Celebrating Julia at the San Diego Wine & Food Festival | Inspired French Dishes with a Modern Twist

November 16, 2012

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces -- just good food from fresh ingredients."~Julia Child

We all know Julia Child for her bubbling personality and accredit her with bringing French cuisine to the American culture, but yesterday we celebrated what Julia taught us best: cooking is an art.  James Beard Award-winning Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 in D.C. and Chef Katsuya Fukushima, two-time winner of the Food Network's "Iron Chef America," partnered (along with San Diego's own Chef Anthony Sinsay of Burlap) to create an innovative French tasting menu for a room of 50 eager (and a bit tipsy) invitees at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Event Center downtown.  The chefs joked and entertained while they cooked 3 delicious dishes inspired by favorite Julia Child recipes.

We began our Julia-inspired food adventure with her favorite aperitif: a reverse martini (1 part gin, 3 parts vermouth) which some enjoyed more than others, but Julia liked to have a couple drinks while she worked her magic in the kitchen, and wanted to ensure that her food wasn't affected by over-consumption.

To start we sampled Chef Fukushima's chicken liver mousse (with apple Charlotte in mind) atop a sweet slice of sweetened brioche with a brown butter vinaigrette and a super sweet Granny Smith apple puree.  The light and buttery mousse was the star of the plate, but the most interesting technique was used to make apple 'ash': the skins of the apples were microwaved until dehydrated, then ground into an ashy powder for sprinklings of flavor.  Why didn't I think of that?

Chef Cooper delighted with his version of duck a l' orange, a sultry reduced blood orange puree and his ultra-modernized inclusion of 'dirt' on the plate: a combination of toasted cocoa nib, coffee beans, hazelnuts and rye cocoa pulverized together until smooth and crumbly like soil, making for an playful and potent element of the dish.  Cooper served his dish atop a wooden bowl, over a steaming 'pond' made from a spice-infused tea poured over dry ice: breathing in the clove-y steam while tasting the sweet and savory duck was a sensory experience in full effect.

For dessert Chef Fukushima prepared Julia's Charlotte aux Pommes, a layering of toasty bread, creamy apple compote, and, you guessed it, more liver.  The tastings were paired with wine offerings of Les Hospices Sancerre Rouge and a Clos de Noys Vouvray Sec.

All in all, Julia would have been proud of the commemoration and enjoyed the food just as much as we did.

For more information on San Diego Wine & Food on the Bay, including a list of events and chef participants, visit sandiegowineclassic.com, and be sure to follow the annual festival on Facebook and Twitter.

"Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."~Julia Child