An Inspired Evening with the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour
Our evening at the James Beard Foundation dinner started out on the terrace of elements surrounded by the pure desert beauty of Sanctuary’s grounds. We were greeted by chilled Stella Artois and champagne for our reception. There were passes of smoked oysters on the half shell as well a delicious crab bite. After about 30 minutes we were welcomed into the dining room.
The new Praying Monk room is absolutely breathtaking. It features sliding windows that opened to the crisp evening air overlooking the gorgeous lit pool below to the East and to the South the Praying Monk Mountain. The room was large but felt intimate at the same time.
The Celebrity Chef Tour President, Jeff Black, provided a heartfelt welcome and gave a short history of the James Beard Foundation’s beginnings. The Celebrity Chef’s Tour started in 2004 with the intention being to take the experience of dining at the James Beard House on the road. It has been created to imitate an intimate dinner party with guests being able to interact with the chefs while enjoying multiple courses paired with delicate and thoughtful wines. All the proceeds from the dinners benefit James Beard Foundation programs and educational initiatives.
Did you know that the first Celebrity Chef Dinner at the James Beard House, in Greenwich Village, NY, had only 12 guests and the cost was only $40 a plate? Or that the Celebrity Chef Tour dinners have raised over $850,000.00? Or that you can get a JBF Food and Wine Enthusiast Membership for as little as $29 per year? For more information on the Foundation go to jamesbeard.org.
Back to the food!
Our feasting began with Sashimi of Fluke. This course was served with a delicate spiced coconut sauce surrounded by pickled carrots and topped with a crispy spinach leaf. The Caribbean flavors were subtle yet delightful. This course was paired with a 2007 Claiborne & Churchill Gewürztraminer from the Central Coast.
Our 2nd course was a Crispy Cod Brandade, with a lovely sweet potato cream, brandade, parsley jus and garlic paired with a 2008 Oliver LaFlaine “les setilles” Bourgogne from Burgundy, France. Not only was this dish beautifully presented it was as delightful to my palate as it was to my eyes.
After the 2nd course, Jeff returned to introduce Chef Bradford Thompson where he provided a synopsis of the thought and care behind the first 2 courses that he created. One of the most fun parts of the evening was that the Chefs and Mr. Black were so friendly and playful. This led to our dinner being peppered with anecdotal stories as well as some good natured sports related ribbing from our hosts!
Next we were treated to Chef Beau’s Lobster Pot Pie, served with braised leeks, English Peas, a hint of foie gras and topped with shaved Fall Truffles paired with a 2008 M. Chepoutier “petite rouche” Crozes-Hermitage from Rhone, France. In a word: amazing. The peas were so fresh and the lobster was just exquisite. The sauce was so decadent and just ridiculously good. I could eat this gourmet delicacy all day every day!
Next we received Monkfish “Portuguese Style”. Made up of re-substituted chorizo from the New Bedford Falls area and heirloom tomatoes and served with olive bread paired with a 2008 Pietro Rinaldi “Madonna di Como” Dolcetto d’Alba from Piemonte. Chef Beau called monkfish the “poor man’s lobster”, and if that is the case I am sold and settled on being poor. The firm monkfish nestled in with the spice of the chorizo and the tomato sauce was heavenly and all the flavors worked so well together.
Dessert was a Yuzu Panna Cotta that featured wild Maine blueberries, passion fruit crème, toasted caramel crunch accompanied by a Blueberry crumble tart topped with a coconut meringue served with a 2004 Mer Soliel ‘late” from the Santa Lucia Highlands. I have to admit that I have never been a huge blueberry fan – but there was something about this dish, or the culinary geniuses that created it, that changed my mind. The combination of the passion fruit crème and the pop of the whole blueberries did something amazing in my mouth.
Amy and I had the opportunity to chat with the Chefs after dinner was completed, which was a real treat as we are big fans, more so now after the amazing dinner.
All in all the evening was phenomenal. For two humble foodies to be able to have such a phenomenal meal while being educated about a culinary pioneer and have the opportunity to mingle with the all-star chefs is an amazing experience, one that will be incredibly difficult to top.
I will have dreams of this meal for many sleeps to come. Any person that has an opportunity to attend a Celebrity Chef’s Tour dinner should jump at the chance. It was an incredible experience that will hold a top spot on my Best Of list, topped only by Grandma for purely sentimental reason.
For a comprehensive calendar of the Celebrity Chef’s Tour, go to celebritycheftour.com If you know anyone in the areas that they are headed, tell them to get their tickets and I promise they will be incredibly grateful!