After multiple visits to the Bazaar (this being number eleven), Peter and I get most excited when we’re bringing in “Bazaar Virgins” (first timers) to the restaurant. It’s even more fun when they’re big time foodies like our friends Ron and Diane. Thanks to the wonderful staff (William, Felix, Alison, Audra!), we were seated at my favorite table in the Rojo room, with a direct view of the open kitchen.
It’s always a delight when Amanda rolls up to our table with the liquid nitrogen cart (or caviar or cotton candy). And I love when servers that aren’t even working our table (Calvin and Hugh) stop by for a quick hello. I’ve had several people ask me why I keep returning to the Bazaar, when there are so many other places to try, and honestly… besides the incredible food and fun atmosphere, it’s because they make me (and my “virgins”) feel perfectly welcome on each and every visit.
THANK YOU to everyone at Bazaar and SLS!
West Hollywood Cone: Rainbow Tobiko Caviar (almost too pretty to eat!)
Papas Canarias: Salty, wrinkled potatoes with mojo verde
Japanese Taco: Grilled eel, shiso, cucumber, wasabi and chicharron
Dining in the new Saam restaurant makes you feel special. It’s located behind a secured, nondescript door near Bar Centro, at the Bazaar by José Andrés. Each of the twenty courses (one or two bites each) are brought out on individual plates, while you sit at one of the exclusive, coveted tables. To me, it feels like a sleek and sexy modern-day speakeasy.
The service? Impeccable. I haven’t been to Alinea yet, but I’m guessing the experience is close, or at least as close as we’re going to get here in Los Angeles! It’s like flying first class, where you’re treated like a celebrity and you know it. Especially true for an early dinner on opening weekend. We were one of the first to be seated for the Saturday evening service, and at times there were four staff members looking after the two of us.
The food? It was my ninth visit to the Bazaar and I knew the menu backwards and forwards, so I was pleasantly surprised to find each dish “kicked up a notch”, and thrilled to try a few new bites as well. I found myself mouthing “wow” to my husband Peter, especially when we were served updated versions of dishes we tried on previous visits.
“Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Menu” is printed on top of each take-home menu (rolled up and tied with a little black ribbon), a great souvenir to remember an elegant evening. But throughout our wonderful dinner, I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing. The food was the best I’d ever had at the Bazaar, so that wasn’t it. Our server Charlie was attentive, engaging and throughly knowledgeable. Carolina was nearby in case we had any needs or questions as well. Managers William and Felix stopped by to ensure that we (and later, each and every table) were enjoying the evening, but my dinner still felt incomplete. Why?
Because “Saam: The Chef’s Tasting Room” was missing the one thing I love most about the Bazaar (besides the food), it was missing the chefs.
My favorite tables at the Bazaar are one of the two “Tron” tables in the Rojo room. They’re not officially called “Tron” tables… that’s just what we call them because they have cool laser-like red lights beneath the surface. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to have a seat facing the open kitchen was at one of the these tables. I loved watching Chef Voltaggio warm up the “smoking” gun to finish off the salmon dishes. And as a fan of the show “Top Chef”, could there be anything better than seeing Chef Marcel Vigneron working the foam? By the way, I think the show portrayed him as an arrogant nitwit, because in person he’s a real sweetheart.
After we finished our evening at Saam, we made our way to the Rojo kitchen where the kitchen staff was in full swing. It was busy, crowded and the room was filled with the frenetic energy that I missed. It sort of felt like I had been at the wrong party earlier.
Do I recommend Saam? Absolutely. Especially if it’s your first visit to the Bazaar. It’s quieter and more focused than either the Rojo or the Blanca room, and you’ll be carefully guided through a palate pleasing, high-flying experience. Heck, it’s not that I don’t like flying first class (the few times I’ve experienced it), it’s just that I like watching the crew even better.
Tasting Menu is $120 per person.
Course #1: Salt Air Margarita. Delicious as always.
Course #2: Sweet Potato Chips and Yogurt Dip. I love the anise flavor in the yogurt.
Caviar Steamed Bun. Using the steamed bun makes for a nice twist on a classic.
Course #4: Olive Oil Bonbon This was such a treat!! I first saw this being made on “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” by Chef Andrés and his Minibar Chefs: Ruben Garcia and Katsuya Fukushima. It’s like a candy shell filled with olive oil. Into your mouth and it crumbles. SO AMAZING.
Course #5: Bagel and Lox Cone. Delicious as always.
Course #6: Cotton Candy Foie Gras (foie gras rolled in corn nuts). Still a favorite and so good I forgot to take a photo before eating! (photo from previous visit)
Course #7: Olives Ferran Adria. My first love (and why I started taking Molecular Gastronomy classes last year!)
Course #8: Jose’s Ham and Cheese. I LOVED the Jamón Ibérico with the soft La Serena cheese inside the “air bread”. This was one of the “kicked up” dish updates, similar to “Philly Cheesesteak”. La Serena is a creamy, aromatic (aka really stinky which I love!) cheese from Extremadura in Western Spain.
Course #9: Sea Urchin Conservas. Fantastic flavors AND presentation.
Course #10: Boneless Chicken Wing. Delicious as always.
Course #11: Shrimp Cocktail. The updated cocktail sauce was richer, almost creamy.
Course #12: Nitro Gazpacho. I always love when the Liquid Nitrogen cart rolls up! Gazpacho “cooked” in the nitro.
Course #13: Blufin Tuna Toro (and Norwegian Lobster). Both AMAZING.
Course #14: Norwegian Lobster. Perfection in one bite.
Course #15: “Smoked” Salmon. Another favorite, the dish is finished using a “smoking gun”.
Course #16: Not Your Everyday Caprese (top). I recently learned how to make these liquid mozzarella balls!
Course #17: Tournedos Rossinii 2009. Wagyu beef, truffle and foie gras. MORE PLEASE!
Course #18: Dragon’s Breath (caramel popcorn “cooked” in liquid nitrogen). Currently only served in the Saam room, we’ve enjoyed it several times before. It’s FUN!
Felix Meana making Dragon’s Breath
Coconut in a “Half Shell”. Peter loved all three desserts. I was too full!
Chocolate Biscuit Coulant Michel Bras (above) and Petit Fours: Tablets, Bonbons
Saam, at the Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel 465 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9004
The last time Peter and I hosted Easter brunch at our house, it was sort of a disaster.
We invited my sister Janet, Peter’s sister Susan and both their families for a late Sunday brunch. I spent a few days getting the back garden perfectly decorated with new flowers, and set up a long dining room table outside with my great aunt’s hand-painted china. I even got out my Scottish (clan Maxwell) grandmother’s antique linen napkins and gently ironed each piece, which wasn’t so easy to do because of the hand-embroidered “M” sticking up on the corners.
It was a gorgeous Easter Sunday and our backyard looked like a page out of House & Garden magazine, especially with the flea-market chandelier hanging above the table. Peter secured the heavy fixture to a large branch on our oak tree, even though we didn’t need the light of course. The glass made the garden so pretty, twinkling in the sun through the leaves.
I always like having a “signature” cocktail when I entertain for a large group (even for brunch!). It makes it easier for the hostess (so I don’t have to set up a full bar) and it makes it fun for the guests, especially if the drink is something new.
A few weeks before the disastrous Easter, I was watching the Sex in the City episode where Samantha befriends the transvestites in her new apartment building. Throughout most of the episode she and the “ladies” were arguing over late-night noise outside her bedroom window and Samantha couldn’t get any sleep. After an ongoing catfight with the “guys”, including throwing water on them from her apartment window, she finally decided it would be better just to make nice, and hosted a roof-top barbecue for the whole gang. The episode ended with Samantha raising a glass, toasting Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and her new “girl friends” with a cocktail called, “Flirtini”.
Samantha’s Flirtini Recipe:
2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Apricot Liquor or Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
Splash of Champagne, garnish with a strawberry
I thought it would be so fabulous to serve Flirtinis for Easter lunch. They sounded so “fresh and fruity, like springtime”! It was about noon when our guests arrived and the grown-ups started drinking the first of several pitchers. I had never gotten a buzz so fast before (I’m sure it was the vodka mixed with champagne), and by the time we sat down to eat, we were all stinking DRUNK.
What type of food did I serve for our beautiful Easter brunch? I can’t remember (or maybe I don’t want to remember). I had a hangover by late evening and spent the next two days cleaning and packing up the antique dishes. All that effort setting up the garden, gathering our family together, and the memory of the day is just a painful blur.
I haven’t had a Flirtini since, and only remembered it when I suggested to Peter that we should host Easter at our house this year. But he had a much better idea: How about we treat our family to Easter brunch at the Bazaar?
*Brunch at the Bazaar by José Andrés [visit 10]
Huevos a la Cubana “Andy Garcia” (12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up), $12. One of the three new brunch items on the menu at the Bazaar by José Andrés.I know this LOOKS like a lot of yolk, but these were small quail eggs. Lightly crispy underneath with a savory tomato sauce on top.
Eggs Benedict “New Way”, Iberico Ham, $18. So beautiful that I couldn’t stop turning the plate and taking photos! The piece of ham was CRISPY and crackled when I bit into it, and the foam tasted like butter. I’ll never be able to have Eggs Benedict anywhere else again.
Savory Spanish Torrijas: Iberico Ham, Egg 63 (egg was poached at 63ºF.) and Idiazabal Cheese, $18. This was my favorite new brunch item. It was very similar to french toast under the ham… but so much better of course!
Along with the new brunch items, we shared dishes (that I’ve had several times before) from both the regular Traditional and Modern menus including:
Tuna Ceviche and Avocado Roll, $12. My sister Janet’s favorite.
Crab Meat Steamed Buns with Pickled Japanese Cucumbers, $18. Three per order (about two bites per little sandwich), never enough!
Croquetas de Pollo (Chicken and Bechamel Fritters), $8 This is ALWAYS a favorite at the table. Perfect bites (like large tater tots) of little “chicken pot pies”.
Bloody Mary: Freshly made tomato juice with a celery-wasabi foam, $16.Definitely could have been a meal in itself! I loved the wasabi foam on top.
In front: Tableside “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka, $20. House-made Lemonade (freshly squeezed lemon juice, rosemary syrup), $6. Bloody Mary (back, left).
Felix Meana making the “Nitro” Blood Orange Screwdriver: Frozen liquid nitrogen blood orange and vodka. I love when the liquid nitrogen cart comes rolling up to the table. This screwdriver was velvety smooth and strong! We all loved it.
Clockwise from top left: Jade (partial), my nephew Cody, Peter’s niece, Chanel.
Top Right: My niece Kindal and Cody’s girlfriend Jade.
Bottom Right: Peter’s sister Susan and her boyfriend, Jerry.
Bottom Left: Chanel, Peter and Miles (Peter’s nephew).
Clockwise from top left: Miles and my friend, Laur.
Top Right: Susan, Jerry, my sister, Janet and nephew, Chace.
Bottom Right: Jo (me!) and Peter.
Bottom Left: Cody and Chanel.
Clockwise from top left: Miles digging into dessert, Chace gets comfy on the Blanco couch. With the twins, Chace and Kindal.
Peter holding court in the Blanca room! The Rojo room was closed for the restaurant’s first official brunch.
Chef Marcel Vigneron invited the twins (my sister’s kids, Chace and Kindal) back to see the kitchen. They are both fans of “Top Chef” and have been cooking since they were really little, so this was heaven! Thanks Chef!
Dishes we also shared, that I’ve had on previous visits:
An extra treat for me was meeting Chef Katsuya Fukushima (in photo, at right). I had seen him on an episode of “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” and was wowed by his knowledge of “modern” cuisine. Chef Fukushima works closely with José Andrés at MiniBar in Washington D.C.
A very special THANK YOU to Bazaar Manager, Felix Meana (also in photo) for taking such good care of us. You made the day extra special.
Thanks also to William and Audra for organizing our large (table of twelve) reservation!!
Sunday night at the Bazaar with Phil from “My Life As A Foodie”, his wife Katrina, and fellow food-lovers Dean and Stephanie.
When we were seated at the “Chefs Table” in the Rojo Room, Peter and I made sure that he and I were the two diners facing AWAY from the open kitchen. We had four eager “Bazaar Virgins” with us and for them to get the most of the experience, they faced the chefs, giving them first-class seats to the “show”!
We shared many of what I now call “essential” tapas from both the Blanca and Rojo menus. These are dishes we get every visit and include: Jamón Ibérico, Chicken and Béchamel Fritters, Sea Urchin with Avocado in a Steamed Mini Bun and Philly Cheesesteak Air Bread (photo links below).
This was my eighth dinner at Bazaar. Had I tried everything on both the Rojo and Blanco menus? Well no, to be honest there were still a few vegetable dishes I’d been avoiding. It’s not that I don’t like veggies, it’s just that when presented with a choice between plump butifarra (sausage) or brussel sprouts… I’m going to always insist on the meats (or seafood or foie gras) first.
Our evening was made even more delightful when Chef Voltaggio presented a NEW, elegant salmon dish that he wanted us to try. The “Smoked” Salmon was cooked sous vide (French for “under vacuum”), served with cucumber “noodles” and set on top of a small potato blintz. This was all presented under a glass dome and served on a piece of black slate. Before leaving the kitchen, the dome was lifted slightly and Chef Voltaggio “smoked” the salmon with a culinary *smoking gun. When the servers brought the salmon to the table, puffs of smoke gently wafted from under the glass as the domes were removed. It was cool (and tasted heavenly).
General Manager, William Douillet, seemed to always “magically” appear when there was the slightest inquiry. Thoughtful and courteous, he always makes each visit a “special” occasion. Our four friends, no longer “Bazaar Virgins”, still haven’t stopped talking about the experience.
Tapas we tried on this visit:
Ajo Blanco: White Gazpacho, Tomatoes, Grapes, Raisins, topped with Tomato Granita $5.I loved this savory dish (sort of like a panna cotta), especially the texture of the granita on top.
Sautéed Cauliflower “Couscous”: Cauliflower puree, harissa, pomegranate $8. The tiny, crunchy bits of cauliflower were terrific mixed with the pomegranate.
Brussel Sprout Leaves with lemon purée, apricots, grapes and lemon “air” $8.I hated brussel sprouts as a kid, so the fact that I actually liked this was a nice surprise.
Buñuelos (Codfish Fritters) with Honey Aoli $8. I liked that I could really taste the fish in these fried balls. Usually with deep-fried fish, all I taste is the “fried” part.
Cheese from right to left: This was my first taste of La Serena, a creamy, aromatic (aka really stinky which I love!) cheese from Extremadura in Western Spain. Valdeón is a rich, creamy, intensely-flavored cow and goat’s milk blue cheese, saltier than Stilton and not as intense as Cabrales. Idiazábal is the national cheese of the Basque country, is made from sheep’s milk and is usually smoked. Served with Picos (Spanish crispy bread) and Quince jam. 3 Quesos $15
The “Smoked” Salmon arriving at our table…
The “Smoked” Salmon, cooked sous vide with Cucumber Noodles, then “smoked” with a smoking gun, served over a small Potato Blintz. The flavors and textures were OUTSTANDING… perfectly cooked salmon, with faux cucumber noodles on crispy potatoes.
Wild Mushroom Rice with Idiazábal Cheese, $10. A creamy, savory tapas version of the rice dish Marcel surprised us with on visit #4 (sans truffles).
“Essential” Bazaar Tapas that we get on every visit:
You would think after six group dinners at the Bazaar, I’d have tried everything on the menu right? Wrong.
I thought so too until I started ticking off each dish on a contraband menu that I brought home last month. The truth is, I even started forgetting dishes that I had already tried a few months back, like the Butifarra: Catalan Pork sausage, white beans, mushrooms Senator Moynihan. I tried it on my first visit, but didn’t take a photograph of it… so I forgot.
Visit #7 was a Bazaar “Girl’s Night”! A few months ago I “met” Ashley on Facebook. We were always commenting on the same food photos (by mutual friends) or posting notes about restaurants we’d recently tried. After we became Facebook “friends”, I invited her to our Slumdog Oscar Party and we quickly planned a night out at the Bazaar.
Our “Girl’s Night” fell on a Tuesday, and it was the first time I’d been to the Bazaar on a weeknight. I figured it would be slower than the weekend, and was surprised to see every table filled when we sat down in the Rojo (my favorite) Room.
There were several “restaurant celeb” sightings that evening, including Brent Bolthouse tucked into one of the black leather booths. At the table to the left of us was a writer from “Travel and Leisure” Magazine, and we overheard that another great review was on the way. Seated to the right of us in the second leather booth, was none other than Chef Octavio Becerra from Palate Food and Wine. When he got up at the end of his meal, I stopped him to say hello. Peter and I love his “Porkfolio” and Salmon Rillettes!
This was Ashley’s first visit to the Bazaar, so we ordered a few of the “must haves” tapas including the Philly Cheesesteak with Air Bread, Foie Gras Cotton Candy and tender Lamb Loin (links to photos below). When I scanned the menu, I didn’t remember trying the Butifarra and white bean dish so we ordered that as well, and that turned out to be our favorite dish of “Girl’s Night”!
Butifarra: Catalan Pork sausage, white beans, mushrooms Senator Moynihan. The white beans were incredible… soft on the inside with a light crispy topping.
Organized Caesar Salad with Quail Egg and Parmesan
Soy-marinated Salmon Roe Cones
Chocolate Lollipops: Raspberry White Chocolate and Candied Orange Peel Chocolate
I think it’s perfectly fitting that my fourth visit to the Bazaar by José Andrés, came just a few days before the L.A. Times awarded the restaurant FOUR stars. I don’t have a rating system on MyLastBite, but if I did… I would give the Bazaar a TEN (out of ten).
Since the very first night the restaurant opened (I was there), I’ve been telling everyone about this “gift” that Jose Andres has given to L.A. I know times are tough, but if you can afford to eat out once in awhile and haven’t been to the Bazaar yet, then make a reservation now. Your spirits (and taste-buds) will be quickly lifted, and you’ll feel good that you did something nice for yourself.
I love the Bazaar so much that I find myself berating friends who haven’t been there yet. These are friends who eat out once or twice a week and just haven’t “gotten around to it”. I want to shake them and scream “Do you have ANY idea what you are missing?”. Thanks to S. Irene Virbilia (L.A. Times Restaurant Critic), maybe now they’ll finally go experience the magic for themselves.
The Bazaar is not just a “special occasion” restaurant, although on this fourth visit we went to celebrate my nephew Cody’s birthday. Each time we go to the restaurant, Peter and I make sure to take family or friends, because it’s such an awesome experience to share with people you love… especially if you are celebrating something (or someone) special!
What we ate:
Of course, we started the evening with my favorite… the Foie Gras Cotton Candy! Bites of foie gras rolled in crushed corn nuts then wrapped in cotton candy. My nephew Cody and his girlfriend Jade loved them! $5
Caviar Cones with Crème Fraîche $8
Nitro Caipirinha $20
Making the Nitro Caipirinha (cachaça and lime) made with Liquid Nitrogen
“Not Your Everyday (Winter) Caprese” (Molecular Liquid Mozzarella Balls)$12
Steamed Crab Buns with Pickled Japanese Cucumber $15
”Just Shrimp Cocktail: Yea Right” $12
Alitas de pollo: Boneless chicken wings with green olive puree $9. These were so good, we ordered seconds!
Chef Marcel Vigneron brought this special dish to our table. I can’t remember what is was called, but it was filled with mushrooms and topped with freshly shaved truffles. A wonderful treat… THANKS CHEF!!
truffles, lovely truffles!
Pisto Manchego con flor de calabaza: Sauteed peppers, zuchini, onions, eggplant and tomatoes with a beautiful poached egg. $9
Beef Hanger Steak and Piquillo Pepper Confit $10
Japanese Baby Peaches with Persimmon, Yogurt and Olive Oil $12
The incredibly gracious William Douillet making our “Dragon’s Breath”! Caramel Popcorn bites “cooked” in Liquid Nitrogen!
William lifting the Caramel Popcorn out of the Liquid Nitrogen!
I love Cody’s face as he bites into the “Dragon’s Breath”!! Priceless.
Cody exhaling the “Dragon’s Breath”
Cody, Jade and Chef Marcel Vigneron
The Patisserie Menu
Nitro Island, specially delivered by the lovely Waylyn Lucas!
“Nitro Coconut Floating Island” Dessert $10
Apples Carlota $10
Jo, Felix, William, Dan, Jade and Cody. Thanks for ANOTHER fantastic evening!
My wonderful husband, Peter.
Additional dishes we had (as well as previous visits):
My third visit to The Bazaar by José Andrés made me realize what a great deal the restaurant really is. No, seriously… I think it’s an absolute steal.
For the past few months I’ve been learning how to make molecular goodies at home, so I really enjoy seeing different techniques that the chefs are using at Bazaar. Three recipes that I’d love to master are Ferran Adria’s “Liquid Olive”, “Pea Ravioli” and also something called “Dragon’s Breath” Popcorn.
Over the years I had seen the “Liquid Olive” and “Pea Ravioli” on various TV shows including “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain” and “The Best Recipes in the World with Mark Bittman”. Both of the episodes took place at Albert and Ferran Adria’s world-famous elBulli restaurant, on the Costa Brava in Roses, Spain.
My husband Peter and I have tried getting reservations at elBulli for many years, and once again we were notified that all spaces were filled for the upcoming 2009 season. (Email from elBulli)
ElBulli receives over 2 million reservation requests each season, and there are “only” 8,000 seats available from June to December. Yet I email the restaurant a few times a month, just reminding them that we are open to any available dates and figure that if it happens, great… if not, then we try again next year (and the year after).
If by some miracle, there is a cancellation this season and we get the much anticipated “we-won-the-elBulli-lottery” email from Luis Garcia (the man in charge of bookings)… there is no doubt that we would dig deep into our savings and try to go. We could only do this if we had enough time to actually book the trip properly… meaning if we got the notice a few days before the reservation date, there would be no way we could swing it.
Now just for the fun of it, let’s say we are given a confirmed reservation at elBulli a full thirty days before the actual departure date. How much would it actually cost to eat that one meal at elBulli?
I decided to find out and started researching flights and hotels on Hotels.com, where I “faux-booked” a trip for June 2009.
I began this exercise (in positive thinking) by searching for the following:
– Two round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Barcelona.
– Six nights at a hotel in Spain: Five in Barcelona and one in Roses near the restaurant. (Realistically, if we would make the trip to elBulli, then we would want to at least spend a few extra days sightseeing around Barcelona).
– Transportation from Barcelona to Roses.
Air Travel Monday 22 June 2009
Depart Los Angeles (LAX) 5:45 pm
Arrive Barcelona (BCN) 7:30 pm
Airberlin 3531 / 8564
(Connect in Dusseldorf International Airport)
Monday 29 June 2009
Depart Barcelona (BCN) 8:45 am
Arrive Los Angeles (LAX) 3:50 pm
airberlin 8937 / 3530
5 Nights at Hotel Sidorme Mollet in Bracelona (I chose the most inexpensive hotel offered).
Total for flights and above hotel (price combined on Hotels.com) is $2,826 (for both of us)
Add in one night at Vistabella hotel in Roses where elBulli is located is $180 per night.
Rental Car (europcar.com)
Barcelona Pickup June 25 / Return June 28, three days for $160
Above Subtotal $3166.00
To that, I add on these costs:
The elBulli 30-course tasting menu, which would cost approximately $500 ($250 per person, or more).
A full-time dog sitter: Our three dogs are like kids to us, so when we go out of town we pay someone to love them, feed them, run them and most importantly… sleep with them. I know… they are spoiled (we call them “duvet” dogs). For a week away we would pay our usual sitter (Jade), $100 per day. Total of $700
TOTAL for this itinerary: $4366.00
I would still need to add in additional meals & entertainment for the week. We can get by on two meals per day, and will definitely want to hit every tapas bar in site. Then there are museums, entertainment, transport around Barcelona and shopping. I’m going to just round it out to$5,000.
I know there are probably much cheaper ways to make the trip, maybe take the bus or train instead of renting a car, or find super cheap airline tickets with ten stops in between. Whatever the actual costs, we are still talking THOUSANDS of dollars for one coveted meal at elBulli.
How about another famous molecularly focused eatery that’s closer to home? MiniBar… José Andrés’ tiny,six-seat-only restaurant in Washington DC? I first learned about MiniBar on Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie (on PBS) and the episode was called “Anatomy of a Meal with José Andrés”. Just last week, MiniBar was featured again on “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain”. That’s where I first saw the “Dragon’s Breath” popcorn and it was just SO COOL… after cooking the small bites of caramel popcorn in liquid nitrogen, Andrés and Bourdain popped the pieces in their mouths and “smoke” came out of their nostrils.
MiniBar is much easier to get to then Roses, Spain, and if we actually scored reservations, the tasting menu (27 little bites) would cost $120 a person. We could easily fly in for one or two nights and keep the costs down (a little bit). MiniBar’s 8:30pm seating starts at 8:40 and can take up to 2.5 hours, so I would plan to arrive the day before in case of flight delays. Let’s say we have a dinner reservation for March 28, 2009. Here’s the breakdown:
Round/Trip flight to DC (again, using Hotels.com):
Depart 1:10 pm Los Angeles (LAX)
to Washington DC (IAD) Arrive 8:54 pm
Depart 5:50 pm Washington DC (IAD)
to Los Angeles (LAX) Arrive 8:20 pm
Two nights at the Candlewood Suites Herndon
Rental Car: Hertz Economy Car
Total for above (for two people): $687
+ $240 for MiniBar + $400 for additional meals, sightseeing & shopping
A trip to José Andrés MiniBar in Washington DC (Air, Hotel, Car and Meals): $1327.00
I could spend the next few days trying to figure out the costs of visiting restaurants that focus a large part of their menus on molecular, modern treats… Alinea in Chicago, wd~50 in NYC, Mugaritz and Arzak (both in Spain), and the mighty Fat Duck in England… but the point I’m trying to make is… I don’t have to. I can hop in my car and drive the fifteen minutes to the Bazaar by José Andrés and slurp down ten liquid “Olives Ferran Adria” (that’s what they’re called on the menu) and the “Dragon’s Breath” liquid nitro cooked popcorn? Yup, the Bazaar has that too!
Honestly… the place just makes me happy! Each time I’ve taken someone new to experience it with me, and it’s like we’re all in kindergarten and just visiting the circus for the first time… but with way better concession snacks!
For all the joy and deliciousness I’ve experienced in my three visits to Bazaar … I really believe it’s an absolute bargain.
Our cost for our most recent dinner at The Bazaar was $158 for the two of us. That included 9 dishes, 2 desserts and 2 cocktails. The price also includes entertainment (if sitting near the Rojo kitchen) and education (if you’re into molecular cooking too!).
Finally, in comparison to a night at elBulli, The Bazaar by José Andrés is a steal. I know times are tough and I feel tremendously grateful that I get to eat there at all. To me, it’s worth every penny.
New Dishes We All Enjoyed (we were joined by my sister Janet, her husband Paul and our good friends Afaf and Ray):
This gorgeous dish (above and below) is called “Just Shrimp Cocktail: Yea Right” $12
To eat, you put the whole shrimp in your mouth and squeeze the cocktail-sauce filled pipette!
Sweet Potato Chips with Yogurt, Tamarind, Star Anise $10 Adorable (almost Barbie doll size!) Foie gras and Quince on a Mini Brioche Bun 3 for $12 Sea Urchins, Avocado in a Steamed Mini Bun 3 for $12 Beef Hanger Steak and Piquillo Pepper Confit $10 Toro (Tuna) “Nigiri”, Wasabi, Watermelon, Soy and Jalapeño $16 “Dragon’s Breath” Caramelized Popcorn made with liquid nitrogen. After you pop these treats in your mouth… smoke streams out your nose (like a dragon)! Made by Chef de Cuisine, Michael Voltaggio. Thank you!
Chef de Cuisine Michael Voltaggio
“Nitro Coconut Floating Island” with Passion Fruit and Banana. It was soft on the inside and frozen on the outside. Beet Meringue with Pistachio Cake and Berries Chocolate Cake topped with Gold
Dishes we had on previous visits and enjoyed again:
First of all, the packaging itself is simply beautiful, with cutout photographs of Ferran and Albert Adria on the outer sleeve. When I slipped off the cover I found five cans of elBulli Texturas: Algin, Gluco, Xantana, Agar and Lecite. Also included were five measuring spoons with “Texturas Albert Y Ferran Adria” engraved on each, a syringe (for pumping out liquid “caviar”), and one “collecting” (straining) spoon which is something I had been searching for, even before I found the kit. Ferran Adria used this collecting spoon to serve his famous “liquid olives” at elBulli.
Kit description: “This Mini Kit gives you a fantastic selection of elBulli Texturas products with a host of applications possible. Reverse Sferificación (Gluco, Algin, Xantana 100g), a set of Eines (tools), Lecite 70g for your Airs & Foams and Agar 100g perfect for Hot Jellies, Spaghetti etc. There is a multi language booklet with ideas and recipes and offers hours of experimentation in the kitchen. Dinner Parties will never be the same again.”
I’m looking at the goodie box now… gathering up the courage to break out the tools and texturas… because from here on out, it’s going to be a whole new extraordinary adventure in my humble kitchen. HELLO 2009!
Until very recently, Alginate and Spherification were two words that were never spoken in my kitchen. That was of course until I attended a mind-altering, WTF, OMG I-need-more-kitchen-counter-space “Molecular Gastronomy” class.
After posting an article about the experience, I received an email from Hervé This, the French scientist and FATHER of Molecular Gastronomy. He kindly corrected me on the use of the words “molecular gastronomy”, and wanted me to understand that what I was doing was actually “molecular COOKING”, not molecular gastronomy.
Well…whatever it is I’m supposed to call it… “It” has taken over my thoughts, my bank account, and now my very crowded kitchen counter.
Before I continue, here are a few descriptions:
Sodium Alginate : Extracted from brown seaweed, sodium alginate is a stabilizer for ice cream, yogurt, cream, and cheese. It is a thickener and emulsifier for salad, pudding, jam, tomato juice, and canned products. In the presence of calcium and acid mediums, it forms resilient gels. It is a cold gelling agent that needs no heat to gel. It is most commonly used with calcium chloride in the spherification process.
Calcium Chloride : Food grade pellets used in post-harvest treatments of fruits and vegetables. Calcium chloride is also used in food and beverage processing, high fructose corn syrup production, and dairy foods processing.
Spherification consists of the controlled gelification of a liquid which, submerged in a bath, forms spheres. There are two kinds: Basic Spherification (which consists of submerging a liquid with Alginate in a bath of Calcium Chloride) and Reverse Spherification (submerging a liquid with Gluco in a bath of Alginate). These techniques can obtain spheres of different sizes: caviar, eggs, gnocchi, ravioli… In both techniques, the spheres produced can be manipulated, since they are slightly flexible.
Reverse/Inverse Spherification.By inserting a product that already contains calcium into an Alginate bath, you can make spherical preparations with dairy products, olives and other foodstuffs. Instead of adding Calcium Chloride to the preparations you would use gluconolactate in proportion to the product’s natural calcium content, then conclude the technique by bathing the result in Alginate. Furthermore, inverse spherification allows the item to hold its jellification, which you would be unable to control in basic spherification. As the Alginate fails to penetrate the sphere in this method, jellification only occurs on the surface. Read more about the History of Spherification.
I thought it would be EASY to find and purchase these ingredients online, but it wasn’t. The first “molecular cooking” ingredient I tried to buy was calcium chloride, which we used in class to make fruit caviar and pea ravioli. I searched Google and Amazon and ended up buying calcium chloride for aquarium use. What I needed was “food grade” calcium chloride, not a fish tank additive!
Next I tried to purchase “Sodium Alginate” and came up empty, so I emailed my chef instructor and he sent me to the Le Sanctuaire website. Thankfully he noted that I should be searching for the word “algin” as well as “alginate”. For calcium chloride, I should also search for “calcic”. Jackpot! I ordered both and impatiently waited for their arrival by watching Ferran Adria and José Andrés video clips I had saved on DVD.
On “Jose – Made in Spain”, chef Andrés did a spherification of yogurt. He explained that since yogurt had a high calcium count, it would be easy to do a reverse (or inverse) spherification using the Algin.
Anticipating the arrival of the Le Sanctuaire package, I had a large container of plain yogurt stashed in the fridge. I didn’t have an actual recipe to make the yogurt spherification, but I did have the “Made in Spain” video clip…. which I obsessively watched in slow motion to get the right measurements.
Ingredients for a “Reverse” Yogurt Spherification:
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon aliginate
24 oz water
Fresh fruit of your liking
In a large bowl blend the water and alginate with a hand blender until completely dissolved.
Strain the alginate water into another bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, gently mix the yogurt and sugar together.
Next to the alginate bath, prepare another bath of plain water.
With a round spoon, scoop out a ball of yogurt and submerge into alginate water.
Gently shake the spoon so you see a ball or dollop of yogurt drop beneath the surface.
Wait a few minutes then scoop out the spherified yogurt balls into the fresh water, to remove the alginate.
IT WORKED! Except for the fact that I made the balls too big at first, I was thrilled with the texture and mouth-feel of the yogurt. I could easily “pop” the skin with my tongue (after playing with it in my mouth first!).
I served the yogurt balls with fruit and drizzled the top with honey. Terrific little dish for breakfast or dessert.
What’s next?? Well I recently ordered the elBulli Texturas Mini Starter Kit, and can’t wait for my next molecular cooking adventure! In the coming year I’m certain my kitchen will be filled with lots of tasty balls and scrumptious spheres…
I first titled this post “Molecular Gastronomy Class”, and began adding a few photos and information links to molecular gastronomy cookbooks, chef info, “where to buy” ingredients and video clips. I figured I would wake up this morning and finish writing about my “molecular gastronomy class” and then add recipes and photos from the fun day.
Then I noticed there was a comment pending and was shocked to see it was from Hervé This, the French scientist recognized as THE FATHER of “molecular gastronomy”. Woa.
My reply to his email:
Dear Mr. This,
First of all, I am very honored that you took the time to write me, and I thank you for your forthright comment. “Molecular Cooking” (as I will now call it) is an exciting new world to me and I appreciate you taking the time to correct me.
I have added a video link to the “Gourmet’s Diary of Foodie” episode featuring your discussion on molecular gastronomy, and have also renamed my original post, “Adventures in Molecular Cooking”.
With much respect and sincerity,
Hervé This Discusses Molecular Gastronomy
About the Class: Name: Molecular Gastronomy
Format: Hands On
Date: Sunday, November 30, 2008 Instructor: Chef Michael Young
Location: Sur la Table, Los Angeles
From the class outline: “Herve This, and Ferran Adria are at the forefront of the move in the culinary world towards food manipulation. Come join a talented Chef in learning how to make pastaless Raviolis, and many other foods based on the theories and principals of Molecular Gastronomy. Or come to learn the different food chemicals, and how to use these items to blow your mind. You will participate in the making of all items.”
The class began with Chef Michael Young explaining the basics of Molecular Gastronomy, and asked if any of the sixteen students present were familiar with Chef Ferran Adria and his el Bulli restaurant. As we all shook our heads “yes”, Chef Young pointed us to the monitors above the kitchen. The dvd playing was one of my favorite Anthony Bourdain segments, called “Decoding Ferran Adria”. It’s a detailed behind the scenes look at the el Bulli taller (labratory) and el Bulli restaurant. I’ve watched my own copy of dvd at least twenty times over the years.
As Chef Young continued talking about molecular gastronomy, he noted that Hervé This (whom Chef Young had met before) was first and foremost a scientist, NOT a chef, and that the experiments we were using in the class were first made famous by This, and adopted by Ferran Adria for use at el Bulli.
One of the recipes featured on the dvd was called the “Pea Ravioli”, also known as the “Spherical Ravioli”. Ferran & Albert Adria chose the name “because the sensation in the mouth was precisely that of a liquid ravioli”. I’d been dreaming of this one-bite dollop for years and was so excited it we’d be making it today.
The class menu:
Ferran Adria’s Pea “Ravioli” with Black Truffle Oil.
Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Porcini Mushroom Foam.
Beef and Jicama Sashimi with Tarragon Emulsion.
Haricot Vert with Seared Duck Breast and Pineapple Caviar
My nephew Cody and I wanted to make the Pea Ravioli, and Peter (my husband) chose the Candied Apples. “Team Ravioli” included myself, Cody and a very nice mother and son duo from Alabama. Peter joined another couple in making up “Team Apple”.
Note: We (Cody, myself and Peter) didn’t work on any of the other recipes (duck, halibut or beef) so I will only discuss the two we focused on during the class (the pea ravioli and candied apples).
Before we started working on the individual recipes our instructor, Chef Michael, invited us up to the main prep counter to watch him make “Pineapple Caviar”
9 oz. Pineapple Juice
1g Sodium Alginate
18 oz. Water
3g Calicum Chloride
1. Mix the sodium alginate with 1/2 of the pineapple juice and blend till completely dissolved.
2. Mix in remaining juice, straining and allow to sit to remove any air bubbles.
3. Dissolve the calcium chloride in the water.
4. Fill syringe or a squeeze bottle with the juice mixture.
5. Softly expel mixture into calcium chloride bath drop by drop.
6. After a minute, remove gently with a tea strainer and rinse gently in cold water.
They were delicious little balls of pineapple fruit “caviar” and it was fun to see how easy this molecular cooking was going to be… or so I thought.
Recipe for “Pea Ravioli”
For the “pea soup”:
10 oz. frozen peas
10 oz. water
2 springs chive
For the “ravioli”:
5 grams food grade Sodium Alginate
For the calcium bath:
50 oz. cold water
.4 oz. calcium chloride
Truffle oil & Sea Salt (to top at end)
1. In a shallow baking dish, combine water and calcium chloride. Whisk until calcium chloride is dissolved, then store in the fridge to chill.
2. Blanch frozen peas in salted, boiling water, then shock immediately in ice water for several minutes. Drain.
3. Using an immersion blender, rain the sodium alginate into the cold water, until fully dissolved. The water will thicken considerably. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. When cooled, blend with peas, add chives and mix until the mixture is smooth.
5. Remove chilled calcium chloride mixture from the fridge. Scoop pea mixture into a tablespoon measure in the shape of a half-sphere. Set the bottom of the tablespoon measure against the surface of the calcium chloride mixture, then pour the mixture in the calcium bath. Leave ravioli in the calcium chloride mixture for two minutes.
6. Gently remove the ravioli from the calcium chloride bath using fingers or a slotted spoon. Place in a shallow bowl filled with cool water, to rinse calcium off the ravioli sphere.
7. Top with a few drops of truffle oil and sea salt. Serve immediately.
After reading the “Pea Ravioli” recipe, my nephew Cody and I took charge and started working. First weighing the calcium chloride on a digital scale (which took us a few minutes to figure out!), then on to blanching the peas. The kitchen was VERY crowded with sixteen students plus a staff of three all trying to maneuver equipment and burner space, but it was FUN.
After we mixed and chilled the calcium and shocked the peas, Cody grabbed an immersion blender and went to work on the sodium alginate. He brought it to a boil over high heat and then allowed it to cool.
The next step was blending the sodium alginate with the peas, and at that point we realized that the other members of “team ravioli” had only been watching. Unlike myself and Cody, the sweet “Alabama” mom and son duo were sort of unsure and afraid to jump in and get dirty.
So we motioned them to come over and they blended the pea mixture with the sodium alginate. And that’s where things sort of took a wrong turn. It wasn’t mixed enough. The pea mixture was supposed to be SMOOTH… silky smooth. Cody and I both knew that because we had watched the el Bulli video. But OUR pea ravioli mixture was well… a little lumpy! Alabama insisted that it was mixed enough and since it was a “team” recipe effort (and I didn’t want to get into an argument), we moved on to the next step.
We transferred the chilled calcium chloride from the fridge to our work table and scooped out tablespoon size balls from the bowl of peas & alginate.
It really was too thick… but as we maneuvered the pea mix into the calcium bath, they instantly firmed up and turned into “balls”. Thick, lumpy balls (most with little tadpole-like tails) but they held together!
We all took turns making the pea ravioli…. each trying to get the spoon out WITHOUT creating a tail on the ball. Students from other groups came over and gave it a try.
Next we drained each ball in fresh water, then Cody and I got busy plating them up on a square platter. We drizzled a few drops of truffle olive oil on each, then topped with crunchy sea salt.
How did they taste? They were delightful! Firm on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside, and of course the truffle oil and sea salt added extra flavor and texture.
Our Pea Ravioli spheres were definitely NOT perfect, and honestly it was PERFECTLY fine with me. How else would we learn if our recipes came out flawless the first time?
Recipe for “Pomme d’Amour” (Michel Richard’s Candied Apples):
1 pound sugar
2 teaspoons citric acid
4 oz. glucose
1 teaspoon red food coloring
3 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 9 1-inch balls
Crushed corn nuts for garnish
1. For the candied apples: In a medium saucepan bring sugar, citric acid, glucose and food coloring to 310 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Remove from heat. Insert toothpics into apples and immediately dip into candy. Place apples on bed of crushed corn nuts.
My husband Peter said he had a great time making the Candied Apples, especially because we are big fans of Michel Richard. They were bite-size, sweet and crunchy from the corn nuts.
The three of us throughly enjoyed the afternoon class, although I wished we had a few more hours to play! Chef Young was super friendly, helpful and I’ll be the first to sign up when he teaches another “Molecular Gastronomy/Cooking” class!
“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
Author Laurie Colwin