My 25th birthday was a week's worth of awesome excursions, and the bar of awesomeness was certainly raised by Danielle, who treated me to one of the most sumptuous meals I've ever had. She had shrouded the journey in secrecy, and I only found out about our destination as we drove up to Mission Street in San Francisco--We were going to AQ. AQ's deal is seasonality, and my deal is seasonality. They are also all about tastiness, as am I. Yet, when I go out to eat, I usually tend towards things I can't easily make at home: Pho, sushi, dim sum. If a restaurant uses ingredients I myself use, I often think "Well, I could have just made this at home." Not in this case! So, on to what we tucked in to. Above, my cocktail, the Bison Rose, which consists of Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, Cocchi Americano, and a Meyer lemon rosemary shrub. It was tangy, slightly sweet, and utterly refreshing. PS, Please pardon the painterliness of these photos...neither my camera nor my phone performs well in low-light ambiances, but the iPhone won out, as you can tell by the Instagrammy nature of these shots.
Here we have the darling Danielle with her poison of choice, the Christmas Island--A concoction of white rum, kiwi, champagne, and sweet woodruff tincture.
AQ completely renovates their menu every four months in celebration of the seasonal bounty that they have access to in Northern California. Everything is also plated delicately and sparingly--Just enough food for a couple of bits between two people before the next course is brought on. And the next. And the next. Here we have leeks, eucalyptus, molasses, venison, and savory granola. This was my first foray into venison!
We sat at the bar, which was a treat, as we got to sneak peaks at all the chefs do their cheffy thing, dabbing and swiping sauces on plates and carefully stacking the components of a dish.
This was a favorite of mine and Danielle's: Rabbit merguez (my first rabbit, too!), sweetbreads, and carrot, with yellow eye and carrot harissa. The harissa offered a nice spicy kick, and all the bits were delicious. I also appreciated the macabre cheekiness of serving rabbit with carrots--A very deconstructed Bugs Bunny.
Here, another contender for top place in my heart: Guinea hen, sweet potato, cereals, and salted persimmon butter. This tasted very sagey and buttery, which happen to be two of my favorite things. The "cereal" was some indiscernable, slightly chewy and delicious grain. And the persimmon bits! Oh, persimmons. I miss you already.
Above the chef station, a lamp that resembles a gargantuan whisk!
Here, suckling porchetta, chestnuts and anchovy, kohlrabi, and burnt oranges. Look at those cute little kohlrabi leaves.
Another favorite: Well, anything with avocado. But especially avocado with grapefruit, sesame, and parsnip milk. The orange strips you see can best be described as crispy/chewy concentrated grapefruit juice, the sweet bitterness of which paired nicely with the tingly freshness of the non-dehydrogenated pink grapefruit slices.
On to dessert! This is Danielle's jasmine, white chocolate, kiwi, menthol, and spearmint...a diaphanous creation I expect the elves breakfast on in Rivendell.
And my chocolate, dark beer, malt, devil's food cake, and almonds, which I expect is best breakfasted on past noon in your pajamas with a blissful smile on your face. The chocolate came in the form of those half-mousse, half-fudge drops of chocolate and the ring of moist dark chocolatey cake, the beer was the sweet and bitter cream in the center, and the malt and almonds made up the salty, sweet, crunchy brittle strewn across. Man, I could go for some more of this. More of everything, actually, now that I'm reliving it in blog form.
The exterior of AQ, branches dangling from the windows. Now I can't wait for it to be spring. And then summer. And then autumn again, so I can luxuriate in my beer and chocolate and salty almonds, or in whatever other excellence they dream up in the meantime.