Saturday, December 4, 2010

BAUMÈ: French Cuisine Moderne with a Zen Touch

Baume restaurant in Palo Alto recently received a coveted Michelin star. That in itself is enough to get me interested. Then I got the new Zagat San Francisco Bay Area 2011 book and noticed equally impressive ratings for food, service, and decor (28 out of 30 points each). Baume has the same total number of Zagat points as the French Laundry restaurant. Time to get a reservation.

My husband Brad is skeptical when it comes to small tasting portions and molecular gastronomy. But he promised to keep an open mind during our lunch at Baume. I skipped breakfast that day to appreciate each morsel even more.

Stepping into the restaurant, all is calm. The black painted windows create a quiet enclosure with an interior of dramatic orange coloring, curtains, and tasteful decor. The menu takes this simply stylish approach a step further; it is not really a menu but a listing of ingredients used in the dishes. It's a hint at what's to come, the chef artist's palette that could be used to create thousands of different combinations.

Leeks | Burgundy Truffle | Gigha Halibut | Shiso

Grass Fed Beef | Celeriac | Garlic | Ginger

Lantern Scallop | Lichee | Lilikoi | Chocolate

Champignons Sauvages | Foie Gras | Pumpkin | Kabocha

Fromages | Liquid Nitrogen | Maui Pineapple | Apple | 62˚ Egg

Alba White Truffle (Supplement)

Le Degustation $ 58
With Drinks and Wines Pairing $ 88

L’Experience $ 98
With Drinks and Wines Pairing $ 158

The waiter explained that the more traditional Le Degustation had four courses, while L'Experience had twice as many courses and more innovative flavors and preparations. We both ordered L'Experience without the drinks and wine pairing. The name of this eight course meal is brilliant. Coming to a restaurant like Baume is all about the experience and the food. Bring on the bold.

The ingredient list only hinted at the marvelous dishes that arrived, one after one, bite after glorious bite. I may not remember all these dishes correctly, but this is my best recollection. We didn't get the scallops because Brad is allergic, and I'm not sure what we got instead. Even though the list looks incredibly long, the small, precious portions allowed our stomachs to slowly expand in accommodating each and every bite. Using moderate portion sizes ensures maximum satisfaction and a wide variety of flavors. We got a lot of welcome extras on top of our eight courses.

- steamed wheat bun filled with leek and topped with gold leaf

- vegetable terrine with exploded orange (made icy with liquid nitrogen)

- rosemary and French breads with two spreads: parsley tofu and balsamic olive oil

- miso crunch squash soup

- foie gras with citrus gelee, quince, and cinnamon

- 62˚ egg with champignons sauvages, carrot puree, tarragon sauce and Burgundy truffle

- grass fed beef with celeriac, celery sponge and puree

- halibut with tapioca pearls and citrus

- orange segment with tangerine sorbet palate cleanser

- fromage plate (French cheese, goat cheese, and Point Reyes bleu cheese) with walnut toast and honey lavender pearls

- pumpkin cake with cranberry gelee topping, pumpkin brittle, ginger, and green apple sorbet

- squirting pineapple upside down gingerbread cake

- marshmallow confection to go in 3 flavors: mango, coconut, and green tea

It's difficult to describe the many flavors, presentations, textures, and aromas of our meal. It would be like trying to describe the movie 'Inception' with its unprecedented visual intricacies and plot levels. It's better just to see the movie. Several dishes arrived in one condition only to be transformed by the addition of another ingredient by the waiter. Impeccable service and attention to detail plus audacious creativity equals an outstanding meal. My favorite dishes that still linger in memory include the soup, foie gras, grass fed beef, tangerine-orange palate cleanser, bleu cheese and honey lavender pearls on walnut toast, and pumpkin cake. I loved having the little soft, fragrant marshmallow strips to enjoy at home hours later.

I've used Baume's menu ingredient format to create a poem of my experience with L'Experience. So many words, the ingredients of a writer's palette, come to mind, but how to combine them just so? It must be experienced to be known.

Mon Expérience

Michelin star | Open Table | Anticipation | Salivation

Elegant | Modern | Classy | Vibrant

Original | Fun | Exquisite | Delectable

Surprising | Sublime | Captivating | Daring

Artistic | Exceptional | Inspiring | Dizzying | Wow

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