Apologies to Chef Michael Mina for my pitiful photography–he does not have a yellow nose. However his gorgeous, SoCal-chic restaurant Stonehill Tavern, in the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point, does have some yellow lighting in the private dining room. And that is where I joined 8 other writers from around the country for a tasting dinner prepared by Chef Mina. He seems like a pleasant fellow, very soft spoken and gentle guy. You’d never know he sits on top of a restaurant empire he formed with his partner Mr. Steffi Graff, or, as you may remember him, tennis star Andre Agassi. After a brief discussion about forehand volleys down the line and the perfect couple, we talked about his idea behind Stonehill Tavern. “I really tried to crate a restaurant customized to Orange County,” he said under the yellow lights. “I wanted to create an upscale, modern American restaurant with a tavern area and private dining rooms.” OK, not earth shattering news (yikes, should I say that in SoCal?) except one could argue that modern in Orange County is a bit of a philosophical stretch. Anywhoo, he’s doing something right–he is in the pa new concept, RN74, a 100-seat wine bar/restaurant in San Francisco.
Has Michael Mina looked at Dallas for business? “Oh I love Dallas,” he said. “I’ve been there several times. It’s a lovely city.” OK, do you know any chefs? “Oh, yes I know Dean Fearing very well. We go back to the Bel Air together.” Avoiding the obvious question–“In which part of the hotel did you two spend time together?”–I let him continue. “Oh, every time I come to Dallas, Dean takes me to Sonny’s. Gosh, I love Sonny’s.” So that’s the short of it. Michael Mina hearts Dallas and Sonny’s but he’s not coming here anytime soon. Meanwhile, I’ve posted a recap of the marvelous dinner chef Mina prepared just for us. It was divine.
Course Two: Maine skatewing with white bean ravioli, lemon basil in a golden tomato broth (OMG, the best). (paired with F. X. Pichler Riesling “Kellerberg” Smaragd, Austria 2000)
Course Three: Liberty Farms duck with candied ginger, roasted almonds, and red plums (paired with a Gevrey-Chambertin, sorry can’t read my notes.)
Course Four: Berkshire pig served with a yellow carrot puree, wild arugula and black truffles, . (paired with wine produced for Mina by Rajat Parr. Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, Ambullneo Vineyards, 2005)
Course Five: American Kobe beef with fermented garlid, morels, asparagus topped with green peppercorn jus. Beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho. (paired with Domaine les Pallieres, Gigondas, France, 2004)