Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Meal of the Month: December

It was another busy month of eating. And I'm not even going to count the meals I had in Hong Kong at the end of December...those will have to be it's own separate post. Just like those delicious meals in early December while I was in Australia. I guess meals had in a foreign country don't count.

What that leaves is about two weeks time when I was in California in December. Throw in Christmas party after Christmas party, and two multiple Christmas dinners...and you get a lot of delicious meals.

The feast that my friend Michael prepared for a small group of us in early December was a highlight (and I'm still waiting for photos from Michael!!) But the delicious stew was roasted in a beautiful pumpkin, and I find myself still craving those bacon wrapped asparagus spears. Yum!

I had a classic home cooked meal with Christy, Rick and the boys...a yummy turkey meatball spaghetti. The beauty of this simple, but delicious meal was of course the company. Seated in between two of my favorite little boys in the whole world, the meal was extra special because I was with my Sacramento family.

There was the night I had dinner with my good friend Matt and his family right before Christmas. Seeing Matt is always a treat, and we had a great time making a Ina Garten chicken stew with biscuits. Surrounded by Matt, Mama Maureen, and 'little brother Brendan' was a special treat. I always love my time out there with them, and it's also one of those special places when I feel right at home. The wine is always flowing, and the conversation, laughter, stories, and jokes make the night fly by. The chicken stew was DELICIOUS, and the minor 'biscuit incident' was well worth it!!

Not to mention of course the AMAZING dinner Christmas Eve I had with my family and our good family well as our Christmas dinner that my dad prepared. Both of those feasts would have won out in any normal month. Hands down.

So why aren't I talking about those meals? Because as soon as I had finished the winning Meal of the Month, I knew it was going to have to be my December Meal of the Month. The winning meal was my dinner at Quince Restaurant in San Francisco.

My friend Wendy was celebrating a birthday (a good friend never tells how old!!) and like me, she's a food person. We decided to go to Quince for dinner to celebrate. She's been many times, and I've been wanting to go for a long time. A friend of mine is the executive chef there, and he's been telling me I needed to go in. And then what really did it? Was when I was talking to Chef Neil Perry in AUSTRALIA, and he mentioned that Quince was one of his favorite restaurants in the world. Done. I had to go there for dinner, and I had to go soon.

Quince is the most adorable restaurant, located in lower Pacific Heights. The restaurant is small--maybe 50 seats? 60 max I'd guess? We waited a few minutes for our table, and the maitre 'd gave us a beautiful sparkling rose to help pass the time while we waited. It was perfect, and gave me the chance to really look around the restaurant and take it all in.

We sat down and quickly decided that we weren't going to order a la carte, nor were we going to order the tasting menu. We were going to let Chef Evan cook for us. We started with an amuse that had three little bites on the plate, a crab salad, smoked salmon and porchini arancini ball. Each were perfect!

Throughout the meal, we couldn't resist eating the delicious bread and bread sticks that were put in front of us. Those bread sticks are incredible, light and hollow inside.

From there, we ate an olive oil poached octopus that was served with escarole and a persimmon puree. I love octopus. But it's not easy to prepare. And I've had some bad octopus in my day too--from being overcooked and rubbery, to being burned. So it took everything in me not to clean my plate (and I had to explain to our server that I was just pacing myself, not that I didn't love the dishes!) But I knew we still had a lot of food ahead of us.

Next up was scallops. Served with a pomegranate puree and a little sliver of a Mandarin orange. SO SO GOOD. I did finish this plate. I had to. Both of those courses were paired with a dry Riesling from north east Italy. Perfectly paired.

We moved onto our pasta courses. Now Quince is well known for their house made, fresh pastas. We started off with a sea urchin spaghetti. It was PERFECTLY paired with a viognier blend. I am a big sea urchin fan, and loved this unique preparation. (Up until then, I've only had fresh raw sea urchin and a warm sea urchin served in the shell at Anchor & Hope in San Francisco.)

We moved onto a black pepper pappardelle served with a local goose and pumpkin puree. Also perfect, and so seasonal.

The next pasta course (yes, that's three pasta courses!) was probably my absolute favorite in the night. It was actually TWO pastas on one dish (ok, so I guess you can technically say we had four pasta courses...). On the right hand side there were small round ravioli like pastas filled with a mixture of veal and guinea hen. SO GOOD. On the right hand side, we had a salsify puree and black truffle stuffed ravioli, larger than the ones on the right hand side. This was my single favorite item of the night. Paired perfectly with a sangiovese, I could eat this every day.

By this time, I had not only not finished everything on my plate, I was only taking small bites (except for the salsify/truffle pasta, I ate it all.) With a slightly guilty face, we had to tell the server, that we were getting full. He told us to hang more course to go.

The last course was a huge treat. Unlike all of the other courses, we each had a different dish! We tried a guinea hen with a turnip puree, a duck with parsnip and squash, and a lamb. All were amazing. And I honestly loved each and every one of those dishes.

We gave our server a very quick "NO" answer when he asked if we wanted a cheese course. Instead we ended with a few shared light sorbet desserts for the table. SO GOOD.

Now dear reader. I tried my best to remember every single dish and preparation. BUT. I usually rely on my photos to jog my memory for each dish. Well, not only is my friend Chef Evan not a big fan of people taking photos in the restaurant, his restaurant is TOO DARK for photos. I didn't want to use the flash (that didn't seem appropriate), but without it, the photos were really not coming out. I tried to jot down notes when each course was presented. But after awhile, with the wine kicking in...and my food coma was just getting harder and harder. Deepest apologies to Evan and Quince if I've gotten my details a little mixed up. It really was one of the most amazing meals I've ever had. Maybe I'll just need to go back and eat again!


  1. Sounds like an outstanding meal!

    I must ask though. Is your friend Evan the sous chef? As the Executive Chef/Owner is Michael Tusk.


  2. hi-me! love the mention of the 'biscuit incident'. :) it all turned out in the end!

  3. Disregard my above question. With the help of Google I found info on his joining the Quince team.

    Can't wait to try Quince on my next west coast trip.