|Avocado Tempura Ponzu|
We had been trained to seek out only the bumpy black avocados with the richer, nuttier taste. They were creamier, smoother, more full of that delicious avocado-y essence. We waited for Hass to be in season, going without avocado for several months out of every year because nothing else would do. I remember that when the Hass avocados began to disappear from the grocery store shelves to be replaced by their thin-skinned cousins, it was depressing. As a kid, it meant more than suffering a burger without good avocado, it was an omen. The final signal from Mother Nature that the halcyon days of summer were behind us. We mourned the loss of those lovely black pears until Spring brought them round again. All throughout my childhood Hass were considered the real deal. California grown. The best. So many years later, and not much has changed. Avocados still rock my world.
Recently I had the rare opportunity to enjoy and appreciate this beloved fruit of my youth as interpreted by Chef Mark Dommen, the world-class visionary behind One Market in San Francisco. I was a guest at a lovely dinner given by the California Avocado Commission, which was beautifully pulled together by Golin Harris. An opportunity to mingle with like-minded lovers of the art of good food, the menu was an epic adventure of imaginative delicacies, each course enchantingly designed to feature and celebrate the California avocado.
After some words of welcome from the folks who were our hosts for the evening, we sat down to enjoy some good company and well-prepared food. We began with Chef Dommen’s Amuse Bouche: an appealing little Tempura Ponzu of avocado, with the fruit itself hidden inside a deep-fried wrapper of crunchy tempura goodness. The chill of the avocado hit the tongue like a tiny blush, the outside still hot from the fryer tingling against the tastebuds. There’s something wonderfully naughty about the single bite of an amuse. Like you have to pop it in your mouth while no one is looking...do the calories count, or is it like trees in the forest with no one watching? To me, eating an amuse feels a little like taking a bite of Eve’s apple.
|Chilled Avocado & Pea Soup|
|Dungenes Crab Salad|
|Sous Vide of Alaskan Halibut|
|Grilled Steak with Avocado "Chimichurri"|
|Meyer Lemon-Olive Oil Cake |
with Avocado Ice Cream
Lastly, we were fed tiny White Chocolate and Avocado Truffles. The hands flew into the dish so fast I was unable to capture an image of them for the blog, but that speaks volumes as to their appeal. And the taste was...Bellisimo!
I’ve spent the last year blogging about food, and more precisely, the experience of enjoying a good meal. When I dine I am looking for visual display of proficiency and skill in plating, unique flavor combinations that will stretch my palate and most importantly, the loving hand of a culinary artist whose goal is sincere. I will fall in love with the food of a Chef whose hand is guided by honest emotion. Give me a Chef who cooks with love over a Chef whose dishes are grounded in training alone. During our question and answer session with the Chef, others asked how he had chosen to prepare this dish or the other. I asked him why he does it at all. The answer was as I expected, because he loves it. The look on someone’s face when they taste something new, or experience a memorable meal is his reward.
Given the authentic emotions that went into it, I can honestly say that this meal, thanks to Chef Mark Dommen and his competent staff, rates right up there with the best I have ever had. I expected to enjoy a meal inspired by avocado. It is after all, one of my favorite foods. Yet I hadn’t anticipated something this entertaining and creative. The people I spent the evening with were likewise delightful, and as the evening unfolded, I found myself sorry to be heading home.
Well done all! So I generally conclude this blog with a note to the general dining public to check a place out. One Market is definitely a place worth checking into. With Chef Mark Dommen at the helm, you will be in good hands. If I can add something I learned from the experience, it would be that whenever a meal touches you, inspires you or simply makes you happy... tell the Chef. It’s why they do it.
1 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1420