Taste & Tribute

Taste & Tribute, a fundraiser for the Tibetan Aid Project, was another magnificent experience from start to finish.  Celebrating the event’s 15th anniversary, Taste & Tribute is benefiting the preservation of Tibetan cultural and spiritual heritage for the Tibetan people.  Unlike last year , Taste & Tribute followed a slightly different path.  No cocktails, but wines were sponsored for the reception by Big White House, John Evans Cellars, Highway 12 Vineyards and Peju Province Winery.  Daniel Corey of Luce provided marvelous appetizers to accompany the wines, which were quite excellent all the way around, and the chefs weren’t bound by similar foods.

My solicitation post for this year’s Taste & Tribute was incorrect – the dinner had just 11 tables with two chefs at each table.  We were at Table 8, the Lotus Flower Table, featuring the works of masters – Morgan Mueller of Jardiniere, and Kolin Vazzoler of Simi Winery.  They had three assistants to help with the ‘chores’.  Chef Muller has worked in restaurants since the age of 15.  He attended California Culinary Academy, worked at Paul K and then on to an internship with Jardiniere by Traci DesJardins.  Chef Muller left in 2007 to work at Bacar but headed back to Jardiniere in 2010 to become the Executive Chef.

Kolin Vazzoler grew up in Vancouver with a wine- and grappa-making grandmother.  The family garden is where Chef Vazzoler learned seasonality.  He joined Simi Winery in 2012, saying that his position couldn’t be more appropriate because “My father came over from Italy the same as the two Simi brothers who started the winery.  And I’m second-generation Italian – just as winery matriarch Isabelle Simi was.”

We met Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York City during the Silent Auction.  It appears that he is a good friend of Taste & Tribute founder, Laurent Manrique, and cooked at Taste & Tribute for three years.  Chef Ripert donated a dinner at his 3-star Michelin restaurant, and we were just shy of scoring that.  After scoring a two-day Napa trip with a tour for six at Hagafen and a magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon from Honig, we headed to our table.

Chef Kolin Vazzoler created the first course of Curried Pumpkin Soup with Uni, Apple and Pickled Vegetables.  It was SO tasty and the 2013 Simi Reserve Russian River Chardonnay was an excellent match.

Chef Morgan Muller served us a delicious Agnolotti with Chanterelle, Cabbage and Wagon Wheel Cheese.  Cooked perfectly with nice umami, the pasta paired nicely with a 2013 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir.  I do like pinots with pasta!!

The main course by Chef Vazzoler was a Slow-Cooked Salmon with Cauliflower, Black Truffle and Capers.  Slow-Cooked meant sous vide in this instance.  I would have preferred the salmon slightly more cooked, but the tastes and smells were really good.  The black truffle added an extra dimension of richness.  The 2013 Simi Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was another rich addition to the entree.

Chef Muller finished off our delightful meal with a Buffalo Milk Sherbet with Apple, Five Spice and Graham Cracker.  Served with a 2013 Santa Barbara Riesling, the dessert was rich but lightened by the apples.

There is so much that goes into the preparation, planning and logistics of a beautiful event such as Taste & Tribute.  I’m very proud to be included and have the opportunity to share this experience with friends and subscribers.  Happy Holidays!!

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