You know you’re a foodie when walking into the gala Dux in Tux event at the Anaheim Hilton, you’re more excited to see noted chefs than professional hockey players. I guess it’s because I’m a casual Ducks fan these days and I’ve had many run-ins and ice time with Ducks players at The Rinks in Anaheim where I played beer league hockey in years past.
One thing is certain with hockey players: They’re a classy bunch that tends to spend more time in media showing good deeds than often-seen shenanigans of other professional sports. Tonight’s fundraiser is no different. The Ducks Foundation pours its heart and soul into the community thanks to fundraisers like this that have raised upwards of $330,000 in years past.
With chef Amar Santana from Broadway and Vaca on my left and chef Bruno Serato of Anaheim White House on my right, I find myself reading each table’s five-course itinerary like I’m in some sort of fantasy diner league. Put 36 of Orange County’s best restaurants in a huge Hilton ballroom and you get one of the most epic dining adventures under one roof. Each table decorated in whimsy, each chef throwing a mini-party for a dozen or so people, and the kicker? A Ducks player assigned to each.
Happily seated at Anaheim House of Blues Star Wars-themed table, (complete with death star flower arrangements and blaster guns), I ask our celebrity table-side Duck enforcer Jared Boll if he is going to slice our filet with the table’s centerpiece constructed of light sabers. The ex-Columbus scrapper gives a wide grin and a bone-cracking handshake. “Ever had a Pimm’s cup?” I follow up, giving a nod to his team-leading high penalty minutes, or PIM, and the refreshing classic drink of Wimbledon containing Pimm’s No. 1, fruit, mint, and ginger ale. “Classic dad jokes over here,” he replies, swirling his glass of Justin cabernet in my general direction.
While many classic eateries focussed on wine pairings (which were spot-on at my table), I got a chance to flash-judge 16 or so drinks while also judging the table decor. Stop one, the Coquito concoction from Anaheim’s Pour Vida Latin Flavor, was all kinds of delicious. Kind of like a mix between horchata and egg nog, the drink has rum, coconut cream, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, with a candied pepito rim. Surprisingly not sweet or syrupy, I found it hard to put down and move on to the next.
Irvine’s Twenty-Eight Restaurant & Bar started off strong with The ReBeL, a floral drink with rye vodka, blackberries, lychee puree, lemon, and Moscato. Paired with foie torchon with blackberry jam and chocolate, the drink has just enough brightness to not only be a mind-blowing drink on its own, but the pairing was like an overtime goal in the Stanley Cup Final…electrifying!
Honorable mention goes to Anepalco/El Mercado chef Danny Godinez, who hands me a used plastic container as big as a tub of butter. “Check out this Mescal, my friend…go on, try it!” I’m never one to turn down Mescal, no matter the serving vessel. Pinching the sides of the tub to form a lip, I still managed to leak the smokey agave juice down my jacket and bow tie. I’m pretty sure it was Los Javis, which is incredibly divine.
Special thanks to foodie friend “OC Weekly” writer Anne Marie Panoringan who gave me her tickets last minute!