Taste and Tribute

Taste & Tribute, an annual benefit for The Tibetan Aid Project, was held last week at The Four Seasons Hotel.  From the moment you walk into the hotel’s lobby, you know you’re in for an elegant evening.

The Tibetan Aid Project has distributed over four and a half million books to Tibetan refugees as a way of preserving their culture.  One of the non-profit arms of the Tibetan Aid Project community, Dharma Publishing, is hard at work publishing a variety of books not only for the Tibetan refugees, but for you and me as well.  Tarthang Tulku, founder of The Tibetan Aid Project is quoted as saying “I pray that the Tibetan Aid Project will continue far into the future for the welfare of the Tibetan people, and for all that they can offer the Western world.”

Waiters greeted us with the choice of champagne or sauvignon blanc.  There was passed hors d’oeuvres including caviar!!  A nice buffet of hors d’oeuvres, including meats, cheeses and fruit was set up along the silent auction path. 

Beautiful silent auction items both in line with the theme of the benefactor and also connecting to the audience included prayer rocks, a trip to Ratna Ling, their Sonoma Coast retreat center (I won this one – I just LOVE that place), rafting, day spas and lots more.

The 14th Annual Taste and Tribute event had three components – silent auction with hors d’oeuvres, dinner and live auction.  Eleven tables were set up for 20 guests each.  Two chefs with their assistant(s) worked table side for the rare opportunity for their guests to watch the action and precision of preparing a four-course meal.  Each table has a theme.  We were honored to sit at Table One, ‘Three Jewels’.  Rocky Maselli of A16 in the Rockridge district of Oakland, and Kolin Vazzoler of Simi Winery.  They assistant was Tiffany Smejkal from A16.  Rocky studied in Naples and is a culinary management graduate of CCSF.  A16 lured him back to the Bay Area, his home, after 15 years in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Kolin Vazzoler grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia where his Italian grandfather was a wine and grappa maker.  As a second generation Italian, he has something keenly in common with matriarch, Isabelle Simi. 

There were speeches and acknowledgements of Taste and Tribute’s many donors and sponsors before dinner began.  Beautiful flowing scarves were placed around the recipients’ necks, each a color from the Tibetan flag.  (Pictured in the gallery is Manrique Laurent who came up with the concept 14 years ago.)  You could tell by the procession that many, many people are involved in the success of The Tibetan Aid Project.  Each of the five colors has a specific meaning, spirit and direction.  Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.  Harmony and health are acquired through the balance of these five colors.

All of the tables had common ingredients; for instance, most had short ribs on their menu.  At our table, Kolin was head chef for courses one and three, and Rocky mastered two and four.  Wine pairings for each course were nicely done, and you can imagine that the majority of wines at our table were from Simi.  Jonathan and Devika Neisingh of Ellipsis Winery were thrilled to be at Taste and Tribute, as much to have all of us at the table enjoy their delicious 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay as they were to have a night out alone without their 4-year-old and 8-month-old sons in tow.

Simi Winery’s 2013 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc (their Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites) was an excellent paring with the first course of Bay Scallop Crudo with Hibiscus, Sea Beans and Citrus.  Vegetarian options were available, making these three chefs’ night a long and hard one!! 

Jonathan’s Ellipsis Chardonnay was a great match with the Roasted Beets Salad with Heirloom Apples, Hazelnuts, Buffalo Milk Yogurt and Herbs.

The 42hr Braised Short Rib with Porcini  & Polenta matched nicely with the rich 2009 Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  Both Kolin and Rocky were clever to use the same base ingredients and change up scallops for persimmon, and short ribs for roasted honey nut squash.

Dessert was Chocolate & Rosemary Tart with White Chocolate Mousse, Honeycomb & Burnt Honey Caramel.  A rare accompaniment from high in the Sonoma Coast hills was Annapolis Winery’s 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel Port.

After dinner, 20 outstanding offerings were auctioned, helping to raise even more money for The Tibetan Aid Project.  My favorite was an apartment in beautiful Paris!

Taste and Tribute is a wonderful event that you’ll be proud to attend next year.  Elegant, impactful and delicious is a great combination for a worthwhile cause. 

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