This post is the second in a series of "catchup" posts. xo
Remember when I attended the Follow the Chef Lunch at Grange Restaurant & Bar last spring? You could probably tell that I just love that restaurant. When I heard the exective chef was leaving to pursue a new gig, I was pretty bummed so happy for him. Who would take his place? And would the new chef continue Grange's tradition of turning out the local, seasonal food I loved so much?
I got a chance to find out in early December when I was invited, along with a select group of local food bloggers, to participate in a recipe contest. We were asked to develop an original soup recipe, reflective of Grange's menu philosophy, one that would celebrate "the abundant, fresh, and local ingredients the Sacramento area is known for." The entries were to be judged by Grange staff, with the final winner selected by the new Executive Chef, Oliver Ridgeway. To wrap up the contest, Grange hosted an afternoon meet-and-great with Chef Ridgeway, where they announced the winner and gave all the contest participants a chance to sample the Chef's food. We even got to bring a guest. So in addition to spending an hour or two at a great restaurant, I got to have an actual date out with my husband. Yes!
I spent the next two weeks developing my recipe, a fragrant and spicy/sweet Carrot Date Soup. I went through at least three different versions until I had it just the way I wanted. My recipe tasters (ahem, family and neighbors) declared the soup a winner! Would Chef Ridgeway and the rest of the Grange staff agree? You'll have to wait a few more paragraphs to find out. In the meantime, here's a peek at our meet-and-greet, along with some of the dishes we sampled.
I got to sit next to this cutie, who was there with her mom (Ann Martin Rolke of the California Food Literacy Center and Sacatomato blog). She penned a portrait of me as we dined. I think she has a future as an artist, don't you?
We were offered some bubbly, as well as grilled yogurt and rosemary flatbread with wild mushrooms and Tumalo Farms Classico cheese. In other words, we were off to a great start!
I think the next course may have been my favorite: house cured salmon, scallops and California sea bass ceviche with citrus habanero juices and avocado panna cotta. So refreshing, flavorful, and light. I could have eaten three more plates of this ceviche, it was that good.
Up next, a tender seared day boat scallop with Delta crawfish risotto.
Chef Oliver himself introduced each dish to us, answering our questions and giving us a chance to get to know him. The Chef even let me snap a photo of him in the kitchen.
The last tasting course was the winning soup! Had Chef Oliver and the Grange staff chosen mine? Well... nope. But the recipe they picked as the winner was wonderful: Mushroom Panade, a bread soup with chard and wild mushrooms.
With the bread, rich broth, mushrooms and cheese, the soup was serious comfort food. It was similar to French onion soup, in the best possible way. Congratulations to Ann from the California Food Literacy Center! Ann's Mushroom Panade was featured on Grange's menu during Dine Downtown Restaurant Week. Although that event has passed, you can still make the soup at home, following Ann's recipe.
What a fun way to spend an afternoon! I very much enjoyed tasting the new Chef's great food. It was also nice to chat (live and in person!) with some of my fellow food bloggers from around town, including:
Kimberly Morales, Poor Girl Eats Well
Melissa Vanni, Pretty Yummy Foods;
Garrett McCord, Vanilla Garlic;
Amber Stott, Awake at the Whisk and California Food Literacy Center;
Stephanie Nuccitelli, 52 Kitchen Adventures;
and of course, the recipe contest winner, Ann Martin Rolke.
Many thanks to Executive Chef Oliver Ridgeway, Brian Blank, and the entire Grange staff for a fabulous event! If the day's nibbles were any indication of what's to come, Grange is in very good hands with its new chef.
Full Disclosure: In addition to the providing the tasting free of charge, Grange also gave each blogger a gift certificate to the restaurant in recognition of the time and effort we put into developing our soup recipes. Grange asked nothing in return for the invitation to the meet-and-greet event (other than our recipe submissions), and no one from the restaurant has ever pressured me to write about my experience. I sincerely enjoyed the food and the event, and wanted to share it with my readers. As always, the opinions in this post are my own. Just keeping it real, folks.
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