The annual Island Divine fundraiser is the Spring event for the San Diego Junior League, aimed at raising money for nutrition education programs for local kids. This year the event was held in a spectacular setting at Kellogg Park near La Jolla Cove. Participating local restaurants included Cendio, JRDN, Coldstone Creamery, The Shores Restaurant at the LJ Beach and Tennis Club, Fresh, Bread and Cie, Bread on Market, Gringos and Delirios. The wine and beer vendors were really too many to mention (maybe that's why I can't remember them all!) but included local favorites Stone Brewing Company and Orfila. There was the requisite silent auction to raise money, with some great items up for bid. I tried for a cocktail making set with some organic Square One vodka and pomegranate and lavender simple syrups - but someone kept outbidding me so I finally just let them have it.
Several of the restaurants served up interesting samples. JRDN was doing seafood dumplings in a beurre blanc sauce. Chef Victor Jimenez was there doing the serving himself. The new restaurant Delirios in Bird Rock was a standout, with a short rib in mole sauce served over risotto. They also had some ceviche on tortilla chips, and both the owner and chef were there serving and handing out $15.00 gift cards. The chef, Aaron La Monica, worked with Michael Stebner and Jason Knibb at Region before striking out on his own as Executive Chef here.
The most popular dish though, had to be the seared scallops that the Shores Restaurant was dishing out, served with a bit of roasted artichoke and red pepper, and a beurre blanc sauce. The scallops were perfectly cooked, and they did a stellar job with the presentation.
Cendio in La Jolla had some dates stuffed with parmesan and wrapped in bacon, which were definitely tasty, but not exactly original cuisine. I have heard good things about this place though. Gringos was doing a lobster martini over mashed potatoes, which was quite good. I also have to give them kudos because they were one of the few vendors who brought enough food to continue serving longer than an hour or so.
One of my favorite booths was the Square One Organic Vodka. They were pouring little martinis, made with the vodka, a little sparkling water and pomegranate or lavender simple syrup from the Sonoma Syrup Co. The vodka is made with rye, and according to their website at least - produces waste so pure it's fed to organic dairy cows. Gotta love that.
Throughout the venue, bread and cheese stations were set up for easy grazing, with breads from Bread and Cie and Bread on Market. Apparently these were deemed necessary a couple of years ago when the wine was more plentiful than the food. This year the crowd was well under control - smartly dressed in their "preppy chic" best in accordance with the event's Nantucket theme.
Speaking of chefs and the Junior League - I also participated in a recent project where Joe Manganelli, the chef of Chive, donated his time to teach kids about nutrition. Jeff Rossman of Terra is also slated to come out and help us teach kids to garden in the coming months. I am hoping to participate in that project and will be writing about it if I am lucky enough to be appointed a co-chair of the committee. I'll be learning right along with the kids on that one.
The next Island Divine event won't come around for another year, but in the meantime the Junior League is selling a fantastic cookbook year round called California Sol Food. It really is a great book - the recipes are triple tested so they really do work, and it's is practical for both entertaining and every day cooking. I have used it many times myself, and have even blogged about a few of the recipes. The local paper wrote a nice article about it here. If you're interested in a copy, you can order one through the Junior League website at www.jlsd.org, or drop me a line. I have also seen them in some local bookstores, including Warwick's in La Jolla.