I’ve lived 44 years, almost 11 of those in Southern California. I’ve had a lot of great meals in a lot of fantastic restaurants over the years, but I’ve never had a food experience until this past weekend.
We couldn’t find the restaurant. There was no sign, no big crowd, no valet offering to park our car. There was only one black door with a single “M” in frosted glass and small olive trees in pots on either side. If my girlfriend hadn’t been standing out front, we would have walked right by.
Getting reservations to Maude, a restaurant by celebrity chef Curtis Stone in Beverly Hills, are like trying to get concert tickets. As soon as they go on sale, the 1st day of the month at 10AM, people jump to grab their table for the following month before they’re all sold out. Only 24 seats in the entire restaurant for dinner only, every one of them is highly coveted. We were grateful to have foodie friends in the know who invited us for a fun night out.
After asking if we preferred flat or sparkling water and filling our wine class with a fantastic Chardonnay, we were promptly told there would be no menu until the end. The 10-course meal would be served all centering around one “hero” ingredient. At Maude there is a new ingredient every month, the menu always evolving and changing and our “hero” ingredient for the month of February 2017 was lime.
This was the moment that the girl inside from Oklahoma sat with her eyes wide open, unsure of what to expect next. When we first moved to California we met some friends at a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner. Never having eaten at a tapas restaurant, I made the mistake of arriving hungry. When I realized that I wouldn’t get to order what I wanted, wouldn’t have a plate all my own, and would have to share my bite-sized food with everyone else at the table, well that pretty much ruined my evening and made me hate tapas-style eating forever.
Then there was the time I had dinner and too many martinis at one of the best sushi restaurants in L.A. After a full boat of really expensive sushi, I stumbled across the street to Burger Lounge where they serve fantastic organic, grass-fed burgers. I impressed my husband by devouring an entire burger and fries all by myself. He still reflects with awe and wonder about my eating habits that night.
I’m not a foodie and I’m not a picky eater either. I’m willing to try new things…to a point. I like what I like. I’m the kind of eater that I find a favorite item on the menu and orders that every single time. If I look at a menu and see an ingredient that I’m unsure of, I move on to the next item too embarrassed to ask. To be sitting at a restaurant where I couldn’t order what I wanted and I had no idea what they were about to serve me, well, it was…LIBERATING! All I had to do was sit back, enjoy the wine and the company and look forward to each new surprise.
Did I love everything that I was served? No, not really. Did I know what I was eating? Some of the time. There were moments when I was convinced the waitress was speaking in a foreign language while explaining the dish. The meal forced me to try new things that I have never tried before and will probably never try again. But the experience, ah, the experience was fantastic. The antique china and monogrammed napkins and turquoise banquet and sterling silver candlesticks kept me mesmerized. And when you’re experiencing all of this with good friends and interesting conversation, well it makes for a perfect evening.
The first course looked like a tequila shot. It was not, but you took it like one. (And between the salted rim and the spicy kick it might as well been tequila.)
I would explain each picture, but it’s too hard. And yes, I was THAT person taking pictures of her food all evening.
Each dish was truly a beautiful presentation.
I still don’t know what abalone is, but it’s under there somewhere. I’m nervous to look it up and find out what I ate.
The nasturtiums in the orecchiette pasta were very good. I feel like I’m growing as an eater.
Under that weird foam was a delicious snapper.
This little piece of cheese was one of my favorite dishes. Could have had a bunch of these but I have a feeling that would have been a bad look to ask for more cheese.
And you know what? There was a Burger Lounge across the street and I did NOT feel the need to go devour a burger. That’s when you know you’ve had an awesome food experience.