assorted dishes offered by Chaya Brasserie at The Food Event '08
Yes, it was another one of those fantastic food and drink event filled weekends. Following my white trash wine tasting yesterday, my friends and I took a trip to Malibu for LA Magazine's 3rd Annual "The Food Event: From the Vine" at Saddlerock Ranch. (Freebie disclosure: was ready to spend the $50 for the event - especially since a good portion will be benefiting the LA Food Bank and Concern Foundation, but when I emailed their folks for any discounts I can pass on to my blog readers, they graciously extended a media pass to me as well.)
The scenery (rolling vineyard hills, plus assorted farm and exotic animals) was great and the weather was decent, so we had a pleasant time enjoying our nibbles and sips. Here are some of the highlights of the four hour event:
~ food served was generally delicious, was surprised by how many raw and near-raw meats were served given the warm afternoon weather (buffalo tartare, hamachi poke, and the ubiquitous ahi tuna with something). Particularly memorable bites included the above truffled orecchiette from Tra di Noi -- tossed in a bowl carved out of a parmigiano-reggiano wheel -- and the below assorted sweets (mini pumpkin and chocolate-PB pies, apple tart-doughnuts, cupcakes) from Rustic Canyon with pastry chef Zoe plating and serving -- seen here with their oxtail-stuffed arancini. Other notables included a spicy coconut-lobster-mushroom chowder from Darren's in Manhattan Beach, the refreshing blueberry mint lemonade from Lemonade and Saddle Peak Lodge's pheasant mousse tartlet with cranberry.
~ wine was more a hit-and-miss here. Like the LA Winefest, people were more drawn to the chilled whites and rosés because of the warm weather and the mostly light foods. It was also a bit unfortunate that there didn't seem to be any dessert wines around to complement the various sweets that several tables were serving. But there were some good finds including: Irony Winery's Chardonnay, whose light oakiness complemented the natural character well and smelled like an apple pie with a smooth palate, Gnarly Head's Old Vine Zinfandel that had nice desserty notes and nice bite on the tongue, and Peju Winery's Red & White Provence Blend that was refreshing, easy-to-drink with great berry bouquet (and definitely well-paired against all the raw fishy foods we had there).
~ and of course, the celebrity-chef gawking. I was so excited to be able see (and taste!) so many of LA's food-famous in action, including Grace's Neal Fraser making a uni-kabocha-mascarpone risotto above, Animal's Vinny Detolo and Jon Shook whipping up a wonderfully tender BBQ rib and the final "Iron Chef v. Top Chef" battle with Sashi's Makoto Okuwa, who used to be one of Morimoto's assistant chefs, against Betty Fraser of Grub from season two of T.C. I didn't get to judge but did get to taste both their creations (Betty's butter-poached shrimp with pumpkin against Makoto's chicken-mushroom baos with truffle oil and yuzu zest). Close match, but Betty won again! Other foodies I spotted, recognized and chatted with included Nancy Silverton of the Mozzas, Denise Daclan from Saltistry, Cheese Impresario Barrie Lynn and fellow foodbloggin' friend Gourmet Pigs.
In short, a fun and tasty Sunday and I am more excited than ever about checking out some of these meaning-to-try restaurants. This was one of the better food event deals in town considering all the tastings from top-tier restaurants and opportunity to mix and mingle with the stars from the L.A. food scene. I'll definitely mark next year's event on my calendar well in advance!
The 3rd Annual Food Event at Saddlerock Ranch
31727 Mulholland Highway
Malibu, CA 90265