• quarrums report: madeleine bistro tasting menu

    June 26th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, madeleine bistro

    well ladies and gentlemen, this is a first! we just received a post in the quarrygirl forums (aka quarrums) that was so awesome, we decided to publish it on the main blog. check out tettes’ in depth review of tonight’s special madeleine bistro tasting menu. the food writing here is exquisite, and you are all in for a real treat. this review makes me so sad that i wasn’t there, and reminds me that i need to eat madeleine bistro tasting menus WHENEVER POSSIBLE. here you go:

    I checked out the tasting menu at Madeleine Bistro on Saturday, June 26 and it was so mouth-wateringly amazing I wanted to share my experience with you guys. I wish the photos did the food justice!

    First up:

    Rainier cherry gazpacho: Cherrywood-smoked corn panzanella, crostini, avocado foam

    How it tasted: The gazpacho was more like a thin pudding rather than a soup. Pretty spicy with a tangy finish and just a hint of cherry sweetness. The corn gave it a playful smokey flavor, but it didn’t overwhelm the dish as smokey flavors can often do. The corn and crostino gave the dish a much-needed textural contrast. And I’ve never had avocado foam before. It was light, fluffy and fun to eat! Chef Dave told me this puree-like gazpacho comes from Spain, and he adds toasted bread to the gazpacho and purees until it reaches perfection.

    Next up:

    Grilled peach and baby arugula salad: Radicchio, cashew cheese, toasted walnuts, peach-vanilla vinaigrette

    How it tasted: I’m a sucker for vinaigrette with walnuts over bitter greens, but four things really made this dish stand out: 1) The toasted walnuts were not candied (it would’ve been too sweet), 2) The sweet, juicy peaches that sat atop the salad were grilled! 3) The vinaigrette dressing had vanilla in it, which helped to mellow out both the bitterness of the greens and the sharpness of the balsamic. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I loved it. 4) The dollop of creamy cashew cheese coated my mouth in a wonderful way, and combining the cheese with the greens was surprisingly good.

    The main course:

    Grilled citrus and herb seitan: Red quinoa risotto, ragout of summer vegetables, apricot gastrique.

    How it tasted: The seitan was lightly grilled and almost fell apart in my mouth it was so perfectly cooked. I didn’t catch much citrus or herb flavor, but it was great nonetheless. The red risotto had a salty, slight chewy texture and I enjoyed the savoriness of it quite a bit. But I didn’t taste much seasoning other than salt, and I definitely didn’t notice the starch that is typical in a risotto. I also didn’t recognize any kind of ‘butteriness’ in it, either. Not a complaint, because it tasted great. Just not similar to a risotto, imo. The summer ragout was the surprise hit of the dish: thin strips of zuccinni and yellow squash, lightly seasoned. I expected to be bored with it, but the veggies were warm and still bit crunchy. They tasted like they had *just* been picked. Incredible freshness! The apricot gastriuqe was fruity and sweet with a hint of savoriness, but at this point of the meal I didn’t want more sweetness, so I didn’t eat much of it. I did eat everything else on the plate, including the bed of kale under the risotto, and some clover alfalfa as well.

    At this point, I was getting pretty damn full. But it was no time to stop, and thank god i didn’t:

    Farmer’s cheese and caramelized onions in filo: Orange-basil-white balsamic salad, meyer lemon marmalade

    How it tasted: The filo was off the charts. Perfectly flakey dough surrounding a warm, soft and melty filling of cashew cheese and carmelized onions. Incredibly, dipping the filo in the orange marmalade took things to whole new levels of deliciousness. Accompanying the dish were orange wedges with basil and balsamic (not white balsamic, as the menu says), which is an old Italian trick, Dave told me. It’s the first time I’ve ever tasted that flavor combination. Very light and summery dish. Yummm!

    Finally, DESSERT!

    Plum – theme and variations: Jelly donut, plum-merlot “float”, free-form tart

    How it tasted: Really, what more can you say about a fresh-made vegan donut filled with sweet, organic plum jelly? It was light on the inside and slightly fried on the outside with sugar crystals on top. Incredible! The tart (far left) was deconstructed, with a creamy almond paste (Marzipan?) sitting atop an almond cookie, with another almond cookie on top, covered in plum slices. I’m a huge fan of creme fillings, and this almond concoction was eerily similar to the dairy-based creme-filled donuts I remember as a kid. As much as I hate to say it, the plum merlot, which was made with Dave’s plum soda, was a bit disappointing. The first sip had a slight medicinal taste, but after I dipped my spoon in the glass and grabbed some of the ice cream, things were better. It was still a fun dessert, but not as good as the other two, imo.

    During my meal, Chef Dave sat down to talk with me, and he also introduced me to Gene Etheridge, the organic farmer who grew all of the fruits included in the meal. He has an amazing story, and is doing powerful work in Washington DC, trying to improve the nutritional levels of school lunches (among other things). His group has already succeeded in eliminating soda machines from public schools in California (although he told me those drinks were quickly replaced with other sugary drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, etc.). He’s a super nice, intelligent and energetic man who has been farming organically since 1974!!!

    All-in-all, it was a FABULOUS meal and I was honored to be a part of so much inspiration and creativity, both from the kitchen and from the farm.

    Thanks for an amazing night of food and conversation, Madeleine Bistro!

    Madeleine Bistro
    18621 Ventura Blvd.
    Tarzana, CA
    (818) 758-6971
    (check website for hours)

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