Imagine, if you will, the ultimate restaurant dining experience. Fantasize tasting savory morsels prepared by a battery of chefs from the most innovative restaurants from the East Coast to the West--all in just one evening.
You don't, however, have to merely imagine such a happening. Spago's Wolfgang Puck is making it come true. On Oct. 6, Spago restaurant will present the third annual American Wine & Food Festival from 4 to 8 p.m. on the outdoor terrace of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Proceeds of the event will be donated to the Los Angeles Chapter of Meals on Wheels.
Those attending will sample the culinary creations of Lydia Shire, Seasons Restaurant, Boston; Lawrence Forgione, An American Place and Jonathan Waxman, Jams, New York; Paul Prudhomme, K-Paul's, New Orleans; Dean Fearing, Mansion at Turtle Creek and Avner Samuel, Hotel Crescent Court, Dallas; Bradley Ogden, Campton Place and Jeremiah Tower, Stars, San Francisco; Wolfgang Puck, Spago, and Joseph Venezia, Hotel Bel Air, Los Angeles; Piero Selvaggio, Valentino, Santa Monica. For good measure, add Maida Heatter, author of some fabulous dessert cookbooks.
Along with the chefs' specialties, guests will have the opportunity to taste wines from 43 premier wine makers--such as Acacia, Chateau St. Jean, Duckhorn, Grgich Hills, Jordan and Trefethen. It's an unstructured event. Guests are expected to wander from table to table, grazing as they go, then just sit, relax and enjoy the casual atmosphere.
The $125-per-person donation is tax deductible. Tickets are limited and available through Spago restaurant. This year's goal is to raise $100,000 for the nonprofit, volunteer community service dedicated to providing in-home meals to the elderly, ill and disabled.
Participating chefs gave The Times' Food department a sneak preview of recipes they will be preparing for the event. Organizer Puck plans to serve Quail on Corn Cakes With Zinfandel Sauce. Typical of his creations, it is simple but imaginative.
Puck, owner of Spago and Chinois, is one of an influential breed of young chef-restaurateurs. French trained, he has become known for blending classical techniques with fresh California ingredients.
Dean Fearing will be arriving from Dallas in time to prepare Halibut Breaded With Cashews and served with Mango-Basil Sauce. Fearing is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and began his career at the Maisonette Restaurant in Cincinnati. He joined the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, then moved to The Mansion on Turtle Creek.
His unusual sauce caught the attention of Times Food staff members. After preparing it in the Test Kitchen, all agreed that Fearing's coating and sauce would be equally delicious on ham or chicken.
Well-known Southland restaurateur Piero Selvaggio will feature Involtini di Melanzane (Goat Cheese Wrapped in Eggplant) from his Valentino restaurant. A native of Sicily, Selvaggio came to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. After earning a degree in Romance languages, he switched fields and opened his Santa Monica restaurant. It became regarded by many as the standard against which other West Coast Italian restaurants were judged.
Eggplant slices, cooked only enough to make them pliable, are rolled around Italian goat cheese and marinated in a tangy dressing. Since the prepared dish is refrigerated for 24 hours, this is an ideal recipe to make ahead for a party.
Mostly Prepared in Advance
Lawrence Forgione, traveling from New York for the occasion, will delight guests with his Chicken and Chanterelle Croquettes. This is another recipe that is mostly prepared in advance, then shaped, rolled in bread crumbs and fried just before serving.
A native New Yorker, Forgione graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has had an award-winning career as a chef. He also writes about food and serves as a foods adviser and restaurant consultant.
Author Maida Heatter will serve Williams-Sonoma Chocolate Cake With Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce, a recipe from her newest cookbook ("Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts," Alfred A. Knopf: $25). The cake is equally delicious right from the oven, at room temperature or even frozen. Topped with the sauce it will be quite a finale to this unique evening.
QUAIL ON CORN CAKES
WITH ZINFANDEL SAUCE
4 quails, boned and halved
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup Zinfandel
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4 small sprigs fresh thyme
Prepare Corn Cakes. Season both sides of quail with salt and pepper to taste. Dust lightly with flour.
Heat heavy skillet, then add 1 tablespoon butter and oil. When very hot, saute quails, skin side down, 30 seconds. Turn and saute other side additional 30 seconds. Quail should be golden brown and medium rare. Transfer to plate and keep warm.
Pour any fat from pan, then deglaze with Zinfandel. Add thyme leaves to taste. Reduce wine to glace, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.