Friday, August 8, 2014

David Posey Cooks At Commonwealth SF

Commonwealth SF guest chef David Posey at the pass last Monday 5th August. He and the Commonwealth kitchen staff orchestrated a well-timed, compact dinner that featured dishes that were layered and refined and beautifully composed on the plate. Seemingly inspired by the new Nordic cuisine and Australian fusion cooking, the courses highlighted the purity of local ingredients in an intricate composition often inspired by nature's views.

Posey's posse (sorry) of line cooks exhibited a calm energy, executing the dishes with precision.

I brought with me three bottles, all whites, as I anticipated--this being Commonwealth SF--they would go best with the food. One was Didier Dagueneau's 2005 Buisson Renard Blanc Fume de Pouilly. I also deliberately dug up from my cellar a 2001 Meursault from Lafon simply because I'm tired of hearing the shrill premox reports on this wine. More on this later.

To start, an amuse of ratatouile with a spicy kick in a cylindrical toast, and raw albacore with tomato sabayon.

From the Commonwealth staff. The most beautiful dish I've ever seen done with oysters. A marinescape. Devastatingly good as it looks. Sous-vide oysters in cucumber (poured table side) with ice plant and tapioca pearls of coconut water, garnished with borage. Tremendous with Dagueneau's 05 Buisson Renard.

From David Posey. Confit of trout with smoked trout roe, served with zucchini, tomatillo, and purslane. With this dish, the vibrant richness of Lafon's 01 Meursault Clos de la Barre was brilliant.

From the Commonwealth staff. The evening's biggest surprise and most satisfying course . Okra encased in a crispy, thin, filigree crust; with caviar, velvety sweet corn pudding, and whipped creme fraiche, garnished with five kinds of tiny basil leaves. I was so blown away, I ordered this course again at the end of the dinner prior to dessert. Lafon's 01 Meursault worked well with it the first time; while on the second time, another Lafon, his 04 Macon Clos de la Crochette, was equally terrific.

A break. Perfectly timed bread service. Tartine bread, rightfully served on a cedar plank, with butter from Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. The butter knife is Oneida.

From David Posey. Roasted lobster with coffee-braised lobster mushroom draped with thinly sliced gunde's pickles.

From David Posey. Tender aged lamb loin, with turnips and sunflower pesto. The wedges of peaches were brilliant, providing a sweet contrast--a chutney-like effect with the turnips and pesto--and making the dish more lively.

So, as I mentioned, I specifically pulled a bottle of 2001 Lafon Meursault because I'm exasperated by widespread social media premox claims on these wines. I love 2001 Lafons, but then again, I love all vintages from Lafon. I have some 2001 bottles stored in my temperature-controlled storage since release. All imported by Beaune Imports, of course. The bottle I chose to bring was the Clos de la Barre, as this seems to be the main premox culprit. I can tell you that from the get-go and 3-plus hours later, the bottle performed stupefyingly fresh and youthful. I shared the wine with people I was dining with, and I poured a glass for the Commonwealth staff and even gave them the rest of the bottle that still had another good pour left. Everyone loved the wine. Nothing was wrong; on the contrary, it was everything one would expect from Lafon. What can I say?

The other wine alongside the Meursault was Didier Dagueneau's 2005 Buisson Renard. Wow! If forced to choose at gunpoint between the Meursault and the Pouilly, I would choose the Pouilly. The acidity on this wine was numbing at first, but I warmed up to it. Still a very young Sauvignon Blanc at almost ten years on, it offered herbal and spice layers that are a dream to pair with food, especially the kind that Commonwealth serves. If you're wondering what kind of wine to bring at Commonwealth, bring a Dagueneau.

A third bottle I opened was another Lafon, but from south of the Cote d'Or-Mâconnais line. Everyone on our table decided to go for the gusto and order the okra course again, just before the dessert. That was how much we loved this dish. This 2004 Mâcon was a godsend for the dish, as it evoked herbal and vegetal flavors with its fresh citrus and minerality. On a previous visit to Commonwealth I brought a 2003 Lafon Mâcon; what a perfect choice that was, too.

This dinner only bolstered my admiration for Commonwealth SF. The restaurant is usually described by restaurant critics as being "California" and "progressive", which don't really mean anything. But that's the story of Commonwealth, its approach to food defies being conveniently pigeon-holed. You have to go there and experience it. Then you decide if you like it or not. I've already made my mind up on my first visit two years ago.

Footnote: An unexpected bonus when going out in the Mission on a Monday night is running into a brass band. Mission Delirium's klezmer-like thumping and seemingly dissonant beat and the animated energy of its brass players and drummers were electric. They had me shaking and thrashing about late in the night--a great aid for digestion.

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