By Judy Ohrn Hicks, Guest Blogger
Eric and I had the pleasure of enjoying a Saturday night out at Market in Del Mar CA with two of our favorite people on the planet, Gary & Karin. It was beautiful San Diego in May weather and our evening was going along just swimmingly when Karin mentioned that it might be a fine idea for me to write up our dining experience for her all things food and fabulous “Cook the Part” blog as a “guest blogger”. “Guest blogger”, was she kidding!? Or had this accomplished chef forgotten that I was the dinner guest who, upon having asked if I could do anything to help and being handed a bag of something green to chop, had to ask what it was and instructions on how to chop it! (parsley? huh, really, you eat it?)
I implore those of you who have not already decided that I will have zero to offer you in the culinary department to bear with me. Though admittedly a disaster in the kitchen, I will try my very best to share the subtleties, nuances, flavors, and fragrances of our dining experience by compensating with what are very well-honed eating skills! I mean, I may not have capitalized on the trend of dipping bacon from a pedigreed porcine into a fine, Swiss dark chocolate and wrapping in gold foil, but who hasn’t on occasion substituted Hersheys for Mrs Butterworth on pancakes and used a side of bacon to make sure none went to waste! I’m just saying…..on occasion. Failing that, I will consider setting the meal to music and attaching an interpretive dance video clip……..
The first thing I will say about Market having been there a number of times is that they consistently achieve an amazing combination of elegant and welcoming. They have created a perfect balance of very open plan restaurant with very intimate seating, yet with the inability to hear anyone or anything but the people with whom you are dining. From the minute the valet takes your car, you feel like your are among gracious friends happy to see you and appreciative of your spending time with them. Market is the perfect restaurant for those who enjoy fine dining, but long for the comfort and familiarity of a local diner where everyone knows you (assuming that diner has a valet, crisp white linens, and an excellent wine list!). I honestly imagine the pre-dinner prep to be something along the lines of what happens just as the seaplane lands on Fantasy Island and Mr. Rouke kicks the staff into high gear!
Interestingly, there does not appear to be a distinguishable personality at market – Delicias has Gino Campbell, Winecellar Brassiere had Steve Barr, Spago has the guy on the frozen pizza boxes, even our local breakfast place has Mama Kat! Everyone at Market seems to be part of a cohesive, engaged team. I may not recognize nor appreciate it fully when the sommelier turns the bottle in the correct direction when pouring, but I do a group of people who work well together and clearly enjoy and take pride in their work. Before I get to the food and wine, let me share with you the best part of being a Food Blogger – the special treatment. In short, when Karin shared with our waiter that she had a food blog the perks started flowing and included extra large and multiple pre-dinner amuse-bouches, a post dinner amuse (as if we were not already amused enough – okay, I stole that line from Gary) AND a meet and greet with the hottie chef! I immediately made a note to order a set of business cards – Judy Ohrn Hicks, Food Blogger and began having visions of the best tables, the amuses flowing…. Sadly, I have come to realize that you actually have to know how to talk about food to actually make use of the cards more than once – which you may have noticed I have all but avoided doing thus far in my ramblings, so here goes.
Let me start with the amuses which irritatingly are not listed on the menu (which I swung by the other night to pick up when I realized I was really on the hook for this – Hemingway did not know this pressure!), so I am going to have to wing this part. The first one was an incredible bite of shrimp with a dollop of something creamy and spicy on it and a hint of green on the top (I’m guessing scallion?). Very pretty, very tasty and very prompt as we continued to converse, and our waiter continued to be ever so patient and gracious about our not have decided upon our dinner selections. Selections made, we were treated to a second amuse, the Bloggers Course , I will affectionately refer to it as while those more schooled than will recognize it as the palette cleanse – a truly delightful combination of a local grapefruit sorbet dusted with roasted almonds – tart, savory, yum. I was proud of my restraint in not asking for a cone of it! Certainly honorable mention goes to the breadbasket, the downfall of many of my dining experiences! Having over indulged once or twice in the past and leaving the main attraction untouched, I limited my sampling to a single moist, savory not sweet, corn muffin passing on what was reported as a crusty, soft in the center, sourdough.
Fortunately for my first solo blogging flight Gary, Karin and I all ordered the same starters and entrees – leave it to my husband to increase my workload by 100% by going off road on both! Starters X 3 – Local Grapefruit & Avocado Salad: Date Sugar, Purple Haze Goat Cheese, Toasted Pistachios, Arbequina Olive Oil - fresh, flavorful, fantastic! With the Outlier, as I will refer to him hence forth, demolishing a Maytag Blue Cheese Souffle: Rhubarb Chutney, Strawberry-Organic Watercress Salad, Spiced Almonds even before I got a good gander at it for my blog….ummm…I mean….Karin’s blog! Always a good sign!
After listening to Karin discuss the finer points of various types of scallops with our server (a level of food knowledge that separates the women from the girls!) and having decided that these indeed would be a good choice, I could not help but jump on the Sherry Glazed Maine Dayboat Scallops: Braised Bacon, Pickled Mustard-Apple Relish, Rapini, Golden Beet Emulsion band wagon! I was not disappointed – tender, mild favor with perfect herbivore accompaniments – let me just say if I could prepare veggies this tasty I would be able to stop sneaking pureed carrots into my kids’ “homemade” Kraft macaroni and cheese! The Outlier feasted on what I must admit I would have ordered originally if I weren’t swayed by Karin’s scallop passion (that and if I wasn’t trying to convince her and Gary that I don’t have the capacity to eat like a farmhand!) Cast Iron Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Truffled Macaroni & Cheese, Forest Mushrooms, Crispy Bacon, Zinfandel Jus. He also ordered a desert – now he was just being mean – but for the life of me I cannot recall what it was, what I do recall however was that it came with 4 spoons; 3 of which never stood a chance!
Lest you think there was not wine involved, there was – a Cab, a Zin and a something else - but wine pairing and discussions thereof are Advanced Blogging and I am praying to pass Blogging 101!
All in all – a special night, a fantastic restaurant, fabulous friends, great food, and such fun; and let me just say there is a future for truffle oil in the Kraft macaroni and cheese at our house!