World Class Dining at Aubergine Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel by Joe Davis Examiner.com, November 20, 2012
Executive Chef Justin Cogley is known for creating sophisticated modern California cuisine using locally sourced, artisan, luxury and highly seasonal ingredients. Diners are presented with two tasting menu choices. The Four Course Dinner has options in each course and the Spontaneous Chef’s Tasting Menu, which is only offered for your entire table, is designed using twenty ultra-seasonal ingredients. A Sommelier’s Wine Pairing is an option for both.
With the sting of an herb and brine of the sea, Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel captures the Central Coast outside. Ocean mists and forest floors. His palette is largely the surrounding land and it clearly influences his work. And just as oranges, reds, violets, and blue swirl together during a Carmel sunset, flavors blend seamlessly in strong focused dishes. Naturalist, without masking ingredients, it also draws much from across the Pacific.
A short drive from the Bay Area, Aubergine has generally been omitted from the recent stories of California cooking. This is unfair.1 The surrounding beaches, mountains, hills, forests, fields, and farms are ripe with ample bounty. Microclimates persist throughout the region. Some areas get daily waves of fog and afternoon breeze; others are geographically protected. This allows for diversity of crop. And while hours don’t make a difference, it is closer to the seafood. Plying his craft away from media cycles, Cogley is an emerging voice in the exploration of California’s regional terroir.
TripAdvisor is proud to congratulate L'Auberge Carmel on earning the prestigious 2012 Certificate of Excellence award.
Our travelers consistently commend your property with the highest praise, and we recognise your 4.5 rating as an exceptional achievement.
Aubergine #13 - Top 25 North California
#66 in Top 100 US Restaurants Opinionated About Dining 2012 Restaurant Survey
Justin Cogley, a veteran of Charlie Trotter's kitchen, has kept Aubergine in the running for the honors of the top dining destination on the Central Coast. Cogley’s cooking is dominated by local ingredients, and you are likely to find dishes such as a chilled Dungeness crab with young coconut, roasted banana and candied peanut, Monterey Bay spot prawns with yuzu and a fennel purée emulsified with olive oil, or whole roasted Grimaud Farms duck for two with date, saffron and Szechuan peppercorns gracing his menu. A 4,500-bottle wine list means you won't have much of a problem finding something interesting to drink with your meal, and a cozy dining room (there are a mere 12 tables) make this “one of the most romantic restaurants in the country.“
First impressions are everything, and for some chefs, a singular bite is both a way to welcome a guest and offer a fleeting glimpse of what is to come. An amuse bouche - quite literally “to amuse the mouth” - is small and delicate, yet the flavor is big and complex, its aim in life quite simple: to ignite the palate.
An amuse is not something that can be ordered; rather, it is a gift from the chef, so in that spirit, it’s a surprise when it arrives on a tiny plate, in a petite demitasse cup, or perched on a single spoon. Exactly what it is may depend on what’s in season, or simply the chef’s mood that evening. Will it be a liquid olive, an oyster poached in cream and studded with caviar, or a thimbleful of intensely flavored soup? The following are some of our favorite signature amuse bouches around the U.S.
At this restaurant, recognized in Zagat’s 2012 San Francisco Bay Area RestaurantSurvey as one of the Top Five Restaurants, Executive Chef Justin Cogley presents a signature amuse bouche which simulates at least three five senses: lemon verbena mousse with cocoa crumbs and spring baby onion flowers.
Abject Terroir, Aubergine elevates the art of service
by Mark C. Anderson
MC Weekly, March 8, 2012
The handiwork from Zagat-seducing exec chef Justin Cogley and pastry wiz Ron Mendoza was nothing short of head-shaking. They interpreted this installment’s “grasslands” theme into six courses where creativity and flavor raced one another upward: Think delicate turnips stuffed with foie gras and bedded in a cradle of wheatgrass and kissably tender North Dakota bison with smoked eggplant and a buckwheat crumble crunch with clairvoyantly paired wines from France and Napa.
But my interlocutor on this evening (her name’s Wendy Thorpe) seems to prize service above all – even the celestial, liquid-center “cereal milk truffle” that closed the meal. And in delivering attention that might surpass the tastes – and certainly elevates them – these Aubergine peeps set the standard locally. Guys like sommelier Marin Nadalin don’t just remember your name, but your tastes and tendencies, all in a way that’s genuine and disarming rather than pretentious or off-putting. Like Thorpe said, “There is some synchronicity in this.”
Three Restaurants that are the Talk of the Town
by Dr. Stefan Elfenbei VIP International Traveller, February 2012
Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel… and now we are heading far away,
across the Atlantic and the USA, to California.
For decades now artists, bon vivants, the high
society of Los Angeles and San Francisco have
been drawn to the chic little town of Carmel, on
the renowned Highway One, between the cliffs
and fabulous beaches. Chef Justin Cogley is now
there, too. And his is a name to note! Really!
Absolutely! Cogley has set up residence at the
Relais & Chateaux establishment L’Auberge
Carmel, the finest place in town. He learned his
trade with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. And he
brought his young, wild, bold cuisine along with
him. Previously, the cuisine at L’Auberge was
French, very classical, lots of butter, cream and
boredom. An end has been put to all this.
New Californian cuisine is the name of the game
now. Dungeness crab and sea urchin arrived as
amuse bouche, in a fine, salty seawater aspic.
Cogley skilfully combines the foie gras with
rhubarb, fennel, garlic, shallots and chili. After
this there is Californian abalone on fava beans,
with onion blossoms and melted lardo, wafer-thin
strips of bacon. Cogley serves up the whole thing
in the glittering mother-of-pearl of the abalone
shells and on a bed of kelp, the frequently metrelong seaweed that grows directly off the coast in
forests, flowing gently with the waves. “I want
people to not only eat, to consume, but to develop a feel for the products again, for the wonderful things that grow here,“ says the chef. This
includes respect for nature. “An abalone has to
grow for four years before it reaches our plates!“
More of the same, Mr Cogley! We were very impressed! Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel
by the Sea, CA 93921, Monte Verde at Seventh,
Tel. +1-831-624 8578, www.laubergecarmel.com
Aubergine continues 'Terroir' series
by Elaine Hesser For Off 68, February 10, 2012
Peninsula diners who thought they had to travel to the French Laundry or Manresa to dine at a top-level Zagat-rated restaurant need look no further than Aubergine, in the L'Auberge Carmel hotel.
In late 2010, Zagat announced that Aubergine was ranked fifth among San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants, sharing the rarified atmosphere with the aforementioned culinary shrines. Not one to rest on his laurels, Chef de Cuisine Justin Cogley (who spent four years working with Chef Charlie Trotter) is serving up a series of four-course dinners based on landscapes. He's calling the series "Terroir," which is a French word usually associated with winemaking. While conveying the precise definition is difficult (sometimes things really are lost in translation), the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate."
The words "complete natural environment" capture the essence of the series. Cogley is re-creating natural environments on the plate. At $75 per person, including the wine, it's a bit of a splurge, but well within reason for the experience and quality of food and service. The most recent dinner, "an introduction to the coast," featured an array of deftly prepared seafood with whimsical touches that teased diners' palates in unexpected ways, like icy Pacific waters splashing up on a beach.
Spring / Summer Menu Preview 2012 by Irene Sax
Food Arts, January 2012
Justin Cogley Aubergine, L’Auberge Carmel
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California “Because we have only 10 tables and offer just a four course prix-fixe and a tasting menu, we have extraordinary freedom when we think about ingredients. We can really focus on the food. For example, strawberries are usually associated with pastry, but last year we did a savory first course of lightly steamed fish with pickled strawberries.”
Appetizer Monterey Bay abalone with pickled sea lettuce, daikon radish & hijiki. “Abalone arrive live from waters just 20 minutes away. Take one out of its shell, clean it off, and remove the muscle; pound it lightly. Cook it sous-vide for half an hour at 60 degrees Celsius [140˚F]; pan-roast in butter at pick-up. Sea lettuce is what comes along when the divers bring up the abalone. Clean it to make sure there are no creatures hiding in it, then pickle it with rice wine vinegar, water, and sugar. When it has a light pickle flavor, lay it on parchment paper to drain. Cut daikon into little bâtons and braise with soy sauce and kombu; add the hijiki at the end for a moment. The abalone is the highlight of the dish. We cover it with sea lettuce and lay the dark threads of hijiki and the daikon around it so it looks the way you’d see it in the ocean.”
Entrées Braised lamb shoulder & tongue with pickled elephant garlic. “We get the whole shoulders, bone them, clean them up, and rub them with spices—usually cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and grains of paradise. Then we roll the meat back up tightly and cook it sous-vide for 12 hours. To serve, cut two slices from this beautiful roulade; garnish with lamb tongue, ruffled mustard greens, and big pieces of pickled elephant garlic. The tongue has been seared, cooked for a couple of hours, sliced very thin, and browned in a pan at the last minute. We’ll char a couple of scallions in a hot cast-iron skillet, add them to the plate, and at tableside spoon on a milky garlic sauce. This is made by blanching garlic five times—the last time in milk—then pureeing the milk and garlic together and reducing it in a double boiler so it doesn’t scorch. A little mirin is added at the end for sweetness.”
Steamed European turbot with olive paste, fennel & upland cress. “We get the turbot whole, and cut four nice fillets from it. These are slowly steamed and covered with a fennel cream that sets up when it touches the fish. For the cream, cook fennel stalks in a flavorful vegetable stock along with onions, Pernod, and fennel seeds; add heavy cream, which makes it a bright white; strain; reduce. To serve, place pieces of raw fennel around the fillets, each piece topped with a bright orange cluster of smoked wild steelhead roe; garnish with ruffles of cress and circles of intense black olive paste. This is started in the Gastrovac, a fancy machine that vacuum-cooks at very low temperatures to extract maximum flavor. We process the olive puree with natural gelatin and squid ink to make it black, then lay this out on a sheet pan to set. From this, we’ll punch out disks that pack an intense olive flavor for their size.”
Pastry chef Ron Mendoza Strawberries & spruce meringues. “Macerate local strawberries with a little sugar and a splash of St. Germain elderflower liquor. Bake classic meringues seasoned with a few drops of essential spruce oil. Sometimes I make tons of little ones the size of a half dollar and other times bigger ones that I break apart to look like a snowball after it’s smashed. Stabilize golden passion fruit curd with a little agar-agar so it can be formed into different shapes, like a cylinder or a spiral. Put the curd on the plate and surround it with the elderflower-perfumed berries and a scattering of meringues. No two plates are ever the same, but they’re always beautiful.”
Aubergine's landscapes by Mike Hale Monterey Herald, January 4, 2012
Our economy still sputters and coughs, and the days of high-end, pretentious dining may be behind us, but there is still a market for classy, dress-up, adult experiences with delicious, artfully crafted food.
With Club XIX's closure last year, the list of fine-dining places has really shrunk to three: Marinus at Bernardus Lodge, Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn and Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel.
Under wunderkind chef Justin Cogley, Aubergine in Carmel really stands out in my mind as a place to splurge and indulge, with the memories fresh in your mind weeks or months later. In 2011 the restaurant earned a No. 5 Zagat ranking throughout the San Francisco Bay Area region.
Aubergine's new monthly dinner series called Terroir allows diners a less expensive entry into this world created by Cogley and executive pastry chef Ron Mendoza. The series, inspired by landscapes, includes wine pairings and costs $75 per person.
December's dinner was titled "Forest and Fields," and we snagged two seats as an early Christmas present. Wow. It started with amuses of foie gras on flatbread served on a log with forest scents, followed by hay-smoked pickled quail eggs and a small shot of warm apple cider and bourbon. And it only got better from there. We ate squab cooked in smoked butter, with apple and strips of succulent lardo; porcini mushrooms with caramelized onion and black garlic; and venison with salsify, birch syrup and devils club root (a crunch component that looks like a twig). Dessert was a "painted landscape," with guanaja cremeux (a decadent chocolate cream), bits of torn chocolate cake and eucalyptus ice cream playing the moon and a sweet, dark orange gelee serving as the setting sun. Edible art, and visually stunning.
Jan. 24 brings "Pacific Coastlines." Call 624-8578 for reservations.
"This three-story white stucco inn, once an apartment building, reflects Bohemian architecture. European-style rooms with tan walls, red furnishings, and duvets center around a brick courtyard and have coved plaster and antique doorknobs. At Aubergine, which has a 4,500 bottle wine collection, "the nicely varied menu" plumbs the riches of local farmers' markets."
Readers' Choice Awards -
"#11 Best Small Hotel in the U.S.” - November 2009
“#31 Best Hotel in the U.S.” - November 2008
"#29 Hotel in the U.S." - November 2007
"#37 Best Hotel in the U.S." - November 2006
"#42 Best Hotel in the U.S." - November 2005
Travel & Leisure
Top 500 World's Best Hotels List - 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007
#22 hotel in the "Top 100 in the Continental U.S. and Canada" - August 2006
"An eye-catching question arrived on the top of a recent menu at Aubergine (624-8578), the transformational 10-table spot in Carmel’s L’Auberge.
“As chefs,” went the Chef Santi Santamaria quote, “we ask ourselves if there’s such a thing as culinary poetry.”
The answer appeared on 10 small plates of big possibility, precise miniature harmonies that bridged reality and fantasy by connecting other seemingly mutually exclusive domains – the simple and complex, the familiar and the mysterious, the calming and the energizing. Think microsquid the size of a finger tip accented by a delicate little swath of sea urchin and seawater yuzu, or Kusshi oyster with cucumber, pea shoots and smoked trout roe."
"Executive pastry chef Ron Mendoza won first place in the “most innovative” category for his “Strawberries and Basil” dessert in the annual Golden Scoop Awards. The competition was held in New York City in June 2009. Professional bakers, confectioners, and pastry chefs from all over the country sent in submissions with finalists chosen and invited to come to New York to plate their desserts for a panel of judges. Everyone enjoyed the spectacle of seeing and tasting the inventive desserts and appetizing treats being created in America's pastry kitchens. Along with an engraved Golden Scoop and jacket patch, Ron received 100 pounds of chocolate from E. Guittard, a 20-year-anniversary World Pastry Cup book from the Almond Board of California, and his class of at The French Culinary Institute. Ron will also be featured in the January/February issue of Food Arts magazine."
"Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of California’s gems. Its charms rightly attract many visitors. Thanks to the talents of David Fink, those visitors can enjoy hospitality of the very highest order – at L’Auberge Carmel, Restaurant Aubergine and Cantinetta Luca"
“...With just 20 richly appointed guestrooms, L’Auberge, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a study in texture, color and form. Muted sage plaster walls host original photography and French windows. Mahogany beds feature rich tapestry pillows with brocade duvets in deep shades of burgundy and luxurious bedding. Tile bathrooms have radiant heated floors, hammered copper sinks and, in some rooms, soaking tubs. Some rooms overlook the flower-filled courtyard, while those on the street side allow a peak at Carmel Bay over the pine trees.
Upon arriving, guests are greeted with a glass of sparkling house made soda, and seated at a desk in what feels like a front parlor for check in. This same area attracts guests at cocktail hour and beyond to indulge in fine scotches and martinis... ”
Los Angeles Weddings - Spring 2007
"Built in 1929, the European-style L'Auberge Carmel is anything but antiquated. Instead, the decor is a warm French chic. Guests enter on the street level to the inn's 12-table restaurant and a lobby/lounge that calls for sipping Champagne over a game of checkers. Inside, a set of stairs leads up to a geranium-dotted courtyard from which 20 guest rooms fan out. Waiting inside is down bedding made for a leisurely breakfast in bed—notably, L'Auberge's daily fare of coddled eggs and pastries. Creature comforts come by way of deep-soaking tubs, heated bathroom floors, and scrumptious homemade cookies at turndown.
A doorway in L'Auberge Carmel's back hallway leads to the wine cellar where candlelight reflects off the 4,500 bottle wine collection. Toast over a wine-themed dinner paired with dishes, including Red Abalone, Italian Butter Beans, and Manilla Clams. Another great place to experience the exeutive chef's creations is sister restaurant Bouchée with its double-sided fireplace and offerings such as Liberty duck breast with wild French asparagus, barley and duckport wine sauce to sate the palate."
Conde Nast Johansens
Awards for Excellence - "Most Excellent Small Hotel in USA" - February 2007
#20 "America's Top 50 Restaurants" - October 2006
“Even as many a frazzled city chef is fantasizing about opening a little place in the country, Walter Manzke, previously of the high-powered Patina, in Los Angeles, is living the dream. But he’s not cooking country at the intimate 12-table L’Auberge Carmel. From Thai-inspired riffs on sates and spring rolls to Syrah-braised Wagyu beef short ribs and silky olive-oil-poached tilefish that appears to have washed ashore in a Meyer lemon foam, the dishes on his elegant tasting menu reveal his mastery of pure, focused flavors and faraway cuisines. Before Manzke, no one would have expected to find a dinner they’d talk about for weeks in the sleeply village of Carmel.”
Wine Spectator, June 2006
“Open since 2004, L’Auberge Carmel raises the bar for high-end accommodations in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The building, constructed in 1929, is a particularly formidable example of the town’s distinctive Old World-inspired architecture but has been updated and outfitted with modern amenities. Rooms are stylish, with custom-designed mahogany beds, richly textured linens and walls painted in serene sage tones. The bathrooms are spacious and have heated travertine floors. Weather permitting, breakfast is served in an enclosed brick courtyard brimming with French country charm. Dinner is served daily in the 12-table restaurant adjacent to the lobby.
Dinner at L’Auberge Carmel is like an evening with a brilliant conversationalist who has attention deficit disorder: fascinating but peripatetically challenging. On a recent evening, chef Walter Manzke offered an eight-course tasting menu that started in Mexico then hop scotched to Japan, Thailand, France and Italy. Were it not for the consistent excellence, that much travel might be discomfiting.
Manzke crafts highly inventive food with precise, intense flavors meant to startle and delight. Starters included a plump Kumomoto oyster with a shot of tart green apple juice, followed by a Japanese course of four variations of raw Maine scallop. Another dish offered juicy squab over decadently rich calamarata pasta stuffed with a truffled mouse of foie gras and sweetbreads...”
17th annual “Best of the Best Restaurants” selection - June 2005
"Combining the French techniques he learned under Alain Ducasse with the creativity he absorbed in Spain at Ferran Adrian's El Bulli, L'Auberge Carmel's executive chef Walter Manzke creates petite, full-flavored dishes sure to seduce the most jaded gastronome. Opened in August 2004 and located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the intimate restaurant is the centerpiece of a landmark European-style inn. L'Auberge diners begin their evenings with an amuse bouche such as the paella—a rendition of the Spanish classic that is compacted into one assertive bite and served with Champagne. Manzke, a San Diego native, has a penchant for Mexican-influenced dishes such as lobster taco, which he separates into three components: clarified tomato and cilantro juice, presented in a shot glass with a single tortilla chip (he calls this chips and salsa); a spoonful of guacamole and lobster; and a second shot glass with lime sorbet with a few drops of reposado tequila, which gives the item the essence of a margarita but not the effect."
Bon Appetit Best of the Year, Restaurant Hot Seat - January 2005
"How do you top yourself when you already run Bouchée, one of the best restaurants in town? In the case of chef Walter Manzke (formerly of L.A.’s acclaimed Patina) and co-owners David and Kathleen Fink, the answer is: Think small. At the team’s newest venture, there are only 12 tables—and just a single tasting menu offered nightly. The results, however, are big and impressive—taking dining this central California town to a whole new level. Manzke is at the top of his game; David is the consummate host; and Kathleen has overseen each detail of the stunning decor, from interior design to tableware. It’s an elegant jewel box of a place, perfectly suited to this postcard-pretty hamlet. And if you need a place to stay, the trio has taken care of that that, too: The restaurant just happens to be part of their new 20-room inn, another successful collaboration. "
Monte Verde at Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, 93921 │ Tel: 831 624 8578 │ Fax: 831 626 1018