Event - Chef Christian De La Vara Cooking Demo & Kean Coffee Lesson (Golden Foodies)

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're just trying to get people the flavors of northern Italy - cooking from the home, cooking from the heart." - Chef De Cuisine Christian De La Vara, Brunos Trattoria
On June 26, 2013, the Golden Foodie Awards association hosted another Golden Chef Series Demonstration at the Sub-zero and Wolf Showroom in Costa Mesa, this time featuring Chef Christian De La Vara of Brunos Trattoria. Up for nomination for Best New Restaurant for the 2013 Golden Foodie Awards after 8-9 months of being open, Brunos Trattoria is located in downtown Brea at 210 W. Birch St and features homestyle Italian cuisine. Their goal in bringing the classic dishes is "to provide a relaxing dining atmosphere with soul-satisfying fare." We were in for a treat that night for his instruction and to taste his creation.

It is always a joy when these events are hosted by emcee Charlie Plummer, Sommelier with Jackson Family Estates Winery, who kept the live audience engaged and laughing. As Chef Christian was preparing his meal, guests were able to enjoy fresh produce by Melissa's, artisan bread by Sadie Rose, Addington Toffee, Cabot Cheese, and wine by La Crema. We learned about the chef's training in Pasadena after having grown up in the San Gabriel Valley and how the restaurant is associated with Cha Cha's in Brea as well. Did you know that Chef Christian's first restaurant venture, Bistro Pasqual, was with his wife when he was just 25 years of age? Brunos is now his place of culinary residence though, and they have been quite popular in their short operating period. The restaurant's philosophy that governs the ingredients results in nearly homemade everything from the pasta (nearly all of them) to the sauces to the stocks. They also try to capitalize on the seasonality of ingredients for freshness and on using authentic imports (when needed) such as their cheeses.

On the menu for the evening was the Pappardelle Brunos ($16.95 - braised short rib ragu with wild mushrooms and housemade pasta), chosen for being the most popular pasta dish at the restaurant. Chef also highly recommended the fresh gnocchi, lasagna bolognese, and carbonara for anyone looking to visit Brunos anytime soon. When asked what other type of pasta would work well for this dish, penne was the choice. Another reason to showcase this recipe was for its relative ease to make at home - a good reason for all of the audience members to attend. As we watched him put together the dish, he talked about the power of a good satchet of herbs in any dish and how to cook pasta properly (in his way - boil salted water first before adding pasta and then cook until texture preference, not necessarily "al dente"). Chef Christian also spoke on how the best quality of olive oil should be used to finish a dish and not to cook with so that the flavors are at their peak when consumed.

The result was a beautiful, aromatic pasta dish with soft and succulent chuck boneless short rib. Of course in proper Italian fashion, wine pairings were in order and so Charlie chose two types - a Chianti Classico for its provincial Italian roots and ties to the dish in similar herb and terroir and a Pinot Noir for its versatility and complementary fruit notes. The guests were able to taste a bite as well, and seeing as pappardelle is my favorite pasta, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The wild mushrooms added a savory touch that married together the smoothness of the pasta with the heavy ragu well. A tip for those recreating the dish: the inside "ribs" of a mushroom cap will bleed out black and brown if you do not scrape them off with a spoon.

Want the recipe? Use 2 oz olive oil, 5 lbs. beef short ribs in 3"x2" pieces, 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp black pepper, 3 whole garlic cloves, 1/4 cup diced celery, 1/4 cup diced carrot, 1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 3/4 cup Italian tomato paste, 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary with 1 bay leaf in cheesecloth, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, 3 cups red Italian table wine, 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, and mushrooms of choice (in amount too).
  • Season ribs with s+p and sear in braising pan until caramelized & dark brown all around. Remove from pan.
  • Cook garlic, mirepoix, and satchet until translucent; add tomato paste for another 3 minutes.
  • Deglaze with wine for 2 minutes before adding tomato sauce. Braise meat on low heat in sauce for 2-3 hours until fork tender.
  • Break up meat and remove from pan. Save ragu  for pasta base - add mushrooms to it.
  • Cook pasta and then add in short ribs and ragu for 3 minutes. Serve with fresh parsley, EVOO, and grated Parmesan.

In addition to the pasta dish were bites of the seasonal Torte (this time with blackberries) and the Budino al Caramello (caramel custard with hazelnut liqueur, caramelized sugar, honey, kosher salt, dark chocolate ganache, and hazelnut ganache) as served by Pastry Chef Stevie Sandoval and Chef Dylan. Both were excellent but the budino truly stood out; I can easily see it is the best-selling dessert and almost always ordered at every meal.

Another treat in store that night was a demonstration by Master Roaster Martin Diedrich of Kéan Coffee on how to pour the perfect cup of coffee. Of the only 3-4 Master Roasters in Southern California, we were honored to see one of them that night. However, it is without surprise that Martin was in the coffee business having grown up as a coffee farmboy with 150+ years of coffee growing on his mom's side and 100+ years on his dad's side.

The audience was taken through the full process of coffee from beginning to end during the demonstration. Martin had brought in his own young coffee tree to show guests what one would look like. Every table had a display of different stages of coffee so we cupped little coffee cherries in our hands, pushed out the fruit, and separate the "seeds"/beans to take a look. Light green beans were the next step and most definitely not yet edible (though the fruit meat is!). With quality roasting, we found ourselves face to face with the much more familiar coffee bean, dark and aromatic.

Each cup of coffee from these Guatemalan Atitlan beans produced a creamy, fruity taste with some hints of nuttiness. They were additionally paired with the Midas Tart of Blackmarket Bakery to round out the evening well. My thanks to everyone involved in making this happen for all of us eager to learn and to those who attended because profits from the event went to Share Our Strength! Don't miss the next event in the Golden Chef Series on July 31st!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos to be available on Facebook.