For Christmas, Travis gave me the gift of a fabulous meal. He printed out menus from all sorts of “higher end” spots in San Diego and said we could go anywhere. We would get to see what San Diego cuisine has to offer and I wouldn’t have to think about how it would fit into our household “dining out” budget. It was a pretty awesome gift.
After our trip to Portland and fabulously ridiculous meal at Castagna, I was curious about Kitchen 1540. I had heard really good things about it, but also knew they had recently had a chef change. I tried not to have huge expectations, but it turns out my fears were unfounded.
I’m a sucker for beet salads and this one did not disappoint. Not only are the sweet roasted beets lightly dressed, but there are bits of pistachio brittle scattered throughout the salad. Yum. We were off to a good start.
For our second appetizer, we almost went with the bbq pig tails, since the server said the pig tails were boneless and sliced into little coins of meat. We figured it would be weird (pig tails!) but not too weird since we wouldn’t be nibbling off little tail bones. But before we ordered, something smelling wonderful went by our tables, sizzling and making my mouth water. It turned out to be stone-seared foie gras. We almost didn’t order it because I didn’t want to get something Travis wouldn’t truly enjoy. But, he admitted it smelled really good, too, so we went for it. Besides, you gotta get it while you can, right?
Stone-seared foie gras, placed on a bed of thyme, served with banana bread, huckleberry jam, peanut powder, and a ramekin of something-delicious reduction. Our server told us we could leave the foie gras on the stone to let it cook more, but advised us 45 seconds was probably enough. Once he left and I took a picture, we figured that was enough cooking time and moved it off the stone.
I’ve only had foie gras cold, spread on brioche with jams like a fabulously meaty butter. If I didn’t know where foie gras came from, I would have sworn we were eating a beef product. The foie gras was perfectly salted, fatty and smooth and velvety. It was like eating bone marrow, but richer, if that’s even possible. We took small bites, savoring every bit of it. We tried it by itself, with banana bread, with peanut powder, with jam, with the reduction, and bites of everything all at once. The banana bread, jam, and peanut powder was delicious, and the jam offset the richness of the foie gras. The banana bread itself was amazing. The perfect bite was almost the foie gras by itself, but dipped into the whatever-reduction was pure bliss. When the foie gras was gone, we took pieces of bread, sopped up the leftover foie gras fat, and dipped that into the reduction sauce. And then we went straight to bread dipped in reduction. If the seared stone hadn’t been so hot, I probably would have tried to lick it to get every last drop of goodness off the plate. This is one of those dishes where I’m glad I didn’t eat it all by myself but I also kind of wish I could have hoarded it just for me.
I realize there are many arguments against foie gras, which is why there’s a ban going into effect, but I can also tell you that we will be going back for that dish at least one more time while it’s still “legal”.
Our entrees were beef tenderloin and a seared tai snapper. The beef came with smoked croquettes, brussels sprouts, chanterelles and a house made steak sauce that was fabulous. You could taste the smokiness in the croquettes and the veggies were pleasantly crisp. The tenderloin, though, was one of the tenderest filets I’ve ever sliced through. Plus, the entire piece was consistently medium and pink. As for the steak sauce, let’s just say I would have asked for more on the side except that the beef disappeared so quickly that I wouldn’t have needed it. The snapper had a golden crust on the edges that was crispy and buttery. The fish itself was flaky and so moist it was beautiful. And it was all sitting on a bed of butternut squash puree. When Travis was done, you couldn’t see a single smear of butternut squash left.
By now you should know that I will always eat dessert. Unless we’re somewhere I know does not have good dessert (yes, those places exist) because I refuse to eat mediocre dessert. But, given the fabulous meal we had just consumed, I had high hopes for these desserts. And, because Travis loves me, we got two desserts so I wouldn’t have to choose!
(left to right: peanut butter pot de creme, chocolate cremerie)
The peanut butter pot de creme was a rectangular block rolled in cocoa-ness, surrounded by caramelized bananas, peanut butter mousse, banana powder, and peanut brittle. The cremerie was like a chocolate pudding, topped with candied citrus and big flakes of Maldon salt, with a hazelnut macaron. The cremerie was fantastic and I would have declared it the winner until I discovered the magic combination of pot de creme and peanut butter mousse. The pot de creme was not overly peanut butter-y; it was more like a chocolate-peanut butter pot de creme. It was amazing. I kind of wanted another one after we finished the first one. I bet all the desserts are just as good.
I’ve eaten many meals in my life and some have been absolutely incredible, including the one where we traveled in and out of the Colorado State Forest at least four times, but I don’t remember being so constantly amazed, delighted, and giddy with every single bite as this meal. On one hand, it makes me excited to see what else we can find in San Diego; on the other hand, why would I try to find something better than Kitchen 1540?
2012 has a big challenge ahead if there’s going to be a meal to top this one. Unless our second meal at Kitchen 1540 is better than the first. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m pretty sure it will happen at some point. It has to. Even if we just eat foie gras and dessert. Mmm…