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Dining profile: Diners enjoy progressive dinner through downtown Morgan HillMorgan Hill, vol3-issue20-march16

Participants enjoyed parts of a gourmet meal at each of five local restaurants

Published in the March 16- 29, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

Off-The-Menu-(1)-web

Photo by Marty Cheek
Diners at the “Off the Menu” event sponsored by the Morgan Hill Downtown Association enjoy an arugula, beet and pear salad accompanied by a lemon grass soup at Betto’s Bistro.

Carrie Lim and Peng Lim have been residents of Morgan Hill for slightly more than a year, but they haven’t had the chance to discover many of the city’s downtown restaurants. When the chance to join a special progressive dinner night diving into the best cuisine of five of the eateries came up, they couldn’t resist.

The couple joined about 40 others March 2 who participated in the Morgan Hill Downtown Association’s semi-annual “Off the Menu” event. Divided into two groups separated by 30-minute start times, the diners began their three-hour tour at Noah’s Bar & Bistro, sampling appetizers of Italian sausage-stuffed mushrooms. They then crossed the street and down a block to Betto’s Bistro where they enjoyed an arugula, beet and pear salad accompanied by a lemon grass soup. The next stop was Rosy’s at the Beach where they enjoyed a Cabernet with a lobster risotto. Then it was on to Huntington Station Restaurant & Sports Pub to nosh on filet Oscar, a retro-’80s entree served with a pinot noir. The final stop was The Hill Bar & Grill for dessert of white chocolate and blueberry bread pudding accented with a white Russian cocktail.

“Everything we tried was so elegantly created,” Carrie said. “The presentation was beautiful.”

What was interesting for Peng was that some of the dishes were cutting edge fusion, he said. “You don’t go to a typical bistro and expect lemon grass as one of the main ingredients. It was very unique,” he said.

Carrie enjoyed making new friends during the evening stroll from restaurant to restaurant, with each stop lasting about half an hour, giving the adventurous diners the chance to chat as they ate the culinary delicacies while sampling fine wine or cocktails.

“It was so much fun,” she said. “And one of the things that I like about downtown Morgan Hill is we came here, we met a couple of people we (already) know, and now we met more people which means when we see each other around town, we can go ‘Hey, remember the Off the Menu.’”
The couple also enjoyed the fact that the progressive dinner provided food for thought as well as for the taste-buds, with each restaurant owner host giving short talks about the history of the building their dining establishment is located in. For example, Huntington Station was once the office site of the Morgan Hill Sun, the city’s first newspaper in the late 1800s.

“I like the historical aspect and I like meeting the owners,” Carrie said. “Like the Huntington Station, their steak was great. I want to go back there and have steak again. It was perfectly cooked.”

Deb Creighton, co-owner with her husband Dan of Huntington Station, said this is the third progressive dinner organized by the downtown association, and each one sells all the tickets because it is such a fun and popular event for locals residents as well as out-of-towners.

“To keep it fresh, we wanted to do a twist so that’s why we added the historical aspect of it where everyone shared a little bit about their building, because every building had quite a bit of history,” she said.

The downtown association is planning the next Off the Menu event which will take place in August but no date has been set.

Creighton described the March 2 event as a “great turn out.” The Off the Menu event has proven so popular with daring diners that this year the MHDA added a second night on March 3, she said.

“There are a lot of returners (from previous Off the Menu events), I recognize a lot of faces,” she said. “But I love the fact that half of the people I don’t recognize. Maybe they’re patronizing a lot of the restaurants downtown, but at least we got them through our doors. It’s a casual, nonchalant way to meet people and talk about food, wine, and cocktails.”