I visited San Diego last weekend, staying at the Omni in downtown, right by Petco Park. Based on the board's suggestion, my partner and I went to Cafe Chloe (awesome cheese plate and mussels), Cheese Shop (one of the best corned beef hash I've had), Pokez (good carne asada burrito - not the best but satisfied my cravings for a Californian burrito and I did enjoy the ambiance), Taka (treat to have such fresh hamachi and ama ebi and melt in your mouth toro) but the piece de resistance was the Better Half.
When my partner was making reservations for my birthday dinner at the Better Half, he found out that we could do a 5-course chef's menu. He told the restaurant that he was bringing a full-bodied 2004 Hermitage. We were quite impressed with the selection of wines -- I never knew so many wineries had half bottles available. For the first course, we were served pate drizzled with drops of pesto. We then had a soup that was an amazing blend of flavors and texture. A soup bowl with jasmine rice, raisins, toasted almond, cilantro and chili oil was placed on the table. From a small tea pot, a creamy pumpkin soup (with coconut milk I think) was poured over the dry mixture. I've never had anything quite like it. For the first courses, we had a half bottle of Champalou Vouvray 2004 which paired quite nicely with the pate and soup.
Then, we opened the Hermitage which was quite the treat (Chapoutier Monier de La Sizeranne 2004). The main entrees seemed to have been created specifically for the wine. We had braised sweetbread served on top of mashed cauliflower, surrounded by a very rich Madeira reduction sauce with capers. This was the first time both of us had sweetbreads (in fact we weren't sure exactly what they were until we looked it up in Wikipedia). The dish and the wine were a perfect match. We then had a 2nd entree which were veal cheeks served with French lentils with a similar Madeira sauce as the sweetbreads along with Hawaiian rock salt. Frankly, I couldn't really tell what the Hawaiian rock salt tasted like but it sounds interesting. The veal cheek went quite nicely with the wine but the sweetbread clearly stole the show in that the dish seemed to have been created specifically for the wine.
Unfortunately, as with all good things, the end came with bread pudding that had an obligatory candle (fortunately, I was spared the birthday singing that you hear in some restaurants). I'm not really a dessert person and I was quite satiated by the time dessert was served, nonetheless I enjoyed every bite that I could squeeze into my stomach.
This birthday dinner was one of those memories that you tuck away to come back to and savor over the years. Wishing you good eats and wonderful memories!
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