The Langham Hotel
1401 S Oak Knoll Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106
Dining date: 5/14/12
Foie gras dinners seem to be all the rage in California right now. For the most part, it seems restaurants want to celebrate (and serve) the ingredient while they still can, while bringing awareness to the ban and the issues at hand. Also, I’m sure some restaurants are using the impending ban to drum up business and charge top dollar for some high-profile dinners. On Monday, 4 LA restaurants held foie gras dinners that I think firmly fell into bucket #1.
Melisse, Lemon Moon, Animal and The Royce held foie gras dinners on the same night, each having a different NorCal vs. SoCal “battle.” Tickets were purchased in advance, with $100 going to food, wine, tax and gratuity; the other $100 went straight to the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (C.H.E.F.S.), a nonprofit aiming to promote humane and ethical farming standards (ie. repeal the ban).
Each restaurant featured an all-star lineup of chefs from Northern and Southern California; I opted for dinner at The Royce (my first time since the remodel from The Dining Room). An impressive 5 Michelin stars were shared between the 6 chefs: Douglas Keane, Cyrus (Healdsburg); Peter Armellino, Plumed Horse (Saratoga); Micah Wexler, Mezze (Los Angeles); Michael Cimarusti, Providence (Los Angeles); Victor Scargle, Lucy at Bardessono (Yountville), and David Féau, The Royce (Pasadena).
Foie Gras and Cherry Blossom Parfait, Barley, Sea Beans and Shiso
Douglas Keane, Cyrus, Healdsburg
Mumm Napa Brut Reserve NV
We started with this parfait served in a martini glass. The rich foie, with the texture of a cold mousse, was complemented by earthy barley and the bright flavor of shiso. It was definitely on the heavier side for a first course though.
Artisan Foie Gras Torchon and Bigeye Tuna with Mustard Fruit and Saba
Peter Armellino, Plumed Horse, Saratoga
Testarossa Winery “Plumed Blanc” 2010 Arroyo Seco
I liked the presentation of this one, with a tube of foie torchon pressed through the interior of the tuna. The creamy foie and meaty, smoky tuna were a nice pairing, and I thought the mustard fruit brought a welcome sweetness as well. A crispy tuile provided delicate texture.
Foie Gras Custard, Spring Vegetables, Smoked Sturgeon, Rye
Micah Wexler, Mezze, Los Angeles
Cornerstone “Stepping Stone Corallina Rose” Syrah 2011
This was one of the strongest dishes of the evening, centered around a light foie gras custard. Delicious on its own, I thought the smoked sturgeon (which kind of tasted like bacon), spring vegetables and crispy rye breadcrumbs really added complexity and more rounded flavors. Loved the colors too. Yum!
Foie Gras Sauté with Grilled and Partial Dehydrated Strawberries
Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
Hill Family Estate Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Napa
Another of the stronger dishes, we were told this was the staff favorite during their tasting. A generous lobe of foie gras was seared perfectly, leaving a creamy, luscious interior. I liked the strawberries to go along with the liver, as well as the textures from two dehydrated crumbles, foie gras (the white) and black sesame (the black). A sweet sauvignon blanc pairing was a nice accompaniment.
Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Forbidden Rice and Foie Gras “Risotto,” Pickled Ramps, Duck Confit, Cherry Jus
Victor Scargle, Lucy at Bardessono, Yountville
Arkenstone “Obsidian” Howell Mountain 2007 Napa
The duck breast came out medium-rare, though sort of lukewarm in temperature. It was good duck but not particularly special. I liked the forbidden rice risotto, which added a strong earthy flavor…though that may have overshadowed the flavor of the foie. Of all of the courses, the liver was most subtle in this one, but I didn’t really mind it at this point.
Dry-aged Beef “Boullion,” Foir Gras Fondue, Tarragon Printed Pasta, Crimini Mushroom
David Féau, The Royce, Pasadena
Ackerman Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa
The last savory course was another seared lobe topped with what was like a foie gras snow. Interesting. It was cold and melted easily, making for a pretty unique vehicle of foie flavor. The bouillon was warm, rich and comforting and I really liked the tarragon printed pasta too. Cooked to an al dente texture, it definitely exuded the tarragon flavor as well.
Strawberry Coconut Sorbet, Petit Fours
Next up came a palate cleanser. The strawberry and coconut sorbet was well-balanced and refreshing, while the accompanying sweets were a nice treat.
Pacific Rose Apple Tart “roti,” Vanilla-Calvados Ice Cream, Roquefort Papillon
Charles Hours “Urolat” Jurançon 2010 France
I was expecting to see some type of foie gras component in the dessert, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, a warm apple tart, folded over like a roti, was topped with a vanilla ice cream that carried a hint of alcohol undertone. Thin and crispy sheets of roquefort provided the texture, as well as a bit of funk.
We finished with a few chocolates – white (with Piment d’Espelette), milk (with espresso) and dark.
I thought this was a good meal and kind of a bargain considering $100 of the price tag went straight to charity. It was definitely a heavy meal, seemingly moreso than the foie gras dinner by Ludo a month ago. While advertised as a competition/battle it actually wasn’t at all. If I had to pick a winner though, I’d say SoCal won given my favorite dishes were from Cimarusti and Wexler. However, none of the dishes were individually letdowns.
I was disappointed that none of the chefs (other than Féau) came out of the kitchen to stay hi to diners. Not a make-or-break at all, but I do enjoy that interaction in these types of special event dinners.