Maude Journeys To Sonoma

In 2018, Maude Restaurant shifted the concept to highlight wine regions around the world. They covered Rioja, Burgundy, Central Coast, Piemonte in 2018 and started 2019 with Western Australia. When the Maude team picks their next location, the team (chefs and wine team) travel together for an immersive trip. They do this trip in secret as they do not let us, the customers, know what the next region is until one month prior to its launch. To date, most of the regions have been quite a distance from Los Angeles and the team has slipped away for up to a week to explore the region.

For the April – June menu, Maude ventured to Sonoma County. Sonoma, with its proximity to the Russian River and sixty miles of California coastline, was the inspiration for the spring menu.The team flew up on a Saturday night after service and spent a whirlwind weekend in Sonoma where they foraged, fished and learned about fermentation. They then created a menu retelling their experience to us.

Back in March, I attended an “Off the Menu” meal at Maude which was a sort of research and development of the Sonoma menu. Looking back and comparing the menus, I see the evolution of most of these dishes but for the Sonoma menu, the dishes were perfected and delicious.

Our meal began with the Biodynamic Preparation. Inspired by a visit to the winery Littorai, where winemaker Ted Lemon farms biodynamically, there were five small bites displayed on a wood and wire tray, similar to what is used in biodynamic farming. The amuses included an oyster with yarro root, tempura stinging nettle, ramps, soft kogi panna cotta and sourdough bread with oak bark butter.

We were then served a coffee cup filled with peas, mustard flowers and sunflower seeds and the servers poured mint infused raw milk into the cup for the dish called Milk. Inspired by the rolling Sonoma hills fresh after the rain, this dish had us all mesmerized. The milk was so light and delicate with a hint of mint flavor and it reminded us, in the best of ways, of milk in a bowl of cereal….yet better.

While Maude always has great wine pairings with their menus, my dining companions  bring wines from their cellars, allowing us to drink older vintages. This time I was able to contribute a few wines and brought the Ramey 2015 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay. Rich and velvety with bright acidity, the wine was a perfect pairing with the next two dishes.

White Asparagus with citrus, Nasturtium flower, smoked yogurt

Steelhead Ocean Trout with green asparagus, variegated lemon and roe, inspired by the team fishing for steelhead trout in the Russian River.

Williams Selyem 1992 Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Borlotti Beans with white verjus, raisins and duck prosciutto

Pedroncelli 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

Kenwood 1984 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley

A bright gold bowl was served with Broccoli, a quail egg, Hojicha and chicken jus.

Foraging for mushrooms in Sonoma was the inspiration for the Tartlet with acorn, wild mushroom and Madeira.

The other wine I was able to contribute to the dinner was the Verite Le Desir 2002, Sonoma County. The wine was soft and elegant and paired beautifully with the meat course.

Liberty Farm Duck, a strain of Pekin Duck developed in Denmark with a slower, less stressful, open environment rearing and a typical market age of nine weeks, was served with pine nuts, artichoke and blood orange. The skin on top was a perfect balance of crispy and fatty. This was one of the best pieces of duck I have ever had.

We moved upstairs for the dessert and started with a palate cleanser.

The Strawberry dessert with chocolate and goat’s milk looked like the forest and had just enough sweetness to satisfy.

The last dish was a surprise to us all. It was a Chocolate and Cheese pairing. These are not two items one might normally pair together but pastry chef Yesenia Cruz was inspired after meeting Jeff and Susan Mall, owners of VOLO chocolate in Sonoma. Enamored by Mexican chocolate, they harvest cacao pods in the tropical region of Mexico. The chocolate is treated as food rather than candy, using salt strategically and sugar sparingly. The creaminess of the cheese and the smoothness of the chocolate were a great way to end our journey to Sonoma.

We were sent home with our menu and a bag of homemade granola which I enjoyed the next day for breakfast.

Where will Maude journey to next?  Stay tuned!