Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring Tasting Menu at AQ..... or as I would like to call it- Eating a beautiful Fairy Garden

Preface: Blogger format is doing weird things and sort of.... smooshing my long pictures into squares....which is the worst because this is a primarily picture post. Hopefully it looks ok on your screens this was the most beautiful food I've ever eaten.

This post is looooooong over due and I think the main reason I have put it off is frankly because trying to describe this meal is one of the most overwhelming things I've ever considered doing. As part of my birthday celebrations I planned a fancy culinary date with myself. Dinner and a Show. Infamous food.... personality Anthony Bourdain and Esteemed Michelin Starred Chef Eric Ripert have taken their unique friendship on the road with a show of sorts "Good vs Evil" in which they discuss their views on the many facets of today's food culture along with other funny life experiences etc. When I saw that it would be in SF the week after my birthday I bought a ticket right away. I wasn't sure this was really the type of thing I could drag anyone else along for (the tickets weren't really cheap) so it became a fancy date night with myself. If I was going to have a proper culinary evening I needed to start it out with a unique dining experience. To my delight AQ restaurant is just a few walkable blocks from the Orpheum theater. Win win!

Situated in a busy but not entirely savory part of the city, walking up to it AQ doesn't seem overly distinct however as soon as you approach and cross the threshold you have entered their world. The decor is adamantly seasonal letting you know that it is indeed spring time. High ceilings, white walls (where there isn't brick) add a lightness and various vegetation both live and cut greet you everywhere you look. Even the bathrooms are beautiful.

The open kitchen surrounded by "chef's table" seats is a show in and of it's self. I'm immediately struck by how YOUNG the staff appears. Fresh faced American culinary school grads to be sure. And with food this exacting they would have to be. The two Garde Mangers couldn't have been a day over 21, at the oldest perhaps the Chef for the evening and his Sous.... neither of them could have been over 30. Dining alone I couldn't have asked for a better seat than right at the edge of the plating station where all the action was going down. AQ's plates are by far some of the most beautiful I have ever witnessed along with the most precisely plated. We are talking tiny flowers placed with tweezers precise people.
My place is set with the dinner and beverage menus but I don't need to look. I've already done my research and thanks in part to my co workers generous gift certificate birthday gift I'm going whole hog and doing the Tasting Menu along with Beverage pairings. Here is where I have to apologize. In my lolly gagging they have changed their tasting menu (as they often do) and I didn't save the exact menu. So some Items may be a bit haphazardly labelled from the best of my memory. Never the less the pictures are beautiful!

The Amuse Bouche: Asparagus Milk "Cloud" with pistachio
First Course: Veal with veal fat and mint "snow" melted with a veal consumme
Second Course: Roasted Beet in Consumme
Third Course (my favorite visually): Strawberry & Watermelon Gazpacho with Sashimi
Fourth Course (my favorite flavor-wise): Beef Tongue with Soft Boiled Egg & Tarragon Cake
Fifth Course: Skate Wing
Sixth Course: Pork Belly
Palate Cleanser before Dessert: Chilled Watermelon consumme With  White Chocolate
Dessert: Chocolate Cake with Lavender Ice Cream, Crisp honeycomb, & Candied Walnuts
To go into great detail on all the flavors and textures would honestly be next to impossible. This full sensory experience was next to overwhelming. Like traipsing through "A Mid Summer Nights Dream" with your eyes and your palate this was a distinctive experience I don't think I'll soon top. The Beverage pairings were exacting and obscure (and I'd embarrass myself trying to type them out to you unfortunately... I could have used a written guide the servers rattled them off pretty quickly).

I was glad by the time I was done that I had arrived a little early for my reservation, my meal took almost 2 hours. Sated and enthused I walked the few blocks to the Orpheum fully of food adventure excitement. The boys did not disappoint with their witty repartee. I couldn't help but tweet a few Bourdain Zingers that stood out such as "Martha- she will shank a bitch" "Cigarettes, why god made salt" and "If their are 5 things I'm proud of one of the was writing a part for Emeril on TV where he could say F@#$" and lastly that an iteration of Tuna Tartare makes him sad. Eric Ripert would like to die the death of an Ortolan Bird.... Fattened up and drowning in cognac. And he enjoys a late night snack of Chorizo.

I hope the excitement of this whole evening stays with me a long time... and that I can somehow budget another tasting dinner at AQ another season soon!

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