Culinarily Yours: Cooking with Doni

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Well, we did it! Dinner for 8 is in the books.

If you’re a local reader, you are all too aware of the Carr Fire that raged through the west side of our city six months ago. That never ending night of Thursday, July 26th brought our entire community to a screeching halt. Though the fire shifted into the forest, the weeks waged on, while the Delta and Hirz fires also burned just north of us at Shasta Lake. We finally breathed a sigh of relief when the news of 100% containment was announced on August 30th for the Carr Fire. Then, only ten weeks later, in November, our not too far away neighboring town of Paradise suffered even more devastation with the Camp Fire. I personally know friends where their entire families (grandparents, parents, siblings) collectively suffered losses of their homes in each of those fires. We may be spread across a total distance of 100 miles, but rural Northern California is very connected through family and friends and a true sense of community.

In November, our media partners over at A News Cafe set out to be apart of helping to breathe new life into our community. They endeavored to create an Online Auction for the benefit of affected students in Shasta and Butte counties. To quote the editor of A News Cafe, Doni Chamberlain, “We can’t restore their burned homes, and we can’t heal their hurt or sense of loss, but we can offer them a silver lining in the middle of all the smoke and ash and loss; proof that some happy days will be here again, after the fire, after all.

Up for bidding, in the auction, were sixteen unique creations, handmade by local artisans. One of those items up for bid, was a five-course dinner for eight, pairing together the talents of Chef Husband and myself with Doni, the before mentioned editor, a long-time accomplished foodie.

The winning bid sold for $700 and together we went to work developing a menu that was fresh with local ingredients, yet classic with a nod to French cuisine, and ultimately one that we hoped would far surpass any dollar amount.

Here we are now, a couple months later, and the night for that dinner has arrived. In Doni’s newly-renovated 1938 home on the west side Redding, she went to work, performing her baking magic. Chef Husband chiffonade, seasoned, simmered, seared, stirred and finessed. I stayed in the peripheral and set up a mini photo studio to capture the dishes as they were ready to go out and stepped in only to assist with obtaining ingredients, plating and serving. Doni’s sister also joined us in the festivities, and all four of us worked well in Doni’s quaint little kitchen on her awesome little island from CostCo (that I am coveting).

Once our dinner guests arrived, the first dish was put together and went out so fast, that my camera wasn’t ready (or, well, I wasn’t ready) and I missed it…but I did catch the rest. Let me take you through the entire meal.

Amuse Bouche :: Fresh Salmon Tartare atop Crème Fraîche in a baked and hand-rolled Cornet, a nod to the French Laundry in Yountville, CA (not pictured).

Soup :: Crustacean Cheddar Bisque with Cheddar Crisp, sided by Brioche a Tête.

Salad :: Chilled Butternut Squash with White Balsamic Vinaigrette drizzle, garnished with seared Gnocchi, Green Peas and Micro Greens, sided by Fennel Grissini.

Intermezzo :: Grapefruit, Meyer Lemon & Orange Chardonnay Granita (with the grapefruit handpicked from the tree in our backyard just hours before, and the lemons hand delivered from my friend’s tree across town).

Entree :: Fresh Vegetable Lasagna layered with Grilled Vegetables, Fresh Silk Napkins of Pasta, Mozzarella, Provolone and local vine ripened Tomatoes and Basil.

Dessert :: Classic Lindy’s New York Cheesecake w/ Peach Caramel Sauce and Apples flambéed in Cowboy Moonshine and Fireball, garnished with a Florentine Crisp.

Doni’s sister, an accomplished artist, hand-lettered and water-colored the menu for the evening.

We want to give a shout out to Moseley Family Cellars and Lassen Peak Winery for providing all of the wines paired throughout the evening. We also want to thank CJ at R and R Meats, for the seafood provided for the first two courses.

With the new year well under way, we pray for a miraculous revitalization in all of the areas of Northern California affected by the 2018 fires, including businesses, homes and ultimately families’ hearts, minds and spirits. We are #ReddingStrong #ShastaStrong #ParadiseStrong #ButteStrong !

And lastly, thank you to the attendees for your generous contribution to the ANC Online Auction and for your participation in the evening. It was a joy to serve you.

Until next time…

Culinarily Yours,
Mrs. Chef (Christa)

Christa DeMercurio
Instead of a New Year’s resolution, Christa DeMercurio asked her chef husband to be her tutor/mentor/sage (not the herb) for the 2018 year, teaching her his tips, tricks and wisdom in the culinary department. She figured that after over a decade together, their bakers dozen year should be a fun journey of cooking. Her husband, Cal DeMercurio, has been in the food service business since, well, forever (40-ish years). When it comes to the restaurant life, she's been more comfortable in the Back Office and sometimes Front of the House, but never really ventured into the professional kitchen. She's obtained a few skills by observing her husband over the years and then experimenting here and there at home. Now she's ready to take her apprenticeship to the next level. You can read her blog, Culinarily Yours, here.
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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Just as beautiful – and no doubt as delectable! – as I knew it would be.

  2. Avatar Della Martin says:

    Unbelievable! What a fantasy meal!

  3. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    All of those dishes look great. I take it the anonymous winning bidder requested a vegetarian meal?

  4. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    YUM . . . . and when does the bidding start for the next one?

  5. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    What a pleasure looking at all the photos, and imagining tasting. I too was curious about the vegetarian entree. Next, I wondered if the cheesecake was gluten free. I didn’t notice a crust. But nah, unless the lasagna pasta was made from rice? And the artistic menu!

  6. Avatar Candace C says:

    Everything looks fabulous and I’m sure Doni’s table and surroundings were laid out beautifully. How fun!