Amass ing! An incredible evening @ Amass.

Amass ing! An incredible evening @ Amass.

It is a frost worthy Nordic evening, silver mist hangs overhead and a light dew dapples our coats as we climb the stairs to our next foodie adventure. Matthew Orlando, former chef of Per Se, Noma and a host of other serious places has opened his new venture. Amass. Graffiti lines the walls, the kitchen is insanely open and the crowd is a mix of dressed socialites and hipsters. This is Amass, because food is for everyone and they don’t care how you come.

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We’re greeted and seated at what can only be described as the best seat in the house. Inches away from the pass we can see the kitchen pumping out seriously fine fare, snacks arrive and we jump straight into the world of Nordic food with attitude. Cod head rillette looks like a stegosaur, grey spikes peaking high off the plate, the spikes are in fact deliciously puffed fish skin filled with the savoury rillette mix. Textural, creamy and delightful.

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Next a curious looking wrapped parcel arrives, this dish was probably my favourite as it was so complex. Wrapped inside a vividly green chard leaf was a baby leek that had been perfectly steamed and stuffed with pieces of salted mackerel. The bright nasturtium on top brings bitterness in contrast to the salty mackerel and sweet leek, this dish wanted to be eaten! Bitter greens, salted mackerel vinaigrette, young onion. And eaten it was. Yum.

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Another semi snack dish arrives; crispy oats, hot smoked foie gras, walnut. A winter snow is the only way to describe the texture of the foie, delicately shaved over a wafer thin crisp made of oat. The foie is rich, with the smoke bringing a lovely depth after eating. At this time we are also tempted with some insanely good fermented flatbread, charred and gnarly, Jess and I could not stop eating, but there’s more food to come and I need to save room.

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The next course arrives looking like a piece of art, squid, beans, sour plums, marigold. This beautiful dish was oceanic and herbaceous, the unctuous, melting squid, the little pop of sour plum and the wonderfully crisp green bean. This is cookery performed beautifully, complexity concealed by simplicity. This is the mark of a true craftsmen, it is a pleasure to eat.

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Burnt kale, chicken skin, almond. We hear our next course crackling away in a pan, then it arrives, the kale is crisp in places, wilted in others, it is delightfully textural. The chicken skin gives that slovenly fattiness that is just naughty and enjoyable, almond is another little crackle. The dish is devoured, that is all I can say. Earthy kale, chicken fat, more please!

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An egg is placed in front of us. Glistening golden and smelling of rich toffee, it sits in a velouté of sorrel and young herbs. The egg yolk is cooked slightly beyond runny allowing for different flavours to develop. It has an almost lingering sweetness, with caramel and honey notes. The velouté brings the whole thing into the earth with wonderful herbaceousness.

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Now as Jess and I are in the midst of an extended tasting menu the fantastic food just keeps arriving. Danish monkfish with ceps and brown butter. Fish and mushroom is such a great combination. The mushrooms provide an intense savouriness that allows the meaty flavours of fish to shine. Brown butter here brings a hazelnut, salty delight swimming in and amongst the exquisitely cooked monkfish. From the sea to me. Dive in.

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Now time for some serious meat, it arrives as lamb breast, squash, baby corn and sunflower seeds. This was a dish celebrating the wonderful squash and corn. Don’t get me wrong the lamb is mighty tasty, soft and fork tender I polish this plate off in just a few bites. Sunflower makes for a delicious bite and oiliness that pairs well with the rich lamb. Yum!

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With our savoury courses finished Jess and I sit back and wait on dessert. Brought to us by chef Orlando himself our little taste of wonder. Blueberries, the freshest of the nearly finished season, drizzled with honey from a Nordic fisherman. Yes I said a fisherman. Matt tells us the story of a jaunty man on his boat bringing in many treats from the sea, one day he arrived with jars of honey. When asked where the honey was from he replied “the boat of course.” The fellow keeps bees on the roof of his fishing vessel. A wonderful story of how food comes to us in incredible ways. The honey is deliciously floral and makes the little sweet pops of blueberry step forward in a different light. This is a dish that makes me marvel at the world and all of the bounty that lays before us chefs.

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Our evening draws to a close and dessert is served. Apple, black pepper ice cream, bitter caramel, oregano. Intrigued? Jess and I certainly were. The apples are cooked in the caramel, the heat of black pepper contradicts the cold cold ice cream, oregano brings spice to the dish absurdly reminiscent of apple pie. It is an incredible play on spice, heat, cold, sweet. It is fantastic and ends our meal in a way that almost sums up our dining experience. Incredible.

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Petit four is whisked out with some serious coffee, kitchen is on the scrub and we take this opportunity to snack on some bay cakes and chat with the chefs. Matt is humble, driven and fantastically passionate. Each of his chefs look like creating great food is what they do rather than just a job. It is infectious and Jess and I truly love meeting inspiring people that love the industry as much as us.

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It’s amassing!

Josh and Jess

Amass Restaurant
Revshalevej 153; 1432 Copenhagen, Denmark
http://www.amassrestaurant.com

Breaking Bouchon. An experience in extravagance.

Breaking Bouchon. An experience in extravagance.

Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s Michelin starred restaurant in beautiful Yountville. It is a restaurant written about, talked about, and it has cookbooks. What it also has is 80 seats that will serve around 250 guests in a single service.

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This place is packed but what you feel here is care. The waiters care about serving you, the chefs want to please. So much so that they’re willing to let a couple of rowdy foodies into their kitchen to check out the well oiled machine that is Bouchon.

It’s a lovely day in picturesque Yountville. This town practically smiles at you with it’s lush gardens and friendly people. We are quickly seated outside and we start rifling through the menu. The sommelier Woody pops over and introduces himself. Well there is a man who loves his job. He was practically beaming just to see us enjoying the place. We haven’t even ordered yet. This is true hospitality at its finest. Now to food.

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We start with an assortment of entrées; a tarte flambée, which consisted of baked Alsatian flatbread with bacon lardons, sliced onions, thyme and creme fraiche. Umm more please? For Jess an enormous, jaw dropping bowl of French onion soup. The soup is topped with gruyere cheese, molten, bubbling gruyere cheese. This is French phenomena! It is so delicious that both of us cannot stop eating shovel full scoops of it. But wait there’s a present from the chefs! We must apologise to Jess’s baby sister because our next course was kermit the frog. Yes, breaded frog legs with sauce gribiche. Wow! This was Jessica’s first experience with frog legs and she was tucking in like it was fried chicken. Bring on mains because I can already feel myself filling up on the awesome bread that came out as well.

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Main course time. For me Fietan Poele. Or to us English speaking folk. Alaskan halibut with seared heirloom tomato, garden squash and basil vinaigrette. My fish is cooked to perfection, buttery, soft and just falling apart. Fish cookery at its finest. The seared tomato adds a touch of acidity to the dish while the basil rounds everything out with herbaceous freshness. It is a lovely summer lunch and I am loving it. For Jess. Gnocchi a la Parisienne. Sautéed gnocchi with garden vegetables and brown butter sauce. This dish is a dish of Napa; it screams summer garden and the sauce is that little bit of lux that everyone needs. We also have side dishes. As if we needed them. Sweet corn with bacon and a whole dish of macaroni gratin. Wow we are so so full but I have to keep eating. It’s going to take a hero to eat dessert.

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This time the hero was not myself but Jess. She stepped up to thetraveltotaste need for photos and ordered mousse au chocolat au lait with fleur de sel caramel. This is a dish from the heavens. Milk chocolate mousse covered in a dark chocolate glaze and filled with salted caramel. Good god that is serious richness.  Thought I couldn’t possibly take another bite but suddenly all I want is more. We polish off the dessert and then Woody takes us into the heart of the machine. The kitchen.

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One word can describe the kitchen at Bouchon. Efficient. There are chefs cleaning every surface while the sous calls dockets. Chefs on the grill look like they’ve been there for years. The kitchen hums with quiet confidence. Not just because they know the Thomas Keller name is behind them but the chefs here have the knowledge that what they’re doing is appreciated by their customers. Everyone here is smiling and the food is truly fantastic. Get yourself to Yountville and get yourself to Bouchon.

The French Laundry may be Chef Keller’s renowned restaurant but Bouchon stands strong on its own very firm feet. You may struggle to get reservations at TFL but Bouchon is ready to welcome you and it is well worth it.

Step into chef Keller’s world. This machine is ready to roll.

Josh and Jess

Bouchon Bistro Yountville
6534 Washington ST Yountville, California USA
http://www.bouchonbistro.com/yountville

Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

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Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

We start with a casual late check out today at Royal Pacific Motor Inn and feel as though the rest of the day will continue the same. Pick up to the airport arrives as we wave goodbye to sunny San Francisco, when suddenly we are thrown into conversation with the driver. First it’s why we’re in town, then it’s our choice of weed. This New Yorker moved to San Fran because the laws were a little more lenient for his lifestyle, he was a little disappointed when we knew little of the subject.

Suddenly our travels are thrown into turmoil as we’re taken into the almost underbelly of San Fran to pick up some wayward travellers. After an hours drive, a lot of laughs and a few bumps on the head, we arrive at San Francisco airport to pick up our very first rental car of the trip.

Simon, our Hertz customer service consultant seemed to know more about what we wanted then us. “Upgrade to a more luxurious car” “You’ll need more room I’ll upgrade to bigger car” “You need to sit higher I’ll upgrade you to higher car”. It was like trying to lose a salesman in a car yard! Finally we make it out and head to our rental, a silver Chevy, a large, luxurious and fairly high seated car, without the additional hundred dollar a day fee.

It’s Josh’s turn to stress. I get in the right side of the car as Josh heads toward the wheel. He looks nervous. I remind him of some helpful advice from one of my customers, passengers in the gutter!

Thank god for the GPS! If you think driving in Sydney is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This highway is intense. Josh grips the wheel tight as we merge into the middle, an hour passes and as Josh wipes the sweat from his brow we arrive in Yountville, a small town in the Napa Valley.

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Yountville is a beautiful town. Large houses and quaint B&B’s surrounded by gardens, pebble paths and flowers, oh the flowers. We settle at the Bordeaux House, a French Provincial cottage slice of cake. Speaking of cake, Bouchon Bakery is calling our name.. After a lot of salivating we settle on croissants, pain au chocolat, chocolate bouchon, whoopie pie, ham and Dijon baguette, pork belly fouiee, eclairs and lemon tart. Finished with a double Mach for Josh and an iced salted caramel latte for me. This is just pastry heaven. Some of the best and most delicious pastries we have ever eaten.

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Full of Bouchon, we detour to Thomas Keller’s pride and joy, The French Laundry. One of the only restaurants we were unable to book. We stalk the kitchen, behind the restaurant is a smell that could only mean chef is prepping for dinner, it’s garlic, butter and all things delightful.

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For dinner, we head to Ad Hoc, another of Chef Keller’s top eateries. A four course set menu that is added to when fresh shaved white Italian truffle and bone marrow are mentioned, this time we welcome the upgrades. Ad Hoc is everything I love when it comes to eating out, Josh will tell you more about the food in the restaurant review but I want to mention our waiter. It really makes you love your job when you see front of house staff like this, always smiling, singing along to the 80’s retro pop/rock background music and hearing him say “I’m here for you” when a customer had special dietary requests.

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Our stay in Napa is short and sweet.

The leftover pastries won’t last the night.

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Jess and Josh

Now this is Napa Style. Dinner at Ad Hoc

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Now this is Napa Style. Dinner @ Ad-hoc

The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s beacon restaurant, remains one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get reservations at. I mean Jess and I have reservations at Noma, Faviken, Mugaritz, Alinea, the list goes on and on but how the hell you get reservations at TFL. Clueless. So we settle for a peep through the hedges and loads of photos out the front.

Luckily for us The Napa Valley is like Thomas Keller’s house and he has several restaurants, and a bakery, for you to enjoy. We are in fact visiting all of them. Ad-hoc is an impromptu little place where the menu is so produce driven that it changes daily. Served family style, we settle in for a four course menu with a few cocktails. BUT THEN… Our waiter says “oh, we have some additions this evening.” Oh some additions? We love additions. Then he mentioned summer truffles. All the way from Alba. 25 dollars. Sir you have a deal! Then bone marrow is mentioned. I’m a chef. This guy knew when he said bone marrow that I was eating it. I mean bone marrow. Bring it on.

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We open the evening with a salad of asparagus, hens eggs, frisée, and a piquillo pepper salsa. Jess and I are deep into a house made spiced vodka lemonade and a No sleep till…kind of like a whiskey, orange bitter concoction. The salad is just wonderful, the cooking here is refined and sophisticated. It takes a confident chef to send a simple dish of asparagus, lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, and perfectly poached hens eggs. This is clever cooking. A light start, like a kiss on a warm summers evening.

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 Main course is a mans dish. Meat. Roasted meat. Then I of course added mounds of white truffle and bone marrow. This is a seriously great dish. Ribeye cooked on the bone, sautéed chanterelles, carrots and Swiss chard. On the side, a risotto of corn with a Parmesan foam. Also covered in white truffle. The meat is cooked perfectly, the fat melts in the mouth and the meat has a delicious grassland note. The chefs here care about their produce. If it isn’t great tasting you just won’t see it on the menu at Ad-hoc.

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The bone marrow is roasted and served with a caponata of sautéed eggplants and capers. It is everything that it should be, rich, oozing, fatty, white deliciousness. I can literally feel my arteries clogging. We haven’t even had cheese yet and I’m smearing marrow on bread like a Viking warrior. The stomach is starting to fill

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Cheese is served as a dish of its own right. No crackers, no jarred quince paste. San Andreas, a sheeps milk cheese, aged for three months; served with shaved fennel, plums and candied pecan. Now I usually consider the pecan a waste of a nut but everything is better candied. The cheese has an almost pecorino note, it also reminds Jess a little of Parmesan. Firm yet creamy and utterly delicious.

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Dessert is a throwback to everyone’s childhood. A sundae bar. There’s house made fudge sauce, caramel, cookie crumbs and brownie pieces. The sundae glasses are tall and frosty, filled with freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream.

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Excuse me? Can I lick the glass please? Jess and I are up to our elbows in ice cream and giggling like we’re five years old. Are other tables looking? Who cares.

imageThis is the spirit of Ad-hoc, a place to take away the hunger pains. A place where food is the driving force of everything the talented staff do. This isn’t about formality or a waiters stiff upper lip. The staff are in jeans and laughing with diners. This entire place is warm, welcoming and not pretentious in any way. We loved everything we ate and will definitely be back.

Do yourself a favour and add (hoc) this one to your list.

Josh and Jess

 Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St Yountville, California USA
 http://www.adhocrestaurant.com