Tuesday, May 31, 2011

San Diego's best sight-seeing: Wine Vault and Bistro

When my chef friend visited town, I knew exactly where we'd go: Wine Vault and Bistro. Their 3-course tasting menu ($20) changes every Friday and this week's was a beaute (unfortunately my camera died, so no pictures, but this meal was worth mentioning).

May 20, 2011

blistered shishito peppers | sea salt - 6
cheese sampler platter w/ four artisan cheeses + accompaniments - 15
bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with point reyes blue cheese + almonds - 6
pommes frites | vindaloo ketchup + pancetta gravy – 6

pick one from each category below

gazpacho consommé | baby zucchini | cucumber | squash blossom | jalapeño sorbet
2010 noble house riesling (5 oz. pour)

local yellowtail tataki | crispy rice | ikura roe | scallions | dashi gelée
2010 crios de susana balbo torrontes fs(5 oz. pour)

seared hudson valley foie gras | ramp biscuit | long pepper honey | bacon jam - $5 supp
2007 clos jean loupiac (3 oz. pour)


halibut | chorizo | preserved lemon purée | broccoli | fennel | radishes
2009 testa rossa "santa barbara" chardonnay (5 oz. pour)

wild mushrooms | summer truffle purée | braised morels | crispy bread | arugula | pecorino
2005 garmendia tempranillo (5 oz. pour)

wild boar cassoulet | house cured guanciale | ham hock | parmesan tuile | sprouts | black eyed peas
2008 halter ranch "côtes du paso" rhône red blend (5 oz. pour)

ribeye (3 oz.)* | summer squash | potato cake | watercress | fines herbes | bearnaise jus (*this got changed to a NY strip)
2007 tobin james "silver reserve" syrah (5 oz. pour)

pistachio cake | carrot purée | cognac cherry compote | vanilla | streusel
1999 domaine fontanel rivesaltes ambré (3 oz. pour)

lavender ice cream | dark chocolate pudding | dehydrated chocolate mousse | honeycomb
2008 la mision "may harvest" sauvignon blanc (3 oz. pour)

strawberry float | basil ice cream | strawberry powder | candied basil leaf
nv tobin james "dream weaver" sparkling wine (3 oz. pour)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Feasting Flashbacks: Then and Now - Lahaina Grill (Maui)

First Trip

We were welcomed with pronouncements of “Happy honeymoon!” when we gave our name (I had made the reservation a month in advance), and that’s why I was so disappointed when we were wedged in what seemed to be the worst seat in the house - smack between a door and uncomfortably close to another couple.

Never one to shy away from asking for another table, the hostess led us towards the glow of the neighboring room, its dessert case a beacon of light that landed us directly in front of the Road to Hana - their signature dessert. Time for a road trip? Not yet.

First things first...appetizers:

BUFALA TOMATO SALAD - Olowalu tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, truffle oil, aged balsamic vinaigrette, alziari extra virgin olive oil with black kilauea sea salt - this coiffed caprese brought a leaning tower of tomato and mozzarella to the table, its architectural structure only upped by the heightened level of classic components.

CRISP FRIED MAINE LOBSTER CRAB CAKE - fresh Maine lobster, rock crab, diver scallops, haas avocado relish and mustard cream became a blended mass of shellfish and the luxuriousness of the lobster got completely lost. With the Maine ingredient masked, it was just another muddled, run-of-the-mill seafood cake.

Chef Arnie's homemade meatballs made with all natural veal, pork and angus beef, penne pasta, fresh olowalu tomato-basil sauce. By the time we came here, we were a little fished out, so I went for the pasta even though it wasn't homemade because the meatballs were. It was exactly what I was looking for that night, but nothing I would seek out again.

KONA COFFEE ROASTED MOUNTAIN MEADOWS RACK OF LAMB- light coffee-cabernet demi-glace, herbed mashed potatoes
was successful in every aspect. From the deep chickory of the Kona coffee coating the lamb to the roasted head of garlic, whose cloves could be knived out in gooey, caramelized clumps.

ROAD TO HANA - layers of Hawaiian vintage chocolate cake, chocolate sour cream mousse, and macadamia nut caramel - We ate too much and decided to ride our Road to Hana home (and hit a few speed bumps on the way - whoops!).

Second trip
"A table for two."

"Right this way."

We were led to a private nook that had date night written all over it, and I realized this time they had delivered on the romantic seating...for my mother and I.

"Pear"fection Martini - Grey Goose Pear Vodka, Sour Apple Pucker Liquer, Prickly Pear Puree was probably the best cocktail I'd had in Maui and being in fruity, umbrella-ed, drink heaven, that was quite a compliment.

THE CAKE WALK - petite servings of Maine lobster crab cake, Pacific Northwest white rock shrimp cake and seared ahi cake wasn't a walk in the park...more like a walk into the frozen section. The breaded cakes were bland and even the seared ahi seemed to lack any ambition.

MAUI ONION SOUP - sweet kula onions simmered in a rich chicken stock, sherry,baked with a gruyère and provolone cheese croûton - more like tureen of pee soup. I might be presumptious is saying that the kitchen staff used this as their urinal, but I did wake up in the middle of the night barfing broth.

BAKED ESCARGOTS - light curry, herb and garlic butter
A poem: Ode to Escargot
It's not that you were bad
Just easily forgot

I think things have really changed here since Chef David Paul left a few years ago. It's like when the favorite member of a band goes, but they still retain their original name - it's just not the same. Though there were highlights, I wasn't buying the album.

My overall impression = overpriced, overrated, over it.