Saturday, July 31, 2010
AC Food & Wine Festival: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!
Hey! I got my Gomer Pyle on last night here at the AC Food & Wine Festival and surprised a packed house of over 700 VIPs at Harrah's for dinner! I couldn't tell you about the planning stages here because it was supposed to be a secret, but early yesterday when I went to the venue to check on my recipe and ingredients, people started to ask me why I was there and I had to just answer very vaguely. It was funny and I really just wanted to burst and say "Oki'mhereplanningasurprise!", all in one breath. It was in a huge ballroom and as soon as I stepped inside, I realized just how big the crowd was going to be ... That's not even a good picture to represent the span of the room, but the room was long and every table was already set and ready to go at around 2PM. There was a set menu for the VIP diners, but my part was to interrupt between courses and prepare a recipe for them. When we were planing the surprise, my first question was ... "Do, they get to eat it?" and to my surprise, the planners said "That's up to you". I quickly said that of course I want them to try what I'm making, that would be crazy to cook something in front of you with no tv screen between us and when I'm done I just pack up and go ... taking my food with me lol. So, I also made sure my recipe was easy to prep for 700+ food people and small so they could easily pass them to the tables. I decided on my Cod Fish Puppies ... They mass produced them catering-style and planned to do a quick run in some heat before they served them with a Mango Habanero Sauce recipe I provided. I usually serve the puppies with an avocado mash, but this was for a large group and 1. no one wants to break down all those avocados, I try to take it easy on the kitchen at events like this because they are already stretched thin. And, 2. Avocado just doesn't hold up well in catering conditions. Can you imagine dolloping 700 trays with avocado mash only to look at the first one and realize the time it took to finish allowed for the oxidation and color change to start? Only so much lime I'm willing to squirt on my avocado to keep it pretty, before it ruins the flavor profile. I am so proud of putting my catering hat on for all events now. I had no idea years ago when I began catering that it was training me for moments like these. Here are the chefs that brought it all together ... That's Chef Robert and Chef David, both were so nice and actually had little tasting plates ready for me when I arrived to check the flavor and texture of my puppies. They were perfect and I was very happy they didn't dial back the heat on the habaneros. For 700+ servings they used 25 habaneros! That may not seem like much, but imagine just putting a whole, un-chopped habanero in a pot of soup will spice up the whole thing ... to chop them down and add to a sauce, the heat is crazy! Crazy good, I hoped. :-) Happy the chefs liked it and so did the committee with me that was escorting me around. All I had to do was wait for the attendees of the VIP dinner!
On the way out of the dining room is when I got stopped with all the curious questions and it's partly my fault for almost blowing my cover for the VIP event that night, but there were some neat back drops set up in the hallway and I wanted to take a few pictures in front of them ...The scale was large, but the mix of colors and the proper depth in some of the backdrops made me feel like Alice in Wonderland, after her first sip of "poison". :-) Crazy right? I don't know if it's me, but it looks like I'm actually in the kitchen! The artist didn't sign a name and none of the planners with me knew who did them, but I just think they are so neat. Here's another one ...It was up pretty high, so I played along with it and tip-toed to act like I was trying to see over the stove. These are in the event registration hallway at Harrah's if you are here and feel the urge to take some kooky photos. I didn't see one person using them, but I just loved them! After taking the pictures and almost blowing my cover, I headed back to my room to get ready for the rest of the day and ran into this sign, take a look! It says "Saturday, July 31 The pool and gym will be closing for a private event." Wooohoooo! That's my Sold out Soiree! Sunset, Sliders and Spirits on the rooftop pool at Caesar's! Can't wait to see you there tonight if you have plans to attend! Here are a couple of pics from the VIP event last night ...It was packed! Sorry it's a bit blurry. I had a great time and thanks to everyone that came up and said hi! Also a big thanks to Sandra Lee, she had a surprise visit to a VIP dinner right before mine and left plenty of her cocktail ingredients, so I begged the kitchen to shake up a pitcher for us and we all enjoyed a sip back stage ... I don't know what it's called, but it had me at Goldschlager and Grand Marnier :-). Thanks Sandy!
Afterwards I went to hang out at some of the after parties and ran into 2 of my favorite people ...Can you see them? It's the Neely's! Also if you look close (sorry about the blurs), on the left you can see Cooking Channel host Darryl Robinson of Drink Up! and on the right you can see Roger Mooking, host of Everyday Exotic on Cooking Channel. Darryl and I worked together on NFNS: After Party and he knows his drinks! Really cool guy and I just met Roger the other night at the kick off party, but he escaped before I could get a pic. Everyone else in the picture are co-workers in our PR/Marketing department. They shine up the engine and make it run! Here's me and my girl! Ms. Gina Neely. I so wished she lived closer to me or vice versa, she's a ball of fun and energy. I'm often mistaken for her and end up sending her texts like "someone just mistook me for you while I was with my boyfriend, so just in case people think you are cheating on Pat, it's really me and my guy" lol. Too funny. They have a brunch thing going on today at noon and looking at the time, I need to hurry up with this, so I can head over to that! Hope you enjoyed the sharing! If you are here and checking my blog between sips and bites, can't wait to bump into you. Please say hi!
Oh wait ... one more thing ... did you know Caesar knew how to fry ... in a pan ... with a spatula??? Totally wrong ... lol. I feel like a person watching Mad Men pointing out all the era errors ... say that fast.