Thursday, April 2, 2009
Dining on Spring: Josie's $35 Farmer's Market Menu
For my first post, I wanted to stack the deck for a delicious meal, so I decided to splurge on a "deal" that is about as expensive as I plan to go on this blog: the $35 prix fixe farmer's market menu at Josie Restaurant.
Some gourmands (and certainly many carb conscious Angelenos) may dismiss the bread basket as a waste of precious stomach space. Personally, I have always had a special place in my heart for the doughy stuff. This is a love affair further fueled by the fact that I have a tendency to show up at restaurants starving, and look to the bread basket to offer me that first morsel of satisfaction! Josie served two types of bread: A thin slice of toasted bread that was more of a crouton, and an airy white rustic bread. The breads themselves were servicable, but the butter was wonderful: creamy and rich with just a slight tang of salt. It seems the breads were choosen merely as frames for the artistry of the butter, and they worked very well together.
Then came the amuse bouche. One of the wonderful customs of high end dining, it is where the chef sends out a little bite to literally "amuse the mouth." I adore this tradition, as it gives the chef a chance to showcase his or her talents, unfettered by the customer's demands.
The amuse turned out to be my favorite part of the meal: The Mushroom Gruyere Tartlet. The texture of the soft and silky quiche contrasted beautifully with the thick ropes of Gruyere woven throughout, all of it contained in a crust so flaky it seemed to be made of pure butter. The flavor of the sharp cheese exploded in my mouth, then mellowed into the creamy richness of the eggy batter. If I were to improve two things about this, I would serve it hotter (it came out luke warm) and add more mushrooms. I don't think I had more then two or three thin slivers of mushroom in mine, I couldn't identify what type they were. But, it was still a delicious meeting of taste and texture. And, served with a little fork! I must admit, I am the slowest eater I know, taking small bites and savoring everything. I love when the size of the utensil matches the size of my bite, and have been known to eat an entire cup of ice cream with my sample spoon. So the little fork was definitely a bonus:)
Next came the appetizer, a Farmer's Market salad with shaved fennel and artichoke, topped with parmesan crisps, and served on a bed of thinly sliced salami. The greens were soft and tender, the vegetables cool and fresh, and the dressing so light the whole salad truly seemed the embodiement of the farmer's market. The parmesan crisps provided a tasty crunch, though I do wish there had been more of them. And the bed of salami provided a nice meaty contrast to the lighter greens (though personally I found it a little too peppery). But, overall, the dish was filled with the crisp clean flavors of spring. It was, as James Lipton would say, a delight!
Then came the entree: Seared Scallops on a bed of Beets, Leeks, Spinach and Peas served atop Grilled Polenta. The scallops were perfectly cooked and deliciously flavorful, with just a dusting of salt and pepper on top for flavor. All of the vegetables seemed to have bathed in that fabulous butter, only this time, they stood out as the works of art rather then the frames. The green sauce seemed to be made of fresh peas and butter, a sweet richness to compliment the scallops. The grilled polenta was crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Taken all together in one forkful, it was thoroughly enjoyable!
We ended the night with the Flourless Chocolate Tart served with Mint Chip Ice Cream. Mint has never been my favorite flavor, but this ice cream was fantastic. I normally think of mint ice cream as a sickly green concotion that endeavors to eradicate everything else on your palate and overwhelm you with it's minty flavor. This ice cream, however, was like biting into a fresh mint leaf dipped in cream. Not overwhelming or showy, just basking in the natural glory of the mint. The cake tasted like you were eating spoonfuls of milk chocolate ganache, rich and creamy, but nothing to elevate it to the level of extraordinary. And the crust was an unfortunately sandy affair that didn't impart much flavor and crumbled upon contact. This is definitely the first time I preferred the mint portion of the dessert to the chocolate.
Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable meal! The portions are so generous, I think it would be easy to split one meal between two people. (I went with three other friends, we had two prix fixe meals and two entrees and were all stuffed by the end, even though I was bringing home leftovers). Considering a single entree at Josie costs between $27-$44 dollars, this meal is an incredible value!! And given that the chef changes the menu every week based on what they find at the farmer's market, you can come back again and again without getting bored! I would love to hear about anyone else's experiences at the farmer's market dinner.
My beautiful friend "H" wore a very stylish outfit to dinner with a belt cinched around her tiny waist. By the end of the evening, she was forced to let that belt out a few notches to allow everything to digest! Thus began the Dining on Deals rating system:
I would give this restaurant 4 out of 5 notches!
Josie Restaurant is located at:
2424 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica CA, 90405
Their Farmer's Market Menu is served every Wednesday night - Three courses for $35.