This is the 6th year the Kalama Brothers have played for this great cause, ending childhood hunger! It's been so fun to watch this event blossom over the years from a small gathering in a park on a rainy night to a culinary showpiece at a 5 star resort. My husband is always so happy to donate his time & talents for this worthy cause! In previous years, I've volunteered too...I had hoped to rub elbows with Alan Wong. Instead I polished & stacked champagne glasses. I'll happily tackle almost anything, I didn't mind!
This year is different. "You're going to bring Emil, right?" says Judy, the event chair. Would you let me in without him? "No, but I didn't want to say it that way" she says. So, I take my 7 month old to a fancy schmancy food event...this should be interesting.
Who doesn't love a nice hotel? The Montage Laguna Beach is as nice as it gets! I've never spent the night here yet, but my dining & event experiences with the place have been very memorable! Upon pulling up to valet, the gentleman tells me he has a little something for Emil, please step inside. From behind the lobby desk, he pulls out a red radio flyer wagon FILLED with toys! I can tell these toys can sub as both kid/dog toys. Emil chooses the pink octopus...grasping for those eight long legs & instantly putting them in his mouth. For a moment, the valet guy looks at me, waiting for me to react to my son's choice of a pink toy, "He is secure with pink", I say, moving on. Smart move Montage...bribery is EVERYTHING in the kid world.
It's amusing to watch my husband try to hit all the different dishes in the short amount of time he has before performing. He is very goal oriented during this time...8 chefs, 35 minutes. It's amusing to watch me play the role of the human octopus...carrying Emil, my purse, my wine, and my beloved food all at once. I'm feeling bad for using the adjective 'beloved' before food, and not my son. Ok, Emil is beloved too.
See that look in his eye as he admires the food? Ok, now he resembles me!! It didn't take this kid long to figure out that Mama & Dada are eating the good stuff. I'm already caving to the demands of a 7 month old...I gave him tastes of Chef Chris Crary's (from Top Chef Season 9) Uni & Almond panna cotta (with caviar, peas, pickled beets and crispy potatoes). As long as it appears to be something I'm enjoying, he wants some.
Chef Josiah Citrin of 2-Michelin star Mélisse served Veal loin with celtuce, sea vegetables, and sorrel. I dont have nearly as much wine as I would prefer. Not even pumping & dumping can relieve a job that starts at 6am every morning without fail. Have I finally learned moderation?
Ok, after several years of experience, I can tell you Chef Alan Wong always has the longest line! I don't just say this because I have a penchant for Hawaiians...his food is delicious! This year, Steamed Opakapaka with pork hash & ginger. The light & flakey fish paired with a savory pork hash?...Decadent!!
Chef Craig Strong from the Montage's Studio used my favorite Mango Sage Honey from VR Green Farms in San Clemente for his gastrique on his scallop dish. I've been using that honey in my panna cotta for a few years now! Am I finally ahead of a curve?
Montage's Pastry Chef Lee Smith celebrated the strawberry (again this year, but that's not a complaint!). Strawberry Risotto with white chocolate & citrus olive oil, Frozen Strawberry Creme Fraiche Push Up Pops, and English Scones with Devonshire cream & jam!
Oh, the cheese. Straight up food porn! Even as I'm enjoying this beautiful evening (and I must say, the most well-behaved baby ever), I realize that Emil probably won't be invited next year. Big difference between 6 months & 18 months! 'That's ok' I think, as I lean back & sip my wine. Next year this time, I'll might be ready to ditch him for a couple hours! I go back for a 2nd Strawberry Creme Fraiche push pop, and resolve to just enjoy the moment. Pretty easy to do.