StarChefs Rising Stars Napa Sonoma

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At gala events you expect to see top chefs preparing bite-sized nibbles for guests. But at StarChefs events working chefs are not just preparing the food, they are the ones being celebrated. StarChefs is all about the chefs of today, and the rising star events are a great way to get a taste of what's hot at the moment.

If you're not a chef, it's possible you've never visited StarChefs. The web site offers recipes, community features, publications and articles that are geared for the restaurant professional. Roughly every other year, they also hold an event in our neck of the woods. For the first time, this year they held a Rising Stars Revue™ in Napa and toasted the up and coming chefs of Napa and Sonoma at the historic Charles Krug winery in St. Helena.

Charles Krug winery in St. Helena

Fifteen chefs, sommeliers and a mixologist were honored with food, wine and prizes to boot. Interestingly there were several husband and wife teams, one of whom had to close their restaurant in order to attend. Some favorite dishes from the evening were:


Ubuntu Fregola in Caramelized Vegetable Juices with Salsa Maro from Jeremy Fox of Ubuntu

Poached Poussin with Summer Vegetables from Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant At Meadowood

Ricotta Gnocchi, Salsa di Pomodoro della Nonna and Pecorino from Nick Ritchie of Bottega

Chicken Fried Sweetbreads with Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole from Matt Spector of Jolē

Sauteed Maryland Wild Striped Bass, Ragout of Salsify, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Bloomsdale Spinach and Spinach Vin Blanc from Restaurateur Award winner John Toulze the girl & the fig, fig café, Estate

Lemon Verbena Parfait with Summer Stone Fruit from Pastry Chef Deanie Hickox-Fox of Ubuntu

Long Ranch Goat Two Ways: Grilled and Braised with Rancho Gordo Beans and Salsa Verde from Host Chef Richard Haake of Winery Chefs

At the event guests got a chance to vote for their favorite dish. I had a hard time choosing between intensely herbal and fragrant fregola dish and the delicate yet crisp striped bass but in the end, the winner was Matt Spector and his decadent sweetbread dish. Looking at the recipes that were in the program, it's clear why we love eating out. With complicated techniques, multiple preparations and long ingredient lists, these were not dishes you would likely make at home!

One of the most beautiful dishes was this plated dessert from Deanie Hickox-Fox. Basically an unconstructed tart, it featured a bit of crunchy crust, sweet apricot with lemon verbena cream accented with a fruit puree, and garnished with edible flowers and a thin wafer cookie.

dessert by Deanie Hickox-Fox

To make at home, I'd recommend the cocktail presented by Scott Beattie, the Bella Ruffina, a pretty rose colored cocktail perfect for warm Summer days or nights...

Bella Ruffina
4 ounces Braquetto di Aqui
1 ounce Carpano Antico Vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 Amarena cherry, for garnish

Combine the sparkling wine, vermouth and bitters in a champagne flute and stir gently. Drop the cherry in the bottom of the glass to serve.

Recipe reprinted from Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie, published by Tenspeed.