Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Dinner at the James Beard House is a must for any one visiting the City that wants to take in a different type of “Show.” A show were the food takes center stage. This would be anyone who is serious about the dining experience and is seeking a feast for the senses, a true culinary banquet on the border of decadence.
Nestled in the West Village, The James Beard House at 167 West 12th Street is a block away from The Elephant & Castle, where I cooked 35 years ago.
Each night the spot light is on a guest chef who prepares a meal that shows off their particular talents. On February 6th I was fortunate enough to get a single ticket for “Lowcountry Elegance,” a feast prepared by Chef Daniel Doyle and some of his, can’t do this without them, people from Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, SC. A “Bourbon Inspired” sub-theme was introduced for the dishes served while we were seated.
On site was Terrell Ham the general manager and ambassador extraordinaire for Poogan’s Porch. Not only could you talk to the GM you could stand in the kitchen and talk to the chef and the other cooks, the servers and other guests. Also on hand was Anna Mowry, senior editor for the James Bead Foundation, to answer question about the venue and other foundation events. Members of the James Beard Foundation get discounts.
At 7:00 on the nose they started passing appetizers. And passing and passing. Be careful it’s easy to over eat.
Pimento Cheese Fritters with Green Tomato Jam • Seared Pig Trotters with Southern Rémoulade • Country Pâté Crostini with Pepper Jelly • Oysters with Texas Pete “Caviar.”
It’s hard to pick a favorite. The pork rinds melted in your mouth and were light and crispy. The Pimento Cheese Fritters were pure gooey goodness. But I found myself talking to the chef about the Pâté. I’ve always left liver out of my Country Pâté so I could get more people to try it. Not everyone is an adventurist when it comes to pâté, associating the delicacy with liver. I realize now that liver adds so much to the texture and the taste. I can’t put my finger on it but the flavors of meat and liver complement each other in a way that meat or liver alone can’t capture. Poogan’s Porch’s blend created a pâté that was dense like my all-meat version and not spreadable but soft on the palate. The terrine was wrapped in bacon, the way I like to do it. I had to force myself to stop eating the bite-sized morsels as I knew there were six more courses to come.
They made you feel right at home and just like when you’re entertaining guests will hang out in the kitchen talking to those preparing and serving or just watching. When I couldn’t stand the heat, I got out of the kitchen and fought my way to the ice cold bottles of La Bubbly.
During the reception they had on ice: LA BUBBLY BRUT NV from Chile.
At 8:00 PM we were seated for the next 6 courses. The table was packed with wine glasses forks and knives. I’m not great at math but a quick survey told me that five forks wouldn’t be enough. But not to worry, as the number dwindled additional flatware and wine glasses appeared as if Bacchus were watching over us.
I love to prepare food and especially like to eat food but I’m not the best food writer. It’s easy for me to write about something I don’t like because it’s easier to put my finger on what’s wrong with something. But when everything is done right I can sing it’s praises but have a hard time putting into words the taste of something. Therefore I’m going to let the photos below speak for me. Suffice it to say, I could find nothing wrong with the food.
Yes it’s expensive but not anymore so (and in some cases less) than an orchestra seat to a Broadway show. And just like you can hum a tune from a Broadway show you’ll be singing the praises of a special meal at the James Beard House.
I now know that all of my visits to New York will include a visit to the James Beard House and when I’m in Charleston I’ll be visiting Poogan’s Porch. I left the feast stuffed and satiated and a little tipsy. But another great thing about New York City there are busses, taxis and subways just a stone-throw away to get you were you need to go. Caution: Don’t sleep in the subway. But that’s another story.
Ciao Fro Now
Vinny Verelli is a humorous motivational speaker, celebrity chef and conference host.