Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ford's Filling Station (Culver City, CA)

Ford's Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
Wed 11/12/2008, 08:00p-11:20p

Ford's Filling Station describes itself as a "gastro pub," focusing mainly on modern American food, with some international flair thrown in for good measure. The restaurant is helmed by Chef/Owner Benjamin Ford, son of actor Harrison Ford. Ford honed his skills at such LA establishments as Opus and Campanile (as well as the iconic California cuisine eatery Chez Panisse) before opening his Filling Station, where he focuses on uncomplicated cuisine backed by high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

Rather than experiencing Ford's regular menu, we were here for a special suckling pig dinner, as featured on Andrew Zimmern's show Bizarre Foods. The pig is available by special request only, and requires 10 days advance notice. This meal was sponsored entirely by FoodDigger, a burgeoning online food community. Joining me were fellow bloggers Aaron of Food Destination, Fiona of Gourmet Pigs, H.C. of L.A. and O.C. Foodventures, Ila of I Nom Things, Javier of Teenage Glutster, Matt of Dig Lounge, Matt of Mattatouille, and last but not least, Sarah of The Delicious Life and Tastespotting.

Situated along a row of restaurants, Ford's is surprisingly inconspicuous. I actually passed by it without even knowing.

The bustling main dining room features lots of dark wood, exposed brick, and concrete, giving the space a quasi-industrial feel. Nevertheless, the room is casual and comfortable, if a bit loud.

We were seated off to the side in the covered patio. A smaller room, the vibe here is much more relaxed.

Knowing that none of us would remember everything we had, I requested a special copy of the night's menu. Click for a larger version.

We paired three wines with the pork:
  • 2005 Château Monbousquet St. Émilion [from the personal cellar of Will from FoodDigger] - Soft and delicate, the Monbousquet demonstrated subtle notes of dark berry, cassis, and smoke. Very balanced and delicious, the wine would perhaps benefit from some more time in the bottle.
  • 2005 III Somms Atlas Napa Valley [$52.00] - This was a primarily Cabernet Franc blend, and tasted of a spicy mix of dark fruit, currant, and chocolate, leading to a slightly hot finish. A bit blunt.
  • 2007 Montgomery Place Napa Valley Red Wine [$64.00] - Another Cabernet Franc-dominated blend, the Montgomery showed similar characteristics to the III Somms, but had more refined tannins and a more subtle finish, with a touch more minerality.

Chef Ford first came out at the beginning of the meal to give us a quick introduction of what would go down. Later, he proudly presented the platter of pork to us.

Served on a gleaming silver platter, the suckling pig was an impressive sight to behold.

Pig 1: Porchetta
Porchetta is sort of a rolled, stuffed preparation of pork, done here with fennel and onions. It had a delightful taste, a base of pork, but augmented with the other ingredients. The skin was especially nice. Texture-wise, this was somewhere between the confit and the legs.

Pig 2: Pig's Tongue Salad
Formed over a base of frisée, the salad also came with crispy pig ears. I didn't particularly care for the tongue (which was cold and slightly metallic-tasting), though I did enjoy the crispy ears.

Pig 3: Deep Fried Pig's Eyes
I think this may have been my first time having eyes. Here, they were stuffed with smoked ham hock, which gave them a slightly chewy texture. Otherwise, the eyes were totally inoffensive, almost tasting like chicken.

Pig 4: Panchetta Wrapped Pork Loin
The meat itself here was a bit monolithic, and so the key was the panchetta (cured pork belly) wrapper, which lent the pork a delectable contrasting savoriness. Quite nice.

Pig 5: Confit of Pork Shoulder & Fresh Hams
This was what we were most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. The confit preparation left the pork incredibly tender to the point of breaking apart, and imbued the meat with an immense depth of flavor. So juicy, so succulent, this was some of the best pork I've ever had.

Pig 6: Crispy Smoked Pork Legs
This lacked the tenderness of the confit, and was a bit too tough for my tastes. It was perhaps the most intensely-flavored of all the variations, with strong, smoky notes over a base of pork.

Pig 7: Pork Cheek
Chef Ford made sure to tell us about the pork cheek on the head of the pig. Very rich and very fatty, it was perhaps a touch too intense for me.

Side 1: Roasted Kabocha Risotto
Kabocha is a type of Japanese winter squash, known for its sweet flavor. Here, I felt the sweetness was too much for the risotto, and was all I could focus on with this dish.

Side 2: Brussels Sprouts with Bacon / Cavalo Nero & Escarole
The Brussels sprouts were some of the best I've had, with their subtle nutty flavor accented by the salty tang of bacon. Fantastic. Also on the plate were kale and endive, which both had a very pleasing bitterness.

Side 3: Roasted Carrots with Pomegranate
The carrots had a natural sweetness that was further elevated by the pomegranate. I would've preferred them a bit crisper though.

Dessert 1: Hawaiian Bread Pudding
After coming close to a pork coma, this light, fruity dessert was extremely appealing. The candied kumquats(?) provided a great contrasting sourness and I enjoyed their tough, chewy texture.

Dessert 2: Walnut Torte
Chocolate cake topped with ice cream is always a winning combination. Not particularly creative, but tasty indeed. The small bits of hard chocolate were a nice touch.

A photo with Chef Ben Ford shortly before he had to leave.

Though not everything worked for me, the clear standout was the pork confit, which was simply heavenly. That alone is something worth coming back for, though I'd also be curious about the regular menu as well. I must say that this was one of the most interesting meals I've had, not only for the food, but for the company. Sharing the meal with such like-minded individuals as mentioned above definitely heightened the experience, and I look forward to many more future meals in the same vein.


Blogger mattatouille said...

nice post and great photos! yeah, not everything worked, and a lot of things were really salty, I noticed. That's fine since that was pretty much the only seasoning. I do like how nothing was doused in sauce - it was all about that poor suckling pig yesterday. The vegetables were quite good too. Nice finally meeting you Kevin, hope to enjoy more meals together in the future.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 8:32:00 AM  
Blogger tdo said...

Nice recount of the night Kevin! I thought they were candied kumquats in the Hawaiian dessert too. Nice shot of the name card - I'm glad someone is making use of those and all my work was not all for naught.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dangit! i shoulda RSVP'd earlier.

you're ballin' Kev! Ford Pork meal + Toto's beef meal the same week. crazyyyy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Man Kevin, I think you can write reviews faster than I can read them. How do you get so much out of the chef? It sounds like you had to interrogate him to get all those details.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

How nice of Food digger! =)

Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the great work.


Thursday, November 13, 2008 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger FoodDigger said...

A little swine is mighty fine. I love the pics and the post. Although some parts of the pig were better than others, it was amazing to have five or six different preparations for different parts of the pig. The pride in Chef Ford's eyes as he presented the pig really set the tone for me. Amazing night. Thanks to all who attended!

Thursday, November 13, 2008 1:55:00 PM  
Blogger choisauce said...

u guys really are a fun bunch ;) nice to finally meet u all! extremely surprised how well u remember the all the intricate details of the meal the day after =P again, amazing pics, this post no exception. I should have jacked ur camera last night while I had my paws on them :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008 3:14:00 PM  
Blogger ila said...

Kevin! I just realized that you were the Kevin that went to the secret Disney restaurant.
Anywho, it was great meeting you... And what a very nice post!

Thursday, November 13, 2008 8:44:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

mattatouille: Thanks Matt! It was great to finally meet you as well. I agree that sauce would have been largely unnecessary. I want more of that confit...

t: Yep then I'm pretty sure those were kumquats then; thanks for the confirmation. The name cards are always a nice touch, even if others don't appreciate them. ;)

tonyc: Yeah it would have been nice to have you there as well! Totoraku, Ford's, Mizuna last night and Fruition tonight (I'm in Denver now), then Bazaar on Monday (which I'm really looking forward to), then Coi and Manresa next weekend (both Michelin 2-stars in SF), it's goin to be a busy time for me in terms of food!

aaron: I wanted to get FFS out that night, since I knew I'd have Mizuna on Thursday and Fruition on Friday (both restaurants in Denver). As for the details, it's a combination of paying attention to the chef/servers, my own food knowledge, and some research. ;)

charlie fu: Quite nice indeed! They also did the Fogo de Chao dinner, which I previously wrote about, and Jinpachi, which I didn't go to.

Pat: Thanks! I'll do my best.

fooddigger: Might fine indeed. I much appreciated the multiple varations as well, and it was obvious that Chef Ford was delighted to have the chance to do something like this.

christine: I usually take notes with my meals, and in addition, do a brain dump right when I get home, so I have everything I need, even if I write my review much later. But I'm just glad you finally got out of lurking mode. ;)

ila: Great meet you as well! Yeah, I've been to Club 33 three times now, and sadly, it's gotten a little bit worse each time. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

What a wonderful way to share a meal with other enthusiastic foodies !

The carrot and pomegranate dish looked intriguing :)

Hope that you are having a good weekend, and safe from the fires !

Saturday, November 15, 2008 1:48:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Annie, the company was arguably the best part of the meal. ;)

I just got in from Denver last night, but I'm well enough away from the fires.

Saturday, November 15, 2008 5:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 8:05:00 PM  
Blogger Reima said...

Just ate here a couple weeks ago and loved it! Nice blog! I just posted my entry on Ford's Filling Station if you want to check it out!

Saturday, March 20, 2010 5:44:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Just read your post Reima--glad to hear that you had a great time at FFS! I wouldn't mind checking out the normal menu some time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010 6:10:00 PM  

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