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8-Course Dessert Tasting at Providence – Los Angeles

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

By nature and nurture, I’m not a very excessive person. My television is cable-less, I drive a Camry, and my idea of a good time involves dinner and conversation, rather than booze and booty. Okay, maybe a little booty. [Wink, wink.]  However, I have my weaknesses. When it comes to sweets, I throw restraint out the window and go buck wild. I’m not just talking about an extra slice of pie or an additional scoop of gelato; when I need a serious sugar fix, the town gets painted red.  Thus, it’s no surprise that I’ve long had my eye on the dessert tasting menu at Providence.

Orchestrated by Chef Adrian Vasquez, the eight-course dessert extravaganza ($50) is a feast for the senses. The two-hour symphony of delights features daring flavors,  gorgeous plating, and unparalleled creativity. While an octet of sweets might seem like too much of a good thing, diners leave perfectly satisfied under the pastry chef’s brilliant care.

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

Thanks to the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 program, I was able to treat The Astronomer, my mama, and my lovely friend Esme to Providence’s dessert tasting this past Saturday evening. While everyone around us was digging into salt-roasted prawns and sea urchin in fresh eggs, we took a stroll through the entire dessert menu. From beginning to end, we were oohing and ahhing with contentment.

Course I: “Cocktails”

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

The parade of desserts began with a trio of “cocktails”—mojito, gin and tonic, and greyhound. The mojito and greyhound were held together by the thinnest of membranes. One slip of the tongue and the orbs burst in our mouths. The gin and tonic was taken with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It was cold, jellied, and potent.

Course II: Kalamansi Gelee

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

Next, Chef Vasquez sent out a kalamansi gelee floating in a soup of white chocolate and coconut milk with tiny tapioca balls. The fruity gelee was topped with a quenelle of litchi-shiso sorbet and coconut crumbles. Every refreshing spoonful captured the tropical flavors of Southeast Asia.

Course III: Mandarin-Rose Sorbet

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

The mandarin-rose sorbet was accented with a miniature pistachio macaron, airy fluffs of yogurt cake, cardamom, and a disc of orange gelee. The yogurt cake’s sour notes were so pronounced that I swore I was eating a carton of plain yogurt.

Course IV: Apples in Butterscotch

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

After three courses featuring citrus fruits, a plate of apples in butterscotch arrived next. The tender slices of fruit were beautifully caramelized and rested atop a cashew cake along with poached north star cherries. A quenelle of miso ice cream provided a delicious contrast to the sweet and warm fruits. This course highlighted the chef’s ability to juxtapose unlikely ingredients deftly.

Course V: Caramel Pudding

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

The sticky sweet layer of caramel married luxuriously with the smooth pudding. I loved how the flavors teetered between sweet and slightly burnt. The caramel popcorn provided a crunchy contrast, while the dried apricots cut some of the pudding’s richness. Both accouterments were well chosen, but a part of me yearned for a sprinkling of sea salt, just like Pizzeria Mozza’s butterscotch budino.

Course VI: Milk Chocolate Ganache

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

While the centerpiece of this creation was meant to be the chocolate ganache, it was the banana-passion fruit ice cream, cayenne marshmallow, and peanut butter that captured my attention. It seemed to me that this dessert was inspired by classic childhood sandwiches—peanut butter and banana, as well as the Fluffernutter. A little whimsy always makes for a fun sweet.

Course VII: Dark Chocolate Mousse

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

Candied kumquats and ginger, along with a scoop of goma (sesame seed) ice cream were just the thing to brighten up this traditional chocolate mousse.

Course VIII: Affogato

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

The final course was an affogato. A shot of hot espresso was poured over the canelé-flavored ice cream tableside.

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

The espresso’s bitterness was tempered by the ice cream’s double punch of richness and sweetness. The layer of hazelnut streusel beneath the ice cream was an awesome surprise.

PROVIDENCE 8-COURSE DESSERT TASTING

Finally, we were treated to a plate of mignardises—banana caramels, white chocolate snowballs with coconut flakes, and barley gelees.

Thank you to Foodbuzz for making this avalanche of desserts possible!

Providence
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: 323-460-4170

Providence – Los Angeles

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I knew I would love Chef Michael Cimarusti‘s cooking long before I set foot into Providence. His appearance on season two of After Hours with Daniel [Boulud] was brilliant. It’s rare that a guest chef outshines the legendary Boulud, but on this episode, Chef Cimarusti really did. His exuberant personality, refreshing levelheadedness, passion for ingredients, and commitment to sustainability was genuine and inspiring. Reading positive reviews can be persuasive, but actually witnessing the Chef in his element proved far more effective. Exciting things were happening inside Providence’s kitchen, and I wanted to experience them firsthand.

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With tasting menus starting at just under a hundred dollars, an evening at Providence is a special occasion splurge. The Astronomer’s 25th birthday, which serendipitously coincided with the restaurant’s 4th anniversary, provided the perfect opportunity to treat ourselves to a two-star Michelin feast.

Providence specializes in impeccably prepared seafood. As a nod to Chef Cimarusti’s chief source of inspiration, the restaurant’s logo is a fishing reel abstractly represented by circular scribbles, while the main dining room’s walls are accented with “barnacles.”

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In celebration of their anniversary, Providence temporarily reduced the prices of their tasting menus to 2005 levels. The Astronomer and I opted for the Full Tasting ($95). We were presented with complimentary glasses of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut M.V. upon wishing Providence a very happy anniversary. It pays to Twitter.

Our first amuse of the evening was a trio of “shots”—from left to right—mojito, gin and tonic, and greyhound. We were instructed to start with the gin and tonic, followed by the mojito, and finish with the greyhound.

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With a squeeze of lime, the jellied gin and tonic was a potent first shot. The mojito and greyhound were held together by the thinnest of membranes. One slip of the tongue and the cocktails burst in our mouths. Even though we’ve experienced liquefied orbs before, it was still a totally awesome sensation.

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Following the three shots were a trio of breads—from left to right—bacon brioche, focaccia, and white. Cold unsalted butter with a dish of coarse sea salt was served on a chilled platter alongside. The bacon brioche, with its salty bacon bits and smoky aroma, was hands-down our favorite. We requested another to share.

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Our second amuse of the evening contained four very different elements—clockwise starting from top left—smoked trout, a gougère, carrot soup, and a wasabi pea encrusted soy marshmallow. We were instructed to eat from left to right, only one bite or gulp each.

We began with a firm and fresh spoonful of smoked trout topped with a brunoise of pickled vegetables. Next, we moved on to the soy marshmallow. I was expecting a firm, tofu-like consistency as I plopped the cool cube into my mouth, but instead I experienced a most enjoyable mush, followed by the peas’ crunch and spice.

Up third was a bite-sized gougère. Unlike the gougères I devoured at The French Laundry and Church & State, this one was piped with an oozy cheesy. The unexpectedly warm and saucy center was a welcomed contrast to the simplicity of the first two bites. Lastly, we took a big gulp of chilled carrot soup topped with a dollop of curry whipped cream. The soup was smooth, sweet, and good.

With their playful contrasts in temperatures, textures, and flavors, the series of amuses did their job spectacularly. We were ready to begin our tasting menu.

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The first official course of the evening was Japanese kanpachi sashimi with crispy rice crackers and flowering coriander. Beneath the two slices of fish was a neat pool of soy crème fraîche and endives prepared sous vide. Chef Cimarusti has an affinity for layering flavors and textures upon one another, which makes each and every dish interesting from top to bottom.

As our waiter listed off this dish’s components, I was a bit curious about the soy crème fraîche. Heeding my interest, our waiter went into the kitchen and brought out cubes of “soy salt” for me to smell and touch. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty!

It must be emphasized that Providence is staffed by an army of astute, friendly, well-dressed, and very accommodating waiters. Service throughout the entire evening was flawless.

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Course number two was Santa Barbara sea urchin served in a farm fresh egg. Sea urchin and I haven’t hit it off very well in the past, but at Providence, we became very good friends. The uni was served warm in a sea of Champagne beurre blanc and fines herbes. The undisturbed yolk at the bottom of the egg provided a rich finish.

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After seeing Chef Cimarusti prepare salt-roasted Santa Barbara spot prawns on After Hours with Daniel, I couldn’t leave Providence without having those little guys in my belly. I requested these prawns in place of the lone meat course on the tasting menu. They are priced at $33 on the a la carte menu.

The prawns arrived on a rolling cart, drowning in a sea of 400 degree salt and rosemary sprigs. A kind French gentleman prepared the dish tableside, serving the prawns simply with French cold pressed olive oil and lemon wedges. The tails were tender and sweet, while the heads were juicy and succulent. The server was pleased to hear that I enjoyed the heads. He says that most people are grossed out by it.

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The fourth course of the evening was a perfectly seared Hokkaido sea scallop from Japan resting in a bath of Jurançon Sec. Fava beans, chanterelles and applewood smoked bacon rounded out the cast of flavors. It’s not difficult to find a well-prepared scallop around town, but only the best seafood restaurants can offer a plump and sweet beast of this caliber.

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The fifth and sixth courses were both flawless fish preparations. The John Dory (left) arrived first. The menu had originally listed halibut, but by the time this course rolled around, John Dory was being used instead. I have developed an irrational obsession with John Dory thanks to Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. Hearing Ramsay call out an order for “Dory” never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Providence’s John Dory was sandwiched between burdock prepared two ways—fried up top and pickled on the bottom. The shiso and lemon were fine foils for the flaky white fish.

Following the John Dory was Arctic char with Japanese turnips, sweet peas, preserved Meyer lemon, and gingered carrot juice. The vibrantly pink Arctic char was prepared rare and flaked off in tender sheets. Its crisped skin was equally fabulous.

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The Astronomer and I were both taken aback when the roasted tenderloin of veal arrived, since we had requested the spot prawns in its place. The two pink rounds of free-range veal were accompanied by crushed King Edward potatoes, spring onions, hazelnuts, and a spring garlic confit. Hunks of meat proved too much for me at this point, so The Astronomer stepped it up and consumed all four slabs of veal. The incredibly smooth potatoes were all mine.

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Since I was almost out of precious gastro-real estate after the veal, we decided to skip the cheese course and go straight for sorbet. When sorbet courses are done right, they have a magical way of refreshing the palate and livening up the senses. This evening’s cucumber sorbet with kaffir lime, juniper berry, and yogurt (not pictured) was sublime. The julienne of cucumbers beneath the sorbet was a lovely touch, as was the essence of kaffir lime.

The last course was a miso cheesecake with black sesame crust, Masumoto peaches, and cassis sorbet. I loved that the cheesecake, with its silky consistency, leaned toward savory. The cassis sorbet, which tasted like a cross between raspberries and tamarind, was an out of sight pairing. I wish all desserts could be this bold and successful.

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And finally, a selection of mignardises—passion fruit and chocolate lollipop (left), hazelnut amaretto, vanilla jelly, lemon verbena salted caramel (right).

Providence offers the perfect combination of polished service, thoughtful food, and relaxed atmosphere. This is fine dining at its absolute best.

Providence
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: 323-460-4170

Providence on Urbanspoon

Providence in Los Angeles

La Brea Bakery – Los Angeles

La Brea Bakery is an L.A. institution. Back in 1988, founder Nancy Silverton developed her very own starter from scratch using flour, water, and wild yeasts from the skin of organic grapes. Twenty years later, the original starter remains the signature ingredient in every single loaf of La Brea Bakery bread, even the ones sold at Costco. Talk about a legacy!

My mom, The Astronomer and I made a quick stop at La Brea Bakery because we were in the neighborhood visiting the La Brea Tar Pits, another classic L.A. destination. Because the holidays are upon us, there was a kind woman out front offering samples of La Brea’s holiday pies, including a spiced yam and pumpkin puree, an apple crumble, a sour cherry crumble and a toasted pecan and molasses tart. We all agreed that the sour cherry crumble was the best.

La Brea Bakery’s flagship store is tiny and quaint. In addition to breads and pastries, there are also a selection of gourmet jams, granola and honey. The Astronomer wanted to treat me to a jar of honey or jam, but thirty bucks was too much for a graduate school stipend to handle.

My mom bought me a whole grain loaf, which was wrapped up to-go. I happily consumed the hearty loaf the following week for breakfast and as a midday snack. Even though Ms. Silverton devotes the bulk of her culinary attention these days to Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza (her dining ventures with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich), the quality at La Brea Bakery has definitely not slipped.

By the way, La Brea’s whole grain loaf is available for sale at your neighborhood Costco. I’ve tasted the Costco variety and can vouch for its comparable deliciousness.

My mom picked up a few treats for herself as well, including a long and skinny baguette and two coconut macaroons.

Prior to visiting La Brea Bakery, we explored the famous La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum.

The La Brea Tar Pits are a cluster of tar pits located in Hancock Park in the urban heart of Los Angeles. Tar has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years, forming hundreds of sticky pools that trapped animals who unknowingly entered. Over time, the asphalt fossilized the remains. The result is an incredibly rich collection of fossils dating from the last Ice Age.

The collection of skeletons, which includes saber tooth tigers, mastodons, dire wolves and wool mammoths, are located inside the Page Museum.

The pools of black tar surrounding the museum are glossy and smell like fresh pavement. A few of the pits are active excavation sites, including one that is open to the public. Unfortunately, we visited on a weekend so no one was hard at work in the dark matter. Here’s a picture of my mom and I in front of the main tar pit, and a photo of The Astronomer hugging a life-size model of an Ice Age sloth. It was his favorite.

This twenty second clip entitled “La Brea Tar Pits: It’s Alive” captures the awesomeness of tar bubbles and features narration from my mother. What a treat!

La Brea Bakery
624 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA‎ 90036
Phone: 323-939-6813‎

La Brea Bakery on Urbanspoon

La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles

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