Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carla_Hall.jpg Richard_Blais.jpg Susan_Feniger.jpg


The Street Food Extravaganza event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions 2013 was an awesome adventure. The foods, plates and utensils all featured sustainable products. Lots of well known chefs were there, including many from Top Chef. And although I tend to have a low opinion of “groupies”, celebrity stalkers, and celebrity magazines, I must say that I was a bit in awe of some of the chefs here. Carla Hall was the MC (she does such a great job! She also was a host at Taste of Tulalip 2011). She interviewed various chefs and maintained an interesting & entertaining dialogue throughout the evening.

All of the food was Fabulous, and even though I had a few favorites the caliber of these street food creations was such that I would cheerfully return for seconds on any of the dishes served. The chefs included: Hawaii’s Sam Choy, Maine’s Michele Ragussis, San Francisco’s Emily Luchetti and John Fink, L.A.’s Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, Chicago’s Art Smith, Atlanta’s Richard Blais, Earthbound Farm’s Sarah LaCasse and Monterey’s James Waller. Although I took pics of everyone’s food, some of them didn’t turn out so the missing images are due to Murphy’s Law and not due to lack of interest in the chef’s food.

Sam Choy
Char Siu Pork with Firecracker Fried Rice

Char_Siu_Pork_by_Sam_Choy.jpgThis dish had a great bouquet of flavors and despite the “firecracker” name it wasn’t too spicy. The Firecracker Rice ingredients included: corn, peas, carrot, brown rice (I think), cilantro, red onion, black sesame seeds, and rose petal as garnishes. The pork was tender and delicious. According to wikipedia: “”Char siu” literally means “fork burn/roast” (char being fork (both noun and verb) and siu being burn/roast) after the traditional cooking method for the dish: long strips of seasoned boneless pork are skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire”. It was one of my favorites at the event.
Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Michele Ragussis

Arancini_by_Michele_Ragussis.jpgArancini is a Sicilian fried rice ball usually flavored with a tomato-based meat sauce and mozzarella. Michele’s upscale version uses arborio rice, beef, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, Parmesan, and parsley. She fried it golden brown then finished it a nappe of Tomato and Béchamel sauces. It looked large and filling, but biting into it revealed a delicious, savory morsel with a lighter texture than I had assumed…very nice! I had seconds and contemplated thirds.

Chef Michele struck me as a “no none sense” chef…”Please enjoy the food…f__k you very much if you don’t like it!” Chefs like this know they create great food and don’t really care too much about the media or public scrutiny. They cook with passion, prepare great food, and don’t get their feelings hurt (too badly) if you don’t care for their preparation. They are passionate, honest, have just enough ego to excel but not so much as to become arrogant. I don’t really know chef Michele but this is the impression she gave me, and as chef I like and appreciate these traits.
The Pearl Seafood Restaurant & Raw Bar
Rockland, Maine

Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger
Korean Mung Bean Pancakes with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kimchee

Korean_Mung_Bean_Pancakes_w_Shiitake_Mushrooms_and_Kimchee_by_Susan_Feniger.jpgSusan Feniger is always smiling, and its not one of those fake politician/car salesman smiles, but a genuine smile from the soul. Her food is unpretentious and flavorful. The mung bean pancake was very light and tender, the kimchee spicy (as it should be!), and the shiitakes added that touch of umami. Flavorful and a great vegetarian option as well.

My lovely wife is Korean so I had to ask for a “side” of kimchee when they served me this dish!
Susan Feniger’s STREET
Los Angeles, CA

Richard Blais
Crispy Clam Roll with Geoduck Sashimi and Uni Tartar Sauce

Crispy_Clam_Roll_w_Geoduck_Sashimi_by_Richard_Blais.jpgI like Chef Blais. He plays on the edge and isn’t afraid to fail a number of times if it garners him a culinary win in the end. Trial and error…a scientist’s approach. He pushes the limit but has an innate understanding of flavor combinations so his “failures” are probably more along the lines of “good” but not “great”. And true to his culinary style of accentuating flavor while down playing presentation, his dish looked like it had simply “fallen from the sky” and landed neatly on the plate…looks plain but tastes great!

His dish was my favorite at the event. The outside of the bread was cooked golden brown in butter like a grilled cheese sandwich and had a fabulous buttery crunch, the geoduck nicely shaved, the uni tartar added a wonderful richness, and the fried clam (geoduck?) added additional crunch.
Flip Burger Boutique, HD1, The Spence
Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA

Mary Sue Milliken and Mike Minor
Churro Tots with Chocolate and Caramel

Churro_Tots_by_Mary_Sue_Milliken.jpgI loved this! I think I went back three times and would have continued to return for more if I had had room to stuff more of these puppies in! Warm and crunchy on the outside, tender and soooo moist on the inside. Coupled with chocolate and caramel…ahhhhh.
Border Grill Restaurants and Truck
Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles & Santa Monica, CA


Art Smith
Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp_&_Grits_by_Art_Smith.jpgThe shrimp were nice with a mildly spicy sauce. But I really liked the grits. I spoke with the sous chef about hot holding the grits for service because I am thinking of adding them to a menu item which one of my staff (Jeff Johnson) is bringing forward. He explained that grits are easy to hot hold during service and simply finish during plate-up with stock and whatever final touches you want to add.
Table Fifty-Two, Art & Soul, LYFE Kitchen, Southern Art & Bourbon Bar
Chicago, IL; Washington, D.C.

John Fink
Scallop and Pork Belly Taco with Cilantro Mango Slaw

Scallop_and_Pork_Belly_Taco_by_John_Fink.jpgBeautiful tempura Weathervane scallops! And who can go wrong with pork belly?! The slaw added a nice refreshing “lightness” to cut through the salty protein of the pork belly and scallop. I really enjoyed this dish as well, it was in my top 3-4 favorites.
The Whole Beast
San Francisco, CA

Omissions (sorry)!!

Emily Luchetti, Sarah LaCasse and James Waller also presented their creations at this event, but my pictures failed and all I can remember is that Sarah LaCasse had a wonderful lightly smoked Sturgeon. If anyone has their dishes please leave a comment.


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