Showing posts with label christopher eme. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christopher eme. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Great Guest Chefs Liven Up the Athenaeum

As a Caltech grad student, I've been paying $8/month (reduced grad-student rate) to be a member of The Athenaeum, Caltech's private club. While I dined there somewhat frequently in my first year - for easter buffet, dinner, quick lunches, etc - I haven't gone in quite some time recently. I decided to go to the Guest Chefs Night featuring 5 chefs, 4 of whom are guest chefs from the LA/Pasadena area and beyond. I invited LA&OC Foodie and his friends to enjoy this night with me and keep me company!

The night started off with a reception in one of the halls at the Athenaeum, with raspberry champagnes and hors d'oeuvres such as this cajun shrimp in a sweet-and-sour cocktail sauce.

When the time came, we walked to our assigned tables which were all set up out in the patio - it was a nice night and the outdoor seating was a beautiful idea. As we walked to our tables though, immediately our eyes were drawn to ... the centerpiece!
The entire centerpiece was made from chocolate! Made by Bruno Marcy from C... Is for Chocolate.
We all had to restrain ourselves from devouring them throughout the night ...

Each table sat about ten people, so since there were only five of us, we were joined by other Athenaeum members and some of us seemed to have struck exciting conversations with the other party (which included a patent lawyer and his family).

The dinner started with Scallop with Chicken Skin Crust -- Chef Craig Strong, The Dining Room at the Langham
Wine pairing: Kabinett Riesling, Gunderloch, Jean-Baptiste, Rheinhessen 2007
The scallops were okay but the chicken skin crust was definitely interesting. It apparently was too strange for some people on our table, but I liked the novelty and fried chicken skin is always pretty yummy.

The next course is from chef Christopher Eme of Ortolan:
Lobster Spaghetti, herbed caviar and sea urchin sauce
Wine pairing: Chardonnay, Flowers, Sonoma 2006.
This was definitely the most interesting dish of the night and probably our favorite also. It must've been painfully delicate work to wrap the thin spaghetti strings around the soft lobster mousse. It definitely looked beautiful and was delightful to eat as well. The sea urchin sauce had a subtle but nice sea urchin flavor - it was there but definitely approachable by first time uni eaters.

Salad of Fall Beets with a Confit of Fennel, spiced walnut crusted chevre with vanilla bean vinaigrette.
Wine pairing: Rose, Les Domaniers de Puits Mouret, Cotes de Provence 2007
I loved the spiced walnut chevre here! Not only did it have a nice texture but also a nice flavor with a nutty touch due to the walnuts. The beets were pretty good. I'm not sure about the confit of fennel - I would've been happy with just the beets and the chevre.

Our main entree was from the executive chef of the Athenaeum, Kevin Isacsson:
Pumpkin Seed Crusted Suckling Veal Rack, wild mushroom marrow stuffing, truffled cognac sauce.
Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, White Rock, Laureate, Napa 2004 - the only red wine of the night. The veal was slightly cold but definitely very tender. Slightly pink, definitely not overcooked, but again, do wish it was warmer. I loved the marrow stuffing, nice flavors from the mushrooms and nice texture combination with the marrow.

For dessert we had Honey and Light Chocolate Mousse by chef Bruno Marcy from Sara J. Pastries & Cakes and C ... Is for Chocolate.
Wine pairing: Black Muscat, Quady, Elysium, California 2006.
I really liked the mousse and especially the combination with honey. The wine was interesting to me as it was the first Black Muscat I've had. It was a little sweet of the mousse cake, but I like the Muscat by itself nonetheless.

After 5 glasses of wine, everyone was merry, to say the least. The entire meal, with wine pairing, was $110 - which I think is a pretty good deal.
Although I've eaten at the Ath several times, this is my first time attending a special event there and I thoroughly enjoyed it, from the ambiance, food, and of course the company!
I'm definitely looking out for more special events like this there and utilize my membership (finally).

The Athenaeum at Caltech
551 S. Hill Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106

The Athenaeum on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Guest Chefs at The Exclusive Athenaeum!

We were just talking about the Athenaeum at the FoodDigger's hosted dinner last night ...
The Athenaeum is a private club at Caltech exclusive to Caltech/JPL/Huntington Library/Palomar Observatory affiliated people. So, as it happens, I'm a starving (yeah, right ...) grad student at Caltech and I've been paying my dues so I can stay a member!

Good food on campus - seems strange right?

So why am I suddenly posting about this? Because ... annually the Ath hosts a Guest Chefs Night, and the next one is coming up! Similar to the 5x5, each one of these chefs will be preparing a dish for the night:

  • Chef Nigel Patrick Didcock (Granite Club, Ontario, Canada)
  • Chef Christopher Eme (Ortolan, Los Angeles) (!!!!) -- there were rumors that he was joining the 5x5 but true or not, he is definitely joining the Ath Guest Chefs Night
  • Chef Bruno Marcy (C...Is for Chocolate, Burbank and Sara J. Pastries & Cake, Canoga Park)
  • Chef Craig Strong (The Dining Room at the Langham, Pasadena)
  • Chef Kevin Isacsson (The Athenaeum, Pasadena)
The menu is not yet up, but this is all happening on Tuesday October 28, 2008.
The dinner is $100 per person, which includes wine!

The Ath is a private club so unfortunately only members can go ... but if you foodies want to go, let me know! I'll see what I can do (i.e. how many I can bring).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eme's Little Bunting

I have heard rave reviews about Ortolan, so I finally decided to give it a try. Ortolan's chef, Christopher Eme, probably has two claims to fame: 1)He was a chef at L'Orangerie and 2)he is married to actress Jeri Ryan.

We were there on a weekday for an 8 o'clock reservation and the restaurant is almost empty - only two other tables in the front dining room, which had these really nice white booths. After my dinner that night I was undecided about their service, and I'll tell you why...

We were seated immediately and were asked if we would like any wine or champagne. We don't really drink so we declined and just asked to tap water. It seems like after this we were ignored ... For about 15 minutes in such a practically empty place, we were not given any menu. After 15 minutes someone came by and asked if we were ready for order. "I'd like to see the menu" was, naturally, my only response. (I wanted to add "Uhm, helloooo???!" to that).

Anyway, after that, the menu came immediately. We ordered crispy langoustine and seared foie gras for appetizers. Maybe because these were big ticket items, maybe because the guy could see that I was *unhappy*, or maybe because I were taking photos of the food and they figured out I'm a blogger - whatever it was, the service from then on was impeccable.

The first amuse bouche were two types of soups (warm) served in test tubes with straws.

The orange one was a carrot soup - good (I don't like carrot soups ...).
The red one was a tomato soup, and I don't remember what the green foam was. This was delicious!

The second amuse bouche was different than most other places - a pretty big bowl of eggplant caviar, to share for the whole table.
I loved it. It was unique and delicious. The flavors worked very well together and it has a nice, rich, creamy texture. I also loved the presentation in the stacked bowls.

The crispy langoustine appetizer was supposed to be one of their signature dishes:
It was okay ... From a signature dish I was expecting flavors dancing around in my mouth, but that didn't really happen. It was good langoustine and all, but overall didn't really stand out in my mind. Three pieces of langoustine - $24 ... hmm, I didn't think it was worth it.

So moving on to my seared foie gras:
Now this is more like it!!! This wasn't on the menu but was suggested to me by the server when I told him I like foie gras but not terrine. The seared foie gras was served with cherries - a sweet combo! One of the better foie gras dishes I've had and my favorite dish of the night.

So the chef (Eme) comes out to each table to explain all the main entrees to everyone. I thought it was nice to maintain some personal interaction like that.

One of the entrees we got was the Cod with Paella:
I thought the paella was a bit bland for a paella and the sausages being on the side was rather hard to cut and thus to incorporate into each bite. The cod, on the other hand, was perfect. In other words, it was cooked perfectly and had just the right tenderness and flakiness. And by "right" I meant "ooh, I never knew this is how cod could really be!"
So, 100/100 points for the cod, but the dish in its entirety needs to be tied together better.

For my entree I got the Pork "Maine-et-Loire" three-way.
Interesting presentation. The best part of the dish is the pork confit hidden under the spaghetti carbonara. The bulk of the dish was the two pieces you see to the left. They are, unfortunately, a little dry :( I loved the spaghetti+pork confit and the stuffed bell pepper, but the rest was just okay ...

I got the "Lime Gelee, Coconut Emulsion" dessert because it sounded interesting.
I was kind of disappointed ... It wasn't really anything special and it was also pretty small.

We also got the chocolate tart (with raspberry and vanilla ice cream)
Much better! A rich and dark-chocolatey chocolate tart. The raspberries and the vanilla ice cream helped cut that richness perfectly. Yummy.

Oh, and I didn't take pictures, but one of the highlights of our meal was the chocolate truffles that they gave us at (near) the end (before the petit-fours)!! They brought a tray with jars of chocolate truffles with different flavors: coconut, lime, earl grey, praline .. mm what else...
Anyway, these chocolate truffles were very2 good. I didn't know how many we can have, so we just asked for two flavors each. They were so good that I asked them if I can buy some to take home!! After asking the pastry chef, they agreed. I chose the flavors I wanted and brought home a box of about 8-10 truffles. They charged me for an additional dessert, which was $12. It ended up being a great deal! Cheaper than, say, Chuao (or Leonida's, even?) and much better truffles!

Chef Eme held the door open for us as we left the restaurant! This made us leave the restaurant feeling happy and important and that the restaurant gives amazing service (but then I remembered their initial blunder - which left me undecided ... I guess overall they do give really good service).

8338 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048.
(323) 653-3300

Ortolan on Urbanspoon

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