Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nor Cal vs So Cal Foie Battle “The Whole Duck” @ The Royce - 05/14/2012

1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 585-6410

With the impending ban of foie gras less than two months away, it was inevitable that chefs throughout the state would mourn its loss the only way they can, by celebrating the ingredients in the time left. We've already seen the "Two Dudes" from Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, for an all foie collaboration back in October of 2011 with Ludo Lefebvre who hosted a solo best of foie gras dinner about a month ago. In the same vein, Melissé unveiled an eight course foie gras menu that they will serve until the ban takes effect and I can only imagine the events getting more extravagant as the dreaded date draws nearer.

Tonight we have the most ambitious yet, a Nor Cal vs So Cal Foie Gras Battle dubbed "The Whole Duck" taking place across multiple restaurants. C.H.E.F.S., the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, along with Los Angeles’ leading restaurants: Mélisse, The Royce at The Langham, Patina and Animal, will simultaneously host a six-course prix fixe dinner to support sustainable farming practices and "the whole duck." The battle for foie gras will feature esteemed chefs at each of the participating restaurants working side-by-side.

Supplement: Foie Gras Torchon wrapped in Seared Foie Gras - Leek Ash, Rhubarb, Smoked Black Truffle Bread
Chef Feau has always taken care of us when we drop by his restaurant and tonight would be no different. A relatively straightforward foie preparation, Feau referred to this as his take on a chilled seared foie gras. I loved the textural interplay from the duet of duck liver. The chilled foie was delicious with the bitter and sweet accompaniments or spread on the smoky crusty roll made with the last winter truffles of the season.

1st Course: Foie Gras and Cherry Blossom Parfait - Barley, Sea Beans | Chef Doug Keane (Cyrus)
Mumm Napa Brut Reserve NV
The meal proper began with a slightly airy foie gras covered by a gelatin made from sake, mirin and cherry blossoms which gave the parfait a delicate floral character. The gelatin and parfait melt quickly on the palate forming an umami liquid foie gras while the sea beans and toasted barley give the dish a nice saltiness as well as a lively crunch.

2nd Course: Artisan Foie Gras Torchon and Big Eye Tuna, - Mustard Fruit, Saba | Chef Peter Armellino (Plumed Horse)
Testarossa Winery "Plumed Blanc" 2010 Arroyo Seco
I was quite surprised by the flavor progression on this dish. After a pronounced sweetness on the attack, the heady smoke of the tuna comes through clearly before the mostarda's sweetness finishes things off. Additionally, the relatively lean flesh of the tuna benefits greatly from the creamy richness of the liver. The thin layer of brioche adds a toasty crunch that contrasts sharply with the dense jelly like consistency of the fish

3rd Course: Foie Gras Custard - Spring Vegetables, Smoked Sturgeon, Rye | Chef Micah Wexler (Mezze)
Cornerstone "Stepping Stone Corallina Rose" Syrah 2011
This was easily one of the strongest dishes of the night thanks to the sublime finesse and balance of the foie with its various accoutrements. The custard conveys a subtle essence of essence of richness that underpins rather than overpowers the rest of the plate. Likewise the keen smoky heft of the sturgeon, malty crunch of the rye "earth," and multifaceted vegetables all contribute integral facets to the dish.

4th Course: Foie Gras Sauté - with Grilled and partially dehydrated strawberries | Chef Michael Cimarusti (Providence)
Hill Family Estate Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Napa
Despite being better known for his seafood, Cimarusti makes one of the more better warm foie gras presentations that I've had recently. Plated with a contemporary flair, the foie rests on a bed of strawberries that perfume the foie but without feeling cloying.

5th Course: Pan roasted Duck Breast - Forbidden Rice and Foie Gras "Risotto," Pickled Ramps, Duck Confit, Cherry Jus | Chef Victor Scargle (Lucy at Bardessono)
Arkenstone "Obsidian" Howell Mountain 2007 Napa
Up to this point, I hadn't seen much of the "whole duck" aspect of the meal but Chef Scargle's dish was clearly more about the duck's meat than its liver. The confit shows the distinctive flavor of five spice while the breast has a more muscular texture and crisp savory skin. The foie is only present in a subtle sweetness in the "risotto"

6th Course: Dry Aged Beef "Bouillon," - Foie Gras Fondue, Tarragon Printed Pasta, Crimini Mushroom | Chef David Feau (The Royce)
Ackerman Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvinon 2007 Napa
Last but certainly not least, we have our dish from the evening's host, Chef David Feau. In a night of distinctive foie gras presentations this one might take the cake. Foie shavings are melted by a broth made from dry aged beef and the resulting mixture demonstrates a clean beefy power as well as a seductive weight from the fondue. Personally, I found the lobe of foie unnecessary as the shaved bits we enough to convey the liver's offal-y richness.

Supplement: Pistachiola - Ground Pistachio, Raspberries, Sorrel Sorbet
Pity there weren't any protesters at The Royce, they may have appreciated this course. The granola is seasoned with the distinctive flavor of pistachio while the sorrel adds a verdant creamy sweetness but doesn't overpower the wholesome nuttiness of the pistachiola.

Dessert: Pacific Rose Apple Tart "roti" - Vanilla-Calvados Ice Cream, Roquefort Papillon
Charles Hours "Urolat" Jurançon 2010 France
The final course of the night was a delightfully complex apple tart. The airy crunch of the phyllo contrasts with the dense buttery crust of the tart. The sugary flavor of the cooked apple and ice cream are fairly traditional but the savory funk of the Roquefort makes both flavors shine.

Though billed as a competition, the meal turned out to be more of a collaborative dinner. As always these events seem to bring out the best in those participating resulting in distinctive and unconventional preparations of foie gras. Feau mentioned the possibility of another dinner on June 30th, something my mouth is anticipating but my heart is dreading.


Sam C. said...

nice post. Thanks for providing the coverage. I'm surprised no one protested at the royce. lol.

Charlie Fu said...

Man, I live right next to the Royce, stayed at the Langham last week.. but still haven't eaten there.

If you guys go for the 30th let me know!

Epicuryan said...

I think The Royce being in a hotel and residential area it would have been harder to stage an effective protest. Also why go to Pasadena when there are easier targets in Santa Monica.

Will keep you posted. Even if we don't go I'd highly recommend checking out the tasting menu at The Royce.

Rodzilla said...

Awesome review Ryan. I'm glad to see that some of the dishes focused on the duck itself, as the ban will have implications for the entire bird.

I know you had your fair share of foie, but were you hoping to see it make an appearance in the dessert course?