I have heard of Kobe beef and foie gras all my adult, gustatory life. I’ve always thought they are two items that are more symbols than foodstuffs. They’re the kind of thing that foodies swoon over, literally swoon, as if Larousse himself has risen from the grave, brought produce grown in the Garden of Eden and whipped up a meal using pots and pans forged on the Anvil of Hephestus. You can eat food, you can appreciate food, but only assholes who don’t know how to cook swoon over food, and only over food like Kobe beef and foie gras.
Friday night, I became one of those assholes.
Last year, Anne won a gift certificate to Pinot Hollywood at a silent auction for the Westside Children’s Center, where Anne is on the board. It was for a pretty hefty amount, one that we couldn’t blow on our own, so we invited our friends Russ and Ginger to dine with us. The only night we could get was Friday, and the place was quite dead. There were only three other parties in the dining room, which meant we could enjoy the light of the fireplace without having to yell over the ambient noise.
The menu had the standard upscale California Bistro fare: snapper with purple rice, chicken grilled over a wood fire, etc. What caught my eye, though, was the Chef’s Degustation: three savory courses, a cheese course, and dessert, all chosen by the chef. My mind was made up right there, and I thought I was going to look like a real gustatory studmonkey by being the only one at the table to order it.
Shock and dismay, I could only get it if everyone else got it. Russ is a vegetarian, and Anne and Ginger seemed pretty dead set on their orders. I gave the waiter a backup order (duck confit for appetizer with the lamb entree; I figure if I’m here, I’ve got to try something weird, and the duck fit the bill), and asked, please, please, please, ask the chef if he could make an exception. He wouldn’t be sorry. I’d love whatever he brought. The waiter said he’d do what he could. He came back a few minutes later and laid out extra forks and knives and said, “You’re in luck.”
So. Koyoshi oysters on the half-shell (on the house). Black cod with chanterelles and spinach. Beef sparerib ravioli with horseradish froth. And Kobe beef and foie gras, served over mountain spinach.
I knew what it took to make these foods, how the cows are massaged and fed beer, and how the geese are forcefed grain and left the hell alone. I thought these foods could not live up to the hype, that they were the kind of things that only appear on Iron Chef as an extravagant afterthought.
Oh, no. Oh, nonononononononono.
The Kobe beef was slightly salty and tender. No, make that tender. Buttery. Smooth. I chewed it, not because I had to mash it into tiny bits so I wouldn’t choke, but because I enjoyed it so much. I wanted to keep chewing it. I want Kobe beef gum now.
And the foie gras…all I can think about are wanky, foodie expressions like “sublime” and “a revelation,” all because “it was so fucking good” just doesn’t do it justice. It was seared crisp on the outside, but the inside was delicate, with a texture like pudding but a taste…a heavenly, light taste that makes me want to thank every goose that sacrifices its liver.
I must’ve had a look of ecstasy that night, because everyone kept watching me eat. I admit I was letting myself get carried away, but why the hell not? I think I’ve built a good starter palette, good enough to know that foie gras is good, but not good enough to taste the difference between different brands of the stuff. All I know is that the chef was cool enough to whip up a hell of a fine meal, and I paid him a complement I’m pretty sure he appreciated: I cleaned every plate, down to the crumbs and dribbles of sauce. Even when I didn’t dig the Stilton and Camembert that came with the cheese courses, I ate everything on my plate. One does not send anything back to the kitchen for a meal like that.
We paid our small bill (alcohol and tip) and boogied on home. I went to bed and dreamt of being worthy of cooking one day with Kobe beef and foie gras.