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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2005

A dozen chefs showed off cooking skills at gala dinner

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Imagine spending five hours at the dinner table as 12 courses are served with accompanying wines. If this sounds like a culinary dream that could only happen in New York City or San Francisco, guess again.

The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio, has a state-of-the-art kitchen comfortable for star chefs. Yet it had to be approaching its limits July 16 when the Gala Dinner for the third annual Celebration of Vegetables was held with 12 of the country s best chefs.

The menu was designed to have a cross-section of the country s chefs participate. There s amazing young talent, says Lee Jones of the Chef s Garden and Culinary Vegetable Institute. For the dinner, the chefs incorporate produce grown at the Chef s Garden into their recipes.

Among my favorites was the third course: Chef John Suley of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Miami s South Beach made a crispy jumbo lump crab cannelloni with Ida Gold Tomato Vinaigrette, cucamelon, Minus 8 Vinegar, and Micro Basil. (Cucamelon is a one-inch egg-shaped fruit that looks like a miniature watermelon with a cucumber flavor.

Minus 8 vinegar is so named because it is made with eight varieties of grapes harvested at minus-8 degrees.)

I also liked the ninth course, prepared by Chef Eric Wadlund of Azur in La Quinta, Calif. Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin was dusted with cocoa-espresso and slow-roasted, then served with roasted cauliflower puree, micro mizuna-watercress, and herb oil.

Guest of honor Sara Moulton had her favorites, too.

I loved the pasta with the corn and Marcona almonds, she said of the seventh course, created by Chef Brad Thompson of the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. He made sweet corn agnolotti (pasta), and duck ham with Marcona almonds and baby basil.

She also liked the second course, the Chef s Garden Summer Vegetables with fresh herbs, champagne vinaigrette with truffle from Chef Laurent Gras, formerly of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

That salad was full of little vegetable treasures, she said. Little vegetables have so much flavor.

Following the dinner, a midnight reception was held for the chefs. Chef Kevin Mitchell, executive sous chef of Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport hotel, assisted by Chef Natalie Adolphus-Morgan of the Philadephia Marriott Hotel, prepared a grazing menu.

I feel very honored to be asked to participate, said Chef Mitchell before the event. It s an honor to represent my hotel and the city of Detroit.

Among the seven items he prepared were roasted duck confit salad with wild honey ginger glaze and fresh raspberries; lobster crab cake with Granny Smith apple relish and horseradish mango sauce, and grilled pork tenderloin with African pineapple skewers with white balsamic rum glaze.

Contact Kathie Smith at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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