Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 6/13/11
Anyone who knows me (or has read their fair share of posts from this blog) knows that I’m a huge fan of Thomas Keller. Huge. Borderline obsessive. So, when I was invited to a seven-course dinner (with wine pairings) at Bouchon with a chance to sit down and dine with Chef Keller, this was truly an invitation I couldn’t refuse.
The dinner was a fundraiser for KCET, the public broadcasting network with shows such as America’s Test Kitchen and Simply Ming. The company I work for is a sponsor for the network, and had 4 seats at the $2,500 a plate dinner. Somehow, I got one of the seats. Can I say…best work perk EVER?
The benefit dinners spanned two evenings – one catered more towards the public (on the 12th, $250pp) and a more intimate affair (on the 13th, $2,500pp) catered to businesses and other large donors. Due to the nature of the event I didn’t bring my camera in, but I did take some quick shots of the food with my crappy camera phone. However, I did have my camera for the second half of the meal.
Before dinner was served, hors d’oeuvres were passed around, consisting of gougères, caviar and smoked trout crostini, some sort of mushroom tarts, and cups of French onion soup.
We started off with a few things at the table as the first formal course.
Rillettes aux Deux Saumons fresh & smoked Scottish salmon rilletes, served with toasted baguette croutons
A really well-balanced blend of fresh and smoked salmon, this was delicious with the toasted slices of baguette.
Pate de Campagne country style pate with watercress, cornichons & radishes
I don’t often like pates, but I enjoyed this one. Knowing many courses were to come, I abstained from eating too much of it though.
Grand Plateau Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, little neck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels & dungeness crab
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, Santa Barbara County 2009
I’m no stranger to Bouchon’s raw seafood bar (see: American Wine & Food Festival), and it’s hard to go wrong with a tower full of ice and fresh seafood. Everything was good; my favorites were the clams and the lobster (particularly the claw). The clams were plump and had a nice chew, while the lobster was really sweet and delicious. Loved it.
Salade de Fenouil et Abricot young fennel bulb, apricots, Bellwether Farms ricotta cheese & garden sorrel
Chardonnay, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Maria Valley 2009
I enjoyed this salad. It incorporated a couple of in-season ingredients (fennel and apricot), and really came together with the rich ricotta.
“Carnaroli Risotto Biologico” summer truffles, English peas, sweet pea shoots & parmesan mousse
Pinot Noir, Rusack Vineyards, “Reserve”, Santa Rita Hills 2008
This was probably my favorite dish of the night. One of the best risottos I’ve ever had was the white truffle version at The French Laundry; while this wasn’t quite on the same level, it was executed just as well. Again, seasonal produce was showcased in the form of the pea and pea shoots, lending a lighter, cleaner flavor to this risotto. Little bits of black summer truffles made the dish extra special. Best way to get my veggies and carbs in one spoonful.
Throughout the meal, Chef Keller moved from table to table, eating one course at each.
Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye “Cuit Sous Vide” fricassee of fava beans, butter poached morel mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions & natural lamb jus
Syrah, Rusack Vineyards, “Ballard Canyon Estate”, Santa Barbara County 2008
The lamb was prepared a nice medium-rare, leaving it very tender. I also enjoyed the addition of the morels and fava beans. I thought the rich, savory lamb jus really made the difference, bringing everything together. Really enjoyed the syrah with this dish.
Selection de Fromages Artisaneux beemster gouda, marisa & fourme d’ambert with honey comb, candied nuts, cranberry currant campagne & walnut bread
Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot, Rusack Vineyards, “Anacapa”, Santa Barbara County 2007
During the cheese course, a live auction was held, featuring trips ranging from across the street (Montage Beverly Hills) to Europe (Monte Carlo).
As the savory courses came to an end, two desserts came out. I was a little surprised they didn’t serve their signature chocolate bouchons though.
Tarte au Citron lemon tart
Semillon, Rusack Vineyards, “Soul of the Vine”, Santa Ynez Valley 2009
I’m not a huge “sour” person, so I found this lemon tart to be a little bit too sour for me.
Ile Flottante meringue with vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel
I liked this dessert better…kind of like a marshmallow, but more complex. It was light, airy and sweet, with the bulk of the flavor coming from the accompanying vanilla creme anglaise. I thought the almonds and caramel worked really well with this dessert.
Mignardises nutter butters, TKO, cookies, macarons, jellies, chocolate tart, lemon meringue
Of course, we had the requisite kitchen tour.
I knew coming into this dinner (experience) that I’d probably remember it for the rest of my life. After all, being able to meet and spend some time with Chef Keller was such a unique opportunity for me. I would have to say he was a little less easygoing than in prior meetings, but it was still very cool to spend some time with him.
As for the food, I would call it an excellent Bouchon dinner. I was hoping the food would have glimpses of the cuisine at the French Laundry level, but that wasn’t the case here. Still, similar to previous Bouchon experiences, the dishes were really well-executed and pretty delicious.