Last night, Marty G. and I went to Fuel for the restaurant’s second annual Whole Hog Dinner. Long time readers of this blog may remember last year’s Whole Hog menu was comprised of such memorable offerings as stuffed pig ear with green sauce accompanied by a pig tail consommé and crispy brain served with parsley root and Dungeness crab mayonnaise. Well, this year’s dishes were somewhat more subtle and refined in what I suspect was an attempt to tempt less adventurous diners.
We kicked things off with an amuse: Potted Pork and Foie Gras Rilette served with rye bread and an apricot jam. A wonderfully rustic, hearty starter.
Our first course was a Pork Consommé with cotechino stuffed trotter, flageolet, and celery. The consommé was surprisingly understated, allowing the rich flavor of the paper thin, fatty pork sausage that lined the bottom of the soup bowl to take center stage. The beans only got in the way here.
Our second course was the Risotto di cervello with guanciale, tomato, and herbs. For those of you who need to brush up on your Italian, that’s brain risotto. Now being the fearless eater I am, I have sampled brain in the past and, to be honest, it’s not my cup of tea. For those of you who have tried it, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s not for everyone, possessed of an almost metallic aftertaste that some enjoy but I find off-putting. In the case of Fuel’s risotto di cervello, however, the flavor was very subtle and, I must admit, very pleasant. The complimentary creaminess of both the risotto and the brain really served to backstop the surprise star of this dish: the tender pieces of crispy pork jowl that crowned the plate.
For our third course, we had White Truffle Poached Loin with pumpkin, hazelnuts, and crispy ear. I thought the loin was perfectly prepared but, alas, the essence of the white truffle was overshadowed by the kabocha squash that accompanied the loin. The intensity of the hazelnut also worked against it.
Our fourth course was a Confit Belly Chop with chestnuts, brussel sprouts, and mustard. Well-marbled, crispy, and utterly delicious, a perfect marriage of sweet, savory, and smoky.
Our fifth course was the Gravenstein Apple pound cake with bacon and calvados. Interesting. I was wondering how they were going to work the pork angle into dessert. No doubt well aware of my general distaste for fruit-based desserts, Ted swung by the table beforehand and gave me the heads up. I explained that, in fact, it‘s not so much the fruit I have a problem with as its unpleasant tartness. Truth be told, I’ve enjoyed desserts that incorporated bananas, figs, blueberries and, on one rare occasion, even raspberries. As for the dessert on this night – I thought a little dessert bacon goes a long way otherwise the dish was fantastic and well-deserving of a spot on the regular dessert menu rotation.
All in all, a superior dinner. That said, I kind of missed the in-your-face boldness of last year’s menu.
We ended our meal by ordering, of all things, a cheese plate. Three great selections complimented by sweet honeycomb. And a glass of port.
Martin was kind enough to snap up the bill, informing me that it was my belated birthday dinner. I thanked him and, of course, will be more than happy to return the treat with dinner at Hamadaya in Tokyo. Provided I can convince him to join me of course.
Well, Martin has yet to commit to Tokyo, but he has agreed to come by and field your questions and comments on Brain Storm, the episode he wrote, produced, and directed.
Oh, by the way – I hate computers. I was hoping to bring my tiny travel laptop to L.A. (and eventually Tokyo) but, for some reason, I’m unable to connect to the internet through either a wireless network or a direct Ethernet connection. So, I phoned my internet provider who suggested I contact the manufacturer of my modem (even though it’s not really a problem with the modem since all of the other laptops in the house have no problem connecting). I phoned the modem manufacturer who, yes, pointed out it wasn’t a problem with the modem and suggested I contact my laptop manufacturer. Instead, I ran a side by side comparison with my other working laptop to find out if there was anything I may have missed. Nope. Finally, I ran the handy “repair” option on my wireless network connection. The diagnostic informed me that it was unable to repair the problem because the following action could not be completed: “Connecting to the wireless network”. Ironic, no?
P.S. One more day to get your questions in for playback supervisor and matte master extraordinaire Krista McLean.