Sunday, April 17, 2016

NYC's James Beard House presents the TASTE OF CHARLOTTE with super Southern cuisine (4-16-16)

Last night I was joined by a friend and client at James Beard House where I love to go on an off night in NYC as the events are always a treat.
On arrival, you always pass through the kitchen and this was different as four chefs from North Carolina were working on the hor's d'oevres (check my FB) and the place was a zoo.
I moved to the patio where Bob Peters, Mixologist from the Punch Room at Charlotte's Ritz-Carlton was serving Bottled Sherry with Topo(Top of the Hill) Southern Amaro (made specifically for this event).
The drink had a slight bitterness from the Amaro, but was nice and smooth and was truly ingenious with the many rich treats we were munching especially the Deviled Eggs with Smoked Trout, Trout Caviar, Dill & Pickled Onion (my favorite of them all). Just as rich and tasty was the Ashe Country Cheddar Pimento Cheese, Springer Mountain Farms Chicken Croquettes served in Romescu Sauce. While the starters were a collaboration in most cases, these came from Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining & Wine Room in Charlotte. Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd of 300 East in Charlotte and Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw created an odd mixture of Peanut Butter Biscuit, Salted Peanut & Black Pepper Ricotta, Muscadine Jam and Celery Sorbet served in a small spoon and while tasty, just had too much going on for my mouth. Green Garlic & Goat Cheese Panna Cotta filled out the group.

We sat down to find awesome hot biscuits in a cast iron skillet on the table with Strawberry Mostarda from Chef Boyd and launched into the first course, again a collaborative effort:
Pastrami-Cured No. Carolina Strip Loin in Cardinal Gin Smoke Oak Staves, NC Pink Lady Apple-Braised Red Cabbage, Toasted Cararway Tuille and Thousand Island Dressing which was one of the best quasi-Rubens ever. They mentioned that we would get take home bags with goodies and I was hoping for pastrami in mine, but alas there was none. This was accompanied by a Bob Peters' Cardinal Barrel Rested Gin Cocktail with Cheerwine "Cherry" a soda like Dr. Pepper from the region that was quite tasty.

Chef Hartwick gave us Ayden No Carolina Fried Catfish in Chicken Fat with BBQ Cauliflower, Pac Choi Slaw, Pickled Ramp Aioli, Geechie Boy Blue Corn Grits and Church Hot Sauce Bubbles which easily was the best catfish I've ever had in my life. Bennett seeds finished off the dish and that hot sauce was bubbling for sure, but all mixed together it was just simply perfection. Chalk Hill 2014 California Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect foil to the spice and fish.

Chef Chris Coleman of the Asbury at Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte prepared Chicken & Dumplings here with Slow-Roasted Springer Farms Chicken, Chevre Gnocchi, Newtown Farm Beets, Arugula, Radish, Pickled Green garlic and Roasted Lemon Jus. Chive, Chervil & Tarragon added depth to this winning dish served with a tasty Claude Riffault La Noue Pinot Noir Rose 2014 from Sancerre.

Chef Paul T. Verica of Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw was next with Heritage Farms Pork Belly, Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard, Black-Eyed Peas, Carolina Gold Rice and Cheerwine Glaze. The sauce was amazing and the chard was wrapped around the rice to make a sushi-like roll. If this was not enough, the belly was crispy, tasty and meaty with little unneeded fat. Just right with the 2013 Gilles Robin "Cuvee Papillon" Crozes Hermitage Rhone Blend. The entire dish was covered with shaved sweet potatoes all curled up that were fun as well.

Our pastry chef returned in glory with Local Goat Cheese & (Asheville)White Chocolate Cheese Cake with Textures of Strawberries, Sorrell Puree and Buckwheat Streusel & Marshmallows which was not too heavy despite the cheese and chocolate and I think every plate was cleared completely. Hou Hou Shu "Bubble, Bubble!" Sparkling Sake from Okoyama Japan was a novel sparkling sake that is easily a new fun fave of mine.

Lots of love form this huge team went into planning this dinner (which was slated months and months ago), and we all sadly remarked that our boycotts of North Carolina for the time being will not allow us to visit these great places, but at least they came to us, and I am sure these chefs will do their best to change the mindless efforts of some of their politicians and bring them round with a good plate and drink!