My "Last Meal" Meal. Michael's Restaurant. Santa Monica, CA.
It's the last meal of your life. The final food you will ever taste on this plane before your executioner pulls the switch, lever or trigger. Not exactly the most appetizing of dinner conversations (at least not the horrific death by electrocution part), but there it is, so what will it be?
Still, it can be some of the most appetizing and fun food fantasizing we ever do. Most often those macabre meal selections we'd select are the ones most familiar to us, like a childhood favorite food or a home cooked meal. Would you really want 38 courses of El Bulli as your last meal? Okay, bad example. It'd be pretty spectacular, plus that epicurean extravaganza could buy a few extra hours on Earth. But, really what I'm talking about is that one ideal meal (or comfort meal) you request before you kick it. So make it a good one.
My menu for my last meal would likely depend on what the state's budget is at the time of my untimely demise. If it was during this Great Recession, I'd probably go for a bowl of beef stew won-ton noodles soup from Sam Woo, a bucket of KFC Original Recipe (dark meat only) and a dozen Jack-in-the-Box tacos (hopefully, these will kill me before my executioner can).
If times were flush though, I'd order exactly what I had indulged in at Michael's Restaurant in Santa Monica. Yes, happy days are here again (even for the condemned), at least they are on Michael's Fall Menu.
Speaking of happy, is it me, or is that Michael McCarty, the happiest restaurateur I've ever met? And why shouldn't he be? After all, McCarty debuted Michael's in Santa Monica way back in 1979, surviving at least 5 recessions, and it's still thriving.
A true bon vivant, McCarty is also an art collector with exquisite examples of his art collection represented throughout his restaurant sanctuary. He's a generous patron of the arts who is seriously involved with the Whitney Museum of Art in New York as well as our own Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among so many other art and cultural institutions.
His charming oasis vanquished any sign of the urban bedlam outside while arousing the desire to be pampered rotten, in no particular order, by food and drink. Some of that drink included wine from his own The Malibu Vineyard.
Executive Chef Mikey Stern kicked off the night with an amuse bouche of goat cheese and heirloom tomatoes with vinaigrette served on a spoon. It was nice but I'm about to get fried and there's no sign of a pardon from the Governator, so back to my last meal picks!
And, what, pray tell, is on my last meal list? Oysters! Definitely oysters. An even dozen of Kumos with a Banyuls mignonette, to be specific. Sweet, fruity and buttery, I could eat these till my dying day.
The dainty grilled quail and yuzu grilled apples, baby arugula, thyme with extra-virgin olive oil looked absolutely enticing. In my wildly morbid imagination, I was French President François Mitterrand on his death bed and presented to me was a roasted Ortolan Bunting, his legendary last meal. Alas, in reality, it was just a slightly overcooked quail, dry but still nicely flavored.
It was hard to miss the bright orange of the house-cured gravlax with mustard-dill sauce and toasted brioche. The salmon was wonderfully fresh and perfectly satisfying on the crunchy, buttery brioche. As tasty as it was, it wasn't on my death list.
The leg and thigh duck confit, however, were on my last meal plan. Served with potato gratin, rapini and Port wine figs, this duck confit was ambrosial and, to quote The Smiths, "such a heavenly way to die."
As an interlude to the execution, the always charismatic Michael McCarty spontaneously showed us his recent procurement of lobster mushrooms as if it was a baby. Brand spanking new, these lobster mushrooms were as red as their oceanic namesake and smelled like them too.
In 2012, it won't just be the end of the world, it'll be the end of foie gras in California (which may just as well be the end of the world for some). And if it's the end of my world, I might as well enjoy some foie gras before I go. Hey, I'm usually pretty good. I avoid it for the most part, but all caution and PETA concerns are thrown to the wind when it's my time to go. Yeah, yeah, I'll be gavage fed in hell, I know.
This masterfully seared artisan foie gras, with star anise-scented pear, toasted brioche and vanilla oil, highlighted the gorgeously contrasting textures of crispy and velvety. The spirited essence of duck made me forget temporarily what all the foie gras controversy was all about.
Lamb would be the final course in my final meal. Yes, I'd even skip dessert (although Michael brought out every luscious item on his dessert menu for our binging pleasure). Rack of lamb would be the ideal final entree in the finality of my last meal. Michael's Superior Farms Colorado Rack of Lamb was, no doubt, superior.
Crowning the creamy polenta, roasted baby root vegetables and horseradish creme fraiche, the rack of lamb was generously portioned and decadent. This lamb heaven was cooked to a succulent medium rare, dripping with a sweet, gentle lambiness with no gaminess. The buttery polenta and creme fraiche basically transformed this dish into a savory dessert — this was death by lamb rather than chocolate.
And with my last bite, it was good night. Now I know what my ultimate meal on Earth will be. The best part is that I lived to tell everyone about it.
1147 3rd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90403