Notes, Quotes and Observations from Last Night's "Mad Meat Men" Bird Finale at Picnics in Costa Mesa
Número five came in the form of roast duck in a phyllo nest by David Kim. It was vaguely Asian in flavor due to the orange-spiked sauce on the bottom and the duck inside, but downright Mediterranean in preparation with the perfectly cooked phyllo and the mushrooms inside. But the best part of it was the roasted leek that tied the phyllo together--crispy, unexpected, delightful.
Last course of the night was left to Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria fame. Of course he stuck with Latino with his arroz con pollo, and of course he nailed it with flavors wholly his and firmly rooted in tradition. Instead of rice, he used earthy green farro; instead of chicken, sublime Guinea hen, skin perfectly roasted. And the great surprise was chickweed as a sort of crispy potato, and Meyer lemon shavings instead of orange as the citrus kick the dish needs. And ever the perfectionist, Salgado inspected every piece of hen before placing it to ensure it was properly cooked; those that weren't went back into the oven for extra roasting.
*All the chefs helped each other throughout the night, whether plating, cooking, running down an ingredient--all of it. No egos at all outside of the usual ball-busting that goes on when you get a bunch of Type A personalities (save for Salgado, who's as observant as a Jesuit) in a cramped kitchen. May this type of friendly, uplifting camaraderie define OC dining in 2013.
*In attendance were Dean Kim of the OC Baking Company and Dee Nguyen of Break of Dawn. Nguyen also engaged in ball-busting, at one point crying racism just for the hell of it.
*I don't care for wine, so instead went to nearby Hi-Time Wine Cellars for some rum, settling on Flor de Caña and the awesome Pink Pigeon Rum. Dave and Carlos joined in, as did Dee. But when I asked Dee if Dean would like some, he said no. "He'd cry like a little baby after a shot!" Dee cracked. Dean didn't disagree with that assessment.
*No more Mad Meat Men planned for this year, but watch out: these cabrones won't let a good thing die. Congrats, all!