I am a fan of Top Chef Masters so when I heard the host, Curtis Stone, had a restaurant in Beverly Hills, we decided to get reservations. Maude, named after the chef's grandmother, serves a Nine Course Tasting Menu inspired by a different seasonal ingredient every month. To get a table for our one night in Los Angeles, I had to log onto their website at 10am on July 1st when they released their August tickets for the Plum Tasting Menu. I tried for one of the limited spots at the kitchen bar, but since they were already filled I managed to get a regular table for 5:30pm. (All the tables for Saturday, August 13th, filled within the first hour online. It reminded me of the way I had to get tickets for Burning Man.) After a month and a half of anticipation, it was great to finally arrive and enjoy our meal.
1st Course - Savory Cookie (Lardo, Fennel) Since Tori requested no red meat, this first course ended up being the only one where she received the vegetarian alternative. Her savory cookie had cheese instead of the almost transparent layer of pork fat lying on top of the pickled plums. It was very tasty but the cookie crumbled easily in my hand so I had to bite it down quick.
2nd Course - Gazpacho (Cucumber, Sorrel, Purslane) This plum gazpacho arrived bubbly and sweet. It was cool and refreshing after our stroll in the hot sun around Beverly Hills before the meal. The service was impressive with at least one server for every two people in the restaurant. They shared duties with most of them bringing us a plate at least once.
3rd Course - Kampachi (Black Olives, Basil) This was the plate that most tested my long-held tastes. I can't stand olives but with the first bite I found the normal acrid taste to be very mellow and they didn't overwhelm the other flavors. I was very surprised! The black olive oil under the three pieces of Kampachi sashimi gave them a rich, buttery flavor that I loved.
4th Course - Beets (Hazelnut Milk, Anise Hyssop) A very simple but pretty dish with three different plum varieties, roasted beets, anise hyssop flowers and leaves. It was a great way to taste the restaurant's seasonal ingredient on its own. At the table, a server poured a small amount of hazelnut milk into each bowl. I drank the last drops of milk by lifting the bowl to my mouth. After this course, I was starting to get worried that I would still be hungry after the meal due to the tiny servings, but I shouldn't have. They portioned out the servings perfectly. I was just the right amount of full after the second dessert.
5th Course - Red Bream (Agretti and Artichoke) This was my second favorite plate of the night. The fish served with plum wine foam and covered in plum scales was tender and flavorful. At first we thought the flakes on the side were dehydrated plums but we were wondering how they made them so savory instead of sweet. When we overheard that they were artichoke instead, it made more sense. They were awesome and I wanted more.
6th Course - Foie Gras (Eel, Nori) Tori and I were confused when this course was served since we hadn't heard that the California ban had been lifted in 2015. This is only the second time we have eaten Foie Gras. The first time was at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas during the ban. Maude served a much larger portion and it was just as delicious.
7th Course - Tsukune (Sesame Seeds, Pickled Ginger, Tare) This chicken sausage cooked under herbs at our table was my favorite course of the evening. I loved dipping it in the plum sauce and mixing and matching it with all the different ingredients on the plate including cilantro and onion. It would have been perfect if the sausage had only been a little bit bigger since I still had toppings left on the plate after I ran out of the meat. I didn't want to stop!
8th Course - Risotto (Spot Prawn, Okra, Corn) This was Tori's favorite dish of the night. She loves okra and thought it was perfectly prepared. No okra slime! The corn risotto was rich and smooth and went well with the prawn.
9th Course - Pheasant (Lily Bulbs, Amaranth, Gyoza) After each course, our silverware was taken away and replaced with new. This time I was given a sharp pocket knife before they brought out our crispy-skinned pheasant served atop a rich plum sauce. The texture of the lily bulbs reminded me of heart of palm. As I was cutting into my bird, I joked that the knife was a perfect weapon on the street to get back the money we spent on this meal. The woman sitting next us choked on her food as she laughed. We were also given additional bowls filled with broth and a pheasant dumpling inside. Since Maude's website says they serve nine courses, we were surprised to see another entree instead of a desert at this point. Little did we know that we still had a lot more food coming.
10th Course - Humboldt Fog (Goat Cheese) While I was challenged by the olives in the third course, this was Tori's turn to face an ingredient she actively dislikes. She was as surprised as I had been that she enjoyed this mild goat cheese served with almonds and wrapped in plum leather. Excellent ingredients professionally prepared make a huge difference.
Palate Cleanser - (Sake Lees Ice Cream and Plum Granite) The plum granita by itself was too tart but eaten together with the ice cream, it was heavenly.
11th Course - Chocolate Diplomat (Shiso Ice Cream, Cinnamon, Caramelized Pastry) I was getting nicely full by the time they brought out the last course. The lighting in the photo below doesn't do this tasty treat justice.
Since Maude wishes every course to be a surprise for their guests, they presented the menu at the end of the meal with a small plate of petit fours (miso caramels, pâté à choux and pâté de fruit) as well as wrapped plum cakes to take home with us. The miniature cream-filled puff pastry was my favorite of the three. We had been hesitant when we first heard this month's seasonal ingredient was Plum since both of us prefer savory to sweet but we thought the meal was a great success. We appreciated how well it was integrated into every dish without overwhelming or feeling repetitive.
Earlier that day, I rode the Amtrak train up to Los Angeles Union Station to meet my wife who was at the Self-Realization Fellowship Convocation held in the Bonaventure Hotel. The annual Convocation is a week long but Tori only went for the last three days with her mother. I had visited the hotel earlier this year when we were in LA but it was interesting to see the actual Convocation in progress that my wife had described to me so many times. Since Tori's mother was getting a ride home with a friend, we left before the last class ended to avoid the exodus crowds.
Since we arrived in Beverly Hills early to avoid traffic for our dinner reservations, we went for a walk around town. On Wilshire Boulevard, I recognized Sterling Plaza from visiting it in the video game, LA Noire. It is a historic Art Deco building built in 1929. At Two Rodeo Drive, we discovered the Salvador Dali Exhibit displaying an outdoor collection of the Spanish artist's monumental and museum-sized sculptures. A few were variations of his iconic melting clocks but "The Unicorn" is the one that caught my attention the most. This is the first time they have been shown in the USA.
We had originally planned to stay up in Los Angeles after dinner and visit the Acro-Green in Santa Monica on Sunday morning before driving down for my Grandmother's 94th Birthday Party in Orange County in the afternoon. Since Tori's mother wanted to go to the party as well, we ended up driving home to San Diego that night instead so we could take her with us the next day. Tori and I wanted to demonstrate our budding AcroYoga skills for my Grandma Marion so at breakfast we created a custom Birthday Flow for her party using postures and transitions from the three forms we have learned so far. It was the longest flow we have ever done without Tori going to the ground between poses.
Back Plank Mount
Navasana (Boat Pose)
Back Plank to Star
Mountain Climber Down
Half Barrel Roll Up
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Side Star to High Flying Whale
Low Foot to Hand
Mermaid (one side)
Pop to Bird
Bird Pop (x 1)
Barrel Rolls (x 1-1/2) to Straddle Bat
Paschi Arm Balance Dismount
After we performed for our family, it was time to string up the Donald Trump Pinata. Normally I am the one raising and lowering the pinatas but I passed the torch to my cousin, Brennan, since I was still tired from AcroYoga. It lasted through five hitters before William ripped off The Donald's legs with one swing.
It was great to see my Grandma. We had to take her Birthday Cake outside when it was time to light the candles because of her oxygen tank. She picked Steve to blow out the candles for her.