Monday night September 22nd was the final 5x5 Chef's Collaborative Dinner for 2008, located this time at La Terza. I have been wanting to go to one all summer, but my busy jet set glamorous work has kept me from committing. I probably wouldn't have made it to this one, being that we just returned from Vegas, except that the hostess had a copy of my credit card # with promises to charge me in full for a no-show. I am fairly glad I made it. The food was outstanding. The service was just this side of suckage, but the food was worth suffering indifferent service, a mild two day hangover and being seated at a table in the back like a bad step child. Enough about that...onto the food.
Our table wasn't ready when we got there, so we stood around the bar area, people watching and sipping some nice fairly inexpensive prosecco. I love these glasses.
They offered us a seat al fresco, which I was excited about. I love to sit outside in the early fall and symbolically kiss summer goodbye...But the table was so tiny and the next table was so close it just felt a little claustrophobic. We opted to be seated inside, and ironically, the table inside made the table outside look like A-list seating. Nevertheless, at our D-list table in the back corner upstairs, they first brought out the following course:
From Gino Angelini, reading left to right, was a baby artichoke heart in casserole. A lovely little artichoke in what tasted like high quality olive oil. NOT marinated in anything vinegary though. Simple but nice. Middle, octopus with fava bean puree and squid ink gelatin, nice but not super flavorful. To the right and D's favorite of the trio, scrambled eggs with summer truffle on toast. All in all, this course was pleasant but nothing to write home about.
About 15 minutes later the second course arrived and this was one of my favorites. By Walter Manzke, this is a hamachi crudo with cherry tomatoes, radish shaving, herbs, blood orange oil and an heirloom tomato sorbetto. Personally, I found the acidity of the tomatoes and the tang of the oil to balance the hamachi beautifully. And the intensity of the heirloom sorbetto was a partito de estate in my mouth...so intense and wonderful.
One good thing the waiter did for us was assist us in ordering a bottle of wine. We chose not to do the wine pairing since I had to be up at 5:30 am. He suggested this San Rocco valpolicello, which at first tasted young and too tangy. But it opened up beautifully, after breathing, into something a hair fruit forward but with a lovely slightly dry finish. Perfect for nearly everything we were served. Next!
The scallops were another winning dish. Courtesy of guest chef Alain Giraud of Anisette, this made my mouth happy. They were roasted perfectly, a nice bite around the roasted edges and soft-ish in the center, atop a silky Montbazillac and pistachio emulsion...the emulsion was heavenly. D sopped up every last drop with a crust of bread and might have licked the dish, had our remote corner of the dining room not suddenly become co-occupied by some friendly and loquacious fellow food bloggers. We had to up the ante in terms of acceptable table manners. No licking of plates, no throwing food, etc.
After a seemingly interminable 30 minutes (tick tock tick tock, I have to be in FULLERTON at 7) out parades this delight. Not a great photo, but wow. Sweet corn agnolotti with cockles (what IS the difference between cockles and clams, I ask? Aaron from Food Destination, www.fooddestination.blogspot.com, at the table next door finds out for me on his iPhone that there is indeed a difference. He claims to be able to taste it, I cannot make any such claim. The dish also featured guaniciale (unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork cheek, nom), and matsukake mushrooms. This dish was conceived by David LeFevre of Water Grill, no surprise there. I love his food.
Immediately after the agnolotti/cockle/pork cheek nirvana, out rushed the above. Grilled Big Eye tuna with fresh cranberry beans, squid, basil and munak ranch tomatoes. I loved the earthiness of this dish, but it wasn't D's favorite. Who cares! It was wonderful. The basil oil/emulsion sauce stuff was pungent and tasted delicious in my mouth with the cranberry beans. Succeed! Thank you, Michael Cimarusti. I think we all know who you are.
After another 15 minutes between courses I thought to hell with the early am, busboy, please locate my waiter and ask him for another glass of prosecco, thank you very much. Loves it. Another 15 minutes later with my prosecco half gone we give in and ask for the check. 30 minutes in between courses is a bit much and by now it is 11:30. AFTER we pay the check they bring us the above lamb course. I love lamb and was sad this little lamb course suffered the wrath of a sleepy consultant and her ADD husband. There was a small chunk of lamb shank that melted in my mouth, and a mini tenderloin-esque lamb loin. Next to these was a small tower of eggplant-potato parmesan all drizzled with lamb jus. I refused to leave the table until I ate some of everything. Again, Gino Angelini, our host at La Terza.
Apparently there was a dessert course, but anyone following my blog is acquainted with my indifference to sweets. I fell asleep in the car, and took my makeup off with a washcloth that may still be on the bathroom floor.