As a new member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, I attended my first awards dinner on March 11, 2013. Held at the magnificent restaurant, The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim, over 200 restaurant writers, Directors of Food & Beverage, chefs, managers and servers gathered in the Saloon for wine tasting and appetizers before dinner was served.
Some of the hors d’ oeuvres included chilled jumbo Mexican white shrimp in an atomic cocktail sauce and a spoon of cold smoked Skuna Bay salmon topped with Hass avocado, a Ruby red grapefruit segment and crunchy pink peppercorns to enhance the flavor and texture. They paired nicely with a Chardonnay from Majestic Fine Wines. The white wine had notes of apple, peach and brown spices.
Sitting at Table 9, I was fortunate to sit with some fascinating people in the wine and restaurant industry. To my right was the debonair John Thornton sitting with his lovely wife Sally and charming son Steve. They are the owners of Thornton Winery in Temecula, CA. Steve runs the winery smoothly. John excitedly shared with me details about their upcoming Jazz series. To learn more about the jazz schedule, go to: http://www.thorntonwine.com/champagne-jazz-series.
We talked about Thornton’s sparkling wines, while enjoying Executive Chef Michael Rossi and Executive Sous Chef Evan Stanley’s Alaskan King Crab Gazpacho with mango, apples and Easter egg radish. Servers poured a thin “soup” of Edwards Ranch Estates Valencia oranges and cucumbers.
I learned that the winery creates their sparkling wines by using the traditional Methodé Champenoise. Knowledgeable tour guides lead guests throughout the winery explaining everything from the fermentation tanks & en tirage in the caves to the disgorging process. Fortunately, we all received a flute of sparkling Brut from the Thornton Winery to celebrate the announcement of various awards.
James Woodin, the President of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, was a captivating Master of Ceremonies. He graciously announced the winners of the Special Awards with humor and gratitude.
Happily everyone at my table won awards. The John M. and Sally B. Thornton Foundation won an Appreciation Award for their continued support to The Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund. Their generous donations help students of culinary and enology at Glendale Community College, Orange Coast College, San Bernardino College and Riverside Community College.
To the left of me was the gorgeous Kristi Melani and charming Gary Maggetti, General Manager, Food & Beverage and Store Operations at The Walt Disney Company. Greg continually stood up to receive awards for his restaurants inside California Adventure and Disneyland in Anaheim. Some of the awards went to the Chefs at Ariel’s Grotto, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Napa Rose.
The Owner/Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Andrew Edwards of The Ranch. His chefs made a certified Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with a cabernet reduction and sun-dried cherries. It paired nicely with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gallo Family Wines.
Pastry Chef David Rossi won the 2012 Pastry Chef of the Year. He served us his James Beard House winning Milky Way With A Twist. It had Valrhona Chocolate, malted Nougat and a scoop of delicious salted caramel ice cream. It was fabulous and went nicely with a sparkling Brut from my new friends at Thornton Winery.
Plates of Mignardises arrived with home-made chocolates and confections. Everyone left The Ranch with a big smile on their face.