Bravo’s Top Chef The Tour – Brentwood, CA

So piggy backing on the Napa Valley visit we did a couple weeks ago, Karen and 2 of our friends, Alma and Albert, decided to hit up Bravo’s Top Chef The Tour in Brentwood, CA. It is a 16 city tour in which Brentwood ended up being the 10th stop. I stumbled upon the announcement a few weeks back and since Top Chef is one of my favorite shows, why not give it a shot and head out. Especially since it was only an hour away and a free event.

I wasn’t able to grab pre-sale tickets during the announcement online quick enough but that was okay because I had emailed the host of the event and she said to just show up for a chance to catch the demo. We decided to head out early because it was going to be nearly 100 degrees outside. Show times were 10:30am, 12pm, 1:30pm and 3pm. We caught the 10:30am show and good thing we got there early because we were able to put our names at the top of the wait list. We were fortunate enough to sit front row and two chefs from the show that were showcasing were Angelo Sosa and Casey Thompson.

The host of the show basically explained that the two chefs were going to go head to head on a quickfire challenge (just like the show) and incorporate 1 main ingredient for their dish. Before they were introduced though, the host had asked if 3 lucky participants from the audience would like to be guest judges. I quickly raised my hand (actually I raised both) and Karen, Alma and Albert were all pointing in my direction so I was chosen first to come up. Such a surreal experience as the host had told us that we were able to taste and judge the food at the end of the demo. Audience members were also able to sample dishes that were showcased in the quickfire.

Here are two snippets of videos I took while up on the judges table. One explains Casey’s plan to open her new restaurant in Napa Valley in 2013 called Carnivora. I think I covered up part of the mic on the video. Sorry about that.

The other video Angelo answers why he loves Asian food so much.

Both chefs were given 15 minutes for the quickfire challenge. The main ingredient was pork loin. Angelo made a chorizo seared pork loin with fried egg puree and Korean apple chutney while Casey played off a street fair corndog wrapped in shoestring potatoes in 2 types of sauces. A sriracha base sauce and a mayonnaise aioli. I was in total awe but the winner for this challenge was Angelo.

I leave this blog with the rest of the pictures taken at the event. Games, activities and autograph session. Such a fun and rewarding experience and a great addition to my food blog. Enjoy!


Napa Valley

My birthday is coming up in a couple of days and last year I had the opportunity to dine at one of the Iron Chef’s restaurants, Masaharu Morimoto, deep in the heart of Napa, CA which is simply called, Morimoto.

This year, my food travels take me back to Napa Valley to eat at another fabulous restaurant and the 2011 2nd runner up to Food Network’s, The Next Iron Chef, Michael Chiarello and his restaurant named, Bottega.

Since I’ve been living in Northern California and my interest is always food, I figured, why not travel and eat at celebrity chef restaurants and joints? Might as well take advantage and Napa Valley is just so lush and inviting to visit. There are other restaurants on my list but I’ll save them for next time. Here is how the day was planned out.

I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty and get the day started with some fun. I always wanted to do a cooking class. Not so much to learn a new recipe but to also test my skills back in a professional kitchen, meet other people and gather techniques and styles. Well meeting other people didn’t fair so well as my wife and I were the only ones to show up for the class at the Whole Foods in Napa, CA. Still perfect because not only did we get a one on one with the chef, but we also got to keep all the food we made!

I had a buy one bring a partner for free coupon off the web. The class was $35 and what better partner than my wife of which we recently celebrated 12 years of togetherness. We were greeted by Chef Scott Davis aka The Culinary Dude and the recipes he aligned us with for the day. We were going to be making 3 different types of tamales which were sweet corn, chicken and sweet pineapple along with 2 different sauces. One was a base tamale sauce and the other a mole (mo-lay) sauce.

This was the nice kitchen we worked from. If only my kitchen looked like this at home I’d be set!

My wife and I hammered out 3 different types of masa for the tamales which were pretty simple. The prep work such as boiling the corn husks and preparing ties were done by Chef Scott. All we had to do was create the dough, prepare the sauces and make the tamales. We spent a nice 2 1/2 hours just talking food and life. It was quite relaxing!

Next up, we had some time to check out the Jelly Belly Factory which was nearby south of Napa in Fairfield, CA. We took the free tour which was supposed to be 35-40 minutes but ended up being over an hour long. We didn’t stay the entire time due to time constraints and having to make our dinner reservation at 5pm so we had to cut the tour short half way through. We did happen to take some samples and a few pictures. Here those are.

We finally get to the creme de la creme, Bottega. I’ve been a fan of Michael Chiarello since I saw him on the Food Network last season. I had googled other things about him and really wanted to try his restaurant. How convenient that it was somewhat close so I decided to make a reservation. Here is exactly what also got me hooked!

I told the staff when I made the reservation that I was celebrating my birthday but it wasn’t for a few days (yeah I kinda cheated) but I do consider it being an anniversary dinner since it’s been 12 years since I asked my wife to be mine.

Here with my card. The photo was off focus so I didn’t get a good shot. Realized this after we had left Napa.

The plates are awesome and I love how Chef Chiarello’s Bottega and logo are on the plate so you KNOW where this food is coming from. The copper type drinking cups keep the drinks cold!

We didn’t get to meet Chef Chiarello since he wasn’t in house but here are some take home flyers.

Okay so appetizer is up. Did you get to see the video yet? If you haven’t, please watch it first before continuing!! You’ll understand why the items were ordered!

First up is the Pasta Fritta. Organic Prosciutto “house cured”, white balsamic strawberries, lambrusco “nuvola”, pickled crosnes & basil.

Lambrusco is a type of Italian wine which is the foam. Notice how this foam is purple in color while the one in the video is white. Two different kinds of wine. Crosnes are grown wild in Northern China and are referred as Chinese artichokes. They are tubers and considered a sign of good luck and longevity.

So you put it all together and you get this awesome punch of flavor in one bite!

Some wood grilled bread with some olive oil, garlic and I forget what else was in it but it was delicious!

The view up above from the west end of the restaurant which gave some awesome light and ambiance.

Potato dough Raviolo filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, sage browned butter.

Wood Grilled Loin of Grass-Fed Lamb, saffron braised potatoes, green onions, pistachio pesto & rosemary scented lamb jus

MmmmMMm, MmmMMmmm, MmmmMMMMmmmmMM!

We ended the experience with this highly reviewed bakery just across the street called Bouchon Bakery. There was a line out the door but not so bad.

I thought the coke bottles were pretty interesting lined up above the espresso machine so I decided to snap a pic of them.

Here is what we took home. Four different flavors of macarons, espresso, pistachio, coconut and hazelnut. A chocolate ganache tart, one of their famous chocolate chip brownies and a sticky bun.

The day ended with a picture of me and my honey just outside the restaurant. There was this vine wrapped walkway that just looked fitting to say thank you to my wife for sharing the day with me. Until next time!