Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cook Me! - Forbidden Rice w/ yogurt, lime, mango & banana.

We post a lot of food pics to Facebook. Yeah, it probably annoys some of you, and we should probably tone it down. But your tears of jealousy feed us too!

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of cooking for Ann, her mother, and our friend Karin. I decided to whip up a smoked salmon potato hash with horseradish sauce & fried egg (not pictured). I needed to add some citrus & sweetness to offset the savoriness of horseradish sauce & potato hash. So I riffed off a favorite breakfast dish of mine from Revel: Forbidden Rice with yogurt, mango banana relish & lime zest.

Now, Revel does theirs with puffed rice and kaffir lime yogurt, and it's totally awesome. But puffed rice is actually very hard to do if you don't have the proper equipment. And kaffir limes are fairly difficult to find, even in Seattle. So I did the best I could with what's available.

  • 1 cup Forbidden Rice (black rice is super-nutritious, and has a really nice mild nutty flavor; can be found at Whole Foods, etc)
  • 1 banana, diced
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (also found in Whole Foods)
  • 1 pint of yogurt (vanilla bean or plain are peferable; blend with lime juice and zest for super limey flavor)
  • sugar, to taste
  • 1 lime, zested (reserve juice if you need more sour to offset the sweetness of banana and mango)
  • Serves 4
Boil water for rice. 2/1 ratio, per usual. Dump in rice, bring to a boil, and then set to low and let simmer. Here's a little cooking tip from Aragorn: DONT DISTURB THE RICE!Now, I'm pretty sure a giant octopus won't emerge from your boiling rice. But, you'll notice your rice will possess a better quality if you leave it undisturbed.

While your rice cooks, in a small sauce pan, combine your diced bananas, mangoes, sugar, vanilla bean paste and a small amount of water. Cook over medium heat until you get a nice simmer, then lower heat and let the fruit sauce reduce as well. Add more vanilla bean paste until you get the desired vanilla flavor. The natural sugars should be enough, but also feel free to add more sugar if you need to thicken it up.

Once both elements are thoroughly cooked, bowl a half cup of rice, then top with yogurt, and then banana mango relish. Zest lime for flavor and color. Serve.

It's a moderately healthy and ridiculously easy breakfast dish that will impress significant others, in-laws, friends, or late night acquaintances that are mysteriously still at your place in the morning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's not always June at June

Another fantastic Seattle Restaurant Week has just concluded which is fortuitous since I just suffered from a lisfranc dislocation of my foot and resulting surgery. It would have been difficult to hobble around to new eateries when I am supposed to elevate my leg but this gives me plenty of bed rest time to craft some res week blogs.

The month of June evokes a sense of happy beginnings of a warm summer but as a restaurant, it's more than about that sunny season. Its chefs advocate fresh, seasonal food available at each season.

We ventured to Madrona - a neighborhood that's close but one we never ever go to in order to experience Seattle Restaurant Week try #1. This fun night was shared with a small posse of friends: the Strubs and the Williams who were out for their first night sans baby.

June is nested on a quiet street in Madrona near other shops and a Molly Moons. We started with some happy hour-priced wine since we were delighted to have arrived a little before our 7pm reservation time.

First Course

Nick's 'meh' salad
Nick opted for a salad that was very similar to one he's made in the past: endive, radicchio, mixed greens with apple, blue cheese and bacon lardons. This isn't anything extraordinary and something you'd see typically on menus; Nick thought it was average. But June's first courses had nice presentations.

It was a blustery day so the celeriac soup sounded like a good option for me. It was a good starter with some nice subtle flavors but again, was fairly typical. Steve had a beet salad which looked pretty tasty.

Celiarac soup

Beet Salad


Pumpkin Gnocchi
I am both a pumpkin and gnocchi whore so put those together and I'm sold! If there is a dish with a fried or gooey egg, I will often go for runny egg as well. Just a note in case you know of a delicious combination of something involving runny egg, pumpkin or gnocchi....

All of the ladies ordered the pumpkin gnocchi which looked amazing when it arrived. The sauce and the gnocchi were delicious but I was missing that crunchy and chewy texture from the gnocchi when it has a nice sear on it. I prefer that dark sear to add additional texture to my gnocchi; folks who like theirs soft and pillowy may love June's. I am such a fan of gnocchi (and whenever I say it, I am reminded of Top Chef contestant Fabio saying in his Italian accent that they are "little soft peellows") so I am constantly disappointed when they aren't made exactly to my liking.

Nick had the chicken which he said had some sort of bacon sauce and brussels sprouts. The chicken was perfectly cooked although the bacon sauce was a bit salty.

Nick's bacony chicken & brussels sprouts

As I mentioned, I am more than enthusiastic about pumpkin so I ordered the pumpkin bread pudding. Nick got the chocolate espresso terrine. The bread pudding had some good flavors, a delicious honey sauce although was a little on the sweet side. Regardless, I was a fan since it was pretty velvety and sumptuous.

Pumpkin bread pudding
Nick's chocolate espresso terrine was  also tasty. Not spectacular but solid. Which pretty much sums up our experience at June. It was cozy with friendly service and seasonable food made well but June isn't often the most spectacular month of the summer; August in Seattle typically trumps June in terms of weather, activities and product that's in season. Like the lovely month of August, other restaurants and more memorable dishes topped June in our November 2011 Seattle Restaurant Week adventures.

Chocolate terrine - nice presentation

Monday, October 24, 2011

Off the grid and on the spot - A secret Seattle shop of succulence

Any alliteration cannot do justice to the billowing boldness and befuddling brilliance of a new hole-in-the-wall gyro joint that has quietly graced Seattle with its presence. There's no sign announcing its presence. No carefully crafted press release mass-distributed to Seattle foodie culture. No quirky Twitter account bellowing out happy hour deals. It is an enigma - and dammit, we'll keep it that way...for as long as we can.

But it will get out.

The drippings alone made me lick my plate. Yeah, that's right. I went at this recycled cardboard plate like hungry happy Labrador, prepping dishes for the dishwasher. Inside this gyro, a voluminous variety of veggies viciously vexed in form, a volition so vivaciously violent that I asked the voluptuously pregnant server if I could have a bib. Or a feed bag. She smiled and brought me a wet bath towel. "This will help," she said. Methinks I'm not the first to ask.

The meat, though. Oh my sweet lord. What evil lord presided over these lambs and fed them nothing but rainbows and salted caramel ice cream?! And had Padma sing them lullabies as they drifted off to sleep, dreaming of meadows filled with chocolate torts and warm apple cider and cashmere bathrobes? Because I'm quite sure these are the only conditions in which such delightfully delectable lamb can be rendered.

So,I've pontificated enough, and most certainly have ran through my monthly allocation of SAT words, I've left one key piece of information out. The location...and the name. There is no sign. No menu. And I was disallowed from flash photography. I can tell you that a handy neighborhood search using the latest in check-in software might yield a result that *perhaps* looks like a house, or humble abode, of gyros, run by a man who may, or may not be named, Samir. That's it. I've probably said too much.

Restaurant Week reviews begin later this week. Sneak preview of the pads we're previewing:
Spring Hill


Friday, October 21, 2011

Got Me Black Keys Tickets

Lookie what I got!

I had to wait in line for an hour at the U-Village Microsoft Store grand opening for these bad boys and met some nice people including a man who said, "I have a 14 year old daughter. What band do you think she would like?" I told him, "14 year old girl? And you're trying to be a cool dad? I would go with OneRepublic." 

a) I actually think most 14 year old girls would prefer OneRepublic unless they are super super cool 14 year old girls who listen to real music. My little cousins are awesome but wouldn't know who the Black Key were and like my teammate David, would mistake the Black Keys for a Black Eyed Peas typo.

b) I also sort of told him to get OneRepublic tix to save more Black Keys passes for true fans. Ohh well.

I do admit that OneRepublic creates songs with good hooks. The 'Apologize' song is catchy and has gotten stuck in my head multiple times. Damn you Timbaland.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Friends' garage bands have come a long way...

Food often dominates this blog so here is a quick post about the musical passion.

People are often curious about the music profession and about bands that I know of personally or inquire about friends who are in bands. Despite my secret desire to be a blues and rockstar or a lounge singer, I don't have any real ties to the music industry other than some awesome friends who happened to sort of fall into it. I'm proud of them all and I love supporting local music that's

Here is the list:

  • Out Like Pluto - I adore my friends in Out Like Pluto! I know four fifths of the band members really well and once got decked out in K$sha gear for one of their shows. Hey, they put on a fun live show and I just wanted to participate! They started as a jam project between my good pals Kari and Andy and spiraled from there.
  • Kay Kay and His Weathered Undeground - One of my favorite local groups period. My friend JJ doesn't really play with them anymore (he and his wife just welcomed their first baby) but I am hoping he'll start again since I love going to their live shows and shouting at JJ like I am a crazed fan. The problem with them getting bigger and opening for other big bands is that their shows are often sold out... But I owe JJ big for getting me into a Cap Hill block party with a VIP wrist band - you have access to a lounge with food and get to sit on pillows!
  • The Classic Crime - The MacDonalds are practically family and this is Matt's band. Imagine my surprise when their song popped on the radio as I was driving around - I immediately pulled over and texted Nate MacDonald to tell him his brother's single was playing on 1077.7 The End.
  • Kris Orlowski - I have once sat at the Microsoft Commons to watch Kris perform... and heckle him a little. Kris' music is nice and folksy - perfect for some autumn music.
  • The Fascination Movement - My cousin Jennifer recently started to help manage them and I dig their electronic vibe. Reminds me a bit of what I love about 80's new wave and electronica but is also modern with some tracks reminiscent of Washed Out.

Check out these bands and if you enjoy their music, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, go to their shows, download their music and support them in general.  These people rely on word of mouth buzz, honest feedback and support from their friends like me in order to continue doing what they love to do. I commend them for pursuing their passion and sharing it with the world!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ba Bar - Fancy Vietnamese Street Food

Ba Bar's bright windows
Nick insisted that I wrtite this blog. "You're Vietnamese, you should write it. You have stronger opinions about the food, " he said. So here is my caveat: because I am Vietnamese and because I have eaten the most delicious of Vietnamese cuisine (which includes my parent's food, my grandmother's cooking as well as the best selections from the O.C. - heyyo Bolsa-, noshes from the Bay Area and dishes from Vietnam), you should either take my opinion with a grain of salt or absolutely take it as the word from a walking Vietnamese food bible.

Ok, glad we got that out of the way.

Ba Bar is cute industrial-chic restaurant in the revived area by Seattle U's no-man's land between proper Cap Hill and First Hill. It's also a block or two away from Nick's place so he had been tracking it for weeks before its opening, eagerly awaiting a place that was touting its refined approach to street food with classically well-made cocktails. We went during its opening week with our good pals C&H to see if it could measure up to its assertions.  
The service can be sketchy at times, depending on who serves you and how busy it is but at least the space is lovely to look at with an open kitchen at the front. I like the large, paned windows that allow a lot of light in without making the restaurant seem too open.

Nom Nom Time

At first glance, the menu seemed a bit steep and had a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, unless you are a vegetarian. After coming to Ba Bar a few more times, they have corrected this issue by lowering the price of many of their dishes as well as adding some no-meat options. The menu is a refined take on some classic Vietnamese dishes rathered than street food but isn't meant to be super-fancy either. There is a little bit of everything to get a general taste of Vietnam which has a long and varied culinary history.  Menu here: 

We started with the Hue Dumpling, which is a mung bean dumpling wrapped in a sticky, glutenous rice wrapper. It was average; the dumpling wrapper was a little too thick and sticky for my taste but the dish was presented beautifully.

Banh bot loc chay
Bun cha ca
I ordered one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes: bun cha ca or a seared Idaho catfish colored with tumeric, served over cold rice noodles. It was the only pescatarian option at the time but I was excited to enjoy something classically northern with high quality pacific northwest product. The first proper meal Nick and I had in Vietnam was this dish at Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi, probably the most famous place for this particular dish (which is the only dish they serve there). When I finally got to tear into the dish, I was a little disappointed. The best thing about this dish is that the tumeric colors the fish but that the fish is infused with the taste of fresh dill. There was no dill in their version (which is a travesty) so the dish fell flat and lacked any depth of flavor. 
Nick had the claypot chicken which is not on the menu anymore. It's a southern dish and cooking chicken over a long time in the claypot should allow the juices and sauces to caramelize. However, Nick shrugged it off since it was dry instead of moist and sweet.

Claypot rice

Chris' pork belly and rice was the clear winner of the night with a good amount of spice and crisp. Hema duck soup (mi vit tiem) also got some raves although Hema noted that the duck leg was a little difficult to manage to eat in the soup.
Pork belly
Mi vit tiem - duck soup

Sip Sip Time

The drinks are something else entirely. Ba Bar had a bit of controversy with their original captain bartender who lied about his bartending credentials and liquored up on the restaurant's booze (read up on the drama here) but I enjoyed every drink we ordered including the pisco sours.
Cocktail time!
Nom Nom Redux

We've gone back several times since. I desperately wanted to give this place a chance because it's clear that there is a lot of love and passion that goes into this place, even if it's not great. Yet.

It has improved. As I mentioned, the menu is a bit more manageable in terms of selection and value. I am willing to pay more for delicious refined dishes as long as the food meets that bar; I just found Ba Bar's original pricing to be way off for their items originally. Their vegetarian vermicelli bowl is decently tasty and even the nuoc cham is really vegetarian, which most Vietnamese establishments do not regard.  Nick has been happy with the chicken over broken rice and considers the pho decent although unsure if it's supposed to be northern or southern-style pho.

One thing I have found disheartening is that every time we've gone to Ba Bar, the server informs us that something (or mostly many things) are no longer available. Once, we went early on a Tuesday night and they were invariably out of half of the menu items. While I understand that sometimes popular items are eaten up quickly, they need to get on top of their restaurant management in terms of inventory and product. If this proves difficult, they should have a daily or weekly menu that changes with the availability of items. Staples like pho should not run out. Period.
I will continue to go since it's so close to Nick's place and I can't wait to enjoy its late night menu. However, I think the next time I am craving Vietnamese, I will take him down the hill to go to Tamarind Tree. While maybe not as chic and hip as Ba Bar, the food is better and uncompromising.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday night playlist

Got a night to myself. Time to scroll through my Shazam tags and do some much-needed catch up.

Gorgeous - Kayne West w/ Raekwon & Kid Cudi
Living in America - Dom
Groove Me - Maximum Balloon w/ my boy Theophilius London
Whirring - The Joy Formidable
You - Gold Panda

Kinda in a fuzz rock/electro pop/riffed-up hip hop mood lately. What should I add to this list?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Food I want to drown in - Re:public's S'mores Dessert

The s'mores inspired chocolate budino with graham cracker crumbs topped with toasted marshmallow gelato from re:public.
Eff me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What I'm eating right now #3

Chinese 5 Spice beef broth. Fake beef. Real shiitakes. Blasted broccoli. Bok Choy. Easy egg. #slurp

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We're terrible and we know it

Clap your hands!
Yes - we know. It's been 2+ months without a peep. Our mega-blowout Vietnam post remains unwritten. Our reviews of new Seattle nosh joints like Poquitos having fallen by the wayside. We have failed you. A perfect storm of trips to Vietnam and Boston, a Sasquatch Music Festival adventure, numerous birthday parties (seriously, is EVERYONE born in April and May?!) me moving to First Hill, and general insanity at work have lead us to spend the vast majority of days like this:
  • 7am: wake up, shower, dress, go to work
  • 8am - 6pm: work
  • 7pm: get home, stare at the fridge for 20 minutes trying, to jury rig something of nutritional value
  • 8pm: get in bed, simultaneously open our laptops and work some more
  • 10pm: maybe read, maybe watch Top Chef Masters...but more than likely just pass out
  • 7am: rinse and repeat

The truly sad thing is that when polled, our peers lead decidedly similar lives.

So, if you were worried that Ann and I were face down in a ditch somewhere, you can relax. Face down in a noodle bowl, maybe.
We promise to get back to writing soon. There's a lot happening in the Seattle food scene right now, and if you haven't read Frank Bruni's synopsis yet, I recommend it, to tie you over until our triumphant return.

Monday, April 4, 2011

No Restaurant Week for Us

Gasp. Say what?

For the first time since we've been together, we are not doing Seattle Restaurant Week. No 3 for $28 for us. No blogs on new places to nosh at and which entry has crappy service or wonderful second courses. 

I don't feel too bad about it. We're going to Vietnam instead.

You'll have food blogs on Vietnam's finest along with pictures that will make you totally jelly. Check this out:

Have fun trying out Joule for the first time and please savor the amuse at Crush. We'll be in a far-away land munching on the best banh mi ever. 3 for $38? Try 3 for $2.80.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top Chef All Star: Finale!!!

It's been a long time since I've done a Top Chef live let's do one. And what would be better than the Top Chef All-Star finale!?

Blais vs Isabella! Woe-is-me vs. Look-at-me! The Hair vs The Gut! Talent vs. Whatever Mike is.
Clearly, I have a favorite...

10:05 - So...the finals challenge is for both chefs to create the restaurant of their dreams, with a 4 course tasting menu that represents their talent as culinary all-stars that they are.

Blais is trying to lower the expectations around him. Isabella is trying to get in his head. This title is going to come down to which crumbles first: Mike's ego or Blais' confidence.

Hey! The other all-stars are back, making amuses for Mike and Richard to taste. By selecting the amuse, the cheftestants select their sous chefs.

10:11 - So Blais got Antonia, Spike and Angelo, and Mike grabs Carla, Jennifer and Jamie. First reaction is that Richard picks some sous chefs that play to his strengths (avante garde, heavy on flavor, grounded in fundamentals but can diverge into cutting edge), where as Mike has selected some women (which will be tough for him) that have very strong personalities. For Mike to succeed, he'll need to be the opposite of what Marcel was during Restaurant Wars. If he can't, just give Richard the crown now.

Mike picks SeaFire at the Atlantis. Blais is at Cafe Marnique. Mike seems like he has a pretty good game plan in terms of who is doing what.

10:16 - Blais has the nitrogen going, and Capt Crunch at the desert station. I'm already excited about where he's headed. And of course as soon as I write that, Richard switches to foie gras ice cream from whatever he was doing with Capt Crunch. That detail is telling, and I don't feel great about it.

Tom is doing his "meet-with-the-chef," which should really be called "Tom does eyebrow raises and pointed questioning"
10:21 - Blais - stop with the lowering of expectations. Just be confident in the fact that everyone recognizes your ability, and smarts, and do what you do best.

10:27 - Blais does a live oyster with salsa verde for a amuse, and then follows it up with some amazing looking hamachi (one of my personal favorites).

10:28 - Isabella's amuse is a beet salad that doesn't seem to resonate. Mike's 2nd course is some beautiful halibut that Tom raves about. Ruh roh...this could bananas.

10:31 - Mike is bringing it, seriously. Destroyed the 3rd courses with some awesomely impressive meat dish. His desert was a little lackluster though.

Spike is being snoopy...I love that kid. He reports back to Blais on what the judges are saying. Another good example of having sous' playing to Richard's strengths.

Judges seem to be impressed with Richard's build-up, although the foie gras icecream wasn't well-received. Richie is working hard on making the ice cream to be better texturally.

10:39 - Awww...All-Star love-in. Padma reporting live, with the new TC Masters host. Padma - oh, the things we'd do. In my dreams. Brrrrr.
Focus, Nick.

10:41 - It's anyone's game at this point. Both courses are sound, across the board. Foie gras ice cream came out better the second time around...which is good, because I feel Tom and Gayle own the judges table most nights.

10:46 - Judges table. Tom says best finale food ever. High praise. Judges say Mike had strong finesse. Pepperoni sauce was crazy business! Ballsy was word of the day for Mikey.
Richard nails intensity of flavors. Hamachi course was the strongest. Black cod was flawless. Lots of praise for Richie.

Oooff. Tough one. I love Richie, but Mike brought it. It's going to be ridiculously close.
10:51 - Tom on the fence? Holy balls. This is going to be a tough one. Richard takes 1st course. And looks like 2nd course could go to Richard as well. Tom says Mike's halibut was the best fish he'd ever had on Top Chef...before Richard's black cod. WOW. 3rd course appears to go to Mike, and there's a split for desert. Gut says Richie by a nose, but we'll have to wait through some more commercials to find out.

10:57 - Here we go......queue the tense elimination music. Padma, get serious on me, girl. Tom hands out requisitie praise. And............

FUCK YES!!!!!!!

Wow! I feel so good for him right now. That guy is brilliant and works hard at his craft. Congrats! Very rewarding end to this season, and I couldn't be happier.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Force of Music

Music can alter your mood with just a few notes. It can instantly connect to you emotionally like nothing else can. Don't you want to get up to dance and move when you hear the Beatles' Twist and Shout, feel instantly wistful and in love when you hear Louis Armstrong crooning La Vie En Rose or bleed a little inside when REM's Everybody Hurts comes on the radio?

I haven't blogged enough about music but I heard an NPR story on the radio the other day that absolutely resonated with me. Check it out here:

The NHK Symphony from Japan had made the painful decision to leave Japan and tour a day after the earthquake and tsunami hit their countries. Some people may think that they are crazy or heartless for leaving their families, homes and the devastation their country has suffered. But musicians and people who truly breathe, feel and live - not just appreciate - music understand that as the chairman of the NHK Symphony Orchestra put it, "Music can uplift the heart and strengthen the spirit."

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I'm here.

Will be posting some food pics. Some concert pics. Hopefully no drunken pics.

Last night, I had a fried shrimp po-boy and did not take a photo...mostly because it went in my mouth too quickly. I'm headed back there, if I can remember where it was.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chef Sightings

Some of my friends and co-workers think I am nuts for recognizing prominent area chefs. I can't love food and not recognize who created the dish. I recognize Seattle musicians walking around all of the time (and probably see Kim Thayil of Soundgarden fame the most) so why wouldn't I recognize a chef?

I am currently in Chicago for work and we stopped by XOCO for a delicious churro on our way after raising our cholesterol with deep dish pizzas at Gino's East. Who should walk out of the restaurant to some pats on the back?  The Next Iron Chef, Chef Marc Forgione. Mohawk and all.
A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker and I were lunching at the Dahlia Workshop in SLU and I spotted Tom Douglas. He was checking up on his latest addition to the empire and had some lunch as well. I knew that he often still cooked family dinner at his restaurants but we asked the host how often he still jumps on the line. We were happy to find out he jumps on it all of the time.

Nick and I saw Ethan Stowell on the line back at the now defunct Union and chatted with chefs at Moto when we were there last month. We've complimented Chef Seif Chirchi and had given him some feedback after noshing at Revel. Chefs are fun and most are incredibly happy to chat about their craft. You eat their food all of the time - why not get to know them too?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Moto, in pictures.

Our edible 10 course menu, printed on brioche. Underneath is a cashew reduction and some balsamic sauce.

The wood grain close-up is actually 1000 year old wood from an Asian monastery that they imported. It's really gorgeous.

Our cork - the wine for this evening was a Neyers, Old Lakeview Road, Syrah, Sonoma coast, CA 2008.

Menu again. Just in case you forgot our menu WAS FUCKING PRINTED ON BRIOCHE! Putting the amusement in amuse, apparently.

Me and my wine, we got a real good thing.

1st course: "Snow Man" - This little fella is actually a lemon lime foam that was made to resemble a little snowman (it snowed about 3 feet a few days before we arrived in Chicago). Below it was a pretty straightforward ahi poke. The reason the snow man is melting is because it was doused with a splash of margarita. Wasn't terribly inspired, and the tequila overpowered all the other delicate flavors. Still fun though!

2nd course: "White Steel" - Actually my least favorite dish of the night. We have a seared piece of hamachi over a bed of bright red tobiko with some carbonated grapefruit. The sauce was a vanilla sunchoke puree. The fish was overcooked, the tobiko pretty flavorless and the puree did nothing to advance either of their causes.

3rd course: "Crab Cakes" - Much more inspired than the previous courses. What we have here is a cake with Alaskan King crab baked into it, rather than a bunch of crab and bread in cake form. On top is a sweet cream cheese dollop. The white mass in the foreground is braised fennel, next to which is graham cracker crumble and a freezing ball of butternut squash sorbet. I guessed it was a playful riff off of the Mardi Gras specialty, king cake.

The server deposited this candle on our table following the second course. We were the only table with a candle. Something was afoot...

4th course: "Salsa Snacks and "Scallop Surprise" (that's my name for it, since it didn't have a name) - First up is "Salsa Snacks." Had I been a little stoned, I might not have ever left the table. It is the high cuisine equivalent of going to Taco Bell at 2am after a night of drinking. To the right is enchilada sauce glazed sweetbreads. At left is a molten chihuahaua cheese ball, covered in baked beans and baked rice, and then a smear of salsa sour cream.

Then we have the Scallop Surprise dish. We'll get to the name in a second. We have big buttery chucks of poached lobster, and butternut squash puree. As for the mini diver scallops, those are actually gnocchi, cut and seared to look like a scallop. Oh, and remember the candle. Our server came over, pulled out the wick and poured the contents over the dish, and told us that it was melted butter sauce. I KNEW IT! Our waiter actually seemed disappointed that we weren't more shocked by this revelation. We reminded her that we were the only ones with a candle and that she brought it over 20 minutes into the meal. Our Spidey-senses never let us down.

5th Course: "Baseball Snacks" - By far the most outrageous dish of the night. It's popcorn-encrusted quail (or tofu for Ann, since she's a pescatarian), Coca-cola reduction, caramel-apple reduction, very Blais-esque popcorn powder and a fun reproduction of a Cracker Jack box that's actually cherry-flavored paper.

6th Course: "Mock Maki" Best entree course of the night. What appears to be a very traditional-looking Japanese maki roll, is something completely different. The rice wrapper is actually champagne risotto. The inner wrapper is actually pressed and paper-thin crimini mushroom wrap. Inside, we have sous vide rabbit (Ann had a daikon), a roasted brussel sprout, and the additions are a thinly sliced jicama pickled in beet juice (hence the red color) a Chinese five-spice puree and dehydrated peas that look like wasabi. It may look Japanese, but the flavor was deep and rich, straight out of northern Italy.

7th course: "Maitake & Pork" - Awesome last entree. Had the Mock Maki not showed up, this would have been my favorite. Grilled pork belly, bok choy, pickled matsutake mushrooms, and then a recomposed "styrofoam" maitake mushroom. The take a maitake, puree it, place it in a mushroom form and dehydrate it. The result is a perfect-looking mushroom, but the texture is completely opposite from what you expect a mushroom to taste like. Light, airy, crisp. But still possessing the umami flavor of the maitake.

8th course: "Truffled Ice Cream" - Our first dessert...truffled ice cream, jellied Gala apples, hazelnut crumble. The pound cake is actually astronaut ice cream.

9th Course: "Pineapple and Chai" - Compressed pineapple slices, with vanilla bean, sasparilla ice cream, coconut powder, and marshmallow. Fun dessert, and the compressed pineapple packs a punch. The sasparilla ice cream would sell like gangbusters at any store.

10th course: "Tea Time" - Navel orange gel, lemon butter cookie crumble, earl grey ice cream and chocolate mousse. So, if you want to know which dessert was the best...well, here you go. We didn't even stop to take a picture. Just an aftermath of deliciousness.

One final dessert beverage: Tonka bean soda, with a lemony freeze dried "packaging peanut" that steams when you eat it. I want every drink now, in a graduated cylinder.

So, about a third of the way through the meal, we struck up a conversation with our server. We both told him we were huge fans, admirers from afar, and that this would be a highlight of our trip.
"Do you guys want to check out the kitchen after you're done?"

Um, yes!

Ann and I squealed. Audibly.

Here's the photos from the downstairs lab and kitchen.

There's Ben (Executive Pastry Chef), finishing up the last of the night's desserts.

The Moto team that made our awesome meal.

Me, pretty much dumbstruck.