They Said It Was 9 Courses, But It Was Really More Like 13

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me, Cooking and Eating

We celebrate our anniversary, and when I say celebrate, I mean we go the whole hog. Some of you may only celebrate half a hog (or even less) and to you I say boo. We usually go out of town and stay at a nice hotel, get massaged, enjoy a an exquisite meal, and talk about what we like about each other. This year we didn’t really want to go anywhere, so we decided to spend our time and a huge brick of our hard earned money (the state of california says that I get half!) at the Ritz Carlton. We went a hog and a half. The room was immaculate, containing over 30 pillows, and the massage therapist had the softest hands I have ever felt. They give you a glass of sparkling wine at reception, so even that is a joy. But all of these things were easily outshined by the best meal that we have ever had, or likely to ever have again.

I am a little hazy on the details, because we drank two bottles of wine that we brought back from France a few years ago, and also because we spent three and a half hours at dinner and everything kind of runs together. We started with an amuse bouche of a puff containing cheese and basil, followed by a dish that was best remembered as having basil seeds in it. Basil seeds are like little baby bunnies in that they scatter when you try to pin them down and eat them with a fork. The dish was supposed to highlight a Japanese fresh water fish that Amy liked, but since I got no fish, I hunted seeds.

The third thing they brought was a poached quail egg served with caviar on, get this a glass jar of cedar smoke. The spoon that was brought with the dish covered a tiny whole on the top of the glass, so that when you lifted the spoon off, the air was filled with cedar smoke. It was similar to a proper shooter, but instead of licking some salt, squeezing a lime and downing a shot, you breathed in some cedar smoke, lifted some caviar, and downed it with some quail egg. Amy never really understood a thing the waiters said the whole night long (they were low talkers) so her smoke escaped within seconds of the dish arriving. By the way, quail eggs are ridiculously tasty, although they are only the size of a loogie, they taste like butter. If you ever see quail running around where you live, follow them home and steal their unborn children. You’ll thank me, even if you don’t have any cedar to burn with it.

I was a little concerned after the third course that the meal was going to be a little sparse because, while I probably had already consumed 1,000 calories, I only had three of four real bites of food. Things weren’t looking up when the next course arrived, three tiny mushrooms and two carrots in a large bowl. Amy got abalone, but I got a mostly empty bowl. Luckily it was soon filled tableside with a corn and sweet pepper soup. The taste of the mushrooms and soup blended perfectly with each other, and I soon realized that I shouldn’t worry about how much food I was getting, but rather enjoying the varying tastes and textures that were arriving with each new course.

The next course blew my mind, as I I would never had order it. They brought me zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta. Sounds like something people on survivor would eat, but it was awesome! The flavors worked perfectly together with a creamy texture, so already the tasting menu was a delight. I would have laughed at anyone ordering that (probably making the comment that, “why don’t you just order a dandelion and peanut butter sandwich?” I am not sure what Amy got, but it probably swam in the ocean at one point.

At the arrival of the sixth course, I knew the meal was going to be special. I received a braised ox tail ravioli in its braising liquid. At this point, I was fine with how much the dinner cost, as this one dish involved cutting off an ox’s tail, braising it, peeling it off the bone, putting into a fresh made ravioli, and then reducing the braising liquid into a yummy sauce. All that work went into just one of our many courses. (By the way, ox tail raviolis are, indeed, delicious. If you live near any oxen, chop off their tails and then follow the above recipe for a wonderful culinary delight.) Amy had something which translated to “stupid clam” tongue. We were kinda drunk, they talked kinda low, so some of the items are not very clear to us. Whatever Amy had it was large, triangular and licked her back.

The seventh spot in the line up was the foie gras. I had never tried foie gras until a few months ago at a french restaurant. Now, I am a stone cold addict. Except for stone cold foie gras. Each time I have had it, it has been served both warm and cold. The warm foie gras is seared and served with sauce (usually a reduction of yummy beef or veal stock). The warm stuff is light and delicate, the cold presentation is a bit more mealy and leaves a bit of an aftertaste that I don’t really care for. Since I am a stay at home dad, I will compare the cold stuff to eating 9 month old poo, while the warm stuff is more like newborn. If you had to eat baby poo, I am sure that you would agree that the newborn excrement is the better way to go.

The eighth course sounded great, baby suckling pig, and it was executed perfectly. What made it perfect was it was served on top of a poached peach. I normally eschew sweet elements (especially fruit) in dishes, but the pig and the peach (sounds like a pub eh?) were a perfect compliment to the other in both flavor and texture. Now, I can’t wait until I get the chance to combine parts of the pig with fruit. Amy had lobster knuckles, which I thought was funny because I didn’t even know lobsters had fingers. At this point, we had finished our first bottle and wondered if we had enough time to drink he second. Luckily we were still 2 hours away from finishing dinner.

The waiter arrived with another dish, which I thought sounded really boring, crispy chicken. I soon realized that they did not just mean fried chicken, or even, chicken that you have ever tasted, as the thing that arrived did not resemble the stuff that we eat all the time. The chicken was sous vide, or vacuum packed and cooked at a very low temperature for a very long time, and then seared so that it’s skin had the same consistency as bacon. Yes, imagine if bacon were attached to a buttery, salty piece of meat, that’s how good it was. Amy had some nice duck with fresh peas. I raved to the waiter about the dish, and he said that the chicken was milk fed. Ever since, I have been unable to get the imagery of a chicken drinking from a cow’s udders out of my head. The duck was very tender and seemed like the bridge between poultry and red meat.

It was about 10:30, we had already had 9 courses (the whole meal was supposed to be 9 courses) and I remember thinking, I could really go for some red meat right now. Luckily, the last savory dish arrived and I got a rib eye and Amy had the best looking lamb chop I had ever seen. The meat was perfectly rare, seared off well, came with another zucchini flower with ricotta, and I ate every bite. Luckily for me, Amy went and used the restroom, so I got to eat most of her lamb as well. Meat cooked that well is so crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the middle, and you never want to go back to the crap that you make at home. I think it also bathed in butter during the cooking process, but I decided I wasn’t going to think about the number of years this one meal was going to take off the end of my life.

To cleanse the palate, they brought us some sorbets, Amy getting watermelon and I getting peach. As it was now past 11, we were drunk, tired and speaking way too loud for the size of the restaurant. I wish I could tell you what one talks about towards the end of a three and a half hour dinner, but frankly I have no recall.

Then, for the 12th course, they brought desse
rt. Amy had a chocolate cake with some weird foams, an I had panna cotta with more sorbet. We ate every drop of the dessert, although I am not exactly sure why. There was no room left in our stomachs. I had to lay on my left side for a few minutes, which definitely raised eyebrows, but it was worth the scorn. They put a nice touch on the plates, inscribing them with, “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate. We liked it so much, we licked it off!

Finally, they brought out the confectionary cart. I do remember thinking, “you gotta be fucking kidding me, who needs chocolate and a bunch of candy right now?” Evidently, we did, because the waiter proceeded to put down 15 or so different candies (marshmallow, caramels, meringues etc.) and we sampled each and every one of them. The highlight was easily the dark chocolate and peanut butter lollipop, we finished in exactly three bites.

So, we finally finished. We drank two bottles of aged French wine, had 13 or so different things to eat, and reveled in all of it. We waddled back to the room and collapsed, celebrating the fact that another celebration was as wonderful as our lives together. Actually, that is schmaltzy and not true. Amy took out her phone and checked out facebook for an hour (being so drunk though, she couldn’t actually read anything) and I passed out on the bed on a pile of about 12 pillows. Easily the best meal we will ever eat, and I am glad that we were able to enjoy it.

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3 responses to “They Said It Was 9 Courses, But It Was Really More Like 13”

  1. Tracy says:

    Tracy very hungry now….Must find lunch.

  2. Scott says:

    What's a loogie?

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