By Jeff Miller
Following a successful kick-off tasting at LA Live downtown Thursday night, LA Food And Wine's activities sprawled across the city Friday afternoon, with lunches ranging from a pig duel at Lukshon to an extravagant Italian blowout with Giada De Laurentis at Cicconi's. Surely, though, one of the most anticipated was a NorCal plush SoCal showdown at revered seafood haven Providence, where resident chef Michael Cimarusti collaborated on a four-course tasting menu with Yountville's Richard Reddington.
Abalone, Squid & Chorizo, Pork Belly, Cornichon, Virtual Oyster Shooter
It was unclear who was firing the shots in this early-meal blowout, but the hits kept coming, first in a gaspacho-style soup base made to be sipped with a leaf meant to resemble an oyster (the flavor was there, the texture, not so much), followed by a series of one-bite skewers each richer than the next, with the winner a star-shaped piece of squid expertly buttery and compounded by a slightly-spicy chorizo morsel, which, combined, were a palate-soaking start.
Wild Big Eyed Tuna Carpaccio (Montauk, Long Island); Baby Beets, Radish, Lemon Oil
A sushi-thin slice of bright red fish was punctuated by salty, crouton-esque specks and sweetened by yellow and red beets; though the radish was a bit unneccessary, the small, silky puddle of basil oil the fish rested on enunciated the flavor rather than diminished it, making this dish focused even as it appeared a bit dishevelee.
Hokkaido Sea Scallops; Sunchokes, Mushrooms, Sherry Vin Jus
Expertly paired with a 2009 Mt Carmel Vinyard Pinot Noir, this deceptively simple, Reddington-prepared course -- essentially, a single scallop atop a lush sunchoke puree -- was by far the most beautiful, with a duo of sauces underneath that blasted the plate with color. The flavors weren't lacking brightness either; each component complimented the next, making this the favorite dish of the afternoon.
Wild Long Island Striped Bass; Bacon, Comice Pear, Tahitian Squash, Brown Butter
Though also strong as a fully formed dish, our table couldn't stop talking about the brown butter preparation, actually presented as a powder tastefully sprinkled atop the pear-and-squash salad that was so flavorful that we agreed that the fatty bacon lardons weren't even necessary for the dish to achieve excellence, a shocking revelation from a table full of pork fanatics.
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache; Ginger Meringue; Graham Cracker Ice Cream
Though the ice cream was unsurprisingly luscious, and the crumbs it sat atop crunchy as promised, the ganache slab in the center of the plate was an intense, immense amount of sweetness, not quite cut by the meringue, which had nary a hint of ginger. If this was the miss, though, then so be it: by then, we were so seafood stuffed, it hardly mattered.
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