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Test Kitchen with The Daily Dose

October 26, 2010
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I’m still not sure where I stand on the locavore issue.

While I see the advantages of supporting local economies and reducing environmental impact, I’m blessed to live in a region that can support significant and diverse food production.

I’d hate to be a locavore living in Phoenix.

And besides, I do like my foie gras, imported truffles and single malt Scotch!

What I do know is that I like food that comes from a specific point of view. Be that cultural, gastronomical or, in this case, ideological. It’s that singular point of view that brings uniqueness, passion and, for lack of a better word, “soul” to the cooking.

On November 2, The Daily Dose, a locavore restaurant committed to sourcing all their ingredients within a 100 mile radius of LA, opens in Downtown LA in the Biscuit Lofts in the same stretch that houses Church & State, Swill wine bar and Royal Claytons.

But last Sunday, Test Kitchen hosted a preview day for the upcoming restaurant. Interestingly, it was the first time Test Kitchen has served brunch, lunch and dinner. Fitting, though, as The Daily Dose intends to cater to a local breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd.

Incidentally, this is not the first preview The Daily Dose has had. In May, the at-the-time-unnamed restaurant held a series of preview dinners to test the waters and has been eagerly anticipated ever since.

The restaurant is the brainchild of developer and restauranteur Sarkis Vartanian, with Chef Christian Page (previously of Savoy and The Harrison in NYC) heading up the kitchen. I had met Chef Page previously at Walter Manzke‘s dinner at Test Kitchen and we chatted several times throughout the night.

One interesting piece of information that he did reveal was that he and Sarkis are also planning on running an (as yet unannounced) underground supper club, with once or twice weekly dinners held at a nearby (but undisclosed) space, not at The Daily Dose. These will be single seating, family style affairs with a single price covering all food and alcohol. And they were also testing dishes for this concept at Test Kitchen that night, although these were off-menu “secret” dishes.

Off menu dishes? Of course that peaked my interest.

We started off dinner, as has become customary at Test Kitchen, with cocktails and bar bites. A “choose your poison” of tequila for the girl and The Elliot Spritzer (Aperol, lemon, champagne, fresh pomegranate) for me. I can’t say I loved either cocktail and, to be honest, the cocktail list left me rather uninspired that night. I really missed the usual presence of Joel Black and Julian Cox behind the bar. But tonight’s dinner wasn’t to be about the cocktails, it was about the food.

We were also joined for dinner by Liz of Food She Thought and her husband D, two of our favorite dining companions. The bar bites were served family style, as were most of the dishes that night.

Carlsbad Three-way | Carlsbad oysters, cucumber-habenero granita

These were a lovely way to start the meal. Fresh, briny and with a slight kick from the cucumber-habenero “granita”, although this had melted into a liquid by the time we ate it. Still, the flavors were spot on and I could have eaten a dozen. What’s not to love about a three-way?

Sonoma-eatballs | SoCal lamb meatballs, goat cheese mornay, paprika oil, fried parsley

These were slightly dry for my taste with an exterior that had toughened. Still, I happily chomped on mine. The benefits of being hungry at the beginning of the meal.

California pork belly, gastrique, chicharones, gremolata, bitter greens

Our first “off-menu” dish came out, courtesy of the kitchen. This was one of the dishes Chef Page was testing for their supper club concept and it was probably the best dish of the night. A large slab of pork belly, tender and succulent, even for pork belly. It’s a shame most of the other diners that night at Test Kitchen didn’t get to try this dish.

Once you go grassfed… you never go back | Wood grilled Dey Dey’s grass fed beef, Midnight Moon cheese, house ketchup & aioli, pickles

A grass fed beef burger with the bun replaced by a crusty flatbread. Oddly, the flatbread says lunch more than dinner to me but, having said that, this is something I’d definitely have for lunch. The patty was flavorful with a distinct beefiness and, in the absence of lettuce, tomato or other vegetal distractions, this burger was all about the beef and the bread, both of which were very good.

Potato chips, aioli

Our second off-menu dish courtesy of the kitchen. The potato chips were small, perhaps cut from fingerling potatoes. A nice accompaniment to the beef burger when you want that crunch.

On to the five course tasting menu, we began with a baguette, butter, quince preserve, and pork rillettes. The quince preserve was the star here, surprisingly outshining the pork rillettes, which on face value I’d expect to be my favorite.

Fired Up Mussels | wood oven roasted Carlsbad mussels, grilled ciabatta, compound butter

The mussels were very good, the residual garlicky broth in the shells teasingly delicious but the grilled ciabatta with the garlic and mussel broth soaked in was simple, comforting and extremely satisfying. Like sopping up the broth with crusty bread, minus the actual sopping up.

Oaxacan Blood Bath | mezcal, fresh heirloom tomatoes, woodfire oven roasted roma tomatoes, fresh celery juice, petron peppers, cilantro, dill, garlic, red bell pepper, beet horse radish, sal de gusano, pepper, lemon juice and more

My second cocktail of the night and the ingredient list read more like a shopping list than a recipe. It tasted like a more complex Bloody Mary with some nice spice and heat.

What’re You? Chicken? | Fried chicken thigh, rapini, honey vinaigrette, fresh cayenne, chicken leg cassoulet, pistou

Here we had chicken prepared two ways. I actually preferred the fried chicken, if I had to choose. But it’s hard to go past fried chicken. The flavors here were Asian inspired. Nice interplay between the sweetness of the honey vinaigrette and the fresh cayenne and the breading was not too heavy. The rapini could be considered the “healthy” component of this dish, I guess. The chicken cassoulet was actually very good too. Fall off the bone tender, warm and comforting on what was a rainy LA night.

Grass Fed Hash | coffee-cacao flavored Dey Dey’s corned beef hash, poached egg, greens, paprika oil

This is a dish I could crave for breakfast or brunch. Perhaps odd on a dinner menu but, in light of the flatbread burger and the subsequent French toast dessert, definitely in the theme of this breakfast meets lunch meets dinner meal. I loved that the top of the corned beef hash was fried crispy and crusty into almost a crunchy pie crust. Very satisfying to break your fork through. The 62 degree poached egg is something I could only aspire to do (well, without the assistant of an immersion circulator at home) with the yolk and white coming out at the same soft boiled consistency. If you live Downtown, do yourself a favor and stop by The Daily Dose for breakfast when it opens just for this.

Grass fed flank steak, turnip and date puree, olive oil

Around the chicken course, The Daily Dose general manager and “proud father” of this birthing restaurant Sarkis Vartanian stopped by for a chat. How are we liking it? Loving it. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Done. Have you tried any of the off-menu dishes? Yes, Christian sent out the pork belly and the potato chips. What about the flank steak? Flank steak?!?

You don’t mention another off-menu dish to a table of food obsessives and not expect to bring it out. And soon we had our third off-menu dish, courtesy of the kitchen. The flank steak was surprisingly tender given the cut and still nicely pink on the inside. But the sweetness of the turnip and date puree was deeply satisfying. Apparently they’ll be serving this dish sandwich-style, although I’d be disappointed if they lost that puree.

French Tickler | brioche French toast, honey & sour cream ice cream, pistachio tuille, raspberry syrup

To end the meal, a “breakfast as dessert” dessert. Now, French toast is always going to be a tough one to wow me with. I’ve yet to taste a French toast nearly as good as Canelé’s. But I loved the honey and sour cream ice cream here and I’m lactose intolerant! Thank God for Lactaid.

And so it was the end of another Test Kitchen meal. This one was no Michael Voltaggio or Walter Manzke or even “Top Sous Chef” fine dining inspired affair. No, The Daily Dose’s aspirations are very different. No different in quality but with a keen eye on affordability, locality and community.

And there was definitely a sense of community at Test Kitchen that night. Chef Christian Page spent much of the evening on the floor, stopping to chat at various tables, ever friendly and approachable. Sarkis, the consummate networker, worked his room like a proud and gracious pro. And of course, Brian Saltsburg‘s (and his hair) and Stephane Bombet‘s ever-present hospitality, making every food follower in the room feel like this was their second home. The only fixture missing was KevinEats. Luckily for us, as we snagged his table for the night.

I’m still not sure where I stand on the locavore issue.

But I do know I stand on the side of community and “soul”.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 7:43 am

    Brilliant.

    I am very pro-locavorism. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what that means to the menus of people living in Outer Hebrides, Death Valley or Iceland. Being in Southern California though, it kinda rules!

    Your snaps came out fab! Let’s hit Daily Dose for the opening or just to hit it for a full meal sometime soon.

  2. October 27, 2010 1:45 pm

    Hopefully you guys didn’t desecrate the table *too* badly. ;)

  3. Julie permalink
    October 28, 2010 5:36 pm

    When I visit The Daily Dish, Chef Christian Page’s gorgeous smile will be all the “dessert” I’ll want to order!

  4. October 30, 2010 3:19 pm

    It’s so very true regarding the locavore issue, that this adaption can be nearly impossible in some areas. Our growing season here in Colorado is very short, especially the regions at high altitude. I suppose one can keep extending their radius to include what they consider to be local in those instances. And technically, all landlocked areas would be without seafood I suppose. And I would never bite into an avocado or tropical fruit. Impossible!

    I do fully support local growers and ranchers during the season though, as much as I can.

    PS. To Julie above, agree! xo

  5. November 5, 2010 1:14 pm

    Still thinking about that burger…great company as well! One of our better meals at Test Kitchen for sure. When are we going again!?

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