Dinner at The James Beard House

Oh, what a lover-ly evening it was to have been given tickets to a wonderful dinner at The James Beard House prepared by guest Chef Joseph Hafner of Gracie’s in Providence, RI. For those of you who have not been to a Beard House dinner, the evening starts at 7pm with hors d’oevres and cocktails in the garden, then around 8pm they call for everyone to be seated (you are assigned a table) and the dinner proceeds up until about 11pm. Since The James Beard House is located in a town house in the West Village, the space is pretty small, but charming, cozy and fun nonetheless. The kitchen is open so you can walk by and watch the chef and his team prep, cook and plate each dish. The energy in the kitchen was positive, fun and frenzied and I spied a few dapper looking sous chefs.

The evening started with chilly Champagne and refreshing hors d’oevres in the small garden:

Foie Gras, Duck Liver & Duck Heart Mousse with red onion marmalade

Point Judith Bluefish Rillettes and Tomato Crumpets

Sherry Glazed Beets with Narragansett Creamery Angelito and Almond Crispies

Mayonnaise Biscuits, Salty Ham, Red Pepper Jelly and Grafton Cheddar

Gazpacho, Jonah Crab + Tiny Tomatoes

Served with Champagne Duval-Leroy Design Paris Brut nv

All of these little nibbles were pretty fantastic and very fresh. The gazpacho was perfect, it felt like drinking a garden and the bit of fresh Jonah crab placed in it was sweet and tender. None of the other nibbles were as memorable as the gazpacho, except for the champagne of course. But isn’t champagne always memorable? Bien sur!

After the requisite two glasses of bubbly, we were seated at a table with the rest of the food media in an elegant, timeless, New York townhouse-esque dining room. The meal and pairings that followed were absolutely perfect!

Tuna Nicoise Terrine with haricots verts, golden wax beans, triple cooked potatoes, olive oil and tomato water paired with Domaine de l’Hortus Rose de Saignee 2007 (not a very memorable dish or pairing)

Brown Butter Potato Gnocchi with provolone mandarone, black summer truffles, beurre noisette and herbs paired with Joseph Drouhim Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc 2005 (this was out of this world. a pair to die for!!! I hate Chardonnay, but this was a slam dunk biatches. I’m def going to get this recipe, grab this bottle of wine and make dinner one night…now, to find the truffles…)

Crisp Softshell Crab with nasturtium flower and leaf salad, heirloom tomatoes and Rhode Island corn agnolotti paired with Pascal Jolibet La Grande Cuvee Sancerre Rouge 2003 (yes another killer pair! Crisp softshell crab with a clean and tart Sancerre. Lurve. The tomatoes even came from the Chef’s own garden! Apparently he does not love the produce supplied to him so he grows his own. Clever devil.)

Intermezzo: Frozen Cherry Lemonade (this was a killer palate cleanser. It just wiped the slate clean for the meat course. A must serve)

Veal Two Ways: grass fed roulade, country bacon and sage and crisp veal sweetbreads, pappadew gastrique and creamed garlic fondue paired with…Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2005 (the veal was pretty good, a bit too gamey to me but I loved the gastrique + bacon (obv)…however the wine…ahh the grandest of wines: the Grand Cru. It’s the ultimate vino, the highest classification of wine in Burgundy, the Birkin Bag of wines – it was just so big, rich and smokey. A must buy!)

After the main courses were served (with a nice 15 minute breather in between each) we sat to unwind with some desserts.

Dancing Cow Farmstead Sarabanoe with figs and honey paired with Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno Sherry (Another on point pair. The cheese was divine…footy, smelly, velvety and totally inspiring. I must find this cheese. I also love the sherry, there is an elegance to pairing cheese with sherry and it was a well thought out pairing)

Baked Rhode Island: coffee milk rocky road ice cream, Kenyon’s johnnycake and marshmellow meringue paired with W&J Graham’s 40-years-old Tauny port. (i love Baked Alaska and I really loved Chef Hafner’s interpretation of it, the meringue had an awesome texture and the johnnycake was nice and chewy)

All in all, it was a really fun and fabulous evening with great people and even better food. I wil most definitely be stopping by Gracie’s as soon as I have the chance.

Gracie’s is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Joseph Hafner is the Executive Chef.

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