24 August 2007

A Full Evening at Ford's Filling Station

I've always thought of myself as a one glass of wine, one bottle of beer, or one cocktail with my meal kind of gal. As a result, I'm shy about suggesting ordering a bottle of wine when dining out with friends, preferring to play it safe with something by the glass. But I had dinner with E. a couple nights ago who feels differently on the subject. She thinks wine by the glass is a complete rip-off and restaurants make away like bandits on suckers (my word, not hers) like me who go in for it; moreover, the amount in a bottle is made for two to share, she stressed. Persuaded by her argument, I decided to do a bottle with her.

After some thought and consideration of a Vouvray or Sancerre, I choose the Sancerre ‘thought pricier of the two and more of a spurge. (E. let me pick the wine.) It was a light 'n lively fruity wine that was very drinkable. E. and I finished it nicely during our 3-hour leisurely dinner, proving E.'s bottle and 2-people theory and leaving me surprisingly proud our accomplishment—I'm not as much of a lightweight as I thought.

With issues of drink discussed and out of the way, E. and I moved to address the food situation. We quickly decided that none of the entrées were that compelling, so we'd share assorted appetizers instead.

The first of our three rounds of food was a plate of cured meats and flatbread with shrimp and white bean purée. Now maybe my palate has been compromised by spicy salumi and hot pastrami sandwiches when it comes to cured meats, and it can't appreciate the subtle tastes that lomo and bresaola have to offer, but I found our meat plate to be lacking in a little something. I would have liked it dressed with more than olives, possibly some olive oil and cracker pepper to encourage these lean cuts of meat to release more flavors.

The flatbread with shrimp remains one of my favorites at Ford's; the second time around for me was as good as my first time last year. And as I said before, it’s the thin slices of fresh lemons that make this dish; they are the perfect grace note to the other mellow flavors on the bread, brightening the creamy beans and delicate shrimp with a touch of citrus.

The second round continued the parade from the sea with Kusshi oysters on the half-shell with a tomato jam mignonette and fried clams. What can be said about the divine pleasure that is eating—or slurping—a raw oyster that hasn't been said already; words often fail in the experience, which for some are profound the first time—including me. Full of contradictions, oysters are beautiful things to eat: simultaneous sweet and briny, and possessing a mouth-feel that’s cool and refreshing, yet rich and luxuriant.

But enough about oysters in general, and more about these Kusshi; they were plumb little things, more sweet and lighter on the brine. The tomato mignonette didn't do much for me and actually washed away some of the flavor of the oyster, so in the end I preferred to go without the condiment. The fried clams were just fun to eat—popcorn of the sea. I'd had them before and their quality remained consistent. They were fried well; crisp cornmeal batter sealed the juicy sweetness of the clams, which were tender and nicely done, chewy without being rubbery.

I started seeing red when our final around of food was brought to our table, meaning it was time to dig into the steak tartare and roasted beets with burrata. While I'm comfortable eating dried meat that I know is in essence still raw, this was my first time with fresh, raw meat. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this steak tartare wasn't it. And it wasn't because I didn’t like it, but what threw me was that the raw meat was so altered in appearance that I couldn't recognize it. I was expecting ground beef and marbled texture, but these red bits were lean and looked diced into mini cubes.

‘Though my perceptions of beef were being challenged, I can honestly say I liked the steak tartare. While being strange and new, there was something oddly familiar about it, too; and after repeated puzzling mouthfuls, I finally put my finger on it—it tasted like an altered version of corned beef and hash. Now bear with me, this wasn't the wine talking, doing a number on my cognitive functions and taste buds 'cause we'd finished the bottle by now. There was seasoned beef, topped with a fried egg and served with potato chips. Think about it—see the connection. I announced this to E. and she saw were I saw coming from although she's didn't taste it that way herself.

The roasted beets seemed pedestrian when next to the steak tartare cum radical corned beef, but they were pleasantly so. I'm very fond of beets and cook them at home, so I've found another simple preparation for them. I also like the delicate touch of creaminess that the burrata brought; it was a richness that didn't overpower the mild beets.

Six plates later, E. and I had eaten a lot of food, obviously, but I was still determined to have desert. One needs to have something sweet to cap off a meal like this; it's only proper. And when a girl wants satisfaction in food, what does she do—she heads straight for the chocolate. So it was with me in the form of a chocolate malted créme brûlée with fudge bottom.

I had saved room for this and wouldn't be denied the gratification. I crack the burnt sugar, plunge my spoon through the chocolate cream, and scrap up through the fudge-y bottom. First anticipation, then taste, and finally the reward of pure pleasure; each bite was a chocolate rush that made me giddy, layers of chocolate, cream and fudge, melting in waves across my tongue.

So, happiness came, one bottle of wine, six small plates, one desert, and two cups of coffee later—and it was worth the wait, and the bill.

I left Ford’s Filling Station full—and bursting.

Ford's Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90232
Ph: 310-202-1470

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