Stone Catering for the Summer Solstice Soiree @MCASD

>> Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Date: 6/22/2011
Price: $75 for hors d'ourves, amuse, and 3 course in MCASD for fundraising
Website for Stone Catering

The Quick Bit:
+ Daring menu for catering
+ All courses were paired with craft beer
+ Farm to Table focus for the meal
+ Great environment to enjoy the meal
Δ Could have made some more of some hors d'ourves
Δ Thermal temperatures of main course could have been higher
Δ Some pairings could have been more harmonious

Just like when some actors try to make the jump from being typecast in a role to a huge career, Stone World Bistro and Gardens is attempting to escape the typecast of a Brewery Restaurant to a high end farm-to-table fine dining experience. To this end, they are currently making a big push through their catering to introduce themselves. To ensure success, Stone has even gone as far as purchasing its own farm to supply the restaurant and catering with the local and organic ingredients.  

The actors who have attempted such a jump have had varying degrees of success; Tom Hanks escaped the romantic comedy typecast to go on to win 2 Academy Awards for Best Actor. Will Smith made the leap from Fresh Prince to Prince of the Summer Action Blockbuster. On the other spectrum, you have Christopher Eccleston who left a great role as Doctor Who to a career minor support characters. Morena Baccarin and Summer Glau have largely failed their roles on their new television shows, never re-capturing the magic of Firefly.

Stone faces a large uphill battle in establishing itself as a purveyor of fine dining in San Diego. Stone's kitchen is headed by executive chef Alex Carballo, a graduate of San Diego State University. I attempted to find more information about him, but didn't succeed. Further, the beer pairings are arranged by "Dr" Bill Sysak, a well-known beer "wizard" in the craft beer industry. Mr. Sysak is the equivalent of a sommelier for beer and received his reputation by visiting over 500 craft breweries around the world. He also hosts his own annual beer festival at his home.

The Summer Solstice party was hosted by the Avant Garde group. Avant Garde is a group of young philanthropists brought together through the Museum of Contemporary Art. They host several events a year for networking and fundraising purposes. One great benefit of attending the Avant Garde party is that you get to dine in the actual museum; how many people get to do that? The ambiance set for the Summer Solstice festival was particularly inspiring.
By the time I had arrived, the party had begun and the hors d'ourves were slowly making their rounds.

Hors D'ouerves:
Lay Lady Lay
The Lay Lady Lay was a free cocktail offered during the social at the start of the event. The raspberry and champagne mixed with the ginger to give a nice sweet flavor followed by the bubbles and fizz of the champagne and finished with a little heat of the ginger. However, by the time half the cup was drained, the spice and flavor of the ginger had overwhelmed the other flavors and the cocktail became very difficult to finish.
Goat Cheese Tart
This tart with goat cheese and arugula was the best hors d'ourve. The goat cheese gave a great base to the dish, which was made texturally interesting but the tart shell and contrasted with the pepperiness of the arugula. If there was one complained about this dish, it's that the arugula was chopped somewhat large so most of it was eaten with the first bite of the tart, which messed up the balance in the second bite.
Watermelon gazpatcho
 The watermelon gazpatcho featured a watermelon that was pureed with other elements. Unfortunately, this dish didn't work. The combination of the pureed watermelon and other flavors was too savory, which was not expected when watermelon is featured as an ingredient. Furthermore the dish just wasn't very good and left a strange aftertaste on my palette.
Spring Roll
The spring roll featured a combination of carrots, bean sprouts, peppers, cabbage, and an array of spices, which was topped with some sesame seeds. The sesame seeds added a nice element of much needed umami and the combination of vegetables had a very fresh taste that was refreshing.

White Sea Bass Ceviche
The amuse was a nice ceviche featuring a sea bass caught earlier that day and and array of finely chopped vegetables. The amuse had the nice acidic kick from the lime juice and worked well as an amuse. The lime also worked well as a palette cleanser after the hors d'ouerves.

First Course:
Oaked Arrogant Bastard Pairing
Summer Squash Panzanella Salad
This salad was shared by four people. The panzanella worked very well as the herbs brought out the freshness and flavor of the summer squash. The salad was also lightly dressed, which didn't have the bread get too soggy. I'm not a big fan of Arrogant Bastard and I still personally didn't like it with the salad, but I understand the pairing. The hoppiness of the ale is slightly mellowed by the freshness of the herbs in the salad. Further, the acidity of the beer enhanced the acidity of the salad, which was otherwise fairly light on the acid.

2nd Course:
Stone Smoked Porter
Braised Brandt Beef Cheek
Braised Pork Belly
I was very impressed with the strawberry gastrique when this dish was brought out as it was extremely fragrant when the dish was first brought out.
I started with the pork belly in this dish. I was pretty disappointed because the center of the pork fat was cold and slightly chewier than it should have been. The cold fat feeling was an unappetizing feeling in the mouth as well. Further, we noticed that the entree was brought to the table on a cold plate, and all the women were served first, which only made them have to wait even longer to start eating. The strawberry gastrique with the pork belly was an interesting contrast of sweet and savory, which largely worked. This would have worked even better if the plate had been hot.
The Beef cheek was a pretty ambitious move to serve as the entree in a catered event. The beef cheek turned out great as it was fork tender and the Brandt beef really worked as the flavor of beef was captured encapsulated in the proteins of the beef. Unfortunately the marscapone scalloped potatoes didn't work. I felt the potatoes were undercooked and had the strange texture of raw potato. Additionally, the marscapone didn't really pair with anything on the plate. I feel like a light gorgonzolla based sauce would have worked better for the dish.
I liked the pairing of the smoked porter as the smokiness in the beer came out to compliment the meat very well. Additionally, the porter is one of the Stone beers that is less hoppy, which made it much more palatable.

Third Course:
Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Triple Silk Chocolate
This cake featured three layers of chocolate; dark chocolate topped with hazelnut chocolate and finished with white chocolate. Individually, each of the layers of this cake tasted good, but when the layers were mixed together in a bite, I found that the cake was too sweet and the sweetness of the white chocolate overwhelmed the flavors of the other chocolates. I feel this would have worked better if each layer was played separately and the diner was allowed to sample each flavor individually. The dessert also needed an added bit of acid to really bring out the sweet flavors.
I also felt that the stout didn't particularly pair well with the dessert. Dr Bill was saying that the beer should exhibit coffee notes when paired with the cake (which I agree would have been a good pairing), but the sweetness of the white chocolate also overwhelmed the flavor of beer as well.

Ultimately, the meal was fairly enjoyable even though it had a few mishaps; eating in a museum was a great experience no matter what the food was. As for Stone's place in the fine dining world, I feel like they will always be like Roberty Downey Jr. When the perfect role comes along for them, you're going to get the charismatic Tony Stark in Iron Man, but when they reach for too much, you're going to get the awkward, out-of-place Special Agent John Royce in US Marshalls.


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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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