Manresa

April 26, 2007 | By | COMMENTS

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To quote Vanessa Williams, I “saved the best for last.”

For the last meal of my trip, I packed my suitcase–left thank you notes for my hosts, Tohva and Raife–and drove one and a half hours to Los Gatos, where I met Pim for dinner at her boyfriend’s highly renowned restaurant, Manresa. I got a little lost on the way–missed a turn here and there–but I arrived there just in time. Pim was waiting for me and I think she could immediately sense how giddy I was. How often do you eat dinner with the chef’s girlfriend and then go, afterwards, to stay at the chef’s house? This night would certainly be unique.

And as if to underscore this point, after sitting down with Pim–looking lovely here…

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…and toasting me with a glass of N.V. Bouvet Excelence Sparkling Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley (I had these written down), I thought the waiter made a terrible mistake when he set down, as our first course, these petit fours:

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But before I could say, “Oh, we’re actually just starting our meal, we’re not on dessert,” he said, “We begin the meal with red pepper gelée and black olive madeleines.”

Say wha!?

And that my friends is Manresa. Surprising, funny, whimsical, and–most importantly–delicious. Biting into that red gelée, even though you know it’s made from a red pepper, your body still thinks “sweet! strawberry! candy!” and then it’s instantly surprised. Same with the black olive madeleine. Playful, smart: this is what Manresa’s about.

But it’s also about the freshest ingredients possible. Like the next course, radishes from the garden:

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Yes, Manresa maintains a garden where it grows a great deal (if not all of) its produce. Isn’t that extraordinary? How often do you eat food that the chef grows him or herself? Alice Waters, eat your heart out!

And speaking of eating your heart out, I wish you could see how beautiful all of this food was (my pictures grow worse as the night goes on). The beginning of the meal was all small bites, and these may have been my favorites. Like this borage pacquet with borage picked from Pim and David’s front lawn!

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Or this Kohlrabi and foie gras royale:

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But the very best bites came next. I still dream about them. Namely, this spring croquette, modeled by Pim:

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The waitress advised, “Put it in your mouth all at once.” I did and when I did it was like Spring–lovely Spring, the season that had barely arrived when I left New York–burst, exploded and gushed inside my mouth. Like a meteorological event right there on my tongue. It was extraordinary. Like a soup dumpling in a square and with the most vibrant flavors imaginable.

And yet even that didn’t stand up to the Arpege farm egg:

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My God, if I woke up every morning and somebody made me THIS I would do the dishes, wash the floors, paint the walls just to ensure I could have it again. And yet it’s so simple: just an egg poached in its shell with sherry vinegar and cream. That’s it. And yet how it all works is baffling: the process, the balance. This is the dish that made me swoon and spill out of my seat in ecstasy. Pim had to lift me back up so I could enjoy the rest of the meal.

The waiter brought out N.V. Pineu des Charentes, Brillet, Cognac and Pim asked me if I could guess the next course based on the wine, which was very sweet–almost desserty.

“Ummm,” I said.

“Come on,” she said. “Think about it.”

I racked my brain but couldn’t figure it out. And then came Foie gras, strawberries on the plancha, pedro ximenez. (This picture is so bad I can’t even tell if it’s the right course):

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But of course: foie gras and a sweet dessert wine. Superb!

And then Spring peas in bonito broth with marinated amberjack.

Fatty bluefin belly salad, seaweed pistou.

Spot prawns with fava bean pesto, fried artichoke.

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Vegetables from the garden, potato dumplings.

Black cod confit in jasmine tea.

Farm poularde with speck ham.

Milk-fed spring lamb with carrots and cress.

The corresponding wines, for you winos:

- 2005 Domaine de Salvard, Sauvignon Blanc, Cheverny

- 2005 Domaine Clape Saint Peray Rhone Valley

- 2004 Domaine La Tour Vielle, “Puig Ambeille,” Collioure

For dessert, there was 2003 Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes which I really loved because I love sweet things, and this sweet wine was wonderfully complex. It matched wonderfully the strawberry panna cotta with rosewater gelee:

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Caramel souffle, butterscotch and espresso:

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Chocolate marquis, tonka bean ice cream:

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God, this is a nightmare–writing about this, looking at all this food, makes me realize how much I ate. How counter-intuitive: feasting like this is like masturbation or group sex, you don’t talk about it! It’s decadent, hedonistic. The best part of living, frankly.

And to round out the dinner poetically, look what comes at the end:

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Look familiar?

Echoing what came at the start, now we have strawberry gelée and chocolate madeleines. Isn’t that clever? And perfect?

My dinner at Manresa was just one of those meals I’ll never forget. Pim drove my rental car back to her place with me in the passenger seat. I think I may have been singing show tunes. There, I crashed upstairs on the guest bed (super comfy!) and realized I may have been the very first reader of Chez Pim to actually stay at Chez Pim.

The next day, I flew home and relived the meal in my brain over and over. Each bite–that egg! That croquette!–until I fell fast asleep and dreamt the dreams of angels: fat angels. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left my stomach in Los Gatos.

Thank you, Pim and David, for a magical, unforgettable night.

Categories: California, Los Gatos, Restaurant Reviews

  • Jiri

    Given that you love to have others pay for your meal, I imagine that you did not pay for this meal, either. Free food, free lodging. How great it must feel.

    Lucky you.

    Jiri

  • ko

    really looks delicious! and, i’ve been there too, that happy place where you’re not just filled with food, you’re filled with love and warmth — what i like to call “happy tummy”.

  • brenda

    Jiri

    You sound a tad bitter. How you can you read that entire post about wonderful food and hospitality and then comment on whether Adam paid for the meal or not.

    Cheers.

    Brenda

  • Louise

    My idea of making a treat for breakfast is to have a delicious soft boiled egg, with sea salt, tellicherry pepper with crusty bread fingers and cold unsalted butter. It is so satisfying-I can understand how much you enjoyed that egg!!!

  • http://wednesdaychef.typepad.com Luisa

    What a fantastic trip you’ve had. And it sounds like your last meal there was the perfect ending to the whole, delicious journey. I’m so glad you had such a good time!

  • http://www.tiltbob.com Jason Sholar

    What a wonderful experience. We should all thank Pim and everyone else for allowing you to join them and share the experiences with all of us. I can only imagine what we will have the pleasure of reading about in the future. (Has Queen Elizabeth requested you as a dinner guest yet? ..lol) I only wish I could join you…

  • http://www.chuckeats.com/ chuckeats

    i’ve maintained for the past few months that manresa is the best restaurant in the country.

    i’ve got a ton of reviews on my site w/ pictures.

    a recent dinner:

    http://chuckeats.com/blog3/2007/04/04/manresa-los-gatos-ca-the-sea-and-the-garden/

    the larpege/manresa dinner:

    http://chuckeats.com/blog3/2007/04/12/manresalarpege-los-gatos-ca-early-spring-garden-with-alain-passard/

    a collection of dishes from a few meals:

    http://chuckeats.com/blog3/2007/02/14/manresa-los-gatos-ca-a-few-more-pictures/

    an excellent meal last Dec:

    http://chuckeats.com/blog3/2006/12/19/manresa-los-gatos-ca-best-in-the-land/

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com The Amateur Gourmet

    Jiri, For the record, I did pay for my meal. I was going to include that, but thought it would be tacky. Adam

  • Jiri

    Adam, I am really pleased that you did. It was becoming uncomfortable, reading about your free meals. I mean, you are truly lucky but most people do not live like this. And what’s tacky about mentioning the cost of the restaurant meal? You often mention how much a meal cost and I appreciate it. This is how most people (incl. me) live.

    Thank you. I appreciate you clarifying that.

    Jiri

  • bryan

    What’s tacky here is obvious to his regular readers.

    This is not the place to be a snippy bitch.

  • http://leenaeats.com/blog Leena!

    What a great meal! It is also very cool fellow food bloggers have opened their hearts and homes to you. Let me know if you ever make it down to Australia!

  • Ashley

    I agree with Bryan. In fact, I enjoy reading about your all meals, free or not. I think you should get more free meals. The places you are writing about are getting free advertising, sounds like a fair trade to me.

    Sounds like you had a great time on your trip to SF! Hope you come back soon!

  • Dennis

    Seems every blog eventually draws a rude reader. I assumed that Adam did pay for the meal. Jiri is just an example of the lobster/crab theory of human interaction: if one is escaping the pot the others try to pull him back.

  • Louise

    To Jiri,Bryan and Dennis

    Please children PLAY NICE!!!

    If you can’t say something nice,don’t say anything,svp.

  • AuntJone

    Lovely post. The food looked surreal. I can’t imagine enjoying that many courses and still having the faculties to walk out of the restaurant. Tho it sounds like you may have struggled a bit thanks to the wine! :)

  • Anon

    Adam, with all the connections you have, can’t you get a better camera or take a photography class? Your pictures don’t do your lovely blog any justice.

  • http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot.com/ Clare

    Hey Adam – how cool you hung out with the one and only Pim! I was just up in SF myself, and was secretly hoping to bump into you at some point. But alas, it was not meant to be. Thanks for all the good eats from your trip – I’ve really enjoyed reading about my favorite city.

  • http://expatsinitaly.com/judith Judith in Umbria

    I am amazed that since you seem to have really eaten and drunk all that, to find that you can still type! And thoughtfully, too.

    Congratulations, because I think I would not be recovered for weeks.

    If I ever go back to SF, I shall certainly eat there.

  • http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/ sam

    I am so giddy with excitement of my next trip to Manresa in a few weeks.

    Come back Adam, do, and let us choose your eating iternary next time. I am bummed I got saddled with the one place you didn’t like, even though it wasn’t my choice.

  • sue

    adam

    have loved sharing your experiences of eating with friends in san francisco……..places i shall never personally go to as i live half a world away……but your ever-improving prose and evocative photos mean that so many people vicariously enjoy them with you……we have read about these restaurants and markets and stores, now we have ‘been there’ with you…you are our eyes and ears and tastebuds and we appreciate every morsel…..!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.steamykitchen.com Steamy Kitchen

    Dang it! I gained 4 pounds just reading this post!

  • http://www.meltingwok.com MeltingWok

    Your pictures are fine, and your descriptions says it all :) By the way, is there a frequent flyer card ? hehe :)

  • sarah

    I think Jiri has a point. I appreciate it when bloggers disclose the cost of a meal. It helps some determine how much they should expect to spend if the intend to visit a particular restaurant. I relied on some blogs while planning my honeymoon through Europe. Some places we were hoping to dine at were simply out of our budget and I’m glad I new that in advance. Some restaurants have websites with listed prices where you can approximate the cost of meal. Some do not. Anyway, I find it helpful.

  • http://www.fillerup.ca Deb Filler

    Hey Adam, loving your blog. Will pass on the SF tips to friends.Thank you! Please send the name of your hosts’ b+b if it is one. My name is Deb Filler and I have a show called ‘Filler Up!’ Can I ask you to post a jpeg the run in NY in June, I bake a delicious loaf of Challah bread onstage- the show has sold out in London, Berlin, Sydney and now coming to NY 2 days only…wanted to fill the rather large theatre with foodies! (the show is Helen Hayes nominated…) email me and I’ll be happy to send you the jpeg, it’s a great image…look great on your blog….awesome..bread bread bread!

  • http://nardac.blogsome.com nardac

    Maybe I´m about to say something so incredibly obvious to everyone else, but whose business is it to tell Adam what he should or shouldn´t do on his blog? I think he does a damn fine job and I´d feel ashamed to tell him otherwise.

    As for prices, there are many other sites that will publish this kind of scary information, and why shouldn´t friends treat each other to a fine meal, even if they happen to be famous bloggers and/or restaurant owners. Why get stuck on the money when it´s really about something else?

  • john smith

    Manresa is all copy food…

    ..Barbot…Passard..Mugaritz..

    …poor conception…poor technique..

    …nothing special…after 1/2 dozen meals i give up…a true waste of time

  • Anonymous

    After three visits, I can say that Manressa is often spectacular and sometimes underwhelming. While the chef really stretches for perfection, sometimes it comes across as gratuitous, e.g. the “the perfect tomato, as opposed to a really good fresh tomato? But, there are also combinations of food that are inventive and wonderful, which I have never sampled elsewhere. My conclusion, it’s an occasion restaurant for when you really want to push the edge of the eating experience.

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