Update: The missing ballots for the People's Choice Award at Angeleno Magazine's Chefs Night Out have just turned up. The winning dish is Capesante day boat scallops with farro, summer corn, heirloom tomatoes, scallions and citronette. Chef Victor Casanova of Culina restaurant gets the prize, a one night stay with dinner for two at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. (This post was originally published August 4th.)
Chef's whites (or blacks or whatever) were the smartest outfits to be seen in at Angeleno magazine's Chefs Night Out Sunday at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica.
The occasion was the presentation of the magazine's 8th annual restaurant awards. It was late afternoon, though, not night, and the chefs weren't having a day off. They were working hard at stations where they prepared and handed out samples of their signature dishes to guests who paid $95 to $150 (VIP admission, which included a reception) to watch them at work.
The Chef of the Year, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, wasn't cooking, but long after other stations had run out of food, runner-up Ludovic Lefebvre (LudoBites) was still pouring tastes of his heirloom tomato smoothie with squid ink vodka jelly and seaweed tartar.
Ironically, the Best New Chef, Michael Voltaggio, is currently out of a job. Voltaggio has left The Langham and says he is "enjoying unemployment." His dessert was one of the most talked-about dishes at the party. It was peach sorbet, dropped into liquid nitrogen and frozen into pale granules. These were spooned onto burrata in a long-stemmed plastic flower, with a leaf of arugula in between.
Hatfield's was named Restaurant of the Year, and Chef Quinn Hatfield celebrated by putting out dishes of pork belly with carrots, barley, corn, onions and a swirl of coppery vadouvan sauce. Vadouvan "is the French version of a curry sauce," he explained. This apparently means that it isn't spicy.
According to the buzz, one of the best-liked dishes was Nine Thirty's Indian spiced fried chicken. Chef Monique King served the crisp chicken with fennel seed waffles and cardamom syrup.
Only the few who arrived early at Bistro LQ's table were able to taste the bistro's tiny, gemlike absinthe and yuzu chocolates. But there were also shooters of lobster tapioca with an oyster at the bottom and even a third dish, rabbit loin stuffed with veal sweetbreads, vanilla dressing and uni tapioca pudding. Craft's cookies also disappeared quickly, but Craft too had a fall-back dish--octopus carpaccio with arugula.
The Outstanding Wine & Spirits award went to SAAM at the Bazaar by José Andrés. SAAM's gimlets didn't last long, leaving only the drink menu for guests to study. There was an early run on SAAM's tuna handroll too. Its linguine with clams lasted a little longer.
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The Lazy Ox Canteen was named Best New Restaurant, and Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry Café & Bakery was named Pastry Chef of the Year. The Grill on the Alley won for outstanding service, and the Vanguard Award for superior all-over performance went to Water Grill.
Neal Fraser of BLD was in the crowd to see who won the raffle prize he had donated--dinner for 10 with Mayor Villaraigosa at the winner's home or site of choice
The "host" restaurant, the Fairmont Miramar's Fig, handed out dishes of chef Ray Garcia's corn tortellini with braised rabbit, carrots, peas and mint. Also there were Angelini Osteria, Comme Ça, Culina, Jar, Josie, Melisse, Street, Wilshire and WP 24. Proceeds from the evening will go to LA's Best, an after-school enrichment program for elementary school kids.
The guests had their say too. When they finished eating, they cast votes for a People's Choice Award. But they may have voted in vain. We can't announce the winner at this time, because the vote cards have not yet been found.