Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wanderings - Cooking For Solutions, Monterey Bay Aquarium Pt. 1

Cooking for Solutions is an event hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA for a number of years (13!). It is such a shame that I didn't know of its existence for so long! I was at a wine symposium for work last year and in one of the stations I happened to be wine tasting at, my eyes fell upon this little booklet that read "Cooking for Solutions" now anything that has the words: cook, food, eat, or closely related, you've got my attention! So I picked it up and shoved it into my bag of goodies and moved on. When I got home, I flipped through the booklet and realized "oh my goodness, is there anything more magical??" 

So what am I talking about?? What is all this random jibber jabber? Well let me tell you, if you haven't heard of Cooking for Solutions and to anyone that LOVES food (like me!) you've been missing out! If you get an opportunity, you need to go check this thing out!

 A bit of background: Cooking for Solutions is an annual event designed to celebrate sustainable cuisines (Seafood Watch is one of the their main programs), held every year over a span of 3 days in May. During this event celebrity, local, and notably chefs from all over the country come and join in all the fun teaching us ways to fine dine while keeping our planet healthy! These 3 days are filled with numerous events such as night Galas, small-group Food & Wine Adventures, Salon Series, DIYs, and Sustainable Foods Celebration at the aquarium. There is a piece of something for everyone. Of course some of these events have additional costs to them but they all go to a good cause and they're all tax deductible to various degrees. The prices will range from $200+/- down to about $50+/- depending on the event you want to attend. If you're an aquarium member then there is a discount on event pricing. No worries though, if all of that sounds too pricy, the Sustainable Foods Celebration at the aquarium is included with museum admission and there is plenty to see and do with that alone which is what I did this year.

I missed out on last year's event, mainly because I was too much of a big baby and "oh I don't want to go by myself" because it would seem that I'm the only food nut within my group of friends (yes, so lame! Luckily they all still have wonderful other qualities that I will overlook this horrid lack of interest in something so awesome!) but this year, this year is different. Why? Because I found out Alton Brown was going to be there! Yes, you read correctly, Alton Brown! One of my favorite celebrity chefs of all time was going to be there! This year I didn't care if I was by myself or if I went with a ghost, I was going to be there! I did have a moment of relapse when no one responded to my "who wants to come with me!?" but in the end I decided I had to be there. I found out Alton was going to be at the Sustainable Food Celebration event and decided to just go to that, plus I had purchased a year's membership so that was technically already paid for. Side note: I highly recommend the annual membership ($75) just for this event alone because the Sustainable Food Celebration is on both Saturday and Sunday with different chefs each day. Admissions is $40, twice is $80 or a year membership of $75 for unlimited visits. Oh and 100% tax deductible! Just a thought.

I had no idea what I was in for. The museum opened at 10am and from my last visit to the museum, I had problems finding parking AND ended up paying $20! So this time around, I figured with an event like this, I should probably try to beat the crowds a little bit and get there about 9/9:30am so I'd have a fighting chance to find a place to park. Unfortunately I still had to fork over $15 for parking but this was a much better spot as it was right across from the museum. With membership this time, I also got to go to the express line! Turns out as it gets closer to opening time even the express line gets long. No fear, like a crazy fan, I was the 3rd person in line. While waiting in line, I was given a schedule for the day and with a quick glance I soon realized how exciting this day was going to be. 

The chefs who were present that day, Alton Brown (Good Eats, Iron Chef America, Cutthroat Kitchen, author), Alexander Weiss (Master Chef Junior winner < who's season I just so happened to watch!), Todd Fisher (Local Chef: Pebble Beach resorts/Monterey) and local Whole Foods chefs were all listed for cooking demonstrations at various times during the day. Alton Brown had a book signing. Local small food businesses had stations all around the outside deck area for people to learn about their products and to try their foods. Inside the museum there were a number of other stations promoting ways to be more sustainable when it comes to food/seafood. From human foods to cat food to plants, there were so much! Of course, first things first, meeting Alton Brown (!), who happened to be the first chef cooking at 11am. Needless to say, like a crazy nut, I spent my first hour sitting in the front row of where his demonstration was going to take place to ensure I got a good spot. 

It was absolutely gorgeous in Monterey that day, just gorgeous. Anyone who's been to Monterey knows that the weather there can be hit and miss, sometimes it can get depressingly overcast. Not the case that day! All of the cooking demonstrations took place outside in their Great Tide Pool Deck which faces the ocean. Yes, the ocean! Perfect blues skies, fluffy white clouds, wonderful light sea breeze, clear deep blue waters, it was like a page out of a magazine. I could've sat there all day just to stare! Now throw in cooking, can anything be more perfect!? Food/cooking + outdoors, two of my favorite things in the whole world together in one place, I was in heaven. Then heaven just keep getting better! Not only did I get to see some of my favorite chefs cook but I got to eat! Everything that was made during the cooking demo, larger portions were prepared in the back and brought out to the audience for tasting. It was glorious! I was like a kid in a candy store with no adult supervision, I ate everything! Who wouldn't?! 
(....more to come)

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