DINING AT TABLE 18
Moving to a new place, whether it's a village, town or city presents its challenges. I mean really, where do you get your hair highlighted and cut? Where's the best mani/pedi? And, what about finding a good mechanic or a decent cheeseburger? All challenges that need to be addressed when you've moved to someplace new.
But, then, there are some wonderful discoveries you find as you explore your new home town. In my case, a thriving theater and art community, beautiful mountain and valley trails to hike, new restaurants and wineries to review, and two new favorite women's boutiques that sell that layered, drape-y Kate Hepburn-style clothes I like.
Not to mention the more elusive discoveries known primarily to only those in the know. Private Chef Robin Goldstein's Table 18 is one of those discoveries.
Richard and I first met Robin when we took the Ojai Artists' Studio Tour. We drove here and there, to Upper Ojai and back down to lower Ojai. We went from the east end to west end and saw some amazing artwork, and as the day ebbed and flowed, we found ourselves at the studio of Eilam Byle, a painter who also turns wood into amazing works of art whether it be furniture, kitchen counters, bowls or pieces of sculpture.
So, you're asking - what has that got to do w/ Robin Goldstein? Well, Robin is Eilam's wife. The studio is also Robin's gourmet kitchen. Richard and I didn't know which to ogle first - the artwork or the kitchen. While talking to Robin about her kitchen, however, we learned about her and Table 18.
Robin attended the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America in New York and has lived and cooked in Europe, as well as worked and consulted with some of L.A.'s top caterers and established restaurants. She's also worked and cooked for private families in California and Hawaii, Spain, Norway and Switzerland. Now settled in Ojai, Robin is working as a private chef here in the valley and in the Santa Barbara area (she also conducts cooking classes, has her private pop up dinners and helps people transition to vegetarian/vegan and raw food diets).
You're next question is what is Table 18, right? It's a series of private "farm to table" dinners Robin gives a few times a year in their studio for up to 18 people. Why 18? As she tells it, that's how many charger plates she has. We were lucky to get a reservation to her latest dinner.
When we arrived, vodka celery martinis awaited us made from fresh juiced local celery and cucumber, with a splash of Lillet. I was surprised how refreshing and delicious it was. For the teetotalers, Robin made mocktinis with fresh pineapple juice, mint and ginger w/ a splash of sparkling H20.
I meandered around the studio ending up at the serving bar...
... covered with sweet smelling fresh produce where I talked to a few guests.
As we continued to mingle with the other diners, we nibbled on ahi sliders with a garlic-wasabi aioli and crisp cucumber on mini buns or, if you're non-carbing it, on sliced cucumber rounds, plus whipped feta with crushed pistachios and fig on walnut bread. Loved every nibble.
Cocktails over, we took seats at one of the two farm tables crafted by Eilam.
Dinner was served.
The first course, served with a chilled chenin blanc wine, was a citrus marinated Kampachi Crudo with orange blossom essence, along with a raw spring vegetable salad of shaved radish, asparagus, turnip, carrot citrus-olive oil and Himalayan sea salt. So light, so lovely, so delicious.
For our entree, Robin seared Watkins Ranch grass-fed sirloin steak on rosemary twig skewers and served the steak with a parsley chimichurri with preserved lemon, on top of a roasted cauliflower risotto with porcini mushroom spice and white truffle oil... So yum.
... and two rich red wines.
Dessert was poached local peaches with fresh basil, rose water-basil syrup and Marsala whipped crema. Normally I'm not a dessert lover, but I loved this. Light and airy as gossamer...
Robin's goal is to create, not only an interesting culinary occasion - but a social experience as well, to bring groups of people into an unfamiliar setting for an evening of good food and good conversation.
She accomplished her goal, and then some.
Vodka or Gin 1 Oz. Fresh Celery Juice
and cucumber juice½ Oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Combine Gin, Celery Juice, Lemon Juice, A Dash Of Bitters, And A Dash Of Lillet In A Cocktail Shaker Filled With Ice. Shake And Strain Into A Chilled Martini Glass. Garnish With Celery Leaves, If You Like.
*To Juice Celery, Use An Electric Juicer And Follow Manufacturer's Instructions Or Purée Roughly Chopped Celery Stalks In A Food Processor Until Smooth. Pour Over A Cheesecloth-Lined Sieve Set Over A Bowl; Press On Solids Until All The Juice Is Drained. Combine Lemon And Celery Juices Immediately To Prevent Browning.
Makes one martini.
Private Chef Robin Goldstein
check out my photos and monthly recipe on my website