Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eat, Drink and Be Sherry!

Last week an invitation from LA Magazine came across my inbox for a foodie event at The Grove. The event promised free food tastings from Grover restaurants, sherry tastings and a cooking showdown between Top Chef contestants Chris "CJ" Jacobson and Antonia Lafoso. Of course I had to pass the invite on to some of my favorite foodies and we made plans to meet. Eddie came with me as well, since he is a fan of both Top Chef and food.

On our way to the event Eddie and I encountered a random protest against the $700 billion bailout package. Most protestors carried signs, as one would expect, but this guy put a little more effort into making a visual impact for passing motorists.

Shortly after the event started I spied CJ and Antonia just a few feet away from our table. CJ is pretty hard to miss; he is a damn tall man. They were kind enough to let me and Weezermonkey take pictures with them.

We started off with two items from The Whisper Lounge. Up first, Braised Short Rib Sliders with black pepper-blue chees aioli, arugula & pickled red onions. These were a little heavy on the aioli and had clearly been prepared hours earlier. They are probably tasty when hot.

The restaurant's next offering was Braised Short Rib Tostadas with avocado crema and spicy heirloom tomato salsa. I think this item was the hands-down favorite item at our table. It's too bad we only got three wee tostadas on one plate to share, whereas we each received our own plate for the other tastings. It didn't help matters that this plate was served by the mean waiter. He was probably hoarding the good stuff for himself.

Next we had Butternut Squash Ravioli tossed with sun dried tomatoes in a light parmesan cheese sauce & topped with crumbled amaretti cookies. This was a nice, yummy dish and perfect for a fall evening. My photos of this item sucked, so check out Weezermonkey's. Maggiano's was nice enough to have prepared enough for the crowd to have second servings. Insomniac was also nice enough to save a portion for Trisha who was running late.
The Farm prepared Black & White Salmon over ginger sticky rice with wasabi, orange-hoisin and miso honey mustard sauces. The salmon looked interesting, but seemed a bit overcooked. The rice had too much going on with all the sauces.

Finally we had Olive Oil Poached Alaskan Halibut with tomato sunchoke puree with a thyme and lemon jus courtesy of Morels. It was accompanied by a Wild and Morel Mushroom Duxelle with heirloom tomatoes and micro greens served on a freshly toasted crostini. The halibut was just "meh", but I like the sunchoke puree. The mushroom duxelle was great. When a waiter offered seconds, I took a plate just to have another crostini.

At last the cheftestant showdown began. The showdown combined elements of a Top Chef quickfire challenge (a time limit) and of the show Iron Chef (a secret ingredient -- sherry -- had to be used). Antonia planned to incorporate watermelon into her finished dish, which caused all of us to reminisce about the disaster that was Sam Talbot's watermelon gnocchi in season two.
CJ used some luscious looking pieces of foie gras in his creation.
The judges came up with the weakest decision ever: It was a tie! And the prize? A giant wooden spoon!
Overall, it was a fun evening -- especially the company. "Eat, Drink & Be Sherry!" was actually a pre-event for LA Magazine's annual food event. Eddie and I attended last year's food event and had a fabulous time. We sampled a lot of food from notable LA restaurants, watched several celebrity chef demos and enjoyed tastings of La Crema wines. It's an event worth checking out (although I do have to note that ticket prices went up $20 this year). I was actually a little bummed that we'll be out of town this year and will have to miss it.


WeezerMonkey said...

Thanks again for inviting me! I had the best time, and it was so nice to meet your husband!

A Feminist Gold Digger said...

That looks so fun. Bummer though that the chef throwdown ended up being kinda lame. I really liked both of those chefs on the show. Did you ask CJ if you could feel his one ball?

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