Monday, September 22, 2014

Playground for the Palate at MY Museum Dinner

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Playground for the Palate at MY Museum Dinner
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

September 22, 2014 – Set high above Carmel Valley on Hawk Ridge, this past weekend’s MY Spectacular Dinner—a fundraising event benefiting Monterey County Youth Museum (MY Museum)—was a delight for all the senses. Breathtaking views abounded; the scent of lavender, garden roses, and citrus trees wafted from the gardens onto the terraces; delectable bites and wines seemed never-ending; and laughter punctuated conversations with old and new friends alike.

A trio of local chefs presented dishes that mirrored the museum’s identity. While MY Museum is a playground for the mind, the chefs’ dishes were a playground for the palate – creative, colorful, and delicious.

Executive chef Jason Giles, of Portola Hotel & Spa, opened the evening with an hors d’oeuvres course that combined salty and sweet in almost every morsel. It took tremendous willpower to not grab a piece of his Candied Bacon in Cayenne Dark Chocolate Sauce each time the platters passed. Thin slices of filet were marinated in soy, skewered, and grilled on a piece of sugar cane. Chicken mousseline was piped into edible cones made from sun-dried tomatoes. And creamy Laura Chenel chevre was blended with herbs, spooned into crisped phyllo shells, and drizzled with a white balsamic reduction. Scheid Vineyards provided the pairings for this first course. Their 2011 Estate Chardonnay leads with tropical fruit notes and finishes with hints of vanilla; their 2011 Estate Pinot Noir started with bright berry aromas and lingered with delicate floral and spice. Both wines provided elegant, subtle flavor foils to Giles’ vibrant bites.

Kicking off the seated portion of the evening, Hahn Estate executive chef Dyon Foster served a duet of dishes featuring tomatoes from Swank Farms for the second course. On the plate his Heirloom Tomato Salad sat atop a verdant puree of artichoke heart and asparagus. In the bowl, his Garden Fresh Gazpacho was dotted with a truffled balsamic glaze. Foster discussed the wine he paired with the dishes: Hahn’s 2012 Noir Blanc. “It’s a white wine for red wine drinkers,” he said.

Executive chef Tony Baker, of Montrio Bistro, was up next, preparing the entrĂ©e course. He presented Braised Prime Short Rib on a bed of potato-parsnip puree, topped with shaved Brussels sprouts and fresh chervil. This was also paired with wine from Hahn Estate: Smith & Hook 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. With its regal purple hue and robust flavors, this wine perfectly complemented Baker’s hearty beef offering.

Sugar Mountain Bakery, a sweets boutique based in Salinas, capped off the evening with a trio of sweets, including a lemon cake topped with Swiss meringue buttercream and a candied lemon curl; a fresh berry tart with cream cheese filling; and a raspberry mousse in a chocolate shell.

As the festivities drew to a close, Lauren Cohen, executive director of MY Museum, addressed the crowd and closed with one final appeal—donors who contributed to the museum would receive a bottle of Hawk Ridge wine made from the vineyard we were overlooking at the start of the evening. I happily contributed to MY Museum and clutched my new bottle of wine possessively as we climbed back into the shuttle to take us down the mountain.

Shining the spotlight on talented local chefs and vintners—all for a worthy cause —MY Spectacular Dinner was a spectacular evening for philanthropists, foodies, and wine connoisseurs alike.

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