After I returned from my trip to Japan, there was one meal I was extremely looking forward to and that was to Craig Thornton's Wolvesden dinner. There has been an emergence of pop-up restaurants and underground dinners in the Los Angeles food scene and Wolvesden is the new hot ticket right now. While I think Chef Ludo started the whole pop-up restaurant craze in Los Angeles with his Ludobites dinners, I remember being exposed to my first underground dinner back in 2006 with Ghetto Gourmet. I fell in love with the idea of having an intimate dinner while bonding with strangers over the love of food. This Wolvesden dinner was just that: intimate yet professional.
After hearing great things amongst the bloggers about Craig and his dinners, I knew I was in for a treat. Encouraged to bring your own beverage (wine, beer, whatever you want), J and I brought a red wine (I can't remember what I brought - oops) and a six pack of Asahi Black (one of J's favorite beers). Since the other diners were generous with their wine, we didn't even get to touch the beer. But, I'm sure they were enjoyed by Julian and the others!
course 1: scallop, pasta carbonara puree, snap peas
Due to some traffic, we were really late for the dinner. Thank goodness we made it just in time for our first course, a perfectly seared scallop with a carbonara puree. I really enjoyed the play amongst the textures in this dish. The soft scallop against the silky puree and crunchy snap peas was a lovely introduction to the meal.
course 2: trout, butternut squash, hazlenut oil, hazlenuts
Next up was the trout with butternut squash and hazlenuts. The sweetness of the butternut squash overpowered the fish a bit for me, but other than that I thought the trout was cooked beautifully.
course 3: tomatoes, homemade ranch, endive
The tomato course was a simple dish, yet it was a highlight for me. I'm not picky about a lot of things, but I am sometimes about tomatoes. I usually don't like them in my burgers or sandwiches because I hate soggy tomatoes and lettuce. But, I really enjoy tomato salads, especially when done simply. This dish was not only simple, but fantastic. The homemade ranch is as I would say, money. Even J, who does not generally like tomatoes, thought this was wonderfully prepared.
course 4: lobster, celery root puree, celery seed vermouth lobster broth, crispy soft crouton
One hit after another... The lobster course was one of my favorite courses of the night. I'm such a sucker for lobster, but who isn't? The lobster was perfectly cooked and went really well with the silky celery root puree. The broth had a slight grassy flavor and bitterness from the celery seed, but was rounded out by the lobster. The crouton was a very nice touch and its presence elevated the dish from good to great. Loved it.
course 5: rabbit, saddle, leg, carrot, black truffle pie crust
Next course was the rabbit with black truffle pie crust. The rabbit was tender and moist while the pie crust was earthy and crunchy. The carrot was a nice touch and yes, it totally reminded me of Thumper. Sad, but delicious.
course 6: pork belly, yam pork broth, watermelon radish
The pork belly was fatty and super tender - just really delicious. But, the star of the dish for me was the yam pork broth. It was extremely addicting. I also really enjoyed the watermelon radish which was needed to cut the fattiness of the pork. Another fabulous dish.
course 7: passion fruit
We were served passion fruit as a palate cleanser. I've never had a real passion fruit, always had it in different forms, never raw. It was outstanding - my new favorite fruit!
course 8: squab, crispy squab skin, beet, squab sauce, pumpernickel, chanterelle mushroom
For our last savory course, we were served a perfectly cooked squab accompanied with its crispy skin. The meat was juicy and went well with the sweetness of the pumpernickel bread and the earthiness of the mushrooms. The bits of crispy skin was fun to eat and added a nice textural contrast to the tender squab.
course 9: maple beer fritters, cheddar, Arkansas black apple, apple cider
Moving onto the cheese and dessert course, our next course was maple beer fritters with cheddar and apples. Cheese and apples is not an uncommon pair, some friends of mine from Boston have told me about an old New England traditional dish where they put cheddar on top of their apple pie. Although I've never personally had it, this dish immediately reminded me of my friends. I thought this combination was really great. The sweetness from the maple beer fritters and apples was a nice complement to the salty and gooey cheddar cheese - awesome flavor combination.
course 10: cereal milk ice cream, brown butter coffee rice crispy treats
The last course of the night was tied in the book with the lobster course for my favorite dish of the night. The whole meal was pretty amazing, but I am a serious lover of cereal and cereal milk so this dish was a winner before I even had my first bite. If this dessert was at a restaurant, I would go back just to eat it. It sounds pretty simple, but the best dishes are the ones that tug at your heartstrings and immediately remind you of your childhood. Well, for me it wasn't just my childhood... It was my entire life because I eat a lot of cereal... a lot.
The dinner was fantastic, one of the better meals I've had all year. While I had a great culinary experience in Japan, this meal reminded me of all the exciting things that are happening in my hometown. I was home and it was good to be back.
If you want to get in on one of these dinners, get on the mailing list at www.wolvesmouth.com