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Aubergine Restaurant, Carmel-by-the-Sea
California, USA

A world class chef in Justin Cogley (new in 2011) produces creative and innovative dishes in a tiny, 42-seat restaurant in deluxe Hotel l'Augerge Carmel on a quiet street in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Peter and Linda D'Aprix 2009-11


Justin Cogley, a young and talented new chef, has recently taken over the kitchen at Aubergine Restaurant in Carmel by the Sea, California. He brings a bevy of unique inspirations to the menu, departing from the more French/California approach of the previous chef and exploring new directions in tastes and taste combinations. So if you enjoy the fun and excitement of exploring new culinary waters, this is the restaurant for you.

Foie Gras Chef Cogley Restaurant
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While the previous chef focused both on the sea and the soil, chef Cogley focuses on the sea and backs it all up with a fine market basket from local growers. Chef Cogley says his culinary focus is on spontaneity. This is certainly true but he is also a trail blazer in finding combinations of ingredients and getting them to sing in harmony in altogether new ways. His food is fun and novel. He has a "tasting menu" that is the American version of the "Menu Degustation" or many small dishes that cover a wide range of his library of dishes, none of which are fixed but vary based on what the freshest ingredients are on the day of dining. Each is paired with a wine chosen to marry nicely with each dish.

Aubergine is the intimate 42-seat restaurant of the deluxe l'Auberge Carmel, run by owner David Fink and his wife Kathleen Fink. It's ambiance is an extension of the hotel with a warm, European country feel with a smooth entwining of antiques, stone walls and the paintings of Clifford Bailey in the restaurant and the public rooms. The same calm, professionalism suffuses the staff who manage to be both efficiently professional with no display of effort while at the same time as friendly and relaxed as you would like them to be. Unobtrusive to a fault and anticipate every need.

And Chef Justin Cogley and his small kitchen staff, keep the courses coming at a perfectly measured pace. He is ably supported in the dessert department by Ron Mendoza, executive pastry chef, formerly of "Sona and Boule" in Los Angeles and "The French Laundry" in Yountville, Napa Valley. The kitchen is just on the other side of the dining room wall, so plates arrive within seconds of preparation and Chef Justin Cogley is often to be seen peering around the door checking on his guests.

SaladWe were both served the Tasting Menu but we each had a different dish which made it a whole lot more fun. All the plates were delightful surprises and it made the evening the event. (See our dishes on the photo slide show click here.) We have everything from a simple yet refreshing "Garden Salad" that was sitting on a moist "Miso" crumbled cake that made the whole thing sort of look like a mini garden (recipe coming soon) to Abalone stuffed with fava beans & bacon served on Sea Lettuce from Monterey; Braised Lamb - Tongue & Shoulder with Scallions & Elephant Garlic to Ossau Iraty Sheep's Cheese melted over a Brioche with Cherries and many more. One of the delicious wines was from their own winery "Les Jumelles" a A Pinot Noir with their twin daughters gracing the label.

Aubergine boasts an underground wine cellar that was constructed beneath the inn's courtyard to house the restaurant's 4,500 bottle collection. The wine list features great wines from around the world but especially wines from Monterey County, California and France. But this is no ordinary wine cellar. It's racks are within temperature and humidity controlled cases with glass doors and the room itself doubles as both a tasting room and dining room for small parties with the racks of wine bottle serving to set the tone.

Cogley comes to Carmel from Chicago, Illinois. For more than four years he worked at critically acclaimed Charlie Trotter's Restaurant, the last two of which he was chef de cuisine, responsible for the entire culinary staff, menu creation, special events and instructing the culinary team in all duties. Most recently he was the executive sous chef at the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, where he was instrumental in opening the new hotel’s kitchens.

“I’m thrilled to be living and cooking in Carmel,” shares Cogley. “It’s great to be so close to the Pacific Ocean, and the local farms and wineries. This position at Aubergine gives me the opportunity to bring new influences to an award-winning restaurant. I enjoy presenting a diverse palate of flavors on the menu. As an example, on the current menu we’re offering an abalone dish with seaweed sauce, abalone mushrooms, an emulsion of sea water and puffed rice.”

“If I had to describe my food, I would say each plate has a purpose. My goal is to inspire our guests to enjoy a broader combination of flavors and textures, foods that pair well with wines. A diner may discover a vegetable prepared three ways on his plate, but each of the flavors will be unique and pure. My style of cooking is based upon the philosophy of not masking ingredients,” states Cogley.

In his early childhood years, Cogley recalls being intrigued by the smells of spices and breads in his hometown of Mescaleroa, New Mexico. Later, inspired by a neighbor who had extensively traveled the world, Cogley at age 12, began assisting in cooking for and catering dinner parties. .

This restaurant is well worth putting on your "to eat at" list and being located in l'Auberge Carmel, you can fall into bed within a few paces of your gastronomic indulgence, designated driver required.

Restaurant Aubergine
Street: Monte Verde St. and Seventh
Postal:: P.O. Box J
Carmel, CA 93921, USA.
Tel.: +1-831-624-8578
Fax: +1-831-626-1018

Web Site: www.laubergecarmel.com
Email: reservations@laubergecarmel.com

Location:
Aubergine is located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-sea, one block from Ocean Ave, on Monte Verde Street at Seventh and four blocks from the world-famous Carmel Beach.

Restaurant: Opens all year, Daily at 12:00 noon. Lunch served from 12 - 2:30 pm.
Dinner served Sunday - Thursday from 5:00 - 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday until 10 pm.

Directions from North of Monterey

Take Hwy 101 south to Hwy 156 in Prunedale
Take Hwy 156 west to Hwy 1 in Monterey
Follow Hwy 1 south, take the Ocean Avenue exit - Carmel
Follow Ocean Avenue through the village, turn left at Monte Verde, the inn is a half block on your left

Directions from South of Carmel

Head North on Highway 1 to Carmel
Turn left on the Ocean Avenue exit
Follow Ocean Avenue through the village, turn left at Monte Verde, the inn is a half block on your left


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No copying, reuse or partial reproduction permitted without written permission by the authors, Peter and Linda D'Aprix.

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