Restaurant: Laurent Quenioux at the Villamalka
Location: The Villamalka
Date: March 17, 2018
Cuisine: Contemporary French Californian
For several years now my wife and I host a second annual special fund-raising dinner at our house. And given our penchant for details, things were bound to be off the charts epic. The first year was a blast and so was year 2, so we had really high standards and wondered how to take it to the next level…
We brought in Chef Laurent Quenioux, a friend of mine who has cooked some epic truffle dinners for us.
And of course had to get the last of the real French black truffles fresh off the boat.
These were used in a bunch of dishes.
Including truffle pastry soup!
I might like modernism in my food, but when it comes to the decorative arts my wife and I agree things have been on a downhill slope since the mob stormed Versailles. We’re both history buffs and have gone to some length to recreate the fantasy of a 1730s Italian villa. So, in that vein, guests are welcomed into the Chinoiserie Drawing Room for champagne and snacks.
The list of wines I pulled for the evening.
NV Drappier Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 89. Dark orange-pink. Exotically perfumed scents of raspberry, pungent herbs, candied rose and smoky minerals. Fleshy and supple in texture, showing a floral accent to its red berry compote and tangerine flavors. Lush and broad but lively too, finishing with a hint of spiciness and good floral persistence.
Beets, Fourme d’Ambert, Roasted Pecan.
Roasted Eggplant, Brioche Toast, Sherry Blossom Shoyu Vinaigrette.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. The NV Grande Cuvée is absolutely stellar. This is one of the very best Grande Cuvées I can remember tasting. The flavors are bright, focused and beautifully delineated throughout, all of which make me think the wine will age well for many, many years. Lemon peel, white flowers, crisp pears, smoke and crushed rocks race across the palate in a vibrant, tense Champagne that epitomizes finesse.
Nantes Carrot, Black Garlic Molasses, Timut.
The table is set, and with Riedel Sommelier stems too, as it should be. The walls of the dining room were painted by my mother from photos we took in Italy.
The place setting.
2008 Pierre Péters Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Speciale Blanc de Blancs Les Chetillons. VM 95.5. The 2008 Les Chétillons seems to slowly be coming out of a period during which is has not been very expressive at all. In the last few months however, the 2008 is showing like it did about two years ago, when it positively sizzled with vintage 2008 cut and tension. Citrus, floral and mineral-drenched notes abound in this captivating Champagne endowed with real Mesnil character.
1988 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. VM 93. The 1988 Dom Ruinart (original release) was wonderfully complete, with layers of ash, smoke, minerals, licorice and hazelnuts that swirled around in the glass.
1976 Drappier Champagne Carte d’Or Brut. 94 points. Rather youthful, minty, ripe, honeyed nose – honey on a piece of rye bread. Very friendly and likeable.
One of Laurent’s assistant chefs intros the food.
Potato Pancake, Apricot Lane Arugula, Fresh Morels, IPA8 Vinegar, Roasted Apples.
2014 Királyudvar Furmint Tokaji Sec. 94 points. Ke-rye-oohd-var. This is the one tied to Huet in Loire. Hay, honey, yellow fruits, oxidative notes, almond skins. Wow, super good!! Acid is med plus. This unusual dry Hungarian wine is super super sexy.
2007 Y de Yquem. 94 points. Golden wine with vanilla and citrus notes primarily with an undertone of honey. On the palate medium bodied and elegant. Length. This was a wine of character with some finesse. 4/10, where 10 is a wine of character, finesse, complexity, power and property specificity.
2005 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux. BH 93. Easily the best of the these three Montmains climats with an aromatically reserved nose that is clearly less ripe offers nuances of white peach, pear and sea breeze that continue onto the impressively concentrated, intense and powerful flavors that possess excellent dry extract, all wrapped around a firm acid spine and terrific length. This has plenty of nervosité and real harmony of expression.
Another of Laurent’s chefs.
Black Chanterelles, Yuzu Ranch Dressing, Pea Tendril, Nori Crumble, Chervil.
Cold Ramen Salad w/ European White Asparagus, Garlic Chili Dressing with Red Boat, Basil, Pickled Lotus Root, Roasted Kumquats. One of my favorite dishes of the evening.
2010 Domaine de Saint-Just Saumur Chateau Brézé – Clos David. 90 points. Light yellow color. Nose of lemons, limes. some apple, pear and sometimes reminds me of those orange flavored baby aspirin.
2012 Château de Brézé Saumur Blanc Clos de la Rue. VM 92. Very pale peach skin color. Fresh melon and nectarine aromas are complicated by cream, lanolin and honey. Fleshy and smooth, showing a pure, bright orange quality and toasted wood nuances and then picking up nervier lime notes on the back of the palate. Suavely blends depth with vivacity and finishes with excellent clarity, balance and mineral persistence.
2012 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Clos de Guichaux. 92 points. Reduction with smoky and charcoal notes. Big acids and length on the palate.
Chawanmushi, Ikura, Truffle Slaw. Awesome. I always love these soft eggy dishes and the truffle / caviar / egg factor totally gelled.
1993 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. BH 92. A fully mature and expressive nose of elegant secondary fruit and floral aromas introduces intensely mineral-driven, pure and beautifully well-detailed middle weight flavors that possess excellent depth and fine length. This is drinking perfectly now and should continue to do so without effort for at least another decade. Tasted only once recently.
1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. 94 points. Another awesome older White Burg.
Buckwheat Blini w/ Smoked Haddock, Turmeric Meyer Lemon Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Corn Tortilla Powder. Smoked haddock is amazing!
1995 Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. VM 94+. Red-ruby color. Knockout nose combines rose petal, raspberry, mulberry, iodine, cardamom, tobacco and iris. Great sweetness on the palate; offers as much volume as the mouth can hold. Builds and builds. Really exhilarating delineation and depth of flavor. Tannins are substantial but ripe. A superb example of this great grand cru.
Truffle Soup, Wild Mushroom Broth, Perigord Truffles, Fresh Morels, Spring Cabbage.
1997 Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. VM 94+. Healthy dark red. Superripe aromas of crystallized black raspberry, rose petal, violet, iron, baking spices and meat. Huge entry, then almost painfully intense, with superb extract and great thrust. Exhilarating hints of dark berries, mint, flowers and minerals give this wine great complexity and verve. Would come across as thick if it weren’t so sharply focused. The firm tannins are buried in fruit on the extremely long, tactile finish. Should enjoy a long and spectacular evolution in bottle.
Atlantic Turbot, Sorrel Nage, English Pea Profiterole, Leek Fondue.
1997 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. VM 93. All of the radiance and warmth of the vintage comes through in the 1997 Barolo. Voluptuous and racy, with plenty of dark red cherry and plum pushed forward, the 1997 hits all the right notes. A rush of red cherry, plum and tobacco give the 1997 its luscious, creamy personality. This is a pleasant surprise.
North Sea Cod, Green Garlic, Cauliflower Risotto (no Rice), Chipotle Tuille, Cordyceps.
Endives 2 Ways w/ Roasted Blue Fin Tuna, Braised White Endive in Galabe Sugar, Tossed Red Endive, Warm Beet Coulis, Beet powder.
2009 Château Smith Haut Lafitte. VM 94+. Good bright red-ruby. Enticing aromas of blueberry, flowers, graphite and charred, nutty oak, plus a sexy suggestion of floral white fruit. Like liquid silk on entry, then concentrated and lush in the middle, with red plum, tobacco and mineral flavors given definition by lovely harmonious acidity. Utterly seamless wine with suave tannins. Voluminous and intense but not a powerhouse. Finishing flavors mount slowly and stain the palate without leaving any impression of weight. Conveys a beautiful impression of site and vintage. The most complete young Smith Haut Laffite I’ve yet tasted at this early stage; perhaps my score will ultimately prove to be conservative.
Les fromages. Leonara, Brillat Savarin, Roomano, Rush Creek Reserve, Point Reyes Bay Blue, Accoutrement.
Pre – Desserts, Jasmine Madeleine, Orangette, Macaron.
Sweet Milk Gelato (made by me), Café Choc-o-lait, Chocolate Old Fashioned, Blastberry Madeira Sorbetto, Gorgonzola Fig Walnut, Hazelnut Espresso.
Passion Fruit Cremeux, Coconut Ice Cream, Chocolate Chips, Macadamia Nut Crumble, Black Sesame Sponge Cake, Miso.
Mignardises, Pâte de Fruit, Chocolates, Nougats, Taffy.
Bundt cakes to go from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Can’t have a truly epic dinner without “parting gifts.”
This dinner ran a little more efficiently than our last one, clocking in at “only” 5.5 hours! A marathon of gluttony, but everyone had a fabulous time. Laurent’s cooking was on point and inventive, particularly given all of the house restrictions (as you may have noticed it was mostly fish and vegetarian).
Everything was amazing. The food was just crazy good. I was staggered at how efficiently Laurent and his team were able to churn out so many complicated dishes. And they really tasted great too. There wasn’t a miss among them. My favorites were the noodles, turbot, egg custard, and truffle soup.
The wine pairings were really amazing too. Duh! Sommlier Eduardo Bolanos helped set all the choices and was really spot on with his picks.