My Culinary Adventures at the CIA! The Gala Dinner

Many of my friends an family know that I was invited to be an assistant chef this weekend at the Fourth Annual Gluten Free Summit. It was exciting on so many levels to be included in this event and I must thank my friend and fellow chef, Marcy Kaminski for recommending me to the organizer Mrs. Suzanne Bowland.
I have been quite busy helping to execute behind the scenes of this well oiled production, and it has been a great venue for me to learn more about gluten free cooking and baking, and to taste some really incredible food.
I have so many pictures and so many thoughts about the CIA, about the talented young chefs that I am watching, about the incredible food that we have been tasting, about the chefs and presenters who are experimenting and combining flours to make great mixes that make baked goods just plain delicious, that it is overwhelming to think where to begin to blog….
BUT, having just returned from one of the most delicious and elegant dinners I have had in a long time, I thought I’d begin there! Pictures included…warning please do not drool on your screens people. It’ll be hard, but not good for the hardware!

First let me say that the CIA campus here in Hyde Park is truly beautiful, and they have four restaurants and the Apple Pie Bakery that are open to the public. These are top notch restaurants run by the school and serviced by the young chefs in training. Today’s dinner was wonderful to watch as the waitstaff attended to our every need, poured wine for every course, timed the serving of each plate to each guest at the table in complete synchronicity. These young people are learning every aspect of working in a restaurant, no detail is too small. It is quite impressive. I have every intention of bringing my husband back here for a getaway!
Now…on to dinner!
This menu (and the menus for our lunches) were planned and executed entirely by the student chefs at the CIA. Because this is the Gluten Free Summit, the menus were of course completely gluten free. They were very thoughtful in their selections and their final results were, for the most part, wonderful. Dinner tonight was spectacular!
We began by a trio of Amuse Buche which included a Lardo Fritter ( a fritter topped with a very thin slice of pork fat) dusted with sugar and cayenne, a Chilled Pea and Mint Soup Shooter with Sweet Chili Juice and Mint Foam, and a Grilled Fig with Hand-Made Mozzarella with Rhubarb Preserve and Lemon Powder .

A trio of Amuse Buche

A trio of Amuse Buche

I didn’t care for the fritter as it was a bit heavy and the chefs used a bean flour that left an aftertaste that I didn’t care for. The soup shooter was refreshing and tasty, it had some nice heat from the cayenne in the chili juice. I could have done without the mint foam on the top. On a plate it can be interesting, in a shooter, it was just a bit odd for me, too light for the texture of the vegetable puree coming through when you drank it. The fig was tiny, and by far my favorite thing on the plate. It was sweet and juicy and the cheese was creamy and delicious. The rhubarb preserve was tart and jammy, a great contrast to the sweetness of the fig. There was a gentleman at the next table who didn’t eat his fig (gasp!) and I really had to restrain myself from asking to finish his!
With this course, we were served a crisp, dry Prosecco (Bortolomiol, “Prior” Brut, Italy, NV). A wonderful pairing!

As the chefs were in the kitchen plating the salad course, we had a bit of excitement when the fire alarm went off. We had to leave the restaurant and wait while the firetrucks came. The poor chefs were frustrated, particularly as nothing had burned, there was no smoke, no heat, nothing! DSC00581DSC00584DSC00586
After about 10 minutes, the firefighters confirmed that there was no fire, we were allowed to return to our dinner and begin our salad course.
Salad was a Preserved Lemon Caesar Salad with Boston Lettuce Wedge, Silver Anchovy and Garlic Crostini. DSC00590 The Caesar Dressing was light and flavorful and the wedge of butter lettuce was crisp and cool. The plate was adorned with a smudge of roasted garlic, silver slivers of anchovy, and tart preserved lemons. The Gluten Free croutons were a bit soft instead of crunchy, and I thought the anchovies could have been slivered even thinner, but it was a lovely interpretation of the classic.
The soup course was a Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Fried Oysters.

Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Gluten Free Fried Oysters!

Garlic Thyme Soup with Crispy Gluten Free Fried Oysters!

The garlic infused broth with the thyme was delicious, though I didn’t care for the shaved garlic in the bottom of the bowl which I just left behind. The oysters were deliciously crispy and tender, and perfect to dip in the garlicky broth. It was wonderful, gluten free or not! The wine served with our soup was a dry, fruity Chablis (Chablis Premier Cru, Domaine Laroche, France 2006). Perfect!
The next course was a Roasted Quail that was stuffed with Quinoa, Fennel Sausage, served with Corn-Milk Succotash and Sage Demi Glace. The quail was nicely crisped and very moist and the stuffing was really savory, flavorful and had great texture that included small diced fresh water chestnuts which are sweet and crispy, very unlike their canned counterparts! The sausage was very spicy and made the stuffing really memorable. The plate on the whole was really perfect. It was a great, if not a bit creepy due to the tiny-ness of the bird! LOL
My quail, no bigger than a baseball!

My quail, no bigger than a baseball!

Under the bird was a fresh succotash, no lima beans thankfully because I HATE lima beans, but diced summer squash and zucchini, cherry tomatoes and a creamy corn sauce mixed in. It was very tasty and a nice departure from the typicaly succotash! Our wine with the entree was a full bodied Tempranillo (Tempranillo, Coronas, Catalunya, Spain 2005). It was the first time I’d had a Tempranillo and it was very oaky and dry which went nicely with the richness of the bird.
And finally a sweet ending. The pastry chefs asked some fellow students who have Celiac disease what they missed most while living the gluten free lifestyle and then thoughtfully recreated their long lost favorite desserts.
Sweet Treats!

Sweet Treats!

From left to right were: a frozen Peanut Butter Truffle, “Doughnuts and Coffee Rhythm Change,” and Apple Pie Improv. The truffle was frozen and very hard to break into at first, but once it was broken into, the filling was smooth and creamy and the chocolate was dark and luscious. It was a treat! In the deconstructed apple pie the apple “balls” were roasted and soft, and the apple sauce was cooked until it was thick like apple butter, but much more delicately spiced and the cream mellowed the spice nicely. The crumbles of crust were not my favorite as they were hard and difficult to chew, not crispy and flaky. It was a good attempt that fell a bit short. The doughnut dish was really inventive and tasty! In the demitasse cup was a warm cinnamon flavored cream, similar to the spice of a fried cake donut with cinnamon and sugar. The “doughnut” was more like a small cake as it wasn’t fried, but it was flavored with espresso to be the coffee inspiration for the dish. Dunking the little coffee doughnut into the “doughnut cream” was creative and really tasty! The dessert course was accompanied by a sparkling rose dessert wine (Brachetto D’Acqui, Rosa Regale, Piedmonte, Italy 2007) which was deliciously sweet and bright, but unfortunately not finished because if you can believe it or not we had another FIRE ALARM! Who would have thought our beautiful dinner would be interrupted twice? But everyone took it in good humor and evacuated again. Many folks were smart enough to take their give aways from Pamela’s or Bob’s Red Mill with them and leave at that time. My fellow personal chef compadre, JoEllen Hockenbrough, decided we could leave too, but ran back into the building to grab our menus for our memorable meal. One of the young chefs (the beverage coordinator it turns out) chased us in as we entered to tell us we had to leave, and was flattered that we had risked life and limb to retrieve our menus!
It was a memorable end to a memorable evening!


5 comments on “My Culinary Adventures at the CIA! The Gala Dinner

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Looks great, nice work! 😉

  2. Patti says:

    I’m insanely jealous!

  3. francie says:

    Oh my! What an experience to share! And what a great job you have done describing the entire event. Thank you!

  4. christine says:

    Great writeup Mary Beth! Sounds like a fun time even with the multiple fire alarms. The desserts were my favorite; especially the “doughnuts and coffee” – too cute!

  5. Mary Lou Coriale says:

    Great work (or was it fun, can’t make up my mind) Mary Beth. Your descriptions were enough to make my mouth water and wish I was there to savor the experience personally!

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