Thursday, September 27, 2012

CRUSH Birmingham 2012 - A Recap

Craig Rochkind, Paul Kittle, and Gina Kittle enjoying the CRUSH Birmingham fundraiser with me

On Saturday night, I attended the fabulous CRUSH Birmingham fundraiser to support The Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. So much amazing food! Such lovely wines! So many talented chefs! Such a great time ... :)

Craig and I schmoozed with the folks from The Root Restaurant, who'd made the stellar bacon-crusted caramel apples from Baconfest this past summer; we're hoping to meet up again next year to see what they create with the almighty pig. At CRUSH, they served a lovely, crisp-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside pork belly that is one of the contenders for my favorite dish. You already know that indecision is one of my hallmarks; there was so much unbelievably delicious food, how could I choose just one item??? Craig's favorite - he being far more decisive in this area than I am - was the pasta with grilled octopus served by Myles Anton of Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. I just relished being able to eat my way through the party.

We chatted with James Beard Award semifinalist Matt Millar of Reserve, who has redeemed venison for me with his amazingly tender ragout. I'd only eaten venison once, decades ago, and found it gamey once I got past the stench of its cooking. But Matt's stew was succulent and addictive, and gives me even more incentive to make a road trip across the state some time, just for a spectacular dinner.

We also had a lovely opportunity to talk with Luciano Del Signore, another Beard Award semifinalist, who thrilled me by recognizing my blog name when I handed him a card. I'd written up his fabulous Pizzeria Biga this summer, he'd tweeted "mille grazie," I'd swooned .... (In my little food-obsessed world, remember, chefs are the rock stars!) He served a gorgeous vegan pepper and quinoa dish, and told us that Italians have been eating this way for centuries; but give the cuisine a new name, and magically it becomes popular here!

Katherine Camera, the sommelier who'd picked perfect wine pairings to go with the prosciutto dish that Beard Award nominee Brian Polcyn of Forest Grill had created, gave us very specific instructions. She told me to take a bite of the dish and then, before swallowing, to take a sip of the wine so that all of the flavors could meld together, enhancing each other. The red wine was really lovely; and we were very surprised to learn that it had come from ... get this ... Lebanon. I don't know 'bout you, but I don't normally think of Lebanon as a wine producer! But Katherine said there is a long tradition, and Lebanon is on the rise in the wine world.

There was luscious shrimp, beautifully smoked lake trout mousse, crisp potato chips, fragrant sweet honey, tender handmade pasta, crisp slaw, an exceptional pink champagne, a tart German white wine, a distinctive Greek red ... so many tastes, textures, and temptations!

We couldn't stay for the entire evening, as Craig's 13-year-old dog, Sammi - a very sweet little Bolognese (who looks a bit like a Bichon, or a lamb!) - needed care for a nasty cough and tracheal inflammation.

But just before we left, I was so thrilled that Gina and Paul Kittle, who'd won my ticket giveaway, were able to find me in the crowds! In his comment on the giveaway post, Paul had so very sweetly written: "I'd love to win to take my wife on a much deserved Date-Night! We'd enjoy the ride over to beautiful Birmingham!" They came from Muskegon, north and west of here, and spent the weekend downstate; they were able to visit their daughter who lives in the area, as well. So Paul and Gina had a perfect weekend of food, fun, and family - I'm so excited for them!

CRUSH Birmingham was an exceptional event for an even better cause. I was so happy to be able to support it ... :)

Shrimp with Michigan Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pudding and Sweet Potato-Ancho Chili Cream
Jim Barnett, Executive Chef of The Westin Book Cadillac in Dettoit

Hand-Rolled Pasta with Grilled Octopus, Mushrooms, and Fresh Tomato
Myles Anton, Executive Chef of Trattoria Stella in Traverse City

Sourdough bread spread with cheese and drizzled with local honey
Myles Anton, Executive Chef of Trattoria Stella in Traverse City

Broth with Sheep's Milk Ricotta Tortelli, Kabocha Squash, Spiced Heirloom Apple, and Toasted Pepitas
Daniel Campbell, Executive Chef of Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro and Bellapiatti in Birmingham

Crispy Braised Michigan Pork Belly with Roasted Butternut Squash Puree and Corn
James Rigato, Executive Chef of The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake
Venison and Wild Boar Terrine
Matt Millar, Executive Chef of Reserve in Grand Rapids

Venison Ragout with Gnocchi
Matt Millar, Executive Chef of Reserve in Grand Rapids

House-Cured Salmon with Potato Galette and Truffled Creme Fraiche
Paul Grosz, Executive Chef of Cuisine in Detroit

Quinoa Livornese-Stuffed Roast Pepper, Sauteed Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, and Braised Baby Artichoke
Luciano Del Signore, Executive Chef of Bacco Ristorante in Southfield and Pizzeria Biga in Royal Oak

House-Made Prosciutto with Olive Oil-Poached Mediterranean Salad and Pecorino Romano
Brian Polcyn, Executive Chef of Forest Grill in Birmingham and Cincos Lagos in Milford

Lake Huron Smoked Trout Rillette with Red Onion Relish
Steven Gostick, Executive Chef of Toasted Oak Grill in Novi

Lamb Tartare with Cream of Blue Cheese
Guillaume Hazael-Massieux, Executive Chef of La Becasse in Maple City


Cranberry Morning said...

Sounds like you had a great time brushing elbows with your favorite 'rock stars.' All the food mentioned looked exciting and a bit scary for this Wisconsinite who grew up on roast beef and mashed potatoes. Glad you had a great time, and I hope Sammi is feeling better. BTW, I hear that venison from the corn-growing areas tastes much better and less gamey than that from the woodsy areas.

Robin said...

What a fun event! So much food and schmoozing. It never occurred to me that meeting all of those chefs would be so exciting for you. Duh. :head smack: That must have been the highlight of the night. I mean the food was delish, of course, and meeting a blog friend. Actually, there were so many pluses. And you looked so pretty:-) I really liked your dress! Was that shallow????

Unknown said...

What an amazing night that must have been. Good company, good food, good cause.. it's like the perfect night out!!

Candace said...

Oh, that looks like sooo much fun! I would have loved to have been there. You look gorgeous, darlin!!

Chris said...

Look how cute you look! Great event and wonderful food for a good cause...what else could you need!?

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