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Cooking for Solutions Party with Alton Brown

While the boys are away, the parents will play. In this case, the parents will attend the Cooking for Solutions Party with Alton Brown.

I was cluelessly looking at the food tables when Jake urged, "Hey, do you want to meet him? Get in that line before other people figure out where he is." My smart man!

When we stood in line to say hello and get a photo, there were - maybe - a dozen people in line ahead of us; when we passed the same line about three hours later, there were well over a hundred people in that same line. Yikes.

So, we waited and met him. Jake told him that we were standing in line because our 11-year-old son just loves watching his show. I had him sign the only thing I had on me - a cocktail napkin. Yes, indeed, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf now has a napkin that reads: "To D-. Cook Smart. AB."

I carefully tucked the napkin in my purse, so I didn't accidentally use it! We figured that he will be mighty jealous that we got to meet Alton Brown. At least D has his signature now.

With that task checked off the list, we had the rest of the evening to stroll, explore the chef tables (all bites were focused on sustainability), sip some wine, enjoy the exhibits, and goof off a little. We made our way to the Splash Zone just to cuddle up in the giant clam.

While almost all of the food was outrageously good, a few chefs' offerings stuck out in my mind...

Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast in San Francisco had a whole pig, maybe two, because there were actually two heads on that table! "Winkler Mangalitsa Pig. Apple brined and 14-hour smoked over applewood. Served with apple-caraway slaw on a Hawaiian bun." Click to read more about the Winkler Mangalitsa pigs: here.

I can never say no to octopus. And Chef Sam Choy who owns half a dozen restaurants around the world, including Seafood Grille and Hapa Bar in Honolulu, Hawaii, was handing out plates of octopus with rice and veggies. I didn't actually read the sign as to what it was. Whoops. It was tender and delicious though. I refrained from getting seconds. Actually, I probably would have gotten a second plate, but the line was ridiculous by the time I walked by a second time.

We actually did go back for seconds on this Bloody Mary-inspired dish from Parcel 104 in Santa Clara. While the bloody mary itself is important, the garnishes are what make it awesome! This one had pickled onions and cucumber, a quail egg, a goat cheese-stuffed shisito pepper, and a cube of ham. So, so tasty. I did admit we went back for seconds, right??

Other notable plates - without photos, sorry! - Chef Yulanda Santos of Sierra Mar served 'Sticks and Stones' which were chocolate truffles in the shapes of rocks with chocolate twigs. Chef Jason Franey of Restaurant 1833 offered a smoked sturgeon plate with tiny bubbles of sauces; his dessert counterpart, Chef Ben Spungin, ran out of whatever he was serving, so I didn't get to try that. Cannery Row Brewing Company had a pumpkin soup that was creamy and tasty. 

Though I was teetering on the edge of being uncomfortably stuffed, we heard about the table manned by Chef Mark Dommen of One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. He had me at 'bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin' then he served it with a dandelion persillade with salsify.

While I sipped from several vintners, Jake was thrilled that there were beer offerings as well. We kicked off the evening with Leopold 7 (I actually wrote a blogpost - Belgian Brewery Set for Cannery Row - about them for Edible Monterey Bay not too long ago, but I had never tried their beer.)

Local vintners present included Bonny Doon Vineyard, Scheid Vineyards, and McIntyre Vineyards. The Hess Collection came down from Napa Valley. And there were probably a dozen wine tables at which I didn't even stop. So. Much. Wine.

Katie Blandin Shea of Bar Cart Cocktail Co. was pouring some delicious non-alcoholic libation that included huckleberry syrup and was garnished with tiny strips of Kaffir lime leaves and Monterey Bay sea salt. And I was tickled to see my article about her, that appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Edible Monterey Bay, prominently displayed at her table.

Click to read my article about Blandin Shea -  Local Libations: From Field to Glass.

And it's not a party without caviar and oysters, right?  I did have some of the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar but skipped the oysters. After I got food poisoning from too many oysters one evening in New Orleans, it's like Russian Roulette for me. Sometimes I'll be fine; other times, I get a raging stomach ache. Jake asked me not to risk it. Probably smart...and I listened.

 There's probably more to share, but I'll let this suffice. And despite being there with 1500 other people, it still felt like a great date night. Though this is Cooking for Solutions' 14th year, this was the first time we attended. Good food, good wine and good times.


  1. Just wanted to let you know that the Yes, Chef roundup for Cook the Books is now up. Thanks for sending over your post.


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