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Every year, Chef Celebration holds a series of dinners in April featuring teams of award-winning local chefs who donate their time and talents to raise funds for a nonprofit culinary scholarship program. A couple foodie friends of mine planned to attend one and I thought, why not... Let's splurge just this once and help out some aspiring chefs in the process!
Our selected dinner was at Arterra in the San Diego Marriot Del Mar hotel. Our server Danielle was a doll and took very good care of us during the 5-course meal, which was $65/person before tax and gratuity.
I learned a new word during dinner. Amuse-bouche is basically a single, bite-sized hors d'oeuvre that is gratis and created by the chef. We got four tasters that evening! I also had to look up several ingredients listed in the menu while writing about the dinner! This was a learning experience indeed!
Spring Pea Agnolotti | ramps | morels | green garlic | northern divine caviar by Paul McCabe at Town & Country
I never thought that I could get so excited about peas but this item was quite delightful to eat. The sauce with it was absolutely amazing too and the caviar provided pops of saltiness against the rest of the flavors. It's certainly not an every day kind of food! So unique in fact that I had to look up THREE of the words: agnolotti, ramps, and morels. The quick translation is a type of pasta, wild onions, and mushrooms.
Spot Prawn | "argodulce" | uni | chive by Evan Cruz at Arterra
This dish was like art, especially the yellow bubbles of sweet lemoncello. The seaweed puree was thick with an unfamiliar taste so I was not as much a fan. The onion was raw but seemed to work for this dish. I've heard interesting things about uni and this was my first time eating it. I thought it had a "seafood" kind of taste with an oyster-like or mussel-like texture. Argodulce is another new word which is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine.
Baja True Striped Bass | fennel | spring onion | wood sorrel | green strawberry | fava beans by Jonathan Bautista from Georges at the Cove
This bass was a super soft flaky fish with an excellent crispy skin! Those fava beans were so good too. I looked up the word sorrel too which is a type of perennial herb.
Lamb | white asparagus confit | crispy snails | Vietnamese herbs | Korean rice cakes by Craig Jimenez from Supernatural Sandwiches
The lamb was pleasing as well. I've never seen yellow asparagus before and it was buttery yum. The fried items (snail, rice cakes) were a bit chewy for my taste though.
Beef Cheeks | black sesame sponge | candied kumkuat | smoked coconut pudding | sudachi jam by Augie Saucedo from Brothers Signature Catering
I was expecting sweets but this was a savory finish instead. Meat for dessert!
Oh heavenly beef cheeks. A balance of fat and meat that was tender as can be. It was on top of smoked coconut pudding which had a mashed potato consistency. The side of kumkuat was slightly bitter but covered in a sticky sweet glaze. The black sesame sponge cake was interesting to say the least. I guess I'm not used to such a fluffy counterpoint to my meal.
Afterwards, we were given petite blue boxes to take home that provided the true dessert of the meal. The two macaron flavors were vanilla and chocolate. I'll take macarons any day thanks! The truffles were melt in your mouth fabulous. The caramels sticky and glorious on your tongue. And even better, one of my fellow guests brought homemade caramel pumpkin bread, moist with the right amount of sweet from the caramel. A perfect ending to a lovely evening with friends.
Hello to the wonderful chefs that night!
Here's the whole kitchen crew that were working so diligently that night to provide us with a wonderful feast. Best wishes to the student chefs we are supporting. Don't miss out if you have a chance to join for one of these chef events next year!