Manger! Boire! Vivre! ~ Eat! Drink! Live!
Wise words to live by as well as the theme for this year's 19th Annual James Beard Foundation Holiday Auction and Dinner. French chefs from around the world were on hand for this 'Celebration de la Cuisine Francaise' at The Essex House in New York City.
One of the most rewarding jobs I volunteered for while in cooking school was at the James Beard House. I had the honor of assisting some of the most highly acclaimed chefs in the business including Mario Lohninger (Danube -- just received 2 Michelin stars!), Morimoto (Morimoto and Iron Chef), Mark Franz and Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Richard Reddington (Auberge du Soleil), Martin Heierling (Bellagio) and Dave Pasternak (Esca). For a new deer-in-the-headlights culinary student, it was quite a privilege.
As I was planning my most recent trip to New York, I realized that my stay overlapped this event so I immediately fired off an email volunteering my "culinary services". I have yet to hear of anyone saying "no" to free labor, however incompetent, especially one with a drop or two of experience, so within minutes I was on the schedule for the evening of the event. It still is an honor and I am still wide-eyed, humbled, and in awe among such culinary treasures.
Michel Richard and Andre Soltner
The Chefs for the evening were: Bertrand Chemel of Cafe Boulud in New York, Luc Dimnet of Brasserie in New York, Daniel Hebert of Le Jardin du Quai in Provence, Andre Soltner of Lutece and the French Culinary Institute in New York, Michel Richard of Citronelle in Washington DC, and the fabulous Pierre Herme of Pierre Herme Patisserie in Paris.
The menu was of course amazing as it always is at any Beard event. From wild Scottish pheasant to frog legs to tapioca with truffles to 72-hour braised beef, it was an experience to treasure. There were approximately 20 chefs and at least another 20 volunteer cooks running around trying to help but mostly getting in the way. I spent most of my time with Michel Richard and Pierre Herme's sous-chef Sebastien helping in the downstairs kitchen and then we came up to the main kitchen for service where I helped plate.
Andre Soltner with Michel Richard's sous-chef
Life in a kitchen is nothing less than grueling but the team work, the creativity and the conviviality is what draws me to the fire. And it was heartwarming to see the camaraderie amongst these great chefs. There were no egos, no posturing, just a profound respect for their 'metier' (profession) and for each other. I'm sure you're thinking "Stop babbling and get on with the dinner!" so without further ado...Bon appetit!
The Reception Menu served with
~ Laroche Mas La Chevaliere Blanc 2003
~ Laroche Mas La Chevaliere Rouge 2002
~ Cocktails by Remy Martin and Cointreau
Appetizers from Bertrand Chemel of Cafe Boulud
Une Soupe de Courge Exotique ~ Exotic Squash Soup with a dollop of truffle foam
Faisan Sauvage Ecossaise avec Pate en Croute ~ Wild Scottish Pheasant Cooked in Pastry
Une Salade de Betteraves avec des Pecans Caramelises ~ Beet Salad with Caramelized Pecans
Arancini Champignon Sauvage ~ Wild Mushroom Arancini
Appetizers from Luc Dimnet of Brasserie
Pissaladiere au Blue de Bresse, Figues et Noisettes Roties ~ Blue Cheese and Roasted Fig Tartlets with Toasted Hazelnuts
Cuisses de Grenouilles a l'Escabeche, Compote de Tomates Fumees et Chips d'Ail ~ Frog Legs Escabeche with Crispy Garlic and Smoked Tomato Compote
Note: Escabeche is most often associated with pickled fish, but in this case it was picked frogs legs.
Medaillon de Chevreuil Sauvage, Mousseline de Chataignes et Salade de Celeri ~ Wild Venison Medallions with Chestnut Mousseline and Celeriac Slaw
and my favorite...
Poitrine de Caille et Foie Gras de La Vallee de Hudson, Pommes Fuji Caramelisees ~ Hudson Valley Quail and Foie Gras with Caramelized Fuji Apples
The Dinner Menu
Entree by Daniel Hebet of Le Jardin du Quai in Provence, France
Tapioca Truffe a la Carbonate, Cerfeuil en Salad de Truffes ~ Tapioca alla Carbonara with Truffles, Chervil and Truffle Salad
~ served with Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut NV
Note: This was the most interesting dish of the night with finely chopped ham, finely chopped truffles, tapioca, a dollop of creme fraiche topped with chervil and 2 perfect quail eggs. At the last moment, the chef poured the Carbonara sauce into the bowl and topped the chervil (below) as the waiters whisked the bowls away.
Plat Poisson by Andre Soltner of Lutece and the French Culinary Institute in New York
Panache de Poissons en Feuillete, Sauce Choron ~ Fish in Puff Pastry with Tomato and Tarragon Sauce
~ served with Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaire Brut Vintage 1995
Note: 'Fish in Puff Pastry' doesn't quite do it justice. This was salmon enveloped in spinach mousseline and again enveloped in cod mousseline baked in puff pastry. Everyone dove for the leftovers when the last dish went out.
Plat Viande by Michel Richard of Citronelle in Washington DC
Boeuf a la Mode a la Trois Jours ~ 72-Hour-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Carrots
~ served with Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage 1998
Note: Yes, you read right. 72 hours! They were cooked 'sous vide', sealed in plastic and cooked in very low temperature water...for 72 hours! To quote Barbra, 'It was like butta!' The meat was meltingly tender, cooked perfectly pink and moist inside.
Bruno Obadia, the sous vide guru, and Michel Richard
Dessert by the fabulous Pierre Herme in Paris
Le Chocolat Noir Valrhona comme un Mille-Feuille d'Orange et Fruits d'Hiver au Vinaigre Balsamique, Jus au Jasmin ~ Valrhona Dark Chocolate Mille-Feuille with Orange Gelee and Winter Fruit with Balsamic Vinegar and Essence of Jasmine
~ served with Remy Martin XO Excellence
Note: Pierre Herme created this dessert specifically for this dinner. You unfortunately won't find it in his stores.
Pierre Herme plating so fast he blurred...
Once this last dessert went out, the cases of champagne poured in and we all grabbed for a dessert and a glass and toasted to the evening.
Chef Daniel Hebet, center, celebrating with his sous-chefs.
Eat, drink, live, indeed!
James Beard Foundation
167 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011
212 627 2308
100 East 53rd St
New York, NY 10022
212 751 4840
20 E. 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
212 772 2600
3000 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Le Jardin du Quai
2 avenue Julien Guigue
L'Isle sur La Sorgue
+33 (0)4 90 20 14 98
72, rue Bonaparte
Paris 75006, France
+33 (0) 1 43 54 47 77