What do you get when you mix a ski lift, a power outage, California Avocados and Too Hot Tamales together in a room filled with bloggers? A guacamole throw down, Top Chef style, of coarse. That, and a night for the memory books.
Let me set the stage. It's Friday evening at the Canyons Ski Resort in Park City, Utah. The dinner hosted by the California Avocado Commission and the Too Hot Tamales is sold out. I don't have a ticket. Enter distant storm clouds and rumors of lightening. A power outage stops the chairlift taking the line of eager bloggers with tickets up the mountain to the event, stranding one blogger in mid-air. As time passes, with no sign of the emergency generators starting up, the line dwindles. Spotting my chance, I duck my head and step in line. "I'm Heidi from Foodie Crush," I say as I sneak onto the platform and slide onto a seat.
That's how the best night of the Evo '12 Conference began. A night of fun and laughter, of celebrity chefs cooking by the light of an iphone, of breaking the rules... all the rules, even the avocado rules. You know the ones that say, "avocados must be mashed into guacamole" and "guacamole must be a Mexican dish with onions and jalapenos."
Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (better known as the Too Hot Tamales and Top Chef Masters) challenged the room filled with bloggers to break those rules and think outside the box to come up with an avocado dish using flavors and ingredients we would never have tried before. After breaking us into twelve groups and giving us 10 minutes to make our dish, the chefs gave us the "Top Chef Masters" treatment and made us present our offerings for judgment. Let me tell you, they were tough.
Our group had so many great ideas that we had a hard time deciding between the wonderful, bright Caribbean flavors of mango and citrus or going Italian with sun dried tomatoes and rosemary. The deciding factor? Bacon! Everything is better with bacon. I think we mixed every Italian ingredient on the table with chopped California avocados and bacon then, we gave it a sexy name to garner extra points for our master piece... Tuscan BLT Guacamole Bites.
And, ta da! We won! Out of 12 groups, our Tuscan BLT Guacamole Bites took the prize for the category of Best Recipe Keeping with the Spirit of the Competition. Our prize was just getting recognized by two of my all-time favorite chefs plus... an autographed copy of their book Mesa Mexicana. Which, I'm sure you will be hearing a lot about in future posts.
Other winners of the guacamole throw down are:
Grand Prize Winner for Overall Concept
Mexicali 4am Hangover Special
Best Recipe Staying with the Spirit of the Competition
Tuscan BLT Guacamole Bites
Best Original Name
After the friendly competition, we were treated to dinner and demonstrations by the Too Hot Tamales themselves. They cooked an entire meal of "outside the box" avocado recipes including Crunchy California Avocado Fritters, Smoky Bean, Bacon and California Avocado Tostadas, Cilantro Chicken with California Avocados and Pickled Tomato Salsa. "Avocados for dessert?" you ask... absolutely! California Avocados and Mango with Yogurt Honey and Lime.
The best part is that the chefs demonstrated each recipe just before they served it.
By the end of the evening, the generators had gone completely out and the keynote speakers had to finish their presentation by the light of their smart phones. My phone had only seconds left on the battery so... I turned it completely off. That way, if the chairlift stopped midway down the mountain, and I had to dangle above the canyon and possibly plummet to my death, I could call my husband to tell him, "We won!" Oh yeah, and tell him my last goodbyes, of coarse.
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced rosemary
- 2 tablespoons finely diced sun dried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons cooked, diced bacon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 California Avocados, peeled and seeded
- ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 Fresno chiles
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 15 slices baguette, ¼ inch thick or tortilla chips
- olive oil
- Pour sherry vinegar into a small bowl, add rosemary and allow to "infuse" the flavor into the vinegar while preparing the guacamole.
- Slice baguette, drizzle with oil and lightly toast in the oven.
- Finely dice the sun dried tomatoes and the bacon. Set aside.
- Mince the garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic and use the side of your knife to make a paste out of the garlic.
- Peel and dice the California Avocados.
- Mix the sherry vinegar and rosemary mixture into the avocados and toss, the acid will slow down the drowning of the avocados.
- Add the sun dried tomatoes, bacon, garlic paste and pepper. Gently stir to combine but, do not mash the avocados too much.
- Spoon avocado mixture onto the baguette slices or tortilla chips.
- Garnish with Fresno chiles and minced parsley.
Some of the other blogger's in our "friendly" competition have made their recipes and linked them all together. Just "click" on the thumbnail photos below and you will be transported to their blogs to see what "outside of the box" ideas they have for California Avocados.
—posted by Sandy