Monday, July 28, 2008

Chef's Table at Addison

By far the best meal I have EVER had was on July 18, 2008 at the Chef's Table in Addison at The Grand Del Mar I have had some fantastic meals in my lifetime, but this one was almost magical. In June, Patrick and I dined in the main dining room at Addison Del Mar. The food was delicious and the service was exemplary, but the Chef's Table dinner was a once in a lifetime experience. Linda and Gordy wanted to do something special for their birthdays; July 18th and July 22nd, respectively. Linda and I had taken a tour of Addison one day after tea at the hotel. Linda had kept the Chef's Table experience in mind for a special occassion. She deemed the double birthday such and occasion. Linda emailed the usual suspects and a group of 10 emerged for the adventure.

Patrick and I both donned Afghani garb for the evening. My pashmina in the picture is from Afghnistan. Patrick's suit was custom made for him in Afghanistan, fitted at the Camp Egger's weekly bazaar. It's a very nice light wool, perfect for a summer's evening.

The evening began at 7:30 on our own private veranda just outside the Chef Table room at Addison. Of course we took a few pictures and ordered some cocktails. I couldn't decide what type of cocktail to order, so I asked for a recommendation from the server. She suggested a Blueberry Pomegranite Martini which was absolutely delicious. Not too tart, not too sweet and perfectly refreshing.
Seated for dinner from the bottom left clockwise: Keith, Robert, Karen, Linda, Gordy, Colin, Dianna, Annie, Rebecca and Patrick is behind the camera. The one thing I noted lacking from the main dining room was the little stools for you purse. Addison has small footstools to place your purses on in the main dining room, but they weren't offered at the Chef's Table. I suppose with the whole room to yourselves there are plenty of places to stow your handbag.
According to the restaurant's website: "The Chef’s Table seats up to 12 guests maximum and provides guests with an intimate dining experience. Chef William Bradley will personally customize a menu based on seasonality of ingredients. Wine pairings for each course are carefully selected. The room has a lush ambiance and richly hued upholstered arm chairs, carved wood detailing, limestone fireplaces and a vaulted ceiling. There is a private terrace overlooking the Grand Golf Course. [There is a] dedicated service team to ensure a most memorable personalized meal."

This is the menu that was developed by Chef Bradley for Gordy & Linda's birthday dinner. I know you can't read it, so I will retype it all above the pictures below. Chef Bradley signed menus for everyone to take home which made for a very unique keepsake.
Our sommelier was Dan Pilkey, not to be confused with one of Thomas' favorite authors Dav Pilkey...of the Captain Underpants" series. Dan was a sommelier at the Tapenade Restaurant in La Jolla, then at NINE-TEN and now he is at Addison with Wine Director/Head Sommelier Jesse Rodriguez and Chef William Bradley. We found him extremely informative and lots of fun. He has a really engaging presentation style and was just delightful. Most importantly, his pairings were outstanding. He listened to Linda's description of what we like and were delighted to be served a Chillean cabernet- homage to Phil and Veronica's wedding.
One of the benefits of sitting at the Chef's table is the ability to watch the kitchen from one of a pair of plasma TV's. Of course there is no sound and the TV's are placed high enough that they are not a distraction.
Immediately after sitting down, we were treated to an amuse bouche. It was a dough akin to a puff pastry that was filled with cheese, it escapes me what kind of cheese at the moment... Keith guessed correctly that evening. We were all impressed with his palate. The amuse bouche was delicious, a little salty and a little sweet.
This was followed by a few spoonfuls of this cold melon soup, also I presume called an amuse bouche.
The first wine was poured after the amuse bouche(s). I don't know if that term can be plural or not... I think this is the first time I have ever used the word in written form! We were treated to a sparkling white, Domaine Chandon, Napa. Fun and festive... really setting the celebratory tone.
The first course was a Salmon Tartar served with caviar and and yuzu vinaigrette. As Colin is not a seafood lover, I happily helped him finish his salmon.
The second course was Shellfish Melange, avocado, extra virgin olive oil. My plate arrived sans scallop, which was remedy immediately. I was really impressed with how quickly a new plate complete with the scallop arrived. I believe the measure of good service is not in whether or not a mistake is made... it is in how mistakes are handled. The server was apologetic, but she didn't dwell on it. She just fixed it quickly and quietly. I'm not sure if everyone at the table even knew that I was missing my plate until Colin (the anti-marinavore) passed his down to me. Again, the scallop and the shrimp were outstanding.
After the second course, a new wine was poured. La Scarpetta, Vino De Tavola Bianco, "First Edition", Friuli, Italy 2006. The Italian term La Scarpetta refers to the mopping up of the last remnants of sauce on a plate with a piece of bread. (Which makes me cringe a bit when I involuntary recall the main character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, in the Patricia Cornwell series - Dr. Scarpetta is a medical examiner.) The wine is the joint venture of Bobby Stuckey, former French Laundry Sommalier, and Chef Lachlan Patteson, his partner in Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. See, I listened to Dan... ok maybe I google'd that one. I refer to this as the "magic wine". I had a few sips before the food was served and it was very nice. But then when you took a bite of the third course (the salmon pictured below) and then drank the wine it magically tasted completely different. It was absoultely bursting with flavor. I've looked on-line but I don't think you can purchase this wine. If anyone knows where I can buy it, please let me know.
This is the third course: Butter Baked Salmon, onion soubise, vanilla. I would have never had thought to serve salmon with vanilla, but it was amazing.
And the fourth course: Potato Gnocchi, braised romaine, parmesan, black truffle butter. It doesn't have the visual presentation of the first three courses, but it was absolutely delicious. And yes, the Scarpetta wine was still being poured during this course and the magic wine changed flavor yet again.
After the gnocchi was cleared, a new wine selection was poured. Montgras-Antu, Cabernet Sauvignon, "Ninquen Estate Vineyard" Colchagua Valley, Chile 2004. Of course, it was a very nice wine... not magic, but by this point I don't think I was all that discerning. Having already consumed one martini and three glasses of wine...
The fifth course was served next: Spring Lamb Persille, aubergine au gratin, pequin pepper confiture. This is when I became quite alert again. I had no idea what aubergine was (the vegetable on the left hand side of the plate) until it was placed in front of me. EGGPLANT! Anything but eggplant... ok not peanuts either. Is eggplant the new hip vegetable? Why is it that suddenly eggplant is on every menu? Patrick is allergic to eggplant - horribly allergic; which Linda advised the restaurant of his allergy earlier in the week. After abruptly ending two lovely meals with reactions to eggplant in the past four months, one on a cuise ship in Puerto Vallerta and one at Il Fornaio in Del Mar (eggplant was an ingredient in their ravioli appetizer), I refused to allow Patrick to even eat from the plate. Maybe I was over reacting, but I just couldn't deal with another violent allergic reaction. And I really wanted to sample the dessert this time, thank you very much. Again the waitstaff quickly and quietly remedied the situation. I am not a lamb eater, so I promptly sent my plate down to Colin.
The sixth course was for the turophiles (cheese lovers). I used that word for Linda's amusement. It was a very nice bleu cheese served with water crackers. I do enjoy a good bleu cheese all by itself, but now that Annie had introduced me to blue cheese with dates, I have to admit that the water crackers were less than spectacular. I would recommend my new favorite crackers: Margaret's Artisan date and walnut crisps.
We were served raspberry sorbet to cleanse our pallets after the bleu cheese.
We were served port: Quinta de la Rosa Lote 601 Ruby Port. Linda is a huge port fan.
And the seventh and final course: Chocolate Caneles, pistachios, red cherries. It was so good, and perfectly sized. Just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and not feel like I had over indulged. These "candies" were presented after the final course.
And at the end of the meal, Chef Bradley came in and said hello to everyone.
Almost four hours later, we went out to the balcony for one more photograph of a spectacular evening.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Slideshow from Afghanistan

Fort Riley Slideshow

Patrick gave a presentation this weekend while drilling up at Port Huneme, here is the slideshow of pictures from Fort Riley:

Monday, July 7, 2008


When Patrick was leaving for Afghanistan, he made a deal with Madigan that they would get a dog when he returned. While Patrick was gone, however, Thomas' allergy doctor discovered that he is allergic to dogs and cats amongst many other things. The doctor said that even though some breeds have hair instead of fur, that they still produce allergens specifically in their salvia. The doctor said "No dogs" and Thomas was a happy camper, since the only dog he wants is our old dog Tessa (who passes away 7 years ago). But Madigan was very unhappy.
My friend Lisa finally caved in on the pet front with her daughter Kelsey last November. For Kelsey's birthday, Lisa and Tim adopted a pet Lionhead rabbit affectionately known as Pepper, a.k.a. "Sir Poops-a-lot". Madigan went to Kelsey's bunny birthday party and set her sights on a pet rabbit. WELL, this spring Lisa's neighbor bred her pet Lionhead bunny "Simba" with another neighbor's rabbit "Max". Simba gave birth to 7 baby bunnies on Tuesday May 20th and Lisa called right away. Only 6 of the babies survived, and ultimately Madigan had first choice on which bunny to take home. Orginally she wanted one of the 3 white ones... I thought the gray one was the cutest.

We went over about once a week to visit the bunnies, I started to like one of the white bunnies. But when it was fianlly her time to choose which bunny to bring home... Madigan picked the gray bunny. He is the runt of the litter and the most docile... and she wanted a bunny that wanted to be held all of the time.

For her birthday, we bought Madigan this bunny hutch. We refer to it as the bunny condo and keep it on the front porch so that snakes and other animals can't get to it.

On Sunday July 6th - 4 days after her 7th birthday, Madigan was allowed to take the bunny home. yes that is a bunny on leash that Lisa made for Madigan's birthday.

We went through a lot of names before we came up with one that Madigan loved. She named him "Dustbunny" and calls him "Dusty" for short.
These are real dust bunnies...

Madigan is one happy girl... and has forgotten all about getting a dog!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Corvette Diner Brithday Dinner

Madigan chose to have her birthday dinner this year at the Corvette Diner in Hillcrest. It's a fun 50's themed hamburger joint with fabulous milk shakes. They have a roaming magician who pulled coins out of her ears.
And dancing waitresses. Our waitress "Big Mama" gave Madigan a new hair-do with red milk shake straws... it was very fetching.
Matthew was in town on a lay over with FedEx, so it was great to have him with us!

Madigan's 7th Birthday

It is hard to believe that Madigan has turned 7 today. Days with my kids can be very L O N G but the years seem to fly by. Madigan's day started this morning with breakfast in bed, a tradition in our house. You only get the blue "Celebrate" plate on special occasions.
Today Madigan is spending the day at YMCA Day Camp with her friends. Her specific camp is called "Top Model". (Thomas is at a putt putt golf camp). Madigan came home yesterday afternoon with pink and green hair... and eye shadow. Oh boy. For dinner, we are going to the Corvette Diner. It's a fun 50's themed restaurant. Uncle Matt is in town on an off this week (flying for FedEx) and as it works out, Madigan gets a bonus guest for this year's birthday dinner.

You'd think that would be it for her birthday, but no. We make a big deal about birthdays. Yes, we (really it's just me, Patrick just plays along to appease me) are part of the eleborate kid party problem. Admitting it is the first step I hear...

Birthdays when Patrick and I were kids, consisted of a few gifts and cake after dinner with your brothers and sisters. But then when I was at Boston College and discovered the pleasure of a week long birthday celebration - yes Sally D, I'm talking about you - I was hooked. By the time I graduated college, I had two really good friends (Kelly and Clare - see the party pictures) that had the same birth date as me and we had some really great parties together. And part of the reason I overdo birthdays is because of my sister Nancy and the Irwin sisters. They always have fabulous parties for their kids... really memorable. So now I am doing it for my kids, and I have lots of help, so it's out of control... but I LOVE it! On Sunday Madigan had an Enchanted Tea Party at the Grand Del Mar.

Linda discovered this invitation in a book. Linda made all of the crowns, so all I had to do was the wording and assemble the cards.

Kristin made these amazing wrist corsages out of blank slap bracelets. Yes Elizabeth, they are butterflies and I did save you one... and one for your sister.

Kristin and I worked our fingers numb making pearl, crystal, and flower hair pins.

Linda and I made up a princess bingo game.

From the same book as the invitation, I made these placecards. The candies inside are called "Dutch Mints" and they are delicious.Kristin made up the party favors. When we went to the El Capitan to see "Enchanted" last December, we collected and saved 20 popcorn buckets. Since Patrick was in Afghanistan, Uncle Gordy carried them around all day for me. He's such a sport. Then Kristin sent pet gummy rats and "I Love NY" t-shirts. We added an apple for good measure - not poisoned of course.
Aunt Linda and Uncle Gordy had bought Madigan a beautiful pink and light green tea dress. Sadly Madigan proclaimed "it itches" and she begged to wear her all white Flower Fields dress. Still pretty, but I was disappointed that she wouldn't wear the green and pink dress.Gordy, Patrick and Thomas walked the girls from the valet to the library dressed in their tuxedos.The Grand Del Mar is a spectacular hotel. It's my new favorite place and it's only 5 minutes from our house. For the tea party, the staff put us in the library by ourselves. With 15 girls and a few parents watching it was perfect. We had one server named Jessica, who as fate would have it, is in school studying to be a teacher. She wants to teach first or second grade, how funny! She was absoultely wonderful and really great with the girls. Without requesting them, the chef made these beautiful choclate covered strawberries for Madigan's birthday party. I just can't say enough about the food and service and The Grand.
It is a very special place.Miss Kristin delivered a tea lesson to the girls, which they took very seriously. We played a memory game, an "Enchanted" Mad Lib, and then played princess bingo. To facilitate serving, we brought an "Enchanted" cupcake cake. Miss Kristin provided a sparkler candle - a number 7. Lots of excitement over the sparkler candle.
This is the group of 15 young ladies, they were all delightful!The birthday girl with the party planners.