Chef’s Table – a Bay Area Dining Experience Not to Miss
I received a comment which reminded me of a recent dining experience, and decided that I had to write a post on it. If you’re a foodie and looking for a truly unique dining experience in the Bay Area, I HIGHLY recommend visiting The Chef’s Table, in Lafayette. The concept: renowned chef couple cooks for you and seven of your closest friends, in their personal gourmet kitchen. The experience is fun, educational (for the food-hearted), and entertaining, especially if you come with a lively group of people, which of course, is how I roll.
First, Chef Howard Karp has an amazing resume. He’s taught at several culinary institutions, and has held esteemed positions such as the director of food and beverage operations for the famed Waldorf-Astoria and consultant to the famous Balducci’s Food Operations. However, what really caught my attention was that he’s cooked for FOUR U.S. presidents (including Nixon and Clinton). So of course, my expectations hit the roof before we even walked in the door. Howard runs the home kitchen with his wife, Chef Jamie Imhoff, who is a former student of his and amazing dessert chef herself.
I was accompanied by seven former colleagues, AKA: a rowdy group of self-acclaimed food and wine connoisseurs. We were greeted by Howard and Jaime as they welcomed us into their cozy home and brought us to their gourmet kitchen – with an oversized island surrounding the range: plates and stemware set for eight. The seasonal menu was set a week in advance, and guests are required to supply the wine. The wine was my duty so I “took one for the team” and went wine tasting through the Carneros appellation the weekend prior so that we would have a professionally paired bottle for each of the five courses. I know, life’s hard.
Our dinner was phenomenal. Honestly, one of the best, and definitely THE most gourmet meal I have ever tasted. The first course was baked cream of onion and apple soup with gruyere cheese and calvados, followed by roasted foie gras and port, figs and frisee. The Chefs then gave us a bit of home-made sorbet to cleanse our palate before we proceeded to the main course, which was a white fish dish with a lobster-reduction sauce (from the looks of their Web site they have since removed the dish from the menu, and I don’t remember exactly what it was, however, it was probably the weakest link in the meal so any of the current options would probably be better anyhow). Our fourth course was a refreshing artesian salad. We ended our three-hour meal with a pear tart and homemade cinnamon ice cream.
The best part of the dinner: as the Chefs are preparing these amazing dishes they are explaining the preparation and cooking process; it’s like your personal Food Network show! They discuss favorite local markets as well as answered our (many) questions from ingredients to the latest kitchen tools. Needless to say, Chef’s Table met my expectations.
One tip: Guests select their menu in advance, but I recommend not missing the onion apple soup – the couple is known for it, and for good reason. Pair it with a good “oaky” chard, and you can officially die happy.