Fifi Chao, much respected and beloved food writer for the Orange County Business Journal for more than three decades, recently passed away.
In the photo above, Fifi embraces her much-adored husband, Patrick.
Some of Orange County’s best chefs gathered at Break of Dawn Restaurant in Laguna Hills to create a 10-course dinner in her honor. They dubbed it “Fifi’s Best.”
To begin: A luscious brioche bun with lardo, leek, maple and anchovy was contributed by Chef Dean Kim, OC Baking Company (the baker who never sleeps – how else could be provide breads to so many OC restaurants?).
Chef Shachi Mehra, ADYA (Irvine and Santa Ana) prepared this oh-so-delicious mango soup that showcased scallops, fresh red chilies and curry leaf. It had diners swooning their approvals.
An irresistible dish that showcased foie gras was created by Chef Greg Daniels, Haven Gastropub in Orange.
Read on … discover what the chefs did with the leftover foie.
Chef Greg Daniels’ scrumptious deeply flavored foie with huckleberries, matsutake mushrooms and barley. Glorious.
Chef Yvon Goetz’ (The Winery – Newport Beach, Tustin and soon, La Jolla) delectable black cod with merguez (North African-style lamb sausage), flageolet and octopus. Above, Host-Chef Dee Nguyen shows off a petite carrot garnish.
Chef Amar Santana, Broadway (Laguna Beach) and Vaca (Costa Mesa) sauces duck breasts served with kumquats, “Bastilla” and chestnuts.
Loved these flavors.
Chef Rainer Schwartz, Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck (Laguna Beach) and Hendrix (Laguna Niguel) sliced his oh-so-very-tender beef tenderloin that was served with wild mushrooms, salsify and Napa Wine Love.
Host Chef Dee Nguyen, Break of Dawn (Laguna Hills) served two dishes. First, a delicious rice dish augmented with crab, unagi (eel) and pickled plum. So delicious every bit was eaten – yup, I forgot to take a photo. Pal Lee Healy sent me her shot and told me that the dish was inspired by Chef James Hamamori. Here is Lee’s photo, plus shots of Chef Tarit Tanjasiri helping to plate the unagi, and another of Chef Shachi Mehra scooping rice.
Second, a creamy silky-lush corn-based dish with hawthorn berries, coconut and cashews. Absolutely incredible. Yum.
OK, still hungry? Fifi would have said, “bring it on.”
Chef Tarit Tanjasiri, The Crema Cafe (Seal Beach), created individual Tarte Tatins with impressive skill. Beautifully caramelized, the tarts were accompanied with a little creme anglaise and raspberry coulis. But wait …
In the kitchen, the chefs decided to top the tarts with slices of leftover foie gras! Foie, to my way of thinking, always tastes best salted (coarse grains) and served with something sweet. So this was a glorious pairing.
Fifi would have loved it!
Take home presents included perfectly spiced granola from Chef Max Schlutz (Sessions, Newport and Huntington Beach) and macarons from Tuan Trinh (XT Patisserie).
I was honored to make a speech at the event. Fifi was the godmother of all of us who work in the OC culinary world. She was loved by all.