I have a confession. I infiltrated the Avocado-Lovers meeting yesterday afternoon.
Yes, me. I, an Avocado-Hater, took advantage of the kindness of the California Avocado Commission to score a free meal, and to meet a Top Chef Master and her partner.
I don’t know the twisted logic behind this, since the free meal would be a 5-course lunch showcasing avocados. But a free meal is a free meal, and I’m willing to fly to anyplace where a group of hungry food bloggers would convene to take food porn pictures together. Plus, the California Avocado people sent me an invitation and everything. I was flattered, and flattery can get you anywhere.
The Avocado Event was held in Ciudad, just one of the several restaurants that Top Chef Master Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken own. Together with California Avocado, these two celebrated chefs and restaurateurs (otherwise known as the Too Hot Tamales) have organized this event to celebrate Cinco de Mayo—avocado-style. Apparently, 84.1 million pounds of avocados will be consumed on that single day in America! Holy guacamole!
But obviously, avocados aren’t only good for guacamoles. Honestly, my knowledge and experience with avocados is severely lacking. Shame on me, as I live in California…and 90% of avocados are from California. I also plan to stay in California for quite some time, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for this green fatty fruit to demonstrate its delicious potential to me. After all, at 4 for 99 cents, avocados are cheap and readily available here, so I ought to take advantage of that. I also somehow lassoed Mimi to join me.
I almost did not make it to this event, though. My school held a walk-a-thon on the very same day, and all the roads surrounding my school was closed off. Mimi and I had to walk about 2 miles to the next available bus stop. Plus, being the idiot that I am, I totally forgot to check up on Ciudad’s address!
But somehow, we made it. And we were even on time!
Only about half the bloggers had arrived when we walked in:
I think Mimi and I were the youngest bloggers there. Mimi is not yet 21 (the baby!), and she was technically supposed to have a parent/guardian there to sign her in or something…But we somehow slipped in anyway.
The tables were all ready for us, complete with menus and a gift bag. I was so excited, I couldn’t even really comprehend the menu:
I was more interested in all the food preparation at the demo table:
And of course avocados!
Hello, little green and squishy fruit. Let’s see how great you are. Prove it to me!
However, before the cooking demonstration and the lunch even began, Mary Sue and Susan sprung a little surprise on us. Since Susan recently went through the Top Chef Masters ordeal, she thought it was only fair that we experience the same frantic cooking competition, too.
They had a table with all sorts of ingredients on it, from the basic ingredients like red onions and tomatoes, to the more exotic ones like squid ink and fish sauce. They asked us to pair into groups of two, and gave us exactly 3 minutes to look at the ingredients available, and then 5 more minutes to create our own guacamole.
Mimi and I paired up, of course. And boy…it wasn’t easy. I was feeling so stressed out by the time ticking by, that I couldn’t even think straight. All I knew was that this guacamole had to be…well, a crazy Sophia creation.
Heh, I’ll bet you’re not even surprised. Ours had chopped kimchi and chili paste for spiciness, bacon for yumminess, sour cream, lime juice, red onion for tanginess and acidity, and diced pineapple for some sweetness. It kind of looked like…shit. But it tasted good!
Unfortunately, we didn’t win. This one did:
A guacamole recreation of a fully loaded potato, without the potato. Smart! Bacon always rules!
And then it was time to sit and watch the two chefs cook!
Except…obviously few of us actually sat down, we were too busy zooming in with our cameras:
See that lovely lady in the middle?
It’s Marla from Family Fresh Cooking! I was so stoked to finally meet the extremely gifted blogger behind the beautifully-created blog. She is so adorably dainty, with exquisite, delicate facial features…but she’s kind of wild! Lol!
(Picture borrowed from Marla; mine came out atrocious!)
Marla is spunky, energetic, and so friendly; definitely larger than her diminutive self! If you have not checked out her blog yet, hop on over immediately! Well, after you finish reading this post, of course (please don’t desert me yet).
Mary Sue and Susan are so cute together:
They are such a genuinely real, passionate, and warm pair.
And…they seriously are too hot tamales! The amazing recipes they came up with! Check out the first course:
No, that’s not dog poop. It’s FRIED AVOCADO! Coated with quinoa, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds!
It was served as a Crispy California Avocado Taco:
Deep-fried avocado coated in quinoa, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds, on top of corn tortilla with a grilled chipotle corn relish.
I’m not the biggest fan of corn but grilled corn is fabulous, especially paired with spicy, smoky chipotle.
AMAZING. Truly outstanding. Now I know. Avocados are meant to be battered and deep-fried. D’oh!
Next course was a California Bacon & Avocado salad:
But not any salad. This salad had fantastic textures and flavors, with frisee, watercress, romaine, red onion, bacon, grape tomatoes, fried capers, homemade croutons, chopped avocados, and mustard vinaigrette.
I loved that the croutons were made on spot:
And OMG. Fried capers. Where have you been all my life? Crunchy, juicy, sour, and so delicious!
The only thing about this dish was that I felt like my portion was a bit too heavy with the avocados. I liked how the avocado provided a creamy texture to this dish, but that could have been achieved with about half the amount of avocados they tossed in there.
On to the third course, the Plato Principal (or fancy way of saying, main dish), which was a Chicken and California Avocado Skillet Chilaquiles. Though it was the main dish, it was probably the least fancy; the ultimate comfort dish.
The Chilaquiles started with tomato salsa, half-and-half, and chicken broth in a big-ass skillet:
Toss in some shredded cooked chicken in there:
And then a whole bunch of tortilla chips:
Plus my favorite…a new cheese I’ve never tried before!
Panela cheese! It’s basically a Mexican farmer’s cheese. Ooooh!
And then, pile on the veggies: red onions, jalepeno pepper, cilantro, red pepper, seasonings, and of course, avocados:
Beautiful color, no? Serve it with a neat dollop of sour cream:
I wish you could smell this. The aroma was wonderful. Rich, homey fragrance that will make you drool like a rabid dog (okay, bad comparison). I actually really liked the avocado in there too, because it was more for background texture than the main ingredient.
Comfort food, to the max. Or should I say, Mex? Har har, I am so funny.
Okay, now on to probably most people’s favorite part: Dessert. And to Mary Sue and Susan, that means a two-course dessert. Oh, you’re gonna love these, because it’s so simple, and it features some key blogger favorite ingredients. Like this one:
The blog world is crrrraaazy over Greek yogurt, no? Well, try it mixed with honey and lime, on top of fresh-sliced avocado and mango:
Simple, sweet, refreshing. With a shot of spice from some cayenne pepper sprinkled on top.
The next dessert is something I always bemoan about: Green Smoothie.
Except, they give it a more gourmet name: California Avocado and Orange Liquado with Lavender Shortbread Cookies.
So pretty! The liquado was made with orange and lemon juice, agave syrup, orange zest, avocado, ice, and whole milk. But ack, sorry, I just really do not like smoothies. I didn’t finish my drink, but I adored their homemade lavender shortbread cookies. It literally melted into sweet floral crumbles on my tongue. Mmmm…Can I have a tin of those cookies, please? Yum.
Psst. Am I the only one who likes to take pics at every bathroom mirror of a restaurant?!
Anyway. Those two lovely chefs probably forgot about me the moment I walked out the door.
But, I’ll always remember the amazing time I had, and the scrumptious lunch I had. Thank you, chefs! And thank you, California Avocado, for the generous invite to this spectacular event!
Okay, so here’s my conclusion on avocados: I’ll admit, they really aren’t that bad. Those fried avocados were out of the world, and when avocados are snuck into the Chilaquiles, they made a perfect creamy, luscious undertone. They’re so versatile, and can be slipped into myriads of different dishes, not limited to Latin-American cuisine.
But, I’d still prefer them as a background ingredient than be served as a key ingredient. I don’t think I’ll ever be an Avocado-Lover, the kind that eats avocados raw by the spoon. But I’ve switched from Avocado-Hater, to Avocado-Tolerator, to Avocado…Inspired. Because I don’t like avocados by themselves, they push me to inspire other ways to eat them.
In fact, I’ve got 3 fat, perfectly-ripe avocados from my gift bag last afternoon. Inspiration, anyone?
P.S. So sorry for the lousy, fuzzy pictures…The lighting in Ciudad is really dim, and the organizers seemed to have forgotten that good lighting is critical for food bloggers! Oh well. I did the best I could.
P.P.S. For more information about California Avocado (which is a brand!!!), check out their website. They even have recipes from other famous chefs, tips on uses and storage, and a section on how to grow your own avocado tree!