Walter Mencken 4 p.m., Dec. 14
The View from TBL3—Part 2
More from chef Trey Foshee's uber-gourmet dining experience at George's California Modern
Yesterday, I started explaining a recent exploration of chef Trey Foshee’s TBL3 dining experience at George’s California Modern (1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla). The 12- to 14-course experience includes some of Foshee’s more out-there and modernistic techniques and is, as one would expect, a bit expensive. But many foodies will save up for a nice meal if they know it’ll be good. I enjoyed my TBL3 sampling and am using my words and camera to give you a glimpse so you can make your mind up as to whether this dining option merits financial planning.
So, where did I leave off? Oh yes, the fifth course. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to refer to haute cuisine as “crack,” but let me tell you, course cinco was like a glassful of culinary crack! Labeled simply as “poached egg,” it consists of the following: caramelized onion purée topped with a mixture of sautéed black trumpet and maitake mushrooms mixed with crème fraîche and tarragon, an egg cooked in a water bath set to 62 degrees Celsius, and a foam made from potato and milk. From the second my spoon burst the egg’s perfectly runny yolk, I found myself in breakfast-for-dinner heaven. The dish is decadent yet soft and silken. The mushrooms add just enough to keep things texturally interesting and the onions bring on the perfect level of sweetness. And that foam tastes like the best mashed potatoes ever. Foshee can officially add a “crack dealer” line item to his résumé.
The sixth course displayed how esoteric ingredients are every bit the focus of TBL3 as chef’s skill sets. Though turnips were billed as its main ingredient, what was most interesting about this offering was wild rice procured from a small operation in Minnesota. It’s truly “wild” versus the cultivated varieties we are used to seeing, and roasted over wood to parch it before being hulled, cleaned, and sent to Foshee, who buys as much of this delicacy as he can. Several crunchy grains, which taste a bit like blackened popcorn, find a home atop a sheath of melted lardo blanketing the turnips.
Course seven, though the unluckiest of the procession for Foshee, was certainly the most intriguing. Chef came to the table holding a terra cotta flowerpot filled with a salt and ground coffee “soil” mixture with three carrot tops poking out of it. He proceeded to liberate them, using a small brush to remove all of the soil from them before placing them on serving plates with dollops of yogurt and a carrot jam made from purple carrot juice, diced pickled carrots and pectin. The accoutrements were nice, but unfortunately the carrots were too salty. Foshee admitted this was a dish in early development and has likely fine tuned it by now. If nothing else, this is the type of clever I’ve only seen at places like The French Laundry and Chicago’s theatrical Next.
The “main course” of sorts was perfectly pink breast of squab with a broccoli mousse, crackly charred mustard greens, black garlic, and a sauce made from the fowl’s liver. It was plated nicely and tasted lovely, but after all the avant garde dishes I’d consumed to that point it came through as ho-hum. It’s almost humorous to me how an overload of top tier cuisine can jade one’s taste buds and food perceptions. Make no mistake, this dish was outstanding. It just lacked the pizzazz of carrots pulled from salted coffee soil or a full breakfast elegantly condensed into a small glass.
Dessert came off the regular menu, but was anything but standard. My favorite last course in the world is carrot cake. I’ve had it hundreds of times, but never the way it came served at George’s—two pieces of carrot cake with a carrot butter purée, lavender-poached raisins, orange segments, carrot ice cream, carrot meringue, fresh lavender and brown butter “dust.” The use of grape seed oil and pineapple juice in place of butter in the cake transformed a traditional dessert into the stuff of super moist legend. Sampling the cake with different combinations of the many go-withs was not only fun, but a study in harmonious couplings.
Overall, TBL3 is a great example of the expertise and calculated whimsy Foshee brings to San Diego’s dining scene. It’s a splurge, but there are few opportunities for such variedly tasty indulgence in our fair county. It’s up to every foodie to decide whether they’re up for dropping their hard earned money on something like this, but in my opinion, TBL3 is Trey magnifique!