I had no plans to write a post about this when I walked through the doors of The Hood Kitchen for lunch several weeks ago. After all, it wasn’t an actual restaurant experience and I thought I would just include it in my e-newsletter and call it a day. However, at the end of the meal, I was determined it had to be shared with my readers, because a meal this mind-blowingly delicious cannot be given just a mere paragraph or two to do it justice.
Michelin star Chef Conrad Gallagher recently decided to settle in Orange County with his family, and after several stints around town, he decided on catering rather than a brick and mortar and hence, Vanity Catering & Events was born.
I’m not always impressed by Michelin stars, especially after my rather dismal meal in NYC at a 3-star Michelin restaurant which continuously receives accolades year after year. Therefore, it definitely wasn’t Chef Gallagher’s Michelin stars which moved me in any way at all. In fact, I think I was much harder on him BECAUSE of them.
I wasn’t sure what to expect really, but when I met Chef Gallagher and his staff, I immediately knew he was serious about food, but at the same time, possessing a sense of humor to keep things light and fun. Yes, there is a white tablecloth on the table, but there is nothing stuffy about this unique experience we were about to embark on.
Our first course, Tuna Tartare with harissa, cilantro, red onion, chili and quail egg is a delicate one. I’ve eaten tuna tartare at numerous restaurants and they’ve somehow blended together in my mind without much fanfare. Perhaps it was the addition of harissa, a Tunisian hot chili paste, which gave it that slight punch, but regardless of what it is, everything melded together for the ultimate mouthful.
Baby Beetroot with goats cheese, parma ham, tomato & basil was our next course and I’m never sure if I’d like the goats cheese whenever I see it on the menu, so once again, I was a little wary, but luckily, it was really subtle and delightful. Every taste and texture was on this plate — the sweet, salty and tart alongside the soft, crunchy (coating on the goats cheese) with the various textures of the vegetables.
When our entree of Roasted Duck with butternut, orzo, wild arugula & enoki mushrooms arrived I couldn’t wait to dig in. It smelled incredible. I started with the perfectly pink duck and a dab of the accompanying sauce. Absolutely stunning! Possibly the best duck I’ve eaten in decades. Tender, flavorful and the perfectly piquant sauce was prepared using the bones and thighs of the duck. The whole plate was immaculate, I had absolutely no fault with it whatsoever. In fact, everyone I dined with is still reminiscing about this dish weeks after we ate it.
Although I am never all that excited about dessert, the Deconstructed Clementine Mascarpone Cheesecake absolutely blew me away with its simplicity and how refreshingly clean it was on the palate. Chef Gallagher informed us there is no sugar in this dessert, but instead, he sweetened it with the juice of the Clementine mandarins. I relished every single bit of it cleaning my bowl completely.
I love how we were able to watch Chef Gallagher in action as he moved around the kitchen with such ease and comfort. Our 4-course meal costs $55/person, Chef Gallagher also offers pop-up dinners and cooking classes every month. For information on dinners and classes, please call Candice at 714-404-3807 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to stay updated on what Chef Gallagher is up to, you can follow him on Twitter, or “like” his Facebook page.
Vanity Catering & Events
at The Hood Kitchen
350A Clinton Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626