A sold-out crowd greeted longtime Golden Truffle chef Allan Greeley last night at a dinner in his honor held at the Farmhouse in Corona del Mar. As we noted in our preview, it was a Murderer's Row of chefs who volunteered their talents, and they all BROUGHT IT: Craig Strong of Studio, Amar Santana (VACA), Tim Goodell (Royal Hen), Alessandro Pirozzi (his Italian empire), Daniel Hyatt (Juliette Kitchen + Bar), Britta Pulliam (Britta's Kitchen), Greg Daniels and Landon Pulizzi (Haven Gastropub), Pascal Olhats (his French empire), Franco Barone (Il Barone), and host Rich Mead and his talented Farmhouse squad. So, with apologies to much-missed Orange County Register sports columnist Randy Youngman, notes, quotes and observations from last night:
*Even though tickets were $250 a pop, the event sold out almost immediately. Greeley never got the countywide, regional, and national recognition he deserved, but the gourmands of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa adore him, because he taught them how to eat well. And that love showed, as dozens of people hugged Allan throughout the night.
*That said, there were far too many uncouth Newporters at the dinner. As people tried to offer Greeley love over a small speaker, far too many people kept talking loudly, clanging their forks on plates, and forgot the purpose of the event. Fuck, even people in SanTana know when to shut up, uncouth Newporters.
*The food: Strong prepared an array of appetizers (best one: grilled Wagyu beef wrapped in gem lettuce and touched with carrot kimchi—slightly spicy, fragrant, tangy perfect), while Santana manned his Iberico ham station and shaved off wisps to put on his ever-bueno pan con tomate. Greeley followed with a delightful root vegetable carpaccio (with watermelon radish! And an heirloom tomato vinaigrette), then Goodell killed it with a hay-smoked salmon (accompanied by Farmhouse's Weiser Farm potatoes). Pirozzi did a spectacular gemelli pasta which, true to his steez, was something you can't get anywhere else in OC: bone marrow, toothsome pasta, and octopus ragu, in a bowl of flatbread—think of it as an Italian take on a taco salad, except far better.
*More food: Gigantic bowls of Thai goat curry by Hyatt were divine, although uncouth Newporters mostly left the bowl alone because they don't know the pleasures of the meat. Their loss: the goat was tender, the curry light and fragrant, and the shallots lent texture. And was that Israeli couscous soaking up all the goodness? The Haven boys' jerk pork was the most well-received dish of the night (and rightfully so: that pineapple ketchup was like chile crack), but even better was an accompanying succotash by Mead and his chef de cuisine, Allan Aguiñaga, spiked with padrón peppers. And Olhats brought it home with a galaxy of desserts.
*And bread provided by Bread Artisan Bakery. Everyone raved about it!
*Translation of the night: The French equivalent of the American "Keeping up with the Jones" is "ne petez plus haut que votre cul" - "Don't fart above your asshole." Olhats taught that one to Greeley, who asked the crowd to repeat it.
*Best Greeley anecdote: Barone revealing that when he had a stroke, Greeley called and said he'd "take care" of Barone's wife.
*Funniest line of the night: "Me, louder?" Greeley, to himself, when people told him his microphone was set too low.
*Anecdote of the night: Greeley was once at a charity dinner with his good friend Augie Nieto, who suffers from ALS and whose charity was one of the benefactors of the evening. The people at the table with them didn't know Greeley, so they were shocked when he asked Nieto, "Augie, can you pass me the salt?" not realizing the two were busting each others' balls. While Greeley was finishing his anecdote, Nieto (who was in attendance last night) had a message for him: "Allan, you're an asshole"—HA!
*Sighted: Kedric Francis of the Orange County Register, Karen Caplan of Frieda's Specialty Produce, Heather and Terry Dubrow of reality TV fame, and too many millionaire USC alumni to count.
*Pirozzi was wearing a neck brace—hope you're OK, chef!
*Orange Coast columnist Cathy Thomas said that the best day of her career was when she got to spend a day with Greeley at his house. And she told a telling anecdote about her former employer, the Orange County Register: at one point, they made employees sign a contract that they would not drink while on the job. Thomas and her photographer tried to hold that oath when they hung out with Greeley, but Greeley wouldn't have it, and Thomas admitted that her nicely composed notes turned into a "scrawl" by the end. For years afterward, Thomas and the offending photographer would "giggle" whenever they'd run into each other at the Register's offices—BOOM.
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*Line of the night: By some bigger brunette: "So, is the Golden Truffle closing?"
*Second-best line of the night: By some skinny blond—"Let's go exercise."