Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Tis the Season for Gingerbread City

This year's Gingerbread City 2012, Myths & Legends, presented by the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County, honored co-chairs Papa Doug Manchester and John Lynch for their support in raising awareness for traumatic brain injury and post traumatic epilepsy, and the San Diego Union-Tribune for its outstanding job of publicizing the trials and tribulations of our returning veterans and their families.

The spectacular charity gala was held at The Grand Del Mar on November 29 and featured celebrity chefs, complimentary champagnes and wines, holiday music, auctions and the largest nationally recognized gingerbread structure competition on the West coast showcasing creations by leading chefs, artists and designers.

It's always tempting to enter the gingerbread competition (we did in 2008 and 2008), but I was content volunteering photography services again this year. I attended the Gala to photograph the food, but was unable to photograph all of the gingerbread structures the night before the event, as we did last year. I did return to the ballroom the night following the Gala and was able spend a few hours photographing the top three winning structures. I've only included a few of the photos of these masterpieces in this post, but you can see the full gingerbread albums on Newf in My Soup's Facebook Page: Camelot, Poseidon's Palace, and Dream of Fantasy and Fairies in the Woods.

Camelot - First Place Winner in the Grand Category
by Melody Morse and Chad Morse

Once again, Melody graciously shared her inspiration, techniques and materials. After deciding on a castle, it wasn't hard to find inspiration. When Melody's husband was in the Navy, they lived in England for three years and visited several castles. Her daughter has a small library of books and quite a few of them deal with myth and legends - particularly life in past England. She poured over her daughter's books and found interesting and challenging detail. 

Melody spent two months and 300-plus hours working on this castle, most times working 10 to 16 hour days. She started by drawing pictures in a binder of all the things she wanted to make for the structure and then focused on those small items for the first month.  She also wrote a daily list of what she wanted to try to accomplish each day, from remembering to eat breakfast to building throne chairs or tiny roses.  This kept her on track and provided a sense of accomplishment as she was able to cross each one off.

She did something different this year and made molds of some of the more decorative items. Gum paste was pressed into the molds and the coloring was achieved with luster dust and vodka or food coloring and water.

The Epilepsy Foundation requires the structure to be primarily gingerbread and all visible materials must be edible. Internal support is encouraged. Melody used foam core board and increased the gingerbread patterns for the walls on each side by 1/4 inch. The baked gingerbread is then glued on the boards with royal icing. Additional edible materials included gum paste, rice noodles, bean thread, gourd strip for anything that looks like rope, different types of seaweed or algae, dried carrot, Agar Agar noodles, seeds, couscous, lemongrass and gelatin sheets for windows.

The doors are just made to look like several in her daughter's many books on castles. Gum paste figures were made from molds of items her son collected. Each shingle, rock, stone and brick were individually made and then secured to the main structure.

The raised dragon was made using a wood burning and dremel tool.  The coloring on the gingerbread is water and food coloring.  The medallion on the bottom right is gum paste made from a mold of a button.

Spears are formed with gum paste over rice noodles, tied with gourd strips. Arrows are cut from a larger piece of seaweed. Bows are made from softened and bent rice noodle covered with gum paste.

Melody said the food and bread was fun and challenging to make, especially when her vision would go fuzzy. Impressions in the stone flooring were made with an earring. The bench and table are glued with royal icing.  The bowls were formed over an object much the same size covered with powdered sugar or wax paper.

Second Place in the Grand Category was awarded to Poseidon's Palace, by Ellie Wilson and Donna Pagano. Ellie's gingerbread castle was surrounded by vibrant corals made of molded chocolate (60 pounds), gigli pasta, fondant, gumpaste and Chinese noodles. The gorgeous sea fans were constructed using SugarVeil confectionery icing with wires inside. Ellie has entered Gingerbread City for the last 8 years and dedicated close to 800 hours on this year's entry. She has been a cake decorator and gingerbread artist for over 40 years. 

Poseidon's Palace
by Ellie Wilson and Donna Pagano

First Place in the Petite Category went to Dream & Fantasy of Fairies in the Woods by Leticia Vasquez, Laura Lopez and Belem Brown (San Ysidro Adult School).

Additional gingerbread entries in the Grand category were Hobbitland Lane, Twas the Night Before Christmas, In Search of Equality, Mermaid's Domain and The Kraken. Additional entries in the Petite category were Christmas Workshop, Dreams Come True, Santa's Castle, Saint George and the Dragon, Pocahontas, Legend of Zorro, and Legend of Pele.

Many of San Diego's top chefs return year after year to prepare and serve amazing artistry of their own during the Gala, followed by a live Celebrity Chef Auction offering guests the opportunity to bid on a private dinner for several guests prepared by one of the chefs. 

Chef Bernard Guillas, The Marine Room, La Jolla
Maine Lobster Bisque

Chef Ikko Sonemoto, Shimbashi Izakaya, Del Mar - Somen Noodle with Bigeye Tuna
Chef Brian Redzikowski, Flavor Del Mar - Sashimi "Elements of Winter"

Chef Stephane Voitzwinkler, Bertrand at Mr. A's - Brandt Farm Beef Cheeks
Chef Jason Knibb, Nine-Ten - Chino Farms Pumpkin Soup with Ginger Croquette

Chef Matt Gordon, Urban Solace/Solace & the Moonlight Lounge - Poached Lobster with Celeriac Emulsion
Chef Stephen Window, Roppongi Restaurant & Sushi Bar - Deconstructed Crab Cake

Chef Steve Pickell, Cafe Champagne at Thornton Winery - Warm Chanterelle Timbale
Chef Dennis Cortez, The Grand Del Mar - Butternut Squash Flan

Chef Pascal Vignau, Chandler's Coastal Regional Cuisine - Chickpea Socca with Roasted Eggplant
Chef William Bradley, Addison at The Grand Del Mar - Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Port Wine, Parmesan

Chef Jeffrey Strauss, Pamplemousse Grill - Assorted Signature Desserts
Gingerbread Men

The Grand Del Mar - Papa Doug's Cake

For links to my posts on Gingerbread City 2008 through 2011, please go to the Holidays & Themes page.

Have a safe and festive holiday season!

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