Feeding my puppy with Japanese goodness

I know that the point of a blog is to post with regularity. It is sort of like having a puppy. You can’t just expect it to grow and subsist on its own. It needs nurturing, food, water. And, of course, a place to poop. But that’s beside the point. After the crazy months of May and June – birthdays, wine, anniversaries, wine visitors, wine, crimped hair – it’s time to start taking care of the pet that is my blog.

I’m excited to say that this post – and a few subsequent ones – should be pretty interesting. At least, they were fun for me to experience. This past month found me in Napa for 5 days on a work trip that included everything from great food from the folks at Bouchon and Meadowood to dinners by celeb chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Chiarello.

Sometimes my day job allows me to do some pretty cool stuff. This go-round, it was attending Auction Napa Valley (aka Heaven) and hosting some really nice people. Night number one of my trip, I found myself back at Cook in St. Helena. I’ll share what I had in a subsequent post, but won’t bore you with too much detail since I’ve already dedicated an entire post to this lovely little gem of a restaurant. As such, let’s jump to night number 2.

Toro and hamachi tartare

 Our group was fortunate enough to enjoy a special dinner prepared by the Iron Chef himself, Masaharu Morimoto. I could go on for days about how geeked up I was about watching him work, but that’s not what you want to read. You probably just want to know about the food. All nine courses of it.

Prior to being seated, Chef did sushi to order. Step up to the bar and pick your seafood of choice from some of the freshest, most gorgeous product I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. It smelled like the sea air in the best possible way. 

Upon being seated, we were brought the first course, a duo of toro and hamachi tartare. As you can see, the presentation was stunning. The idea was to use a small silver paddle and to scoop the toro or hamachi along with the condiments in the center of the plate, which included everything from wasabi and nori paste to guacamole and chives. All of the flavors were delicate and it was impossible not to discover something new with each bite. Best thing I’ve ever eaten with a paddle. And the only thing.

Second course was a kampachi with hot oil and yuzu soy. Four small bites of kampachi that had been rolled and stuffed, after which, hot oil was poured on them to lightly cook the outside. Petite dish. Big and tall flavor.

Hearts of palm mousse, et al

Third course featured a hearts of palm mousse with kinmedai, sea urchin and basil oil  served with bagna cauda with garlic anchovy sauce. This dish was one of the more interesting of the evening, as it was one of the times where Morimoto showed off his prowess as it relates to fusing different kinds of cuisine. Plus, you can’t go wrong when the ingredients are all top-notch. The artichokes and other vegetables on the skewers were fresh and tender, and the hearts of palm mousse provided a silky base for the kinmedai.

Fourth course – and the last one I’ll bore you with in this post – was a foie gras chawan mushi and oyster foie gras with sea urchin and teriyaki sauce. This was probably the dish I was most nervous about, largely because texture, rather than flavor, has the biggest potential for killing a dish for me. Here’s the deal – the flavors were great and most everyone in the room seemed to enjoy this course thoroughly. I couldn’t seem to get over my fear of consuming sea urchin and the custardy chawan mushi – while quite silky and gorgeous – just wasn’t for me. But considering the talented palate of the Chef, I’m sure this was eater error on my part.

You’re probably asking by this point – wasn’t there some sort of beverage served with all of this fantasticness? Well, yes. Of course ther ewas. The friendly folks at Gargiulo were our hosts for the evening and shared with us not only their pinot grigio but also their chardonnay – neither of which are currently available on the market. That chardonnay…oh, that chardonnay. Bless Jeff and Valerie for sharing with us, given its limited supply. A light golden hue, bright flavor, excellent fruit without that heavy, buttery quality displayed by most California chardonnays. Sheer delight. If that was the first and only wine of that particular varietal I’d ever tried, perhaps I’d put myself in the “chardonnay-lover” category. I’m not quite there yet, but this particular wine was a step in the right direction.

Next post will round out the remaining courses – from intermezzo through dessert. I’d write the whole story now, but just writing about this has made me quite hungry and thirsty. Plus it is dinner time for the actual pups.

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