If 1,100 people, cartloads of gourmet food, gallons of fine wine and beer — and, don’t forget, a bar carved out of ice — can make a party, then Friday night’s Epicurean Delight was a party indeed. The annual event brings restaurants and caterers together to compete for best hors d’oeuvres, first course, entrée and dessert. Out of the inherent near-chaos of preparing food for more than a thousand diners in an unfamiliar setting, chefs managed to present artful arrangements of gourmet preparations. It fell to the judges to sort out the winners.
For the hors d’oeuvres course, the Glover Mansion’s bruschetta bar featuring toasted baguettes with smoked salmon mousse, humus, romesco, tapenade and the traditional garlic tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil rose to the top. Beverly’s didn’t win, but drew big crowds with its unlikely, but delicious, lobster corndogs — lobster mousseline encased in a crispy cornbread coating and served on a stick with a variety of tasty sauces.
Madeleine’s delicate Cajun smoked salmon Napoleon with crème fraiche and a side of field greens in lemon vinaigrette was the winner for first course. Also notable was the Southwestern pork panini sandwich — pork tenderloin medallions pan-seared with Kansas City bacon and served with roasted corn salsa on foccacia bread — from Woodlands at Northern Quest.
Zola captured the entrée judges’ fancy with a sassy potato-crusted salmon with wasabi crème fraiche and a sesame crusted risotto cake. Spencer’s Painted Hill’s beef steak marinated in a piquant chimichurri sauce was also a big crowd-pleaser. Ambrosia’s pulled pork tostada with jicama jalapeno slaw and avocado crème fraiche was a hearty take on south-of-the-border food that would have made Rick Bayless proud.
The dessert winner was a tried-and-true favorite, Clinkerdagger’s silky burnt cream. In fact, more than 700 individual portions were snapped up by diners. Many of those diners also sidled up to the Melting Pot’s chocolate fountain to slip a strawberry, brownie or rice krispy treat into the perpetually flowing chocolate. Another popular stop for those with a sweet-tooth was Just American Desserts’ bite-sized tart filled with maple-infused custard and topped with crunchy pecans — rich yet delicate.
The People’s Choice Award went to Max at Mirabeau for their presentation of meltingly tender seared beef tenderloin with white truffle polenta. The crispy shiitake mushrooms added a nice flourish to an already well-rounded dish.
As always, the event offered unparalleled peoplewatching, with evening gowns swirling on the dance floor and tuxes in abundance. The viewing was only enhanced by generous pours from more than a dozen Northwest wineries and breweries.
As the only fund-raiser of the year for the Inland Northwest Blood Center, Epicurean Delight is about more than a deluxe party. The Center is the sole provider of blood products to hospitals serving nearly a million people in Eastern Washington, northern and central Idaho and western Montana. And the Blood Center responds to national emergencies as well if local supplies permit. In fact, on the same day as Epicurean Delight, the Blood Center dispatched 35 units of blood to Orlando following the tragic office shooting there.
Maintaining an adequate supply requires more than 150 donors to roll up their sleeves every day. Part of the money raised at Epicurean Delight will help pay for staff education and training; some will also go for technologies such as new high-tech donor chairs that feature Internet access and TV screens. (Those can help attract volunteers for longer procedures such as platelet donation.)
Feed Spokane partnered with the blood center this year to distribute all the food not consumed at Epicurean Delight as free meals at area shelters.
Good food, good causes and plenty of fun. But before the ice bar melted, organizers started turning their attention to next year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 12.