Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seattle Chef's Dinner Series - Cafe Juanita

Yesterday Jeff, Amy, Cindy and I attended the 5th Seattle Chef's dinner held at Cafe Juanita. I was struck by two things : 1) How much these 6 chefs appear to enjoy working together in the kitchen and at their ease afterwards - it is really a nice thing to see. These are the most gracious, friendly people and I feel like this series has given me a chance to get to know this firsthand. 2) What fun it is to enjoy a dinner in the company of folks you have never met before, but, who share a love of great, quality food, cooking, wine, and the whole cultural world view that seems to go with that.

Now to the event:

Hors d’Oeuvres and Champagne
CAFE JUANITA – Holly Smith - The sparkling wine was an excellent foil for the great set of apps that Holly presented in the back garden. gougres, foie gras on toast, soft boiled quail eggs, deep fried pork confit, a yummy tomato soup were all wonderful and plentiful.

CRUSH – Jason Wilson
A beautiful and very tasty Napoleon of the most wonderful tomato's, tuna tartare, cucumber, and herbs melted on the palate. This continued Jason's unbroken streak of inspired preparations and presentations in this series.

Thierry Rautureau, The Chef In The Hat!!!
I think one of Thierry's best presentations in this series. A Seafood and mushroom bisque that you would swear was cream based but was really just a super wonderful reduction of the essence of the ingredients. a wonderful and beautiful array of seafood - salmon, halibut, prawn, clams, scallops presented bare in a flat soup bowl with the bisque poured over them from a pitcher by the server. Great flavors and textures - made with love!

TILTH – Maria Hines
Maria was out with a bad back but her offering was one of the best she has done in this series.: Sous Vide Sablefish, heirloom tomato, sorrel. Delicious.

HARVEST VINE – Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez
the Roasted Quail over Navarran pocha beans and an onion broth was very much in Joseba's style. It actually reinforced to me that each of these chefs and restaurants has such a distinctive approach, touch, and style that their offering , I think, would be instantly recognized in a blind tasting by knowledgeable Seattle diners even if the same dish was presented by each of these chefs.

LARK – John Sundstrom
Grilled Painted Hills coulotte steak, chanterelles, rocket and sweet onion vinaigrette
In my opinion, by far these best offering that the very talented Chef Sundstrum has presented in this series. It will definitely inspire my own cooking - especially the use of a wonderful fresh herb competing and combining so successfully with a wonderful small serving of meat. I would rate this the best effort of the evening although several of these Chefs were at the top of their game.

CAFE JUANITA – Holly Smith
In order to catch the ferry Cindy and I has to take desert to go - it was a wonderful combination of clear seemingly simple (the true sign to Holly's mastery) flavors of huckleberry in a sauce, lemon in a ethereal cake, and creme fraise in a sherbet. Yum - gone before we ever got on the ferry even though we had no utensil other than our fingers - which were licked pretty darn clean.

Another fun evening - one more to go with Crush hosting next month.

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