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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Gustatory Frimminx

As an epicure on a somewhat tight budget, one of the the events I look most forward to on the yearly food calendar is San Diego Restaurant Week. Twice a year, some of the best establishments in town offer a price fixe discounted menu that allows us poor schlubs from the hinterlands a chance to partake in what the rich folks are eating.

This year, for what might be our fifth year in a row, we headed back to Pamplemousse in Del Mar. Chef/owner Jeffrey Strauss's food is so damn good that we really needed to look no farther. The rube from the provinces made his annual pilgrimage to the temple of food.  We threw Love's Forever Changes CD into the player and sang ourselves to Del Mar from Fallbrook.

When the accent mark suggested we book a reservation there was no hesitation on my part. And last night's meal was indeed epic, probably the best and most consistent meal we have ever had there. The place was packed. Leslie and the accent looked elegant and beautiful, I looked a bit threadbare and disheveled but if the more turned out patricians noticed they gave no signal.

The place was seriously full of eager diners, more people than I had ever seen there. The parking lot was littered with Bentleys and Teslas. I was worried about how long it would take to order and get our food. How could they pull this off? I needn't. Things went flawlessly. Food, service, timing, a well conducted symphony of food.

I have stopped bringing my Nikon to dinner so the ladies courteously took the photographs for me. The SLR is too large to do proper surreptitious food porn and my camera on the HTC phone sucks.

I will get straight to the food. After several different and tasty bread selections our most excellent and professional server John explained our options for the evening. We quickly decided.

My first course was the lobster ravioli, filled with huge chunks of lobster, seared scallops, wild mushrooms, little multicolored pear tomatoes and asparagus, all swimming in a marvelous ginger soy beurre blanc. Very rich and creamy.

This dish was so absolutely delicious that I was afraid that the rest of the meal would be a giant downhill run from there but I can happily report it was not in any way.

Leslie chose the beet salad for her first course. It contained grilled artichokes, crisped goat cheese, greens, pine nuts and balsamic. Nice, she gave me a bite, in fact the three of us as is our custom always share everything. But if I may be so bold, not nearly as sublime as mine. I am not a huge beet guy. She loved it, had no complaints.

The accent upgraded to both of the supplemental options, a duo of fois gras and gnocchi with shaved black truffle. The girls have learned over the years to work the truffle shavers at Pampelmousse and the servings were, shall we say, quite liberal.

The accent mark was kind enough to buy the table a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to wash everything down with. It was delicious but unfortunately I am finding that my allergies are accelerating and I can't drink white wine or champagne without getting instantly congested and going into a sneezing attack. Sulfites or bad genes.

Damn. Sneezed my way through an excellent dinner at Leven and Beth's last week. Thank god I have other vices that I can readily substitute.

Our entrees were not long to follow; I had the osso buco, made with Colorado lamb, crispy lamb confit, truffle mashed potato and carrots. I guess I hadn't read the menu carefully but I was astounded by the wonderful crunch of the lamb confit, which I had overlooked, the most interesting and different texture that I have ever seen with osso buco.

I asked the server for the reason for the fantastic crunch and he said the remolata and I knew that wasn't right. Les thought that perhaps it had been seared. Now I know.

My only request would have been for a marrow fork, which I hinted to the very nice g.m. Mr. Ernst, but not really forcefully. After scouting for a suitable tool, I ended up leaving one of the best parts of the shank on the plate.

The accent agu had a steak, a delicious but slightly underdone ribeye that she decided not to send back and ultimately learned to live with and love.

Leslie, my gorgeous wife, went for the duck confit with sweet white corn, chard and cherry reduction. It was absolutely superbly succulent and the portion was very generous as well.

The whole meal was just so tight and consistent. Other years there might be a weak link or two in the lineup but this meal was perfect in every respect, every dish. There is a very good reason the place was packed.

A lot of foodies run all over each other trying to find the next new thing, we are old and wise enough to recognize culinary perfection when we see it.

I saw the owner outside as he was running to Gelsons to grab some more lamb and told him so. Really on his game.

I had stupidly eaten a large lunch and wanted to forego dessert but my dinner companions simply would not allow it. Twist my arm.

I ordered a pear tarte tartin with a very thick vanilla gelato and berries.

The girls opted for the warm chocolate truffle cake with salted caramel créme anglaise, gelato and berries.

They picked right this time. The confection was absolutely sinful. Mine was good but theirs was out of the park.

Another year, another remarkable meal at Pamplemousse.

I saw my now retired cardiologist and his wife at coffee this morning. He never really appreciated this kind of thing. I hinted at the gravity of my sin but since he is retired did not ask him for any sort of absolution for my depraved gluttony. He has read the blog before, knows the nature of my perfidy, but as I said, is retired and now deserves a break.

We finished up with a shared cup of excellent coffee and they brought us a small plate of little piggie sugar cookies. Not sure anybody else in the restaurant received such a plate...

There are a few days left of Restaurant Week. You might want to give it a go.

Pamplemousse Grille

514 Via de la Valle, Suite 100
Solana Beach, CA 92075

1 comment:

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Great account of a very fine meal.

"The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." -Mark Twain