This past week, Eric and I had the great pleasure of visiting some of the best food and beverage spots that LA and Seattle have to offer, the most notable being The NoMad Hotel. The NoMad was especially memorable for the excellent food but also the experience. Eric’s sister, Ashley Abodeely, is the Chef De Cuisine there and she not only customized our menu but gave us a tour of the kitchens, and introduced us to some of her spectacularly talented co-workers. I don’t have the palette or the experience to talk about this food or these people the way that they should be talked about, but I’ll do my best.
Let me start by saying that my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Ashley, is amazing. She graduated culinary school and worked for L’Espalier in Boston, specializing in modern New England-French cuisine. When she was ready for a new challenge, she took a few days off work, which is a big commitment for someone who works 18+ hours a day, and staged (a fancy term for working for free in another cook’s kitchen) for Chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park in NYC. To be perfectly and unflinchingly frank, Ashley is a badass and she got the job. From Eleven Madison Park, Ashley went on the work as the Chef De Cuisine at The NoMad, another of Chef Humm’s restaurants. When Chef Humm was ready to open another hotel in California, he asked Ashley to work The NoMad food truck for a year leading up to the new hotel’s opening this past January.
The LA NoMad is almost as gorgeous as the menu is and we got to see more of it than most people do. While we were waiting on appetizers from our custom menu, which was comprised of dishes selected by Chef Ashley, she gave us a special tour of the various dining rooms and kitchens. I’ll be honest, I was a little overwhelmed and had already sampled some excellent champagne, but I’m confident that I saw three different kitchens and I’m pretty sure that Eric’s and Ashley’s Dad said that there was a fourth kitchen hiding out somewhere. We also toured a specialty dining room, where Jesse Ferguson was supping, the Mezzanine fine dining room, the wine room, and lounge.
When we returned to our seats, we were treated to our choice of delicious cocktails (I had an incredible dirty martini that was WAY too easy to drink) and the following appetizers:
This hummus is not your typical chickpea-based spread. Rather it’s a fresh, chartreuse-green affair made of whipped fava beans blended with herbed ricotta and pistachios, served with a thin and crispy lavash bread.
Step aside beef, this tartare is carrot-based and a specialty of Eleven Madison Park. The ground carrot is seasoned with a variety of accouterments, including sunflower seeds, mustard, and a raw quail egg, and served in an adorable lidded glass pot.
Black Truffle Flatbread
This probably makes me extra-uncouth, not to mention extra-unworthy of this menu, but the flatbread pizza was my favorite menu item. I’ve had black truffle before, but not like this. The personal flatbread pizza starts with a crisp piece of bread, I’m not sure what kind, but it’s thin and crunchy as hell. The bread is then topped with a generous, but not overwhelming, layer of shredded parmesan cheese and crème fraîche. On top of that, the cheese is topped with thinly shaved black truffle. When I say thin, I mean transparent to the point that light passes through it and you can see the intricate truffle pattern. However, this doesn’t mean scant—I ate more black truffle in that one sitting than I have in the rest of my life. I got extra lucky because Eric isn’t a big parmesan fan, so I got to finish his flatbread too—score 🙂
This wasn’t your Grandma’s shrimp cocktail. It was more like a deconstructed cocktail made by filleting prawns and then topping them with tomato, chili, shredded horseradish, and a spritz of Meyer lemon juice.
This was a winner as well. These long, flat, ribbon-like Italian noodles were dressed with a light, buttery sauce that included lemon, chives, and black pepper, then topped with Alaskan King Crab. I’m not usually a crab fan but this dish was incredible.
If this had been the end of our visit to The NoMad, that would have been good enough for me, but it was far from it. Following the appetizer course were the entrées. Oh My God, the entrées. If I’m being honest, I lucked out because this course was very meat-heavy and I was already on the uncomfortably-full side. There were three entrées:
I was able to sample the Branzino, the Italian name (that I had to look up) for European Seabass. It was seasoned with Fennel and roasted beautifully, then dressed with yogurt and citrus.
This is an Italian dish and pretty much the fanciest fried chicken dish that you’ve ever had. I had to look this one up too, here’s Martha Stewart’s Chicken Milanese recipe. Chicken Milanese is created by slicing a chicken breast to make two fillets, then breading and frying it. The chicken is seasoned simply with coarse salt, ground black pepper, and lemon juice. The chicken was then topped with a light apple, celery, and black truffle salad. Because who could ever have enough black truffle?
There was a steak, I have no idea what kind and it’s not on the menu—this was made especially for Ashley’s Dad 🙂 From the photo I took, the steak seems to be topped with some light brown sauce or glaze (though that may have just been juice), followed by what looks like a radicchio frisee salad—Eric’s best guess—and a huge pat of herbed butter.
Accompanying the entrees was a generous basket of herbed fries spritzed with lemon juice—incredible.
I may have appeared to wimp-out during the main course but I was just steeling myself for dessert. Honestly, I’m not generally a big fan of dessert. I love chocolate and I’ll eat just about anything with peanut butter on it, but I’m really more of a salt-and-fat person. That said, the dessert course was amazing.
This little chocolate tart consisted of a chocolate tart shell filled with a smooth melted chocolate, cream, and egg mixture, that’s topped with thick, rich, salted caramel.
Milk & Honey: Part Un
This dessert was a delicious (and branded!) vanilla ice cream sandwich made with graham crackers (or maybe shortbread?). The sandwich edges are then rimmed with sea salt and bee pollen.
Milk & Honey: Part Deux
This is the deconstructed version of the Milk & Honey ice cream sandwich. This dish has three wonderful little scoops of vanilla that are admirably smooth and shaped like stuffed shells. The scoops sit on a bed of shortbread and brittle, and are drizzled with honey.
I don’t know if this is the correct use the term, culinarily speaking, but I’m going for it—this was the pièce de ré·sis·tance of the meal. It wasn’t my favorite part, I don’t even think it was the prettiest part, but the presentation was remarkable. The Baked Alaska was comprised of strawberry, lemon, and vanilla ice cream layers topped with swirls of meringue and flambé-ed.
Thank you, Chef Ashley, for an exquisite meal and an even more memorable experience <3