Last week we flew down to San Jose for work, and then continued on down to San Diego to spend a few days visiting our good friends Jake and Patti. I've known Jake and Patti since I was 20 years old (so, you know, not that long), and Kevin's known them since he's known me. They were the two witnesses at our wedding (in our living room in Portland, in 1997, along with Kevin's daughters) and it was so nice to get to hang with them for a few days.
We flew into Carlsbad, CA. The flight through the Los Angeles airspace was strangely smooth with little traffic ("Where IS everyone?"). ATC routed us right down the coast from Seal Beach to Carlsbad…gorgeous!
Jake and I both really like to cook (remember, camping with the sous vide?), and we spent two of our four days in San Diego cooking up two different multi-course dinners (we've done this before). We planned two nights' worth of menus and went to work!
Dinner No. 1
Appetizer: figs stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto
First course: salmon, sorrel, and mustard, wrapped in filo dough and topped with sorrel cream sauce (delicious, I'm totally making this again):
Main course: filet of beef tenderloin, foie, with parmesan truffled zucchini noodles:
Dessert was a custard bread pudding cut into a little circle, edges wrapped in prosciutto and filled with melon "caviar" (oh yeah, we did a little molecular gastronomy too). Here's how this dessert looks in the cookbook (we modified it, of course, so ours looked a little different):
Dinner No. 2:
The next night, we decided to invite some friends over (since we'd gotten a practice run in) so we had more people to cook for. Another long-time friend of mine lives in San Diego with her husband Mike, and they were our second night guinea pigs dinner guests.
We served several amuse-bouches out on the patio with a prosecco. The first bite was a strawberry stuffed with whipped cream, smoked salmon, and horseradish (flavor bomb!). Next, a Carlsbad oyster with a classic champagne/vinegar/shallot/pepper mignonette, and some of the leftover melon caviar from the night before.
I was skeptical about the Carlsbad oysters (that's all they had at the market), but they were delicate and great. The next amuse was a mozzarella ball sphere (more molecular gastronomy), a dehydrated tomato, with a basil leaf and a drop of good balsamic vinegar.
You make these by mixing up some fresh mozzarella, some of the water from the fresh mozzarella container, along with some chemical that I don't remember, into a liquid that's the consistency of drinking yogurt. Then you prepare a cold water bath mixed with another chemical I don't remember, and slowly drop small amounts of the mozzarella mixture into this bath.
After about 4 minutes you very gently turn the blobs over without ruining them (this is difficult, but I got really good at it), and after another 4 minutes, you remove them with a slotted spoon and put them into a plain cold water bath. You end up with these really cool spheres of mozzarella that are tight on the outside, and like soft cheese on the inside. The flavor of the dehydrated tomato is so intense, and this is a beautiful little course:
We moved inside to the dining table and served one last small course: a cup of gazpacho soup with a spicy corn relish. I didn't mange to take a photo, but it was pretty. We had fun figuring out all the plating options for the different courses, and it was very handy that Jake has a chef friend across the street with all sorts of fabulous little dishes we were able to borrow.
The next course was probably my favorite. We made a clam linquine, where some of the noodles were regular linguine, and some were made out of clam juice and soy sauce (and those were black). You mix the clam juice and soy sauce, heat in a pan with a bit of some other MG chemical I don't remember the name of, and with a syringe, suck the liquid into a piece of rubber tubing. Then, you immerse the tube(s) into a bowl of ice water for a few minutes, and then use the syringe to blow the "noodle" out the end of the tube. It was crazy cool, but we soon realized that to do this more efficiently we'd need a lot of tubes, and larger diameter ones. (This is the realization that caused us to add standard pasta to this dish, but it turned out great having the contrast of light and dark noodles.)
The sauce was a clam, cream, garlic, wine sauce, and we steamed some fresh Manila clams in white wine and garlic to go along side:
The main course was duck confit with a red wine reduction, roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes, and a cold green bean, tomato, and cotija cheese salad. I didn't get a photo, because that's what happens when you multitask. You forget to do things. It was pretty, and tasty though. Trust me.
For dessert, Kevin made his delicious maple bacon bourbon ice cream, served with a salted carmel and dark chocolate cookie, and we paired it with a great Port that our friends Tee and Mike brought over. We all had such a fun evening…good food and lots of laughs (LOTS of laughs!) (No photo of the ice cream either, sorry.)
On Sunday we said goodbye and headed back up the coast toward home. We decided to continue on up to Anacortes for the night, so on Sunday we flew pretty much the entire West Coast of the United States (about 6 hours, one fuel stop in Red Bluff). Pretty sweet!
View from dinner in Anacortes: