By Andy J. Gordon
In a creative flourish, the circular driveway of a Santa Monica hotel was transformed into a tropical island inspired site for a cook-off between local celebrity chefs on June 29, 2011. The theme was Hawaiian style pupu, and the island appetizers were interpreted by chefs Mark Gold and Neal Fraser.
The beautiful setting at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel (www.fairmont.com/santamonica) encircled the sprawling Moreton Bay fig tree that has been there since 1888. The party featured the final round of a contest devised by Los Angeles Magazine (www.lamag.com) with the help of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (www.hvcb.org.) Four area chefs competed in the early rounds of the cook-off with the public voting for their favorites. In addition to Gold and Fraser, Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose (www.thefoundryonmelrose.com,) and Brandan Collins from Waterloo & City (www.waterlooandcity.com) contributed their interpretations of pupu but did not make the final round.
Gold, the chef at Eva Restaurant (www.evarestaurantla.com) was chosen the winner in the final contest over Fraser, the chef at BLD (www.bldrestaurant.com.) Gold’s roasted foie gras with sushi rice, tea smoked plum and grated yuzu was the winning entry, but all the party people in attendance were the real winners. Fraser’s Hawaiian Tuna Poke with Wasabi Tobiko and Sambal Crème Fraiche was delicious. Special guest Ray Garcia, the chef of the Hotel’s fine restaurant Fig (www.figsantamonica.com,) roasted a whole pig that was used to make incredibly juicy pork tacos. With open bars spread around the courtyard, servers presenting samples of the tasty treats, and a demo stage with the talented chefs preparing their recipes, guests had a blast enjoying the evening. One of Fig’s bartenders created the party’s delicious signature cocktail called the Pineapple Mosquito. It contained Vodka, pineapple juice, fresh mint, Liquour 43, and a pineapple chunk garnish. Kona Beer, Malibu Family Wines, and Hawaiian Springs Water also helped keep the guests lubricated.
It may not have been an actual Hawaiian luau, and there were no ukuleles in the house, but the event definitely had the festive air of a relaxing, tropical escape. After a few hours of revelry, another fun LA Magazine hosted party came to an end as contented guests exited the premises with their complimentary leis swinging from their necks.
Photos courtesy of ©Chris Schmitt Photography