Gavin Schmidt Re-Pop @El Take It Easy

>> Sunday, October 30, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/26/2011
Price: $45 for 5 courses
Location: 3926 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

The Quick Bit:
+ (Relatively) Cheap prices for Chef Schmidt's Food
+ Nice range of dishes
+ Great celebration for National Seafood Month
Δ Some inconsistencies in preparation
Δ Atmosphere of the restaurant and Chef Schmidt's food are not the best pairing

Being a one time popup, I was conflicted whether to review this experience as others would not be able to go. However, with the "new" Blanca dying before it even opened, I thought it appropriate to cover this event. Hopefully I will have time to make a second post later this week to a restaurant all are able to visit.
In the many times I've covered Chef Gavin Schmidt in the past, he was always the head chef at Blanca. In the previous coverage, I surmised that Chef Schmidt may in fact be a hobbit. With the closure of Blanca being something akin to the Scouring of the Shire, this pop up was supposed to be something like seeing Chef Schmidt try to open a pop-up at The Prancing Pony.
As the month of October is National Seafood Month, Chef Schmidt celebrated the theme by having an all seafood pop-up. I can only assume that Chef Schmidt knows some other Stoorish Hobbits that helped him catch all the seafood, but ultimately I was just happy to get to eat his food again.
Having previously been to The Prancing Pony El Take it Easy, I decided not to order of the regular menu and instead opted entire for the pop up food.

First Course:
Still Life of Local Waters - local spiny lobster, uni, smoked avocado, dashi vinnaigrette
Still Life was one of favorite dishes at Blanca, and having this one really satisfied a craving I had long been having. This particular Still Life was not as good as the ones at Blanca if only because the dashi gelatin layer was a little too thick. I attribute this to different equipment being used to produce the gelatin layer. Still the extra thick gelatin didn't ruin it dish, it just changed up the expected flavors and textures a bit.

Second Course:
Kobacha Squash Chawan Mushi - Erendira abalone, pickled radish, slow cooked egg
The slow cooked egg really worked well in this dish. The earthiness of the yolk really tied the pickled spicyiness of the kimchee with the abalone and gave a luxurious earthy mouthful. That said, I ended up getting caught up in the naming of the dish as a chawanmushi as this dish was more like a deconstructed chawanmushi.

Third Course:
Cassoulet of Baja White Prawns - fresh shelling beans, scallop boudin, nasturtium pistou
While I generally dislike bean dishes, the prawn and the scallop boudin did distract me enough to enjoy the dish. If that wasn't enough, some of the dishes included some chicharones in the garnish, which totally took the dish to another level. The crunch and flavor of the chicharones really contrasted to the more delicate, yet intensely flavored seafood and brought the dish to another level.

Surprise Course:
Since my table had ordered four of the previous course, we found that some of the dishes did not include chicharrone garnish while others did. To make up for missing this, Chef Schmidt sent out a plate of Chicharrones for the table. We heartily dug in and enjoyed this.

Fourth Course:
Seared Wild Mexican Red Rock Cod - chorizo mussel broth, olive oil, poached potato, kale
The mussel was cooked perfectly in this dish and really brought out a nice flavor contrast to that of the rock cod. The potato was also cooked beautifully as it was delicate and full of flavor. Unfortunately, the rock cod was overcooked and somewhat lacking in flavor.

Fifth Course:
Fried Chicken and Octopus - fried pastured chicken from Tag Farms, stewed wild Mexican octopus
This was the best dish of the night. Chef Schmidt mentioned that in a recent trip to New Orleans, he was inspired by the Southern flavors and fried chicken, so he wanted to share that. The dish he created to celebrate that memory was a success. The fried chicken was succulent and moist and the octopus stew was full of spice and flavor. The only slight complaint about the dish is that the octopus was a little chewy.

Overall, I thought the food was very nice. Unfortunately, the food isn't always the entire experience when eating out. When I said that Chef Schmidt was essentially popping up at The Prancing Pony, I really meant that all the way complete with all the raucous and bawdy behavior that could be expected in a medieval tavern. While there was not a dark, hooded stranger in the back named Strider, the food did seem a little out of place with the environment of the restaurant.
I wish Chef Schmidt the best in finding a new place and look forward to any other events he may be holding in the meantime. Meanwhile, let us hope that a newer and better Shire in constructed where Chef Schmidt can showcase the amazing food I know he is capable of producing.


Blue Ribbon Pizzeria

>> Sunday, October 23, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/8/2011
Price: $8-14 appetizers, 13-16 pizzas
Location: 897 South Coast Highway 101 Suite F102, Encinitas, CA 92024

The Quick Bit:
+ Nice Brick Oven Pizzas
+ Use of high quality ingredients
Δ Front of House experience left a lot to be desired
Δ Space is small and cramped, more like a New York City style area

When I last reviewed Neopolitan pizza, I insinuated that the pizza was the best in San Diego, which triggered a lot of responses of other pizza places to try out. Unfortunately the timing of this was such that it was the dog days of tourist summer and even showing up to some of these recommended places at 8pm on a Thursday, I was told I would have to wait up to 90 minutes for a table. Instead of trying to fight through the crowds, I figured it more prudent to bide my time and wait for the tourists to move on.
Now that the summer season is over, I finally made it out to Blue Ribbon Pizza in Encinitas. Blue Ribbon is owned and operated by Wade Hageman, former head chef of Blanca. While at Blanca, Hageman received many accolades for this food and developed the ubiquitous Blanca favorite of truffle popcorn that is now appearing on menus at other restaurants.
In his new space, Hageman operates in an open pizza perch facing the rest of the space. He gets to see all his customers enjoy his food while the customers see him make pizzas for others. I did briefly get to talk to Chef Hageman as I walked back from the restroom and he mentioned that he is much happier in his new restaurant because he can feed the masses and see that they are happy to be enjoying his food.
When my party first arrived, it was still early in the evening so there were empty seats available. However, upon asking for a table, we were told the wait was at least 45 minutes. The next party also did not have reservations, but they were offered a seat at the bar and sat immediately. When we confronted the hostess, she was noncommital and said we would have to wait the 45 minutes. Luckily, Chef Hageman's wife came to the front of the house and when I asked her if we could be seated at the bar, she gladly accommodated. While I do not wish to speculate about the hostess's reasons, this was not the only problem we had with the front of house. Since we were seated at the bar, a friend was in the area and wanted to join us for dinner. When we informed the hostess, she acknowledged the request and said it was no problem. However, when the friend arrived, the hostess gave us a lot of trouble in having the friend seated with us.

Albacore tuna crudo with haas avocado, ruby grapefruit and lemon olive oil
This was a great dish and a great way to start off the meal. the acid from the citrus was a great way to open the palette while the albacore was very fresh and tasty. The fat of the avocado tied all the tastes together in a very Californian approach. This dish was much more like something I would have expected from Blanca rather than Blue Ribbon (although it was similarly priced to Blanca as well).
Fresh burrata with EVOO, sea salt and organic arugla
While I really wanted to like this dish, the burrata had a very washed out flavor. It distinctly lacked the milky goodness expected from a good burrata. The black pepper was also a little too aggressive and it caused one of my party to continuously sneeze for five minutes.

White Oak - mozzerella, ricotta, La Quercia proscuitto and arugla
This pretty much seemed to be a take on the brunoverde except with proscuitto added. Invariably, I ordered this to be able to make a direct comparison to to Bruno. The cheese on this pizza, both the mozzerella and ricotta lacked the richness of a great cheese. The arugla is meant to cut the richness of the cheese, but when there isn't really a lot of richness to cut, then the bitterness of the arugla comes through and the pizza wasn't balanced. However, the pizza was still in the same league as the brunoverde - it was just more of a backup player rather than a star.
Classic - tomato sauce, fresh mozerella, fennel sausage and crimini mushrooms
This was an enjoyable pizza. In fact, it compares to the campania I had at Bruno and was superior to it. The house made fennel sausage really carried through the flavors of this dish. I would have liked for it to also perhaps have had a pepperonata, but the pizza was enjoyable.

___ Pudding - sea salt caramel, house made whipped cream
I forgot exactly what type of pudding this was, but the star of the dish was the caramel. The sea salt and caramel when integrated with the rest of the dish really contrasted the pudding in flavor and texture. It was a bit too sweet for my taste, but overall an enjoyable dessert.

While Blue Ribbon Pizzeria delivered a good and compelling pizza, there were aspects to the experience that overshadowed the food. The main issue we had was with the hostess, who we couldn't seem to stop butting heads with - usually they seat you and you never see them again, but we had to keep interacting with her, which brought down the experience. Further, while the pizza was good, it wasn't ultimately better than Bruno's pizza. It says a lot that when you go to a pizza place for dinner and you think the appetizer was the best dish of the night....
However, Blue Ribbon Pizzeria is still a great restaurant, and one that I would recommend with the front of house disclaimer. Had the hostess been more friendly, I would be awarding Blue Ribbon Pizzeria a bit award, but there were just too many small nitpicks to give the restaurant an award.


The Experience @Blue Point Coastal Cuisine - Molecular Gastronomy in San Diego

>> Sunday, October 16, 2011

Date of Dining: 10/15/2011 
Price: $125 for 14 course tasting menu
Location: 565 5th Ave, San Diego, CA

The Quick Bit:
+ Modern Technique in San Diego
+ Chef is not afraid to take chances in the dishes
+ Great sauces 
+ Unique and Fun Culinary Experience
Δ Some dishes could have been edited
Δ Pacing of the courses could have been more consistent

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine is one of the Cohn group of restaurants. Long known for selling an experience that was distinctly not great tasting food, the Cohn group has recently been trying to offer better food in their restaurants and hire more renowned chefs. Situated in a prime location on 5th Ave in Gaslamp, Blue Point draws in tourists and locals alike for the food regularly. Even so, The Cohn Group hired Chef Daniel Barron to head the kitchen of Blue Point approximately one year ago.
Chef Barron is perhaps best known for his body of work at the previous restaurant he worked - Anqi - which was named one of the Top Ten Molecular Gastronomy experiences in the US by Gayot. Molecular Gastronomy (now being pushed as Modern Technique) is the process of using chemical agents and applying scientific techniques to food - usually to achieve better, more even cooking or to create a fun play on the ingredients to enhance the culinary experience. 
Chef Barron attended the American Culinary Federation Apprenticeship program in Detroit and graduated from Wayne State University. He was a James Beard Award Semifinalist for best Chef of the Southeast while working at the Mad Platter in Nashville. He then worked in Cesca in New York, Donald Trump's Premier Casino Restaurant in New Jersey, and La Playa Beach and Golf in Naples, Florida before moving to Anqi and finally Blue Point.
I heard about Chef Barron's molecular menu about four months ago and wanted to try it, but was never able to organize anything during the busier summer months. Determined to finally get the experience, I called the restaurant when I noticed an online advertisement for the menu, and was able to organize a dinner for ten people approximately one month in advance. Normally, "The Experience" (as it is known at the restaurant) is only available on weeknights, but the restaurant seemed to make an exception and allow me to reserve the menu on a weekend. Perhaps as a result of the weekend day, another party of four managed to join in on the dinner with me.
In total, we would be experiencing 14 courses for the evening. Along with regular Saturday dinner service occurring at the same time, doing a 14 course special menu sounded like a Herculean feat...

First Course:
Dancing Bloody Mary - tomato water, vodka, dehydrated celery, horseradish, mustard,
compressed watermelon, jalapeno salt rim
The course started with a cocktail. The compressed watermelon balls were made to dance around the glass using some dry ice that was dropped into the glass. The playful dancing watermelon was a great way to show off the playfulness of the food and start the course. While there was definitely alcohol in the drink, it wasn't very noticeable. The jalapeno rim was actually pretty strongly flavored and gave a big kick in heat. It was a nice surprise as it gave notice that the food would be seasoned aggressively.

Second Course:
Osetra - champagne and uzu gelee, mandarin orange, onion sea salt marscapone, chives
Following the cocktail, the meal progressed to what I would think of as the amuse. The acid of the citrus and saltiness of the caviar are designed to be pleasing and open the appetite for the food that is to come. Thinking of the course more as an amuse, the briny saltiness of the caviar went well with the uzu gelee. The marscapone was outstanding and would have been a great dessert on its own. Where the dish seemed to really fall flat was the mandarin orange - the orange was unnecessary with the rest of the dish except perhaps to add a little texture. The champagne gelee was also overshadowed by the uzu gelee.

Third Course:
Lobster - corn nuts, pop rocks, chipotle jam preserve, micro basil and micro beat greens
This preparation of lobster featured transglutaminase (aka meat glue). The lobster is first broken down and then combined using the transglutaminase before being steamed and pan fried to finish. The result is something that looks very much like a scallop, but tastes like a lobster.
The pop rocks mixed with the lobster was done very well as with each bite of the lobster, the candy would pop in the mouth. The corn nuts were also a good textural contrast. The chipotle jam actually had amazing flavor on its own, but it didn't seem to go with the lobster that well. The additional sweetness didn't add anything to the natural sweetness of the lobster, and while the heat was welcome, it didn't really enhance the dish.
At this point we also asked for some bread and received some:
Parmesan truffle bread
The bread was very well done as the crust was nice and crusty while the interior was soft. The parmesan flavor really came through and matched the bread, but there wasn't a lot of truffle.

Fourth Course:
The Secret - Trio of Foie Gras, smoked almond gel, apple methocellulose dried foam
This course featured three preparations of foie gras on one plate. The left side shows the foie gras powder, which is supposed to reconstitute and taste like foie gras in the mouth after eating. The back middle (where the arugla is) contained a foie gras vinagrette that was used to dress the salad. The right side was a sous vide foie gras that was finished by pan frying.
Overall, this dish was a hit. The arugla converted several haters of arugla into eating it, and the smokiness in the sous vide foie gras was a very nice and welcome flavor. The almond gel and the dried apple foam added nice elements as well. Where the dish fell flat was the foie gras powder - the powder didn't really capture the  taste of foie very well when it was re-integrated.

Fifth Course:
Hiramasa - root beer, tsume, chili, nitro peanuts
This dish was a raw hiramasa belly marinated in tsume. It is them dipped in the peanuts and coated with a root bear cotton candy.
The quality of the fish was really high as the fatty flavor was as enjoyable as a high quality slice of sashimi. The tsume added a nice depth of flavor, and the peanuts a textural crunch. All of this was thrown for a loop in the end by the root beer flavored cotton candy. This is one of the dishes where I can appreciate the risk of wrapping the fish in the cotton candy, but I wasn't a fan of the preparation. I would have enjoyed the dish just fine without the cotton candy.

Sixth Course:
Oyster - shaved serrano, ponzu air, nitro cracker
The oyster was a hama hama oyster tenderloin that had the other parts of the oyster trimmed off.
When this dish came out, the ponzu air really added a sense of smell the dish as the fragrance attacked the olfactory senses. The serrano chili was placed to cut the richness of the oyster, but it was incredibly strong and the heat hung on the the back of the palette. Overall, this dish came down to whether or not you like oysters - those that liked oysters liked the dish while the ones that didn't were not converted.

Seventh Course:
English Pea Soup - truffle milk froth, ground up espresso
This was the best dish of the night both in taste and playfulness. The one squeezes the syringe directly into the mouth the get the soup, which was very well done. However, what really elevated the dish was the complexity added by the ground espresso. The additional coffee notes really made this dish a winner.

Eighth Course:
Waygu Cheek - sweet corn and bacon puree; sage and cilantro gremolatta with white anchovy
 and raw almond; tomato, caper, shallot, and onion greens
This dish followed closely behind the previous course as the best dish of the night. The cheek was cooked to be extremely tender, and the cilantro gremolatta paired perfectly with the cheek. The greens complimented the flavor of the beef and gremolatta very well. I didn't see the need for the corn and bacon puree, but its presence didn't detract from the rest of the dish.

Ninth Course:
Tree - orange cotton candy, freeze dried fizzy strawberry
At this point, Chef Barron explained that he wanted to have a palette cleanser before the heavier meat courses. The result is what is known as tree. The balls were brought out on a tree and placed before us. The freeze dried strawberries were coated in an acidic fizzy compound, which caused them to fizz while being eaten. It was a nice experience that left me waiting for the heavier meat courses.

Tenth Course:
Natural Pork en Fuego - rendered bacon blackberry chili sphere, salted farmer's market radish puree,
hickory char chip, barbecue sorbet, pickled radish, dried proscuitto noodles
This dish was fun as it had the element of showmanship for setting the plate on fire as it arrived. Additionally, the hickory chip conveyed the smokey aroma expected of barbecue to give the additional sensory element. I enjoyed this dish, but I thought it was in need of some heavy editing. Including both the blackberry chili sphere and the barbecue sauce was confusing as either could have worked with the pork, but they didn't work together. Additionally, the sphere was already on the pork, so it was hard to get it with just the sorbet. The radish puree was delicious alone, but it was completely lost in the flavor of the two heavier sauces.
Overall, I had fun with this dish and it was close to being a major hit, but just needed some editing.

Eleventh Course:
Ike Jime Striped Bass, Pork Belly, Kabocha, Spinach, Corn Nuts, shiso , Chicharrones,
orange soy reduction
Ike Jime is a Japanese method of killing a fish so that the flavor is not affected. Chef Barron explained that he was excited to offer this striped bass from Baja because it was killed ike jime and was a nice fully flavored sustainable fish. The bass was topped with chicharrones and placed on top of a 20 hour sous vide pork belly, which was on a bed of pureed kabocha.
I really enjoyed the orange soy reduction in this dish. However, I almost felt that the bass and the pork belly were two separate elements that could have been served separately. Additionally, the shiso leaf seemed to be old and fibrous without conveying a lot of flavor. However, the dish was very well prepared and I was happy with it.

Twelfth Course:
Short Rib - horseradish hash brown, butterscotch confit garlic; roasted garlic, poblano, herb, guajillo sauce; pureed avocado
The short rib was sous vide for 60 hours, and the texture resembled more of a tender steak rather than a short rib. 
The real winner of this dish was the horseradish has brown potatoes. These were prepared perfectly and the creamy horseradish really elevated the flavor of the beef. The short rib was well-cooked, but it seemed to be lacking one extra element to take it to the next level on its own.

Thirteenth Course:
Banana Vanilla Cream pie - stabilized cinnamon whipped cream, granulated graham cracker,
 peanut butter powder, sea salt caramel
This dessert was a very well-prepared dessert. The cinnamon whipped cream was very tasty and every person at the table commented about how good they thought it was. The peanut butter powder succeeded this time in reconstituting as peanut butter once placed in the mouth. Overall, the dessert was not too sweet and very well balanced. It conveyed all the flavors well and give options in how to pair the pie with the additional elements on the plate.

Fourteenth Course:
The Sundae - liquid nitrogen ice cream, toasted peanuts, bacon, sweetened whipped cream,
whiskey macerated cherries
Perhaps the most impressive portion of the dessert was that Chef Barron personally came out tableside to prepare the dessert. 
While the ice cream itself was enjoyable, it was nice to get the tableside demonstration of the dessert and the plating.
Because liquid nitrogen freezes the cream so fast, the ice cream resembled more of a frozen custard or creme brulee. It was extremely smooth and without air bubbles, so it was rich and decadent. While I was worried about the bacon being added, it really did work in this Sundae. The saltiness, cured flavor, and crunch of the bacon all added nice contrasts to the sundae.

Overall, I was very happy with "The Experience." There was definitely some lack of refinement in the dishes, but I felt that this was because Chef Barron was not afraid to take risks. Serving 14 courses to 14 people in the middle of Saturday dinner service was a huge risk on its own. Yet, Chef Barron managed to pull off the meal. Chef Barron also mentioned that he prepared our entire meal on a 4x4 table using only two burners, which impressed me as well.
There were definitely a some nitpicks with some of the food; some food was too cold and should have been hotter, other dishes seemed to have too many components and needed to be edited. However, the food was fun to eat and tasted good on the whole.
If I went on flavor of the food alone, I would not be giving The Experience @Blue Point Coast Cuisine an award. However, I've often expressed that I feel chefs should try to cook more cutting edge food and take risks. In that a Chef in San Diego is taking these risks and still produced a fun and enjoyable meal means that I would be a bit hypocritical if I judged on food alone. Thus, when all is said and done, I am giving The Experience @Blue Point the megabyte award.


The Gourmet Experience 2011

>> Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gourmet Experience is an annual event put on in San Diego showcasing pretty much anything food related. The event includes free samples of various local products, kitchen gadgets, appliances, demos, local food products, and alcohol. There are also three separate stages where Chefs demonstrate their skills in a culinary showcase. The Gourmet Expo is held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in the O'Brien Hall. 
I was asked to cover this event by Duo Public Relations, who seems to represent one or more of the products  showcased at the show. Included as part of this were some complimentary passes to the event.
Covering this event calls for a new format of coverage, so I will showcase some products and follow the coverage with the Chefs I met during the show.

Product Showcase:
The Gourmet Expo is held in a typical trade show format where exhibitors get a booth to operate and give samples of their products to the attendees. Additionally, most of the products are available for purchase at the show at a discounted price.
In addition to the booths, there was a culinary challenge area that resembled some sort of Iron Chef or Chopped competition.
There was also a cake decorating contest, where the theme seemed to be creating a Halloween-themed cake.
As I attended the show on the final day, it seemed like the show wasn't as crowded, which worked to my advantage in being able to navigate the show floor.
Praline Patisserie is run by Chef Cruz Caudillo, who was the former pastry chef at Blanca when it was headed by Wade Hageman. Chef Caudillo now specialized in a caramel spread. The caramel was sweet, yet had a large body and depth of flavor that was backed up by one of the four flavors the caramel comes in. My personal favorite of the four spreads was the vanilla flavored spread as the vanilla added a nice body to the caramel and complimented the sweetness. The smoked applewood caramel was definitely unique, but I'm not too sure of its applications.
Chef Caudillo mentioned that he can be found at farmer's markets including Little Italy, La Jolla, Mission Hills, and Pacific Beach. His goal is to build a large enough nest egg to open his own patisserie full time.
By far the most popular show items were olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Many booths could be found featuring olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I probably sampled at least thirty different oils and fifteen different balsamics over the course of the day (and that's with skipping at least half of each).
The M5 booth was very interesting as it featured almost an entirely European market style selection of products. Pastas, oils, canned finish, and other preserved European products were available for purchase. 
Johanne's Brats had a long and steady line of attendees lining up for the chance to sample the sausages.
All the brats included a nice European mustard topping as well
The brats included in the sampler (from front to back) were the cheese brat, the jalapeno brat, and the regular beef and pork brat.
I happened to wander by this booth just as Chef Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room visited. Chef Guillas' booth was promoting his pollen seasonings.
The Muddy Waters Coffee Co was also present, showcasing the gourmet coffee. Their Crossroads coffee was a mix of El Salvador, Ethiopian, Peruvian, Sumatran, and Colombian. It didn't really have a large nose, which I typically expect from designer coffee, but it was very full bodied and had a smooth finish. I spoke to the representative and he said that he does a blend of Indonesia coffees including Bali, Papa New Guinea, and Timor, but was unable to have that available due to the simultaneous availability of coffee from that region.
While I was sampling the vodka at Pucker, I was informed that I lost my man card, as I was the only male drinking out of about ten other attendees. However, I did manage to get a great photo of one of the representative modeling the product. I was also later informed that I did indeed win my man card back and was given a free tshirt so I think I came out ahead.
A flight of St Helena Road Winery's current releases was available for sampling at the show. I felt the meritages were a little light in body, but I did enjoy the 2006 cabernet. The representative informed me that she was trying to get into some local wine stores.
Carlsbad Aqua Farms was also on had at the show, serving up shucked oysters as $5 per 3. While not quite a kunomoto, the Luna oysters are pretty close and have much more meat in them. Carlsbad Aqua Farms oysters can be found at Whole Foods Encinitas on weekdays.

Chef Sharone Hakman:
As I mentioned previously, there were also a variety of chef demonstrations at the show.
My personal favorite chef was Chef Sharone Hakman as he was the most approachable of all the chefs at the show. Chef Hakman was probably last seen as a semifinalist on Season 1 of Masterchef. Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical on just how well some of the Masterchef contestants are able to cook after the show, but many of them appear to be having a lot of success.
Chef Hakman is currently promoting his personal line of BBQ sauce called Hak's BBQ, a chipotle bourbon bbq sauce that he used during the Masterchef competition to much success. When he was eliminated, Chef Gordon Ramsay recommended that Sharone bottle his sauce and sell it. Taking Chef Ramsay's advice, one year later Chef Hakman has his own line of BBQ sauce. Chef Hakman's BBQ sauce contains a rich mixture of many elements, and what makes it unique is that the consistency of the sauce is the result of the natural reduction and not the result of additives used to thicken the sauce. When you taste Hak's BBQ, you can definitely taste the additional depth in flavor of the sauce.
As I mentioned, Chef Hakman was much more approachable than some of the other chefs. When he did his cooking demonstration, he brought he food out for people to sample
grilled peach and fig salad with basil, feta, balsamic
peach, cucumber, tomato gazpacho with microgreens
Chef Hakman made me a slider featuring his BBQ sauce. The beef was grass fed free pasture beef from Lindy and Grundy mixed in a 70-30 meat to fat ratio.
Chef Hakman was able to get perfect medium rare temperature on the burger. While it would be unfair to review a sample slider against some of the other burgers I've sampled, the beef patty used by Chef Hakman would have been enough for him to beat some of the burgers I've sampled. Additionally, the slightly sweet Hawaiian bun and the inclusion of the Hak's BBQ sauce added more depth of flavor and made the slider an enjoyable treat.

Chef Daniel Barron:
Chef Daniel Barron is the head chef at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine. Prior to working at Blue Point, Chef Barron was the head chef at Anqi when it was named one of the top ten molecular gastronomy menus by Gayot (#2). Chef Barron did a demo on fun cocktails using modern technique
Some of the highlights of Chef Barron's presentation included using liquid nitrogen:
He also dropped dried ice in a cocktail containing pieces of vacuum-dried watermelon that caused the watermelon to dance around inside the glass (sorry no photo).
Chef Barron's sample cocktail was a take on a cadillac margarita and included a kaffir lime foam, which featured xantham gum.

Chef Dave Martin:
Chef Dave Martin was a San Diego resident when he made it to the final four of Season 1 on Top Chef.
Chef Martin's presentation featured roasted brussel sprouts and brasied short rib. He was the funniest presenter because he seemed flustered while on stage worrying about time, and was drinking one of Chef Barron's cocktails to calm himself down. In short, it was everything we learned to know and love about Chef Martin when he was on Top Chef.
Unfortunately, I was unable to sample any of Chef Martin's food.

Flair Bartender Hayden "Woody" Wood:
Hayden Wood (or Woody as everyone calls him) was on hand during the show to demonstrate his flair bartending skills and autograph his book, Woody's Liquid Kitchen for those who purchased it. Woody was the opening act for Guy Fieri's roadshow.
While waiting for my sample cocktail, there was unfortunately a little accident so I didn't get a chance to sample the cocktail from Woody directly. Instead, I had to settle for a cocktail from his assistant
Since the cocktail I sampled wasn't from Woody's hands, I don't think it would be fair for me to review the cocktail I received. However, I was impressed by some of Woody's flair

All in all, it was an enjoyable day at the Gourmet Expo. I was able to meet a lot of Chefs and sample a lot of the products on hand.
The best local product at the show was the Luna Oysters from Carlsbad Aqua Farm.
The best product overall was Hak's BBQ sauce for its complex full bodied flavors.
The best alcoholic product was the 2006 Maier Cabernet from St Helena Road Winery.


About This Blog

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.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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