Last month, thanks to General Motors, I got the double pleasure of being a Guest Judge at the Los Angeles Cadillac Culinary Challenge that took place at the Americana at Brand in Glendale and I was also able to test drive a Cadillac CTS Sport Sedan for an entire weekend (more on that later). For the past several weeks, the Cadillac Culinary Challenge had been traveling to different US cities. At each event, there were cooking demonstrations as well as a cooking competition (aka Culinary Challenge) by two popular area chefs. During the cooking demo and competition, attendees were also able to get up and close personal with various Cadillac models, which included being able to test drive any of the models.
For my stint as a judge, the two chefs in competition were Chef David LeFevre of the Water Grill and Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence. Before the competition started, we first took a look at some of the Cadillacs on display, which included a Hybrid Escalade, a CTS Sports Wagon, a CTS Coupe and a SRX Crossover.
Also on display were the 2-Mode Hybrid Systems for the Hybrid Escalade, which Cadillac has dubbed the World's Full-Size Luxury Hybrid.
Finally, it was time for the Culinary Challenge between two chefs known for seafood greatness and it was going to be Battle Scallop. It started with an introduction from the event MC, Mary Nolan, former TV host of Chic and Easy, which previously aired on the Food Network.
One thing to mention about the competition itself were the TV screens beside each of the prep kitchens. They really gave you a bird's eye view of what the chef was doing as he demonstrated his particular recipe.
It started with Chef David LeFevre of the Water Grill Restaurant demonstrating his recipe for Seared Diver Scallops and Heirloom Squash Soup with Brown Butter, Black Truffle and Chestnut Agnolotti.
After the demonstration, the audience were given samples to try and of course, the judges were asked for their opinion. I thought that Chef LeFevre's dish was perfect for fall. It made great use of seasonal ingredients and I really enjoyed how the nutty and woodsy flavors of the truffle and chestnut paired with the sweetness of the scallop.
Next was Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence and he did a demonstration for his recipe called Bobby's Block Island Sea Scallops with Crushed Potatoes and Shimeji Mushrooms.
As before, samples were given out to the audience and to the judges. What I liked about Chef Cimarusti's dish was that the scallop was the clear star and that the rest of the ingredients were there simply to enhance it. I loved the creamy texture of the potatoes in contrast to the medium-firm scallop. The woodsy, umami flavors of the mushroom sauce were also a perfect counterpart to the sweeter scallop. By the way, if you couldn't tell already, my vote went to this scallop dish and with a vote of 2 to 1, Chef Cimarusti's scallop dish won the Cadillac Culinary Challenge.
It was definitely few hours well spent and it was a real pleasure meeting everyone involved.
But wait, remember that I mentioned earlier about being able to test drive a Cadillac CTS Sports Sedan for the weekend? Kindly lent to me by General Motors, it was definitely an awesome ride. In fact, as a food blogger, I can definitely say that driving the Cadillac CTS Sport Sedan was like a fine dining experience. First, there's the look and feel. Most fine dining restaurants have an elegant feel to its exterior and interior with an ambiance that makes you feel you're somewhere special. How can you not feel like you're somewhere or in something special when driving the car below?
Second, there's the menu that features quality dishes. In the case of the Cadillac CTS Sports Sedan, their menu included some awesome amenities from a leather wrapped, heated steering wheel to dual zone climate control. I was definitely loving the dual zone climate control. I like cooler temperatures while my passengers usually favored a warmer climate.
Then, there's the heated and vented driver and front passenger seats, power heated outside mirrors, a Bose 5.1 surround system and keyless access. Not having to pull out a key was awesome. All I had to do was keep the remote card in my purse and as soon as I walked by the car, the doors unlocked. No more fumbling with keys, especially at night and there's still so much more. Click here to see all the features and specs.
Third, fine dining is also about exceptional service that is beyond one's expectations. What really topped the cherry on my sundae were a few things that I wished my current car had like their Navigation System that comes standard with this model. Considering how much dining out that I do all over Los Angeles, it was like having an experienced Maitre'd always there to show me the way.
Also standard is an XM Satellite Radio that comes with 3 month free trail. I would have gladly paid the subscription fee just so I could avoid all the radio ads that I usually have to suffer through. Finally, the car already comes equipped with a one year directions and connections plan with OnStar®. Whether you choose to utilize the XM Satellite Radio or OnStar after the trial period or not, at least everything is already in place for you and you didn't have to do anything additional.
As for the drive itself, it was so smooth and quiet that it felt almost meditative to me. I also loved how sturdy the car felt, especially when I was driving on the rain-slicked freeway roads, which I had been doing the entire weekend. When it was time for the car to be picked up, it was almost hard to let it go.
I truly felt spoiled, as did anyone who were passengers with me that weekend. In fact, my six year old grand-niece loved my "new" car so much that she came up with a way for me to keep it. "Just offer them a check for $20, Nana," she said. "If only that would be enough," I replied. So bye-bye went the Cadillac CTS Sport Sedan, but like a fine meal, the memories will linger on.
Winning Cadillac Culinary Challenge Recipe
Bobby's Block Island Sea Scallops with Crushed Potatoes and Shimeji Mushrooms
Shimeji Mushroom Sauce
8 ounces sweet butter, divided
6 ounces Shimeji mushrooms, cleaned
1 ounce shallots, finely diced
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
3 ounces soy sauce
8 ounces chicken stock
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat 2 ounces of butter in a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom and saute for approximately 4 minutes. Add the shallots and season with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and the soy sauce. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken stock and reduce by 20%. Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining butter in small amounts, whisking to emulsify. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed. Reserve and keep warm until ready to serve. Chopped tomato and chopped parsley should be added before using.
4 ounces sweet butter
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled, peeled and fork crushed
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch chives, chopped
salt and white pepper, to taste
Heat butter in a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the potatoes and stir with a fork to incorporate the butter and fluff the potatoes. Add the olive oil and continue to fluff the potatoes until they are heated all the way through. Add the herbs and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Keep the potatoes warm for service.
1 tablespoon butter
8 medium-sized scallops
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt butter in large nonstick saute pan over high heat. Season both sides of scallops with salt and pepper. Add scallops to pan; cook until golden and almost opaque in the center, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. While scallops are cooking, spoon a small amount of potatoes in the center of each bowl. Finish the sauce with the tomato and herbs; spoon the sauce over the potatoes. Place two scallops in the center of each bowl. Serve immediately.