Justin Baldwin presents Chef Kent
with a Barrel Head Plaque
Another successful Zinfandel Festival weekend and Guest Chef dinner are behind us! Zinfandel Festival is one of Paso Robles’ busiest weekends, and the JUSTIN tasting room and event staff always ends the weekend tired but satisfied. We had a lot going on this weekend, but I’m going to start with our Guest Chef Dinner.
Five times per year, JUSTIN invites an award-winning chef to display his or her culinary talents away from their restaurant. We have been hosting guest chefs for the past twenty-one years! We started off 2011 with a bang, featuring Kent Rathbun of Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen in Dallas, Texas. Chef Kent is a James Beard Nominee, and his restaurants are highly rated by Mobil and Zagat. My favorite of his accomplishments, however, is that he and his brother beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America: Battle Elk!
Spring Beet and Creamy Goat Cheese Salad with Gulf Crabmeat and Arugula Sprouts
Although the rest of the event staff and I don’t get to sit down and eat the meal, there are usually extra plates that we all share. What I loved about Chef Kent’s meal was that his culinary and regional influences were clearly visible in his cooking. His first course, a Goat Cheese, Beet, and Gulf Crabmeat Salad, illustrated his ties to the Gulf Coast – one of his early cooking jobs was at Mr. B’s in New Orleans.
Chef Kent has spent a lot of time in Thailand – in fact, he was there the week before he visited JUSTIN – and you can easily see the Asian influences in his food. For example, his second course was an Ahi Tuna with Mango and Curry. The Crispy Mango Rice blocks were so innovative that the JUSTIN Wine Staff had a hard time pairing the dish with a wine! (They decided on our Reserve Tempranillo).
Of course, we were all expecting a hearty Texas-influenced dish as well, and Chef Kent’s Garlic-Crusted Lamb Ribeye certainly delivered! The lamb was fantastic, but I really loved the Hash and was thrilled to have the pleasure of watching them make it: it was as simple as mixing hot roasted potatoes and asparagus with Shaft’s Blue Cheese and julienned basil and spinach. Definitely a side dish I can’t wait to recreate at home!
And what’s a fantastic meal without a fantastic dessert? During the Q&A session that followed dinner, several of the guests raved about the Citrus Sea Salt that topped their Caramel Crème Brulee. Chef Kent revealed that the Falksalt is made by a friend of his, and there is a large variety of flavors available on his website.
We have four more Guest Chef dinners this year, and we’d love to see you at one! The dinners each feature a different chef and coincide with Festival weekends. Please check out the JUSTIN Winery Guest Chef page for more details, and call me (Laura) at 805-591-3223 to make a reservation.
Photos in this post by Jamie Foster Photography