Since my birthday dinner date this past Friday at Curtis Stone's new resto, Maude cost the equivalent of some people's monthly mortgage payments, it deserves it's very own recap post so we get our money's worth out of every detail ;-)
The most important thing to note was that we really, truly enjoyed ourselves, the experience, the company, the ambiance and the food, not to mention the delicious wine pairings we splurged on for every course. We decided before we sat down that if we were going to do it, we would do it right and indeed we did!
Maude is a little restaurant on South Beverly Drive and is fairly new to the LA restaurant scene, having just celebrated their 1st anniversary this past February. At the helm is Curtis Stone, a hunky blonde Aussie chef who is pretty well known in the world of food, having appeared on various cooking shows, the Today Show, Oprah - you name it, he's seemed to have been on it!
This is his first restaurant, an adorable little 25 seater in Beverly Hills. There are four seats overlooking the kitchen (of which we happened to snag two and were told this is where he sat his VIP diners) and the rest of the restaurant is comprised of smaller tables of two to four. It's a pretty restaurant; the ceiling is kind of an antique looking mirror, with exposed wood beams; the walls are made of simple white subway tile, with dried herbs and flowers hanging from hooks. Old teapots and pretty plates and platters adorn the dark wood open shelving in the kitchen and throughout and there's a removable wooden cutting board section of the kitchen counter area, where chefs prepared dishes that were waiting to go out as we watched on (inspiration as we're still deciding how we want our new kitchen to look!).
The kitchen was the most calm kitchen we'd ever seen. The chefs were frequently seen just chatting to each other, in no rush to get the food out in a hurry. We'd watch them spend 5 minutes picking through a little bowl of watercress, selecting the perfect leaf to add to the dish and discarding those that were apparently not suitable. The preparation was an art in and of itself and we had a front row seat to the show.
This my friends, was a dining experience: 10 small courses to make one big meal. As I mentioned last week, the ingredient of the month was fennel, so every dish had a fennel component, whether it was some fennel seeds or powder sprinkled on top or chunks of the vegetable within, they found every use for it and presented it within dishes in the most spectacular way.
Along with a delicious homemade honey fennel caramel, they present you with a copy of that night's menu at the end of the evening, so I happen to have a very descriptive account of everything we dined on, which, if you're curious, you can check out below:
Grant and I have never been a big fan of restaurants that go heavy on the foam bubbles and have plates so small, you feel like you need to stop for a slice of pie on your way home (yes, this has happened on more than one occasion!) and although Maude had a little bit of this, everything was strangely satisfying.
Our personal favorites were the Bison Tartar and the Salt Cod Raviolo (served by chef, himself!), however I can say something positive about every course. The Fennel Ice Cream was the perfect combination of sweet and salty with the light dressing that the spring vegetable crudo was tossed in. The Grilled Sardines, although probably our least favorite dish, was well complemented by the tangy vinegar gelee. The Chicken Galentine was a fried square of perfection (perhaps I could have eaten more of this!).
And the accompanying wines were incredible and made the whole experience feel even more special. We were even able to taste a variety of an Orange wine, a dry white that has spent some maceration time in contact with the grape skins - and something we'd never even heard of before.
Obviously our favorite part of the night was when Curtis himself invited us into the kitchen to snap a photo with him - well, maybe not "invited", but didn't say no when we asked ;-) He was a true gent and it was nice to see a head chef who was so hands on and seemed to care so much about whether his diners were happy.
It was an amazing birthday dinner - maybe my favorite ever - and it certainly started off 34 on the right foot ;-)