Chocolate, spirits embrace spotlight at culinary event

Delectable sweet confections keep smiles, patrons returning


Special To / The Advocate

El Cerrito resident Renate Valencia (middle) walks through the gauntlet of food during the Chocolate Champagne event in the Three Seasons Restaurant on Sunday. The event raises funds for culinary arts scholarships.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

Succulent treats and bubbly delights highlighted an afternoon of indulgence as the culinary arts department hosted its annual Chocolate and Champagne event Sunday in the Three Seasons Restaurant.
The sold out event raises funds for the culinary arts scholarships with a portion going to the musical arts department, which provided musical entertainment.
Patrons packed the dining area and patio to capacity roughly an hour after the noon start time. Diners were treated to a sensory extravaganza of sounds and aromas upon entering the restaurant.
Salty was married with sweet with a simple selection of chocolate covered, applewood smoked bacon, the same smoky sweet bacon used for the burgers served at lunch in the Three Seasons.
“It’s addicting and I knew it would have people coming back for more,” second-year culinary arts student Theresa Powell said, describing why she chose to slather the bite size bacon pieces with chocolate.
People also opted for the traditional chocolate fountain with pineapple and strawberries readily available to be dipped.
Second-year student Audrey Borreand impressed the “ooh la la” crowd with her champagne pastry cream bouche with passion fruit caviar.
Served in its edible chocolate cup, the dish featured a subtly flavored fruit caviar prepared through a method known as molecular gastronomy, in which fruit juice is cooked with a plant based thickener (agar agar).
Juice is dropped individually into the thickening agent and the balls solidify into flavorful caviar sized bursts.
CCC culinary events customarily feature vendors from around the Bay Area.
Sunday was no exception, as two local wineries Monticello Vineyards of Napa and Rosenblum Cellars of Oakland , along with long time culinary department partner Purity Organic, were on hand to offer samples.
“We love to be the only non-alcoholic beverage at an event. We get a lot of attention,” Purity Organic sales manager Mike Anderson said. “We have a great partnership with the school. We sell 30 cases of juice per month here.”
The vendors all experience an uptick in business following charity events at CCC, Arlene Passini, wholesale sales for Monticello Vineyards said.
“A lot of people order our products after events because we aren’t sold in stores,” she said.
A sunny Sunday afternoon with fruit and organic mimosas bring big names to campus events. Interim Vice President Jane Harmon was in attendance for her first culinary event at CCC.
“This is wonderful. It’s the 11th community college I’ve worked at and this is the best culinary department by far,” Dr. Harmon said. “This is phenomenal, the music, food and ambiance — it’s all incredible.”
Culinary student Mayra Hernandez put her own spin on incredible, soaking robust red strawberries in champagne until they were pale, then she gave them a hard chocolate shell designed with a squiggle of white chocolate.
The result was a fruity, chocolaty champagne fueled explosion that refreshed and titillated at the same time.
Culinary arts students Allison Jackson and Shirley Sanders went spicy with cayenne pepper infused chocolate bites, located just steps away from Lisa Rice and her frozen hot chocolate.
Sharing the space matched the two items beautifully.
The treat resembled a chocolate smoothie and was a pleasant departure from all of the various but similarly categorized treats.
Everyone was happy and, as alcohol events usually go, the smiles got larger toward the end. The one question on the lips of patrons in attendance — when is the next event?