Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. - John Muir 1912
I can't imagine a better way to set the right mood for dinner than to read this beautiful John Muir quote.
I recently attended a concept dinner hosted by Chef Marc Zimmerman (Alexander's Steakhouse) with my friend, Christina of East Bay Dish. It was an evening full of phenomenal food, perfect pairings and ten passionate eaters, all connected to each other through, Mike Lu, a mutual friend of ours who's helping to shape the concept to life.
Chef Zimmerman is on to something really good here. His Solace concept focuses on the natural elements of fine dining by inviting guests to an intimate dinner that feels like the comfort of home. From the ingredients used in each dish to the excellent wine pairings, it's a correlation and progression of things that go incredibly well together. It's the kind of food where you take a bite, unknowingly nod your head slowly and say, "Wow..."
Solace is in its early phase of testing, but here's the initial thinking: car service paired with your favorite bottle of champagne and dinner in a remote location, maybe somewhere up north, surrounded by the beauty of nature. Here's a look at the dining experience and each dish served during the first experiment dinner:
The menu is elegantly designed and when planted grows into flowers. How cool is that?
The wine pairings were creative and fun, carefully thought out and executed nicely; generous pours kept all of us very happy and chatty.
- King Brut 'Grandee Cuvee' MV
- Champagne Bereche et Fils Blanc de Blancs NV
- Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault 'Les Chevalieres' 2012
- Andre Oberto Barolo 'Rocche dell Annunziata' 2011
- Royal Tokaji 'Mezes Maly' 1996
- Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva 1981
- Heidi Schrock Ausbruch Neusiedlersee 2009
yellow tail, green verjus, radish, apple, borage
A gorgeous shimmery slice of rich yellow tail on a seaweed cracker paired with a refreshingly crisp, light and clean glass of Bereche et Fils Blanc de Blancs.
uni, oscetra caviar, cauliflower
Layers of rich uni from Hokkaido are lightly cooked in a warm cream of shio koji and cauliflower, topped with a generous amount of farm-raised black pearl imperial golden ossetra from the Sacramento delta area. And of course, topped with a gold foil.
scallop, english pea, lemon, cured egg yolk
The combination of scallops and peas are a beautiful thing. A garnish of lemon and shaven cured egg yolks adds a magical bright richness to this dish. The yolk is packed with so much flavor and creates a lovely visual contrast.
salmon, sunchoke, eucalyptus smoke, corn, roe, sweet herbs
Just one bite and it felt like I went through the woods, caught a salmon at a river, foraged for some herbs and cooked it over eucalyptus smoke. The salmon was so rich and flavorful, cooked perfectly in a 51 degree salt bath then on a charcoal mesquite to give it that nice woodsy flavor. Many of us agreed that it was the best salmon we've ever had.
charcoal-seared beef, japanese citrus, king trumpet, salt
The cold climate of Hokkaido creates the unique marbling on this beef and allows it to become delicate enough to melt in your mouth.
foie gras, birch, elderberry, spruce, walnut toast
The birch wood smoked foie gras with elderberries and spruce tips is unbelievable! I've never had a foie gras that tastes like prized butter. It's truly a foie gras lovers dream come true.
chanterelle, koshihikari rice, bone marrow, pine nut, dandelion
Chef Zimmerman wins over all our hearts with a bitter, savory and salty rice dish that's full of comfort. A mix of roasted broccoli rabe, dandelion, threads of mustard flower, toasted nori and rice sautéed in bone marrow in a light pine nut almond milk-based cream.
warm chicken broth, bonito, seaweed, thyme, kinome
It was fun to see this siphon pot used to make chicken broth instead of the usual coffee. The chicken broth is clean and earthy, yet rich and comforting. A slapped kinome leaf is used as a garnish, releasing spicy and fruity aromas with a slightly citrus and spicy taste.
pistachio, sorrel, fennel, dill, young pine cone bud syrup
Imagine eating a sponge cake that tastes like the deep flavors of pistachio, raw fennel and the forest combined. The pine cone bud syrup almost resembles the taste of honey, but with a bright and clean woodsy essence.
The dinner comes to an end with an impressive spread of treats: graham cracker macarons, a bold and tart kiwi gelee, chocolate bark, and a variety of bon bons - port, cigar, isla scotch, coffee, and white chocolate tokaji.
If Chef Zimmerman continues to create food experiences like this, I am sure that many passionate eaters will follow him in search of solace. I certainly will and can't wait to see how his plan unfolds.
Thanks again for a phenomenal dinner, Solace team!