Chef Showdown 2007

http://www.ccssd.org/

In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Center for Community Solutions (CCS) held their third annual Chef Showdown on October 4, 2007 in Balboa Park's Casa del Prado Courtyard. This year's theme was "Taking a Stand Against Domestic Violence." The event included food samplings, both a silent auction and a live auction, and an "Iron Chef" style competition to raise funds to support CCS' sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and intervention programs throughout San Diego.

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Upon entering, I was greeted by CCS' friendly staff. Numerous tables were set up with food samplings from fine restaurants throughout San Diego County. In the middle, more tables were set up for the silent auction. Some of the items up for bid included spa treatments, cooking classes, and cookbooks.

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I didn't realize that there was more until it was announed that the cooking competition was about to begin in a second courtyard area. There were three secret ingredients: dragonfruit, a variety of spreads, and freshly flown in mahi mahi (which were probably 4 to 5 feet long!). Each of the two teams had 5 top chefs from some of San Diego's best restaurants.

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Here are some of the incredible food samplings:

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While talking to a few of the chefs from Barona, I found out that they have their own culinary academy on site. Since I don't eat beef or pork, I did not try this appetizer, but it did look well crafted with vibrant colors.

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Viejas was also present. I enjoyed their jumbo shrimp very much, but the gazpacho "shooter" had too much cilantro for me.

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Urban Solace's Skillet Fried Shrimp was also good (but not as big as Viejas). I did not care for the Chili Grits (underneath). It tasted like bad corn bread. The Watermelon/Tomato/Cucumber Salad was drenched with a pomegranate vinaigrette and mixed with pine nuts and feta.

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The Oceanaire provided a spicy Ahi Poke. I talked to their representative about Chef Brian Malarkey (from "Top Chef") and without realizing that I had not seen the finale yet, she told me she couldn't believe that _____ had won...

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Pictured here is Hacienda de Vega's crunchy flat beef taco. I sampled their lobster version. The shell added a nice crispy crunch to the lobster meat mixture.

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Quarter Kitchen had cute little martini glasses of layers of guacamole, salsa, and creme fraiche topped with a peppery baguette (thinly sliced).

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The Wild Thyme Company offered three different samples in martini glasses: Bangkok Thai (udon noodles, carrots, cucumber, peanuts, and thai peanut sauce), Strawberry Blue (spinach, maytag blue cheese, strawberries, candied walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette), and not pictured is Miso Honey with Salmon (napa cabbage, watercress, sugar snap peas, wonton chips, and honey miso dressing). The Bangkok Thai has a spicy taste that is not overpowering. The udon noodles had a nice soft consistency to it. I only sampled the salmon (not the whole dish) and it was tender.

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Croce's provided large crispy wontons filled with an Ahi poke mixture.

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The Shores

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Chef Amy DiBiase of Baleen made Dungeness Crab Sopes with Strawberry Papaya and Smoked Chili Cream.

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Avenue 5

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Isabel's Cantina offered samples of chicken and rice with a delicious lemony sauce.

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One of Barona's chefs carefully makes creme brulee. This was my favorite dessert. It was incredibly creamy with a sweet, crunchy top shell. It was so good that I came back for another one and when I did, the chef was eating one. You know the food has to be amazing if the chef can't keep his mouth away from it!

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San Diego Desserts had an assortment of sweet treats that I kept coming back for more. Their chocolate cake is heavenly.

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If you've been to Hash House a go go, then you already know about their generous portions. This is a double portion of their Bread Pudding. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the plate was larger than my head!

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I'm sorry to say that Vincenzo's Canoli only looked delicious. I'm not sure what it was, but I didn't like the pastry shell. I enjoy Janoli from Sweet Lady Jane in LA and they use a shell made of what appears to be a cross between peanut brittle and a thin layer of rice crispy treats.

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J. Taylor's Restaurant had a unique display of test tubes filled with Fig Mousse with White Chocolate Soil and Candied Orange Zest. The soil was delicious. It was like finely crushed cookie crumbs. I'm not a fig person, so I didn't enjoy the rest of the dessert as much, but I could definitely taste the orange zest.

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Blanca's Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Single Malt Chantilly and Salted Caramel Sauce. This was another delicious dessert. It looks like the new thing is having desserts in little shot glasses. It was a great night of sophisticated food beautifully plated and CCS was able to raise thousands of dollars for their programs. =)

Balboa Park
Casa del Prado
San Diego CA

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