Like Uncle Joe I'm moving kinda slow at the Junction this morning. There are no words to describe the feast we had last night. And I'm not talking about a Thanksgiving leftovers meal. We went to The Kitchen Restaurant for its Push the Palate special dinner. It's a quarterly event.
If you've never been to The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento, you're in a for a special treat. But there are 3 caveats. First, you need a reservation, and you might need to make a reservation months in advance. Second, if triple-digit restaurant bills scare the beejesus out of you, then this is not your restaurant. Third, you must have the time available to spend 3 hours or more to enjoy 5 to 7 courses.
You're encouraged to wander the entire restaurant because, as Chef Noah Zonca says, mi casa is su casa. So you can open the oven door and stick your head inside, talk to the chefs, tour the wine cellar, roll oranges across the floor, whatever you want to do. Just don't mess with Joe, the Vick's Cough Drop guy. OK, he's not really the cough drop guy but that's what we called him.
Since we dine out a lot, my husband and I have The Kitchen Restaurant on our favorite restaurant list. We're also on its email list. An email arrived last week talking about the Push the Palate event the day after Thanksgiving, so, on a whim, we decided to haul off my sister for a culinary delight. I thought she'd change her mind about the foie gras after hearing Chef Noah describe how humanely the birds are treated, but no. She also asked for no pork because she treats pigs as family, or at least that's her story and she's sticking to it. The staff at The Kitchen are very good about accommodating any guest's special request. They will bring you second helpings, too. All you have to do is ask.
We started with local sturgeon cavier and red waddle hog "ice cubes". Having a choice between the standard flight wines or the premium -- hey, my sister lives in Minnesota -- we chose the premium. The first course was followed by a giant sea scallop with cured foie gras, Nantucket Bay scallops and a mushroom emulsion. The giant sea scallop was a bit rare in the center, which was intentional.
The third course was a pumpkin soup, with a crispy lardo and toasted chili sabayon. In the center was a tiny ham and cheese sandwich that melted in my mouth. It was the most precious thing. I don't ordinarily like squash soup because I eat so much of it during the fall -- we get tons of squash in our farm box from Full Belly each week, but this was extraordinary.
Perhaps the biggest splash of the evening was the squab breast and leg with huckleberries, black truffle potatoes and topped with White Alba truffles. Ah, the aroma from the white truffles was a full-blown raputure of the senses and enchanting. You can see Chef Noah shaving truffles on top of the squab in this photo. I also never thought I'd enjoy baby pigeon as much as this. I also got a chuckle out of eavesdropping and hearing Chef Noah sound just like my mother as he admonished the platers: "If I've told you once, I've told you 20 times . . . "
Just when you think it can't get any better, out came the plates of grilled red grouper with Maine lobster claw, accompanied by Tokyo turnips and a white soy and wasabi root butter. We're talking about fresh wasabi, which is an entirely different taste sensation over the powdered crap.
By the time we reached the fifth plate, Mishima Ranch wagyu short ribs, alongside a miniature pot pie with sweet winter carrots, chard, celery hearts and small onions, I thought I had died and gone to Iron Chef heaven.
By desert, I was ready to curl up and take a nap. But instead, I devoured everything on my plate: apples in tart tatin, caramel and fritter, and a tiny scoop of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream.
My sister is still sleeping it off in the next room. I suspect this was a Sacramento dining experience she will never forget.
Photos: Elizabeth Weintraub, BlackBerry Bold camera