As many of you know, I was not too excited to exhibit at a conference in San Diego right before Thanksgiving. It’s not that I do not like exhibiting; I actually find it a great change of pace from the office and LOVE meeting customers and potential customers. Conferences are great because they are pretty much non stop action, and I get to wear lots of worker hats. But with a large, spread out family, the weekends before holidays can be important for figuring out who sees who when. And being on call 12 hours a day, an entire country away, foils a lot of those plans. At any rate, I always try to make the best of things, and via my friend Twitter discovered that the San Diego Food & Wine Festival was going on while I was in town. Painful really, for someone who would die to work and/or attend the festival. But very luckily there was one event that I could actually fit into my schedule! Totally Truffles with Chef Gary Thompson of Viejas Casino actually happened during my “free time”. I should have been working, but knowing that I was up at 3 to leave for the airport and working both Saturday and Sunday, I figured I deserved an hour and a half of actual time for myself during the weekend, and attending the festival might be a once in a lifetime event, me being randomly at the right place, at the right time. Still, I felt a bit stressed about not working for 90 minutes as I headed over to the Wine and Culinary Center. But, on my short walk over and my arrival there, the golden sunshine, the endless amount of food and wine magazines, and the foodies lined up for various events somehow melted that stress away.
I checked out a map of San Diego wineries. I had no idea there were so many. After some waiting outside, which was no problem as it felt like summer, we were allowed to go into the demo kitchen.
I am new to these types of things, and I was really excited. The Wine and Culinary Center had loads of really friendly volunteers who made it an even better experience. They were also excited, and they made everyone feel so welcome! When I sat down, I was poured a glass of Roy J. Maier Cab, and my id was checked! The Cab was delish. Just as the tasting notes said, it had aromas of vanilla, cherry, cinnamon, and chocolate. The finish was long and full of ripe fruit. I really enjoyed it. Before the session started we were introduced to Susan Rice, the supplier of the truffles of the day. She also supplied us with bowls of truffled popcorn which is my favorite snack of all time.
Susan talked a little bit about truffle production and bringing truffles more into the mainstream in the US. Then Chef Thompson began cooking. Everything he served he and Sherman, his assistant chef, made on site. As you can imagine, the kitchen smelled amazing. They started the first dish last, and the smell of garlic and shallots sizzling in olive oil filled the room. As the chef talked, he passed plates of whole truffles for us to touch and smell.
Then the food started coming. The first dish was a creamy, slightly chewy burrata with truffle oil, shaved truffles, and tomatoes.
The cheese was to die for, and the combination of the cold, creaminess of the cheese with the earthy warmth of the truffles was amazing. I literally closed my eyes and savored each tiny bite. I used the tomato to mop up the rest of the truffle oil on the plate. Next up was a salad topped with peach wood smoked salmon with brown sugar and truffle vinaigrette. I loved the salmon, though several people nearby commented that they thought it was salty. I thought the flavor was spot on, slightly salty, slightly sweet, smoky, and perfectly cut with the tanginess of the vinaigrette. The portion, filling a small appetizer plate, was perfect and refreshing.
The final course was the one that Chef Thompson started at the beginning of the class, wild mushroom and truffle stuffed chicken with butter champagne pan jus with truffle and seared truffle polenta.
The best part about this amazing dish, and all of the dishes served, was that we received the recipes. They were all new to Chef Thompson, he was trying them for the first time! I probably don’t need to tell you how good champagne, butter, and shaved truffles taste together. The chicken dish was a stunner, and I could definitely see buying a little truffle oil or even 1/2 ounce or so of truffle to make this for a special occasion. Chef Thompson was funny and engaging. Once the food started coming out, people unfortunately started talking. . . loudly and a LOT. It made it difficult to hear what he was saying, and I really wanted to hear from him! I would say that was the only negative of the event. The volunteers at the Wine and Culinary Center are amazing. They were all over throughout, filling and refilling wine glasses. I only had one small glass because I had to start work after the session, but many people around me were served four or five small pours. I would absolutely recommend this festival to anyone who is interested in food and wine and either lives in the area or is looking for a gorgeous place to visit in November. We ate lunch outside today, and I was hot in a short sleeved dress. Why do we tolerate winter again? Thank you San Diego Wine and Culinary Center and Chef Gary Thompson for an amazing culinary experience! I will be back in blogger mode starting tomorrow; I feel like I have been neglecting it this weekend!