Monday, March 26, 2007

Under the Sea: Dinner at Farallon

So, I know it's hard to believe, but there are many fine restaurants in San Francisco that we have never patronised, and Farallon was one of them... til now.

Eric's mom was in town last week, so for her birthday, we went to Farallon for a spectabulous dinner with mom and Ms. and Mr. Art Attack at Pat Kuleto's undersea fantasy-land. Seriously, this place is like an amusement parks for adults. And the best part is that with five people at the table -- we could try LOADS of dishes!

Guess what? The menu is in large measure seafood. I got there a little late and by the time I had arrived, Eric and Mr. Art Attack had already ordered oysters and drinks.

Leave room for dessert, guys...

We sat in the pool room of this 1925 Elks Club building, which we learned had been renovated in 1997 by Kuleto. In this room, you can see the elaborate ceiling of the old pool, which lies under the floor of Farallon and is still in use apparently.

Wine, wine, wine... what to have? Eric consulted with sommelier Jennifer Knowles, who was extraordinarily helpful and after hearing our variegated menu plans, suggested a Les Chaumiennes Pouilly-Fume. Pleasant, not overwhelming -- wait, why am I writing about the wine -- I have no palate! Ask my Omnivore about the wine....

Our amuse was um... something, something in a blood orange sauce. Some food critic I'd make, eh?

"For madam we have the pan-seared foie gras with a quenelle of Sauternes sorbet and a ----"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, pass it over here." *ouwmph* munch, munch, munch...

But seriously now... for real, here's my app, a terrine of Champagne poached scallops with cucumber and creme fraiche and caviar. Not bad, and the terrine had a lovely infusion of the taste of springtime to it, with all that greenery. The scallop flavor was a bit lost amid all that, but the creme fraiche and caviar was wonderful.

Eric's app, however, a Dungeness Crab gnocchi with Tarragon and champagne and yes, a crispy Maiitake mushroom atop was fabulous. Unlike the scallop dish, the crab flavor came across with great delicacy and there was a satisfying umami warmth to the whole thing.

The real winner in this bunch though, was Mr. Art Attack's seared foie gras with almond mille feuille and orange blossom honey. Ms. Art Attack, the only vegetarian at the table, took great relish in explaining the gorging process, while my Omnivore tried to argue that it was all a natural process.

Natural process my foot, but damn... it does taste heavenly.

Ms. AA's asparagus soup -- which was lovely, and light, almost like a consomme, but with the essence of green again infusing the nose of the dish along with more -- yum!!-- crispy mushrooms.

The main course had to be fish of course. Mine was branzino, on top of black truffle polenta -- which I would like for breakfast every day, thank you-- and a very tangy, vinegary -- but in a good way -- spring onion vinaigrette. The whole dish was lovely contrasts, the perfect crispy skin, warm soft polenta, with the richness cut by the bite of the vinaigrette. Loved it.

We were drinking a Graves with this course, and even though the Pouilly Fume had been pleasant, especially with the lighter dishes, the Graves was declared the definite winner. A bit fuller and rounder in tones, and with a lovely color.

I love that in sf, even the vegetarian can get a lovely plate. Here's what the kitchen worked up for Ms. AA, including a wild mushroom risotto in the most adorable little Staub mini-cocotte -- you know you (meaning I) want a set... Also, please note the whole porcini mushroom lurking in the dark in the foreground.

Again, though, Mr. AA was the winner in the menu sweepstakes, with a Roasted Alaskan Halibut with Garlic Soubise, Hearts of Palm, and baby artichokes. What is "soubise?" I have no idea, but I'll take five gallons, please.

Again with the perfect crust. How do you learn to do this? Our Crispy skin halibut was good, but this was at a whole new level.

Cheese course? Of course!

I consider any cheese board to be excellent if they have at least two cheeses I know nothing about. In this case it was the Coupole (at top) and the Tome des Recollets, affined by Jean d'Alos.

Coupole is made by the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company and turned out to be a very pleasant, tangy goat cheese. I didn't get much of the ash that's sprinkled on this aged round, but it seemed like it was a young example. It all worked fine with the pear marmalade they offered on the plate.

The Tome des Recollets, I figure, came from Cowgirl Creamery since they work with Jean d'Alos. It's Loire Valley cheese made of cow and goat cheese and the rind is washed in Sauternes then sprinkled with the most fantastic spice mix -- it seemed like a smoked paprika to me, but according to Cowgirl, it is cayenne, savory, juniper and black and white peppercorns -- and it was fantastic with the salted, roasted almonds -- fantastic.

The last cheese on the bottom is a Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill. Lovely, but I've talked about it here.

Confident that he would be getting some tastes of my cheese (!!) my Omnivore ordered the warm El Rey chocolate pudding, with a peanut brittle. Okay, yeah, it was also spectacular.

Ms. AA went with cheese also, opting for Mt. Tam, Berkswell and Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

And to wash it all down? An unusual dessert wine -- well, at least unusual to me, from Jurancon -- exotic fruits and honey...indeed.


Ms. K said...

And just how is it that you keep your ballerina figure, I'm wondering? :-)

ME said...

LOL -- I could say it's that I only take one bite off of everybody's plate but no one would believe me. I'm afraid the truth is that the ballerina figure is not so ballerina anymore...