Bay for the Gulf Fund-Raiser and Food Gal Tickets Giveaway

It’s been six months since the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and three months since a cap installed plugged the well that had been spewing oil into that fragile ecosphere.

But how many years it will take to get that body of water and its surrounding wetlands back to normal, is anyone’s guess.

To lend a much needed hand, Chef Guillaume Bienaimé of Marché in Menlo Park, organized the “Bay for the Gulf,” an event that will take place 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at the beautiful Rosewood Sand Hill resort in Menlo Park.

Proceeds from the gala event, which will feature more than a dozen chefs, artisans and wineries, will go to the “Save Our Gulf” initiative of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which will help support the seven Gulf Coast Waterkeepers directly impacted by the oil disaster.

Bienaimé was prompted to act after befriending Pietro Paravanno, a local fisherman here who is also the president of the Institute for Fisheries Resources. It also spurred him to visit Louisiana recently to see the area for himself.

“The oil spill forever changed this unique eco-system, and way of life for so many who live in the bayous and surrounding areas. For many families who rely on the waters of the Gulf as their means of survival, it’s crucial that everything that can be done to clean up the area is done,” said Bienaimé. “The Bay for the Gulf gala, with the collaboration of the amazing chefs, wineries and restaurants that are participating, is a way for those of us in the Bay Area to show support for the people working day and night to clean up this mess.”

Among those participating in the event are: Manresa of Los Gatos,  Aziza of San Francisco, Pastry Chef Carl Swanson of Ubuntu in Napa, Andante Dairy, Far Niente, and Ridge Vineyards.

A silent auction will feature such items up for bid as rare wines and extravagant dining experiences.

Tickets are $150 each.

Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will win two tickets to the gala. Contest is open only to those who can make it to the Menlo Park event on Oct. 24. Deadline to enter is noon PST Oct. 17. Winner will be announced Oct. 18.

How to enter?

Whether you’ve been to any of the states ringing the Gulf of Mexico or not, tell me what you love most about the food or a dish from that region. The best answer wins the pair of tickets.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“One of my fondest food memories comes from New Orleans, which I visited years ago with my two great gal pals, Lori and Barb. It was the first visit there for all of us, and one of the first places we high-tailed it to after landing was Cafe Du Monde for its famous chicory coffee and beignets. Who can resist fried dough, right? I remember taking a bite into those sweet, pillowy fritters as a cloud of powdered sugar exploded all over my lap, face and fingers. There’s nothing better than sharing memorable times with best friends. And the moment is even sweeter when all of you are covered in sugar, too.”

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  • It is virtually impossible to live kosher or vegetarian after having an authentic Cubano sandwich. Each tender seasoned morsel of slow roasted pork is embraced by a blanket of gooey, melted cheese. Brave slices of cured ham bravely protect the prince of pickles from eminent conquering. The sauce holds steady- clinging to the fresh baked roll until a bite is taken, unfurling a battle of the senses that evokes a tropical breeze and a merengue beat in the senses. If the Cuban Missile Crisis had a code name, it would have been the Cubano. The anticipation, the struggle of flavors, the great satisfaction that all is well when it’s over.

  • At 16, I visited New Orleans for the first time with my mother and sister. We had only one weekend to enjoy all of the different culinary delights there. On our list was Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, and gumbo. But for our last meal, we stretched out at a nondescript neighborhood restaurant with a wide outdoor patio that advertised oysters for twenty-five cents each. Sipping lemonades in the hot afternoon, we ate dozens of oysters and baskets of juicy, salty crawdads, an experience never again replicated anywhere else.

  • I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it’s on my list and one of the places my dad really wants to visit. But it’s a bit hard to coordinate a trip from Europe to SF and then New Orleans…

    Anyway, one of my “food memories” regarding New Orleans also involves beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Only I didn’t actually eat them there but my friend brought me a mix back after having enjoyed them there. I remember making a royal mess in my kitchen, trying to fry them up. The teenager was about ten back then and insisted on helping me. He was VERY enthusiastic at the time and all too eager to pour everything together… Plus, the oil got too hot. It’s been years, but I still remember the smoke alarm going off and spending hours trying to clean up… But they didn’t taste too bad. Can’t wait to have the real thing one day… 🙂

  • this is a great cause Carolyn! such a tragedy and one that you know could have been avoided which makes it even more tragic.

  • Let’s roll back the clock approximately two years to November 2008…

    The situation: I was working at biotech company in Palo Alto and our lead drug had just received new labeling from the FDA. The sprint to the regulatory finish line completely depleted my immune system. I ended up outrageously sick.

    Moreover at the end of that week, instead of sleeping and overdosing on NyQuil, I had to attend the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, on behalf of my company.

    The Friday night before my 7:00 am flights, I had a heartbreaking conversation with my boyfriend. He didn’t see a future for us and thought it was best we go our own way. I cried myself to sleep that night.

    I cried all the way to New Orleans.

    When I arrived at the Renaissance Arts Hotel on Tchoupitoulas Street, I had no audible voice, a 101 degree temperature, and a broken heart that no one could mend. So what are my memories of the trip to Louisiana? Not of the elegant company dinners with amazing cajun food. (I couldn’t taste it anyways…)

    I remember eating room service for three days straight as I tried to nurse myself to some state of normal. Bowl after bowl of French Onion Soup. I needed that soup like I’ve never needed soup before. I remain indebted to the team at La Cote Brasserie who loved on me and my room service soup for three days straight.

    And that, while not necessarily what I “love most” about a food from the region, is what remains imprinted in my mind about New Orleans cuisine.

  • The rain was coming. Clouds, grey and dark, filled the sky above the ocean. Most of the restaurants and shops along the beach had closed early, in part due to the storm. It didn’t help that it was Monday night and the tourist season was still a month away from starting. We were hungry for dinner and starting to get worried.

    We finally found a restaurant that was open. From our ocean-view table, we watched the rain begin to pour. Lightning struck from time to time, rendering the dark seascape in stark contrasts of light and shadow that quickly faded into darkness. My co-worker recorded movies on his iPhone.

    The thunderstorm was exciting yet somewhat frightening to me. Growing up in California, I had rarely seen such fireworks from nature. I thought briefly about hurricanes, in paticular Katrina, as I watched the lightening illuminate the sand and ocean.

    But more pressing matters were at hand — what to order for dinner? I perused the menu and spotted a special that included Gulf prawns. Are Gulf prawns supposed to be special, I wondered to myself? I knew little about that part of United States, but I decided to order the dish anyways. The prawns were simply delicious. I remember peeling back the shell and biting into white, plump morsels of seafood that were juicy and perfectly grilled.

    I feasted on these prawns, thankful that the fisheries had recovered from Katrina and blissfully unaware of the man-made storm, known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that was about to impact the region. It was mid-April, 2010, just a a few days after the spill. Since I was on a business trip to the southern U.S., I somehow remained isolated from news of the oil spill.

    I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try Gulf prawns before the distaster spread. According to current news reports, much of the shrimp from the Gulf are still safe to eat. If I were to go back on a business trip, I wouldn’t hesitate to order a plateful of those delicious, perfectly grilled Gulf prawns.

  • I’m an expatriate New Orleanian, so your question awakens a whole lot of memories from childhood and family dinners.

    The fifteen-dollared jambalaya and red bean and rice at Bay Area restaurants cannot give the home-cooked, authentic feel of New Orleans cuisine. The crawfish, fresh and crawling, is not some rare treat like Alaskan king crabs, but a common ingredient both of the creamy etouffee at family dinner tables on an ordinary weekday and of numerous party trays for special events, such as crawfish roban, corn and crawfish bisque, and small crawfish pies. Then there is the red bean and rice that my high school served every other Monday and my mom made at home every other week, and the dirty rice that my uncle whipped up for every Thanksgiving dinner. New Orleans food is festivity and homeyness intertwined, just as the springtime crawfish boil is a classic weekend afternoon event suitable for both a company party and a casual get-together of friends and family.

  • Contest is now closed. Come back Monday morning to see who won the tickets.

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