Thursday, January 26, 2012

FIFTH FLOOR - Foie Fest 2011 “Twitter” pated by Chef David Bazirgan

Every once in awhile the stars align to bring with them an opportunity.  As it so happens, astral chance provided one such gift to my lovely little family over the holidays.  I must say that we took full advantage of it.

Heavenly Oyster
Twitter is an unusually chaotic form of communicating, but the connections that “tweeting” can form between members various groups of similarly interested people is impressive.  For some, the spontaneous voice it fosters can lead one to trouble, for others it can lead to delightful opportunity.  It’s all about thinking before you tweet, people.  Careless words can fly out into the Twitter-sphere to linger, haunting one with missteps.  But a thoughtful query can reward us with a new form of genuine human connection.  Some people might toss off a tweet as casually as a hat flies onto a coat rack; but my advice would be to pay a bit more attention.  Remember that what is made public remains so in perpetuity.  Our comments often land with unexpected affect, especially in the Land of Twitter.

In my case, a particular Twitter conversation between myself and @theDapperDiner, a fellow foodie particularly astute in where to find great dining, led to the most wondrous of offerings. I’d thrown him a challenge: find me a resto where my daughter could have some yummy foie over her Christmas holiday in the States.  Visiting from Rome, Italy, she was in the mood for loads and loads of the soon-to-be-banned substance.  @TheDapperDiner responded quickly to my query, mentioning several possibilities.  Among his suggestions were Lafitte’s on the Marina and Fifth Floor.  As the discussion progressed, @bazsf  (aka FF’s New Executive Chef, David Bazirgan) jumped into our twitter thread with an offer to prepare a 12-course Foie Dinner for me and mine.  After pinching myself heartily in disbelief at receiving such a generous offer, I discovered I was indeed, awake.  So before he had time to reconsider, I responded with an enthusiastic Yes!  It was on...
The Untweeted Course, Part One:
Seared Foie Gras

The Untweeted Course, Part Deux
(Terrine of Foie Gras with Toast)
A few weeks later, in the dark, wintry cold of California December in San Francisco, we arrived at Fifth Floor.  The wait staff appeared green with envy at what we were about to enjoy, mentioning that Chef Baz had been laboring intently over various ways to present the delicacy to his guests.  (Pinch self again, at being the actual “guests”)  Chef had, indeed, worked up an imaginative and unusual tasting menu that began with an apple cider concoction and ended with foie ice cream and cake!  All but one course featuring foie gras (Chef Baz in his wisdom opting to omit the foie from the palate cleanser).

After the cocktails were brought out by the waitstaff, I looked up to hear the next course presented and did a movie-worthy double take.  I was dumbfounded to see that we were being served by Bazirgan himself.  That delightful gesture was a thread throughout the evening and I was thrilled.  I like to think it was because I’m special, but in reality, he’d just worked up the menu, and may have been the only one he felt could describe his preparations correctly.  Whatever his reasons, it made for a very special evening, indeed.   We felt like a thrilling combination of family and the judges on Iron Chef, as he showered us with the fruits of his labors.  As it happens, Chef Bazirgan live-tweeted the event, so rather than my feeble attempt at reciting the menu, let’s recap in the Chef’s own words:

Tweet one:
@bazsf (david bazirgan)
Aperitif , foie gras hot toddy

Nantucket Bay Scallops
An imaginative cocktail that tasted of apple and a hint of buttery foie, it was intriguingly flavored, its heat nicely warming any lingering chill from our brisk walk in the December cold.  The fatty richness of the foie was nicely offset by the spices in the beverage. The cocktail reminded me a bit of an apple pie that had been subtly laced with bacon, but the flavor profile was a bit more elegant and complicated than my clumsy description might suggest.  It was a lovely way to begin a meal held in the frigid heart of winter.

Tweet two:
@bazsf (david bazirgan) 
First course , island creek oyster, bearnaise glacage, grated foie, grey mullet bottarga  

Chef Baz prepared each of us a blissful oyster, still in the shell and presented appetizingly on tiny plates, cuddled in their shells and bathing in a blanket of foie-flavored goodness.   These single bites of delectable perfection glided creamily over the palate. The perfect opener for our delectable adventure.

Tweet three:
@bazsf (david bazirgan) 
2nd course; winter harvest, foie mousse , pomegranate gastrique , za'atar , walnut 

 This leafy salad of bitter greens, was crisp and refreshing after the rich and creamy oyster. The wonderfully acidic gastrique of pomegranate, the nutty sesame of the za’atar and walnut all blending into a rewarding flavor profile.  And we can’t forget the foie gras mousse.  Another hit... what could be next?

Pheasant Roulade

Tweet four:
@bazsf (david bazirgan)   
3rd course Nantucket bays, blood orange gel, sea cress, Vin Jaune foie monte , satsuma 

The tiny Bay scallops were perfectly cooked.  The tiny buds of briny fish were complimented beautifully by the richness of the foie, and the acid of the various citrus components added up to culinary magic.

Tweet five:
@bazsf (david bazirgan) 

4th course Pheasant roulade, prune, candy caps, crosnes, purple mustard greens, squash gnocchi @FoodAprecianado need a picture posted! 

The pheasant was mad good!  Rolls of beautifully prepared roulade covered in jus, the greens and the squash another perfect balance.  I love a well done bird, and this concoction was particularly toothsome, blending blissfully with the hint of fruit in the prunes... and the tiny gnocchi were killer.


Tweet six:
@bazsf (david bazirgan)
5th course Venison Loin, grains of paradise, celeriac, foie powder/espuma , chestnut, pain d'epices

Venison carries with it the flavors of the hunt.  The meat’s natural flavor is almost spicy, the elements of the forest the animal consumes forming in alchemic fashion flavors that have always reminded me vaguely of cinnamon.  The venison in this dish was so moist that its natural juices melted into a lovely gravy, enhanced by the requisite foie in the foamy espuma.  The toasted slice of nut-crusted pain d’epices providing a lovely textured crunch against the toothsome slices of  meat.  We were getting full, but that’s never stopped us before!

Tweet seven:
@bazsf (david bazirgan)
Dessert ; foie GRAS ice cream lolli, cotton candy, yuzu/ foie gras cake foie gras buttercream , yuzu mousse,Francis Ang

Foie Cotton Candy
 The first of these two dessert treats was a lovely cotton candy dish that was both light as air and fantastically plated.  The second was a tiny little cake made with, you guessed it, foie gras.  It was rich but not overly sweet, which was good because by this point we were near to bursting.  The two desserts were topped off by a platter of fruit gelatins or pate de fruits.  Tiny, succulent sugary treats to conclude a magnificent feast.

As I recount an evening filled with such delicacies, I can’t help but think of the impending ban of foie gras that will hit California this July.  Spear-headed by vegetarian/vegan zealots, and mast-headed by several well meaning celebrities, it is a short-sighted and outrageously misplaced law.  I respect those who choose not to consume animal proteins, but resent the desire others seem to have to impose their own morality on those around them.  The subject is less a debate about the alleged cruelty of foie gras production than it is about the almost religious posturing of people who believe the consumption of any animal protein is immoral. The anti-foie group would outlaw any meat if they could, foie is simply the easiest target because it is a small industry without high- profile lobbyists and a history that is too easily misrepresented or misunderstood.  Much of the horrific facts that are presented as truth are, in reality, a fairytale.
Foie Cake

Some online resources to better inform the diner:’t-ban-foie-gras


To say that this was an unusual and imaginative journey in food preparation would be an understatement.  Chef Bazirgan was on a mission to create, to amaze and to entertain and he succeeded brilliantly.  When I thanked him via Twitter, he responded with

@bazsf (david bazirgan)
@FoodAprecianado Right on, So stoked to cook with that much foie , you are much appreciated!!!

What a host!  My recommendation?  Stop by Fifth Floor, Bazirgan is as talented as he is easy on the eyes.  Check it out, make a memory of your own.

Fifth Floor Restaurant
(Within the Hotel Palomar)
12 Fourth Street
San Francisco , CA 94103
Phone: 415.348.1555