Thursday, June 28, 2012

No. 219: A Few Favorite Foie Gras Dishes Around Town...

While a good amount of my food-loving friends are up in arms about the impending foie gras ban come July 1st (which may not even be enforced rigorously,) I can't bring myself to muster much of a reaction. Sure, I don't care for a government entity telling me what I can and can't eat--but foie gras is such an occasional indulgence for me that I probably won't miss it if it really disappears from the menus here. Besides, I can always hop to a neighboring state if my craving is that strong!

Nonetheless, given how it's been foie gras this and foie gras that for the past month (not to mention endless foie gras tasting menus popping up all over L.A.,) I figure now's a good a time as any to reflect on some of my recent favorite foie dishes. And if they are truly gone for good, at least I'll have a tasty memory to cling on to.

Foie Gras Rice Bowl @ The Playground 
Foie Gras Rice Bowl @ The Playground
One of the most interesting preparations of foie I've had in recent memory, it's served in a hybrid fried-rice/bibimbap style--with a umami-loaded, soy-based sauce and a composed arrangement of assorted veggies and notably, pineapples. I was skeptical about the fruity addition but in fact, it did the heavy lifting for this dish--adding some bright acidity and much-needed sweetness to this bowl, which tasted a bit too rich & salty otherwise. And the composed structure of this dish made it fun for me to try different combos of ingredients.

Oh, I should also mention that they have an AWESOME beer selection, both bottles & drafts!

Seared Foie Gras w Gingerbread, Rhubarb & Cherries @ WEST Restaurant*
Foie Gras w Rhubarb & Gingerbread @ West
Asides from an amazing penthouse-level view, they did a splendid job on a fairly classic preparation of the dish, a perfectly-seared lobe with delightful complements. The tart rhubarb and cherries offset the deeply, savory fattiness of the liver, and the flecks of gingerbread added fun little highlights of sweet-spice aromas here and there. Lastly, the microgreens added not only color appeal, but also provided a light & bright flavor respite between bites of all those rich textures and flavors.

And while this particular dish isn't on WEST's "Au Revoir Foie Gras" tasting menu; the menu does take the ingredients to some unusual territories - such as foie gras ice cream with roasted peach & rhubarb crisp and a foie gras parfait PB & J.

Foie Gras Biscuit @ Animal
Foie Gras & Biscuit @ Animal
Whereas my first two highlights are playing on differing, even contrasting, flavor and textures -- my final favorite is unapologetically rich all the way, with the lobe atop a biscuit drenched in maple-sausage gravy. Rather trying to entice the diner to take some time to play around with different components, this dish simply screams "dig in!" And it is a glorious combination of sins - a fluffy mound of carbs swimming in a creamy gravy (which, for me, hits that perfect flavor trifecta of salty, sweet and spicy!) And of course, the crowning glory of that wonderfully charred foie. (And with any luck, I hope to give this dish one last go tonight!)

Ok, so if the ban is for real, I will maybe miss foie a little bit! Let's just hope next time I go to Vegas the servers won't give me weird looks for demanding a foie rice bowl or over biscuits & gravy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No. 218: Diamond Jubilee/Anniversary Afternoon Tea @ Langham Pasadena

While afternoon teas are usually an indulgent affair, with the low-end ones running at approx. $20/person and the upscale affairs going close to $70, once a year there is a phenomenal promotion - the Anniversary Afternoon Tea at Langham Pasadena on June 10 - which they commemorate by offering their afternoon tea at its original price of 1 pence and 6 shillings (or, 15 U.S. cents -- yes, $0.15)

Lounge Area 
Alas, in past years I have missed out on this amazing deal because 1) June 10 fell on a weekday or 2) by the time I remembered about it, it has already been booked up. Not so in 2012, where it fortunately fell on a Sunday and... thanks to their PR and a last-minute cancellation of another table... I managed to wrangle a space for my friends and I.
Bubbly and Tea 
This year's tea was made extra special because it also commemorates Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, which meant a glass of bubbly to go with our teas. I can certainly toast to that! Long live the Queen!
Tea Sandwiches 
And just because this tea set costs less than a buck doesn't mean it's any less decadent. Our tasty affair started with bite-sized, open-faced tea sandwiches with exquisite toppings such as smoked salmon profiterole with shallot-caper cream and caviar, and prosciutto with egg on peppercorn-potato bread. Though I think our favorite is the watercress-pesto marinated shrimp on herb-garlic bread.
Tea Sweets 
Next came a plate of mini desserts, some finger-friendly and others not so much. Having had such intensely-flavored savory sandwiches earlier, I personally liked the more delicate and subtle sweets on this plate, such as the airy, bright raspberry macaron and the spongy almond financier - though I definitely appreciate the artistic qualities of their fancier sweets too, especially the cloverleaf designs on the milk chocolate citrus torte and the plump, gold leaf-topped berries on the lemon-raspberry tart.
Scones & Poundcake
Of course, no afternoon tea is complete without scones, and these came to us still warm from the oven with a wonderful flaky crust and an interior that's impeccably light without being too crumbly. They were sublime with the Devonshire cream & lemon custard, as well as their strawberry preserves.

As for the tea itself, I stuck with the Langham Blend throughout the afternoon, their signature blend of Assam, Darjeeling and Tippy Golden Orange Pekoe that made for a black tea that's smooth enough to drink on its own, but definitely better with a lump of sugar and a spot of milk. My friends did opt for their lighter Green Tea Passion[fruit] and Chamomile teas as the day went on, though.
And like the afternoon teas we've had, time just slipped right by as we sipped, nibbled, relaxed and chatted away . . . has it been two and a half hours already? I guess all good things must come to an end . . . but not before we made a pact to do another tea in the near future, and try to come back again next year for this truly affordable luxury (even if it means taking that Monday off in 2013 . . . consider yourselves notified!)

And if you're feeling particularly posh and sweet-toothy, I'd also point you towards their Sunday chocolate afternoon tea... with a dessert buffet!

Lobby Lounge @ Langham Pasadena 
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue 
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 585-6218 


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