What you repeat repeatedly becomes a habit, and I am habituated to eating!
While I barely repeat spots in isolation within the same season, certain ones draw me back courtesy of timing, a sensory experience or one particular dish. For Tar & Roses, Chef Andrew Kirschner’s flagship restaurant in Santa Monica, where he pairs wine around a crafted menu around a wood-burning oven. Locally sourced ingredients have me consistently yearning for the dessert first, each time, followed by the rest of the meal and ending once again with dessert!
While most know I’m devoted chocoholic, it took one strawberry dessert to bring me back again and again. The strawberry ricotta crostata is perfectly crisp like baklava, with warm, juicy strawberries that cut the heaviness with a tart flavor, underplayed deliciously with ricotta cheese that balances both flavor and temperature. As a borderline savory dessert, the honeycomb gelato cleverly adds both a crunchy texture, a gush of cold and a sweetness that brings the entire dish into a gorgeous culmination.
While perched in the dark ambiance with a wine rack, a blazing oven and an intimate, sepia toned atmosphere, I sprung over the wine owing to many cocktail nights in LA. For sips, I opted for the rose lemonade, sourced locally with fermented ginger and pure rose. A digestive that enabled me to chow through my days, it was a sparkling kick that gave me a detoxed rebirth.
With a penchant for juxtaposed textures and an allure for wood roasted feel given the forte of the spot, I liked the wood roasted baby carrots – juicy, sweet, and so raw that they made me lurk around for Alice’s White Rabbit! Loaded with a sweet and sour chemoula creme fraiche and raw currants, it was a relishing, fresh and fibrous bite that almost felt like a gourmet kid’s meal! By contrast, the wood roasted potatoes were a heartier bite, making me realize I would need a worthy trip to the gym soon after. But the rawness of the potato skin with onion and turnip roots hanging like a lazy lover from the dish were succulent, soaked in garlic with a spicy aioli.
As a staple bite in LA, I tried the brussels sprouts, and with chestnuts as a prime ingredient, it whisked me right back to my time in China where I ate chestnuts with every tasty vegetarian meal! Paired with mushrooms and a mustard vinaigrette, it was fun play on similar textures tied together with the sharp, spicy and salty undertone.
A tray of bruschetta brought out an array of Californian cheeses from sharp cheddar to mellow goat cheese , with pistachios, sourdough breads and a sphere of fresh cut tomatoes and mint leaf bruschetta for a hearty bite and a nod to marrying the west coast with Italian flavors. This, alongside the avocado salad was also upgraded with spiced walnuts, pomegranates, lettuce and feta cheese, a flavorful blend of juxtaposing Mediterranean flavors with Californian stapes, proving once again that my penchant for juxtaposition was always a winner.
Only once did opt for a chocoholic dessert which was the chocolate tar bar: a dark chocolate ganache meets brownie hunky chunk of chocolate that I could like and swallow with the plate itself! The classic pairing of salted caramel ice cream briefly cut the heaviness but gave it a gratuitous finish, accompanied by the crunch of toasted hazelnuts which transformed me into one happy kid.
As if witnessing my inherent whimsy, even the check arrived in an envelope labelled “The Damage!”
And off I went to La La Land, into strawberry sunsets (or, happily satiated, to strawberry dreams!)
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