I never thought that one of the best meals I have ever eaten would be in Santa Clarita.
I’ve dined at Michelin starred and iconic restaurants around the United States. I have eaten very well. When I heard about a secret 10 course wine pairing pop up dinner to be held in Santa Clarita, I was intrigued. After signing up on a website, I got instructions about when reservations opened. Thankfully I called right after reservations were accepted. The $190 per person event sold out in 8 minutes.
Simply called /’sədl/ (the visual interpretation of the phonetic pronunciation of the word Subtle), this event was the brain child of Dustin Boole and Chase Ponce. Dustin many know as the current Executive Chef at Newhall Refinery and former chef at The Oaks Grille at TPC Valencia. Chase was an apprentice under Dustin at TPC who has gone on to work as a chef de partie at a twin Michelin starred Acadia in Chicago, and is currently the chef de tournant at Gwen under Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone in Los Angeles.
The day of the event, I had no idea what to expect. My wife and I arrived at a non-descript building in Valencia and upon entry we were instantly transported into a beautiful scene. Candlelit tables were arranged in a large room. We were surrounded by wine barrels stacked to the ceiling and filled with wine being aged for bottling. Soft lights were strung overhead. The tables were wonderfully decorated with a rustic bouquet of silver dollar eucalyptus branches.
We were seated and I recognized many familiar people on the wait staff. Also in the dining crowd was Chef Chase’s culinary rock star boss. I still had no idea what to expect.
Steve Lemley and Nate Hasper, owners of Santa Clarita’s own Pulchella Winery hosted the event in their winery. They were the first to welcome us and provided the wine pairings for all but one course of the meal for the evening. Shortly after, two of the waitstaff approached us and placed a cigar box in front of my wife and I. In unison, they opened the boxes. A slight sweet tobacco aroma wafted out of the box. Inside was a wonderful piece of bread and butter churned by the staff from locally sourced cream. The butter had been laid over a bed of ice and smoked prior to being served. If this was the level of detail they put into the bread, I knew I was in for a treat.
The evening progressed with one mind blowing course after another. Service was spot on. Every little detail had obviously been planned out and rehearsed down to how each item was to be served. Of course I was curious about what was going on in back. I managed to sneak back and take a look. To my surprise, there was a small army of people at work painstakingly assembling each dish. Many were using tweezers. I was told that in all, it took 40 people to staff this event for 30 guests.
Each dish was masterfully presented. The wait staff had detailed descriptions about each item. One presentation of note was the salmon. It was beautifully arranged on glass sitting on top of a wooden box decorated with moss and rocks inside. (Picture and descriptions of all courses below)
Our last dinner course was grade A5 Japanese Wagyu beef. While I am sure this was intended to be the grand finale, I didn’t see it this way. Each dish was great on it’s own. Thinking back over the meal, I could not pick a favorite. Everything was equally amazing. There was no course that disappointed. My wife is usually picky, but she enjoyed everything from the uni ice cream down to the foie gras.
Three and a half hours later, the meal concluded with a small caviar tin, inside a chocolate truffle and strawberry jelly made from COC Farmer’s Market vendor Harry’s Berries, and before we were on our way, a bottle of Pulchella’s Gathering, a temparnillo, grenache and petite sirah blend, was gifted for us to take home.
The event was such as success that rumors are already swirling that they may do this again. I for one don’t know how they can top this.