review: table 3…

Table 3

Some places are closer to paradise than others.

Table 3 is one of them.

Directly outside the window is the ocean, where fishing boats bob deep into the night.  Up the road is Chino Farms, whence arrives corn and melon, sweet as candy, and a rainbow of vegetables, crisp and perfect.  And in the kitchen is Trey Foshee, chef and partner of George’s at the Cove.

Here is a happy tale of how a blogger – a food blogger – acted as a catalyst for positive change. For Table 3 was born out of a dialogue initiated by my friend chuckeats with Trey. The objective was simple: express and showcase the best of what was available: outside the window, up the road, in the kitchen, and in the dining room, where the best table – the third one in from either end of a stretch of picture windows, front and center overlooking La Jolla beach – would find chuckeats; our friends, Miss O.M.G. and Villa Vixen; and me for a wonderful night of eating.

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6th Course: Zucchini

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I met Trey Foshee in Kansas City last year over a long weekend, when he brought a slice of paradise to The American Restaurant’s annual Harvester’s Chefs Classic dinner in a beautiful duo of lamb with Chino Farms eggplant and sweet peppers.

Impressed by his food, I pinned George’s at the Cove to my year-end bucket list.  And, having a few friends in common, Trey and I kept in touch in the following months.

Then chuckeats started issuing a series of lyric reports from La Jolla about carte blanche meals that Trey was cooking for him: playful, spontaneous, seasonal.

It didn’t take long for me to book a flight to San Diego.

So, neither chuckeats nor I arrived a stranger at George’s at the Cove in June.  Trey and his staff prepared a 14-course dinner, with wine pairings (a particularly international collection), for us at Table 3.  (For the Table 3 reservation policy, please refer to the note at the end of this post.)

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Canapes

Chino Farms Melon
Burrata, sorrel.

Sardine
Conserva, avocado.

Grilled Fava Bean
Lardo.

1st Course
Seaweed Toast
Ricotta and Chino Farm crudites.

2nd Course
Local Spot Prawn
Lemon oil, wild fennel, olive, nectarine.

3rd Course
Surf Clam
Celery, plum, grape.

4th Course
Lemongrass Scented Tomato Terrine
Grilled beef tendon, mustard.

5th Course
Uni Omelet
Corn puree, white truffle toast.

Aliane Meursault, France, 2008

6th Course
Zucchini
Feta, dried cherry tomatoes, Indian spices, mint.

J-F Bersan, Sauvignon Blanc, Saint Bris, France, 2008

7th Course
Foie Gras
Pineapple miso, lemon verbena, hon shemeji, fennel.

Klein Costantia, “Vin de Constance,” South Africa, 2005

8th Course
Vegetables en Gelee
Yellowtail head stock, grilled throat, shiso, ginger.

Boutari, Moschofilero, Greece, 2009

9th Course
Porcini-Braised Sweet Onion
Shaved porcini, Heublumen.

Evening Land “La Source,” Seven Springs Vineyard, Eola-Amity, Oregon, 2009

10th Course
Blueback Sockeye
French sorrel, smoked avocado, artichoke, buckwheat, roe.

Evening Land “La Source,” Seven Springs Vineyard, Eola-Amity, Oregon, 2009

11th Course
Meat and Potatoes
Confit fingerling, fried potato covered in crispy chicken skin,
potato “shank” with bone marrow, chicken jus.

Vincent Girardin, Puligny-Montrachet, France 2005

12th Course
Chino Farms Melon Sorbet
Sweet basil yogurt, salted melon gelee, long pepper.

Blanc de Chambris, Cremant de Bourgogne, France, NV

13th Course
Japanese Cheesecake
Yuzu curd, matcha streusel,
Chino Farms strawberries, candied beet syrup.

Domaine des Chambris, Cremant de Bourgogne, France, NV

14th Course
Burnt Chocolate Custard
Black magic cake, creme fraiche sorbet,
dark chocolate truffle, sauteed cherries.

Alcyone Late Harvest Tannat, Atlandita, Uruguay

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To see all of the photos from this meal, CLICK HERE.

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10th Course: Blueback Sockeye

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“You know what’s amazing about, Trey?” asked a mutual friend and chef.  “In addition to cooking a special fourteen-course dinner for you, he also cooked for a thousand covers that night.”

It’s true.

George’s at the Cove is a multi-level restaurant offering three different dining experiences in three different spaces.  Both the rooftop “Ocean Terrace” and the enclosed “George’s Bar” below it share a casual bistro menu.  Judging by the crowds headed upstairs, they’re killing it up there.

On the lowest level is George’s California Modern. Home to Table 3, it’s a posher space with more refined, upmarket food.

Here is where the restaurant’s general manager, April Johnson, and her staff gave us the super soignee.  Not only did April work with the sommelier to pair wines for each of our courses – tweaking them as Trey changed menu items down to the last minute – but she also called in an off-duty server that night just to learn our menu and take care of our table.  The hospitality from both the front and back of the house was humbling. Trey had even reconfigured his vacation to accommodate our rigid schedule in San Diego.

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Klein Constantia

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At its best, Foshee’s food was simple and precise, an efficient expression of the abundance that surrounds him.

He celebrated ingredients in their natural state, like ribbons of raw squash curled around oven-dried tomatoes and showered with herbs, a summer blossom from the farm.  It’s exactly what you think it’d taste like, only fresher, more fragrant.

Or, a tissue-thin slice of ripe, Charentais melon draped over buttery burrata, or veil of lardo over a mash of grilled favas.

He married the flavors of the land and sea in a garden of colorful crudite planted in milky ricotta on a length of moist bread threaded with seaweed. This too is exactly what you’d think it’d taste like, only greener and toastier.

Local spot prawns Foshee sliced and simply charred on the outside, leaving the inside of the nuggets silky, raw, and sweet. They reminded me of the torched pétoncle I had at la Bigarrade some months ago.

He did the same with a tender strip of beef tendon, blistering the exterior, and serving it with nothing more than a dash of salt and romaine lettuce cream to answer the bitterness of the blackened surface.  Delicious.

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George's at the Cove

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My favorite dishes had more of a classic, continental favor.*  I preferred them to Trey’s Asian-colored dishes.

There was a wedge of braised sweet onion, its layers interleaved with thinly sliced porcini. Beneath it stretched a carpet of thinly sliced mushrooms and waxy, alpine-style cheese.** It was earthy and beefy, all muscle and soul.  I loved it; my favorite dish.

There was a fluffy omelet, a souffle folded over a tongue of sea urchin: uni in a blanket. The sweetness of the egg and sea urchin was mirrored by an incredibly sweet puree of corn and a necklace of fresh kernels.  To the side lay a single, toasted soldier slathered with truffle butter. Together, it was French, it was Asian. Paired with a glass of Meursault, it was a highlight.

And there was magnificent filet of blueback sockeye salmon, the color of molten lava, cooked skin side down, mi-cuit.  It was buttery and rich. Perfect, actually, served with frilly, fried artichoke hearts and a dollop of creamy avocado puree.

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13th Course: Japanese Cheesecake

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At the end, arrived a lovely bowl of Charantais melon sorbet with salted melon gelee and sweet basil-infused yogurt.  It was delicate and fragrant, with a flash of heat from grated long pepper.

Following, an airy mattress of Japanese cheesecake garnished with matcha shortbread crumbs and sweet strawberries from Chino Farms.  What a pretty dessert, light and bright. The tart yuzu curd and sweet candied beet syrup seemed to need and find each other naturally, though they were so far apart on the plate. Thoughtfully composed dishes always seem to be intuitive like that, don’t they?

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So San Diego?

Yes, why ever not?

It’s close to paradise. If you follow Trey Foshee on Twitter, you’ll regularly see squid fresh from the boats, vegetables straight out of the ground, and fruits right off the tree.  And in his hands, they paint a beautiful picture of this corner of Southern California, overlooked and under-appreciated.

Trey Foshee is but one of the many, many talented chefs in this country who must bear the burden of business, unsung and tucked away behind a thousand covers each night.  And what creativity and exploration is sacrificed, or, at least limited by the practicalities of pleasing the public, might just be revived when a passionate diner walks through the door and challenges the chef to inspire, to impress, and to revisit that which first led them into the kitchen.

Thanks, Chuck, for opening and including me in this important dialogue with Trey.  And thanks, Trey, for creating and telling us your story at Table 3.  I look forward to more.  Next time, I’m bringing my surf board, and you’re going to teach me some moves before dinner, okay?

George’s at the Cove
1250 Prospect Street,
La Jolla, California 92037

Note: Until now, Table 3 has been a privately arranged dinner.  So, to help manage traffic for future requests for Table 3, I’ve been asked by George’s at the Cove to share the following reservation policy:  Table 3 is only available on weekdays to a limited number of people each night and must be reserved a few weeks in advance.  Reservations are taken by Kristine Fogarty, Director of Special Events, who can be reached by dialing the restaurant’s main phone line.

* Chuck’s going to have a field day with this one.

** Trey admitted that this dish was inspired by a similar one he had eaten at Passage 53 in Paris earlier in the year.  Whereas, it recalled to me a wedge of endive that I had at l’Arpege.  The layers of the endive had been stuffed with lobster coral, and it was served alongside a roasted red onion.

~ by ulterior epicure on July 19, 2011.

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