My reward for spending my vacation with Betsy's family (I like them all, but still) was dinner for just the two of us at Manresa in Los Gatos. I had eaten at the Beard House when David Kinch cooked there, and was looking forward to this evening. Possibly too much, my expectations were high. Yet they were surpassed all the way around. There were no lowpoints -not one flawed dish, complaint about service, and or fault with the space. The food was uniformly delicious, stunning visually, and interesting. Stunningly good restaurant.
We had the tasting menu. I wish I had taken food notes at the time, but I was too busy enjoying the meal, the atmosphere,and dinner with my wife to scribble. I might have something out of sequence and I definitely missed some sides (which dish had the mushrooms, the lettuce "gazpacho", the roasted yellow beets and gazpacho of red beets) but here is my memory:
The amuse bouche parade started immediately:
Red pepper gelee and black olive madeleines
Strawberry gazpacho, with almond
French radishes with tarragon creme fraiche
corn croquettes (little bursts of what creamed corn wished it was)
The final and showstopper of the amuses was an soft barely warm egg replaced in shell on a chive (?) base and topped with eggwhites mixed with maple syrup, with a little salt. Amazing
A crisp and yeasty cava accompanied all of these little tastes, I neglected to note the producer.
Then on the "real" courses. We had ordered the wine pairings.
Double cooked foie gras with green apples,
2004 Amador Foothills Late Harvest Semillon (Shenandoah Valley)
A little lacking in acidity, but pleasant apricot, orange, and baked apple flavors B/B-
Melon soup with homemade tofu
2004 Naia (Rueda)
Crisp, grapefruit, nice easy wine and a surprisingly good match. B+
Softshell crab and shellfish in a curry sauce
2004 Nora Albarino (Rias Baixas)
More peachy/nectariney, but with good acidity and crisp clean finish. B/B+
Japanese sea bream
2005 Mas Grand Plagniol Blanc (Costieres de Nimes)
Very perfumed nose, with ok green apple and citrus fruit. A bit short on finish. My least favorite of dry wines, but not bad, and one must remember I'm no fan of Rhone whites.
Nasturium risotto with nasturium blossoms and unopened squash blossoms
2004 Gerhart Kabinett Trocken (Rheingau)
A lot of depth here, not a producer I'm familiar with. Rich deep fruit, dry yet not austere, long finish. B+
Porcetta (I remember loving this dish, but can't remember sides- mushrooms?)
2004 Clape Les Vin des Amis (Rhone)
Probably my favorite wine of the evening. Rich black cherry and blackberry fruit, with pepper and grilled meat. Maybe not the gravity of a Cornas (I don't think this even qualifies as CdR), but an excellent little Rhone with depth.A-/B+
Lamb loin (same)
2002 Mas Grand Plagniol (Costieres de Nimes)
This was also peppery, more Northern than Southern Rhone, though it did have a Provencal herb note to the nose. B/B+
Staff was accomodating -due to neurosis, I don't eat desserts, so they brought me a selection of cheeses (faves were Roaring 40s and a California cheese called Euphoria) while Betsy had her desserts:
spearmint sorbet with warm local berries
jasmine ice cream on warm chocolate muffin
and....something else (chocolately I think)
We had the Warres "Otima" 10 Year Tawny
A pleasant VA lift on the nose, very raisins, with some pecany notes. I'm not a big tawny drinker but this was nice, and fit in better than the VPs I'm more likely to usually favor. B+
Fantastic evening. If we did it again, we'd maybe get one wine pairings and a glass of white for Betsy. The dry wines probably had 3 oz pours, and a lot was left (she was driving).
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.