Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sustainable Seafood Challenge

I had the most amazing experience at the Monterey Plaza Hotel. I arrived an hour early and I immediately spotted my dear friend (and former facial client), Nancy. She's a very talented foodie, with lots of experience in catering-- not to mention that she's won numerous awards at the local fair and at the famous Gilroy Garlic Festival. While waiting in line, we met other foodies. My husband was right-- there was no need for me to fear going to this event "alone". As soon as Nancy and I started talking about food, others joined in. I met a new "foodie pal" who followed Nancy and me, as we made a bee line and we successfully scored we scored front row seats!

I excitedly began to look around and I had a severe case of sensory overload! First, the setting was spectacular. It was a clear and sunny day, with a beautiful view of the Monterey Bay.

I spotted Alton Brown!! I did try to get a photograph with him, but I'm just not aggressive enough. I have to say that AB is a very gracious person. Not once did he snub anyone who asked for his photograph. He's also very funny.

My new friend, Valerie, watched my purse so that I could find a glass of wine. There was a lot of food!

Check out all of the oysters! Would you believe I don't like oysters. I know-- what a travesty!

I moved on to the cheese selection-- pretty, but I was far too excited to try and plate a selection of those.

I stopped to survey the ingredients table:

Pictured are Alexandra Guarnaschelli, from NY's Butter Restaurant, and Thomas Keller and Sam Choy.

Finally, I settled on crostini with morels and wild mushrooms, and seared scallops. Now, that's what I'm talkin' about!

I hurried back to my seat and took photos of my lovely appetizers (while my non food blogging friends smiled at my trying to balance a plate on my lap to use my macro lens). Doesn't this look marvelous?

Valerie graciously brought a dessert plate:

I'm really beginning to like Valerie...
Our seats were directly in front of Nate Appleman, co-owner and executive chef of A16 Restaurant (San Francisco) and a Beard Award nominee. He's adorable... honestly, he's a cutie patootie.

To my right was Alexandra Guarnaschelli, from NY's Butter Restaurant-- and also from Food Network shows "Chopped" and as a judge on "Iron Chef". In person, she's delightful. We locked eyes, and she gave me a warm hello and she was very gracious. She's very different than the harsh judge personna she has on "Chopped".

Alton Brown and Sam Choy (Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab in Honolulu) and Iron Chef guest were circulating during the competition.

Other guests chefs were Xavier Deshayes (Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center-- Washington D.C.) and Canadian Chef Paul Rogalski. Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) sat three seats to my right along with numerous celebrity chefs.

The secret ingredient was Albacore Tuna. This event was nothing like the Iron Chef show on Food Network. It was low key, and the chefs were very relaxed. Alton Brown kept us all laughing-- especially when he made fun of Alexis' quinoa. Truthfully, I haven't learned to bond with it, either.

Nancy and I were spellbound, just watching all the knife skills.

Truly, it was so hard for me to even think about wanting to eat the wonderful hor's doevres. I found myself watching Nate prepare several dishes with his lovely sous chef (whose name was not mentioned).

It's getting late, and I have more to share. Actually, I had so much fun-- and I want to share those highlights with you. Hopefully, you'll tune in tomorrow for Part II of my fun evening in my beautiful hometown of Monterey, California.

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Coleen's Recipes said...

I anxiously wait for part II of "Foodie Heaven"

Donna-FFW said...

Debby- Sounds like such a blast.. can't wait to hear more. How nice to have met a new friend also!

Monica H said...

Do fun- I'm a little jealous!

That cheese picture is amazing. Great job!

Oh and my neighbor looks exactly like Alton Brown- complete with the whispy hair. I'll get a picture of him if you want :-)

Monica H said...

Oops I meant SO fun!

Sweet Bird said...

Ack! I can't believe I forgot about Cooking for Solutions! I missed last year, and fully intended on going this year - but I was so concerned with finals week that I totally spaced.

It looks like you had a wonderful time - I can't wait to see what's up next!

Kristen said...

Sounds like a wonderful time!

Elyse said...

Looks like such a wonderful time. I'm so glad to hear that AB is so gracious. I was just talking today, about how I'd love to sit and have a conversation with him. All of the food looks fabulous! (Oh, and if you ever come to San Fran, I'll totally go to A16 with you. I love that place.) Sorry that I’ve been an absent commenter; I just finished up my law school exams and am finally getting around to my google reader.

Culinary Wannabe said...

So glad you had such a wonderful time!! See, no worries at all. I can't believe all the great chefs that were there - what an experience!

Stacey Snacks said...

I really like Alton, he seems like a real dude, very genuine, and also smart.
I love the palm trees and ocean views.......jealous!
PS can I use the 0% fat yogurt in the strawberry short cake???
I don't think so!

Phoo-D said...

This looks like it was SO much fun! What a treat to attend. Did you like your morels?

LadyJayPee said...

Ahhh! This is my kind of event, even though I've never been to anything like it. :) DH & I did a road trip up the California coast last spring and made a stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You're lucky to be in such a beautiful area and wonderful climate for fresh local foods! Thanks for the great report!