Club Culinaire's Picnic des Chefs was all about Dessert
Sunday, the 30th annual Picnic des Chefs was held in Elysian Park. The event benefits several charities, including the Concern Foundation and The Hope Program at Children's Hospital. The Picnic is one of several events held by Club Culinaire, a nonprofit organization of gourmands and people in the restaurant profession who specialize in French food.
Participating chefs included the adorable Josie LeBalch,and let's admit it, the adorable Neal Fraser. Sebastien Archamabault is now setting up restaurants for private corporations, but was once at L'Orangerie, which seems to have been a law for all chefs in Los Angeles at one time. Domenique Raynal of The Regency Club was charming at flirtatious, turning away anyone with an empty wine glass, "Come back with eet full, zen you come see me!"
The large, grassy pasture was divided up into various regions: Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the rest. Each chef was responsible for a different portion of the meal, which seemed to be loosely set out in courses.
The Picnic went green this year, so each gift bag contained plates and forks for you to reuse. I didn't notice, and immediately ran around greeting chefs, sniffing out the Pernod, and begging scraps of tri-tip. Although there were no lines, a few specialties were devoured by the time I returned with a plate.
So I had an interesting menu:
All of the meats were charred and moist, although Raynal's leg of lamb was rumored to be the big hit of the event. The Tarte was very thin, but light as air and the potato salad had a nice sting of horseradish. The pate was rich and buttery, and I made it into a sandwich like you would buy in a French train station.
Dandy Don was out of control. The Blackberry-Burgundy Sorbet was rich with a great depth of flavors. The other flavors were winners too, but it is the Blackberry that will linger in memory.
The huge chocolate cake turned out to be light and moist, which seemed odd for such a monstrosity. The person next to me commented, "It's moister than giant cakes usually are." I jumped the shark with Josie's cheesecake, but c'mon, it was Josie. The cheesecake was nice and cool on such a warm day.
There were over 30 wines to taste, but at some point wine talk turns into gobbledygook, like "Mmm, nice mouth feel, and I detect a hint of Christmas tree with notes of clown car." The Hollywood Blonde Beer was more my style. It was rich and intense without being too hoppy. Drinks were also provided by Pernod-Ricard, Perrier, Hansen Natural Beverages, and so many more it would be really boring to go on any further.
I was disappointed to miss the Frisee Salad with Duck, Bacon and Croutons by Neal Fraser and the Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugala by Joe Miller. But why crowd the dessert?
The families laying out on blankets, people playing volleyball, women dancing to the live bands, and children running through the grass were perfectly sated and content. It was a lovely day for a picnic.