Posts Tagged ‘salmon’

Elevated food at Santa Barbara’s El Encanto

El Encanto tableI imagine The Dining Room and Terrace at El Encanto hotel — high up on a hill overlooking the city of Santa Barbara — is a lovely place to enjoy an expertly crafted meal. The hotel, which opened in March and is the first West Coast location for Orient-Express Hotels, offers what look like spectacular views of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. I wouldn’t really know because I haven’t actually been there. But I have had Chef Patrice Martineau’s nicely executed and delicious food.

Martineau and the El Encanto team recently hosted a tasting in Los Angeles (now that’s what I call service), and it was so impressive that I now have a trip to Santa Barbara on my list so I can enjoy one of Martineau’s meals in its native environment. We tasted some of the regular menu dishes, as well as some special bites, including some aged cheddar made from the milk of El Encanto’s own Holstein cow, Ellie.

We started off with a crab salad, which was served alongside cranberry gelée, chilled ginger verbena hollandaise sauce and a raspberry vinegar glaze. The sweet crab meat was tempered with the tartness and acid in its accompaniments, creating a perfect balance.

Crab salad

Crab salad

Next up was the slow-baked organic Scottish salmon in a yuzukosho crust served with baby vegetables and glazed gnocchi in a smoked bonito orange broth. The yuzukosho, a fermented Japanese seasoning made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, gave the salmon an interesting Asian twist complemented by the bonito broth.

Scottish salmon

Scottish salmon

We also had Martineau’s braised short ribs, which are braised in white wine instead of the more common red wine, which lightened the flavor of the meat up — a nice touch, given the heaviness of short ribs. Roasted fennel, crushed celery root, basil, tomatoes and roasted tombolina carrots rounded out the dish.

Braised short rib

Braised short rib

Ellie’s Silver Mountain aged cheddar, served with fresh figs and cream of balsamic vinegar on a bed of edible wheatgrass, was a tasty was for us to get ready for the sweeter desserts, which included chocolate truffles and little almond berry tea cakes. But the main event was the Manjari Chocolate “Florentine,” a classic chocolate mousse topped with almond and hazelnut nougatine. While the dessert wasn’t really a florentine, it contained the flavors of the classic Italian dessert (I guess that’s why its name has quotation marks in it), and with the chocolate mousse made for a rich ending to a lovely meal.

Ellie's Silver Mountain cheese

Ellie’s Silver Mountain cheese

Tea cakes and truffles

Tea cakes and truffles

Manjari Chocolate "Florentine"

Manjari Chocolate “Florentine”

Note: The meal was hosted.

18

11 2013

Into the wild – game, that is – with Burger Lounge

Burger Lounge wild elk burger

Burger Lounge wild elk burger. Courtesy of Burger Lounge.

Burger Lounge, the San Diego-based chain that’s making its way into the Los Angeles area, has started offering a seasonal wild game menu with a different featured burger every two months (priced at $9.95 each and available at all locations). The first special, available this month and through December, is the grass-fed Minnesota bison burger with bleu cheese and pickled red onions.

Here’s the rest of the lineup:

January/February 2013: Grass-fed Texas wild boar burger with applewood-smoked cheddar, oven-roasted tomato relish and sriracha aioli

March/April 2013: Grass-fed elk burger with fontina, duck cracklings and jicama slaw

May/June 2013: Grass-fed BBQ venison burger with house-made BBQ sauce, crispy onion rings and smoked mozzarella

You may have noticed that all the meat on these burgers is grass-fed. That’s Burger Lounge’s thing: free-range, grass-fed meat, which applies to both the beef and turkey on the regular menu, too (the salmon burger uses wild Alaskan salmon). The company makes efforts toward environmentally sustainable choices, too.

As for Burger Lounge’s everyday menu offerings, don’t overlook the turkey burger, which is made with basil ground into both white and dark meat for a juicy, flavor-packed patty. It’s my favorite item on the menu. The salmon burger, with fried green tomatoes, sounds good, but the patty is too fishy-tasting for me. Whichever burger you get — even the very respectable house-made quinoa veggie burger — make sure to get a milkshake (they even come in small sizes!), which don’t contain any gross syrups, or a fair-trade Maine Root soda made with organic sugar cane.

Turkey burger

Turkey burger

Chocolate shake

Chocolate shake

Note: This meal was hosted.

12

11 2012

Blackboard Eats adventure: Grace Restaurant

gracetableOK, so eating at Grace isn’t really an adventure, but this was my first time using a Blackboard Eats deal and my first time at Grace, so the whole experience was kind of adventure-like. And what an experience it was: great food, great service. Can’t beat that.

I cannot stress how important service is to me. Good service should be easy, but apparently far too many restaurants find this hard to come by. Service can make or break a diner’s whole experience, so when I encounter really great service (or really bad service), I make a mental note. In Grace’s case, the note is a pleasant one.

From the get-go, Grace exhibited nothing but exemplary service.  When I called to make the reservation, I asked if there was a way to substitute the main course on the Blackboard Eats prix fixe menu for something else. You see, the main course was supposed to be lamb, and I don’t like lamb. Honestly, I didn’t think the restaurant would accommodate me, that they would say that this special deal was what it was, and that would be that. But the person who took my call said she would ask the chef, who wasn’t available at the time, so she said she would call me back once she had a chance to ask him. And she 1) actually called me back the next day and 2) said I could have the salmon or grilled tempeh dishes from the regular menu instead. So of course I made a reservation for me and Esther of e*starLA, who had agreed to try out Grace — and Blackboard Eats — with me.

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12 2009