Monday, July 30, 2007

Martini House

Martini House
St. Helena, Wine Country

Outside in this beautiful, peaceful, garden patio area, we dined at the Martini House for one of the most enjoyable dinners we had in wine country. You have to sit out in the patio area. We sat underneath a pomegranate tree. It was warm, quiet, and we were surrounded by a garden with umbrellas and good company. It was so peaceful! The service was wonderful and professional as well. This was a sophisticated, yet pleasant atmosphere, with great food! I think the chef's secret ingredient for the evening was mushrooms. Pretty much everything had mushrooms in it.

This evening, my mother and I were feeling a bit like champagne, but we did the reds later.

Taittinger, Brut
This champagne was on the drier side. After the Schramsberg, this was nothing. It wasn't bad though.

Mirabella, Brut
This was more of a tart champagne, which I'm not into

Kuletto Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Napa Valley
Soft, easy to drink, a great wine. I liked it. For a young wine, this was really good! It had a rich, violet color on the rim, and it's oak flavor is light with a creamy velvet texture to it. It is young, but not fruity, and it's smooth and full bodied.

O'Connor Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Chosen for pairing with my Duck, this pinot was light and soft, but still full-bodied, and a great pinot by the glass. It had an oak flavor prominent, with a soft but wonderful blueberry flavor to it. I enjoyed this, and I'm not a pinot noir person. Yummy, great wine pairing for the duck, soft and full, great flavor and rich. The best pinot noir I've had so far in Napa.

French Baguette
A little burnt on the crust, but fresh on the inside. Great, rustic baguette presentation.

Mushroom Button Mousse
on Puff Pastry topped with Blintz Cracker

This little mousse was complimentary di chef. It was a gourmet treat, that honestly was quite bland, but it was pretty, and kinda fun to pop into your mouth. It was so petit. That little blintz on top was actually the size of a nickel. The Mushroom mousse was milk, but you could definitely taste a bit of the fresh mushroom in it. My bro was salivating over this thing, and his mushroom soup.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
"toasted croutons and chives"
My brother really enjoyed this and said it was good. I didn't take a picture of it though, so the presentation must have not been through the roof.

Torchon of Sonoma Foie Gras
"Golden Raisin Chutney and Rustic Arugula on Toasted Brioche"

This Foie Gras was a revolutionary experience for me in culinary arts and appreciation. It had a similar consistency and texture to pate and was quite velvety, like a butter block. I kept wanting it every time I took another bite. The brioche was good, but all I wanted was the foie gras. I zoned out...

The raisin rum chutney was honey-covered in flavor and sweet with some peppercorn rounds. I really stopped to taste the foie gras... the flavor, the texture, the essence... I'll never forget this. I still am in ecstasy over this experience. It was really one of those times when time just stops, and there's nothing else that exists in the world except for me in my white sweater, sitting at a white tablecloth table, holding a fork and digging into this dish. Every time it hit my palette, my mouth just swooned...

A revolutionary experience, I zoned out and all that existed was me and this buttery flan of velvety, mild salted goose liver pate. It was the most surreal food tasting experience I've had in wine country. I can't even capture it fully. The entire day was a day of insurmountable, unsurpassed food and ambiance that I'll never forget, and all the more, the wine was unbeatable. I'll never forget this day. The rum blonde raisin chutney was actually coated in a sugar-water sauce that made the "chutney", making it taste like a honey coating, This was very sweet. The foie gras on it's own sent me to heaven. I close my eyes and I'm there again. I'm telling you, it was out of this world! It was truly one of those experiences that I'll never forget, that I'll write about in a book one day because it was so awakening for me. Remember how Anthony Bourdin felt when he tasted his first oyster? Yeah, well, my foie gras experience was like that, but better...

Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad
"Cherry tomatoes, pickled ramps, and goat cheese, banyuls vinaigrette"

This was a good dish. I enjoyed it. It was overall, colorful, tasty, and a delight. And I always love the heirloom tomato specials on these wine country menus.

Roasted Liberty Farms Duck Breast
"Potato Rosti and Rustic Arugula
Port and Bing Cherry Sauce"
This duck was good, but it didn't stand out to me really. I guess if anything stood out, it was the port and bing cherry sauce. It was a glorious reduction of fresh napa flavors, wine and fruit. This sauce actually would have been sexy on a filet mignon. Also, instead of the potatoes I got a side of veggies, special per the chef. The dish is down below in one of the photos.

Seared Maine Sea Scallops
"Brentwood Sweet Corn and Mushroom Risotto
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms"
Incredible also! The sauce on the side, the sweet corn sauce was delicious and chunky!! it had a wonderful vegetable sweet corn flavor to it and was so appropriate for these scallops,and I never thought these would go together. The dish was served in the center of what looked like a cappuccino foam, quite unusual really, but once you got past the foam there was a world full of new and surprising pairings of flavor. I will remember the food here

Pan Roasted Halibut with Artichoke Ravioli
"Artichokes, King Trumpets, and Onion Petals, Lemon Beurre Blanc"

Incredible, lightly pan seared, but a flavorful fish! This fish usually doesn't have flavor to it, but this one did! I was impressed and I'd order it next time.

Custom Vegetable Medley
side for the Duck
The chef put this dish on the side of my duck. It was so colorful and creative.
Came with blond colored beans and green beans and diced tomatoes with canoli bean/navy bean/white bean and a sauce that was a little creamy, but still thinned. The chef made it special for me, and it was good, not great, but still good for vegetables. It was so creative I wanted to cry, and there was a very wide variety of veggies in it. It was so kind of him.

Chocolate Cocoa Nib Cake
Mascarpone Sabayon and Coffee Ice Cream

My brother chose the best dessert by far. The chocolate was a rich, mousse-like cake, dense in rich chocolate. It was moist and mousse-like with this dark chocolate flavor that awakened your senses. And the little oval of coffee ice cream was pleasurable as well. It was a unique treat to the platter. What a pleasurable dessert! This is a go at the Martini House.

The mascarpone cream and sabayon was actually a very light flavor, yet creamy sauce that the cake was pooled in, tasting of a mild mascarpone cheese whip ... very mild flavored. It was a suitable compliment to the dark chocolate mousse-like cake. This was a mousse/torte like cake with a decadence kind of consistency and oval shaped scoop of coffee ice cream on top and a crisp extraordinarily thin waffle cookie on top with cocoa flecks. It didn't taste like anything except thinned waffle, unsweetened. It was decorative, and a nice touch might I add.

Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Vanilla Bean Beignets

I saw another guy with this earlier, so I wanted to order it because it looked tasty. I'm not a tapioca fan though, and when I tasted the tapioca I remembered why. Don't get me wrong, this is one of the better tapioca's I've tasted, but you really have to like it to keep eating it. I liked how it was served in a martini glass though. The pudding had little tapioca balls in it and tasted light with the mild vanilla custard pudding. It was not heavy at all, or really sweet. The Vanilla bean beignets are really little sugar donut munchkins that have "quality" to them, meaning they aren't stale. They were good, but they are basically just donuts. I'm not a fan of them, but they're cute and good if you like lots of sugar. They're pretty much baby sugar donuts. My pudding was served with four little balls on the top.

Warm Peach Tart
"Honey Almonds and Anise Hyssop Ice Cream"
The ice cream, "Hyssop", makes me laugh. It looks like hiccup from a different perspective.
This was actually reminding me a bit of a morning circular danish/croissant that is usually glazed with a red fruit centered in the middle. know what I', talking about? This was like that dough/tart look , except it was scattered into pieces on the plate with baked peach that looked like it had been prepared for a cobbler, extremely moist and served warm on top of the tart. I saw the severed almonds on the plate, but didn't try them. The tart was warm and moist in the center regions, but for the most part, it looked too-baked, and I didn't care to try it, the tart twist I mean. It was, unusual. The peach and sauce tasted like peach cobbler, but it was extremely distributed on the plate, and little too broken down on the dish to look appealing to me. It was just kinda... scattered... like someone dropped it. My dad didn't eat too much of this either.

The ambiance was truly exceptional. We sat beneath Persimmon Tree and a Loqwuat Tree, while the garden patio area was bedazzled in French garden lighting among the arbors and the bushes with it's little umbrellas and canopies. I truly felt like i was in wine country, enjoying a French patio on an 80 degree summer evening. The temperature was memorable, so perfect and warm, it was so comfortable, especially at the French garden tables. Our waiter Paul knew his wines too and his food. He suggested the wine pairing of the Pinot Noir and my duck while describing the food in detail when I asked. The service was friendly and professional and Paul also helped me out with answering my Martini questions. I actually ended up having champagne and wine the whole evening though, well, almost. I'll have a martini in San Fransisco.

I'll remember this day with its places of great cuisine, unforgettable and unbeatable ambiance, and divine wines. This was a memorable day. Remember, we at lunch at Auberge du Soleil.

Great dinner, good wine, great atmosphere and service. Quite peaceful. I'd recommend this place. They have a very "gamey" menu, and the inside looks chic-western with its wood and animal horns, not to mention the deep martini bar. I'll be coming back.

Martini House on Urbanspoon

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