James Beard Dinner


James Beard Dinner

All I can say is wow. My team, the men from Green Light Media filming the event, the guests who dined, it was an amazing experience, one that will forever be in my mind as an epic event.

I wanted to share the experience with you and some of the the fun we had at the Beard house.

First allow me to thank my great friend Fred Luberto from Fabulous Foods who allowed me to use his kitchen to prep the entire meal. You see, the place I was working at when the Beard house asked me to come and cook was no longer part of my life, so it made it for a interesting time, but now worries, I was committed to the dinner and I would never, ever let my friends at the Beard house down, especially since it sold out so quickly.

The James Beard House is a very special place for many, for me its a place to share food, ideas and give back to a foundation that is very important to the culinary industry. James Beard was a pioneer of American cuisine, he influenced a generation of chefs to look at local products before it was what it is today.

You are what you eat not only because food is nutrition, but also because food is an integral part of our everyday lives. Food is economics, politics, entertainment, culture, fashion, family, passion…and nourishment. The James Beard Foundation is at the center of America’s culinary community, dedicated to exploring the way food enriches our lives.

A cookbook author and teacher, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. Today, the Beard Foundation continues in the same spirit by offering a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture. These programs include educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, Leadership Awards program, culinary scholarships, and publications. In addition to maintaining the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs, the Foundation has created a robust online community, and hosts tastings, lectures, workshops, and food-related art exhibits in New York City and around the country

For this event I had my Sous Chef Kristi and lead cook Juan helping me, I also had for students from the CIA come down and assist. In addition a childhood friend Phyllis came down from Boston with one of her team members Lisa to help with this event as well. Last but not least was Mike from the Culinary Art Institute who was just brilliant.

I was very blessed to have Alan Watts and Anthony Scillia from Greenlight Media there to film the entire process of the dinner for an upcoming project that we are working on. They spent the entire day there in addition to 3 other days in the kitchen with me to get the entire process on film from concept to execution and everything in between.

So, the vehicles were packed with product, equipment, menus, give aways and cookbooks. The dinner has been sold out for a couple of weeks now and the anticipation was building, I was actually a little nervous, excited,but nervous. It wasn’t my first event, not my first dinner at the Beard house, it was my 5th, but there was something special here, something that I couldn’t explain.

The first team arrived at 1pm, the second at 3pm, the servers at 4pm and the guests at 7pm.

There was a lot of special details that i had planned for this event, from the moment the guests arrived i planned on hitting them with flavor, for those who have been to Beard house dinners it was going to be a surprise, for those who were attending who now me they knew something was going to hit them in a different way.

Well I decided to hit them with one of my mists to get their palates open and anticipating the evening, anticipating their culinary journey with me and my team. So when they enter the foyer the we greeted with a mist of Ginger, Lemon and Cilantro…

As the guests passed through the kitchen the were greeted with a Lobster Panna Cotta with Sea Urchin topped with Rock Shrimp Sautee.

We began passing the horse d’oeuvres which included Tomato Gelee with Calamatta olive, basil ricotta topped with Basil Balsamic Reduction;

Braised Rabbit on Corn Pudding with Sevendust popcorn. I love Rabbit, it is not often used but this was an opportunity to share something that people wouldn’t ordinarily try, and thats what a dinner at the Beard is about, exploring something different.

Seared foie Gras On Truffle Brioche topped with Port Wine Pearls.
This Foie Gras was perfect, the brioche was topped with a port wine gelee, then the lightly seared Foie Gras from Hudson Valley and then topped with Port Vanilla Pearls.

Duck Ravioli with Duck Consomme, Spicy Beet Dust.
I wanted the guests to get a warm feeling, something that would bring them comfort, so a soup was a natural eliminate. I wanted to do something other than a typical soup shooter, so instead I thought why not package a burst of flavor in a fried ravioli. It provided a great accompaniment to the duck consomme.The crispy outside texture of the fried ravioli with the smoothness of the duck mixture and finishing it with a silkiness of the consomme.

After the cocktail hour I had two of my culinary team go to the stairs before guests moved upstairs for dinner. At the bottom of the stairs they were greeted with a 5 cheese crisp, when they reach the top of the stairs they were greeted with the Sundried tomato “Lotion” to be topped on the crisp as an amuse.

The tables were set and the center pieces were give aways. On their menus if they found a white dot with an X they were the benefactors of the centers piece which were products from TABLE CRAFT and PICK ON US.

The first course we offered was Wild Mushroom Tortelloni with Shaved Truffles, Bacon Parmesan and basil dust, Garlic, and Crimini Mushroom Chips
The combination of flavors on this dish were intense. The Tortelloni mixture had a hint of truffle oil which created a great back drop of flavor melding with the ricotta cheese mixture. The crispy crimini mushrooms add a bold flavor and texture while the shaved truffles added a earthy flavor. The bacon dust was a star, it could have been offered on its own on a cracker it was so bold with flavor. I took apple smoked bacon, reggiano parmesan and basil, dried them and processed them into a dust, the flavors took on a smoke parmesan profile which blew me away, it was a perfect dust for a fun course.

The second course was Olive Oil and Butter Poached Lobster with Crispy Oysters, Coffee Balsamic Reduction, Mache Foam and Coffee Pumpkin Dust
Experimenting with flavor combination is an on going journey, we are always looking for the next flavor, but the reality is that we are constantly creating flavor combinations, the next favor journey continues so the creation of new combination will keep us busy for now. The use of coffee is very underrated in cooking. It is great for BBQ sauce, for sauces and in this case for a favored dust as well. I enjoy learning new things from experimenting and the use of coffee and pumpkin with Lobster and Oysters were just an amazing combination of flavors.

The third course was Seared Chilean Seabass with Crispy Elephant Garlic, Caviar Sauce and Pea Dust, Curry Oil
The elegance of the Seabass, the sweet bitterness of the crispy Elephant Garlic, the saltiness of the caviar sauce and the earthiness of the Pea Dust really gave this dish a well rounded and complete flavor profile. The flavor components were meant to give the guest layers of flavors on the palate and by the reaction to this course we achieved our goals.

Fourth course was a combination Oven Roasted Lamb Loin, Grilled Quail, Rosemary Flan, Potato Galette, Chili Paint, Crimini Mushroom Dust
A comment that was shared with me after the dinner was “when I saw them menu and saw the combination of the of the Lamb and Quail, I wasnt sure they would go together. After eating it i must say that it was one of the most amazing combinations I have ever had”. I couldnt have asked for more. The rosemary flan that I made had such an intense flavor i was a little concerned that it may overwhelm the dish, but it was nice and balanced. Before the dish left the kitchen I had torched the rosemary to create a perfume sense in the room. Using all of the senses is a must in any kitchen in my opinion. Sometimes we forget the sense of smell when creating a dish, we focus of taste and visual, this added element has the ability to transform a diners experience to another level, and it did.

Dessert, the final course, to boadly go where no man has gone before.(sorry got a little treky there) Chocolate Opera Cake in Chocolate String Tear Drop with Hazelnut Mousse, Custard Paint,and Brown Sugar Bacon. This course was a very tough execution to finish an amazing day, but Lisa handled it like a pro. The challenge here was to put the torched chocolate opera cake into the very fragile tear drop chocolate string vessel without cracking the strands off the sides, it was like playing the old game operation, one false move and zzzzzzzzz lights out. The interesting combination here was the brown sugar bacon which threw people a little, comments such as “bacon for dessert? seriously?”, followed but “Brilliant, that was a genius move” The mint oil that accented the plate gave the dish the burst of lightness that is often missing from a dessert course which is usually to sweet.

My team as I thank them for coming out and really doing an amazing job.

Signing a cookbook in the Beard house Kitchen while the Greenlight crew tapes for a very special project they are working on.

To finish off the night I had made an assortment of flavored sugars, salts, dusts and spices as a little thank you gift for each person to take with them. All of these items were used throughout the dinner.

The final touch before the guests left was a pipette filled with Warm Apple Cider, Brandy and Caramel before the entered the cold winters night.

Thank you to all that came out to support me, my team and most importantly the James Beard Foundation for having me back to create another meal to benefit the foundation.

Fire it up!
Chef Eric

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