We’ve got a guest post from our friend Mary Bigham and her colleague Amy Strauss of The Town Dish.
In a world of increasingly common virtual connections, breaking bread with fellow food-loving writers from around the country is a modern day novelty. When the occasion arises though, the result is inherently satisfying. For die-hard foodies, there is nothing greater than sharing the love of culinary delights in person, together, as it should be. Passing family-style plates, hearing whispers of “taste this, it melts in your mouth” in lieu of sending a twitpic just feels right. Of course, this roundtable of social-media savvy food lovers still documented each delicious bite with their cell phones, which just is fine by us. An organic dining experience with a side of technology is the perfect recipe for the “eat up” that occurred November 3rd in Los Angeles, California.
Local and national enthusiasts congregated around a rough-hewn communal table at Napa Valley Grille, swapping their tales of food love and heartbreak. Organized by Southwest Airlines and Dish Trip–a website dedicated to traveling in the name of food, the roundup of attendees included Stacey Sun of dineLA, Ann Ora Campea of Girl vs. Food, Aisha Lomando of Foodspotting LA, Caroline Bean of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, Vy. T of Contiki Vacations, and Sandi McKenna and Rick Griffin of Midlife Road Trip.
Under the dedicated leadership of Executive Chef Joseph Gillard, Napa Valley Grille hosted this decadent event with aplomb. Nestled in the Westwood Village of Los Angeles, this Open Table restaurant entertained and delighted the food and wine aficionados over four courses of locally-sourced, seasonal plates. Orchestrated by Napa Valley Grille’s Pastry Chef Manuel Ortega, the food bloggers experienced an evening with the culinary superstar, uncovering his craft through bites of signature dishes and desserts.
The candle-lit, farm-to-table restaurant also showcased a taste of the East Coast, pairing select Victory Brewing Company’s East Coast beers with their West Coast courses. Of course, oenophiles were not dismissed during the Foodspotting-encouraged eat-up. Since the eatery hosts an award-winning wine list, high-profile wines were expertly paired with each of the round of the tasting.
Chef Manuel first welcomed the 14 guests with a sampling of in-season starters, from a lineup of flatbreads, with standouts like an autumn apple and fatty pork belly with white cheddar and wilted greens. Victory Beer’s Prima Pilsner was featured in the introductory courses as well. The beer was used in the batter for Kobe corn dogs and crispy-coated calamari.
The palate-cleansing second course received nothing but praise around the dinner table, a new salad experience for many of the diners. Tossed with quinoa pilaf, shreds of parm, toasted almonds and a subtle lemon vinaigrette, the kale salad was both complex and packed with texture.
Upon being served the main entree, the entire table grew silent. Sweet corn and smokey bacon were married with perfectly-seared wild diver scallops and roasted root vegetables were paired with Victory Headwaters’-braised beef short ribs. This proved to be the highlight of the night.
Following a grand toast to meeting our new friends over food, Ortega concluded the Southern California tasting with one final course that highlighted his sweet assets in a trio of well-executed desserts. Our personal favorite? Manuel’s pumpkin spiced cheesecake crafted with a layer of chocolate crunch and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
Once strangers, now friends, this “eat up” provided a fine example of how social media can lead to both the discovery of new authentic dining experiences and new friends who share a passion for fine food.
This post was dished up by The Town Dish’s Mary Bigham and Amy Strauss. The Town Dish is a network of foodie websites featuring locally focused dining and lifestyle information. Follow us on national and international food, travel adventures at Dishtrip.com @dishtrip