I had an opportunity to attend a night of fantastic food and wine downtown at this year’s incantation of Test Kitchen LA. http://testkitchenla.com/. This year’ s residency is downtown in the soon to be opened Italian themed Bestia. A very lovely space off 7th and Santa Fe. The inside is a nice blend of rustic and industrial, with a nice long bar upon entrance.
So to start why not indulge in one of the nights special cocktails. The cocktail menu was created by Julian Cox and Chris Day. The original sommelier who started the wine experience for Test Kitchen is a delightful and well versed wino, Josh Goldman. The beverages offered all looked great, but we settled for the Hat Tip a whiskey, vermouth and bitters concoction that was smooth and refreshing. I love, a great Manhattan, this was a close relative, which I utterly loved. My lady friend went for the subtlety named The Obligatory Vodka Drink which was as whimsical as its name. Packed with fennel infused vodka, grapefruit, luxardo bitter, psychaud and seltzer. I don’t know what some of those ingredients are, but they all worked fantastically together. For the rest of dinner we opted for the wine pairing that was $40 each which included some off the beaten track options from California and Italy. I was actually thrilled at our pours. Very, very enjoyable. Plus, the pours were not stingy. I have a large pet peeve when doing wine pairings, and there is not enough. Well, I guess everyone complains about that, but I like to have some wine to enjoy on their own, and then enough wine left over to compliment the food. Is that too much to ask?? No, I think not.
For this past Sunday, October 28, our chefs of the night were Jason Bowlin and Jason Travi with the dessert courses by Miho Travi and Nicole Rucker. The night’s theme was a family style fried chicken dinner. I for one, am a sucker for a well done Fried Chicken, and make my own cast iron skillet Fried Chicken I’ve been told kicks ass. So I don’t take a poorly done Chicken very well. The skin must, must, must be flavorful AND crunchy. No mushy, bland oily bread crumby crap. But I digress, as there are many other things to talk about when one brings up this dinner.
Although it started with Market Pickles, and I know pickling is all the rage now, but it’s a little overdone. It’s on sandwiches and the so-forth and the like. The Prosecco served with it was divine though, and really brought out the acid’s in the pickles. So all in all, not a total fail. There was then a nice easy, vibrant salad of Tomatoes, Peppers and Burrata. Again, as far as Burrata is concerned it is an ingredient that is used A LOT, but I am a sucker for the good, clean, rich, fresh stuff. So this dish was good, not knock my socks off amazing, but very, very good. We had a Chardonnay from Mendocino that was totally done in a traditional French way. Which is terrific if you didn’t know.
Then, the family style began, and we were overwhelmed. Lost Recipe Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Roast Corn and Pole Beans, Cauliflower Pimenton and Garlic, Napa Cabbage Slaw with Pink Ladies and Fresno Chile. Wow. That ALL came at once. Our table was packed. And the plates were not for the faint of heart, or Hollywood wanna-be actress types. There was A LOT of food. And it was all good. Some very, very good. To start with, the chicken was divine. Heavenly. A light, yet thick outer crust that was packed with all the flavors you want and expect in Fried Chicken. Inside, the meat was cooked to perfection, with no oiliness, but all the delicious yumminess one expects. Thank You for this. It was done with care. There is a local Frenchman who might want to look over his shoulder at this recipe and these folks. I could take a plate of those drumsticks right the F now. At this point we got a red wine. And not just any red. Knowing that Josh had a bit to do with the wine selection, this seems right up his alley. A rare Italian red from Puglia. 2010 Palama, “Arcangelo” Salice Salentino. Man O’ Man. Tasty stuff. Makes me glad we didn’t open the Pinotage I brought. This baby brought that light tannin, heavy acid I want with Fried anything. Especially with the acidity of the other dishes it all was a perfect melody. Our other outstanding dishes were the Napa Cabbage Slaw which had a depth of flavor unmatched to any other slaw I’ve had. And the Cauliflower. Yes, Broccoli’s less than respected cousin. But in the hands of the chefs here, it stood out on it’s own, and was one of the only dishes totally wiped clean. I wasn’t sure all the flavors and whatnots working amongst the dish as a whole, but Oh-LA-LA, it all worked.
So now, dessert. I could of gone without it. But who am I kidding, or trying to impress. With a meal like this, at a place like this, with chef’s like this. One must have the prepared dessert. Not one, mind you. No, silly boy, two. An Apple and Quince Pie with Cheddar and a Maple Buttermilk Pie with Cranberries. Holy Mother of all that is delicious. And her mother, and all their friends. Again, I shall proclaim my love for a dish I find divine. That of a warm baked apple pie. Throw on some Cheddar for my Mid-West friends, and I’m in love. So as I dig in, totally ignoring the other large slice of pie staring at us, I realize my lady has dug into the Maple Buttermilk Pie and is stone cold quiet. Deathly quiet. With good reason. This just might be the most perfect pie we have every had. Seriously. Epic Slice. We almost came to blows over the last bites. It was so rich, yet so light and exploding with flavor. That poor Apple Pie had no chance. It got pushed aside like some Step-Kardashian. I must get this Buttermilk recipe and try to replicate. At once. I could win next week’s Presidential election with this pie. It was that good. Served with a nice, crisp, balanced Moscato, again from Puglia, everything here made me not want to leave. I could of taken a cue from one the local actresses and made more room for another full sitting.
But alas, the rest of Sunday night was calling, and there was Scotch coming. Some very excellent single malt was coming over to say HI!! So I could not miss this meeting.
As much as I could of polished off more Chicken and more Pie.
This was once and done dear people’s. But lo and behold there are still more Test Kitchen nights with other great amazing local chefs. So go. Eat. Enjoy.