We took over the new East End Market on Saturday for a special SJO Pop-Up Dinner titled A Celebration of Women Chefs, Restaurateurs and Winemakers, a fundraiser for the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs' scholarship fund. And when I say we took over the market, I mean we set up a long table down the center aisle, plus a couple off to the sides, enough to seat 100 people for a four-course dinner from some of the area's best chefs. It was really something to see.
Doing the cooking were: Kathleen Blake, the Rusty Spoon; Jephanie Foster, formerly of Blue Bistro; Anette Grecchi Gray, first woman to be named as executive chef at a WDW restaurant (Narcoossee's) and currently executive chef of Red Lobster; and Julie Petrakis, the Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder. Dhane Chesson of Vibrant Rioja was a co-host, with wines supplied via Gigi Chilvers of Wine on the Way. In addition, all the breads were supplied by Olde Hearth Bread Company, which has been around for years providing breads to area restaurants. With the opening of East End, Olde Hearth now has a retail space for their breads. Janice Talty was on hand for the evening with bread pairings for each course.
The evening began with a reception in the market's courtyard where arriving guests were treated to blancos and rosados from Vibrant Rioja. While the guests sipped, the terrific team of servers circulated with hors d'oeuvres from each of the chefs.
Foster offered chicken liver mousse the black truffle on a ciabatta crouton.
Gray prepared tuna tartare with clinatro, chili, black barley, and zough yogurt with flax crackers.
Blake had smoked grit fritters for the crowd.
Petrakis wowed everyone with her crawfish beignets.
While the guests mingled, the staff finished the table settings.
And then assembled in the kitchen for last-minute instructions from the chefs.
The guests were invited to come into the market and find a seat at the long table. With the close confines, many new friends were made.
The first course was from Foster, caramelized onion gnocchi with blue cheese fondue and winter squash-sage-pancetta confit. It was paired with a 2010 CVNE Crianza from winemaker Maria Larrea. (In keeping with the evening's theme, all wines were from women winemakers or winery owners.)
Gray featured seared cobia for her course, served with jade rice and spinach cake and North African curry broth. The wine was a 1998 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gravonia Blanco Reserva from María José de Heredia.
Blake was up next with whey braised Jamison Farm lamb shank with jeweled fall grain and local greens. Two wines accompanied this course, 2007 Marqués de Murrieta Reserva from María Vargas and Montecillo Gran Reserva from María Martínez-Sierra.
Petrakis was in charge of the dessert course, rolled pumpkin cake with white chocolate pumpkin stout ganache and crushed pepita brittle. A 2009 Bodegas Bretón Loriñón Reserva from Pilar Bello accompanied.
But we weren't through yet. Following dessert the guests were invited back to the courtyard where Gray had assembled an array of glorious cheeses.
Judging from the comments, smiles and satisfied looks, I concluded it was a successful dinner. It's going to be hard to top this one but I'm going to try. And I'll be able to do it if I have the same partners as those who participated in this one.
I especially want to thank the crew at East End Market, including Gabby Lothrop and Heather Grove, as well as the market's developer, John Rife. And to the many vendors who let us disrupt their normal afternoon, forcing them to close down early Saturday so that we could begin turning the space into a dining room. And a special nod to Porch Therapy, which allowed us to use their beautiful farm table as a sort of dais (not to mention providing some of the flora from their collection for table decorations -- beautiful stuff!). I can heartily recommend East End Market as a venue for your event, and you don't have to set up everything down the main aisle -- there's an event space with its own kitchen on the second floor. Contact Gabby or Cuisiniers at the Market for details.
Also, thanks to Indian Harvest, Greek Island Spice, Emmi Roth Kase, Anova Seafood, Save-on Seafood, Fresh Point Vegetables, and Jamison Farm for providing ingredients and products so that we could raise more for the scholarship fund.
And special thanks to Erin Allport of Vibrant Rioja who coordinated much of the details of the evening and essentially made it all happen. She assembled a crew of servers who worked diligently throughout the night, navigating through tight spaces to deliver the food, fill wine and water glasses, clear plates, and break everything down at the end. They were all just great.
So, too, the assistant chefs that came in to help out. It's truly something to experience when there are so many passionate professionals in one kitchen all working together.
My thanks to all who worked on the dinner and all who attended. Let's do it again soon.
For details on ordering the wines we sampled, visit Wine on the Way.
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