Eco App Off at Green Feast 2015 Wows Attendees
Every year that it has been around, Green Feast has inspired us to be more cognizant of what we eat and use, and it has made us envious of those who are able to get tickets to each highly coveted seat. Green Feast is an annual fundraiser for The Ecology Center located in San Juan Capistrano and adheres to true farm-to-table methods. Participants must source all of their ingredients within 250 miles of The Ecology Center including staples such as flour, salt, and sugar! This year, as with the past ones, the event sold out nearly immediately and was well-attended by more than 200 guests. That evening of September 12, 2015, they sat along tables and indulged in food-conscious dishes prepared by 17 of OC's best chefs. We did not partake in the dinner but did get to enjoy the precursor to the fabulous meal - the Eco App Off.
For the Green Feast dinner, main courses ran the gamut of styles but had the common vein of their commitment to sustainability and local sourcing. Dishes like crab soup, yellowtain tuna poke, and roasted lamb graced the tables (full menu here) paired with wines from the likes of Zotovich Cellars and Sans Liege. During the portion we attended, libations came from Tablas Creek Vineyard, Left Coast Brewing Co, and Kean Coffee. The Eco App Off gave attendees the opportunity to browse the event's silent auction, bidding on more eco-centric experiences and helping raise funds for The Ecology Center and its programs. As for the bites presented in the starting hours, they came from seven chefs competing in the appetizer competition, vying to win and be the Main Course chef for next year's event.
Creativity knew no bounds as the Eco App Off chefs got to work on providing their farm-to-table morsels. If these were only the starters, how much more amazing were the main features? Chef Michael Doctulero of Scott's Seafood brought out incredibly fresh Chilled Local White Seabass Ceviche in Treviso with Smoked Chilis on lettuce leaves, making us want to just sit down on a lounge chair, crack open a cold one, and relax under some natural shade. It was vibrant with a signature ceviche zestiness and no wonder the fish was good - it came from Santa Monica Seafood!
Chef Jeffrey Boullt of SOCIAL Costa Mesa brought along his Smoked Potato Salad with Charred Green Beans, Housemade Creme Fraiche, Soft Boiled Eggs and Vadouvan, claimed to be inspired by just something he'd love to eat himself on a regular basis. The soft boiled eggs were the perfect consistency, yolks oozing seductively out of their whites and lusciously coating the curried, smoked potatoes. What a great combination of flavors. This addictive appetizer was sourced from the following purveyors: Weiser Family Farms, Rancho Cucamonga; Gaytan Farms, Mira Loma; Hidden Haven, Jamul; and Chino Farms, Del Mar.
On such a sweltering afternoon, guests must have been relieved to see that Chef Justin Monson of Club 33 brought out Blackberry-Basil and Drakes Farm Goat Cheese Popsicles sourced from Drakes Farm, Ontario. These vibrant beauts were the right amount of sweet, tart, and savory, getting a bit of the savory elements from added olive oil and basil. On the hotter side of undeniable bites were the juicy, hearty offerings from Chef Pascal Olhats of Pascal Restaurants who brought Slow Cooked and Grilled Pork Belly with Manassero Farms White Corn and Tomato Cassoulet sourced from Manassero Farms, Irvine & Tustin and Cook Pigs Ranch, Julian. How does one say no to pork belly, especially done so well with the brightness of fresh corn and tomatoes? Additionally, these were served on wide leaves to reduce waste!
Near the chicken coops, we found Chef Debra Sims of Maro Wood Grill with her Chimichurri Ñoquis sourced from Grist and Toll Flour, Los Angeles; Laguna Eggs, Laguna Beach; and Manassero Farms, Irvine & Tustin. The herb dumplings were fantastic in texture and taste on their own but those wanting more protein in their sampling were able to heap on some lamb as well. Nearby, we found Chefs Joe Magnanelli & Brent Omeste of Cucina Enoteca whose Local Baby Zucchini "Parmigiana" sourced by Future Food Farms, Brea; OC Baking Co., Orange; Manassero Farms, Irvine; Di Stefano Cheese, Pomona; and Cucina Enoteca's Newport Beach garden ended up being the winner by popular vote. The thinly sliced chips of zucchini had been breaded and fried to a delightful crisp before being layered on with dollops of different flavors to mimic a full parmigiana dish. This was actually my favorite bite of the afternoon so it was, of course, great to see that the popular vote swayed the same way. Keep an eye out for them next year then as they will serve Green Feast 2016's main course!
Though the chefs at Cucina Enoteca won the Eco App Off, one cannot forget just how creative and beautiful the contributions of Chef Raj Dixit of Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach where. His "Spanish Omelet" with Field Chili Sambal, Ruby Crescent Potatoes, and Local Boquerones from purveyors Black Sheep, Chino; Weiser Family Farms, Tehachapi; Santa Monica Seafood, Dana Point; and Adams Olive Ranch, Lindsey was one-of-a-kind. Not only was the presentation impressively gorgeous and the accompanying, properly-themed Kitchen Sink Sangria (ingredients sourced from Lone Daughter Ranch, Redlands) thirst-quenching, the flavors that were layered within the confines of the cut eggs themselves were balanced and stood out above the rest. You had to dig all the way down to get every section, and all together, they played on one's tongue in texture and taste. In addition to the spoonfuls, Chef Dixit also roasted some shishito peppers to add to the mix.
With all of the bites circulating that afternoon, the station by Kean Coffee was a treat as they served cold brew coffee in tall glasses, swirled with cream and goodness. It was necessary in that heat and was a great showing of another establishment committed to the importance of sourcing responsibly (though of course, their coffee is not within 250 miles of San Juan Capistrano).
The funds raised by Green Feast are geared towards enhancing and running the educational initiatives The Ecology Center focuses on. School gardening programs such as "Grow Your Own!" and hosting school fields trips is one way they are educating the youth of southern California. They also participate in community events and host a variety of sustainability workshops for local residents. Run by volunteers, The Ecology Center is certainly a worthy non-profit that seeks to teach how to fix the food and environmental problems we have today while also putting their own programs into practice. If you're interested in learning more about them, check out www.theecologycenter.org and try to snag a Green Feast seat as soon as it goes on sale next year!
Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.