TBL3 @ George's California Modern (November 2012)

>> Friday, November 9, 2012

Date of Dining: 11/8/2012
Price: $170 for TBL3, $80 for wine pairing
Location: 1250 Prospect, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Quick Bit

+ seasonal ingredients prepared masterfully
+ great selections of wine for pairing
+ completely different experience from previous TBL3
Δ the storytelling of the experience could have been more consistent

While I've enjoyed a variety of other tasting experiences in the past year, it would have been wrong of me to not visit the penultimate progressive meal this year (and during my personal favorite food season of the year). During the TBL3 meal last year, I learned much more about Chef Trey Foshee's food and was so happy that many of the dishes won my end of the year awards.
For this TBL3, many other food writers were included - it was organized by Yao at {insert-food} and also included Rodzilla as well as (newly launched) Foodie Flirt. It was a great opportunity to catch up with Yao after his trip to Australia and meet Foodie Flirt for the first time.
Perhaps as a disclaimer, I've been sick for about a week prior to this meal, but felt good enough to go eat the food. I feel like I was able to taste about 80% of the flavors but may have missed some of the more delicate touches.

First Course

local lobster - spiny lobster leg meat, citrus whipped cream, northern divine salmon roe,
jerusalem artichoke, sorrel
pairing: NV Henry Devernay Brut
The meal opened with the seasonal spiny lobster of local waters. I sampled a piece of the leg meat at first and I was really surprised to discover that the flavor was in fact more intense in the leg meat. The citrus cream was really well done in that the cream was extremely smooth in flavor but the citrus really came through in the flavor. The caviar added a nice element of saltiness. Taken together, the entire dish really worked nicely as an opening course.

Second Course

cup covers the smoke inside the oyster
oyster - fannie bay oyster, candied buddha's hand, apple, celery root puree, smoke
pairing: NV Henry Davernay Brut
As the cup was lifted, a pervasive smoky aroma permeated through the air. The smelling experience of the smoke was truly part of the dining experience. The oyster itself was extremely creamy and had a nice flavor. The celery root puree added a creamy textural component to carry through the dish, which the apples added a bit of sweetness and textural contrast.

Third Course

cup that was covering the oyster
pairing: GCT - gin and tonic with celery and candied buddha's hand
beef tongue - brandade cream, cherry tomatoes, purslane, germanium
This was the best dish of the night for me; moreover this is a strong contender for best dish of the year. Chef Foshee described this dish as a "play on smoke" with the previous dish and also his take on a vitello tonnato.
The beef tongue was incredibly tender and contained a strong essence of beef flavor. It was complemented with the incredible salted cod flavor of the brandade cream. The greens enhanced the flavors of everything and added a needed acidic contrast. When I had everything in my mouth and bit into the tomato, the tomato juice literally burst the flavors throughout my palate as an explosion.
To cap off the dish, the drink was incredibly well done. The smoke in the glass really worked well with the gin and tonic and the celery and candied buddhas hand added a very nice flavor.

Fourth Course

peas - chino farm pea puree, tosse peas, lettuce puree, lemon foam
pairing: 2008 Gutzler Pinot Noir (blanc)
While I was wondering what could possibly follow the amazing beef tongue, this dish was an incredible followup that completely caught me off guard. At first we were wondering if peas were in season, but were informed that there are actually two pea seasons and that the fall pea season is preferred because the sugars in the peas are a bit purer in flavor. This pea puree was incredibly flavorful and supplemented well with the perfectly al dente crunchy peas. The popping texture was an amazing feeling in the mouth. Finally, the lemon foam really worked in brightening the dish and adding a bit of acid without compromising the quality of the peas.

Fifth Course

turnips - sous vide turnip, seaweed butter, uni, white truffle
pairing: 2009 Evening Land 'Summum' Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnay
Chef Foshee came tableside to shave the white truffles on top of the turnips - this is actually my first time to have white truffle, and I can definitely confirm that I prefer it to black. The aroma of the truffle was enough to still permeate through my sick haze and I really enjoyed the aroma.
What I really enjoyed in this dish was the strong umami flavors complemented by the earthy truffles. The turnip cooked sous vide oozed of umami, but was topped with the seaweed butter that even further enhanced these flavors. The uni added a nice salty and seafood contrast while the earthiness of the truffles rounded out the dish.

Sixth Course

chino farms squash - butternut squash puree brussels sprouts, persimmon, pomegranate, brown butter sauce
pairing: 2011 Long Shadow's 'Poet's Leap' Riesling
(photo provided by insert-food - my camera battery died and I lost the save of this photo)

The squash was prepared very nicely as the puree had a really sweet and creamy flavor that was complemented but the crunchiness of the pomegranate seeds. This course was perhaps somewhat lacking without the wine pairing, but really made sense when drinking with the wine. The squash and other fruits acted as the "front end" component to the wine while the Riesling had an incredible long and complex finish to carry through the dish.

Seventh Course

poached chicken - poached chicken, chicken jelly, chicken skin, maitake mushroom
pairing: 2009 Weingut Knoll gruner veltliner
Prior to the meal, Chef Foshee found out I was sick and joked that he would include some chicken soup on the menu; I imagine he was referencing this dish when he mentioned that comment. When Rodzilla read the tweet, he jokingly blamed me for "wasting" a course while Yao and I assured him that it would include some other fabulous ingredients.
While I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this dish, I still felt that it was a great take on a deconstructed chicken soup. The chicken jelly acted as the broth while the poached chicken pieces were the meat. The raw matsutake mushrooms were sliced very thinly and acted as noodles. Those three components taken together had a very soulful and delicate amalgamation of flavor. While the chicken skin was absolutely delicious and a great textural crunch, the boldness of the flavor did somewhat cover the other delicate flavors. However, it was still a great component to be included in the dish.

Eighth Course

snapper - snapper, grapefruit, verbena, fish bone and verbena stock
pairing: 2010 Salwey Pinot Gris
As this was more of a delicate flavor dish, I felt that I perhaps missed some of the delicate flavors from being sick. I really enjoyed the quality of the snapper in the raw form.

Ninth Course

swordfish - swordfish a la plancha, chino farms yellow, green, white cauliflower, italian parsley, bacon
pairing: 2010 Chateau Thivin Gamay
The cauliflower had three preparations - grilled, raw, and puree - and really was the star of the dish. The different contrasts of the cauliflower really supplemented the flavor of the swordfish and added moistness to the fish. The bacon added nice bits of salitness as well.

Tenth Course

soil-crust grill - salt, egg white, star anise, cafe motto coffee
carrot - yogurt, carrot jam
pairing: 2008 Falcor Sangiovese
This dish was a complete revelation and the playfulness was extremely enjoyable as well. The carrot was rich enough to act as a protein from the soil-crust grill and retained much of the coffee flavors. The house made yogurt was incredibly tasty and the sourness of it acted as a nice contrast with the rich earthy sweetness of the carrot. The carrot jam added a nice sweet tartness to really round out the flavors of the dish. 

Eleventh Course

lamb - paella rice, hollandaise squid ink, seaweed, lamb, squid, lamb jus
pairing: 2003 Chateau Simard
A classic surf and turf rounded out the savory courses. The cooking temperatures of every component on the plate was spot on. I especially enjoyed the squid preparation. One interesting thing I found about this dish was that eating each of the proteins with the other components worked well, but eating them together also brought out an entirely different flavor profile that was enjoyable as well

Twelfth Course

frozen yogurt - late season kumquat, kalamata olive,bourbon, vanilla gelee
This course served as a great palate cleanser with the acidity from the kumquat. The frozen yogurt was also extremely well done with the vanilla gelee enhancing the vanilla flavors of the yogurt. What really worked in the dish was the kumquat olive and bourbon mix that complemented the flavors of the vanilla frozen yogurt.

Thirteenth Course

brown butter pear - pear, hazelnut, parsnip panna cotta, parsnip chip
pairing: 2008 domain de durban muscat de beaumes de venise
When Chef Foshee brought out this dish, I was extremely impressed with his description of the parnsnip chip - he described it as a "dynamic garnish." The way my parsnip chip was bent into the great shape, I thought it was dynamic indeed. The pairing of the pear and parsnip was an excellent choice as it contrasted a root vegetable sweetness with the sweetness of a fruit. The hazelnuts was the intermediate earthy flavor that tied the elements together, and the dynamic garnish even seemed to emulate the branches of the tree. I appreciated that this dish was not too sweet, but was packed with flavor.

Fourteenth Course

chocolate cremeux - red wine quince, sesame brittle, cumin ice cream, chocolate cremeux
pairing: 2009 cargasacchi 'invincible sun' late harvest pinot grigio
This was the first time I had quince and I was really impressed with this preparation. There was a nice sweetness and tartness to the dish that really worked well with the cumin ice cream. If I had to pick a star of the dish, it was the cumin ice cream. The spice of the cumin was just the right level to work with the quince and also enhance the flavors of the cremeux. The cremeux was a nice and rich dark chocolate flavor that was a nice way to finish off a meal.


While I felt my first TBL3 experience was a real showcase of Chef Foshee's culinary vision and talent, this experience combined that vision and really showcased all the flavors of fall as well. So many of the components in our meal were extremely seasonal to this time of the year and they were featured prominently throughout the meal. While I consider myself having eaten many things, it was great to enjoy this meal with several components that flavors that I haven't had previously - namely the white truffles, quince, and buddha's hand (as more than a garnish). 
The company I had to enjoy the meal was superb as well. I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones as well. 
 While the service was much improved from the last meal, it still has a small ways to improve. While I felt that there was a progression and story to this meal, I got lost in the story somewhere in the middle. Had there been a bit more consistency to how the dishes were brought I feel that the experience would be perfect.
Still TBL3 is easily San Diego's premier tasting experience. My experience at TBL3 this year is enough to upgrade my award to the coveted Terrabyte award. Congratulations Chef Foshee!


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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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