>> Monday, October 31, 2011
Food, philanthropy, and fun
Imagine an event where Jody Adams, Ming Tsai, Jamie Bissonnette, (among others) are cooking and competing for your vote. Not only that, there are desserts by Joanne Chang (of Flour fame) and hors d'oeuvres from Patricia Yeo (Ginger Park, Om) . . .
Once a year, the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) holds the Silk Road Gala, an extraordinary event to benefit a very important cause. ATASK provides emergency shelter, counseling, legal assistance, and education programs to help Asian victims of domestic violence. The gala is so important because it's one of their biggest fundraisers for the year, providing much needed support for all the work that goes on at ATASK year-round.
This year's Silk Road Gala featured a cooking showdown between many of Boston's most beloved chefs. Hungry guests hopped from station to station sampling each chef's creation, voting at the end of the night for their favorite. Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger) and Janet Wu (Channel 7) hosted the event.
Mayor Menino, a strong supporter of ATASK, also came and helped Ming Tsai auction off a few things, including a chance to help Ming Tsai cook his dish "Red Roast Duck" on stage, as well as a chance to eat the final product!
The sold-out event was held at the Sheraton in Boston, which has some gorgeous rooms!
Before the festivities began, Ming Tsai gave a special cooking demonstration teaching everyone how to make "Red Roast Duck".
Similar to Ming Tsai's other dishes, Red Roast Duck combines elements of Asian cooking as well as French cooking ("East meets West"). Duck legs are braised in soy sauce, red wine, rock sugar, garlic, scallions, star anise, and Thai bird chilies for hours until they are fall-off-the-bone soft. Think of it as "hong shao ya" meets "coq au vin."
The stewed duck goes on top of a bed of spaghetti squash and is accented with splashes of red pepper sambal puree. The final dish looked fantastic and smelled heavenly. They auctioned off the dish to the highest bidder!
Madge Meyer, Executive Vice President of State Street, won the bid at $300! She said it was delicious.
The Celebrity Contestants
One of the most fun parts of the evening was trying all the dishes! It was so cool to see all these chefs here giving their time to benefit this cause. There were some pretty well-known chefs here, so I knew the decision was going to be difficult.
Jason Santos from Blue Inc made Lobster Soup with Cauliflower, Black Truffle, and Bee Pollen. I absolutely loved this dish. The lobster soup was wonderfully deep and rich full of flavor. The black truffle essence added a beautiful earthy overtone. I'm not sure what bee pollen tastes like, but overall I really, really enjoyed this dish (and voted for it!).
Jody Adams and Brian Rae from Rialto made Seared Scallop with Spicy Pepper Broth, Green Onion Pesto, and Almonds. This one also had a really nice, balanced blend of flavors. The scallop was perfectly cooked - almost raw on the inside but beautifully seared. This would be have been a close second in my book.
Ting San from Oishii made an assortment of nigiri sushi, including his famous yellowtail (hamachi) with caviar and lime, scallops with some sort of lime zest, and a maki roll of sorts. I am typically a huge fan of Oishii sushi (as evidenced by my previous write-up), but in this case the sushi had clearly been made beforehand and had been refrigerated. Even the best sushi just doesn't taste as good once it's been refrigerated. The flavors were still excellent, but the texture really suffered from the refrigeration.
Jamie Bissonnette of Toro made Pickled Oysters with Coconut Curry and Crunchy Garlic. This was a really interesting dish with Thai inspired overtones. I personally don't love coconut curry, so perhaps I'm a bit biased when I say it wasn't one of my favorites.
Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger made Red Roast Duck on Gingered Spaghetti Squash with Sambal Puree. This is the dish he was demonstrating earlier in the day. It was reasonably tasty, although I thought it was a bit too sweet for my taste. I wouldn't have minded just a bit more savory edge to balance out the dish.
David Wong of Shabu Zen made Prime USDA Rib Eye of Beef & Boneless Short Rib with Fresh Organic Vegetables flavored with Asian spices. I really like shabu shabu, but I didn't find this to taste that much different from normal shabu. The beef was cooked much longer than I prefer (I like to just swish it around a few seconds), and thus the texture also suffered a bit. The vegetables were nice, but overall this dish also did not stand out to me.
Joanne Chang from Flour Bakery (and Myers & Chang!) was also present and made dessert for everyone! Alas, I did not have a chance to try a cupcake because they only passed them out to the tables. Since I was just attending as a media person, I actually didn't have a designated seat, so I missed out on the cupcakes. They looked fantastic though!
Patricia Yeo did not compete, but made these char-sui inspired pork buns for everyone to enjoy while waiting in the lines for food. These were reasonably tasty, but nothing particularly amazing. She did have an interesting vegetarian version made from pressed bean curd, which looked pretty good.
And then the moment of truth . . . Joanne Chang and Janet Wu (Channel 7) had the honors of opening the purple envelope with the winner's name inside.
And the winner is . . .
Jamie Bissonnette!!! It's funny how everyone is clapping while he still looks like he's in disbelief or something.
A Personal Story from a Client
Next, they invited up a woman who shared about how ATASK helped her and her toddler son. It was an incredible testimony to the valuable work that ATASK is doing. Through ATASK, she was able to leave the abusive relationship in which she was trapped, receive emergency shelter, and get help from people who spoke her language. Through the ESL program and training she received at ATASK, she found a job and now proudly has her own apartment with her son.
When she mentioned these accomplishments, the entire room burst out in applause, everyone equally proud of her for how far she had come.
The evening ended with speeches from Linda Chin (president of ATASK), Ellen M. Zane (president of Tufts Medical Center), as well as music from internally renowned violinist Lynn Chang and a Tufts a cappella singing group.
It was an amazing evening for so many reasons. Of course, the food was delicious. But more than that, it was a wonderful opportunity to see what great things this organization is doing. Domestic violence is a real problem, and according to one of the volunteers at ATASK, it's even more prevalent among Asians than in the population as a whole. It's inspiring to see an organization so committed to addressing such a dire need.
ATASK is a non-profit organization committed to preventing domestic violence in Asian communities and families and to provide hope and services for survivors. For more information or to donate, please visit atask.org.
Disclaimer - I did not pay to attend this event