By Liz Laing
Dozens of culinary events took place throughout the city this weekend as part of the inaugural LA Food & Wine Festival, which brought together top chefs and winemakers from around the country to offer guests an all-inclusive experience with top-notch food, drinks and entertainment.
One of the best events to attend was Friday’s luncheon at FIG in Santa Monica, hosted by FIG Chef Ray Garcia and Guest Chef Graham Elliot from Chicago. The two master chefs collaborated with ease, creating a well-balanced and delicious four-course seasonal menu for all to enjoy.
The lunch reception began with delectable small bites and hors d’oeuvres, accompanied by a fruity and refreshing chardonnay (2009 Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay). Stand-outs included Chef Ray’s heirloom baby tomato bruschetta with hand-stretched mozzarella and Chef Graham’s fig and ricotta amuse-bouche on a spoon. Guests mingled as several appetizers made their way through the crowd and glasses were refilled with the crisp chardonnay.
Chefs’ Surprise Course
Once guests were seated, the chefs sent out a couple of surprises – fresh and spicy pistachios in a cone and crudités that arrived in a tiny flower pot as a mini “vegetable garden.” The pistachios were boiled in duck fat and were soft, meaty and tasty. It was fun plucking out vegetables from the “soil” and green dip in the pot.
The chefs then alternated between courses, starting with a deconstructed Caesar salad by Chef Graham, which was a delight. The brioche twinkie served as a base and was filled with a parmesan fluff, topped with dainty bits of gem lettuce and a single Spanish anchovy – a nice departure from the oily ones found on a typical salad.
Chef Ray followed with a Fall Harvest Pot au Feu of rutabaga, hubbard squash, purple brussel sprouts and delicate slices of matsutake mushrooms. Each “autumn on a plate” was then covered with a light broth, giving the vegetables a subtle flavoring. This artful presentation was paired with another great wine, a 2009 EnRoute Pinot Noir, “Les Pommiers.”
The third course came in the form of Chef Graham’s beef stroganoff with Waygu flat iron steak, peppered spaetzle, lobster mushrooms and shallot marmalade. The meat was ever so tender and flavorful – the combination of the earthiness of the mushrooms and the sweetness of the caramelized shallots was just right.
Dessert came in the form of small bites of moist pound cake with blueberries from Pudwill Farm and a tart lemon verbena. Chef Ray always gets it right with fresh from the garden ingredients that showcase each element in all its natural glory. The sweet 2006 Dolce dessert wine made an excellent ending to a superb meal.