Sunday, February 21, 2010

Avalon TasteCasting Event

Our most recent TasteCasting event took place at Avalon Restaurant in Scottsdale on Feb. 10th.  this is a chef-driven restaurant that frequently changes its' menu according to the season.  we were there shortly before valentine's day, so we sampled some of the menu they were serving for that day.   the atmosphere here was trendy, but this one focused more on clean, simple lines with a circular motif with lots of brown and white. When designing the restaurant, they brought in a feng shui expert in order to help harmonize the layout.  The live band brought additional energy to the atmosphere.

shortly after we sat down, the head chef personally came out to greet us and to introduce us to the menu for the evening.  he stressed that they only purchase top-of-the-line ingredients for their foods and all of their seafood is purchased fresh and served within 24 hours of it being purchased from the auction house.  Chef Charles prepared and served us each dish which made the excellent service more memorable.

we were served chilled hawaiian ahi tuna for our first appetizer.  it was served on flat, plain rectangular plates.  the tuna itself was nestled in an asian spoon with a tartare/carpaccio/ponzu/sesame dish on the side.  the texture reminded me (brian) of sushi, but the taste was not too impressive for me.  the side dish added some fresh, complimentary flavors to the tuna.

To me (Julie), the ahi tuna was a brave step for my tastebuds.  I am not a particular fan of raw fish or sashimi or sushi.  I gathered my courage and took Chef Charles' advice when choosing fish, to lead with my nose and then my eyes.  The tuna had a smoky flavor and the hint of sesame was nice.  The fish was moist and tender although it had a strong aftertaste. It was good even though I'm not a big fish person.

Our 2nd appetizer was quite fun.  their soup blt offering.  in this case, "blt" stands for bacon, lobster and tomato.  3 different soups served in espresso-like coffee cups.  the creamy tomato bisque was awesome for me (brian).  it had a wonderful slight spicy afterbite to it as it went down my throat and the taste made me think of cold winter nights.  perfect.  my 2nd favorite was the bacon potato chowder. it had a creamy, cheesey wonderful bacon flavor that made me feel warm and comfortable all over. great comfort food.  the 3rd was the lobster bisque soup.   while i enjoyed it, it was not as enjoyable as the other 2.

I (Julie) REALLY enjoyed the BLT soups.  My favorite was the Bacon potato chowder.  The cream was heavenly and calorie laden, I'm sure. The bacon flavor was quite delish! The lobster bisque was not as creamy as the chowder but it was still tasty.  It had a nice rich and buttery flavor. And, the creamy tomato bisque was also an adventure for me.  I normally don't like tomato soup but I dove in and am glad I did.  As brian said before, the tomato had a nice spice to it and was like eating a VERY NICE marinara sauce.  It was definately not your normal Campbell's Tomato soup. After this, I might just become a tomato soup convert!

We were then served samples of 3 of their entrees.  Bacon-wrapped kurobuto pork tenderloin, Butter Poached Maine Lobster and Aged Prime New York Strip Steak.   The last was specifically for their valentine's day menu.

(Brian) the pork tenderloin tasted wonderful.  the bacon had a nice crispness to it and it was served with a caramel apple/parmesan polenta/currant side dish that added a perfect complimentary sweetness.  the lobster was chewy and was a bit plain-tasting to me.  it tasted fresh, but could have used a bit more flavoring.   the last entree was the NY strip steak.  crispy, juicy and wonderful.  the way NY Strip steak should be.

(Julie) I was highly looking forward to the lobster but was a bit disappointed when I didn't get the plate of it served at my spot. When I tried a bite off of another person's plate, I was greatly disappointed.  The lobster was served with ricotta gnocchi and asparagus in lobster butter. I didn't get any of this, only a small bite of lobster, which ended up being very chewy and not very flavorful.

What I did receive, was a nicely plated piece of aged prime NY steak. The piece was very tender and juicy and had excellent flavor.  It had a nice crispy crust as well.  The steak was served cooked medium rare and I must say that I have slowly begun to change my opinion about how I want my steaks cooked.  I have always been a well done kind of girl, however, due to being more brave with my fellow foodie friends, I have actually tried, on several occasions, steaks that were in the medium rare/medium well range.  The flavor is deeper and the steaks are juicer.  I do appreciate having tried this and I think next time I order a steak, I will try medium well and see how it goes! :)  The steak was served with bone marrow bread pudding, spinach and a bordalaise sauce.  I don't like bread pudding and I have never tried bone marrow anything but it added a nice complimentary flavor to the steak and while I probably won't order it again, it wasn't bad.

I also tried the pork tenderloin and would agree that it was my favorite. The pork was very tender and juicy and I loved the parmesean polenta with which it was served. The caramel apples and currants were a nice addition.

At long last came dessert.  Red Velvet Cheesecake and Cream Cheese Anglaise were our offerings. (brian) the cheesecake was incredible.   the creamy cheesecake was served as a wonderful Ice-cream looking scoop on top of the red velvet cake.  creative plating that added to the taste.   the cream cheese anglaise was yummy, rich and fluffy.  it almost sweetly floated in my mouth.(julie) ditto!

as an additional treat, we ordered the Chocolate Decadence with Dark Chocolate mousse and Chocolate Sponge cake to go.  It was just as it sounds and would have been just as scrumptious if we would have eaten it while at the restaurant.

The Avalon Restaurant experience is a great one.  they know how to treat their customers.  we also appreciated the locally-owned/non chain aspect to the restaurant.  it allows them to independently create menus and an ambience that works for their clientele.  Perhaps we will return to Avalon to sample brunch or lunch!

p.s. we both forgot the camera for this tasting so that is why there are no photos of this glorious food. Perhaps you can check the site and click on blogs to find a post with photos from this tasting!