December 12, 2013
By Megan Gallagher | SanDiegoVille Contributor
BlueFire Grill’s “Land to Linen” dinner that took place on Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad- authentic. I have never had a dinner experience that was just so real, from the fresh ingredients that comprised each dish, to the genuine company with whom I had the pleasure of sharing the experience, and of course, the remarkable passion exuded by Chef Gregory Frey, Jr. From the very beginning, I knew that this wasn’t just another gimmicky "organic" ploy. The “Land to Linen” dinner is the culmination of the ideas of like-minded individuals who wish to really see a shift in what and how we eat.
The third installment of the “Land to Linen” dinner series was held inside due to the un-San Diego-like temperatures that we’ve been facing lately. The two prior dinners, which quickly sold out, were held outdoors, and general manager Joe Baumgardner hopes to resume that tradition as often as possible. Three long tables were decorated in a simple, yet elegant fashion just inside the restaurant doors where guests were invited to take their seats and mingle with the others at their table.
We drew the lucky straw and sat next to the founder and director of The Ecology Center, Evan Marks, who described to us that Chef Frey had, less than 24 hours prior, been up at the Ecology Center selecting some of the very greens that we would be enjoying that evening. He also shared with us information about the Center, an eco-education center based out of San Juan Capistrano that hosts lectures and events to educate children, families, and businesses on the importance of sustainability. Hearing all that they provide and being able to see their efforts come full circle at this dinner was truly a unique experience.
Seated to our right was a couple who are members at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa who chatted with us about their love for BlueFire Grill and how, since coming to the previous Land to Linen dinner, they vowed never to miss another. At the table behind us, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa's Executive Chef Marc Therrien shared in the experience, alongside a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary - the group applauded in admiration. After just a short time, the room of about 40 strangers grew close, already sharing in common the interest of enjoying real food and supporting the restaurants that are striving to provide it.
The evening began with a short introduction from Chef Frey and a preview of the courses to come. For $69 per person, the four course meal included wine pairings from Newton Vineyards, a vineyard that was producing organic wines and using bio-dynamic methods before the two buzzwords hit the main stage. The company is also well-known for its unfiltered wines, which serves to preserve the integrity of the fruit.
Our first course was a Bloomsdale spinach salad with Asian pear and pomegranate. Normally people don’t get all worked up about spinach, but I’ve never enjoyed spinach like this before. It wasn’t limp, dull and dry like the variety you might find on the shelves at a major supermarket. It was crisp and flavorful. The salad was topped off with a crunch, comprised of flaxseed and honey. Though not available just yet, the resort actually now has two hives from which they hope to yield honey for other dishes in the future.
The second course was a flavorful and original warm wild mushroom soup with porcini, black trumpets, cream and green garlic pesto.
The dinner concluded with dessert offerings from resident pastry chef Jaimie Hileman, including macaroons, sweet potato and cranberry ice cream and gingerbread-pumpkin bread pudding. Though already well-full from the first few courses, no one could resist these beautiful and delicious offerings.
As guests dined, Chef Frey mingled amongst the tables, discussing the dishes, his cooking philosophies and his history as a chef. He also discussed the practices at BlueFire Grill and how the restaurant composts, rather than wastes, 250,000 pounds of food scraps each year.
After moving to San Diego from Monterey County, also known as the Salad Bowl, Chef Frey worried about being able to serve his guests the truly fresh ingredients that he had learned to cook with. What he found was the complete opposite - there are people who demand this high-quality produce, and the more we as diners and consumers hold others accountable, the more of a change we will see in our grocery stores and restaurants. In his own words, it's not about manipulation, it’s about integrity. He talked about scouring through produce deliveries to get the very best carrots and onions, and about building relationships with local farmers and purveyors to get first dibs on their highest quality items.
It's clear that what Chef Frey says about the way he cooks isn't just a farce to drive people into his restaurant, but rather a genuine desire to bring people the very best, which was just one of the elements that made the “Land to Linen” dinner so enchanting. To dine on high-quality food in the presence of inspired chefs and sommeliers was truly a one-of-a-kind experience and one that I would recommend to anyone.
Joe Baumgardner concluded the evening with a short speech, noting “This is what it is all about, making good friends, eating good food and drinking good wine.” He has cultivated all of that in this dinner series.
The “Land to Linen” dinner is held the first Thursday of each month (excluding January). Chef Frey selects the freshest ingredients from local farmers and purveyors. VIPs, including sommeliers, chefs and other industry experts, mingle with guests during this intimate dining experience.
BlueFire Grill is located at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, located at 2100 Costa Del Mar Road in Carlsbad. For more information or for reservations, call (800) 854-5000 or visit lacosta.com/land-to-linen.