There is road trip food and then there is food worth the road trip.
You know the difference. Road trip food is a juicy burger and a thick milkshake at a roadside diner that hits the spot just so. Food worth a long drive is usually something out of the ordinary. And food worth a drive from Los Angeles has to be very special, considering the fact that we have so many excellent restaurants here, from exquisite haute cuisine to awesome ethnic food.
One such restaurant lies just outside of San Diego, tucked into the Grand Del Mar, a luxury Mediterranean-style resort. If you can spare a day (or two), I highly recommend that you splurge on one of the gorgeous rooms so that you can spend the day swimming in one of the salt water pools, horseback riding, playing golf or tennis, or just lounging with a good book, before you head to the Addison, their flagship restaurant, where Chef William Bradley is creating delicious artwork that some know as “food.”
Like many excellent chefs, Bradley didn’t go to culinary school, but learned his craft on the job at a local restaurant. How he figured out how to create verjus consommé outside Le Cordon Bleu or La Varenne perplexes me, but alas, some are just born to do what they do.
But back to the food, and my experience at the Addison, a Five Star/Five Diamond restaurant.
A private car whisked me up to the separate dining room on the hill, where I was glad I had (sort of) dressed for dinner. Being a Gemini, I couldn’t decide between the selections of champagnes, so the sommelier brought out three choices for a mini-tasting. Very little makes me happier than an impromptu bubbly tasting, so I was already in a great mood by the time my amuse bouche arrived, a tiny, glistening pool of Verjus Consommé with golden sultanas (tiny, pale green grapes) and kaffir lime. Sublime and refreshing, it did the trick: my taste buds were primed – no, actually, begging for more.
More came within seconds, the first course, oysters and caviar with crème fraîche, champagne (yes, more champagne!) and cucumber. I also got to taste the most amazing asparagus dish I have ever tasted, The Dutch White Asparagus “Caesar salad” and soup, delicate and bursting with flavors so green and luscious brought out even more with the wine pairing:Christian Moreau, Chardonnay, Chablis, France 2010.
For a second course, I was surprised with Crevettes Croustillant, tiny shrimp with smoked almonds and broccoli in a foamy Thai curry broth, exotic spices dancing on my palate, set off by a crisp, slightly sweet, ice cold Weight Hermann Dönnhoff, Riesling, “Estate,” Nahe, Germany 2010 (bottled exclusively for the Addison).
Third course was up, and being that this was before July 1, 2012, it was a rich, decadent grilled foie gras, perfectly pink on the inside, with green apples and gewürztraminer, paired with Moscato d’Asti, Piemonte, Italy 2010. Another person at my table had the Coddled Farm Egg, that I was crazy for, which was served with escargot, parmesan and garlic bread, along with a South Australian Pinot Noir.
Fourth course was Tasmanian Sea Trout with green asparagus, celery confit and dashi, with a Spanish red… at this point, I was intoxicated by both the food and wine, and was getting a bit lax about writing the details down. But I will never forget the Coffee Roasted Canard, which I also got to taste – a tender, exquisitely seasoned filet of duck breast with koshihikari rice and candied peanuts. That Bradley even thought about bringing these flavors together was one thing; the fact that he succeeded in doing it without making the dish too rich or too cloying, was a feat in itself. And the sommelier got it right with his pairing of Castell’In Villa, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2007.
Oh – I almost forgot to mention… each course came with a different type of bread, from tiny, gruyere-infused gougeres, puffy and fresh from the oven, to house made brioche rolls and beyond.
A meal like this needed an intermezzo, and it arrived, a delicate lemon sorbet with iced tea granite. Everyone needs a palate cleanser before dessert, right? Right. Just take my word for it.
Okay, you sweets people, I know you have been waiting. Brownie a la mode served with sour cherry marmalade and vanilla gelato, paired with a farmhouse beer from Belgium was outstanding, but the Crème Caramel with crystallized orange and Grand Marnier served with a pairing of Chambers Muscat from Rutherglen, Australia, sated my sweet tooth. As a final farewell, a whimsical peppermint cake pop arrived — their version of an after dinner mint – and really, at this point, who was I to resist?
My tummy full, but not in a grotesque, Henry VIII kind of way (portions are just the right size for a seven-course meal), and feeling a bit drowsy from the wine pairings, I was lucky I didn’t have to drive. Back into the private car and to my room, where a dreamy sleep awaited.
Michelin gives out stars to restaurants that are worth the journey – however, it seems that they have missed one. You might want to get there before they do.