Recently I had the incredible experience of working with an array of chefs for a fundraiser project. They call themselves the Human Touch Chef’s Group, and they are just getting started.
The group was formulated around chefs getting together for a meal. After meeting a few times it was mentioned that they could be meeting and cooking for a group and the idea of a local fundraiser was born. The Chefs wanted to get a message out while doing what they love and that is that the human element is vital in food. That cooking food feeds the soul as well as the body, not just for the chef, but for all who enjoy that food as well. As our food culture slowly erodes in response to the rise in fast food options, and the rise in the amount of time spent working and commuting, we have begun to really lack the human connection that comes from eating together. The table is after all a place for people to laugh, cry and share with each other, and it is in our nature to do that over food. Studies have shown that this sort of contact is not only healthy for us, producing the brain chemicals that help to combat stress and depression to name a few, but also that children who have meal time with family have everything better from higher test scores to less chance of trouble with peers.
So the first ever Human Touch Farm to Table Dinner was held this last September, at the Swing Wine Bar in Downtown Olympia, Wa. Eleven Chef’s attended and each was responsible for a piece of the meal. For my part, I had the best job of all! I was the blogger, getting to interview all the Chefs during the day as they prepped their food, but that is not the good part. Oh No! Come evening when the guests began to arrive, I was the official food writer, getting to sample everything with wine pairings no less, and then getting to write about it and take pictures. The following is a writeup about that meal, with my tasting notes from the dinner that were posted on facebook live as we were being served.
Dungeness Crab Martini’s
Dungeness Crab Martinis! Oh My! Washington state coastal crab served over potato salad. The taste is light and clean with just the right hint of sea salt to take you to the beach! Garnished with very thin shreds of beautiful basil just picked from Highwater Farm, and topping a spicy and tangy potato salad that completely obliterates the mainstream idea of potato salad, this crab is a classy start to this dinner.
Next is the Hibiscus Chicken. Puff pastry topped with a light cheese and then chicken marinated with hibiscus and garnished with live local flower and herb mixture. Flavors here blend together seamlessly and the result is a happy mix that crosses comfort food with an upscale treat.
Poached Pears in Merlot with Seared Duck
Poached pears marinated with Merlot, and topped with seared duck! An elegant appetizer that compliments the Salida Albarino Wine from Yakima Valley perfectly. Hints of cinnamon and fruit conspire with tender and juicy duck slices making an almost desert like appeal. A perfect match of good sweets and salts.
Curry Crusted Risotto topped with Seared Duck
And finally…….. Curry Crusted Risotto with more Seared Duck garnished with a Port Reduction made with wine and farm fresh grapes. The risotto crust is light and crispy and gives hints of the curry without being overpowering. The sauce is tangy and brings out the flavor of the duck and the textures are a beautiful mix that enhance the experience of tasting the food.
Soup and Salad
A bold extra virgin olive oil was used here, along with a dark balsamic vinegar making a sweet and bright mix. The tomatoes also picked yesterday from Highwater Farms, are on a bed of marinated greens, earthy with texture. And the edition that ties it all together, fried leeks!
One of Mo’s favorite spices is cumin, and in this she used Chef Ed’s cumin to enhance the flavors of this perfect simple corn and smoked chicken soup. This soup is all flavor! The smoked chicken was done hickory style, and the result is a spicy puree that entices the palate. She then garnished the soup with pieces of whole corn and even a creme fraiche.
My wine pairing for the salad, crisp heavy notes compliment the fresh tomato in this Sauvignon Blanc from Rudd Oakville Estate in California.
And finally we have made it to dessert. Blondie brownies, with white chocolate cranberries, turks turbin kabocha acorn and hubbard squash, and purple basil ice cream!!!!! Really!!!! And it was garnished with a type of kettle corn with a drizzle of reduced pumpkin spiced white balsamic! Flavors melting in the mouth, sugars mixing with spices, and sweet sweet sweet! Can you ask for more?
The perfect dessert deserves the perfect wine. And for this beautiful blonde we had to go with Skookum White from Walter Dacon, 2011 Columbia Valley, a Pinot Grigio with residual sugars. Much sweeter than a typical Pinot but perfect to compliment this dessert.