Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Eda Vesterman

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The Hatchi dinner series at the Breadbar in Century City, which began in June of this year,  continues in featuring a guest chef every month.  It’s a wonderful 1 night-only event of 8 dishes for $8 each.  After a successful event in September featuring Chef Remi Lauvand, who is now the executive chef at Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach (the new menu features tantalizing French dishes like duck rillette and  house-made pâté de campagne), I was very excited to attend the October event.  The guest chef in October was Chef Eda Vesterman.

Chef Vesterman is known for healthy cooking.  She obtained a masters degree in Nutrition and has worked with several hospitals and medical centers to promote healthy living through smart eating.  Quite different in pedigree and philosophy from the other ‘celebrity guest chefs’ in the Hatchi line-up, I thought she was an interesting choice.

The theme for her dinner was ‘The Four Elements’, reflecting her doctrine of honoring beauty and health in unity with nature’s basic elements.  I was touched by the menu card band, stamped with diagrams of the 4 elements of earth, air, fire and water, which was made with plantable paper embedded with flower seeds.

Representing ‘Water’, we started with sous vide scallops 3 ways.  Each was on a bed of parsnip purée and corn butter, and served with 3 different sauces and matching dyed tobiko.  The red sauce was a tart and sweet raspberry sauce that teetered a bit too much on the sweet.  The yellow smelled and tasted of saffron, and the green, my favorite, a spinach basil sauce with microgreens.  We ordered 2 plates, as there were 4 of us, and found a big difference in plating and garnishing between the 2 orders.

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Representing ‘Fire’, the filet mignon medallion with potato squares in a porcini and syrah reduction sauce was perhaps the toughest piece of meat I have ever had in Los Angeles.  The plating was very feminine and cute, but the workout that the meat gave my jaws was no joke.  Although the sauce had a wonderful earthy flavor, the quality of the meat disappointed.  At least we had a beautiful bottle of 2001 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Bosconia” Spanish Rioja to keep our taste buds happy.

IMG_2998Representing ‘Water’ again, was the Dungeness crab cake with grapefruit, mint and avocado.  The moist and tender thick flakes of crab meat were good, and I appreciated the playful presentation.

IMG_3000There were 2 dishes representing ‘Earth’, of which one was the butternut squash and roasted corn fritters with micro celery.  I liked the slight kick that the ancho chili sauce imparted on the light and airy fritters, but I couldn’t help but feel a little unsettled with this dish.  8 gourmet dishes for $8 each is the deal of the century, but 3 bite-size vegetable fritters for $8 seemed a bit ungenerous.  I also thought about what 8 dishes I would serve if I had an opportunity to showcase my talent at such a prestigious event, and I definitely wouldn’t choose to serve fritters.

IMG_3007The best dish of the evening was the other ‘Earth’ dish, a wild mushroom and boucheron lasagna with fresh spinach pasta.  The large succulent meaty chunks of mushrooms were heavenly, and the microgreens with vinaigrette livened up the cream sauce.  We put in 3 orders of this dish, and again each order came with different plating, garnishing and flavoring.  What was going on in the kitchen?

IMG_3002I loved the mini breads that our meal came with, each dusted with flour in the ‘Four Elements’ stencil.  There was pumpernickel, sage, poppy seed and sun dried tomato.  Each chewy doughy piece was saturated with flavor and aroma, and we asked for seconds, and thirds….and fourths.

IMG_3006I was really looking forward to the mini duck burgers, representing ‘Air’, after previewing the menu on Breadbar’s website.  I brought my bottle of Spanish Rioja in anticipation of some good duck.  These duck patties were much leaner and lighter than I had imagined, and didn’t taste too duck-y.  Probably a good thing for those who don’t love duck, but it left me yearning for more.  The menu description read ‘ground lean organic duck breast infused with black tea and a special center on whole wheat brioche’.  So what was the special center?  We didn’t find anything in the middle of any of our patties, so we asked our server, who seemed just as confused.  He returned from the kitchen saying the special item was a ‘garlic confit’, but we still couldn’t see or taste it.  In fact, the patty didn’t really have any taste at all, so it was the tomato salsa that really made and saved the dish.  Or was it a plum salsa?  They had the consistency of plum, a little crunchy, but with a wonderfully deep vinegar flavor that I absolutely loved.  Micro greens seemed to be the consistent theme throughout this dinner, reflecting the micro portions.  Overall, a pleasant slider, but we were surprised that only 1 mini slider came with each $8 order.  Of course, it was only appropriate that we each get our own, so in the end 4 sliders cost us $32.  Doesn’t seem right…  Well, at least our fantastic bottle of 2004 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac-Léognan from Bordeaux kept us happy.

IMG_3009The wild berry martini we had for dessert tasted like a cranberry cinnamon Thanksgiving sauce.  Although it wasn’t bad, it felt more like a sauce than a dessert.

IMG_3031The other dessert was a green tea-ramisu ice cream, which had a wonderful dark green tea sauce that combined sweet and bitter very well, although the rock hard solid ice cream almost bent our spoons and our wrists.

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Hats off to Chef Eda Vesterman for putting a lot of thought into creating a healthy and beautiful menu, as this was probably one of the healthiest dinners that I have had in a while.  She showed me that nutritious and well-balanced healthy food doesn’t need to be boring, and that there are infinite possibilities to having fun while eating right.  However, eating right doesn’t mean eating slight, and I wish she would have been more generous with the portions.  One of my fellow diners was upset that the servings were stingy, and wanted to go get a real burger to feel more satisfied.

This Hatchi dinner at the Breadbar was another interesting glimpse and taste into the world of another chef, and I look forward with great anticipation and curiosity to the next events.  I really hope that the Breadbar continues this event every month.  It’s a fantastic concept and a great experience.

November:  Waylynn Lucas

December: Marcel Vigneron

January:  Ricardo Zarate

http://www.breadbar.net/

Random literature:  Ever wonder how Dungeness crabs mate?  It sounds much more exciting than what we humans do.  Here’s an excerpt I found from “Between Pacific Tides” by Ricketts, Calvin, Hedgpeth, and Phillips.  Read it while listening to Barry White.

“Love making in the Dungeness crab takes place soon after the female molts and her shell is soft, but before the male molts and while his shell is hard. First the male embraces the female firmly, belly-to-belly, holding her this way for several days, stroking her gently with his chelipeds. When she is ready to molt, she signals the male by nibbling at his eyestalks. He loosens his grip, allows her to turn over, and she molts while still confined by his legs. After she molts, the male shoves away her cast off exoskeleton. There is a short waiting period, about an hour, before actual mating, possibly to allow some hardening of the carapace. When the moment arrives, she turns back over, again belly-to-belly, and lifts her abdominal flap to receive the male’s gonopods into her spermathecae, the receptacles in the female that hold the spermatophores.”