Sunday, November 5, 2017

Atelier Crenn Experience

The Poem is the Menu
Chef Crenn and her Sous Chef
What does Marriott Hotels have to do with Atelier Crenn?  I am a loyalist to Marriott and they have introduced Marriott Moments to offer awesome experiences in an auction for points.  The offer was a private event evening at Atelier Crenn with Chef Dominique Crenn and the AC staff.  Outside of fine food loyalists not many people are familiar with Atelier Crenn or it's Chef owner Dominique.  I read about Chef Crenn and have seen her on a few shows and knew she was considered a very special talent and that her restaurant was also very special.  Keep in mind that her restaurant is only 6 years old and she had already accomplished being the first female chef to win two Michelin Stars in North America, awarded the best Female Chef in the World by The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants and is currently featured in Vogue November 2018.  This was going to be a great evening and experience and we were all excited to be there.
Chef Crenn and Maxime

We were staying near Union Square, so we hopped into our Lyft ride to Fillmore Street in Cow Hollow.  We were dropped in the middle of the block and hunted down 3127.  It took a few minutes but we then found the door tucked in the building with a tiny Atelier Crenn sign.  The windows seemed to be covered in butcher paper and I initially assumed the space was under renovation, but I pulled open the door and was greeted to what was going to be one of the greatest evenings we have had experienced since starting Top Chef Trail 7 years ago.

Swordfish Jerky
Atelier Crenn seats less than 20 people in an intimate setting.  There is a false ceiling that is covered
with reeds to give you a feeling of an outdoor area letting in subdued light.  There are poems on the wall which set the tone of the evening representing the Chef's desire to marry the earth and the sea in her culinary experience.  The wall ornaments and light fixtures look like large birds nests built with twigs and branches.  We were greeted and handed a glass of Champagne to toast our arrival for a great night of dining.  Several Hor D'oeuvres including Swordfish Jerky were brought by to sample.  Swordfish lends itself to being great for Jerky with a high fat content that makes it moist and to retain great flavor. 
Smoked Trout Roe
We were soon invited back to the kitchen to meet Dominique and members of her staff to learn how she makes a signature dish.  Dominique was standing in the back of the small preparation area with a smile that lit up the entire area.  In the background her team of folks were working on the meal that they had been preparing for the last 12 hours.  She welcomed us and she and her General Manager Maxime Larquier started to talk us through what we were going to see made.  We have been to some great restaurants and I have a few foods I have always avoided, one is any fish's Roe, the dish being created had smoked Trout Roe as the star.  But this is a great chef and whatever she make must be awesome.  The team walked us through how the take toasted Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds and gently crush them, then take a mixture of Duck fat and Balsamic and pour it over the Trout Roe, the nuts are then poured over and then it is gently mixed.  To top it off there are some micro flowers that add a ton of color.  The moment of truth comes I pop it in my mouth and and the Duck Fat coats my tongue, then the vinegar bites.  I gently bite down
Busy creating
and the Fish Roe pops in my mouth as does the mixture of toasted nuts.  This is tasting great, what

Chef is the pretty one
have I missed for the last 40 years.  We then took a moment to savor the taste and sip the Sauvignon Blanc before we had an opportunity to chat with the chef.  She was very engaging welcoming conversation.  I told her I really enjoy cooking and she asked me my preferred method and I told her I like to slow cook.  A matter of fact I had just bought a Sous-vide machine and was learning to cook with it.  She asked me what I had prepared and how it had turned out and then said you know what I am going to send you the best book to learn and cook Sous-vide. (We will come back to this later).  Here is what I learned in the few minutes we had an opportunity to talk.  She really enjoys life, she draws her inspiration for cooking from her life experiences, she loves working with her team, she has a genuine warmth about her and she expects the best and gets the best.
The Poem and the first Bite
We were shown back to our tables so the dining experience could begin.  After a short welcome speech the first item was brought to the table with a wine pairing.  The Server brought us what looked like a centerpiece with 2 identical placards.  On those placards were several Poems or Haiku's.  The first line was "Hidden in fallen leaves are treasures of the earth and sea"  I was not familiar with Dominiques signature menus which consists of a series of poems that describe the bite in an abstract way.  Our table guest Calvin and Han immediately pointed out the poem and said look at the leaves.  Within each leave was a single liquid bead.  We gently picked ours up and yes the leaf tasted earthy and the bead tasted like the ocean.  This was the type of exciting night we were in for.  This was wine paired with a Elena Walch Pinot Blanco
The first  dish was Chef Crenn's take on a Kir Breton which is a French cocktail consisting of Creme de Cassis and dry Cider.  Her mother used to prepare the cocktail when she was growing up and this is one of the many homages to her parents.  Chef Crenn freezes cider into a sphere and dips it into a mixture of Cocoa Butter and White Chocolate to form a perfect casing to present this dish.  When you bite down on the sphere there is an explosion of sweet, tart, chocolate and apple in your mouth.
Kir Breton
The server came over to the table and placed a small bowl of liquid in front of us.  She described it as Fish and Chips, we were all stunned.  How can a liquid be Fish and Chips?  It is not easy but they pulled it off.  There was a small paper thin piece of fried potato beneath a liquid that tasted like a traditionally deep fried piece of cod with malt vinegar all done with liquid ingredients.  This was wonderful and was paired with an Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.
I have already told you I am not a big fan of Roe and one in particular I have always avoided was Urchin Roe (Uni).
The Uni was sitting on a crispy Koshihikari Rice cake and Barigoule Sauce.  There were toasted sesame seeds on the Uni.  The Roe is creamy and settled in the middle of the tongue.  The rice cake provided texture and crunch and the Barigoule sauce brought everything together.  This was an incredible mixture of texture and taste.  It was paired with Taiheikai Pacific Ocean Sake.
Why not keep me on my toes with Caviar, so far I was 2 for 2 in the roe love department so why not try this dish.  This was a do it yourself bite.  You had a pickled Daikon disc that acted as a cracker which you added Caviar and Koji (Fermented Bean Paste).  When you popped this in your mouth you had tart, fermented bite and the sweetness of the caviar which popped when you bit down.  This was paired with Domaine Leflaive Chardonnay.
Brioche and Wagyu Butter
We had a little bit of a break with the House Brioche and their Housemade Butter and Wagyu Butter. Both of these spreads were amazing with this bread.  The house made had hints of grassland taste with tiny flowers and micro greens.  The Wagyu butter was something more special.  It is rendered Wagyu
Fat whipped into a butter spread.  It is like a butter that tastes like Prime Rib.
Abalone is very difficult to get these days it is regulated so it is not very common.  Chef Crenn slow cooked the Abalone so it melted in your mouth, it was served with a Quail Yolk and a Smoky Creme.  I slowly enjoyed this with the wine pairing from Domaine de L'Arlot 'Les Suchets' Premier Cru.  I liked this dish because it made a large statement in a small serving.
Matsutake and Dungeness
Chefs have a gift of imagining tastes and how ingredients go together and then imagine what other accompanied tastes compliment.  They then work with their Sommelier (AC has at least 2) to create the perfect pairing.  Our next bite were tastes I would never think of and created a texturally different but complimentary dish.  Dungeness Crab is a favorite from the Pacific Northwest and Matsutake Mushrooms are a rare breed primarily found in Japan.  The mushroom was raw and had a foresty  taste while the fresh Dungeness Crab was moist and sweet sitting a crab broth with corn.  Not sure who thought of this but it was another great bite.
A-5 Wagyu

Wagyu beef has become a phenomenon.  It seems like everywhere has a Wagyu burger or steak.  But there are different Grades of Wagyu Beef the best being Grade A-5.  An ounce of A-5 cost more than a pound of Prime Rib Eye.  We were served A-5 with a Bearnaise Sauce and Umeboshi Sauce (Pickled Plum)  topped with Micro Greens  served on a square crystal plate.  This beef literally melts in your mouth and coats your tongue.  The sauces added another layer of fat that put this bite over the top.  Paired with Bovio 'Vigna Gattera" Nobbiolo this was a great wine to compete for the tongue.

Truffle Tart

The Pulque volcano
How about a tart that has Cow Milk Cheese, Quince and covered in Truffle Shavings and a few tiny white flowers to cleanse the palette.  It sounds as good as it tasted. This was paired with Heidrun Meadery Carrot Blossom Mead.  Mead? I thought only Vikings and Knights and Serfs drank Mead.  I can see why they did now.  Mead is a honey brew.  It would be easy and pleasurable to drink a lot of Mead on a lazy weekend.
Before dessert we had Masa Chip it was served in a Mayan inspired bowl.  The  chip had a crest of Chichen Itza emblazoned on it.  It was a great little palette cleanser with a fun taste, plating and theme.
Our first Dessert was a play on Mexican Cocktail, Pulque.  This was
Mignardise Peanut is the best
created with Agave, Coconut and Iced Pulque sitting atop a volcanic mountain as if it was erupting.  It was refreshing ad it looked beautiful.  It reminded me of a scene out of a Dr Seuss book it was creative and fun.  The wine served was a sweeter dessert wine from Weinguter Bischoflicher 'Kanzemer Altenberg'.
To end the evening a wooden Gourd container was brought out with 4 Mignardise and Chocolates my favorite was the Peanut, it tasted better than a peanut.  My other favorite the Chocolate Bark with nuts.

My new Sous Vide Cookbook
The best way to summarize the evening was that it was an experience that cannot be bought or replicated.  It is a rare occasion where you have the Best Chef, the Best Staff, the Best Sous Chefs, The Best Sommeliers all come together with the best Food in the Perfect Setting.  Chef Crenn is a free spirit, she was born to do this type of work, she and her staff work very hard to maintain the reputation to preserve the Michelin stars they have earned.  Every part of Chef Crenn's life experience contribute to her cooking and style.
Remember the conversation at the beginning of the article where
Chef Crenn said she would send me the Sous-vide book.  I received it yesterday and am trying my first dish of Short Ribs.