2008 February at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
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  • February 22, 2008

    Just a quick breather…

    I’m home after two solid weeks on the road, having attended countless rehearsals and six performances of four different pieces in four cities in two states. I’ve been home since Sunday, but I’ve spent the week catching up on orders (everything is on the way, I promise!), catching up on emails, and most importantly, writing music. It’s been a while since I’ve written a new piece, and this one — the piece for Cheryl Floyd’s band at Hill Country Middle School in Austin — is hard work. I’ve never written for young band before, and it’s a real challenge. I have about 90 seconds completely done, and the whole piece will be a hair over five minutes total. It’s due in about four weeks, so I’ve canceled several trips I had planned to take in March.  (No trip to Baylor, no trip to the CBDNA convention in Omaha, and Reno is up in the air.)

    There’s one big trip I can’t cancel, and I’m leaving town one last time at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning. That trip will take me to the University of Georgia for a residency and performance of “Kingfishers Catch Fire” with the always-excellent John Lynch. From there, I fly to Kansas City for a performance of a fairly new piece, “Clocking,” with the University of Oklahoma Wind Ensemble, conducted by William Wakefield, at their regional CBDNA convention. After that, I fly back to the University of Georgia for a recording session of “Kingfishers Catch Fire” (on the Naxos label, no less! I’m in good company on that CD) before flying home Sunday night.

    I’ll have to be sort of brief with the recap from the recent trip, but I did take a few pictures.

    That picture is from a rehearsal at UT-Austin. I was there for nearly a week, working with Jerry Junkin, the legendary Harvey Pittel, and the UT Wind Ensemble on their premiere of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble.

    The performance was great. Holy hell — that band is just insanely good. I think it’ll be a long time before I hear the accompaniment that crisp again. Harvey was a pleasure to work with — and he has the biggest sound I’ve ever heard out of a sax! I had worried that maybe I needed to re-score the first and last movements to fix the balance, but not so. There were places where I actually had to ask the entire band to play louder because I couldn’t hear them over Harvey. It was astonishing. The slow movement, I think, was the most beautiful I’ve ever heard it, with Harvey circular-breathing to hold the last note for an eternity. Bravo, Harvey — and as always, a sincere thanks to Jerry Junkin for that UT hospitality that nobody can top.

    After the concert, we had a tasty dinner — one of several that week. Jerry’s wife, Stephanie, ordered the same dessert that I did, but hers was prettier (of course), so she let me take a picture of hers.

    Can I just say how much I love Austin? Maybe my visits there have been a little unreasonably pleasant, but I have to say, if I ever leave LA, I may have to move to Austin.

    That UT concert was on Sunday evening. Early the next morning, I flew to Dallas to work with the Poteet High School Wind Ensemble — the 2008 4A TMEA Honor Band. (That means they were judged to be the best 4A-size high school band in all of Texas this year. These guys don’t mess around.) I was there for a rehearsal and concert with Scott Coulson (Poteet’s Director of Bands) on “Strange Humors.”

    The band sounded sick on “Strange Humors.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sound so good live. It was so damn good, their performance is now the reference recording of the work on this site. They performed the piece both in Dallas on Monday night, and again at their TMEA Honor Band concert in San Antonio on Friday night that week. Both performances were great.
    Tuesday morning, I flew to Tucson, Arizona, home of the University of Arizona, to rehearse with Gregg Hanson (UA’s Director of Bands) and Timothy McAllister (UA’s sax professor — and among the greatest soprano sax players in the world) on my Sax Concerto. While waiting for rehearsal to start, I hung out in Dr. Hanson’s office. I don’t have a photo of Dr. Hanson, but I did take this photo of his portrait.   I need a portrait.

    Tim McAllister is… I don’t even know what to say about him. When I heard him play the first movement of the concerto with the band, I was speechless — and that’s just the little two-minute prelude. Good lord, you should hear what he did with the nearly-impossible second movement of the concerto. In fact, go ahead. I just posted it. (Either go to that page and click for the audio for “Felt,” or click this direct link to the streaming MP3.) You won’t believe his control. Every dynamic on the page is there, every alternate fingering request is met, every pitch bend is spot on and ends precisely back in tune. He somehow moves seamlessly from the most lyrical moments to the most aggressive honks. The concert on Sunday was simply stunning.

    After two days rehearsing in Arizona, I flew back to Texas — this time to San Antonio, to attend the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) conference. In a definite sign that my career can only go downhill from here, I had the incredible fortune of having three performances at the convention — Poteet’s performance of “Strange Humors” (as I mentioned), as well as performances with two of the three TMEA All-State Bands. John Lynch was conducting “Turning” with the TMEA 4A Symphonic Band — and they were using my new Waterphone! (Yes, that really is my own Waterphone, a hand-made Richard Waters original. The knock-offs have nothing on the real thing. Anybody wants to rent this thing for a performance of “Turning,” you just shoot me a note…)

    It was pretty sweet to hear “Turning” with a 150-piece band. If ever I’d written a piece that benefits from 15 trombones, this was it. (Actually, most of my pieces would benefit from 15 trombones.) Here I am with Maestro Lynch after the concert.

    The 5A Symphonic Band was performing my still-new piece, “Kingfishers Catch Fire.” This group — the top all-state band in Texas, and I would feel safe saying it’s the best all-state band in the country — literally sight-read “Kingfishers” at tempo. The tempo of the second movement is quarter note=174. That’s crazy-fast — and they sight-read it that fast. Here is Thomas Lee, Director of Bands at UCLA — and the founder of the UT-Austin Wind Ensemble (now Junkin’s Group) — conducting the ensemble.

    The band was one of the best bands I’ve ever heard — all the more impressive with their massive size. (How can this many people play together so cleanly?) I missed their final full rehearsal on my piece (I overslept that morning), but when I heard their last pre-concert run-through, I was literally brought to tears. If you tell anybody that, though, I will kick your ass.

    This was one of those performances I’ll never forget. A funny little back story… As I’ve probably mentioned here before, the second movement of “Kingfishers Catch Fire” has 30 high C’s in the French horn part. The highest note on the French horn, in traditional view, is that high C. It’s a silly-high note to ask for once in a piece, so I asked for it 30 times. As a result, some horn teachers in Texas got a little “upset,” concerned that their students would blow their lips off preparing for the audition and the concert. Now, those 30 high C’s are all optional; every one of them is covered in an alternate trumpet part, but I have never had a horn player ask to be relieved of a single one of those high C’s. The Texas 5A Symphonic Band horn section was no different — well, except that they had even less trouble with those C’s than I’ve heard anywhere else.

    Tom Lee is a great conductor, and he’s also somewhat of a bad ass, as I learned last week. The final bar of “Kingfishers Catch Fire” has the entire band play a big F major chord, and while they’re holding it, the French horn section — all in unison — plays one last unison rip up to their highest high C. Tom Lee, to make that last moment even more insane, asked the horn section — all 12 players — to stand up to play that last note, in clear view of the entire audience. Every last one of the players nailed that 30th high C, Tom held them on it for an impossibly long time while crescendoing, and when he gave the final cutoff, the crowd… well, they seemed like happy campers. Texas high school horn players are f’ing awesome. It was amazing. Bravo, Tom Lee: Official Bad-Ass.

    It was an exhausting two weeks, but it was one of those trips that made me feel humbled and grateful for the incredible fortune I’ve had. The trip also made me hungry. Fortunately, in Texas, they have slices of carrot cake the size of a moose head. (Don’t worry; I think it’s dead.)

    Thank you to Tom Lee and the 5A Symphonic Band, John Lynch and the 4A Symphonic Band, Scott Coulson and the Poteet Honor Band, Jerry Junkin and Harvey Pittel and the UT Wind Ensemble, and Gregg Hanson and Timothy McAllister and the UA Wind Ensemble. Life as a composer doesn’t get any better than that.


    February 7, 2008

    Howdy from Austin

    I’m here in Austin — stop number one on the two-week world tour. (Or, tour of Texas and Arizona.) Fortunately, with all of this flying and hauling of luggage, I have a fancy new light-weight laptop! (For the tech geeks, I got the SSD model, not the hard drive model. The computer — running off of a flash drive instead of a disk drive — is weirdly silent.)

    I arrived on Tuesday night, and had rehearsal with Harvey Pittel (sax professor here at University of Texas at Austin) and Jerry Junkin and his wind ensemble. I only snuck a few pictures at rehearsal, and none of them are very good, so you’ll have to take my word for it. (I’ll try to get more pictures in rehearsal tomorrow and Saturday — and at the concert on Sunday afternoon.)

    I had a nice dinner last night with the Floyd’s. Cheryl Floyd is the band director at Hill Country Middle School, the group for whom I’m currently writing a piece. Cheryl realized that I was going to be free today, and she invited me to the school to hear the group rehearse.

    It’s a great band, and it’s hard to believe they’re middle school students. This is a middle school band where every percussionist learns to play with four-mallets! In middle school! Seriously — what do they put in the water in Austin?! It made me think that maybe the piece I’m writing should be a little more difficult… (Don’t worry; it won’t be.)

    Before rehearsal, Harvey Pittel took me to hear the rather spectacular sax choir at UT. It kind of made me want to write a piece for sax choir — someday. I still need a little sax break…

    Tonight, Jerry Junkin took me out for dinner to a great sushi restaurant in Austin called Uchi.

    We went nuts and ordered the “omakase” — the thing I wrote about in the blog entry about the recent dinner in Japan, in which the chef selects each course for you. As such, I won’t remember what some of these courses are. I believe the first course was:
    “hirame usuzukuri” : thinly-sliced flounder, spanish olive oil, smoked sea salt, yuzu zest, daikon, and crispy quinoa. It was excellent.

    Course number two: I may get this one wrong, but I think it was:
    “cobia crudo” : caribbean black kingfish, shiitake bacon, toasted sesame vinaigrette. The “shiitake bacon” was kind of amazing. How the hell did they make a mushroom taste like bacon?!

    Next, I think, was:
    “hotate tomorokoshi” : maine diver scallops, miso-corn pudding, yellowfoot chanterelles, and black truffle vinaigrette. Basically scallops served two different ways — one was basically ceviche (in the foreground with the corn — my favorite thing all evening…

    … and the other was more traditionally cooked but with chanterelle mushrooms.

    Next up was perhaps the greenest-looking soup I’ve ever had:
    “mame tamago” : soft-boiled farm fresh egg, English pea soup, mint purée, perigord black truffles. It was very good. It tasted as green as it looks, if that makes sense. It seemed extremely… fresh. Thumbs-up all around.

    It turns out that Jerry and I both love yellowtail, so this next dish was another keeper:
    “hamachi cure” : sugar-cured maple wood-smoked baby yellowtail, yucca crisps, asian pear, garlic brittle. It was something. The yellowtail was very smoked-tasting.

    Next was one of the few cooked courses:
    “shun no sakana” : Australian turbot, smoked sofrito, basil picada. Tasty, but it still had the bone in it and the skin on it, and that made it rather awkward to eat with chopsticks, and also a little trickier to share. I would have preferred that it be de-boned.

    Next up: something I didn’t expect in a sushi restaurant. Fois gras. I’m not huge on fois gras, but it was admittedly very tasty. And rich. Lordy.

    The last big course: “wagyu yaki” : oak-grilled wagyu toro, French bluefoot mushrooms, uni butter, mustard greens. This one, surprisingly, was a little disappointing. It tasted amazing — just incredible flavor — but the texture wasn’t right. Instead of melting, like wagyu beef should, it instead seemed a bit fatty. I think that great wagyu should barely need to be chewed; it should be like eating beef-flavored butter. (What’s better than that?!) This, though, was quite chewy of the “fatty beef” kind. This place obviously has great sources for fish (some of it is flown in from Tokyo), so maybe this was just an off-cut. Again, though — the flavor was fantastic.

    So — awesome dinner. The sushi chef was a really nice, interesting guy, and we enjoyed chatting with him a bit. (He was a real foodie.) The next time I’m in Austin, I’ll definitely go back to Uchi. It’s not quite as “greatest thing ever” as Jinpachi in LA, but for a few thousand miles from the coast, it was pretty damn close.


    February 3, 2008


    AEJ and I spent our entire honeymoon in Japan sick. I never quite got as sick as she was, but we were both in pretty bad shape the whole time, and we still haven’t quite recovered. As a result, we didn’t get to accomplish a lot of what we planned to do in Tokyo. On Saturday night, we had plans to join several of the “Kingfishers Catch Fire” consortium directors for dinner. AEJ, though, was too sick, and spent the night in bed at the hotel. I managed to go to dinner, and I’m glad I did. It was a pretty special dinner…

    Dinner was at Imahan Ningyocho, the most famous Japanese sukiyaki restaurant in Tokyo. Sukiyaki (per the Wiki) “consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), or a vegetarian version made only with firm tofu, slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Before being eaten, the ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs.” I’m in!

    The restaurant is very traditional Japanese — starting with the removal of shoes upon entry.

    We sat in a lovely private room with a tatami floor.

    As soon as we sat down, my hosts gave me a wedding present! (Presents are a big Japanese custom, and wow did I feel like an ass for bringing nothing.)

    The present was a pair of beautifully lacquered Japanese bowls and sake cups.

    The painting on the inside of this bowl’s lid looks like a treble clef.

    The beer is here!

    I don’t understand more than a few words of Japanese, but I did hear Mamoru Nakata (our main host, and the man who organized the Kingfishers Catch Fire commission in the first place) ask the server for “omakase” — meaning basically “chef’s choice.” This would be fun — and the real deal. The first course was this soup with a seaweed broth, whitefish, and teeny tiny tomatoes.

    The next course (like all of them) was just beautifully presented. Check out the hand-painted paper on the bottom, and the wire basket holding the fish (on gold foil paper) in the center…

    One of the bowls had a swan lid. In the background, you can see one of the three dishes in this course — fish liver with pickled vegetables on top. To be honest, I was… a little apprehensive. Nakata-san said, “it’s like fois gras, only with fish liver instead of goose liver.” He said this as if it made it okay. In fact, it was pretty tasty – as long as I didn’t let myself think, “this is fish liver.”

    This shot shows some of the fish on the foil paper (on the left) as well as some more pickled vegetables.

    The next course was simply sashimi. The back is tuna, the right is squid, and I forget what the front is. They typed the name of it into their little hand held translator machines (why don’t I have one of these gadgets?), and it translated it something like “raper fish,” which, again, didn’t really clear it up for me. No matter — it was all delicious — even the squid, which I’ve had trouble with in the past. (This was very tender squid. I once spent 11 minutes chewing a piece of squid at another sushi restaurant.)

    This next dish was a little challenging, even for a few of the people at the table. Talk about making it extra-scary. It’s one thing if they’re all like, “mmm! We love this fried fermented soy curd!” It’s another when a few of them are grimacing while eating it. Surprisingly to me — I liked it.

    Well, the flavor. The texture was rather challenging. But honestly, that’s part of the fun.

    Here come the vegetables for the main course!

    And here’s the star of the meal: the Wagyu beef — heavily marbled Japanese beef raised on a diet of beer and sake. (It’s also known as Kobe beef if raised in Kobe.)

    Here our server whisks the raw egg that would be mixed with the cooked beef and vegetables.

    Here the beef cooks (briefly) in the special mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.


    Can we get another look at the “before” picture?

    And here it is when served with the vegetables (and raw egg). It was delicious. The beef is insanely rich, and the egg gives the whole thing a silky texture.

    Perhaps I’ll have a sip of hot sake. I may as well drown my lingering cold with hot liquor!

    The next course is the miso soup.

    And for dessert, yuzu ice cream. This was a funny one, because I loved it — and some of the native Japanese guys thought it was too tart.

    And, since it’s Japan, and I’m nursing a cold, let’s finish with some green tea.

    I was sad that AEJ couldn’t be there. It was a wonderful meal. I think I’m still stuffed. A sincere thanks to my hosts!


    February 2, 2008

    The Itinerary

    I’ve been home from my honeymoon for only a few days (still a little jet-lagged and getting over the worst cold I can recall), and it’s time to leave again. Here’s where I’ll be, and when…

    Tuesday: Fly to Austin to work with Jerry Junkin (conductor) and Harvey Pittel (sax) with the University of Texas Wind Ensemble on their performance of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble. I have rehearsals on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and the concert is on Sunday the 10th. AEJ flies in on Friday.

    Monday, February 11, early am: fly to Dallas. I have a performance of “Strange Humors” at the Eisemann Center that night with the TMEA 2008 4A Honor Band, Poteet High School. Scott Coulson conducts the concert that night.

    Tuesday, February 12: Fly to Tucson, Arizona. Rehearse with Timothy McAllister (soprano sax) and the University of Arizona Wind Ensemble (conducted by Gregg Hanson). Rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

    Wednesday, February 13: Fly to San Antonio. Have a martini. (Will Montoya be there?) Rehearse with the TMEA All-State 5A Symphonic Band (“Kingfishers Catch Fire“) and the TMEA 4A All-State Symphonic Band (“Turning“) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Poteet performs “Strange Humors” on Friday night at 8pm. “Turning” (conducted by John Lynch) is at 1:30pm on Saturday, and “Kingfishers…” (conducted by Thomas Lee) is at 7:30pm on Saturday.

    Sunday, February 17: Loki’s Birthday. Morning: fly to Tucson. Performance of Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble at 2pm at the University of Arizona.

    Sunday, February 17: Evening: fly home to LA just in time to wish Loki a Happy Birthday. (All that same day I will have woken up in San Antonio, flown to Tucson, had a performance, and flown home to California.)

    That’s 13 days of travel, six flights, four cities, and six performances of four different pieces. Wish me luck! And this doesn’t even touch on the travel insanity that continues the following Sunday…


    February 1, 2008

    Dinner at Joël Robuchon

    In the past two weeks, I got married and went on a honeymoon — and I took 2481 photos. There’s obviously a lot to post, and where to start? How about the post-wedding dinner! (All images in this entry are shot with the Canon 40D and 35mm f/1.4 L lens.)

    We got married in Vegas, and Vegas has some of the best restaurants in the US. In the latest Michelin Guide, Las Vegas has, at the time of this writing, one of the two only 3-star (the top Michelin rating) restaurant in America outside of New York City. (The other is French Laundry in Napa. New York has three 3-star restaurants, including Jean-Georges, which I’ve written about several times.) That lone 3-star restaurant in Vegas is Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, located at the MGM Grand. It’s also, as far as I can tell, among the most insanely opulent, extravagant, indulgent dinners anywhere in the world, so it seemed perfect for a Vegas wedding dinner. When a bottle of water is $20, you know dinner ain’t gonna be Super Value, but holy damn, you get what you pay for. Plus, as I pointed out to AEJ, how many times a year do you get married?  Probably not more than twice.

    Those don’t look like paper napkins. Hey! These are cloth! This must be a nice place. (The napkin is tied closed with a silk ribbon.)

    My camera is kind of heavy. Is there a small stool you could bring me to leave it on when I’m not shooting? What do you think?

    The restaurant has a few ordering options, both of which are multi-course. There’s the fancy-pants six-course tasting menu, and the “I’m going to spend my massive poker winnings all in one shot” 16-course tasting menu. Yes, sixteen courses. It takes four hours, but we had nowhere to be, so… let’s do it! And since it was our wedding day, let’s celebrate with Bruno Paillard Rose Champagne. I’d never had Rose Champagne before. Mucho tasty.

    Now that I’m old, in order to be sure I won’t wake up with a headache, I take a Tylenol before I start drinking. It sounds lame, I know, but after too many hungover mornings at Midwest, I finally learned that being lame is better than feeling like ass the next day.

    Here we go! Course number one: L’Avocat: Avocado purée in a thin herb gelée and olive oil flavored curd cheese

    Next: Le Caviar: Consisting of three dishes — Green asparagus topped with Oscetra caviar

    … delicate gelée (there’s a lot of gelée in these 16 courses) and a smooth cauliflower cream…

    … and thin couscous and oscetra caviar.

    AEJ is allergic to shellfish, so they created a custom menu for her, as many of these courses included shellfish. While caviar isn’t shellfish, the middle dish of the three (the one with the cauliflower cream) included shellfish in the gelée, so the chef had to change her middle dish. As a result, he didn’t think the caviar made sense in this course, since it was no longer a fish course (without the shellfish in the middle plate), so he took out the caviar from the entire course, replacing it with something even more decadent : truffles. The truffle substitution was one that AEJ received throughout the night. She must have eaten 1/2 pound of truffles by the time the night was done. And when we were brought our courses, if they looked the same, the plates were marked to be sure that I received the one with the shellfish.

    Next course: L’Ormeau. Abalone and baby leeks in a ginger bouillon. The broth was spectacular (Robuchon makes soups and broths like I’d never tasted) and it was fun to have abalone for the first time. (It’s a type of shellfish, I found out. In AEJ’s soup, which had to be prepared from scratch, the abalone was replaced with Chanterelle mushrooms.)

    Next: Les Crustacés. Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage, lemon grass roasted lobster with vegetable semolina, Sea urchin, potato purée with a hint of coffee. (Being the entirely shellfish course, AEJ’s selection was completely different.) This was all, as you’d guess, spectacular with flavors that I’ve never even imagined. I mean, who mixes potato purée with sweet sea urchin, and coffee? It was amazing. Unfortunately, it was all a bit much for the camera to focus on.

    Here’s a close-up of the lemon grass roasted lobster with vegetable semolina. Check out the plate. That’s a perfect little symmetrical dusting of spices — purely decorative. The presentation of every course was like this.

    La Saint-Jacques. Pan-seared scallops with fregolas pastas and herb emulsion. I love scallops, and although the scallop was perfect, the broth was insane, and the little “fregolas pastas” were like tiny balls of texture in an otherwise smooth sauce. Wow, I loved it. And again with the presentation. The colors are beautiful in the food alone, but check out the little polished stones that encircle the bowl.

    Scallops are, yes, shellfish, so AEJ’s course was substituted. She gets a vegetable dish with more truffles on top.

    Oh, and decorative gold leaf.

    L’Avoine. Wild-oat velouté with roasted almonds and choizo. Again with the amazing soups.

    L’Amadai. Amadai in a lily bulb broth. Amadai is a Japanese fish also known as tile fish. The fish here is pan fried with the scales left on the fish so they become crisp and papery.

    The next course. More beautiful presentation, with the shaved bark, seeds, and some other pretty little garnish, just because.

    That course: Le Turbot. Roasted turbot “on the bone” with celery and truffle stew.

    Le Boeuf de Kobé. Grilled Kobe beef, watercress tempura, and horseradish mustard. This was real Kobe beef — from Kobe, Japan. This wasn’t that “Kobe style” beef they raise in Omaha. This was flown in — presumably in business class.

    L’Epeautre. Sault farrow prepared risotto style with gold leaf. The soup was possibly my favorite course — which is crazy to me, after the number of beautiful courses that proceeded it. How I was able to still eat, let alone enjoy this so much, is incredible. The gold leaf was kind of a funny touch — and at least now I know what money tastes like (yummy).

    And this was on the side of the soup presentation plate. It’s a teeny tiny bail of hay. With a miniscule bouquet of flowers tied to it. Again, just because.

    Okay, dessert is coming up, so let’s rest for a minute and just look around the room. The restaurant is designed to look like a French mansion. We were seated in what would probably be called the restaurant’s terrace room — designed to look like an outdoor garden, complete with fresh flowers and vines all around us. There was even an artificial awning above us.

    Looking through the window next to our table, into the main dining room (with multiple fireplaces).

    A shot of that main dining room. I took this when we were leaving the restaurant — around 12:30am — so it had largely cleared out by then.

    And here’s the beginning of dessert! La Poire William. William pear on a sorbet and confit in black currant. It’s a fancy pear sorbet with two different sauces — one on each side. It was nice to have something so bright and fruity after all of the rich food.

    Another dessert! This one was my favorite: Le Chocolat “show.” Melting Araguani chocolate with a hint of peppermint. But that description doesn’t do it justice. That’s mint yumminess on the top there, with a little mint gelatin ball on top (it popped like a piece of Freshen-Up gum when you bit it – it was awesome) and underneath it all is warm chocolate goo. It was like the most insanely fantastic mint chocolate chip ice cream ever made.

    And yet another dessert. A selection of sorbets, nice and simple.

    Wait — there’s more dessert? Why yes — it’s the famous Robuchon confectionary cart. “More than 35 kinds of petit fours,” our server told us. We could make a selection on our own, or she would pick for us, using our guidance.

    How do we pick? Do I want these?

    Or these?

    Fine, we’ll take these.

    I had eaten more than enough gold leaf for the night, so for contrast, this chocolate was presented with silver leaf on top. Good lord, really?

    When they brought the bill (ha!), they brought us two copies of the menu (what, you think I wrote the names of the courses from memory?) on lovely heavy-stock colored paper, tied with a bow. When I opened the menu today to write this entry, I saw printed at the top, “Mr. Mackey and Guest.” So they didn’t just make me a copy of the menu — they printed a copy of the menu for me. Along with the menus, they brought us a fresh homemade panettone — a type of bread served in Italy around Christmastime — to take home and enjoy at breakfast the next day.

    I think it’s safe to say this was the most amazing dining experience I’ve ever had. It was four hours of culinary art — and it made AEJ smile. Your band booster dollars at work!