American Liver Foundation’s Flavors of Connecticut always well done

Dining was taken to the next level April 1 at the American Liver Foundation’s 13th annual Flavors of Connecticut culinary gala at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. The evening began with an elaborate cocktail reception, including hors d’oeuvres from 34 Connecticut chefs, who each created two items. Guests nibbled on the delicacies while bidding on hundreds of items at the silent and live auctions.

After being conservative in my consumption of hors d’oeuvres, anticipating what was to come, I settled at the table hosted by Chef Frank Proto of Barcelona in New Haven, one of the 34 tables of 12, each with a talented restaurant chef at the helm. This culinary soiree was more than just eating; each guest witnessed their own culinary expert craft a five- or six-course dinner, tableside, paired with wine.

The Barcelona dinner began with hamachi crudo (sliced yellowtail) followed with watercress salad with hazelnuts, serrano ham, golden raisins and sherry vinegar. The third course, roasted monkfish with artichokes, fennel and basil is one recipe I will be requesting. The next course, rib-eye, was served with spring garlic, smoked cauliflower and mushrooms. The finale of the feast was chocolate pot de creme with an almond cookie. I especially enjoyed the dessert wine pairing, Croft Distinction ruby port.

Each table was decorated with a theme, and boy, did the chefs go all out to vie for table design awards. The most witty table design went to La Tavola Ristorante of Waterbury ; most elegant was won by Mambo Cocina Latina of New Haven and Bin 100 in Milford; “Something out of Nothing” was taken by Millwright’s of Simsbury; Best Floral went to The Willows at DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol; best giveaway was awarded to The Wharf at Madison Beach Hotel. Guests at their table received a” shipwreck survival kit,” including flip-flops, sailor’s cap, rum, beach towel, bandana and handmade chocolate starfish. Best overall table design went to Caseus in New Haven.

It was an evening of fine dining while helping to fund research, education and advocacy efforts. Think of the event as Connecticut’s most exclusive restaurant that is only open one night a year. Veteran chef participant Dave Foster of Da Legna, one of State Street’s gems, said to Todd Lyon, longtime chef recruiter for the event, “Flavors is my favorite night of the year, because the sky is the limit, and there is no sky.”

The sellout event raised $265,000, the most ever. Plan early to attend next year’s Flavors of CT, scheduled for March 31, 2015. More at 203-234-2022  .