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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dinner And A Show With Ludo

"What izz zat?!?! Can't zey understand me??? Why do zey do zat!?!"

We all bust out laughing, as Ludo goes nuts commentating about the subtitles on his appearance on Top Chef Masters. This is essentially the beginning of the end of a truly special evening...a night which truly began just hours after our last FoodDigger event on April 24th, at Church and State. As we continue watching the huge LCD, my mind wanders...flashbacks of how this all began start to flood my mind.

It was exactly two months from that moment, when I hopped online to see if anyone had written a blog post for Walter Manzke's masterpiece 11 course tasting menu that he prepared for our little group of bloggers. While searching through the blogs of each attending blogger, I felt the inclination to look up Ludo Lefebvre. It truly came out of nowhere, this random thought, so I was surprised to find that he was coming back to LA to do a second coming of his Ludo Bites menu at BreadBar. It was over a year since we had experienced his first stint at BreadBar, an experience that had remolded our ideals of haut cuisine. The second I found out he was coming back from his year long stint in Las Vegas, I felt that fleeting, yet all too familiar twang in my gut. "We're having our next event at LudoBites!", I said to myself.

Without consulting my FoodDigger cohorts, I sent an email to the address listed on Ludo's site, http://www.ludolefebvre.com/. For a couple of weeks, I heard nothing. Then out of the blue, I received an email. "Hi, this is Kristine, Ludo's wife. We'd love to have you for your next event."

As I continued watching Top Chef Masters, I continued laughing and finding myself rooting for Ludo like he was my brother running a race. I starting despising his competitors. Rick Bayless, whom I've always admired and who won the night's battle, started sounding annoying to me. I actually started hating them all, like I started hating the Orlando Magic players during the NBA Finals.

"I'll make a comeback!", Ludo exclaims, after finishing last in the Quickfire Challenge.

It was then that my mind wandered back to the evening as it started. Marshal extolled the virtues of the new functionalities on our site. The EasyLinks that enables bloggers to more easily move their content to our site, and the revamped FlavorMatch that hopefully, after some tinkering, will give users ideas on which reviews to trust. As Marshal finished, I introduced Ludo, who announced that this was the first, and the last, tasting menu that would be experienced at BreadBar. It wasn't for a lack of interest, he stated, but the difficulties of performing a tasting menu, in addition to providing the regular menu, was a daunting task in the kitchen of a bakery with one sous chef...about a dozen fewer than he's accustomed to working with.

"Hey guys, cooking is about fun." That simple statement set the tone for the 11 course tasting menu which began.

-Deconstruction of Bloody Mary

Served on spoons, the celery root puree worked in pefect harmony with the tomato cocktail and vodka gelee.

-Tuna Sashimi with Sushi Rice Ice Cream, Shishimi Togarashi-Sushi grade sushi slices topped with sushi rice ice cream, fried shallots and Togorashi. Beautiful interpretation of nigiri with the fried shallots leaving a lasting richness on the tongue.

-Chorizo, Onions, Cornichon-"How pedestrian", I had thought to myself when I first eyed the menu days before. "Hmmm....I wonder what twist he's going to throw at us?" Sure enough, the dish came out as a chilled soup. The smooth and cool soup had the essence of Spanish chorizo meshed with the richness of heavy cream. Topped with a canele of cornichon ice, this dish blew me away with it's simplicity and thoughtfulness. All preconceived notions of sausage were thrown out the door with each spoonful and lick of the empty bowl.

-King Red Salmon, Smoked Vinegar, Watermelon, Mint

Signature Ludo, as we were instructed to take the tuna in one bite, than follow with the watermelon. The mint tied all of the flavors together.

-Shrimps, Sweet and Sour, Rosemary-These were perfectly cooked shrimp topped with a slightly sweet, slightly tangy sauce that really enhanced the natural flavors of my favorite crustacean.

-Foie Gras Tart, Lemon Paste, Mushrooms, Four Spices

This maple tart, topped with foie gras and mushroom slabs, was accompanied by a thick lemon paste. I refuse to give more, as only tasting it can do it justice. Truly a "blow me away" dish, that is now on the regular menu at LudoBites.

-Diver Scallop, Port, Creme Fraiche-The perfectly seared scallop was enhanced by the creme fraiche foam. Absolutely delicious.

-Halibut, Spiced Butter, Fresh Porcini, Tonnato Style-Once again, the halibut was perfectly cooked. The spiced butter enhanced the natural sweetness of the fish, with the mushrooms bringing a gorgeous earthiness to the party.

-Duck, Almond, Crispy Skin Puree, Tapenade, Turnip-Ok...I have to admit, I had trouble understanding this dish. The duck was moist, the chopped almond topping sweet, the tapenade added a nice saltiness and the turnip texture. This dish, however, inspired countless thoughts and observations...a true testament to Ludo's cooking. Good food not only tastes good, but makes you think. This dish made me think.

-Cheese-Brin D'Amour, Epoisse, Affinois, Etorki, and a fifth I cannot remember. These were accompanied by toasted hazelnut, edible honeycomb, a date puree and a couple of other housemade sides. Perfect segue to dessert.

-Panna Cotta, Caviar, Caramel-Last...definitely far from least. This is the one dish I truly wish I had taken a picture of. Truth be told, I was intrigued by having caviar on my dessert. So distracted was I that I jumped right in, never giving thought to my camera. Before I could even realize what I had done, I had finished. My eyes were closed, visions of fleur de sel atop a caramel candy, but somehow better.

"I'll be back!", exclaimed Ludo, as the show ended and Rick Bayless was announced the winner. As Krissy turned the tv off, we all broke off into smaller groups to take in the memory of the evening. Seeing the satisfied looks on everyone's faces allowed me to finally relax a bit. Instantly, exhaustion came over me. The work put into making this event the best possible all hinged on Chef Ludo working his normal magic. I had hoped for best, and he came through in spades.

I'd like to offer a big thanks to each attending blogger:

Sook of http://www.yutjangsah.blogspot.com/
Diana of http://www.dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/
Javier of http://www.teenageglutster.blogspot.com/
Wesley of http://www.twohungrypandas.com/
Victor of http://www.grubtrotters.com/
Alli of http://www.alli411.com/
Cathy of http://www.gastronomyblog.com/
Danny of http://www.kungfoodpanda.blogspot.com/
Fiona of http://www.gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/
Pam of http://www.rantsandcraves.com/
Kevin of http://www.kevineats.com/

You each came in ready for anything, and you took the time to understand the food and the chef.

Special thanks to Krissy for making this event a success and for allowing the last minute addition of two very special bloggers, Sook and Diana. You were very patient with me and all of my emails and requests.

And finally, special thanks to Ludo for deciding to do this event, and then blowing us all away with thoughtful, creative dishes that toyed with our ideas of food. I am happy for the friendship you've shown us, and I'm grateful that you have returned home to Los Angeles. I didn't realize how much that first experience at Ludo Bites affected me, and I didn't know how much I missed having you in LA. Many of the times I've seen you, you've been exhausted from all of the heart and soul you put into your food. I, and many others, are thankful for that. A blogpost about that first visit was written on my personal blog. It spoke of how your food touched me. This FoodDigger dinner blew that away.

If you haven't been to Ludo Bites, do yourself a favor and make a reservation asap. It's only around until August 22nd, although he is looking for another location. But just remember he ended up in Vegas after the first Ludo Bites!


Kung Food Panda said...

Thanks again for an amazing dinner Will! Catch you at another time man.

yutjangsah said...

Hey Will,

Great post. So, I guess you're a food blogger too? : ) Thanks again for squeezing this step-sister into the glass slipper. Happy eating!

Gastronomer said...

Will - Your write up is great! Really liked how you weaved in and out of different points in time. Very unique storytelling method. As always, thank you and Fooddigger for din din. And hopefully we'll get to do it again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Will, as always I'm jealous. Your descriptions make everything sound wonderful - the food as well as the evening. I watched that episode of Top Chef Masters and thought of you and your event the whole time.

Sharon said...

Great post, Will, I really want to try that dessert. Everything sounds delicious, but caviar on caramel is too intriguing to pass up. Just like 'Annoymous', I also watched that episode of Top Chef Masters. I was rooting for Ludo the whole time and was disappointed when he didn't make it through to the finals. He showed a lot of class, though, saying he'd be back to do the show again.

Unknown said...

Hey Will! Your description of the evening is fantastic! I wish I could have been there! Can’t wait to hear more!

FoodDigger said...

Danny: Great seeing you. Loved your post

Sook: Step sister fit into the glass slipper and shined at the ball. Blogger? How about wannabe? :)

Cathy: Thank you. I confused myself, but I guess it works!

Anonymous, Sharon and K...you guys rock. Thanks for your support!

kevinEats said...

I just read your post on your personal blog. Ludo must have had quite an impact on you, as he compelled you to post after ten months of inactivity!

And that last cheese? ValdeĆ³n. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like everything you might want from an event, great food and great friends and having fun with it all. Keep up the good work!!

FoodDigger said...

Kevin: He has had quite the impact on me! But, I've been busy with the FD blog, so I've neglected the old one. Nice seeing you

Anonymous: Thanks!

Diana said...


Beautiful post -- it took me right back to the night. Truly one of the most memorable dining experiences I've had to date. Thank you again for all your efforts to include me.


FoodDigger said...

Thanks Diana! It was amazing how everything worked out. We were very lucky to have you with us that night. Good eating and hope to see you soon


Wesley said...

Thanks again to FD for hosting this wonderful event and Will for contacting the TwoHungryPandas. Looking forward to future events!

FoodDigger said...

Thanks for coming, Wesley. It was great to meet you. Your photos are amazing, as evidenced by their presence on Ludo's site! Well done

Aaron said...

I'll have to check out the new FlavorMatch profile. And if I had any more reviews left in me, perhaps the EasyLinks too.

Thanks for the invite Will. Unfortunately, I guess I'm no longer an LA blogger

kevinEats said...

Aaron, are you still blogging? I haven't seen any updates from you in a while.

FoodDigger said...

Hey Aaron: Whether or not you're a blogger in LA anymore, you'll always be a part of our family. Good luck and if/when you come back, we'll eat something great to write about.