Friday, April 9, 2010

A Spoonful of Ginger Gala [Boston]

By: Jessica Cickay

Combine 24 of the area’s most celebrated chefs, a dash of charity, a heaping helping of chow and—most importantly— “A Spoonful of Ginger,” and you’ll find yourself with the perfect recipe for the perfect evening. Now I am a dedicated distance runner, so I entered The Museum of Fine Arts this weekday evening for the 6th annual “Spoonful of Ginger” event to benefit the Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI) in an athletic state of mind: go big, or go home. Do not fret blog readers, my appetite and its prey did not disappoint.

Some people deal with the dilemma of having eyes bigger than their stomachs, but don’t let my skinny arms deceive you—I will be back for seconds…and thirds…and I am definitely not above hiding in a corner to shovel in my fourth plate. Almost like a playing field, the “Ginger” event was crowded and fast-paced, but my game day fundamentals helped me balance my plates like a pro. My impressive juggling sideshow was rightfully overshadowed by the experienced chefs’ own juggling acts—lines were kept moving and diners were kept at bay as gourmet food was doled out faster than you can say Ming Tsai.

Yes, I said Ming Tsai as if I were a 13 year old brace-faced girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but the award-winning chef of Blue Ginger in Wellesley and TV personality essentially molded me into the Food Network fanatic that I am today. Ming winked at me from across his chef’s station and he had me at “Hot & Sour Tomato Soup with Garlic Black Bean Shrimp and Whole Wheat Crostini.” Swoon. Smokey, sweet and subtle with an of-the-earth flavor, I knew I could count on Ming Tsai to start my appetite off right.

Next, I chatted up Summer Shack chef Jasper White , and Jasper—yes, we are friends though not officially on Facebook—told me that the “Spoonful of Ginger” event was one of his favorites.

“The same players always go to these food tasting events, but here a unique group of chefs come together and really pull out all the stops.” Jasper and his Summer Shack crew pulled out their stop in the form of Gingered Shellfish Consommé with Asian Crab Puffs. As instructed, I popped the puff first and then did a shot of the consommé to wash it down—the perfect compliment.

Chef Wesley Chen of Chang Sho wins my Most Top Chef-esque award of the night with his Crystal Chicken, a dish inspired by the Chinese philosophy of the five elements. It looked like a jello shot, but tasted like a gelled consommé with gingko, goji berries, bamboo marrow, flower mushrooms and asparagus. Sorry mom, I was drunk on Crystal Chicken.

Buddachen of Brookline fulfilled a fountain wish of mine and delicately plated up all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi only later to be devoured by this hungry blogger ala Oscar the Grouch. The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts essentially fed me an entire Cilantro-Coconut Chilean Sea Bass atop a red pepper and pineapple slaw, and Mantras sharp Black Pepper Chicken was tickled with a tangy mint raita and a roasted artichoke and sundried tomato salad.

China Pearl chef Brian Moy saw through the skinny girl façade before him and asked me with a grin, “Dessert time again?!” Yes, Chef Moy, dessert time again, as long as you keep serving me pillowy mochi balls dressed in sweet coconut flakes and filled with a crunchy salted peanut paste. Alongside these Hostess Snowballs on steroids, I sipped on a vanilla tapioca tea atop cubes of summery watermelon.

The night came full circle as I ended my feast with another Food Network friend Joanne Chang of Myers + Chang and Flour Bakery. Like me Chef Chang is an avid distance runner and also like me Chef Chang understands that it’s not out of the question to claim cheesecake as your best friend. Tonight, Flour Bakery force fed me three cups of velvety rich chocolate mousse with a Chinese five-spice marshmallow on top. And by force fed, I mean I was the girl cutting in line and double fisting chocolate mousse—possibly your chocolate mousse. Hey, when at the MFA…

I definitely did some damage on the eating front at the “Spoonful of Ginger” event, but myself and the 500 other attendees tastily learned never to underestimate the charitable effects of the fork and the spoon.

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