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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ingredients at Five Star Sensation a measure of food trends

Five Star Sensation, which raises money for the UH Seidman Cancer Center, is said to be one of the largest food events in the country. (Michael Blair photo)

It’s unlikely that any of the 2,300 people attending Five Star Sensation tasted everything served by the 35 chefs who joined Wolfgang Puck in presenting the 15th such culinary extravaganza. Most were certainly foodies and everyone paid at least $300 for an event ticket, but these are not the all-you-can-eat buffet types who measure food value by quantity.
Chefs assembled around the edges of a trio of dramatically peaked tents with their cooking stations and refrigeration arrayed on the outside perimeter. Tables for dining, a bandstand with dance floor, and a pair of elevated lounging areas filled the tents’ interiors.
Although some food stations were simple, others were more elaborate with centerpieces and foodie decor adding to the allure. Most chefs and their helpers had about three different dishes to serve, catering to all tastes.
According to Barb Snow, who helped to organize the food side of the operation, each chef made 1,000 servings of everything he or she prepared and each dish required about 100 pounds of ingredients.
  That means there were at least 100 very different things to eat that night, along with wines from several dozen vintners. They were mostly California but with a scattering of French, Italian and Spanish wines. Each wine station poured four to six wines, from one-ounce taste size to full glasses.
To say there was plenty to eat and drink is a vast understatement.
Judging from the Chef Menu Card distributed to those who wanted to eat with a plan, popular ingredients and dishes this year included various preparations using pork belly and short ribs, arugula, cilantro and lemon aioli.
On the pork belly front, there was wild boar pork belly Bahn Mi from Cleveland Browns chef Mikell Blocker, pork belly tacos from Chef Michael Lamarco of Hyde Park Restaurant Group, pork belly with hot pepper curry from Wolfgang Puck, and Berkshire pork belly from Lydia Shire of Scampo in Boston,
A Spanish influence seemed to permeate several food booths using Manchego cheese and tapas style preparations, ideal for serving as finger foods in a scenario when knives and forks can be awkward. Chef Joseph Miller of Joe’s Restaurant in Venice, Calif. even brought an aged ham from pigs fed on acorns, a rarity in this country although common at restaurants in Spain. He had it mounted on a special device made to stabilize it for the very thin slicing needed to serve it.
Bacon, which has been so popular as an ingredient in recent years seemed to be less so at this event. Chef Brad Lettau from the Hitching Post served sliders of local beef with bacon, bacon jam and fries. That’s the restaurant many might recall from the movie “Sideways” which was credited with putting Pinot Noir wines of the map. Even though that 2004 film was out almost a decade ago, people still include the Hitching Post on their Sideways tours of the Santa Barbara area of California, he told us.

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