Friday, July 25, 2008

My big night out, thanks to Foodbuzz and Veggie U!

I feel I must preface this blog. To get this finished and posted I have been listening to taped interviews, writing, editing, pouring over photos, and then choosing the pictures to insert, for days. So, to you the reader, be forewarned, this is my not usual post. I hope it will entertain you, inspire you, and get that stomach growling! My wish is for this to be one of many reviews, be it of an event, restaurant, festival or any foodie inspired get-together, that I will have the pleasure of presenting. Since there are so may pictures, I will provide a link to my Flickr site where you can view the entire collection. Enjoy!

I had the immense privilege of attending the Culinary Vegetable Institute fundraiser for their not-for-profit organization Veggie U. The goal of Veggie U is to educate 4th grade children across the country with regards to food, nutrition, agriculture and science. Hands on training has been developed by this organization, part of which includes a complete vegetable grow kit. The students get to participate in hands on learning which fulfills their educational requirements and provides important information to help combat the rising problem of childhood obesity. The other bonus for the kids, they get to eat the results! I urge you to go to the links for the sites which I have provided and if you are in the area, get involved with this great program. If are not in the area and within the country, why not help to get this program in your school? My hope it that many of you will be inspired become members of this program.

This was the 6th year for the Food and Wine Celebration. The event featured over 30 chefs from around the country, great wines, food demos and auctions. Believe me, there was a lot to take in! I was sent to cover the event as a Foodbuzz Correspondent. This is a new program being launched by Foodbuzz and I am thrilled to have been chosen. My focus was primarily on the food and the chefs in attendance. I was not able to cover the demos and wine tasting classes, just too much for one gal! I knew that you, the reader, would want to see and read about (I wish you could all have tasted) the unique dishes. I was able to conduct a few interviews as well, when I could snag a chef between food prep, plating and other interviews. I even grabbed the attention of Chef Michael Symon for a quick few questions, before he hopped on stage to emcee the Start Chef Cookoff!

For your reference, if you are wondering when viewing the folks in the photos, yes, it was hot! Summer in Northern Ohio, 90's and humid. The skies opened up and lightly rained, but at that point it was a bit of a relief! No one seemed to really mind, too busy focused on the fine wine and cuisine at hand. Speaking of, let's get on to the good part!

My first stop was with the Executive Chef of the Hartford Club in Hartford Connecticut. Chef Leo Bushey III. This was his first year to attend the event. His feature dish was inspired by his visit to the Chef's Garden. "We did the farm tour and had the chance to find all these beautiful things to create this food". His dish, Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho w/Cucamelons, Golden and Green Pea Tendrils with a Parmigiano-Reggiano Cracker. The Cucamelons are just one of the unique vegetables offered by the Chef's Garden, and were perfect for the gazpacho. Here is a picture of yours truly with Chef Bushey, the Gazpacho and the table. For those that are curious, a cucamelon is a cross between a cucumber and a melon. They are green, about the size of a grape tomato and are in the bottom of the picture on the right.

My next stop was withKalahari Resorts, Sandusky, Ohio Pastry Chef, Ann Blackwood. Her offerings were over the top. I believe we counted 12 items! I personally sampled the Mini Chocolate Martinis, Squash Blossoms with Jalapeno Chocolate Ganache, Goat Cheese Panna Cotta in Baby Squash and Grilled Baby Pineapple with Lemon Pound Cake Vanilla Sauce and Bittersweet Chocolate. Wow, all so good, especially the squash blossom. When asked about her signature ingredient, her response was "chocolate of course, They don't call me Coco for nothing!" Of her many offerings for the event, she pointed out the Mexican Tarragon Panna Cotta as a unique addition.

Just some of Chef Blackwoods goodies!

Plating her tastings, Chef Rachel Speith, Three Birds Restaurant, Lakewood, Ohio. Chilled Tomato Soup, Avocado and Cucumber Salsa, Basil Garnish and Cilantro Oil. Citrus Crab Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Baked Lemon Compote.

Chef Paul DelFavero, Mesa Grill, Las Vegas, Fried Green Tomato with Chipotle Crab Salad.

Chef Christopher Lee, Gilt, New York, New York, Chilled English Pea Soup with English Pea Falafel and Cucumber Yogurt.

I spoke with Chef Anna Kim from Sans Souci in Cleveland, Ohio, asking here how they practiced Earth to Table. "We are big supporters of Chef's Garden", said Kim. "Being only about and hour away, a lot of products that we get in the morning will be used for dinner service that day. We are fortunate to have a facility like Chef's Garden so close to us".

Cleveland native, co-owner of both Lola and Lolita, Food Network Iron Chef, Chef Michael Symon was the guest emcee for the Star Chef Cook-off. I was lucky enough to catch a quick interview with him. He explained that this was the first year he had a chance to get to the event and that he had "worked with Lee for the past 15 years". I asked him what he thought of the food blog world. "It's interesting", said Symon,"things have changed a lot because of bloggers. It used to be just newspapers and magazines, but bloggers have introduced a new realm in which you can be talked about, some bad, some good, some indifferent. It's changing the way people talk about food". I explained to him a bit about what I do and asked him, "other than posting this interview with you on my blog, what interesting food trends do you think I should write about"? "Things like Veggie U", he answered with enthusiasm,"the biggest trend there is, is farm to table, taking food locally and respecting the earth by practicing sustainable cuisine. That will always be a trend". "Last question", I said, "Lake Erie Perch or Walleye"? "Walleye, always", he answered with a smile. Thanks for the interview Michael and for posing for this photo!

Okay, so that was pretty cool! But enough of that, back to the food (and wine)! Every guest at the event is handed a Veggie U wine glass when they enter. Just present your glass to the nice wine booth folks and they are happy to give you a taste, and plenty of great information.

Fresh Linguini with Mahi Mahi, Italian Sausage, Chef's Garden Black Cherry and Lemon Drop Tomatoes in action with Chef Michael Delligatta, Michael Anthony at the Inn, Versailles, Ohio.

From the North Hills Country Club, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Chef Jeff Slough brought a melt in your mouth Spinach Arugula, Veal Cheek Lasagna, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Truffle Oil and Micro Arugula.

If I had to pick a favorite (please, don't make me), I think it would have to be the Manchester Farm Quail, Bacon, Carrot and Mustard Cress, by Chef Aaron Deal, Tristan, Charleston, South Carolina. The "wow factor" was huge on this one!

I will end this post by paying homage to the city I was born, as well as my all time favorite frozen treat, by featuring a few pictures from Jeni's Ice Cream, Columbus, Ohio. I loved the Sweet Corn with Blackberries, and, okay, maybe I did go back for the Back Yard Mint, and yes, I admit to tasting the Strawberry Buttermilk. Jeni, thank you, you are the Ice Cream Goddess!

That brings this post to an end, at least here. Please visit my Flickr gallery. There I will post all of the pictures along with titles and descriptions (just give my a little time after I post this to get them uploaded). If you have any questions regarding anything you have read, please feel free to leave a comment.

I would really like to thank all of the chef's for taking the time out to talk with me. I wish I could have featured all of you, but that might constitute a foodie version of "War and Peace".

I leave with this last picture of the wonderful, cheerful, helpful, knowledgeable volunteers who made this event a real pleasure. My hat's off to you!


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow that looks like such a fabulous time! Foodbuzz is so awesome for getting you to be able to experience this wonderful event. It looks like you had a blast and it was well deserved for giving us such a great look at the festivities! :)

eatingplum said...

Wow, all the food looks so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing the photos as well as the post, so we can live vicariously through you!

Adam said...

Wow that was incredible. Chefs from all over the country showed up, and they were supporting a great cause. You look like you had a total blast. Congrats, you deserved it. Very cool of both you and foodbuzz to hook us up like that :)

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Oh, how did you choose what to eat? Which booth to go? I'm so glad you got a quickie with Michael Symon (hee hee). I hope you're able to go to more events!

Maggie said...

The food looks so beautiful and I love the idea behind Veggie U.

I tagged you for a meme. If you are interested in participating go to my post for the rules.

Reeni said...

You did a great job covering it; the food looks fantastic. I'm jealous! I love Mike Symon!!

Debinhawaii said...

What a great post! Sounds like an incredible event and you covered it so well--I love the pictures.

BTW--I left a Blog Award for you on my site.

Anonymous said...

Okay. The fried green tomato topped with lobster salad just made my stomach growl so loud I jumped. I'm so glad you were given the opportunity to go to this event. It sounds like you had an amazing time. My local farmers market is featuring eggplant right now... if only there was a way to incorporate eggplant into every meal?
~The Cat's Pajamas