I’m back from the Hamptons after attending one of my favorite Summer food and wine events, the James Beard Foundation’s “Chefs & Champagne.” From oodles of Champagne to fabulous Celebrity Chefs this event has everything a glamour fan could ask for, AND it also raises funds for the philanthropic work of the Foundation – what’s not to love about that? I was smitten the first time I attended in 2014 (click here for the delicious deets) and happy to be back for more.
Set amidst the bucolic splendor of Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, NY (they make a FABULOUS rosé!) the 26th annual “Chefs & Champagne” featured delectable dishes from some of the country’s most celebrated Chefs paired with an endless supply of bubbles including a brut, rosé and blanc de blancs from Champagne Barons de Rothschild. The pièce de résistance, however, was this year’s honoree, one of America’s most talented and celebrated Chefs, John Besh.
Besh is a multiple James Beard award-winning Chef, cookbook author, philanthropist and restaurateur known for his dedication to and passion for his hometown in Southern Louisiana. Today, he is currently the proprietor of 12 restaurants which celebrate the bounty and traditions of this special region. As a result, this year’s “Chefs & Champagne” was dubbed “From the Big Easy to the Big Apple” and a sunkissed and extremely affable Chef Besh kindly took some time to speak with me before the chic Hamptons shindig got underway:
SM: So how does it feel to be here and be honored at the 2016 “Chefs & Champagne”?
JB: Thrilled, tickled to death, it’s humbling. So many greats have been honored by “Chefs & Champagne” & the James Beard Foundation it’s an honor to be included on that list. It also offers a great opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while and connect with friends through food.
SM: What are some of your favorite Summer flavors?
JB: In the Summer, it’s really all about what the garden is giving us. I might have had the best peach of my life yesterday from a farm up here, it was just perfect! Summer’s a time where you really don’t want to manipulate the food a whole lot. I want fresh, big, bold flavors but at the same time I want simplicity. The perfect tomato, basil straight from the garden, what’s not to like?
SM: How about something to pair with those flavors? Are you more of a wine or cocktail guy?
JB: I’m much more a wine guy than a cocktail guy. I like things like Grüner Veltliner, with light, crisp, green appley flavors to go with shellfish and fish on the grill. Something that’s still going to work with the acidity in tomatoes and salads and things of that nature. So I’m very much white wine centered this time of year.
“Summer’s a time where you really don’t want to manipulate the food a whole lot. I want fresh, big, bold flavors but at the same time I want simplicity.” ~ Chef John Besh
SM: Are you a Champagne fan?
JB: Big time! Champagne is almost perfect for any occasion, the beginning of a meal, the end of a meal – you could drink Champagne all through the meal and it works! Also, Champagne when it’s hot out with the bubbles and effervescence – it’s a great thing.
SM: With all of your restaurants, how do you keep the plates spinning and maintain your high standards of quality and service?
JB: Good people. It’s really about finding people who get our philosophy about food and about service and hospitality and giving them the tools and allowing them to percolate up. Investing in passionate people makes all the difference, that’s that one ingredient that you just can’t buy and it’s the difference between good and great.
SM: Anything new on the horizon?
JB: Well, we’re about to open our Marsh House restaurant with the Thompson Hotel in Nashville so we’re really busy with that and next year at this time we’ll be opening a little Cajun place in Houston called Eunice which we’re really excited about.
SM: What’s your favorite part of your professional life right now?
JB: Making people happy through food. We also have a foundation where we offer microloans to food producers and culinary school scholarships to inner city and minority youth in New Orleans. Being able to do this, run the restaurants and do good at the same time is it.
Following the interview, I mixed and mingled among the fashionable crowd, sampling all the delicious dishes on display. While everything was truly delectable, here are my top 6 faves along with some tasting notes:
1.) A tasting of ‘haute-couture,’ French Sturia Caviar featured three selections of spectacular sturgeon roe which culminated in their divine Oscietra Grand Cru Caviar.
2.) Chef Dean James Max’s (DJM Restaurants) Nantucket Oysters with Uni Vinaigrette: bright, tasty and refreshing, each oyster was crowned with a delightful dollop of uni which accentuated its lovely, briny flavor.
3.) Chef Brian Cheewing’s (Wölffer Kitchen, Sag Harbor, NY) Spicy Octopus & Corn Salad with Calabrian Chilies & Micro Cilantro: the combination of textures and flavors was the epitome of Summer and this delicious dish was seasoned to perfection!
4.) Chef Anita Lo’s (Annisa, NYC) Potatoes with Celtuce, Buttermilk Dressing & Sturia Caviar: Chef Lo’s mastery of texture and flavor really shined as she incorporated the beautiful flavor of caviar along with creamy dressing and crisp green celtuce.
5.) Chef Jeremy Ford’s (Matador Room by Jean-Georges, Miami Beach, FL) Foie Gras with Strawberry, Granola and Sorrel: the rich, decadent foie paired outrageously well with the sweet, ripe strawberry and texture of the crunchy granola. The vibrant green baby sorrel also added a lovely pop of color – I could’ve eaten 5 of them!
6.) Pastry Chef Alina Martell (Ai Fiori and Vaucluse, NYC) Profiteroles with Strawberries & Cream: this delightful Summery spin on the beloved classic French dessert was refreshing, comforting and utterly delicious!
Many thanks to all the Glamorous Gourmet Girls who came out to support the 2016 Chefs & Champagne! To view Chef Besh’s comments on being honored at this year’s event on our YouTube Channel, please click here and for more information on this or any other James Beard Foundation events, please click here. We’re already looking forward to 2017 so mark your calendar and hope to see you there!
The post Chef John Besh Honored at James Beard Foundation’s “Chefs & Champagne” appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
Many countries around the globe have culinary traditions designed to bring good luck in the New Year. In Spain, revelers consume one grape for every stroke of the clock at midnight; in Italy it’s customary to eat sausages and green lentils after midnight; in Cuba, roast pork is said to bring good fortune, and in the Southern United States black-eyed... Read More
The post A Southern Style New Year featuring Chef Stephen Stryjewski’s Hoppin’ John! appeared first on The Glamorous Gourmet.
Many countries around the globe have culinary traditions designed to bring good luck in the New Year. In Spain, revelers consume one grape for every stroke of the clock at midnight; in Italy it’s customary to eat sausages and green lentils after midnight; in Cuba, roast pork is said to bring good fortune, and in the Southern United States black-eyed peas are believed to bring good luck especially in the form of Hoppin’ John, a West-African inspired stew of black eyed peas and rice flavored with pork. The beans are said to represent coins while the pork is a symbol of optimism since pigs forage forward through the earth in search of food and never look back!
Since we’re pretty big fans of Southern cuisine at Chez Miskew we decided to make Hoppin’ John. Steve took the lead and found and prepared this fabulous recipe from Chef Stephen Stryjewski published in Garden & Gun Magazine (gotta love a man in the kitchen!). Stryjewski is a CIA graduate who’s been a driving force behind the reawakening of the New Orlean’s food scene. In 2011 he received the James Beard Foundation’s award for “Best Chef: South” and is presently Chef and co-owner (along with partner and Executive Chef Donald Link) of New Orleans’ award-winning restaurant Cochon. In 2014 Stryjewski’s achieved another culinary coup, his latest endeavor Pêche Seafood Grill won the James Beard Foundation’s coveted “Best New Restaurant” designation, the first New Orleans establishment ever to receive this honor.
Despite Stryjewski’s lofty pedigree this recipe is pretty down to earth and easy to make and the results are definitely worth every ounce of effort! The tasty black-eyes peas soften as they absorb the delicious flavor of the Tasso ham, vegetables, and herbs. Tasso is a spicy and flavorful smoked ham seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic, sugar, salt and paprika that’s a specialty of Louisiana cuisine. In the event you can’t find Tasso ham, you can purchase it through D’Artagnan by clicking here or ham hocks or shanks will also work nicely.
The end result is a hearty dish of earthy, savory peas and long grain rice studded with salty bits of ham and bacon. It’s perfect for bringing good luck in the New Year or as a hearty, delicious meal any other day this Winter. As for wine, an earthy Pinot Noir from either Burgundy or the New World will pair nicely with this dish (to view a selection of these wines from The Wine Atelier, please click here).
I hope you enjoy this delicious Hoppin’ John as much as we did! What’s your favorite New Year’s dish? Please let me know in the comment section below – I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
Happy New Year,
From Dec 2011/Jan 2012 Garden & Gun Magazine
INGREDIENTS (Stage 1)
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
¾ lb. Tasso ham, diced
1 onion, halved
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Drain the black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately. Remove and discard the onion pieces, garlic, and bay leaves.
INGREDIENTS (Stage 2)
½ lb. bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
½ tsp. fresh thyme
1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)
6 green onions, sliced
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat. Add bacon and render until golden (8 to 10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasion-ally, cooking until onions look translucent (8 to 12 minutes). Add the thyme and 2 ½ cups water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 17 to 22 minutes.
Stir in the green onions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The Hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy. Serves 6.