Monday, October 15, 2007

Los Angeles Magazine Food Event: Home Grown

With an opportunity to see several LA based chefs and taste food from a dozen restaurants, my wife and I paid to attend the Los Angeles Magazine Food Event: Home Grown - A Celebration of Ingredients Grown, Baked, and Raised Close to Home. Plus, the LA Mission would benefit from the event which was held at The Kitchen Academy in Hollywood and along the walkway to the ArcLight Theater complex...

With the popularity of Bravo's hit TV reality series, Top Chef, one saw a cook-off between contestants "CJ" Chris Jacobson of Season 3 and Betty Fraser of Season 2. Judging the competition with tomato as the secret ingredient were four from the audience plus the Master of Ceremony, Jake Hanover, who cast the deciding vote to Betty. During this 3 hour event, one also saw cooking demonstrations inside the Kitchen Academy from Kerry Simon (Simon L.A.), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), and Suzanne Tracht (Jar and Tracht's). One received souvenir cards of their respective recipes for their cooking demonstrations. Pictures of the event can be found on my Flickr account.

The offical wine was La Crema featuring their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while LA Mill Coffee, the soon to open coffee house in Silver Lake, was the official coffee and Gail Silverton, Nancy's sister, brought her Gelato Bar in from Studio City. There were also craft beers from Sang Yoon of Father's Office. I thoroughly enjoyed each of these, while tasting each of the craft beers, and making my way through samples of almost all of the gelatos by the end of the event.

My wife, Karen, who is an accomplished cook and watched each episode of Top Chef many times from season one to three provides the following commentary on the CJ - Betty cook-off.

The challenge was to combine ingredients and cooking styles from 2 different countries to make one dish. They could use any of the ingredients that were provided in the pantry. Betty's countries/cultures were American and Latin, CJ's were Asian and Italian.

Betty pureed scallops with cilantro and jalapeno. She put the puree on an egg roll wrapper, topped with a "tomato ring", which was filled with a raw egg and topped with provolone. She folded the turnovers into triangles and deep-fried them. She served them over a salad of mixed greens and topped them with a chunky guacamole.

CJ sauteed batons of eggplant and apples, and then topped them with sauteed chicken breasts that were rubbed in Asian spices. There was a brunoise of tomatoes and celery root with cilantro, basil and lemon zest. Then he made a sauce of pureed tomatoes, sriracha, and herbs and drizzled that on the plate. And my apologies if I got anything wrong in CJ's dish. It looked and sounded delicious.

The challenge was 30 minutes long. Betty's plating was very rustic and homey looking, CJ's was much more refined (different styles, different looks).

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