I knew I'd be well taken care of from the moment I was greeted by the host. My tread down the steps was slow as I admired the wine cellar, the architecture, and the decor of the restaurant. The floorplan in the early evening is bright and inviting with warm wood tones contrasted with purple linen tablecloths and blue and purple microsuede chairs and fresh yellow roses.
Now there was never any doubt as to what I'd order - the Charlie Palmer Parallel Tasting Menu, of course. Don't tell cubes that I elected to have the wine pairing as well.
On the right the Maine Lobster and Green Papaya Salad, Roasted Pineapple, Spicy Coconut Dressing - it paired best with the Reisling. The green papaya was a nice foil - sour - to the sweet pineapple. Of the two parallel dishes, the sweet salty notes of the North Atlantic Fluke Carpaccio and Candied Macadamia Nuts was my favorite. I don't think it worked as well with the wine though. The macadamia nuts were a little too sweet for the Reisling.
I died and awoke in heaven when I took the bite of the Pan Roasted Diver Scallop, Braised Short Rib, Carrot Emulsion, and Black Trumpet Mushrooms. Texture, flavor, temperature: all were in perfect harmony. I must learn how to make a carrot purée foam - sweet nothingness. The bitterness of the mescaline was a great foil to the sweetness of the carrot and the richness of the mushrooms.
Sponge cake with Ahi Tuna? Crazy right? But the tastebuds don't lie. The Coriander Crusted Tuna Loin, Carrot-Sesame Sponge Cake with Orange Vinaigrette, works and works phenomenally well. I would have sliced the sponge cake a little thinner, but that's my only quibble with this portion - other than like the Scallop I wanted more!
I don't know how when a comparison is so close you pick "the best." In my third course there was no way I could choose one over the other. Both portions of lamb cooked to perfection. The nuttiness / chewiness of the faro with the sweetness / airiness of the cippolini onions. The pistachio with the pepper and eggplant. Both dishes paired beautifully so that didn't point to a "winner." The peppery sweet finish of the terrine dish had it in the lead for a bit. In the end it came down to mouth feel and the sauce, making the lamb my favorite in the third course pairing. I also felt the terrine dish had an unfair advantage with just a touch of gruyere - the challenge after all was to be dairy-free.
Until the fourth course I'd never had a sparkling Muscato. I now think all muscato should be sparkling. I'm glad the chef served sorbet and fruit for the fourth course. Had he gone with the tasting menu, I'd have been tempted to eat food that would have left me less than useless on the tradeshow floor tomorrow. The Honeydew Melon sorbet was my favorite - light and refreshing. The mango and passionfruit were well executed but too heavy for my taste.
My meal and service at Aureole were the perfect end to Day 3 at Cisco Live. As usual, more photos from my dinner are available on Flickr.
How do you treat yourself when you're traveling for business?
As an aside, I think we need to have a @DinnerAllStars outing to Las Vegas - the food's too good to enjoy alone. Who's with me? And how soon after Burning Man can we do it?