I love a good challenge, especially when it comes to food and beverages. As a blogger, I love being able to bring you information about food, wine, beer, cocktails, and trends from a chef, winemaker, or food artisan who proves me wrong about preconceived notions or can twist traditions and break boundaries.
So when the California Avocado Commission invited me to a media dinner at Mother's Bistro to celebrate California Avocado Month in June, I jumped to the challenge. You see, while Mother's Bistro is a restaurant that holds a dear place in my heart, avocados do not. In fact, for the majority of my life, I hated avocados. I don't even have a story behind my irrational dislike of this fruit. Maybe it was the texture? Or maybe it's because I'm a homegrown Oregon girl and around here, we don't grow a lot of avocados.
Regardless, something happened last year that flipped a switch: I had guacamole that was out of this world. As our group joked about over the dinner at Mother's Bistro, guacamole often serves as the gateway food to a lifetime love of avocados. I am officially a cliche, but I'm good with that, because it opened up a new world of food to me.
I came to the dinner last week armed with little knowledge about avocados, a very new interest in them, and a whole lot of curiosity about how to incorporate avocados into everyday dishes. Regardless of whether you're a lifelong avocado fan or a skeptic, I think you'll be inspired by the dishes that Chef Schroeder created.
California Avocado Month
California produces approximately 90-percent of the country's avocado crop, and June is officially California Avocado Month. The California Avocado Commission has teamed up with chefs across the country to celebrate, and I couldn't wait to experience the menu that Chef Lisa Schroeder of Mother's Bistro planned for the local media dinner.
Avocado Hors D'Oeuvres
We were welcomed into the event with passed hors d'oeuvres, including Guacamole-Filled Cherry Tomatoes that were just adorable and also delicious. This is a GREAT idea for party bites if you're planning any home entertaining this summer.
My favorite avocado dish of the evening was the second hors d'oeuvre: Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Dungeness Crab Cocktail. Oh my word, I could have eaten an entire vat of this. The photo below is of the vegetarian version but the full version with Dungeness crab was absolutely the perfect blend of textures. It was sweet, savory, and also slightly tart -- a well balanced delight with every bite.
After we were seated, we were welcomed officially by Jan DeLyser, VP of Marketing for the California Avocado Commission.
I love the story she shared of the original Hass Mother Tree, the California-grown mother of all Hass avocados. You can read the full story on the California Avocado Commission website.
How to Cut an Avocado
Then Chef Lisa Schroeder of Mother's Bistro demonstrated how to make the Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Dungeness Crab Cocktail (I cannot wait to make this at home!!!). She also demonstrated two different ways to cut an avocado.
This is important info, my friends. Watch this quick video (it's under a minute!) to see the two different methods.
I also have this OXO avocado slicer, but haven't tried it yet.
How do YOU cut your avocados? Which way do you prefer?
After Chef Schroeder's entertaining, educational, and thoroughly charming demonstration, it was time to dive into the rest of the meal.
For a salad course, I really enjoyed the Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Green Onion Salad with lemon vinaigrette.
I loved the buttery textures and flavors of the lettuce and avocado together, brightened by the lemon vinaigrette. This is a salad I will probably make at home!
Our entree was a Grilled Chicken Breast with sauteed onions and peppers, topped with avocado and salsa. It was served with "Macaroni & Cheese" (the quotations are not mine, but Mother's Bistro's) with bacon, avocado, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese, topped with cojita cheese and green onions.
The chicken was fantastic, but it's the "macaroni and cheese" that really impressed me. The bacon and cojita cheese and avocado worked so well together in this dish. I would love to make this for dinner at home as well! It would be a wonderful dinner to make for small dinner parties or even just for myself.
Avocado Lime Pie
Finally, we enjoyed an Avocado Lime Pie. I had been looking forward to this all night, and consciously paced myself throughout the meal to make sure I had room for dessert.
The photo doesn't do the dessert justice, as it was delicious. The fresh Oregon strawberries were perfectly ripe and sweet and complemented the avocado lime pie filling over graham cracker crust. I could have finished off this dish on a normal night, but since this was no ordinary meal, I was stuffed about half way through.
I am so excited to try avocados in dessert now. Love knowing that it pairs well with lime, but I have also heard that avocados are a fantastic way to add creaminess to chocolate cookies and cakes as well. Have you ever made or ate a dessert using avocado? I would love to know what you had and how it was!
Tips for Using Avocados at Home
It was a wonderful evening learning more about avocados and being inspired by the many different ways I could use avocados in my own cooking and baking. Here are more fun ways to use avocados in your home kitchen:
- Substitute avocado for butter or shortening in your baked goods. This increases the nutritional value, thanks to the fruit's many vitamins and nutrients, while also decreasing fat, sodium, and calories.
- Puree avocado into your morning smoothies.
- Add avocados to your breakfast omelets or replace the Canadian bacon in Eggs Benedict with a slice or two of avocado. Avocados are nutrient-rich and one-fifth of a medium avocado has 50 calories with nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Slice and sprinkle with sea salt for a snack. Avocados are naturally sodium and cholesterol free, making them a "good" source of fat.