Heart di Vite - 1st Annual

>> Thursday, February 9, 2012

Date of Dining: 2/5/2012
Location: Scripps Seaside Forum, 8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Quick Bit:
+ Proceeds go towards donating for a good cause
+ Top San Diego Chef talent in one spot
+ Variety of cuisines on display
Δ Parking for the venue was difficult
Δ Event seemed somewhat rushed to enjoy and savor all the food

I was delighted when I saw the 1st Annual Heart di Vite event announced. Many of the top chefs in San Diego were participating and the event was catered towards raising awareness towards sustainable farming and biodiversity as well as fund raising students at UCSD. Not only was it a great culinary event, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the real issues facing the food industry today.
During the Heart Di Vite presentation, a focus was drawn to the effect of global warming on vineyards, overfishing of the ocean and sustainable fishing habits, and how current research at UCSD would serve to improve in these conservation efforts.
While I am out enjoying the best food available in the most exciting preparations, it is easy to lose sight that there is sometimes a price paid for enjoying that food in front of me. This event was great in that it showed that there is a lot of great tasting food available that is sustainable and not harmful to the environment.
Note: Since it will be another year to the next Heart di Vite, I will highlight each of the chefs and the food they prepared and also provide a link to the restaurant where you can enjoy their cuisine.
Note: I tried my best with the photos, but with the changing lighting conditions, not all the photos are up to par 
Chef Oliver Bioteau - Farm House Cafe:
Restaurant: Farm House Cafe
Location: 2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

mushroom wrapped white seabass - braised pork belly, pommes puree, london sauce
Chef Bioteau's cuisine is high quality French cuisine prepared with seasonal, organic farm to table ingredients.
The seabass in this dish was well-cooked and retained moisture. The mushrooms used in combination with the seabass did a good job of adding some earthy flavors without overpowering the delicate flavor of the bass. However, the star of the dish was the braised pork belly. The pork belly was braised and full of flavor, but also crisped up before serving so that there was also an element of textural contrast. For me, the pork belly, stole the spotlight in this dish. I would have enjoyed a large plate of the pork alone.

Chef Trey Foshee - George's California Modern:
Location: 1250 Prospect Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
campechana - prawn, scallop, octopus, avocado, lime, cucumber
Chef Foshee needs no introduction here as I previously enjoyed his TBL3 experience. His food focuses on Modern Californian cuisine using the highest quality ingredients with great presentation and impeccable presentation.
Living up to expectations, I felt the campechana was the best dish of the event. A campechana is a Mexican seafood cocktail similar to a ceviche, but also containing a vegetable soup base in addition to the Tiger's Milk. All of the seafood was cooked to tender perfection and the purity of the flavors really came through. I especially enjoyed the interplay between the natural sweetness of the scallop with the sourness of the vegetable broth. Overall, this was a great dish and one of the few ones that I came back for seconds on.

Chef Jason Knibb - Nine-Ten Restaurant:
Restaurant: Nine-Ten
Location: 910 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
green farro porride - roasted brussel sprots, lamb panchetta, puffed wild rice
Chef Knibb is also another chef previously featured on this blog. Chef Knibb was recently on Iron Chef America whose cuisine embodies the use of the best ingredients in cooking.
Chef Knibb's dish was probably the most fun dish of the night. The variety of textural elements in the dish was extremely enjoyable. Instead of going for a lot of textural contrast, this dish instead showcased different types of crunch. The lamb panchetta was prepared to be crispy and gave the savory meaty crunch. Comparatively, the brussel sprouts displayed the roasted vegetable crunch that only brussel sprouts can convey. Finally, the puffed wild rice gave a crunchy soft feeling. The entire dish was a textural wonder to behold.

Chef Andrew Spurgin - Campine Catering:
Restaurant: Campine Catering
korean fried chicken - wakame potatoes - banchan
Chef Andrew Spurgin has been one of the key contributes to the Cooks Confab and headed many popular catering organizations in San Diego.
The best part of this dish was the kimchee. The flavoring of the kimchee was bold in execution and authentic in flavor. Other elements of the dish seemed a little koyaanisqatsi in both the individual preparation and overall composition.

Chef Antonio Friscia - Campine Catering, Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
Restaurant: Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
Location: 627 Fourth Ave, San Diego, CA
gigantes "super bowl" chili - pomodoro feta, herb pesto
Chef Antonio Friscia has been exploring many project lately since the kitchen at Stingaree shut down. He is involved with Campine Catering, Curiocity Food Truck, and most recently Gaijin Noodle + Sake Bar. He was excited to tell me that Gaijin would be a fusion of Japanese and Italian food as well as featuring specialty cocktails from Snake Oil. He quickly dissuaded the notion that his restaurant was trying to be a Momofuku Noodle Bar "West" - I do hope he does have 63 degree eggs though.
This bowl of chili took me by surprise as I had very low expectations of it. However, it was packed full of flavor, spice, and a certain comfort quality expected of great chili. The corn bread that accompanied the dish was also moist and well-prepared, but I didn't really understand the pairing as the sweetness of the corn and the spice of the chili seemed to work in a parasitic dissonance rather than a symbiotic juxtaposition. Fortunately, the well-seasoned and bold flavored chili itself more than made up for the other elements of the dish.
Gaijin Noodle+Sake Bar is tentatively scheduled to open the week of February 12th and features a yakitori bar in addition to the noodle bar.

Chef Chad White - Sea Rocket Bistro, Gabardine:
Restaurant: Sea Rocket Bistro
Location: 3382 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

Restaurant: Gabardine
Location: 1005 Rosecrans, San Diego, CA 92106
sea urchin wrapped with lardo - uzu, lime, buzz leaf, ghost salt
Chef Chad White built his reputation with well-prepared sustainable seafood at Sea Rocket Bistro; it is one of the places I have on my list of places to go, but have not found the time. Fortunately, I was able to meet chef White at Heart di Vite. 
Perhaps best known for his uni ice cream, it comes as no surprise that Chef White decided to feature uni as his course at Heart di Vite. This dish was the item I had the most servings of at Heart di Vite, but I felt that the flavor came mostly from highlighting the natural flavor of the uni. All the elements served to bring out more of the uni flavor and complement its rich decadent flavors.
Chef White has teamed up with Brian Malarkey to be the head chef of Gabardine. According to Chef White, the theme of the restaurant is a Portuguese Seafood Bar, which is exciting to me since there is nothing like that concept (to my knowledge) in all of Southern California. While I thought I might be done with Malarkey Restaurants, I guess I'll have to make an exception for Gabardine; hopefully I just won't have to meet him again.

Chef Jeff Jackson - A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines:
Restaurant: A.R. Valentien
Location: 11480 North Torrey Pines Rd, San Diego, CA 92037

pho - bone marrow flan, friend shrimp ball
Chef Jackson's food focuses on farm to table cuisine. A.R. Valentien is one of San Diego's top fine dining restaurants but seems to not be mentioned very often for some reason. I had a very productive discussion with Chef Jackson during the event and I hope to be able to visit sometime this year.
This was another dish where I had fairly low expectations going in. However, I was extremely impressed with Chef Jackson's preparation - he was able to really hit an authentic flavoring of the pho stock. The soup had the correct balance of anise, savory, and sweet, and since the ingredients used were high in quality, the soup featured a very nice purity in flavor that sometimes gets muddled when enjoying pho. The sliced jalapeno added a nice surprising kick to substitute for sriracha, and the micro-basil added the expected freshness.

Chef Katie Grebow - Cafe Chloe:
Restaurant: Cafe Chloe
Location: 721 9th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
house merguez sausage - yogurt vinaigrette, roasted red kuri squash sumac, israeli couscous
Chef Grebow heads the kitchen at Cafe Chloe. Her culinary philosophy focuses on the creative use of ingredients in a rustic style.
Merguez sausage seems to be one of the recent culinary trends I have seen in San Diego. One of the great features of the merguez is when the gamey flavor of the lamb comes through in the sausage as it allows for strong counterpoint in the accompanying elements of the dish. Individually each of the elements of the dish were well prepared, but I think I missed on how the yogurt was supposed to tie all of the elements of the dish together.

Chef Melissa Mayer - Martini Media:
Restaurant: Martini Media
raw oyster
fried oyster
Chef Mayer's works as a Chef for Martini Media and is involved with many events at Suzie's Farm. Her culinary philosophy lies in the use of simple, sustainable, organic farm to table ingredients. She competed in the Food Network Challenge on Mac and Cheese.
The raw oyster was more of a traditional preparation. However, the plating of the dish was exceptional as there was an incredibly pleasing element of eye candy to the dish. The oysters where infused with some smoky flavor, which really allowed the natural sweetness of the oysters to be highlighted. The fried oysters featured a spicy sauce and and some picked vegetables for some sour acidity. While the fried preparation was also enjoyable, I preferred the raw preparation by far as it served to highlight the natural oyster flavor in better greater purity.
I overheard Chef Mayer mention that she may be leaving San Diego, but I hope it isn't true. I just discovered  her talent and hope to try more of her food in the future.

Chef Jack Fisher - Jack Fisher Confections:
Affiliation: Jack Fisher Confections

Restaurant: Nine-Ten
Location: 910 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
single origin chocolate - yogurt foam, apricot pearls, vanilla meringue
When I heard Jack Fisher would be preparing dessert, I was very excited to see what he was going to offer.  Fisher is most famous for his desserts at Nine-Ten - especially for the panna cotta. I had a great experience there myself, so I was looking forward to the dessert.
Fisher was really able to deliver on this dessert; sometimes there's no better way to finish off a great meal than a classic chocolate cake. This particular cake was rich with flavor and retained a large portion amount of moisture. The vanilla meringue added a touch of texture, the apricot pearls added a fruity sweetness to contrast the rich decadent sweetness of the chocolate, and the yogurt foam prevented all the sweetness from overwhelming the senses. Overall the dish was still a little too sweet for my liking, but it was still a very satisfying finish to a great meal.

When this event first caught my attention, I was a little apprehensive as attending would mean that I miss my first Super Bowl in fifteen years. Yet after attending, I'm very happy that I did as it was a great experience. There was also a magical sunset that really over-delivered in the ambiance. I'll close out by sharing some moments from that magical sunset


Rodzilla February 9, 2012 at 11:00 PM  

That looks like an awesome event, and I really loved all the information you gave about the chefs.

But, "the sweetness of the corn and the spice of the chili seemed to work in a parasitic dissonance rather than a symbiotic juxtaposition" ...C'mon James, your terminology was 1000x as complicated as the dish. What is there to understand about chili and cornbread? They just go together :p

James February 9, 2012 at 11:20 PM  

That was definitely my way of saying they didn't really go well together and hoping people wouldn't go dictionary the thing :)

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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.
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.
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