Past, Present, Future: Baby, We Are Headed Places!

I seem to always be a bit late with things. I am notoriously late… to wake up, to get out the door, to meet friends, to make it to hair appointments, to fall asleep, to do just about everything except dinner reservations and work obligations, both of which I make an especially considerable effort to respect. I have developed certain strategies for dealing with this. If everyone has some innate talent or ‘super power’,  mine (other having a palate more advanced than the average restaurant industry civilian and a tremendously suppressed gag reflex) is always knowing the fastest route to get somewhere. Along with a naturally good sense of direction, I factor in a variety of data… considering such things as time of day, accident reports, the pattern of  light changes  on a particular stretch of street and more,  then run out the door with minutes to spare, cursing, flailingand flustered. This pattern did not allow me to arrive at my destination the personification of sexy, calm, pulled-together collectedness, so I knew something had to give.

I had never really been the kind of gal to make a resolution to do something….I always figured if I wanted to do it, I damn sure would and if I didn’t get to it, well then I just didn’t want to or it must not have been that critical. Last year I made my first resolution in a decade (since 2002 when I earnestly committed my energies to becoming a fabulous cocksucker); I decided I  would try to stop being perpetually tardy AND  cease driving like Cruella DeVille to make up for the time, but I knew I needed something to motivate me to succeed. After thinking about how to go about this, I bought an early 60’s dodge dart convertible, a sleek, shiny black with teal interior, a considerably gorgeous automobile that I look pretty darn sex-tastic in if I do say so myself. This aesthetically pleasing car takes at least ten minutes to warm up, handles much less responsively than a modern vehicle and has a maximum MPH of about seventy (though the speedometer shows at about twenty faster than its reality which allows me a happy state of suspended disbelief that I am going fast when I am actually driving at a perfectly reasonable, legal speed….not unlike when I put something in my calendar as starting a half hour earlier so I will undoubtedly show up thinking I am a twenty minutes late only to be delighted that I am ten minutes ahead of things).  The point of telling you this is that I have decided to make a new resolution this year (though in the spirit of my tricks for success, its a Chinese NewYear promise, which starts after the strike of midnight into February 1st since I dropped the ball on the beginning of the ‘Merican  year and I don’t mean in the Times Square kind of way).

I have had the blog going for a year now, and despite having been neglectful of my writing at times and though I only sort of slowly ‘came out’ about blog about a month ago, both in my work ads and on The Whorecast, the response has been pretty freaking amazing. So  thank you all. I can’t even imagine how rad things would be if I had actually tried to promote the damn thing, so this year I am going to be my darndest to actually keep up with this, as well as my tumblr which  is silly and mostly just my personal stories as opposed to a chronicle of the adventures had as a result of my numerous ravenous appetites. I am resolving to update both at least once a week. I have been so lucky to gain a lot of amazing opportunities this year as a result of this, as well as meet some incredible clients who have admitted HHH is what hooked them, so it is YOU, dear reader, that is my special motivation… the thought of what will continue to transpire as I put more love, time and effort in.

As I reflect, I realize how lucky I am to be here at this time and in this place where so many important converging factors are opening up endless possibilities for me, as a sex worker, a writer, and artist, a queer and a woman. There is often a palpable feeling that you can be a sex worker or you can be a ________, but not both for some stupid reason or another. This is especially true if your other chosen career involves being a public figure, especially in politics, or even worse, working with children, such as in the cases of Melissa Petro, who wasn’t even a current sex worker when she was fired from her job as a teacher in the NYC public school system or Shannon W., one of the smartest, most caring women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing who had been a teacher in a liberal town in CA when her beloved teaching career was ended when she was outed as being a sex worker. This year there have been some joyous civil rights victories (the over-turning of DoMA and, especially dear to my heart, CA Victims Compensation Fund which provides money to the victims of violent crime for a variety of crucial services  revisited and repealed a regulation that prevented sex workers from receiving help  if raped or otherwise assaulted, especially if it happened during work because of their involvement in illegal activity). The slowly changing tides of public opinion and the growing momentum of the sex workers rights movement as well as the incredible advances in technology, among other factors, have really made it possible (or at least significantly easier) to carve our own niches. We all know sex work is indeed something that there is stigma about, though I have been largely lucky enough to avoid it, both because I am a white-presenting, feminine looking, cis-woman with a college education from a middle class background and because I think it is harder to turn your nose up or look on down at someone who you can tell not only has zero shame but is proud of what you are so vehemently against. In my pride I have realized I am unwilling to abide by the societal standard that I can’t fulfill all my dreams, no matter how unlikely my different passions and pursuits are as bedfellows, something that I have gleefully seen other sex workers doing recently as well.

With the way we are able to connect online, I no longer need a newspaper or other publisher to decide my opinion is worthy of being made available to you. When I was a kid, I had three possible professions lined up for myself: I wanted to be a marine biologist, a stripper or a food critic. I had always been a ravenous eater. I was the kind of kid who, at five years old, would refuse to consume anything but ika sashimi for three months or who, while in Japan a year later with my mother,would only consume prawns if they were alive and riggling so I could rip off their heads and slurp up their innards as their limbs slowly ceased to pulse with life. Like a little blond golem I would pitch a fit til I got my preferred  sustenance and then spend the rest of the meal alternating between playing with my food, savoring it and suspiciously eyeing my parental units, sure that at any moment my precious would be confiscated. As I got older my passion for food only grew, as did my understanding of the fact that I knew I wanted to be sexy. I worked in kitchens but found that my love for cooking only extended to being a home chef, while my love for eating far exceeded anything I had the ability to whip up. After being an adorable golden haired  toddler, I settled into a fifteen year super awkward and unattractive period of ugly-duckling-hood (something I am now quite grateful for as it allowed me to become a smart and interesting person, capable of relying on my inner attributes as well as ensured I turned out a very nice girl having long been at the mercy of many a popular ‘mean girl’) before emerging as a confident, good lookin’ woman and I felt like my attractiveness and charm was a recently discovered super power that I had to make sure was used for good and not evil. So at seventeen I began what Siouxsie charmingly calls my Sex Worker Whorientation, the details of which are a story for another time. As I came into my own, the dead hooker plot lines and dumb stripper jokes started to irk me more and more and as I eventually blossomed into adulthood and became a proud-er, out-er working girl, I started to think more critically about the expectation that sex workers are one dimensional characters with only a few potential story arcs as showcased on TV programs like Law And Order: SVU and CSI. Usually they are dead, but if not they are either evil gold diggers, desperate drug addicts or abused, manipulated and pimped out girls. I have never seen an accurate main stream media portrayal of the kind of women I have come to know as making up my community: all varying and different in so many ways, but most share being smart, funny, interesting, savvy, creative, independent, quirky women with many different projects, dreams, responsibilities and more. With each  brilliant woman I came to know, the supposed inability to pursue both my sex work and other dreams at the same time just started to seem more and more ridiculous. With that thought slowly simmering on a back burner in my brain, I started out with the blog slowly and gingerly. After sort of pussy footing around it for a year, the quickness with which things started to boil in the best way possible took me by pleasant surprise and I am so excited for what is to come.

The past eighteen months have been full of so many incredible experiences that I want to take a minute to recount my blessings and say thank you to those who contributed, whether it be friends, co-workers, chefs, clients or others. Pardon my cheesy metaphor usage, but I am do delighted that this garden has grown and thrived the way it has, both the parts that have been carefully cultivated and the beautiful weeds that took me by surprise… even the thorns have served their purposes and taught me important lessons. I think the incredible HOmmunity I have met in the past while have had the strongest impact on me, and I will post a separate blog entry extolling the virtues of and introducing you to some very special gals, such as Siouxsie Q, Olivia La Roux, Tabitha Cooks, Fiona Kelly, Jolene Parton and more. Aside from the incredible sex worker community I have become part of, I have been quoted in Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2013/12/20/what-porn-stars-do/), been interviewed by Siouxsie Q on the Whorecast and had our chat be an entire episode plus spill over into a Siouxsie’s Shorts where I shared a recipe with y’all (http://www.thewhorecast.com/episode-030-the-hungry-hungry-hooker/) , been a guest host on a separate Whorecast episode, eaten my way through many restaurants that had been on my list for years, gotten to travel for work, really figured out and establish my brand, came out to my family, met so many incredible new clients and continued spending time with those of you I was already seeing, started this little blog right here, hired an assistant (who kicks ass and takes names for me five days a week), witnessed the start of Slixa (an AMAZING advertising platform for sex workers that blows all the competition out of the water and who I insist you check out… more on them next post), started drawings for a top secret comic project,  took a business class, shot site content with incredible photographer Sequoia Emmanuelle, dated and fall in love with some incredible people, found two of my s-HO-ul mates/significant hookers (or HO-thers if you prefer), which feels like magic and is even more intoxicating than falling in love. These relationships are many things, the aspects of which create a venn diagram transcending each part on their own to be a mixture of best friend, lover, partner, confident, reality check, sounding board, sister and so many other things. These are only a few of the things that have happened in my recent past. So thank you to everyone of you who played a part in my life. I just know that 2014 is going to bring so much more to the table and I am hungry for it.

In the immediate sense I am going to try to do an all night marathon into the wee hours of tomorrow morning and update to include most meals of importance that I have eaten and documented since November. So if I succeed, you will be seeing a few silly reviews for Eleven Madison Park (NY), Hapa Ramen Pop Up at Wing Wings (SF), The Aviary (CHI), Alinea (CHI), The Office (CHI), El Ideas (CHI), Bouchon (Younteville), Saison (SF, regular and special New Years Menu), Nopa (SF), Rose’s Luxury (DC) and a few more in the next week.

As far as other changes? Aside from updating more and getting more serious about producing content, I think I am going to start adding recipes to the blog and start doing interviews with other food savvy clients and ho-workers. I was invited to start writing a HHH column for  a rad fashion magazine. I will be launching my work website soon. I will be traveling internationally quite a bit (p.s. I have changed my rates a bit so that my overnight rate includes domestic airfare and my 24 hour rate will include airfare to Europe, so if you wanted to fly me out but were concerned about possible hidden fees, fear no longer!) and even more domestically. I will be trying to take over the world with my crew of smart, sweet, savvy, silly, sophisticated sex workers. It is going to be our year….

 legs

Lunch at Jean Jorges. NY. November 2013.

Jean Jorges. 1 Central Park West. NY, NY 10002 212.299.3900

Michelin Stars: 3 (three whopping stars that it is COMPLETELY undeserving of!!!)

Cuisine: I suppose a combination of traditional fancy pants and New American but done terribly, boringly + pretentiously.

my rating: 4/10

Wow. I can’t believe how bad this was. I guess I should believe it. We went to Jean Jorges on a whim of mine. I picked it solely because it had a few stars, because the name sort of chimed a reminder bell in the back of my mind that it is a New York institution, AND it is open for lunch. I was accompanied by the lovely man I had just gone on a first date with to WD-50 and also Tabitha Cooks.

Tabitha is an incredible, gorgeous gal based in NY and is the only other person in my line of work that I know of doing the sexy chef thing (and doing it damn well thank you very much). Please go to her website, http://www.kitchenmuseny.com to look at her gorgeous, old school pin up photos and read her sample menus. Tabitha, who is as thoughtful and eloquent as she is sexy makes my heart go pitter patter with her big brown eyes, full, sumptuous lips, perfect light caramel complexion with just a dusting of freckles and a lithe, elegantly curved and finely muscled dancer’s body. Then add to that the phrases that come from her beautiful mouth , through the sexy quirt of a gap betwixt her front teeth…. things like “Oh, at the cheese making course I was taking last week…” or “I must make you gumbo, I’ve been exploring a lot of Creole cooking lately” at which part I can hardly keep my hands to myself and stop them from reaching out to cup her smooth, gorgeous face in my palms and delicately nibble on her lower lip. She is someone I feel to lucky to have worked with and I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for a woman of incredible gifts… physical, intellectual and skillful, in the NY area between my own visits. Or if you want a truly sinfully fulfilling evening, I would suggest booking an evening with the two of us in which we will collaborate on an incredible menu that showcases both of our best kitchen gifts. The rest of the night will, of course, include no small amount of luxurious attentions paid to you.

Back to Jean Jorges, which is decidedly less lovely than Tabitha. As soon as the cab dropped me off in Columbus Circle, I had a bit of a pit form in my stomach. We had reservations but I was the first to arrive which really made it easy to scan the crowd. As a man in white gloves opened the door for me, I walked in to find this particular restaurant not my thing at all. It is definitely very expensive (especially for the lackluster cuisine). The whole place just had this stink of entitlement to it in a way I haven’t experienced many other places, despite having dined frequently at some of the greatest and  priciest restaurants in the country. As I was led to my table directly next to the door, I could feel the burning eyes of a hundred ladies lunching boring into my back. The room, while not at all decorated in a style I like, was beautiful, all white with very tall windows and tons of light. I was wearing black jeans and ankle boots with my slixa tank top and a leather jacket, ya know, normal afternoon in Fall attire, but I definitely clashed with all the Chanel. My lovely friends arrived and we got our menus.

I was kind of disturbed that they had some dishes that sounded almost exactly the same. For instance, they have a “Yellow Fin Tuna Ribbons with Yuzu, Spicy Radish, Avocado + Ginger Marmalade” as well as a “Hamachi Sashimi with yuzu, spicy radish and avocado”. Really guys?

I admit that I didn’t take notes really. The food was so incredibly mediocre, boring, and predictable beyond belief that I found it unnecessary and it depressed me to really contemplate the lameness of it all, especially for the price. I don’t mind spending what to some is a small fortune on food, but it has to be good. Jean Jorges very much felt like a place people eat to be seen, not a place people go to dine. Aside from my lovely companions, the only saving grace of the day was our server who had the feel of a lovely, sweet, Mid-Western gal just trying to make our experience a little less crappy. She didn’t know the food all that well though which made it hard to make menu decisions. I want to make it clear that while this particular waitress was a sweetie pie, the sterile atmosphere was one of “your money isn’t good enough and people like you bring down our property value.” After having eaten at wonderful restaurants around the world, I just was left disappointed. Michelin guide says their focus is pretty much on the food, but I can’t help but not believe after a meal like this is ranked at THREE FUCKING STARS. Get it together dudes. While I have never considered Michlin to be an infallible god like voice regarding the quality of a restaurant, I have always seen it like it is called, a guide. I have my own tips and tricks. I for one, usually find that two star restaurants are better, more innovative, not stuck in the past and more eager for your business and feedback than three star spots. And to really get the best food in any city? Go to the fancy pants restaurant and then ask the cooks where they eat when they leave work. As far a JJ, I will definitely never go back. There are oodles of excellent restaurant in the city and this is NOT one of them.
Image
They did have a wide array of non-alcoholic beverages but none of them were particularly good. I think this one had passion fruit, which any regular reader knows is one of my great loves and it was fine… it just wasn’t really anything in this incarnation.
Image
so do you see the yuzu/avocado/radish thing with both yellow-fin and hamachi? Maybe I am wrong but I thought they are the same thing, or if anything different, just the farmed vs wild caught kind? Don’t quote me on that. This just seemed like such a fucking weird thing to have two almost identical dishes. Our waitress said that the difference was the soy sauce. That is was kind of gingery on one. That is correct. ladies and gentlemen, soy sauce.
Image
The bread was actually a bit stale. Not entirely, but just when the edges around the part that don’t have crust are starting to get very dry and scratchy and NOT in a yummy toasty way. This is entirely unacceptable for a restaurant in this price point.
Image
I can’t remember what the amuse bouche was at all. I think it was pretty solidly average and unexciting. Possibly potato soup.
Image
I have absolutely no clue what this is. Sorry guys. I know we all tried everything at the table but the middling, pedestrian quality of everything really just made it impossible to remember its exact ingredients. or even the main one. Some kind of fish I think.
Image
I am so sorry but I can’t for the life of me figure out this dish either. Maybe the sea trout or the bay scallops? All I recall is the presentation.
Image
Santa Barbara sea urchin with jalapeño, black bread and yuzu. Again, very mediocre to slightly sub par. The black bread I didn’t really like and it also seemed a bit off in texture. As long as it is fresh how can you fuck up sea urchin!?! Well, apparently you can still make it a total snooze. There is a spoon of sea urchin with avocado mousse at Slanted Door in SF. It is a dish I always expect to love due to the ingredients list, but never do. It is waaaay more delicious than Jean Jorge’s though.
Image
Seared Gulf Shrimp with Baby Artichokes. This was one of the best dishes. I actually enjoyed the flavor, with just a perfect touch of char on it and not overcooked at all. Pretty tasty, but nothing that inspiriting or different. Its the kind of thing I wouldn’t have been so excited about if there had been good stuff on the menu otherwise.
Image
Peeky Toe Crab Dumplings with Celeriac-Meyer Lemon Tea. Yet another thing that based on description, I was fooled into ordering imagining the way I usually enjoy all these flavors. Unfortunately another completely bland, uninspiring interpretation. Boo.
Image
This Foie Gras Brioche was delightful because it was edible! Dried sour cherry, pistachio and port wine gelleé. Certainly not the very best foie I’ve ever had, but I am not mad at it.
ImageImage
Crispty Confit of Suckling Pig with Rutabaga “Pudding” and Smoked Bacon Marmalade($10 Supplement). This was the best thing on the menu. I would have rolled around naked in the suckling pig confit, especially with a hefty spread of the smoked bacon and sweet caramelized onion jam. Rich and meaty with just the right amount of fat, reinforced by the bacon and then sweet and just slightly vinegary tartness of the onion. If only one great dish could make up for such a plethora of second-rate, characterless, uninspired dishes at top notch prices.
Image
Caramelized Beef Tenderloin with Miso Butter, Parsley Root Puree, Brussels Sprouts ($20 Supplement). The sauce was ok. A bit salty. Good quality meat at least. Still very meh…
Image
Seared Hake with Spiced Jade Emulsion and Tender Celeriac (I think… I am bout 85% certain that was what Tabitha ordered as her  main. She also found it unimpressive but not gross. I think that is a pretty unfortunate compliment… “well, it’s edible… it isn’t too gross to eat!”
Image
December dessert tasting. Pomegranate Sorbet Spice Roasted Squash, Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Linzer Crumble
Caramelized Crepe Cake, Quince Purée Poached Pear, Rose Cream, Passion Caramel, Candied Nuts. This was an improvement over my caramel one. I think we found parts of this to be tasty but I don’t recall the individual components.
Image
Caramel dessert tasting. Caramelized Pineapple Sorbet, Passion Fruit, Brioche, Crème Caramel, Maple, Bacon and Pecan Powder
Caramel Apple Confit, Graham Crumble and Crème Fraiche, Peanut Torte, Caramel Mousse, Brown Butter Caramel. They were… ok. They all could have been just so much better than they really were.
Image
I loved this fountain with bright pink flowers! Right outside the restaurant on the steps of The International Trump Hotel, its a welcome burst of color after the stark white interior and generally unimaginative food.

WD-50. NYC. November 2013.

WD-50. 50 Clinton St. NY, NY 10002. 212.477.2900. http://wd-50.com

Michelin Stars: 1

Cuisine: New American/contemporary, “molecular gastronomy”

my rating: 7.5

This was not my first visit to WD-50. I had been once before, many years ago (I think it was 2008 or 2009) and I can barely remember it, beyond the fact that the menu structure was different and that the meal ended on a not terribly good note (a cuttlefish dish with a distinctly bitter flavor). Beyond my previous experience, I  had heard kind of mixed reviews on Wylie Dufresne’s original spot, and that it was just kind of ok, from both professional reviews and from friends. I am not really sure what caused it to stick in my mind and motivate me to go here, but it may have been my love for the miso butterscotch pork belly at the sadly closed restaurant Tailor, who’s chef, Sam Mason, was previously WD’s dessert chef wunderkind.  Whatever my motivation, I am glad I listened to the gut feeling that I would enjoy it, because it far surpassed my expectations, though a portion of my glowing memories of the evening must be attributed to having a fabulous first date with a very sexy man (taxidermist and butcher… HELLO dream dude!). While this was a personal life date, I LOVE work dates that involve a meal. It always indicates to me that either the man has a similarly intense interest in food or an intense interest in making sure I enjoy myself. While I do tend to enjoy myself most of the time I work, there of course will be favorites. I think there is nothing sexier than sitting across from a wildly interesting man, getting to know each other over wonderful food while playing a bit of naughty footsy if I can get away with it, drinking a full, robust glass of red wine that makes me feel as the my blood is flushing to my cheeks and the blush runs the course of my body as we both think of all the even more delicious things to come. I think I even say something to this affect in my ads. Though I of course use a different name (and please never ask a sex worker for her real name, if she tells you one its likely a fake one she or he picked out just for this purpose; if she volunteers it without you asking, it is a different story), unlinks most women, I don’t have a different personality for my work and private life. I am the same person and I think all my delightful eccentricities are part of what make me sexy. Of course, I always will try to suss out exactly what it is someone is looking for and put my all into giving it to them if I can, but not by changing the person that I am. I think it is because I have very intricately written ads that tend to reach a very specific type of person as well as a polarizing look that I seem to end up almost always seeing people whom I end up adoring and having wonderful chemistry and much in common with. But anyways, I adore first dates!

We were both blown away by the food. It ended up being my favorite all around meal in New York. Almost every dish was a ‘holy fuck’ moment. Pretty casual atmosphere, but interesting food with great flavor. The service had some inconsistencies. I was served the wrong drink twice which is, ya know, whatever, but more troubling was that they placed the wrong dishes in front of my date and I when the substitution was for an unpleasant allergy to cinnamon. This is something I can’t abide. I am a bit of a bossy bitch when it comes to eating in my personal life. I tend to order for everyone at the table and I am always on point when it comes to allergy stuff. Thankfully it wasn’t an anaphylactic shock thing so life went on. There were profuse apologies and a few drinks on the house.

So unfortunately I wrote this in two separate writing sessions and I made a grave mistake. I have no idea where my notes went for this particular meal. Thankfully I have such strong recollections about how the food was that I think I will do ok just going on memory alone, but if you are noticing that my thoughts are a bit less fleshy, that is why. Apologies! If I find the menu with the writing, I promise to come back in and update with more verbose thoughts.

IMG_7751

Look at my handsome dandy date! Bow tie and all! Jelz yet?

IMG_7752

The Menu

IMG_7754

Positively addictive cracker things.

IMG_7755

A drink that is not the El Gourdo, despite the waiter’s insisting to the contrary. It is really something that has schnapps and is delightful, refreshing and not overpoweringly strong.

IMG_7756

Saffron, coconut ice cream, caviar and poppy seed. Such a lovely amuse bouche. The slight sweetness of young coconut with the buttery notes of saffron and the macaroon were excellent balances for the caviar and managed to keep the salt component in check nicely. I have been having a really hard time with salt lately. So many things are much too salty for me lately so I was really happy that this was composed the way it was.

IMG_7757

Cuttlefish, fennel and black garlic Feulletine. Unfortunately without my notes I can’t remember terribly much about this except that I enjoyed it and that it was sooooo much better than the cuttlefish dish that was the end of the meal my last time here which was awful and  all I could really recall was the intense bitterness. This dish was well composed and I liked the texture as well as the use of fennel, which normally isn’t my most beloved flavor.

IMG_7758

Chilled egg drop soup, sea urchin, mushroom and radish. This was also lovely. Probably my personal favorite incarnation of egg drop soup yet. It still maintained the flavor and texture that I associate with more traditional versions of the dish but had much more richness and flavor and the mushrooms and urchin added an additional velveteen, earthy feel to it.

IMG_7759

Sweetbreads, cucumber-lychee, tonic, fermented black bean. I wish I could tell you what was written in my notes. This was THE SINGLE BEST sweetbreads dish I have ever had the pleasure of consuming, a sentiment seconded by my date. Light, fluffy, perfectly cooked (not mealy or chewy or just falling apart). The sweetness of the lychee and coolness of the cucumber was a delightful marriage. I dream of these.

IMG_7760

Veal Brisket with zatar plum sauce, haricots verts, charred spring onion, mustard wafer and sliced apple. Also super lovely. Sorry I can’t offer more detail, but its hard to go wrong with tender meat, lovely, cooked sweet stone fruit sauce and charred onion. The mustard added a nice little zingy accent!

IMG_7761

Bay scallop, berbers granola, carrot, marcona. The scallops were cooked perfectly. I liked the little carrot pillow. I can’t remember much more other than I was into it.

IMG_7762

Corned beef cheek, tendon, banana-horseradish. I have really been enjoying what all you New Yorkers (Atera and WD-50) have been doing withe beef tendon. The process to get it to puff up and act like an Asian shrimp chip is an involved sounding multi step process that has a beautiful ending when done right. I definitely enjoyed this.

IMG_7763

Mediteranian Bass, celery, macadamia, grapefruit. This was totally fine but definitely seemed a bit lackluster compared to all the other standout excellent dishes.

IMG_7764

Rabbit, spring onion, hibiscus, thai basil. Quite lovely. Incredibly tender and juicy for such a lean meat that can be easily made too dry. I am a fan.

IMG_7765

Cured duck breast , curds n whey, sweet potato, rice noodles. I love duck and the duck in this was good, if a little bit too salty for me. I did not like the ‘rice noodles’. They were crispy and had an almost corn meal consistency but in a really bad way. The sweet potato was ok. This was one of the weaker dishes, though I think it could have been brought out mediocrity by having the components other than the duck change.

IMG_7766

Pork belly (alternate course for food allergy). Unfortunately I did not get a chance to write this down (or perhaps I did but I can’t find the notes) so I don’t know the additional components were, but I think both my date and I preferred it to the duck. I know that they did an excellent job of balancing the crispy skin, rendered fat, dense meat and fat. I hate it when pork belly is basically just a gob of fat. They did excellently with this.

IMG_7767

Bartlett pear sorbet, honey-milk  crisp, tarragon. The honey milk crisp and little cold honey bits were the best part. Decent but not anything I’ll crave in the future.

IMG_7768

Key Lime pie, ritz cracker, cherry. Tasty. Definitely better than the first dessert.

IMG_7769

Apple tart, concord grade, swiss chard pistachio. One more delicious dish. Absolutely my favorite dessert. I wanted a second one.

IMG_7770

Pefect über dry cappcino. I don’t know why the direction ‘bone dry’ seems to be lost on so many people, but this is one of only maybe three cappuccinos I’ve ever had that was made exactly to my specifications on the first try. The foam was stiff and thick and perfect. The espresso was completely decent. For me, coffee of any kind is something I choke down when I need some caffeine in me, both I can recognize that some are of better taste than others. For me, the milk and its foaminess is what it is all about for me.

IMG_7771

passion fruit pate de fruits and “pretzel” coated beer ice cream bon bons. I was positively addicted to the passion fruit delights. They were the best pate de fruits I have had. They really carried the exotic, sweet/sour punch of passion fruit while still having this incredible creaminess that really complimented it rather than clash which I have experienced sometimes in the past. I am not a big beer person nor pretzel fan, but I loved the little bonbons. They really managed to represent the flavors beautifully while elevating them to something new. My date, who IS a huge fan of both flavors, thought these were pretty darn kick ass as well. It was a beautiful finish to a beautiful meal.

Atera. NYC. November 2013.

Atera. 77 Worth St. New York, NY 10012 212.226.1444

Michelin Stars: 2

Cuisine: new american, seasonal bounty and all that

my rating: the first night 7, the second night 8

 I spent a positively lovely week working in NY this past month. It was just magical and I plan on going back roughly once a month from now on. I got a chance to do a bit of eating while I was there, so over the next few days I plan to roll out some o those meals. I would be lying if I didn’t say part of the reason I will be back in NY so often didn’t have anything to do with the food, but also, work was just incredible. Thank you to the wonderful folks I got to meet! I adored ever one of you.

Atera was recommended to me by a friend who works at Crenn. It has been a few years since I stepped foot on the East Coast for anything longer than a twenty four hour funeral run so I hadn’t much been keeping up on restaurant news for NYC, which is why its the only newish spot on my list.  I went first with three lovely ladies, my friend Robin with whom I am available for doubles (check out that split tongue, meow), and then my dear friend Donia who works for a wonderful company that I love (more on that in another post) and a friend who was visiting her from across the country, and then I returned again by myself the night after and a damn good time was had on both occasions. The serve a tasting menu and they did a great job of changing it up a bit for me on the second night.

The space is beautiful. Dark lush woods and living plant walls and all that. It kind of reminds me a bit of the front room at Coi (except the food at Atera doesn’t suck) but with a bit more of a deep, rich, antiqued look to it.

I really enjoyed the service at Atera. I felt that while everyone was absolutely as professional as expected at a spot with two stars from the tire factory’s restaurant guide book (+ 3 stars from the NY Times’ Pete Wells) while retaining a wonderfully warm and friendly demeanor, which is really important to me. As I mentioned, without me even asking, they subbed a few things on the menu the second night so I could try a few extra things, which was very much appreciated. Everyone was perfectly attentive and lovely to talk to, always right there when I had a question (and always quick with an eloquent and knowledgable answer) and scarce when I wanted to be let be. I really feel like they have that awesome, perfectly intuitive service down.

After dining twice, I felt pretty good about the food. My overall opinion was that most dishes were very solidly enjoyable with a few the totally knocked it out of the park, and thankfully, a lesser few that really didn’t do it form. I will definitely return to eat here again and I look forward to seeing how the menu changes with seasonal availability. I generally prefer the late Spring through early Fall offerings at places so I get excited when I like a winter menu a good deal.

When we arrived we were escorted by elevator (yay HC access!) their lovely, intimate twelve seat lounge downstairs ( here’s an article about it http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/starter-atera-opens-a-reservation-only-lounge/?_r=0) where we waited for our seats to be ready (most of the seating is at a counter surrounding the kitchen, which is probably my favorite style of dining set up, plus they have one or two tables I believe). They have a short be very nice cocktail menu. I am sad to say I didn’t write down the ingredients or names of the cocktails we ordered from the list since I foolishly though I could look them up later, but here is a few photos (and here is a grub street article about the lounge and bar program to give you a  better idea about their lovely drinks: http://www.grubstreet.com/2012/12/what-to-drink-atera-downstairs.html ).

Image

I can’t tell you what was in this, other than that it totally ruled and I ordered three of them.

Image

This was what my friend ordered, which was good, if a bit strong for our tastes.

Now we shall move onto the many upon many delightful little courses.

Image

Beet Macaroon with creme fraiche and sturgeon caviar. For me, this was an inauspicious start. From the description I would have though I would find this to be fan-fucking-tastic but you know what it tasted like? A bit like a sour cream and onion pringle. I don’t know if I have a problem, because there has been a lot of nice restaurants I’ve been to lately where there is a small bite, early in the menu that is without fail, either pringle-y or cheese-it-like (such as the first course at Commis which is made to look like a stone…. cheese it central). I didn’t hate this but I also wouldn’t have eaten another.

Image

This was more like it! Pickled beet that has been dipped in beeswax. I loved this, especially it’s really amazing texture which was creamy (not waxy at all) and velveteen. The flavor was sweet, earthly and delicately floral. I could munch on these all day.

Image

Geoduck with smoked potato and cured pork fat. This was utterly luscious. My handwriting is so terrible that even I can’t understand it sometimes when I read it later but what I looks like my comments read as “So fucking good. Like Like my whole body is blushing”. Maybe it was the equivalent of my mouth coming (as S. Grey writes in the Juliette Society, I also don’t approve of the changing of ‘come’ to ‘cum’. None of the latter for me. Come is just fine). But whatever, all that is important is that this made me want to touch myself it was so good.

Image

Amaranth cracker with trout roe and ramp tartar sauce. So if I though the beer macaroon had a slight pringles taste, this was like pour all the little crunched up bits with the extra flavor powder at the bottom of the can into your mouth at once (a combo of the sour cream onion and bbq flavor I daresay…. I haven’t eaten a pringle in probably a decade but I have incredibly visceral sense memories of them…. like as soon as I put this in my mouth I was seventeen and a filthy crust punk dressed in my homemade carhartt skirt sitting on the side of the interstate 80 outside of Reno with a cardboard sign that said “East of anywhere but here” and my thumb out, snacking on pringles and sriracha). I didn’t like this and don’t think I even finished the second bite. I think it was the ramp tartar sauce. But I don’t like tartar sauce as it is, so maybe this particular dish is not a good one to take my word on.

Image

Now here was one of the stars of the meal. Atera’s version of a lobster roll, served on savory meringue. The first night I was here, when they served this dish to the four of us, the restaurant was drowned out in our overwhelming moans of pure ecstasy. Melt in your mouth sweet, amazing creaminess. I put a star next to this one in my notes, so one of my faves.

Image

This bad boy right here was awesome as well. Its a beef tendon glazed with a sea urchin fish sauce. If you have ever had those Asian shrimp chips that sort of crackle and cling to your tongue in an oddly pleasant way, these have a similar mouthfeel to them. Like a cross between those a chicharones.  This is another moment where I am resolving to improve  my writing because this has a many step process to getting it like this and I can’t read all of them (curses!) but it goes something like slow cook, do something else, dehydrate, freeze and then fry (don’t quote me on that). I really enjoyed this. In fact I ate two of my other friends portions who couldn’t get over the idea of beef tendon.  

Image

This cocktail wasn’t on the menu and was what the bartender came up with when I requested something light, refreshing and fizzy. Its pear liqueur and brandy, pear macerated with wintergreen and soda water. Super refreshing and awesome. I think this was my first winter green drink. I had a few other beverages the first and second night, but felt this was the most special.

Image

A two part snack right here, the white spheres are pickled quail eggs and the crackers are wafter made of pigs blood with chicken liver and huckleberry. I feel like its hard to go wrong with quail egg, so of course I enjoyed that, but it was the other part that really impressed me. The pigs blood wafers tasted a little bit like christmas. I don’t know how to explain it better than that. Not like turkey and spiral cut ham and apple pie but… like christmas itself? My words are failing me. But trust me it was good, especially with the addition of the mouth watering chicken liver mousse . To make the crackers they take blood sausage and spread it out with added wheat flower, dehydrate, bake and then put in a waffle iron. I am always so impressed with stuff like this. People sometimes get in my face about why I am such a snob and why this is the kind of food I always go out to eat and this is why. Because I am a great home cook but I would never think of nor could ever execute this. I go to restaurants not only to be sated but also to be amazed and delighted. I think food like this is about as close to magic as it gets for me.

Image

Bone marrow served in hearts of palm ‘bones’, butter-lemon béchamel sauce and panko. This was pretty good. I didn’t freak out over it, but all my friends did. My notes (the types ones) say that is smells like Ikea to me.

Image

Salt cured hot smoked swordfish belly and pork fat. Good, subtle, greasy in a good way. Not something I’d want more than one slice of though.

Image

This was one of the substitutions made for me the second night. It is a ‘caviar’ of pomello, pickled garlic and finger limes and also received a star on my notes. This was so simple, so ingenious, so incredible. I would bath in this. I can’t tell you how hard it was to restrain myself from holding out my bowl and doing the whole Oliver Twist “Please Sir, I want some more”. Served cold, it has so many layers. The perfect mixture of subtly different textures, the small caviar-like pop of the finger limes with the oblong, slightly more giving grapefruit cells and then the garlic, that perfectly sweet pickled garlic.

Image

Grapes and olives (with no olives for me). Almond paste? Salty and a sweet. Interesting, though I’m not sure in a good way.

Image

Salad of yellowfin with preserved tomato. So fresh and so fatty in the best way possible at the same time. One of those dishes that just seems like an any more perfect balance would be hard to find. The preserved tomato just gave such beautiful brightness to the richness of the tuna. Wow. Also, I watched this be composed with tweezers which would have been impressive if the next dish’s architecture wasn’t so mind-blowing that I just forgo about the construction of this one.

Image

This little power tower of deliciousness is another of my favorites from Atera. The star next to this one had a big fat triple circle around it. Simple and elegant, this gorgeously constructed little temple to gastronomy is made of pickled garlic, almond and razor clams. The differentiation of texture, incredible flavor and monochrome palate really made this both an incredible tasting experience as well as a tiny work of modern art.

Image

Flowers, uni, squab and miso. The miso was way too intense and salty for me and it was easy to only get one thing in a bite. If you did manage to get all the ingredients in one forkful, it was decent, but definitely not something I’d be looking forward to eating and dreaming about in the meantime. The sweetness of the squash with the uni and slight spiciness of the nasturtiums was pretty good, the miso just ruined it for me by being too overpowering.

Image

Fluke and grapefruit. Just like it sounds. Simple but amazingly tasty in that simplicity.

Image

This was a bastardized version of an aviation that was made for me when I requested something with gin and floral notes. Incredible. Had a strong rose scent to it that I loved. It also was strong without tasting strong. It has the kind of power to it that you can feel in your pussy, like when you are just super fucking turned on already and about to get amazing head but whoever is about to be going to town hasn’t actually touched you yet, just teased you excellently. Yep, strong enough to send a warm rush of blood to all the right places without making me grimace due to the strength’s taste. A+

Image

Diver scallops, cabbage, monkfish liver and hazelnut butter. This was overly salted both nights. I think it would have been lovely if the sweetness of the scallop had been allowed to shine through.

Image

IMG_7742

Bay Scallops with meyer lemon brown butter. Everything missing in the first half of the scallop duo was present in this one and all wrongs were righted. Sweetness and tartness perfectly married and that tasty, buttery, little scallop, Jesus H. Christ!

Image

Salted rye bread with house made butter churned from cream seeped with harbison washed rind cheese. Decent but not, like, the best thing ever or anything.

Image

So at this point in time I had two different dishes on each night. The one pictured above is a lovely matsutake mushroom thing with miso, blueberry and foie gras which was pretty darned good (my actual notes say “holy fuck so much better than the matsutake I just had at meadowood). The other dish, however, I think I might have forgot to photograph, but I am not sure. There is is a picture four photos down that looks like it contains rose petals in a dish that I have marked down as Nova Scotian Halibut with garlic and rose petals with the words “pretty awesome” next to it. However, the second night, when I was using handwriting and things got a bit messy, I am pretty sure I was served a different dish with rose petals entirely. If I am reading my handwriting correctly, in addition to white rose petals, it had either artichokes or arctic char (I will call when Atera opens tomorrow and ask) and this dish wasn’t just “pretty awesome”, it made me feel like I was skinny dipping in and MDMA  casserole. The words I can decipher are something like this “holy fuck, hot/cold/totally innovative, OMG SO GOOD, sweet, delicate sugars, balanced by vinegar, pear poached in [something I can’t read], HOLY SHIT THIS IS GOOD.” All I remember is the rose and and how overwhelmingly, system re-bootingly good it was.

Image

This bread was also the jam. Its a sourdough roll glaze in pork fat and I loved it!

IMG_7743

This is another wonderful, wonderful dish I had the second night (once again my awful doc’s handwriting is really not helping and I need to call and ask them the ingredients since this wasn’t on the menu I took home with me. I know it had sprouted wheat berries but other than that, if I am deciphering the ancient scribblings of last week, I think it says golden nettles and aged pork fat with some kind of craime fraiche. Don’t hold me to that ingredient list. Anyways, it was retardedly good is what I CAN tell you. It has a lush almost tapioca consistency but with a pleasant almost soft crunchy nuttiness to it. I can read that I wrote “total show stopper”.

Image

King crab with cedar over salt baked turnip and yuzu. Lovely, delicate perfection. Just a hint of spice from the little green caper/clove looking things. Yum.

Image

Poached Nova Scotia halibut with garlic and rose. I know this isn’t the rose dish I freaked out for because I was served a different fish course the second night, Medai with charred alliums and sunflower seeds and artichoke seared on coals for which I have written “puts last nights halibut to shame. One of the best cooked fish courses I’ve had in several months [since saison’s fish cooked in sauce made of the bones plus red curry].

Image

I’ve never met a squab I didn’t love devouring and this was no exception to the rule. Served with berries, black garlic and bronzed fennel along with a ragu made of squab offal, it was wonderful. The breast was perfectly cooked and the offal ragu had a wonderful light spiciness that I enjoyed very much.

Apparently their was a decent Elysian Fields lamb rack with pepper condiment and New Zealand spinach but any photographic evidence has failed to appear.

IMG_7744

The second night, in place of the lamb I had this wonderful beet bordelaise dish, which was super good and outshone the lamb for sure. Perfect caramelized garlicy sweet goodness, with a sauce made of more garlic in a thyme butter bordelaise. This might be the best vegetarian main course I’ve ever had at a restaurant like this. Definitely impressive. And making the beet the way it was requires a long, complicated process that involves dehydrating and pressure cooking and more, so another cool thing I probably can’t figure out how to do myself.

Image

I can’t tell you how good this harbison cheesecake was, with lemon sherbet and sorrel. It was he perfect spot between savory and sweet and the second night you bet your ass I was rabidly waiting on the edge of my seat for this bad boy. By far my favorite of the dessert courses. Really interesting. I very much hope this is still on the menu next time I go back.

Image

Chef’s milk and crackers carmello. This was fine. A nice little treat but nothing particularly special.

There was a bourbon cask ice cream sandwich which I guess I forgot to photograph. so sue me. My notes say it was terrific though.

Image

I hate but pretzels and walnuts so I didn’t try this but my dining companions thought both were lovely. Itw as a ‘walnut sunday with celery root” plus the pretzels made of chocolate (another thing I am uber picky about).

Image

Photo of the menu

Image

Part of the beautiful kitchen

Image

I mean, just look how gorgeous that is!Image

Lovely friends

Image

Robin and I kickin’ our shoes off after getting home.

Overall the meals were great. I thought night #2 outshone the first meal. I do think that the few bad/pringley/overly salted things put a damper on the meal though. Other than those few disappointments, I definitely would recommend and I look forward to returning myself.

Commis (and a bit about Hawker Fare): just some musings

When Commis first opened in Oakland I used to go all the time and loved it. It was a breath of fresh air to have somewhere that was Michelin star good on our side of the bridge, not to mention one that is so affordable for the type of menu (I believe it is now $75 for eight courses). Nice enough for a planned date night yet not crazy pretentious, easy to get reservations for and without the hassle of sitting in traffic or dropping almost half a G to eat at per person; J and I would get a bit lightheaded with our infrequent smoking of a blunt and head out for dinner there.

I distinctly remember my sense of delight the first time I tried Commis. We were able to get a same day reservation for two and arrived a bit early and stood outside, leaning against my truck and passing the time looking at the soft glow emanating through the frosted glass of the cozy, narrow restaurant’s two big windows, discreetly sign-less, and enjoying some of the aforementioned fine medical marijuana. While I have always been a staunch supporter of each adult’s personal choice to consume the substances they wish (so long as they avoid operating heavy machinery) without legal interference, I  personally don’t usually enjoy the way most altering substances affect me, particularly cannabis, or at least the THC heavy varietals that are largely what most folks seem to prefer. It usually makes me feel stupid and I get that glazed over eye and suddenly develop the distinct inability to string words together into phrases and I generally feel like I am not fit to be in public in this state. On this night, I managed to have a hilariously good time. The dining room is quite small (I estimate somewhere between 16-22 people can eat there at once, including the Chef’s counter) and intimate. It is pretty minimalist inside and the service is pretty darned good. Everyone on the staff always seemed really lovely (in fact, the Bay area having a relatively small fine dining community, I originally met one of my favorite servers at Crenn when she worked here a few years back). They staff were knowledgable and always there if you needed them but never intrusive. Perhaps because I was a bit stoned myself, but the first bite, which was a cheese cracker, covered in ash to look like a rock and served with other rocks confused me and I nearly cracked my teeth on the inedible minerals instead of  their tasty look-a-likes, which kicked off a long pattern of courses from a variety of nice restaurants with a flavor profile with disturbing similarity to cheese-its or pringles etc. White cheddar cheese-its, in this case if you happened to be curious. We were served a really great glass of champagne, which I really wish I could identify for you, but just trust me it was delicious. J and I were in the middle of  conversation  and paused (undoubtably because we were discussing something unseemly) so the waiter could pour. At first I really thought it was just being on a slightly different mind set, but it seemed that the champagne was taking a VERY long time to pour. I know there is a teensy bit of technique that goes into makes sure the glass doesn’t over flow but between the two of us, I shit you not that the server poured over a minute. by twenty seconds in I was starting to giggle. By the time he move on the J’s glass, I was red-faced and sputtering, trying to hold in my loud guffaws which worked for about a second before I was heartily laughing with tears of mirth running down my cheeks. This resulted in both J and the server doing the same, all of us trying mightily to stop with no success. I know it is one of those ‘had to be there moments’ but in the present it just seemed like nothing in world could be funnier.

There were several dishes that were really special during their first year. There was a poached farm egg with alliums, malt, dates dish with what I believe was some kind of sweet onion cream sauce that was really extraordinary, to the point of standing out in my mind as being in the top fifty dishes I’ve enjoyed most in my life. This ended up being one of their signature dishes and the last meal I ate their is the first time it had disappeared from the menu. There once was an incredible eucalyptus foam palate cleanser and also a lone oyster, also cloaked in froth of some kind, that tasted mored like the breezy, salty, refreshing sea than any oyster before or since during my first meal here. In fact, the first two times I ate here both inspired two of the most gushing yelp reviews I have written to date. Unfortunately, things seem to have gone downhill quit a bit, both in my own opinion as well as that of every other person I know  who frequents this establishment.

While we once ate here often, I have found myself thinking of it less and less, to the point where in sixteen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          months I’ve only gone three times, and left on each of these occasions increasingly disappointed. Was I just whipped by the fact that there was a the kind of tasting menu I normally like offered in Oakland for once? Were all the folks who had compared a dinner here to the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes on to something? I think it was quite delicious at the start, but that Commis has fallen off quite a bit.

It isn’t a good sign that the only thing I can remember from my last three meals there is one single, overpoweringly awful dish. J and I were out on a double datey evening with our couple friends who have a decent amount of experience with fine dining and know their way around restaurants of the Bay. I was longing for the perfect, refreshing eucalyptus granita palate cleanser of what I suppose is a wistful memory of yesteryear at this point, when they brought out what may have been the single worst palate cleanser if not dish I have ever had at a michelin starred restaurant. I can’t remember exactly what the flavors were supposed to be… orange and something else I believe… but it was the same format as the previously mentioned loveliness they used to have (a small cup of foam and granita) except the flavor made all four of us either spit into our napkins or the color drain from our faces as we chugged water afterwards. I shit you not, it tasted exactly like the orange flavored fluoride gel trays or liquid rinse you get with your teeth cleaning at the dentist as a child. All persons in my party agreed that it was the exact flavor… except maybe a little bit grosser. The service here as always been great in my experience and when we called over our waiter and told him that in no uncertain terms should they ever serve this dish again if they want to keep their reputation from ripping to shreds. The waiter said it was the first service they were serving this dish and apologized and promised to relay this information to the chef. I am not sure if they continued to serve this dish but it was definitely not on the menu  when I went again the next month. I was there again recently (ed. note: this has been in my drafts box for quite a while so recently means May probably) and am sad to say it was just not memorable at all. Lackluster and unexciting, each of the three times I’ve eaten here in 2013 I have found myself apologizing to those accompanying me. Huge bummer.

I find myself a bit confused since their start was so promising. Also the chef/owner, James’, other restaurant Hawker Fare (a nice but more every day expense kind of Thai restaurant drawing inspiration heavily from Bankok street food) has, if anything, gotten better over the years. Hawker Fare’s only flaw as far as I am concerned is their mildly obnoxious hours and incredibly limited lunch menu where it seems only the first quarter of the listings are available which can be very frustrating, especially when its later in the lunch service and they have sold out of some of the best items (like a perfect bowl of mussels in SE Asian herb broth). Irritatingly, I just tried to look up the menu and that part of their website is down. I do remember a truly lovely shrimp dish and very tasty Thai bbq chicken with sticky rice. While I have had very decent food here, their drinks (while interesting) have never passed muster and I have had some desserts that should have delighted me ended up not being my cup of tea (often for being too sweet, which is very hard to do with my love of sugar). This is going to sound super conceited but there is a super darling, very cute girl who works there who is kind of one of my dopplegangers. What a doll. She factored heavily into my fantasy life for a while after I met her once (creepy? probably…) but I just can’t resist sweet as pie, short, curvy girls with dark hair, bangs, glasses and tattoos. I definitely created my style in the direction of what always turned me on.

Ok, side note. I have looked the same since high school (minus having shorter hair, growing out from a few unfortunate punk cuts) which is ten freaking years. I first got tattooed because I had really bad social anxiety and I though people would talk to me less (this is before there was a single retarded reality show about tattooing). Of course as soon as all that douchbaggery came to a channel in everyone’s living room, my motivations were sabotaged. All of sudden everyone wanted to grab my arm, take off their shirt to show me their “totally sweet coi fish tatt” etc. Luckily, my safe-freak-show status has passed and now I am just… normal again. I do think I have continued to hone the sophistication level of my style and luckily the hipsters sort of picked and edited and choose from the punx most of the the fashion and accessories that I always used and now skinny jeans, ray bans and motorcycle boots are easy to get in any store at the fuckin’ mall! No more pegging my own pants! I used to really stand out in a crowd. Now I can easily blend in and camouflage, especially in SF, PDX, Seattle or LA. Let’s be real though. I am not really punk anymore, though I still have my walls decorated with fliers and a sizable record collection. I like living in a reasonably decent home in a reasonably safe neighborhood (no more sleeping in a closet under the stairs or gang wars on my block for this gal!). One of my pups is a rescued mutt but the other is a pure bred, bought from the breeder, show ‘quality’ fur baby. While I wouldn’t have every clipped his ears if he came to me with floppy ones, it doesn’t particularly bother me that they are done. I don’t want to live a starving artist life. I want to be comfortable. So I don’t know what I am. Hipster? Bohemian (speaking of which, go check out The Bohemian Courtesan, Anzah Rose on Slixa or Eros, who is absolutely wonderful, though she is taking a brief brake) I don’t know. I probably identify most as a smutty, post punk, sex worker, activist and artist (but not a starving one, obviously). The punk genre and ‘lifestyle’ still has indications for my current self, but I really only go to hip hop and old country/bluegrass live events now. I don’t have a problem buying a pair of shoes if I really like them, even if they are pricy if they are perfect. Punk is a sweet spot in my life that I will always hold dear, and perhaps even romanticize a bit.I guess its a balance of trying to hold stay close to your roots while still letting your limbs grow skyward. Too cheesy of a metaphor?

Anyways back to food. I will probably try Commis once more and see if they’ve had any improvement since the late spring, but if it still is being boring and blah I will probably write them off for good. It is such a profound disappointment that a place I once thought was a rising star, especially one that was also a really good value, has become something I feel cheated to spend money on. I think the trick is to stick to Hawker Fare, drink only the non-booze choices (minus the jello shots which J stands behind strongly,an interesting recommendation from someone who rarely, rarely drinks, since I think of jello shots in the context of beer pong-y date-rapey frat parties) and approach dessert with cautious trepidation if a diabetic coma isn’t your cup of tea.

The Hungry Hungry Hooker—> Sexy Personal Chef

Once more, I apologize for being on another planet for the past few months and having no updates. Things have been hectic as I mentioned in the Meadowood review.

I have been doing a lot of things lately. Updating my business model, working on getting a website up, hiring an assistant, shooting a lot of photos, traveling, working with a consultant and taking business classes. Sometimes when I tell people this, even people who know me, they think I am doing this to get out of sex work, when in fact, I am just stepping my game up. Very exciting times.

I just got back from NY which was a blast and a stunning success as far as work goes. I am headed out to Chicago on the 11th and then next month probably back to NYC (maybe DC?) and then LA for the X-Biz Awards with Slixa, a GREAT escort advertising platform that is new and I really believe in (a post about that some other time). Then maybe ATL after that. When I was on the East Coast I got to do a lot of great eating, so look for new reviews this week. I went to Atera twice, Eleven Madison Park, WD-50 and Jean Jorges, in addition to my favorite fry place, pommes frites. The fry quality is meh; I prefer a long, thing fry with a bit of crispiness towards the ends but lusciously soft and greasy and skinny in the middle, so I love PF mostly because they have like twenty different kinds of flavored mayo, which I love. So sue me. Vietnamese pineapple aioli rules. So of the spots I ate at, almost all were pretty rad, so can you guess which one sucked completely?

I had a lot of fun while I was there and got to spend time with Gretel Von Bonbon (sometimes better known by her porno name, Klaudia Kelly) jumping on the bed and making ridiculous booty shaking vids at five a.m. because we are ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome! Actually Gretel is more ridonkulous (best white girl booty ever to exist).

So anyways, I feel like I’ve been writing a lot about food but not very much about sex or sex work. I really love what I do. And y’all already know part of the reason I do it: all those swanky meals. So I thought I would combine the two. In addition to regular appointments, I have been booking a few food based “packages” this summer, which has been going pretty well, and I am hoping will continue to ramp up once the website gets up. I know what you are thinking: you are imagining me with splattering myself with whip cream or letting someone fuck me with an edible phallus shaped something or other. Not really my thing. Foods, especially sugary ones, and my vagina do not mix, as far as I am concerned.(On that note, did you know that many condoms contain glycerin which can give you yeast infections? http://contraception.about.com/od/howtos/a/What-Condoms-Are-Made-Of.htm). But in other ways not so direct, I feel like sexual and gastronomic pleasure are two corporeal delights growing from the same root, and that they entwine very well.

Firstly, for anyone who wants to books three hours or more, and will reimburse me for the cost of ingredients, I will come to their home and, wearing just a cute 50’s apron and heals, cook (at least by home chef standards) and serve a fairly good home cooked meal featuring seasonal ingredients and with wine pairings (while I do love food, I am kind of a neophyte when it comes to boozy accompaniment, so big shout out to my mom for her reccomendations… you’re the best!). This also can be super GFE-core (girl friend experience) or have a lot more D/S of a feel to it, depending on the client.

I actually met a gal in NY who is doing kind of the same thing. Her website is http://www.tabithacooks.com. She is incredible and we totally needed out on being geeky food hos. I can’t wait to spend more time with this amazing lady personally and professionally! If you are in Brooklyn and want a gorgeous woman to cook you an amazing meal in a perfectly appointed brownstone and have some delightful attention paid to more than one appetite, I highly recommend this lovely kitchen muse.

So as far as my being a sexy chef (I tell clients to imagine me in nothing by heels and a fifties apron, holding a spatula…I am really good at naked cooking without popping oil burns), have a look-see at two of my sample menus (feel free to judge and give suggestions).

SUMMER

grapefruit juice, hendricks gin, st germaines, soda, lime, garnished with edible flora

watermelon salad with feta, kaffir lime and yuzu vinaigrette and julienned mint

chilled soup of coconut and sweet corn drizzled with white truffle oil

medium rare duck breast rubbed with cinnamon and chai spice
drizzled with pinecone bud syrup
blistered green beans in a sweet sesame ginger soy glaze
sweet corn cherry tomato salad

thai inspired large pearl young coconut tapioca
with coconut sesame fried banana
homemade kaffir lime + SE herb syrup
thai tea ice cream

moscato d’asti

FALL

granny smith apple and St Agur blue cheese over micro greens with candied almonds

butternut squash soup with thick cut bacon, curried brown sugar apples, creme fraiche, fried sage, alliums

My mama’sPerfectly tender, crispy skinned herb and lemon stuffed roast chicken
truffled mashed potatoes topped with shaved truffles
chanterelles and tarragon
asparagus

cheese plate

red globe grapes seared in maple butter
with shaved white chocolate and crispy prosciutto

brachetto d’aqui

So what do y’all think?

Anyways, for a while I have been having out of town clients ask me to take them to great restaurants in the Bay or show them neat food related stuff, so now that I am building my own website I am going to start offering a whole food related extended exclusive booking where someone can fly into town for however long (I am imagining 3-4 days) in which I will set up a bunch of meals and activities and then be your sexy lady companion, concierge and guide while you enjoy. In my day dreams I am picking someone up SFO Wednesday evening in my vintage convertible and getting them all settled in at their hotel (The Clift if I have anything to say about it) before heading out to a casual dinner at Flour and Water or maybe Sushi Ran before retiring back to the suite. Thursday would be sleeping in before coffee at Ritual then heading to check out some of the great markets in town, Bi-rite, the shops in the Ferry Building, lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company and an afternoon of shopping or gallery hopping or something tailored to the client’s specific interests before dinner at Atelier Crenn. Perhaps drinks afterwards at Trick Dog. Friday we’d have a light pastry breakfast from Craftsman and Wolves and caffeine from Four Barrell then get picnic supplies (probably sammys from BR or maybe Southies) and head to the beach in Bolinas if the weather is nice in the aforementioned 60’s convertible. Dinner at Saison. In my fantasy life Maverick is reopened so Saturday morning means lobster bread pudding eggs benedict. After breakfast drive up to the Yountville area, check into the Bardessono, lunch at TFL, then wine tasting, spa stuff or a tour of the Di Rosa Preserve’s private museum before dinner at Meadowood’s chef’s counter. Sunday morning head back to SF early to have brunch at Outerlands followed by browsing the farmer’s market and then a cooking or urban foraging class. Dinner at Slanted Door maybe? Drop client off at airport the next morning full and sated beyond belief in every way. And of course there will be a lot of sexy stuff in the downtime. I will probably only get two to three clients a year who want to do something like that, but I am positive they will be my favorites of the respective seasons.

I can’t fucking wait!

The Restaurant at Meadowood Inn. October 2013

The Restaurant at Meadowood Inn 900 Meadowood Ln, St Helena, CA (707) 967-1205

Michelin Stars: 3

Cuisine: New American, Super Seasonal

My Rating: 8/10

As previously mentioned, things have been BUSY here at the Whoretress. Between travel, family obligations, trying to up my biznass game, working with a rad consultant, working in general, taking a marketing/small business class for those in the adult industry….basically there just hasn’t been a lot of time for date night. I had just finished that awful elimination diet (to check for food allergies) and damn it, I wanted to celebrate! And how better to do that than for J and I to get dressed up all sexy and spend an exorbitant amount (we saved ALOT by not being able to eat out these past few months) at a restaurant that is well reputed but that we haven’t yet been to? We already had plans to go to this weird, mysterious, expensive Chinese restaurant in a few days, a choice we had made based entirely on the line of wildly overpriced vehicles (RR, Bentleys, 6 and 7 series….. its the only place in SF I have seen clusters of cars like that….more on that place later but the moral of the story is rich people don’t necessarily have good taste) but it was Friday afternoon and I wanted something immediately. The first time I was at TFL, a friend whom has been an intermittent dining companion (in fact he and I met while both eating alone at the bar at Flora, ogling each other’s food before agreeing to share) suggested that we go to to The Restaurant at Meadowood Inn, California’s only other dining establishment awarded the coveted third michelin star.

I really didn’t know much about Meadowood, but, due to its three star status, I was prepared for intense competition and long waiting lists surrounding reservation availability. Imagine my stoked-ness when the phone barely rang before a sweet voiced woman who let me know that they had several openings that night and that we could sit either in the dining room or at the chef’s table. I believe the dining room is about 250 per diner, while the chef’s table starts at $500 (service included). If it’s within budget, I always go for the chef’s table. They always have a more interesting view, more dishes and more privacy from other diners, which is nice if you plan on getting tipsy.

I love the ritual of getting ready for a big date, whether it be professional or personal. Don’t get me wrong, I always put great care into readying myself for someone, but If I am preparing to head out on an important date with someone who I feel is special or whom I am excited to spend time with, there is a different feel to it. This usually is in my professional life, and would be for someone whom has booked a reasonable amount of time, probably four hours or more and who has requested that our evening together starts out with a good dinner or some kind of activity in which we will be seen out in public. I want him to feel how every other man in the room is trying to tear their eyes off of HIS date, because I have yet to meet a dude, no matter his age, who this didn’t give a little chill of satisfaction. Anyways I wanted to look fine for my dude, so I did the whole shebang, a ritual of a few hours that involves a long bath, exfoliating shaving, scrubbing, shaving again, one more scrub with sugar and honey to ensure maximum exfoliation and a final shave for smooth perfection (curses if you get goosebumps and the soupsant of adrenaline that courses through you from being chilly causes a minor hair growth, nothing crazy, but just enough to feel a small, sharp prickliness with the tips of your fingers, in which case, a fourth fucking shave is in order. Then face masks, scented oils so my tattoos gleam and my skin glows under the restaurants soft, moody lightning. Great care is taken painting nails if there isn’t time to seek the services of a pro and then equal concentration devoted to the perfect makeup…a sexy, smoky eye, flawless dewy skin with subtly contoured cheekbones and just a touch of gloss or chapstick to accentuate the sensuality of a full, bitable lower lip without interfering with eating; no red lipstick stains on the teeth for this gal outside of photoshoots…. the only bj proof long-wear pucker-prettying dramatic red was M.A.C.’s pro-longwear line, sadly discontented this past year to the chagrin of hookers everywhere I am sure. I wore my favorite sort of Lydia/gothic Lolita inspired, long sleeved, black mini-dress, the one where if I swish my hips right you can catch just a peek of an outrageously expensive garter belt from the top of a cuban-heeled, seamed stocking, the faint hint of my ass-ets subtly suggested through the thin material which walks the perfect line between opacity and sheerness. To top it off, my favorite heels. Classic, pointed toe, three inch stilettos in a jaw-dropping royal blue suede. I love them. So much. But enough about me getting sexy… what about that sexy food?

Its a bit of a drive, but not too bad. About an hour from Oakland to the part of the Napa Valley it is in. Once we arrived we sat in a large room full of fire places and warm wood furniture and were served a glass of champagne. After a few minutes, we were escorted to the kitchen for the chef’s counter meal. I immediately knew we had made the right choice. We walked through part of the regular dining room which has, like many other higher end restaurants in that part of the outer Bay Area, a sort of rustic beige’y mausoleum feel (with sand, cream or mauve accents almost without fail), full of aging couples, the women drooping under the weight of the many carrots of their jewelry. Its kind of a weird feel and even with different design details, the aura is the same across the board for spots like Auberge de Soleil, Cyrus (r.i.p.) etc, at least in my opinion.

The kitchen is big and bustling with a very large number of staff. Great view from our counter style table that could seat four but was just us that evening. The only thing I had a problem with regarding seating was I felt I needed a phone book to boost me up, being a shawty like I am. Even J at 5’7 felt a bit small. The kitchen was exciting and entertaining, but as a former back of the house employee, it always makes me feel a bit bad for the kitchen employees when you have to be uber professional, since I always think of chef/cook jobs as work for those who don’t fit into regular society. People who are swarthy, definitely can’t get up at the crack of dawn, have notoriously foul mouths and take swigs of the cooking wine. So I felt a little guilty that they had to create a more sterile environment for guests, but what do I know… I never worked anywhere near that fancy so maybe its like that all the time. My one delightful hint of normalcy in the kitchen was seeing the sneak age of a whippet, which surprised me and filled me with joy a bit.

The waitstaff’s service was a bit stiff at first but mellowed as the night went on. The chef was warm and friendly but reserved as well (I tend to like a level of interaction and rapport building that I know is considered unprofessional in this fancy pants of a setting so I take what scraps I can get). I always feel a bit awkward and guilty, being that without fail my peers in this sort of environment are the staff and never the other diners. I think the chef and everyone underneath him did a great job of of finding a balance between being personable and totally pro in a way I still found endearing but that I think would be totally acceptable to folks who see themselves as being part of a different echelon of the populous who is not into as much chummy camaraderie as I am with ‘the help’. Even when I am on the side of being helped, which I have been often for some years now, I feel like an imposter. If I am in a sassy mood I can parlay the creeping feeling into pretending I am a secret agent. No matter how many times I am having my bra sized, a shoe placed on my foot for me, a meal served, a coat helped on etc. I get a little secret thrill of fooling the other half that maybe, just maybe I am one of them (while I am pretty sure no matter how suave I try to be, I am recognized by my own, whether it is the busboy, the pedi-cab driver or whatever. Lately I feel as though I might be in some sort of limbo between the worlds forever.

Anyways, as far as problems with the service, it was largely totally decent. My biggest beef is that I specifically requested, three times and with increasing firmness that it makes me incredibly uncomfortable and irked to be escorted to the restroom (which was very sexy… love a nice bano). I couldn’t understand why they kept doing it until a meek girl said something about restaurant policy from the chef’s counter due to insurance/the possibility of kitchen accidents or knocking shit over. Let me tell you there is plenty of room between any kitchen station and a the beeline from the chef’s counter to the rooms exit toward the W.C. We are far too worried and far to litigious these days. It is disgusting. As previously mentioned, I have spent enough time in commercial kitchens to have the ‘behind you’ mantra as a hardwired, reflexive impulse at this point in time.

Anyways, the meal was fucking phenomenal. They blew TFL out of the water as far as I am concerned and I can’t wait to go back. Menu wasn’t too meat heavy. Veggies into seafood into 3-4 meat courses according to waiter. Here are the photos.

IMG_7040
A little Krug to start.

IMG_7041
I was really obsessed with their dinner ware. Lots of gorgeous, interesting different stuff to eat other interesting beautiful stuff off of.

IMG_7042
Borage from the garden with vinegar and sel gris. It can’t really get any simpler than this, but so refreshing, a bit cucumber-y A great first little peek.

IMG_7043
Pillow on a pillow! Fromage blanc mousse in a crispy cracker. This was find. Not amazing. But decent. The presentation was easily the best part of this dish.

IMG_7044
The view.

IMG_7045
Vegetable Nucca fermented for twelve hours in champagne yeast. I am a fan.

IMG_7046
Garden Scrapbook. This was one of the most memorable courses of the evening for me, both because of its beautiful vintage book presentation and because both morsels were awesome. On the left is a chorizo kale chip. On the right was a macaroon (so sorry I didn’t write down what kind… kicking myself!) but both were so incredible. The macaroon was a savory dish but did have a nice elemental sweetness to it that balanced the kale chip out very nicely.

IMG_7047
Drink menu…

IMG_7049
Holy fuck. popcorn and Chicken liver mousse with beet and hibiscus puree with blood beet. Amazing. Subtle. Sigh…

IMG_7050
The board behind us on the wall.

IMG_7051
House made yogurt with plum. This had a lovely light moussey texture with the perfect balance of sweet and salty with little crunchies. I always like the juxtaposition of these particular textures.

IMG_7052
Although I had previously thought we would be doing wine pairings this evening, I am not much of a drinker and when I saw their wonderful cocktail program and non alcoholic options, I opted out of the vino. This was the first drink, which consisted of St. Germaine, kumquat marmalade, fruit flavored aqua perfecta, and poached pear vodka as well as Christmas spice. This was great. Total winner. Not too x-mas-y. Super bright and refreshing, sweet without being over powerful and the way the flavors washed over my tongue, each revealing themselves in sequence was so rad. LOVED.

IMG_7053
Mackeral with white current. Good. Definitely more my steeze than J’s. Mackeral, being so fishy, seemed a bit weird to pair with the sweetness of the currents and the sauce, but I still found it enjoyable, if a bit strange. I wouldn’t want a larger portion than a few bites for sure.

IMG_7054
Cucumber seed porridge with caviar. This was also amazing. Super refreshing and green. I loved the smooth, very thick texture of the porridge which was delightfully surprising for cucumber. It really reminded me of when many of my Latvian and Russian relatives immigrated in the early 1990s and started combining some traditional Russian dishes with california ingredients. The presentation was gorgeous as well.

IMG_7055
Next was a Smashed pumin salad in mole with frozen, cracked “shell”. Gross. Neither J nor I liked this. It tasted like a weird re-imagining of a taco salad. Not my cup of tea, though I did like the frozen mole. J found it distracting.

Then was a lovely potato cooked in beeswax. Simple but just incredibly creamy and buttery. Utterly wonderful. Too bad I never took a photo.

IMG_7056

IMG_7057
Smoked geoduck topped with foie gras shavings. I was super excited to see foie but the dish was too salty for us. I wish there had been something to balance that out. What a bummer.

One more photo that I forgot was matsutake and squid. Surprisingly Joe loved this but I was ambivalent. Usually I would be delighted by a dish with these ingredients, foaming at the mouth while J quietly pushed food around on the plate. It was fine but I wouldn’t look forward to it or remember it much.

IMG_7058
Rancho Gordo beans with nasturtium, avocado and apple. If I liked beans, I would have been into this. The flavors were good for a bean dish, but the pasty texture of the main ingredients was not cool for me. It reminded me a lot of a bean dish I had at Manresa that I wrote about for last years annual citrus dinner that was also just not my bag. Meh. Maybe if I had an undying passion for this particular legume? Unfortunately I don’t, so no dice.

IMG_7059

St George floral gin, St. Germaine and grapefruit . Incredibly fresh and solid! Not as special or awesome as the last one but delicious and quite enjoyable just the same.

IMG_7060
Day lily stuffed with spot prawn and prawn roe. Wow. We fucking loved this. Amazing texture! Like the softest, most perfectly roasted onion just disintegrating in your mouth; as you push it against your hard palate your tongue overcome with sweet, perfect prawn and topped with ideally salty row. An excellent between bite.

IMG_7061
Roasted cod with sun choke, truffle and granola (with cacao nibs, was it? With bran rice syrup). Incredible! Along with a curry I once has at Saison, one of the best two cooked fish dishes I have had the pleasure of enjoying. The creamy sauce was perfect and the cod went amazingly with the crispness and ideally subtle sweetness of the rice bran syrup in the granola.

IMG_7062
Squab tea with flowers and pine (also used as a spice rub on the ten day aged squab). The rose, pine and rose geranium, which all grow on the property, really shone through. The duck drinking broth at Atelier Crenn can be too salty for my tast ewhile this worked excellently. A+!

IMG_7063

Local 10 day hung squab with spices, blackberry and babe radishes One of the most perfectly cooked pieces of neat I’ve had to date. Rare as can be with a crispy/salty skin and the sweet tartness of the late season berries plus the cream sauce made for a truly excellent dish. Sorry to do all this comparing, but there is often an overlap in kind of dishes and ingredients at the best restaurants with similar concepts in the area. I found it to be superior to the current currant squab at Crenn as far as flavor and accouterments yet not as perfect as the squab of last spring for which Dominique used a transcendent ‘ocean’ fumet beurre blanc,in which I would baptize my children were I to want any of those nasty little monsters, and accompanied by what I believe were squid ink colored parsnips, though all were cooked perfectly.

IMG_7064
Another view of the squab.

IMG_7065
Pork belly with Mendocino sea lettuce and smoked for 12 hours. I thought from the scent it would be far too smokey for me but in reality it was quite well balanced. It was what we want pork belly to be (for J is particularly picky about this cut of meat). Not solely a strip of fat but nicely textured with as much actual muscle as there was lipid content. The mustard adds a light bite and the seaweed gives an almost citrusy overtone. Delightful! The fresh and spicy flavors and oriba my the smoking process really balanced the fattiness and removed some of the unnecessary liquid that can be present in pork belly.

IMG_7066
Wagyu beef with pear purée. Last savory course and we’ve only been here an 1 hour 45 min. I expected dinner to take a bit longer. Sometimes I love having dinner over before the three hour mark but others I expect the experiences to be drawn out, to have an enjoyably leisurely evening. In this case I was torn. I was really enjoying myself, my dinner and my time with my man but it is also a bit of a drive back to Oakland and we had opted for the Best dish so far. Holy fuckkkkkk. Sweet and smokey in a perfect harmony of flavor, temperature and texture, the latter of which is my absolute ideal and which I rarely see outside my brother holds it down on the bbq. Out of many quite enjoyable dishes both J and I decided it was our fave thus far.

IMG_7068
View of meatsies! Loved sitting in the kitchen.

IMG_7069
Chilled section.

IMG_7073
Tasty-ass spot prawns of the gods.

IMG_7071
Full view.

IMG_7072
Adorable baker.

No photo but up next was an Epoisses cheese pudding over peaches preserved from the summer and a Canadian Noble vinegar with pain au lait. Very successfully delicious. All components worked perfectly well together. The breadiness of the pain balanced by the creaminess of cheese and stickiness of peach while the strength of cheese mitigated by the sweetness of the fruit and density of bread

IMG_7074
The pain au lait.

IMG_7075
Lavender syrup, blueberry infused gin, quartzgetmeiner grape juice, lemon, schramsberg blab de blanc. Very good. Great bartender in general

IMG_7076
Salad to eat by hand with fire roasted eggplant. Eh. Good but put to absolute shame by Saison’s hand salad version.

IMG_7077
Orange Julius with date cream. Wow. So incredible. So ideal. Sweet and creamy and frothy and fresh and citrusy all at once with just a teeny bit if chewiness from the zest plus the cold freshness of the granita. The chewiness had a similar but better texture to macerated coconut shreds. Quite wonderful. Certainly a step up from the stand at the mall.

IMG_7078
Candied carrots with marzipan and white chocolate Also pretty amazing. Best carrot dessert I’ve had in my life from me who is not at all a fan of the roots. Not quite as good as the orange Julius but still delightful. Quite sweet but the earthiness of the carrot subtly balanced all the sugar plus there was a hint of citrus. Could have be benefited from a bit of brightening up with some citrus.

IMG_7080

Chocolate chestnut. Bit my cup if tea and way too rich but joe lived it. Thinks best chestnut or general nut and choco dessert ever. Roasting the chocolate produced an interesting flavor. Joe thinks its one of the best “reimagining” of a dish of dessert ever. Not my cup of tea but very good in flavor and

IMG_7079
Last bites

Saison. SF. Mid-March.

Saison. 178 Townsend St. SF, CA. 415.828.7990

Michelin Stars: 2

Cuisine: New American, Super Seasonal 

My Rating: 8/10

I feel like the three people that read this are probably getting sick of hearing about the few restaurants I eat at pretty frequently and seeing them reviewed over and over again (or otherwise are wondering how I am able to type when my lips are so firmly planted against the metaphorical ass of Atelier Crenn and Saison) but what can I say, its easy to say lots of nice things when everything is fucking delicious. But since its silly to write abut the same things over and over again, when I find myself returning to a restaurant quite a bit I am going to just talk about dishes that are new to the menu or dishes I have written about before only in the event that something about them has changed significantly- for better or worse.

Obviously I am writing this after the fact, but at the time I had this meal I was a couple days away from heading to Costa Rica for roughly a month, and as much as I love all the amazingly fresh seafood and tropical fruit there, most food is pretty rustic and I wanted to go enjoy one last fancy pants meal before jetting off. I called to try and make an appointment at Saison’s lounge assuming there was about snowball’s chance in fire-y depths of hell that there was a free table same days notice on a Saturday, but due to some mix up between me and the reservationist as well as a some couples last minute cancellation, I showed up and was super delighted to be shown to the dining room instead of the bar.

I really love eating alone. Don’t get me wrong, a great dinner date filled with great conversation is rad and amazing and I love that too, but there is a certain freedom to taking yourself out to dinner and not feeling bad for taking a photo or writing down all the ingredients in a note pad and being able to read a book. I have never understood on TV when I see women who are deathly embaressed by what it apparently says about them if they are alone to eat, god forbid (I know this was the subject of an episode of Awkward… and maybe Sex And The City, though don’t quote me on that second one…boo). Also, I don’t have to worry about the awkwardness of being on a first date where I order every supplement on a menu and see the poor dude across the table from me trying to mask his horror as he sweats profusely trying to be subtle while he checks his wallet to see if he has enough cash to cover things until I awkwardly tell him I was planning on paying for dinner and he doesn’t have to worry about it and then…. well, there are a lot more men with a complex about the lady paying in 2013 then there should be.

Anyways, so when a twosome who was supposed to eat at the big communal table next to the kitchen cancelled, I got one spot and the other was taken by a wonderfully interesting and charming guy who was the perfect impromptu dining partner…. fun to talk to and make lots of inappropriate moaning sounds in reaction to the deliciousness of the food. Dining with strangers/making new buds, even if its just for the evening, is one of my favorite things about going to a restaurant alone.

As for the service… well, as always the service was ideal, at least for me. Not too stuffy, very friendly and always on point. The service is another reason I love on them (and A.C.) so profusely; I have never been given the side eye by anyone who works here the way I have at some nicer establishments for frequently dining with a wide array of different dates. 

On this occasion there were five new dishes on the menu since the last time I was here. I was sad to have missed the last of the heartbread and truffle tartlettes, but there was some excellent new additions. 

Parmesan custard- chilled peas and a sauce made from the shells. Pea blossom. I must have been so busy enjoying this I forgot to take a photo. Oops. Pretty good but not my favorite of the night.

Live spot prawn- grilled monkfish liver. Pear. Cherry blossom. This was my favorite of the new items on the menu. I am a big fan of both spot prawns and monkfish liver and this dish was a great use of both. The prawns’ sweet, delicate taste and intoxicating texture…succulent, but with the perfect amount of give (your teeth briefly sink into the exquisitely tender flesh before reaching the lightly firm crunch at the core) paired with the rich, smooth monkfish liver and the fragrant sugary pear was a most excellent combination and I was quite sad it was only one bite.Image

 

White asparagus- grilled over fire. White asparagus custard. Salt water cured sea urchin. Like the first custard, definitely enjoyable but didn’t inspire lust and babbling praise the way the spot prawn/monkfish liver and bird filled morels did.

 Image

Morel- Filled with bird. Grilled over pine needles with pinenut and wild mustards. Bird jus sauce. Eek! This was so rich and juicy. The morels were perfect and velvety and stuffed with perfectly cooked fowl (unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what kind(s), but rest assured whatever it was it was super tasty, especially in a bite that included a few pine nuts and a piece of the crisp.

 Image

Black truffle, harvison and comte cheeses, sea buck thorn.  I thought I would really enjoy this since, hey, its cheese and truffles, but this wasn’t my cup of tea and I was only able to eat a bite of it. It had a distinctly bitter, kind of weird flavor (I think it from the cheese) that didn’t sit well with me. While I was not a fan, my impromptu dining partner was fond of this.

Image

 

Some tasty syrah my new friend ordered that he was so kind to let me have a sip of. I got rich berry flavors, chocolate and some smokiness out of it (I am super bad at picking notes out in wine so I feel pretty damn proud that when I looked it up online on some wine websites they described it as having blackberry, cassis and burning ember/charcoal flavors, so I am pretty stoked I wasn’t just pulling stuff out of my ass when describing it). 

Image

 

 

 

 

No matter how amazing everything else is at Saison, this is ALWAYS my favorite part. If I was going to be executed, I might just ask for twenty of these and call it a fucking day.Image

Saison Bar. SF. 2.27.2013

Saison (The Lounge/Bar Area). 178 Townsend St. SF, CA 415.828.7990

Michelin Stars: Two for the formal restaurant and the food is the same so I suppose two.

Cuisine: New American

$: Variable. For us it was around $200 per person but we ordered a lot and had several glasses of wine and cocktails as well.

My Rating: 9/10

I know this review is coming a bit late, which I apologize for, but I am super stoked on Saison’s new lounge area. There are six bar seats and six lounge seats where you can come in and get a few drinks and order some snacks. I believe I read the cost starts at about $100 per person and that it is supposed to be a conversation with the kitchen in a way. They pick and choose some dishes for you off the menu depending on what you are looking for and how hungry you happen to be and the amount of time you have. I can’t tell you how much I loved this approach. It is true that you don’t always have three plus hours and four hundred bucks to drop on dinner and this is just a really nice alternative where you are still able to experience the the incredible food and the luxury of it all. The only thing I wish was different is that they had kept the lounge part with a no reservations policy. If the whole point of this is spontaneity and not having to plan for the three hours etc. I think it would be much better to have this one little section be walk in only. When my date and I came in, it was right when the bar/lounge had opened and we were able to snag a reservation the night of. All of the food was incredible, including a new dish with heartbreads and truffles that was so insanely good. At this point they only had  soft liquor license but now they’ve got the hard stuff too. Regardless, the ‘soft’ cocktails were excellent as well.

Image 

I can’t recall what was in this cocktail these few months later, but it was very tasty.

Image 

We were started off with the smoked white sturgeon caviar with cured uni and roasted poulard juice cracker and pumpkin mousse. As always this dish was a complete delight. All of the flavors just melt together in this very special way, as do the textures. It may have helped that I have had this dish a few times, but I think this is when you a restaurant is truly great, is when 87 days later you can close you eyes and still taste every note, feel the delicate pop of the eggs between your tongue and the roof of your mouth and the gentle cracking of the poulard chip between your teeth, mixing with the pumpkin and the soft, velvety uni. 

Image 

Kushi Oyster with Grilled Oyster Mignionette. Super simple and enjoyable. It may not have quite the fanciful ingredients or preparations of some of the other magic Joshua Skenes makes, but I really like it when he juxtaposes the more complicated dishes with some that are perfect nearly by themselves and where he really lets the ingredients shine and be seen for their incredible freshness.

 

 

 

Image

Live Scallop with Celery Root Puree and Diale Peare on top. This scallop had the perfect texture and like the oyster, it just doesn’t get much fresher. The pear and puree was an ideal marriage to the scallop adding a lovely additional sweetness to the already sweet scallop.

 

Image  

This Golden Trout Roe with potato Vichyssoise is nearly always on the menu and it is one of the many dishes I crave, taste wise, but even more so texturally. The trout roe is ideal, not overpoweringly salty and has a delightful pop and the potato component is just as intoxicating. 

 

Image 

Bluefin Tuna Ham Tartlette with sea urchin. I enjoyed this the other times I have had this, but found it to be even better today. It was crunchier today and had fresher, more intense oceany notes to it.

 

 

ImageThe Kushikari Rice with Coastal Lettuce Stew topped with Abalone and Abalone Liver is my least favorite dish of the evening (and I still loved it). I think this just speaks to how great Saison is. It is so difficult to go out to eat so many courses and every single fucking one is a slam dunk.

 

 

Image 

This  pineapple cocktail was very tasty. I can’t wait to try their other cocktails now that they have the full liquore license!

 

 

ImageImageIt is nearly impossible to pick favorites when everything is as good as it is here, especially on a night like tonight when everything shined particularly hard. I can’t remember what fish was used but it was a white fish seasoned with sort of a red curry and coconut flavor served in an incredible broth, so rich and oily is a great way that just coated the whole inside of my mouth with happiness.

 

 

Image

Puff Pastry with Heart Breads, Caramelized Onions, Parmesan and Pergord Truffles. I would seriously consider a crawl through a mile of broken glass on my hands and knees to eat this again. It was so amazingly rich, creamy, and delicate from the heartbreads, the crisp of the pastry, sweet from the onions with the perfect tangy, citrusy zing from the berries. Oh My God, this is a dish to jerk off to the memory of.

 

Image

 

Rangpoor Lime, A dollop of Parsnip milk and fruit de brick with Italian Sheep and Cow Robiola. Served on a warm stone so the cheese melts. Pretty tasty. Not something I think about like I do so many of the other dishes of this evening but I certainly wouldn’t be upset to eat it again.

 

 

Image

Spiced Caramel Apple with Chai Gelato and Black Walnuts. I really don’t like walnuts so I didn’t try this but my date said it was amazing.

 

 

 

 

Image

Image

 

Image

 

These Caneles from Saison might be the best thing I have ever eaten. I am going to try to make them soon, even though I’ve heard they can be fairly difficult to get right. Apparently they need to be made in beeswax coated copper molds and they sort of fry on the outside while turning into this incredible moist custard on the inside. My last meal would definitely include about ten of these.

I am so often frustrated and bummed out to find a restaurant doesn’t hold up to the reputation it has received. When I am asked for a suggestion on a truly great restaurant to take someone to in SF of this caliber, I think that only Saison and Crenn are truly diamonds in the rough. There are many other great restaurants in SF, but nothing invades my dreams quite the way those two do. The bar concept here is awesome, and I look very much forward to eating in the lounge again soon. 

Manresa’s Citrus Modernista Dinner. 3.10.2013

 

 

Manresa. 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos. 408.354.4330

Michelin Stars: two

Cuisine: New American, but on this night, totally citrus focused.

$: 195 per person.

My rating: 5/10

Let me start out by saying I haven’t been to Manresa before this night, although I have heard very good things. I was still very sick (this is only a few days after the meal at French Laundry I wish I could remember more of), but seeing as this special citrus dinner is only once a year, I knew I had to push through and make it. I had to have someone else drive me down because that is how awful I was feeling and I was totally voiceless still. So once a year Manresa hold’s this special citrus dinner to showcase the bounty of Gene Lester’s amazing heirloom citrus farm (you can check out a short article about him here: http://www.californiabountiful.com/features/article.aspx?arID=346) so I was super stoked to try it. Parts of the dinner were very good, other parts not so much. Luckily I took much better notes this time. I definitely plan to come back to Manresa and trying it when they have their normal menu. I have found that sometimes when things are just for one evening and their hasn’t been time for the kinks to get worked out of dishes, their can be a meal served that might not be as amazing as it could have been, ya know?

We arrived and sat in the lounge for a while as they readied the table. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the decor other than one neat piece of art on the wall of the dining room, but the bar was a little bit swankier looking than the rest of the place. Besides from looking the prettiest, I am fired up about their bar for a number of reasons. They had a fine selection of spirits and some interesting sounding cocktails which make use of produce from Love Apple Farms. More so than anything though, was the amount of thought they put into creating several pages of drinks for people who are sober or just don’ like booze. Now, any good bartender worth their salt can whip up a good mocktail, but having two entire pages dedicated to such beverages shows a lot of consideration in my mind, since normally they are an after-thought at absolute best.

I do enjoy a good cocktail or glass of wine every now and again, but I usually go virgin and Manresa has BY FAR the biggest variety of virgin cocktails available at any super nice restaurant I’ve been to. The second and fourth photos are of the virgin drinks menu and the third photo is, I believe, the Shizuka. The fifth is the passionfruit spritzer. There was a really good homemade bread selection (five kinds). Service was ok. Everyone was very polite and friendly but I had a few issues with it. Firstly, service forgot to bring the first course and only after I asked a few courses in did they realize their mistake and bring it to us. The were some major inconsistancies in the amount of time between courses and a particularly long wait in between the two desserts. By the end of the fourth course both my date and I felt they had been pimping the bread pretty agressively (five times by then). Our table was frequently cleaned and scraped off crumbs which was nice. All around, I will go back and try it when they have the regular menu sometime, but overall I wasn’t very impressed with this particular meal. Not bad but definitely nothing special beyond three or four of the dishes.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Jasmine Tea Jelly with Yogurt, Olive and Rio Star Grapefruit. Of course I had mine without olives. My date compared the finish to a taco bell nacho grande. I don’t actually know what that tastes like but it was weird. I could kind of imagine where my date was coming from but combined with a sort of savory and sweet cheese like marscapone. It wasn’t disgusting but I would never order this. I was surprised because other than the olives, all the ingredients sounded great on the menu to me.

 

Image

 

 

 

Belon Oyster with Seaweed Snow and Wekiwa Tangelo. This was.. eh. It was ok. I enjoyed the seaweed snow and I usually love belon oysters but this one had a very fishy, metallic aftertaste that was very strong and both my date and I could still catch lingering hints of throughout the meal. Also, my oyster wasn’t properly separated from it’s shell.Image

This dish of Runner Beans with Smoked Avocado and Mandelo plus Bean Bouillion with Homemade Vinegar surprised me. I thought I would not like this since I don’t like the texture of these kind of beans, and while I wouldn’t order it, it was pretty decent and was my favorite dish so far. The flavors were good, even if he texture wasn’t my personal cup of tea.Image

Asparagus with Hazelnut, Mandarins and Carte Noir Satsumas. This was the first dish that was AWESOME. I can’t tell you how enjoyable this was. The asparagus was cooked perfectly and all the tough, woody parts at the ends of the stalks had been carefully removed. The asparagus was incredibly rich, buttery and tender and was balanced perfectly by the dehydrated citrus sections and the delightful citrus aioli that was both sweet and tangy. Again, the dehydrated citrus plus the hazelnuts added a lovely juxtaposition of crunchiness to the delicate asparagus. Hells yeah.ImageSea Urchin and Kale in Parsnip Tisane with Ichang Lemon. This was pretty tasty. The sea urchin was fresh and velvety. The broth which was lightly parsnippy and fragrant with the lemon cradled the uni and kale really well. Loved the kale.ImageCrab and Fennel in Delicate Jelly with Rosemary with Poor man’s Orange and Etrog served chilled. This was good but I think it would have been better served with a citrus with a sweeter profile than Poor man’s orange (or perhaps this particular Poor man’s orange just wasn’t up to snuff?). The crispy pea shells added some nice crunch. ImageJohn Dory “Grenobloise” with Cleopatra Mandarinquat and Kabosu. This was exactly what you’d want it to be, with the nice addition of the citrus. Tasty, rich, well cooked.ImageRoast Duck with Yuzu Kosho, Picked Cucumbers and Temple Tangor. This was my favorite dish of the entire savory part of the meal. The duck was cooked and seasoned excellently  and the cucumbers and temple tangor (similar to the caviar lime) were excellent acids to balance out the fat of the duck. This and that asparagus were the stars of the show for sure.

ImageGoat’s Milk Granite with Run Candies with Moyawaga Wase and Sidi Aissa. Very enjoyable, especially with the jelly caviar.  An excellent combination. The creamy, tangy goat’s milk granita and rum candies with citrusy carmel sauce was awesome. This too was one of the best things of the night.ImagePebbles, Maralumi Ganache, Tonka Bean with Brown Butter and Lime. Some parts were great, others left something to be desired. The little chocolate nibs and tonka balls were good, as was the orange pudding sauce and vanilla sauce while I couldn’t stand the chocolate ganache coating for the ice cream, which wasn’t anything special either.