I was recently invited to and attended a celebratory dinner at Aria in Atlanta hosted by Muir Glen to celebrate their 2011 Reserve Tomato. Chef Gerry Klaskala, owner and executive chef of Aria, has been a Muir Glen partner chef since 2001 so Aria was the perfect venue for this event. Last year when Chef Klaskala traveled to California to participate in the 2010 Reserve Harvest and had the opportunity to sample tomatoes right in the field from the test plot for the 2011 Reserve, he knew they’d be the perfect tomato for holiday cooking.
So to showcase the flavors of Muir Glen and the 2011 Reserve Tomatoes, Chef Klaskala created a dinner at Aria that included a specialty drink, six hors d’oeuvres, three entree samplers and dessert, all made with Muir Glen tomatoes. One of the menu items included a recipe that Chef Klaskala created exclusively for Muir Glen — Spicy Slow-Braised Beef with Tomato, Tomatillo and Potato Stew, available in the Muir Glen 2011 gift basket.
The food this evening was incredible and very thoughtful in its preparation and presentation. The restaurant and the dinner felt like being a guest for the evening at Chef Klaskala’s home. He personally greeted old friends and new guests, like me, like longtime friends. Each table was beautifully decorated with a festive white floral arrangement and holiday ornaments. Chef used the evening to remind all of us about the little things that you can do to make guests in your home feel special when you entertain: do as much food prep in advance so that you can enjoy your friends, have fresh flowers in your home and in the restrooms and have little decorations on the table like holiday ornaments that each guest can take home as a special gift. And for someone like myself that always entertains, does all the cooking and in most cases, the dishes too, I couldn’t resist by asking, “who does the dishes?” Chef Klaskala said that he always hires a couple of folks to do just that. So that’s the ticket.
Each year, Muir Glen produces a special Reserve Tomato which was harvested in the fall and is only available for a limited time. So when they needed a name they turned to their Tomato Connoisseurs’ Club (TCC) who voted on a name that evokes the fiery glow of the perfect tomato, Harvest Sunset. This year’s 2011 Reserve gift basket include both the fire-roasted and diced varieties of Muir Glen Reserve Tomatoes, Muir Glen Fires Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies, Muir Glen No Salt Added Tomatoes and a recipe booklet featuring chef-inspired recipes, available online for $10 plus $5 shipping. Visit www.muirglen.com for more information. Visit www.aria-atl.com to learn more about Aria and to make reservations for your own incredible dining experience.