See “Top Chef Masters” chef demonstrations by chefs Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller, and Rick Moonen; talk with executive chefs from Orange County’s best restaurants and savor tastes of their cuisine; meet Shirley Chung, Brian Huskey, Brooke Williamson, and Louis Maldonado, finalists from Bravo’s “Top Chef“; participate in a Home Chef “Top Chef” challenge; sip and learn from four Master Sommeliers in an unparalleled wine program; taste wine varietals from around the world; enjoy creative cocktails and spirits galore; good times with friends and so much more! This is what you missed if you weren’t part of the 2nd Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival.
Chefs Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller, and Rick Moonen captivated guests with wit and finesse Red Peanut Mole, Braised Beef Cheeks, and Salmon Chilly Chili respectively.
Master Sommeliers Michael Jordan, Fred Dame, Sur Lucero and Thomas Price at Sunday’s Pinot Noir Tasting panel.
In the two Grand Tasting Pavilions, 31 of Orange County’s best restaurants (15 on Saturday and 16 on Sunday) and their executive chefs presented dazzling tastes of their cuisine with 200 boutique, “cult” and world renowned wines pouring alongside to quench your thirst and expand your palate.
Cocktail culture was in full swing with an amazing array of creative concoctions and mini mixology demos. The “Newport Swizzle” with Cruzan white rum, lime, mint, and bitters evoked sexy island fun and a sweet chill designed for steamy days.
Mixing The Royal Warrant | Laphraoig, apple cider, lemon, club soda
On the opposite end of the pavilion guests were transported to the bonnie hills of Scotland with either a “big, peaty slap in the face” or one of three surprisingly refreshing savory Scotch cocktails in the Laphroaig lounge area.
Other spirits represented were Absolut Elyx, Duke Spirits, and Roca Patrón – all with crazy good elixirs. Stella Artois satisfied beer lovers with a selection of beer samplings as well.
The Home Chef “Top Chef” Challenge was an exciting and interactive addition to the festival this year. Three volunteer competitors were picked from the audience and were challenged with preparing a dish from a mystery basket of ingredients.
It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of Shirley Chung, owner/chef at Twenty Eight and “Top Chef” Season 11 Finalist, cheering on her “girls” team (top), two of the contestants (including our friend Petey Hsieh) of the “boy’s” team, and the winner of the challenge are pictured below.
A seafood lover and sustainable seafood advocate through and through, my favorite taste from the Top Chef Masters demonstrations was Chef Rick Moonen‘s Salmon Chilly Chili – it had it all: vibrant color, complex flavors, textural interest, and perfectly prepared fresh, sustainably farmed True North salmon! Assisted by one of Orange County’s favorite chefs, Alan Greeley, it was a witty and informative session.
For the home cook, the ingredient list may be a tad intimidating, but I can see a double-duty meal in this recipe using the chili as is or for a tostada, taco or omelet topping. Either way it was tailor-made for a warm SoCal day!
- 1 can black beans or mix your favorite beans (15 ounce can)
- 1 medium yellow onion medium dice
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. garlic chopped
- 1 cup mixed bell peppers green and red
- 2 whole jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped
- ½ cup chili powder
- ¼ cup toasted cumin powder
- 1 can diced tomatoes with the juice (15 ounce can)
- ½ bottle amber beer
- 1 whole cucumber peeled, seeded and quartered
- ¼ medium onion peeled and quartered
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes quartered
- 1 cup bell peppers red and green, seeded and quartered
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 seeded habanero chili pepper
- ¼ cup cilantro washed and chopped
- 1 Tbsp. garlic chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- 24 ounces True North Salmon cut into medium dice
- 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 ounces wonton skins cut into strips and fried until crisp
- 1 cup picked fresh cilantro leaves
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the bell peppers and half of the jalapeno peppers. Cook until the peppers begin softening (about 3 more minutes). Stir in the chili powder, cumin and remaining jalapeno peppers. Cook for 1 minute to toast the spices.
Add the beans, tomatoes and beer. Bring to a slow simmer and cook until the sauce consistency is thick but still juicy (about 45 minutes). Remove and cool off for the final presentation.
Using a food processor, pulse the vegetables with a handful of ice cubes until the cucumbers, onion, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro and peppers are a chunky, salsa consistency. Transfer them to a stainless steel bowl, set over ice and add the vinegar and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. If you need to adjust the consistency of the salsa, add a little tomato juice, adding just enough to achieve the consistency you like. Keep very cold until ready to use.
Place the diced salmon in a glass or stainless steel pan. Mix the lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and salt together in a bowl and pour over the fish. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place a spoonful of the bean chili mixture in a small bowl. Garnish with a pool of gazpacho around the sides. Top with some of the marinated salmon (drained of the juice), sour cream, crispy wontons and cilantro.
Enjoy with a grassy, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a good amber beer.
Taste, Sip, Learn, Celebrate!
The date for the 3rd Annual Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival have already been set: September 30 – October 2, 2016. Mark your calendar today! That’s what I had to do to ensure that travel didn’t prevent me from attending this year. Plus, please know that all of this luxury consumption is for a great cause.
Proceeds from the weekend of events benefit charity partner, Project Hope Alliance. Project Hope Alliance is ending the cycle of homelessness, one child at a time by providing them with the tools and opportunities that they need to learn their way to a better tomorrow. Currently, Project Hope Alliance supports over 300 children attending 39 different schools in 21 cities throughout Orange County.
Chefs Rainer Schwarz (Driftwood Kitchen) and Yvon Goetz (The Winery)