February 13, 2005

Valentine's Eve Dinner at Josie

Tonight, my husband Kelly surpised me with reservations to Josie. We sat around the house all day just waiting to go eat, and finally I suggested we go to the nearby mall to see if I could find soup bowls that matched my Noritake set at Robinson May. We got all dressed up and went to the mall, no luck. That done, we still had time to kill so we went to the 99¢ store. Dressed to the nines, I might add, ha ha.

Finally it was time for our reservation, so we drove down Pico, and found a parking spot right across the street from the front door. We were seated within moments, and after we placed our order, the amuse bouche arrived: a sliver of a Mushroom and Gorgonzola Quiche. We each ordered an appetizer; mine was a warm vegetable salad of roasted beets, wedges of winter squashes, and pomegranate reduction, and his was a fig and goat cheese tart with toasted hazelnuts with port wine, in a crust I couldn't quite decipher. (I'm thinking it was made with cornmeal?) I'm so lucky that 1) Kelly's willing to share and 2) Kelly's not embarassed to pass his half-eaten plate over while I pass my half-eaten plate under.

For the entrée, Kelly ordered the venison, which came with deep fried rapini, wild rice, pecans and a red-wine-poached pear. The venison was positively divine. I'm fortunate that he gave me a bite before he took his own, because after he tasted how good it was, I don't think he'd have shared! The pecans weren't embellished as far as I could tell, but they were cooked through and not crisp/crunchy. The rapini was okay: it had the fried-food taste I associate with chinese food.

I ordered the Tagine made with Short Ribs. I love moroccan food. I just love the combination of sweet and savory flavors to be eaten together. I was fairly surprised, however, that it was actually served in a tagine, since it basically looked like a big yellow party hat on a plate. Kelly said it looked as if a snake was about to be charmed out of it. Basically the two couples next to us kept looking at it, wondering what I got! Once the server came out and took the lid off it, I'm sure the other couples could smell it too.... fragrant with spices and dried fruits, with cauliflower, cubes of squash, pearl Cous-Cous and resting on top of all that, beef short ribs, topped with some thick yogurt. YUM. Oh, and some flat crisp bread on the side, with some heavily spiced almond raita. The Cous-Cous and veggies were great, the meat was tender but a little gristly. ...and I nearly ate the whole thing. I had a glass of 2002 Tantara Pinot Noir, one of only three reds on the wine list available by the glass. It was very nice; remarkable enough for me to ask for the wine list to make sure I got the name right!

So, I've got just the teeniest bit of insight into this restaurant that the average gourmand would have, since I did a report on Josie LaBalch for culinary school. *grin* I also worked there for a couple of weeks before I, ahem, excused myself from the place for not knowing enough to be useful and taking up too much precious space in the kitchen. Frank, her husband and sommelier, is the person who interviewed and ultimately hired me two years ago... and who bid us goodnight as we left tonight.

This was the only the first time I have been a guest at this restaurant, but it will certainly not be the last! My clients can look forward to my ripping off edible manifestations of flattering Josie by imitating her work.

Last thing I ate or drank: We're both moaning about how stuffed we are.

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