Chowing for Charity: American Wine & Food Fest

Vichyssoise of cauliflower, lobster and caviar from Terra, St. Helena.

Between being served just-cracked clams on a half shell by Thomas Keller and watching Nancy Silverton drop ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms into the fryer, Andy and I spent Saturday night in nirvana. Well, actually it was the Universal Studios backlot, where the American Wine & Food Festival and some five dozen star chefs–including Francois Payard, Richard Reddington, Alex Stratta, Nobu Matsuhisha, "Top Chef" star Tom Colicchio and our local faves Gino Angelini and Octavio Becerra–filled our bellies to benefit the Meals on Wheels programs of Los Angeles.

Langostin mania at the station for Las Vegas-based Bartolotta.

This was the 27th year for the program, organized and hosted annually by Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff, whom we caught up with almost immediately upon arriving. Those two are always at Spago Beverly Hills on my regular lunch dates there with Fred Hayman. Given that the Haymans were our hosts for the festival, even arranging a stretch limo to get us all there in style (he's so very old school and generous), it was no surprise to catch Wolfgang and his ex-wife so soon. The pair also had several stations representing their growing empire of Spagos and Cuts, and it was Cut's station serving up an Argentine-style Wagyu with lobster that ranked among the night's most memorable.

Slow-roasted pork from RDG in Houston.

Well, that and all of the pork that was being served up in every incarnation imaginable. And the vichyssoise of cauliflower, with lobster gylee and Tobiko caviar from Terra, up north in St. Helena. And Nancy's misto from Mozza. And the mini brussel sprouts cooked and tossed with bacon cuts from Robert del Grande's RDG in Houston. And…and… Luckily, there were some six dozen vintners on hand to help us wash it all down.

From The Slanted Door in San Francisco.
Fire-kissed slabs from Cut Beverly Hills.
Bouchon's raw bar on ice, literally.
Pork on a bed of creamy polenta from Manzanita Lake Tahoe
Screw the Diet: Mozza's crispy ricotta-stuffed squash blossom.
Andy likes his fried chicken.
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