diane isn't a red wine drinker, so a short pour for the three of us with the last two savory courses (the abalone and the sweetbreads) was fine:
Mas Gil @ Catalunya (D.O.)
Pagos Viejos 2004Robert thought it had the bouquet of a urinal, so I asked, "Good urinal or bad urinal?" and he said good urinal. For the pre-deserts and morphings the sommelier suggested a fortified white from Andalucia (say it with a lisp):
Artadi @ Rioja (D.O.Ca. (Cosecha))
Don PX Gran Reserva 1971Beautiful golden color, raisiny, sweet with a nice touch of acid to balance it out.
Toro Albalá @ Montilla-Moriles (D.O.)