Wild tastes by way of Big Sur and Bernardus, plus Charlie Sheen advice.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Last week Bernardus pastry master Ben Spungin took a precious stash of chanterelle shrooms and packed them into his dehydrating machine. When they emerged, gills dried, flavors concentrated, he pulverized them. The resulting gold dust went into a white chocolate mousse flanked by grapefruit essence and crumbled pistachios.
You gotta love chefs, yes?
His was one of the best dishes at last weekend’s Big Sur Chanterelle Cook-off, but it might’ve been only the second best at his table, where Bernadus exec chef Cal Stamenov combined cured steelhead roe with chanterelles, Bloomsdale spinach, tiny croutons and a nice little garlic cream. That those two tastes represented a single restaurant entry approached unfair.
Impressively, though, a range of stunners like the dynamite ‘terelle tamal from Cy Yontz (Rio Grill, 625-5436) and the mascarpone polenta topped with chanterelle-stuffed beef tenderloin from Michael Wood (Treebones Resort, 805-927-2390) meant the champion-crowning plot was at least as thick as Big Sur tastemaker Mark Marron’s chanterelle bisque. Stamenov and Spungin deservedly prevailed in the end, though, earning little illuminated chanterelle statues designed by Lisa and Kevin Haas for Tastiest and Best Overall.
I’ll leave it to you to figure out the difference between those categories. Meanwhile, A Moveable Feast forces of nature Brendan and Michael Jones – please check out his blog post on food poisoning – took Most Creative for a hand-cut nougat topped with caramelized chanterelles. Led by unstoppable/adorable nut Michelle Magdalena Maddox, the silent auction raised upwards of $4K for Rachael Short, who lit up one side of the crowded room with her giggles.
Fittingly enough, the champs are putting together a wild party themselves Saturday, March 12, with “Edibles from the Wild,” a demo and brunch starring personality-plus Point Lobos Ranger Chuck Bancroft, probably our most entertaining authority on shrooms (“Every mushroom is edible at least once,” he says), and veteran forager Freddy Menge.
The stories should sizzle, as will the golden chanterelles, meaty porcinis and smoky morels as Stamenov deploys ’em with wild crab, quail, venison, minors lettuce and dandelion greens – before Spungin unloads candy cap mushroom ice cream, pine tree chocolates and Big Sur sea salt caramels. 11am-2pm, $95 inclusive, 658-3550.
Then Tuesday, March 15, Stamenov’s Marinus kicks off a Collaborative Dinner Series with Slanted Door’s Charles Phan and Kosta Browne Winemaker Dan Kosta. This is five-course, life-spinning stuff, as the $185 tag hints.
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Your GPS will be wrong.
That’s the guarantee put forth by the good people at Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy.
They should know, too, since their very charge is to help troubled local kids figure out just where they’re going.
Here’s the deal: Apparently the driving directions furnished by online map sites and smart phones doesn’t deliver folks to the 100-acre ranch nestled in the foothills north of Salinas, where at-risk students get a high school education, access to services like gang intervention counseling, and vocational training in everything from fire suppression to, most recently, culinary arts.
Those directions are particularly important now because starting this Friday, March 4, the Drummond dining room doors will be open every Friday evening for three-course prix fixe menus prepped and served by students under the guidance of Exec Chef Marcus Whisenant for $15-$20, including tip.
Reservations to help a great cause and get fat and happy in the process must be made at 444-3521. They’re also having a spaghetti benefit there Friday, March 18, to benefit young leukemia victims Matthew Piece and Daniel Regalado.
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The local American Institute of Wine & Food chapter just polished off a dreamy Champagne and caviar tasting, as chronicled on the blog by Weekly food contributor Jeanne Howard – she describes Sterling caviar as “rich, complex and nutty (like many of the guests).” Next up for AIWF: St. Paddy’s Sunday, March 13 at the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club: brats, half-pound burgers, salads, Carmel Valley Brewing Company beers and its makers, $40, 622-0115 to RSVP… The 33rd Gilroy Garlic Festival isn’t until July but it’s now accepting recipe showdown submissions in the wake of Margee Berry’s and her “warm weather watermelon crabmeat kissed south seas soup.” Learn more at www.garlicfestival.com… Gladys Parada of Babaloo food truck fame (262-4150) has a table at the Monterey Farmers Market where she’s serving plates of Cuban you can’t find anywhere else near here… I’ve gotten a lot of fun feedback on my mention of carousing colleague Dan Dunn’s new Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour. On the blog I’ll share his timely advice in Loaded on suddenly unavoidable Charlie Sheen… “I am on a drug,” Sheen told ABC. “It’s called ‘Charlie Sheen.’ It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”