Food activist and the purveyor of La Jolla’s finest and only organic cupcakes, Michelle Lerach along with her loving husband Bill hosted “A Berry Good Night” last Saturday, June 11th 2011. It was the second annual Berry Dinner, a gathering in celebration of farm to table dinning that brings local farmers, chefs, food activists and writers together for an evening that can only be described as enchanted.
My invitation to be included as one of the chefs at the Berry Dinner was so warm and casual I did not initially realize the size and scope of the production until the emails started flying back and forth between a growing group of impressive chefs and event organizers. The final head count was 130. The menu plan included 12 courses, each with a pairing selected by renowned sommelier, Jeff Josenhans of Grant Grill.
Being a raw food and healthy cuisine chef by trade, the fact that I chose to prepare a molecular mojito, for what I thought was a small gathering of friends at Michelle’s house for dinner, stated to feel like a big mistake. Molecular Gastronomy is a playground at best for me, so when I designed the cocktail I was not exactly thinking about scaling the recipe for 130. Luckily, my friend and molecular gastronomist, Chef Gage offered to sous for me relieving any pressure and stress. That combined with Jeff Josenhans’ choice to pair us with Isabel Cruz’s Artichoke Tamales with Mixed Berry Salsa Fresca ensured the playful Blackberry Mojitos were well received. The mojitos were iced with blueberries picked by the guests and flash frozen on the spot with liquid nitrogen, topped with a real mint foam and given a creme brulee-style top coating from the liquid nitrogen, which gave flare to the presentation.
With our course out of the way, we joined in the festivities and had connected conversations with inspiring people as passionate about food and it’s sustainable, organic production and preparation as we are. As big as the production was, it felt very intimate. Michelle, a most gracious hostess, encouraged everyone to mix up their seating arrangements every few courses so we would meet one another and share our passions and talents.
As each course was presented, the chef responsible gave a brief description of what they had prepared and credited the farms from which the ingredients came. The diversity of flavors was nothing short of wondrous. From the opening dish by Chad White of Sea Rocket Bistro to the Princess Cake by Chef Francois Goedhuys of Girard Gourmet, everything was fabulous. As many of you know I eat little meat, but I have to commend Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace for the melt-in-your-mouth Slow Braised Coffee, Chile, and Cocoa-Rubbed Sage Mountain Grass-Fed Short Ribs which I loved.
Culinarily, the evening was a refreshing romp through the star-studded line up of chefs and restaurants featured. Socially, it reinforced that we are not alone in our demands for quality ingredients prepared in inspiring ways, but that we are part of a powerful alliance of passionate people who are taking a stand to raise awareness that is takes real food grown by real farmers to create real culinary magic.
Thank you to all involved with A Berry Good Night.