BEEN THERE, ATE THAT: WEEK OF NOVEMBER 11 - NOVEMBER 17

Since I felt like I had been lacking in the dining out category over the past few weeks I decided to really kick it up a notch and hit two of Bauer's (Michael Bauer, Food Critic for the San Francisco Chronicle) four-star restaurants in one week.

Some of you may be thinking this is overkill but before you do let me explain.  A few years ago I had this crazy idea to set a goal for myself of eating at all eight of Bauer's four-star restaurants - can you name them all? (I've listed them at the bottom of this post in case you want to try and test yourself.)  After rounding out my goal this summer with my sister at Meadowood and Chez Panisse, my sister then decided that she needed to eat at all of the four-stars too, and in even less time that I did it - six months vs. my two years (figures).

As she is only in San Francisco for a limited amount of time I decided to not only oblige this goal but help her out with it, after all I had to be a supportive sister didn't I?  So, in the spirit of being a good sister, we made our way of two more of the four-star restaurants this past week.

Bite of the Week: Beggar's Purse of Treasures from the Oak from Benu

Monday: La Folie
The first time I ate at La Folie was about two years ago but hadn't been back since.  I remembered it being good but couldn't exactly remember how good.  As we were a bit overwhelmed by the menu we decided to streamline things and both go with the Chef's Tasting Menu which is a 5-course menu covering everything from frog legs and seafood to meat, cheese and of course dessert.

Our dinner started with a small amuse bouche, the Triple T Ranch Egg (pictured to the right).  Every since I had the L'arpege Egg at Manresa this Spring I have been obsessed with egg amuses and this one did not disappoint.  The egg was followed by a smoked salmon amuse bouche with marscapone herbs and caviar. Salmon. Cheese. Caviar. Need I say more?

Our first course was a Frog Leg and Matsutake Mushrooms Ragout with Garlic Creme and Parsley Foam (left).  We were hesitant about the frog legs at first but found them to be quite delicious, especially when eaten with the garlic creme.

The frog legs were followed by a Butter Poached Lobster with Wild Nettle Ravioli with Nantaise Carrot Sauce, Wild Arugula Salad and Marcona Almonds.  The main entree was an Angus Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with Bernaise Croquette, Bone Marrow Custard and Bordelaise Sauce.  Each dish was better than the last and by the time we made it to one of my favorite courses, the cheese course, I could barley eat anything else. But I knew I didn't want to miss out so I powered through.


The cheese selection was a Rivoire Jacquemin Comte Extra served with French Baguette and Honeycomb which was followed by a Huckleberry Baked Alaska served with Lemon Biscuit, Huckleberry-Creme Fraiche Sorbet, Basil Ice Cream and a Lemon Bar. Yum!

You can also check out the full menu here.

Thursday: TBD 

TBD is Chef Mark Liberman's (AQ Restaurant) latest project.  It's only been open about two weeks but I've been dying to check it out every since I first hear about it earlier this year.  The focus of the restaurant is live-fire cooking with a large hearth in the center of the restaurant.  The menu is broken down by dish type (Raw, Smoked, Hearth + Embers, Grill, Plancha and Sweet) and the dishes are priced by tier.  We decided to try a little of everything.

We started with the Bread, Butter & Seaweed, Aged Kentucky Newsom Ham and the Autumn Lettuces.  The ham was one of my favorite things that night, not overly salty and the perfect amount for our group.

Our first courses were followed by the Persimmon, Sunchoke and Bay Scallop Ceviche (pictures to the left) and the Cured Rainbow Trout with a Rye Waffle & Dill, another one of my favorites. I'd love to share a picture of this dish  but I was so excited about the waffle that I forgot to take one!  For the entree we split the Beef Strip Loin with Brussel Kraut & Pastrami.

And of course let's not forget dessert!  A no brainer, we had to have the S'mores with Marshmallow Chocolate & Chicory, amazing. We followed the s'mores up with the Dutch Oven Cake with Pear, Parsnips & Woodruff. Also delicious and highly recommended, but let's be honest, nothing beats a good s'mores dessert.

Friday: Benu 

Like La Folie, I was lucky enough to eat at Benu about two years ago, right after they opened.  And also like La Folie, until recently Benu offered two different menus, the tasting menu and an a la carte menu, which is what we had the first time I went.  Since their recent remodel they are now offering a tasting menu only (no complaints here!).

Like it's four-star counter parts, Benu not only met but exceeded expectations.  There were a few dishes I had heard about and was really looking forward to trying; the Thousand-Year-Old Quail Egg with Potage and Ginger, the Lobster Coral Xiao Long Bao and of course the "Shark's Fin Soup" with Crab, Egg White and Jinhua Ham (pictured below right).  Each of these dishes were amazing and the gold flakes in the "Shark's Fin Soup" were an added bonus we did not expect.


Of course there were a few dishes that were not on our radar but also surprised us.  My personal favorite was the Beggar's Purse of Treasures from the Oak (pictured upper left) while my sister's favorite was the Monkfish Liver with Green Apple, Yuzu, Turnip and Mint. And then of course there was the Jellyfish with Smoked Potato, Caviar and Horseradish. Not one of our favorites but definitely one of the more interesting for both taste and texture.

Throughout dinner we had noticed a few of the tables receiving a whole mini cake. At first we were (of course) worried thinking that this was something they served for special occasions only and that we weren't going to get one. Thankfully for us, the cake we were seeing was their Sesame White Cake with Salted Plum.  Unfortunately for us by the time we got to the cake we were a tiny bit full from the previous 18 courses! Cake does make for a good take home snack though...

Full menu here.


And finally, in no particular order, the eight four-star restaurants as named by Bauer:

  1. The French Laundry
  2. Manresa
  3. Quince
  4. Coi
  5. La Folie
  6. Benu
  7. Chez Panisse
  8. The Restaurant at Meadowood

No comments:

Post a Comment