It had been most of a month since we had been back to our favorite restaurant, and The Rocket Scientist’s return from a week of traveling provided the right opportunity. We had visions of a sundown hot tub, so we went for dinner right at opening time, 5:30. As always, we took seats at the bar and enjoyed the company of bartenders extraordinaire Audrey and Nate, the latter of which was leaving after his shift (with Front-of-Restaurant Manager Dave) to drive to Kentucky to do Bourbon tastings over the weekend. They had sandwiches and snacks already packed, and intended to start the 13-hour drive as soon as they could. Buona fortuna to them.
We both picked up on new selection on the by-the-glass list, NV Taittenger ‘La Francaise’ Champagne, so that’s what we started with. It was the right choice. It had the perfect crisp acidity to get the mouth watering for Chef Marty’s creations (not that the mouth needs much help in that regard when we’re headed to Mise).
Audrey asked how the blog was going (so clearly she’s not reading!—but who’s to blame her with a full-time job and two young kids). I told her that I’m striving to write five entries a week, which she thought might be too much. I’ll write as often as I can, so long as there is something worth writing about. It might mean cooking a little more (or heaven forbid, going out to nice places a little more). Every other day might be a little more reasonable, not to mention regular, so we’ll see how that plays out.
There was a repeat on the Second Plate menu which I knew I was going for: Risotto with Bay Scallops, House Cured Guanciale, Trumpet Royal Mushrooms, and Peas. It was every bit as creamy and decadent as the last time I had it. I tried a glass of the 2009 Patz & Hall ‘Dutton Ranch’, Chardonnay, and I was not impressed—so little so that I shipped it back. I’ve had Patz & Hall Pinots before and found them worth every bit of the $30 or so I’ve spent. I hoped that it had a nice buttery character to go with the risotto, and it fell flat. A good minerality is fine with me, but this was excessively chalky—this was like licking someone’s gravel driveway. I traded it in for 2009 Domaine Weinbach ‘Cuvee Theo’ Riesling, which while not the perfect pairing, was sufficiently tasty and varietally appropriate.
Meanwhile, Gretchyn tried a new dish, the Ancho Rubbed Barbeque Spiced Grilled Shrimp with Tasso Black Eyed Pea Succotash, Crispy Polenta Cake, Kumquat Barbeque Vinaigrette. The shrimp was nicely spicy. I’m very happy when a chef doesn’t hold back on the heat for fear of turning off someone. She also had the Riesling, the light sweetness of which provided a really nice contrast to the piquant shrimp.
I suffered from the paralysis of choice on a Main Course. We normally have three smaller courses when we eat at the bar, but I was hungry, and there were three choices on the Main menu that had me intrigued. First was a Curry Spice Rubbed Tuna that Dave raved about, second was Seared Duck Breast with a Duck Marcona Almond Date Brick, and Harissa Scented Israeli Cous Cous, but what I went for was a new presentation of Sous Vide Venision with Creamy Smoked Bacon Savoy Cabbage, Duck Fat Smashed Fingerling Potatoes, Nature’s Best Garden Baby Carrots, Huckleberry Minus 8 Vinaigrette. As often happens with dishes we eat here, each of the individual elements were good by themselves, but the marriage of all the elements made it a spectacular dish. Especially remarkable was the combination of the potatoes and cabbage, the richness of the duck fat and heft of the potatoes infusing with the smooth creaminess of the cabbage, the heady smoke of the bacon hovering over it all. I drank with it a 2007 Dierberg Pinot Noir, a little larger-bodied than most Central Coast Pinots, but perfectly appropriate for the venison.
Gretchyn’s eye was drawn to a choice on the bar menu: Artisanal Grilled Cheese, a Selection Of Artisanal Cheeses, Side Of House Tapenade, Grilled Brioche, Mojo Salted Fries. Which cheeses were a mystery, but Audrey told us there was at least one bleu in it, which is consistent with our experience with Mise Grilled Cheese on the lunch menu. Gretchyn asked about a pairing with bleu and I said, “Um, Sauternes, but you probably really don’t want to drink that with dinner.” I suggested the 2008 Torbreck ‘Juveniles’, a Grenache/Mourvedre/Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley. Torbreck is the producer of some great high-end wines, and having previously tasted the ‘Juveniles,’ I suspected that the fruit of the Grenache and Shiraz and the darkness of the Mourvedre would make a good pairing. I was fortunately correct. There was a bleu cheese in sandwich with certainly a Gruyere and something else we forgot to ask about—but it was a magical grilled cheese. The texture and flavor of the bread was perfect to set off the beautiful palette of rich cheeses, just enough crunch and butteryness without dominating the sandwich. The brilliance of the sandwich came when adding a little smear of the tapenade. The saltiness provided a high note, and the darkness of the olives did the same thing I had hoped the darkness of the wine did. It was an amazingly assembled ‘simple’ dish.
We briefly discussed dessert, but decided to head back to the house where we did indeed catch that sundown hot tub, topped off with a little glass of Graham’s 40-year-old Port, the perfect ending to an evening rife with perfections.