y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Leif Hedendal Underground Dinner at KTCHN 105

Leif Hedendal Underground Dinner at KTCHN 105

Back in April, somebody forwarded me a message about a secret Chef Leif Hedenddal dinner happening in L.A., with the location divulged upon rsvp confirmation.

I was not too familiar with the chef at the time, but the seafood and vegetable intensive menu definitely caught my eye.

The email contained a short bio from the chef. independent chef work in San Francisco, California. He cooked as Executive Chef in Barcelona, Copenhagen and interned at the infamous Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. He promotes the Slow Food movement.

That gave me a good idea of style. I particularly love that he stated he specializes in weird vegetables. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting introduced to new foods and discovering items I've not yet tasted.

The location of KTCHN 105, a studio kitchen in Downtown L.A. that is dedicated to the appreciation of food. They do private tastings, cooking classes and private dinner parties. The location was in a building, recessed from the street. Since the neighborhood was quite empty, I thought I might have been in the wrong place. Rest assured, a few stylish people who looked like foodies started streaming in, so I followed the crowd.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_b1 check in

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_b2 check in

The simple check-in process consisted of paying for the dinner and desired gratuity in advance, as well as leave any bottles of wine.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_c1 table settings

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_c2 table settings

The table settings looked very organic and clean.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_d kitchen

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_e kitchen

Several chefs cooked and prepared foods in the open kitchen. Many of them were women, which I don't see often, but enjoyed.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_g front door outside

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_i outside lights

The dinner guests spent what felt like close to 45 minutes in the very green and beautiful courtyard outside have drinks and mingling. Although I met a friend for the dinner, we both spent a fair amount of time meeting new people.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_k live sea urchin battered artichoke yuzo kosho

Servers passed trays of the first course, an appetizer of live sea urchin, battered artichoke, yuzu kosho, all beautifully stacked together. I've tasted and adore sea urchin, but never tried it with artichoke. The yuzu kosho, a Japanese sauce with citrus zest, chili and salt added to the delicate flavors. Because we enjoyed it so much, they passed a few extra our way, even upon being seated.

From those I met, I gathered that many guests know the chef personally already. Being someone who attends a lot of events in town, I often run into some of the same foodie types at most outings. In this event, I didn't recognize anybody I already new.

I met a fair amount of designers - graphic designers, food stylists, photographers; types to whom I've always gravitated. A couple of people came from the east coast too. Because the tables consisted of two long rows, we did not get a chance to speak with as many people during the meal. However, we sat amidst extremely interesting people.

A case in point, Adam Pearson, who had been recently featured on the Huffington Post's
Food Informants: A Week In The Life Of Food Stylist Adam Pearson, and his charming Photographer partner, Matt Armendariz, who also creates the food blog, Matt Bites. Since both food styling and photography have long been my fantasy careers, they kindly stayed a bit after dinner in the parking lot to indulge my many questions.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_l1 house bread and butter

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_l2 churned raw butter cured egg yolk

The second course, house bread, churned raw butter, cured egg yolk caught the eye like very few bread plates. The vivid orange yolk appeared to be jam at first, surprising many people upon biting into it. I'm guessing the yolk came from a duck egg. All elements very rich and silky, it presented and tasted elegant.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_m sel gris roasted Santa Barbara spot prawn crispy head favas Tokyo turnips brown butter cress

The third course of sel gris roasted Santa Barbara spot prawn, crispy head, favas, Tokyo turnips, brown butter, cress celebrated both the delicate prawn and fresh vegetables, with enough acidity to even freshen the dish up more. Sel gris is a French grey, granular sea salt. The Tokyo turnips come in tiny radish size. The edible flower petals added more color.

I noticed at this point that most people were not taking food photos, which one often finds at L.A. events. It made me feel conspicuous, especially since it was so dark, I had to take some flash photos. If the attendees minded that, they remained very polite about it.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_n abalone dashi tide pool morels white asparagus leeks seaweed chickweed stinging nettles

The fourth course, abalone, dashi tide pool, morels, white asparagus, leeks, seaweed, chickweed, stinging nettles brought that element of tasting not one but several new items. The abalone came in very small portions, making the vegetables the star again. Dashi, a Japanese broth, covered the items half way in the bowl. It added a light earthiness. Visually I loved the spiral fiddlehead ferns on each side of the bowl. These nutritious fronds supplied some great crunch.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_o1 grilling squid

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_o2 kitchen prep

While we were outside, before the meal, one of the chefs started grilling squid on the grill outside. I didn't recall seeing squid on the menu. Later I looked back to find that the dungeness crab got replaced with the squid. The initial menu stated there may be changes due to market availability. Based on the care in choosing highest quality ingredients, evident in the meal, I trusted any changes to the menu.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_o3 squid green garlic fennel pomelo snow blood orange avocado chervil mache sorrel

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_o4 squid green garlic fennel pomelo snow blood orange avocado chervil mache sorrel

So the fifth course became grilled squid, green garlic, fennel, pomelo snow, blood orange, avocado, chervil, mache, sorrel. This salad also provided great acidity which complemented the greens and tender squid rings. The pomelo slices were on the extremely tart side.

At this point in the meal, I appreciated that the courses tapered off to a light salad. On many tasting menus, getting the heaviest protein at this point really pushes me over the edge of fullness.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_p Chef Hedendal

Periodically during the meal, Chef Hedendal came out and read off his list to explain what we were eating. His casual and humble manner really impressed me. He also stood by the door, greeting people and chatting as they left.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_q1 andante creamery etude cheese kumquats green almonds zahidi dates

Sixth came the cheese course. At this point I got up to walk around a bit, and take more photos. One of the chefs stopped what she was doing and staged some of the plates for me, which also was unexpected and nice. I usually try to quietly take photos without intruding, and it's always impressive to find a chef who can talk through their work at the same time.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_q2 andante creamery etude

The plate included Andante Creamery Etude, green almonds, zahidi dates.

Etude an extremely small production cheese from the Andante dairy in Petaluma, California. The cheesemaker uses musical names for the cheeses, influenced by cheeses of the Pyrenees region. She uses goat’s milk instead of the more traditional sheep’s milk. The aged cheese had a firm yet creamy texture.
Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_q3 andante creamery etude

The original menu listed white mulberries, but the green almonds blended in very well also. They were a bit past that gel stage inside in maturity, however, they added some freshness and greenery.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_r strawberry galette peas creme fraiche lemon thyme

In large meals like this, at the seventh course, I appreciate either a fruity dessert or something sweet and salty, not an overly sweet and heavy ending to the meal. The adorable, colorful and fresh dessert. Out came a strawberry galette, peas, creme fraiche, lemon thyme. On top the garnish of an edible sweet pea flower provided a charming play on the peas idea. I've never had peas in a dessert. The fresh, sweet and crunchy peas worked with everything.

This was not your childhood strawberry pie with thick red glaze. Everything tasted natural, with a tiny amount of sweetness.

Leif Hedendal KTCHN 105 Apr12_s coconut macaroon piment d esplette Amedei chocolate

It was hard to believe there was a second dessert. And I wouldn't have eaten it had it not been a wonderful bite. He most likely added this for those who wanted that decadent dessert. Eighth course was a coconut macaroon, piment d'espelette, Amedei chocolate. The piment is a French red chili powder made from a regional French pepper.

Amedei chocolate, an exclusive handmade Tuscan chocolate, arguably considered the world's best. And those suggesting this are world classs French pĆ¢tissiers and visionary Spanish chef Ferran AdriĆ . Food and Wine magazine declared it the best chocolate in the world. This brother and sister team bypass brokers and acquire their cacao directly from the Chuao plantations in Venezuela.

Even with dessert, the chef introduced several things I haven't tasted and didn't think I'd be able to taste. The mark of a great and memorable meal.

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