It’s ironic how that which was once rustic is now gourmet. A variety of mushrooms, savory cheese, and organic polenta make a combination that is impressive in its simplicity. Use this as a side or an entree!
Makes 8 pancakes
3 cups of whole milk
1 oz. each of alba clamshell, brown clamshell, forest nameko, and velvet pioppini mushrooms
1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic grits
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
5 tbs. of butter, plus 2 tbs., plus 1 tbs.
1/4 cup of flour for light dredging
2 egg yolks
2 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil, plus another 1 tbs.
2 tsp. of kosher salt
2 tbs. of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the milk, 5 tbs. of butter, and salt in a sauce pan over medium heat to the point that the milk scalds. Slowly add the polenta stirring constantly, and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from heat, and stir in the cheese and egg yolks until fully incorporated. Pour into a glass baking dish and spread out evenly. Cool uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
With a cookie cutter, portion out the pancakes (and it’s okay if they’re a little lopsided or loose, because frying will solidify them). Dredge them lightly in flour, and reshape as necessary as you go.
Heat 2 tbs. of butter and 2 tbs. of olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat to fry the pancakes. Allow at least 20 seconds between placing the pancakes, so as not to shock the pan.
At the same time as frying the pancakes, saute the mushrooms with 1 tbs. of butter, 1 tsp. of olive oil, and white wine in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook for about 4 minutes until softened.
After a long day of personal and professional errands, we ended up in Walnut Creek for a late dinner and the Walnut Creek Yacht Club was still open. Living in Oakland now, we had to seize the opportunity to dine here while in town, and we had been looking forward to tasting their famous super fresh seafood for some time. Having a very close relationship with a seafood purveyor, all the seafood is guaranteed never frozen, in neither transport nor preparation. The story on the back of the menu says that 99% of the items are made in house – our attentive, informative, and friendly waiter Tony attested that just about the only things not made in house are the ice cream from The Latest Scoop of Berkeley and the bread from Acme Bread Co.
There’s lots of “extra rigging,” or side dishes, and since Zach’s entree came with set sides, he added the gratin to try. As a jalapeño and cheddar fan, he thought this was a cheesy gooey delight, and very spicy but with natural bold jalapeño flavor. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not overly spicy but it’s definitely not mild, either.
Zach’s monkfish was well portioned, succulent, and with a texture between scallop and lobster. It was tender enough to “melt in your mouth” and the crisp, perfectly rendered panceta added a little saltiness to each bite to enhance the flavor. It came with a mushroom-herb risotto cake, which was crispy on the outside but with a soft center and deep, rich mushroom and thyme flavor. It was “everything you would want in a risotto” but fried and with that wonderful mushroom flavor permeating throughout. The mushrooms, like the asparagus, were hand picked by Joe Rubino Produce, and you can’t go wrong with supremely grilled local asparagus. The sauce was tart and tangy with a red wine base and a slight earthiness from pink peppercorns. Overall it was a very well-balanced dish
August’s piece of grilled rainbow trout had beautiful sear marks, and the taste was just as beautiful. The texture was moist and flaky, and every nibble disappeared. She thoroughly enjoyed the two sauces she chose from the myriad, stone ground mustard & dill and citrus scallion butter. Under the delicious fish were four polenta fries with a zingy lemon aioli. Crunchy outside with a typical polenta-texture inside, these were pleasantly surprising and distinctive. An added bonus was the garnish pile with pickled onions; she doesn’t know if they were supposed to be more than a garnish, but they were good.
There’s no way for any boat, and clearly not a yacht, to get to Walnut Creek. We always wondered why this restaurant/bar would be called “yacht club,” and we learned that it is indicative of the atmosphere that owners Ellen McCarty and Kevin Weinberg wish to create. The seafood, though, is the main attraction and it never fails to put on a show.
Once upon a time there was a Californian-French restaurant on Shattuck in Berkeley called La Rose Bistro. Then, not too long ago, La Rose was transplanted to Concord, and is now named La Sen Bistro. Todos Santos Plaza has a decent bevy of varied restaurants already, and La Sen Bistro is a great addition. Of all the Todos Santos Plaza restaurants, this one likely has the best wine selection, also.
Instead of butter in an American restaurant or olive oil and vinegar at an Italian restaurant, we were surprised with a cilantro sauce for our bread. With garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, and a hint of sugar it was like a mild chimichurri. The bread was rustic and fresh from Semifreddi’s, and we like businesses that support other local businesses. Zach was super impressed as he hadn’t tried something like it before, so well balanced with the sweet, the herbs, the rich olive oil, and the tang that complimented the bread.
A traditional soup and one of the most well known dishes from French cuisine, onion soup is a true classic. What set this one apart was the garlic croutons and broiled Emmentaler cheese (a variant of Swiss cheese). The beef broth base was a rich backbone for the other ingredients, like the super tender savory and sweet onions (Zach “can’t believe how tender they were!”). The croutons soaked up the surrounding flavors, including the gooey cheese with a caramelized top.
Escargot served in shells can be scary if the dishwasher doesn’t do his job in cleaning out the reusable shells. Fortunately, we enjoyed our snails tonight without any hindrance. Served with garlic, butter, and parsley, our six helix snails were very large and tasty. The menu didn’t call them helix snails per se, but Zach believes they were helixes due to the size and flavor, and August believes they were because of the name – “Bourgogne” is French for Burgundy, and “Burgundy” snail is a nickname for helix snail.
This was likely the fanciest pork chop August has had. Garlic confit, a white balsamic reduction, polenta cake, eggplant, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and a caramelized apple joined the moist and tender pork chop. The polenta cake was deliciously crispy and crunchy on the outside, but delicate and smooth in the middle. It soaked up the sweet and tangy sauce, but August sopped up any remaining drops with some of the Semifreddi bread. The vegetables were al dente yet fork-tender. She could have had a bowl of veggies on the side, they were that good.
Zach’s duck confit came with many of the same vegetables as August’s pork, plus mushrooms, an assortment of roasted potatoes, and ratatouille with red pepper and a trio of squash. The duck was, in a word, phenomenal. Beyond fork-tender, there were no grissly or inedible pieces. Zach ate the whole thing and wishes he could have eaten the bone somehow. The Madeira sauce was delicious; there are many restaurants that will make it too sweet, but this one at La Sen was balanced correctly and went really well with the ratatouille and potatoes. The potatoes themselves were roasted beyond perfection, which resulted in flavorful caramelized sides and edges. For the vegetarians, ratatouille with potatoes is something you could be very happy with here.
This was our first time at this new restaurant, but we both want to go back. There were two other dishes that August and Zach each wanted to try, and we can imagine that they’ll be amazing just like tonight’s dinner was. Everything tasted scratch-made, so hopefully next time we’ll have room for a dessert, as well.