Saturday, March 03, 2012

Foie Gras Dinner @ Lafitte

Tonight we went for a special foie gras dinner @ Lafitte.  I'd never been there before, but its been on my list for a while, although not particularly high on my list since it gets such mixed reviews on Yelp (Then again, I'm starting to seriously doubt the Yelpers ...). The menu changes daily and things seem generally hit or miss. Tonight though was a special night - all foie gras!

The menu was advertised as being 5 courses for $89. In the end, it was 10 courses (a few extra passed appetizers, an extra entree, and 2 extra desserts). They also offered a drink pairing for an additional $45, featuring a cocktail, sparking rose, 3 red wines, and a port. While I didn't think the pairings necessarily matched the food that well, they were all very good, and it was really fun to have a cocktail and a port included in there, not just wines. And everyone was given a welcome cocktail as well. Overall, this was a really great deal, it was a ton of high quality food and drinks.

The food was all very good, see my comments below on individual photos for details. What impressed me the most was that the meal was all served at once, for the entire restaurant, and they managed to pull it off seamlessly. I'm not entirely sure how many people were there, perhaps 50 or so, but everything arrived hot and very well executed. How did they get perfectly seared foie gras to 50 people at once? I have no idea! Such an incredible feat, and it makes me grumpy thinking about all the rehearsal dinner/wedding reception/etc similar events where the food comes out horrible, and I give them the benefit of the doubt that it was due to the serving big group nature of the events. Or restaurant where I pay far more than this and get lukewarm food, or less well executed food. Well done Lafitte!

Even more impressive however, was that our group had a couple "difficult" patrons. One member was gluten free. And two of us were sharing a meal. They accommodated all of this seamlessly as well! The gluten free patron was given a few special preparations (in fact, some of hers seemed even better, more foie gras, less filler gluten!). They brought her the special dishes without pause. She also couldn't drink her full 7 drink pairing, and when they saw us sharing offered to bring out extra glasses. And with two of us sharing, they always brought an extra plate and sharing utensils. Water glasses were always full. Dishes and utensils were cleared away at the right time, never rushed, but always in advance of the next course. Pacing of the entire meal was spot on, never feeling too fast, but we were never bored between courses. Again, even in normal service at restaurants you don't generally get this consistently good service.

Overall, an incredibly impressive event, from food, to service, to the open, well designed, comfortable space. They have 5 more of these events coming up (one per month until the ban), and I can safely say that I'll be attending more of them. Please let me know if you want to join! (More details on their website: http://www.lafittesf.com/) They also have some amazing sounding specials on Monday nights - $35 for 3 course dinner, with 3 choices for each course, always including vegetarian option. I'll be checking out some of those as well. And they have a foie gras eggs benedict for brunch, which one of my friends went to last week and gave a glowing review.  I'm sure we'll be going back for that too.

Happy, ridiculously stuffed, and looking forward to more foie!
Banks rum punch, bitters.
This was a welcome drink, given to everyone while we were waiting to be seated. Not too sweet due to the bitters in it, but not particularly good. I sorta wish I hadn't finished this, it really wasn't worth it. Still, nice touch to give us all a drink while we were waiting to be seated.
Oyster, bacon, potato, foie gras.
Extra passed appetizer before seating. The bacon and potatoes were delicious. I didn't detect any foie in here, but they said there was some The oyster however wasn't cleaned properly. My first one had a chunk of rock in it and my second one was fairly gritty. If I knew was was in store for me for the rest of the meal, I certainly would have skipped a second one of these. Then again, bacon and potatoes are pretty awesome!
Strasburg Pie - toasted brioche, some sort of jam, foie gras.
Another extra passed appetizer before seating. A cute play on strasburg pie. The brioche was nicely toasted, the jam was sweet and complimented the foie nicely, and there was a decent chunk of foie on here. I wanted another one of these :)
Main menu for the night (missing passed appetizers and extra dessert).
Drink pairings for the night (missing extra starter cocktail).
Sweet bread, salted butter.
 Decent bread, I liked the sweetness to it. The butter was nicely salted.
Foie gras dumplings, foie gras consume, black truffle.
Dish #1. Not particularly memorable. The dumplings were like little tiny gnocchi. They weren't bad, but were just kinda there. The foie gras consume wasn't particularly flavorful. I didn't detect much, if any, black truffle. Not bad, but nothing really stood out here.
"Beyond Good And Evil": Brokers gin, aperol, quince, rosemary, lemon.
This cocktail was really nice. It was sweet, but the rosemary added a wonderful touch and aroma. I really enjoyed this. It was paired with the foie gras dumpling dish though, which I didn't really understand. It was sweet, that was savory, the rosemary didn't really seem to go ... puzzling pairing.
D'Orfeuille Touraine Brut Rose
This was just ok. One of our tablemates had a restriction and couldn't have carbonation, and was given a really nice dry white flat champagne-like drink instead. Hers was awesome. Since she couldn't drink this, they gave it to me complimentary. Score! And since she didn't want a full 6 course pairing, she gave us some of hers as well. Double score! Again though, I didn't really think this pairing made sense with the risotto.
Seared Foie Risotto: nettle puree & almond praelene
Dish #2. This was the winner of the night for me.

The foie was amazing. A generous piece. Seared perfectly. Creamy. And it had a fantastic sweetness from some sort of glaze applied to it. And then a crunch from the almond praelene. The risotto itself was very al dente. I'm not sure if it was purposeful or not, but I kinda liked the crunchyness of it. It did have a strange mouthfeel though, not exactly too creamy, but something seemed a little off.

The foie though was so amazingly good.
Lamb Sweetbreads: parsnip veloute, foie gras torchon, pickled green garlic, sherry.
I did not expect to like this one, as I'm not a fan of lamb, or sweetbread really (although, this was my second night having sweetbreads this week ...).

The sweetbreads were actually rice nice, super flavorful and a great texture. The parsnip veloute and green garlic sauce was awesome. I eagerly consumed every last drop of it, and perhaps would have licked the bowl if no one would have seen me. The garlic in particularly really made this dish, adding a complex flavor, but not blowing out your palate.

Unfortunately, I didn't really detect the foie here. I think it was in the sauce somewhere?

I'm discovering that one of my favorite things about attending events like this is that they force me to try things I wouldn't normally order. Sweetbreads are never near the top of my list of things to order, probably because I just haven't had that great of preparations in the past, and I've only had a handful. After this though, I wouldn't shy away from ordering them!
Roulade of Guinea Hen, cadroon-celery root puree, camarague red rice, foie gras, pain de spice crust
Another one that surprised me! The hen was moist and flavorful, with a tasty coating on it. The rice however, was really, really good, particularly mixed with the puree and sauce on the plate. I could have easily eaten a big bowl of this rice! Wonderful flavor, wonderful texture, noms!
Duck Pot au Feu: confit tongue, sauteed offal, duck prosciutto, foie gras, wild mushrooms.
This pretty much met expectations, but not for the reasons I was expecting. I'm not a duck lover, nor a tongue lover, nor an offal lover. But, I do love wild mushrooms and foie.

The mushrooms actually disappointed me - chewy, and not very flavorful. The duck parts were tender and better than I was expecting. But the broth was fantastic! Rich, flavorful, savory, salty, amazing! More please!

This paired really well with the fairly complex red wine it was served with.
Foie gras donut, coffee cream, foie gras vaudovan caramel, brandied foie gras cereal milk shooter .
Dessert. Noms.

Everyone else at my table was crazy and didn't like this. Crazy I say.

As a result, I consumed at least 2 full dishes of this. In retrospect, that was way too much. But I loved it, and couldn't stop eating it!

The donut was actually large large, not sure if you can see that in the photo. Nice and crispy and fried on the outside, soft and bready on the inside. It had a great spiced flavor to it. The caramel was amazing, thick, sweet, and well spiced from the vadouvan and foie. The cream was not sweet and completed a perfect bite of donut, caramel, and cream. Each of these 3 components on their own were good, but not outstanding, but I found that when I put them all together I just couldn't stop going back for more. And since the crazies at my table didn't like this, more was readily available (and my plate somehow kept getting filled up!).

The brandied foie gras cereal milk was also delicious. Sweet from the cereal part, milky and creamy, I loved it. Again, the crazies at my table didn't, so I got a few of these.

This all paired nicely with the port.

Basically, I made out like a bandit here, getting far more than my share o dessert! NOMS. Thanks y'all!
Chocolate chip cookie.
And if that wasn't enough, they came around with an extra cookie at the end.

"Vegan chocolate chip cookie" is what they said. I was stuffed. I'm kinda a cookie snob since I get great cookies at work all of the time. And a vegan cookie? I had my doubts. However, this was great! Soft! Moist! Flavorful! And the non-dessert loving folks at my table of course left behind big chunks of cookie for me to finish. More noms!  (I somewhat think they were joking about the vegan part, but I'm not positive ...)

[ Originally posted the day of the event (February 19, 2012) on Google+, but moved here ].
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