Gram & Papa's
Tuesday April 13th was a momentous day for my friend K and me. As we drove through traffic, her from Corona and me just a couple miles away in Echo Park driving through Dodger opening day madness, our good friend C was finally giving birth to her new son. Welcome Baby C and happy birthday!
K and I love to eat and cook together, kinda in that order. She has been reading my blog posts about Ludobites since last year and this time made it up to see for herself. I was late (I am always late to Ludobites, whether it's the bus or Dodger traffic, it's a curse) and K had the Brie Napoleon waiting for me when I fell through the front door and made it to the table.
Above, for your perusal, is the rest of the menu. Mains and dessert.
I am drinking water these days, I am sure it's only temporary. I gotta share with you. I don't feel much better in the morning when I have water with dinner instead of wine. WTF? Am I getting old? Is it really this painful to wake up without drinking booze the night before? I can't remember because it's been so long since I haven't had at least one nightly glass of wine with my supper. If I am going to feel like I was run over by a Mini Cooper in the morning without drinking wine, I am unsure why I am suddenly and unceremoniously on the wagon.
Brie Chantilly Napoleon, Honey Comb, Frisee Salad, Balsamic
This is what was waiting for me when I got the the table. Thank you, K. What the Hades is a chantilly, I thought this morning writing this post instead of taking the dog for a run. CDKitchen tells me a chantilly is the name for a sweetened cream flavored with vanilla, which is why I see the term so often applied to desserts. However, it can also be used to describe sauces that have whipped cream folded into them which is how I think it is applied here. The large blop of brie on my crouton was lighter than plain softened brie. Slightly cooler than room temperature, with a flavor a little milder than whole brie. Frisee salad is a pretty afterthought tastewise, and I adored both the honeycomb and the thick reduced balsamic with my chantilly. This could easily serve four as the dollop of brie chantilly is very generous, it took me maybe four bites to eat.
K pulls apart a baguette and I eye the lavender/honey butter with longing eyes. This butter is beautiful and a redo from Ludobites before. When Ludo & Krissy put up a permanent Ludobites sign somewhere I hope this butter is a permanent fixture. K says it is like eating a spa...spas often smell of lavender from the front desk to the showers. I say it's a little like eating the spa, but yummier. Spas don't have butter.
Pork Cheek Terrine, Smoked Mayo, Apples, German Butter Ball Potatoes
This is a nice dish. It's hard from this snap to see the smoked mayo on the other side of the potatoes and apple chunks, but it is pretty generous, and it was delicious with both the potato and pork. K and I got to watch Ludo make mayo by hand with a whisk at Sur La Table cooking with Marcel V, scroll down toward the bottom of the post for the money shot. I wish I had the guns to make mayo by hand. The apples and potato were simple here. Apple raw, potato boiled, both undressed. It was fun to dress all the pieces ourselves choosing between a little pork, a little mayo, a little balsamic. I admit to swiping the plate free of balsamic and licking my fingers, as did K. We are gross like that.
Seared Foie Gras "Pina Colada"
While we ate this dish, Krissy sidled over and asked if what we thought. I thought it was delightful. The foie filet would have been too big for me to eat alone, so I am glad I was there with K instead of D. And the stuff accompanying the much speculated about "pina colada" was delicious and fun. The foie was perfection. Let's discuss what the other stuff on the plate was.
Front, middle bottom. Rum gelatin. The texture reminded me a little of the jelly fish I had at a Korean place recently. It was simply made by cutting gelatin sheets into thin strips and soaking in rum. Beautiful. In the middle, in white, a coconut ice cream-like substance. And at the rear the pineapple component, a pineapple creme. It sounds like a totally weird combination. A couple people on Twitter pm'd me asking about it. I loved it and here's why; my favorite foie dish was years ago at Alize, chef Andre Rochat's restaurant at the top of the Palms in Vegas. Seared foie gras with apricots, I think a classic preparation with foie, the sticky sweet fruit. Texturally, the apricots and the foie are not dissimilar however I love the pairing of the sweet and savory. In this "pina colada" the textures are completely different, but still have that savory sweet thing going on. The boozey rum, creamy coconut and pineapple pop play really nicely against the strong flavor of the foie.
Krissy shared with me that Ludo used to serve this dish at Bastide during his reign there as Chef. Apparently, SIV was not in love with it and gave it a good lashing with her pen. Welp, SIV, sometimes I agree with you (many times I do not) but here we fervently depart. This is classic Ludo. Frivolous and fun, but grounded in something that made a lot of sense for what is happening in my mouth. I am not the restaurant critic of the LATimes but in food, like in art, I know what I like. And it doesn't have to match the couch or the curtains.
Totally unrelated, a really cool blog post by Candian Foodie about making foie gras torchon. It's anatomically graphic, reader be warned. What's up with the stuffed animal?
Community. I have talked about Ludo's inclusive nature in other posts about his food. Krissy and Ludo really pay attention to the twtterverse and their following, even bringing them into their home, their kitchen and the front of the house. It is so appreciated. Last night, Matt from mattatouille (one of my favorite blogs, and the guy who helped me decide what photog equipment was right for me when buying DSLR) was waiting tables. Holly from the Michelin Project and this FST blog post was in the kitchen! Holly is doing an internship alongside Ludo for the entire two month run at Gram & Papa's.
Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Smoked Eel, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint
We were getting kind of full by now, but this lamb was delicious. All the elements worked together very harmoniously. I nommed on the more well done bits on the outside with the umami yumminess from the roasting and salt and seasonings on the very outside of the flesh, while K carved from the more rare middle area. I dipped my bites first in a little goat cheese, then in the mint sauce and followed each bite with the mousseline. Delcious. The smoked eel was fun on the plate but I missed the connection somehow.
Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (64 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Sage
This was my favorite dish of the night, hands down. A perfect dish for someone who wants something rich but is watching their carb intake (which we all agree is a totally unhealthy way to lose weight, mm'kay?). Squid were perfectly cooked ringlets and loops, in a cheesy bath with parm sprinkled throughout, huge chunks of thick pancetta and one beautiful slow poached egg. I definitely want this again and if Ludo ain't serving it at the end of May I am staging a coup du cafe. A coup, I tell you. Watch K toss the carbonara.
We were seated against the back wall, which one might think would be a bad table. But we had a 100% unfettered view of the front kitchen peppered with lots of conversation from Matt visiting the computer and Krissy visiting the kitchen with several hellos and ca-vas from Ludo. There was culinary royalty in the house, and while I am not mentioning names, their kid was practically sitting in my lap. He was tossing up chunks of bread and catching them in his mouth and I swear one almost landed in my hair. Good thing he was cute. :-D
Dark Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Black Pepper Ice Cream, Chocolate Cream
And at last, something K had been eyeing since she walked in the door. Dessert! I knew she looked at the dessert list before the main menu....I knew it! She does naughty things with dessert.
This souffle is a giant cocoa covered light textured eggy and chocolate ramekin filled tub of deliciousness. So light and beautiful, it practically floated to our table. I would come back and order this again in a heartbeat if it weren't for the fact that...
when I return I will be asking for a bowl of the black pepper ice cream made with cognac. ZOMG. Scoops has nothing on this ice cream churner.
During dinner, K asked me, what is the deal with Ludobites? Do you just love everything he throws down? Now, you have to know K. She is incredibly inquisitive and sometimes asks what people consider rude questions. Like the time she asked Marcel some very pointed questions about his, a'hem, assistant at that cooking demo. Um, I blushed. But she's fearless and she just wants to know. I answered her this way. No, I don't love everything that Ludo makes, but I like it all. I love trying everything on the menu. Whimsy comes out of his kitchen. You never know what is going to appear on the plate labeled, "Steak au Poivre, Shallots, Polenta Bone Marrow, White Asparagus". I can guarantee you it won't be the same steak au poivre you expect at Church & State or Cafe Stella. There will be nothing on the menu I have even a thin hope of recreating at home. And there is community, always someone you know eating there and usually someone you know in the back of the house. Last, there is anticipation. Ludo & Krissy will close the doors late May only to open them again...who knows when? And by the time late-June comes, everyone will be dying to go again.