Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Test Kitchen | Pressman & Silverton - 09/20/2010

9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0133

8-courses of balls by a "big big name chef" there was no way I was missing this. In fact, this was perhaps the busiest night at Test Kitchen to date with plenty of chefs, bloggers, and other food cognoscenti in attendance.

The powers that be at Test Kitchen were playing this one close to their vest, not willing to reveal the name of the evening's chef until the last minute. Turned out it was two big names Amy Pressman & Nancy Silverton who were previewing their new burger restaurant Short Order.

01: Amuse-bouche - Teardrop Pretzel Roll, Mustard Butter, Assorted Pickles
More of a bread course than an amuse, the pretzel rolls possessed a buttery richness and light saltiness that paired beautifully with the piquant sweetness of the Dijon butter.

Strawberries on Fire - Jalapeno Infused Gin, Strawberry, Lime, Cane Syrup
Fresh fruit with spice seems to be a popular combo, this time around the jalapeno was more forward intertwining seamlessly with the strawberry for a fiery sweet drink that all of us adored.

Virginia Bootlegger - Moonshine, Fresh Citrus, Rosemary, Red Bell Pepper
Next up was the Virginia Bootlegger which used a citrus zing with a subtle vegetal twang cut the overarching booziness from the moonshine.

Fall Rangoon - Pimm's no 1, Seasonal Fruit, Lime, Lemon, Mint, Canella Syrup
Completing our initial trio was a cocktail that possessed an herbaceousness that I couldn't put my finger on until my companion aptly referred to it as "root-beer" like.

02: Tofu Silken Tofu - Heirloom Tomato, Arugula, Basil, Soy, Balsamic, Olive Oil, Yuba
Apparently the staff believes in a balanced diet, tossing in a salad course prior to the meatball onslaught. The dish was a play on caprese with tofu in place of the mozzarella, though the texture was sufficiently creamy, I would have appreciated a bit more flavor from the tofu. The star of this dish was the interplay between the forward earthy arugula and the fragrant tomatoes.

03: Tuna Tartar Aioli - Aioli, Haricot Vert, Shell Bean, Roasted Pepper, Botarga
The fish itself wasn't particularly noteworthy though the saffron aioli did give it a nice bite. Instead the flavor was all in the accompanying salad, an astringent and austere style that I've just never cared for.

04: Paired Birds (Duck and Turkey) - Bird Jus, Truffled Stuffing, Poached Duck Egg
After a rocky start, the meal picked up sharply starting with this course. We all wished for a chicken meatball to accompany the duck and turkey, a deconstructed turducken of sorts! As it was, the dish was still a superb interpretation of a Thanksgiving dinner. Both meatballs showcased the distinctive flavors of their origins and the viscous layer of yolk gave the already tender balls an extra layer of moistness. Naturally no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without stuffing and the truffled preparation here was hands down the most delicious stuffing I've ever eaten and the perfect foil to the birds.

05: Lamb - Salsa Verde, Feta, Eggplant, Fregola, Harissa
Lamb and feta are such a natural pairing, something that was eminently evident with this course. The natural essence of the lamb is heightened by the piquant tang of the cheese while both are tempered by the lively salsa verde. The fregola added a nice textural contrast but I could have done with a bit less on the plate.

Notorious F.I.G - Cognac, Black Mission Fig, Crème de Cassis, Champagne
Cognac and champagne pair so well together in cocktails, their boozy edge was balanced here by juicy fig and blackcurrant giving the cocktail a definite sweetness and a minty herbal undercurrent.

Flight of the Concord - Gin, Concord Grape, Crème de Violet, Peach Bitters
One of the more complex cocktails of the evening, the fragrant aroma of the violet leads into a sweet herbaceous body with strong notes of sweet wine on the finish.

06: Pork - Rapini, Crispy Garlic, Sage Leaves
In terms of the meatball alone, the pork was the best of the entire night, densely textured with a succulent porcine sapor yet not overly heavy. The rapini provided a violently bitter counterpoint that was best used sparingly. I appreciated the use of bitterness to balance the meat but a less aggressive vegetable might have been more effective.

Drunken Girlscout
- Vodka, Ice Cream, Mint, Crème de Cacao, amaretto
It is a point of immense pride that a drink named the Drunken Girlscout was created in his honor, but I wonder what that says about him. Despite the name and its dubious honor, the drink itself is spectacular, notes of sweetness, chocolate, and mint are muted by a strong alcoholic heat which always left me wanting one more sip.

07: Grass-fed Beef Ravioli-o - Summer "Gravy" (Philly for Red Sauce), Ricotta, Basil Butter
If I had to use one word for this I would say uninspired. Aside from the verdant aroma of the basil butter, the flavor profile is that of a textbook lasagna. Not that the course wasn't enjoyable but its simplicity felt out of place in the meal especially for the final savory course.

08: Peach Pie - Peach Brown Sugar Caramel, Buttermilk semifreddo
Chef Pressman is not one that I normally associate with the words "liquid nitrogen" so it was a pleasant surprise to see it incorporated in the buttermilk semifreddo. The texture was incredibly airy almost dissolving on the tongue and leaving only the essence of the buttermilk behind. A clever and effective foil to the sugary sweet peach pie.

This was the type of meal I was expecting when I first heard about Test Kitchen, some hits, some misses but always fun.

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