Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene
The James Beard House
New York City
May 5th, 2010
Last week Brooklyn Plated took a wonderful field trip to the James Beard House for a six course, tasting menu with wine pairing by guest chef Linton Hopkins. The cuisine paired a southern flare with traditional American cuisine. In short the night was amazing and I felt honored to be apart of a real and very rare New York culinary experience.
The Beard House is a beautiful town house on west 12th street between 6th and 7th avenue. After Beard’s death in 1985, a group of his friends answered a call from Julia Child to do something extraordinary with his home. What became of the townhouse is now the Beard House and they serve up amazing events and dinners with special guest chefs showcasing their signature dishes. As you enter the house you are greeted by the vast kitchen, which takes up almost the entire first floor. Passing through the kitchen I was tempted to pluck an hors d’oeuvre off the tray being plated by the wait staff. We exist the kitchen into the solarium (yes there is a solarium) that looks out onto a beautiful backyard.
We started the night in the backyard with a signature cocktail called The Harrier: gin, grapefruit juice and lavender essence. This was the equivalent of drinking a spring morning. Passed hors d’oeuvres included (in the order of mouth watering amazingness) a mini cornmeal blini with Crème Fraîche and Altamha River sturgeon roe, Pimiento cheese and B&B pickle fritter with pepper jelly, Levain crusted mountain trout with smoked trout roe and dill pollen, Sorghum glazed veal sweetbreads with crushed peanuts, and Border Springs spring lamb terrine with house made beer mustard. Phew…it was a lot, and we successfully planted ourselves right near the door so we would get first dibs. It also didn’t hurt that I was the only man in our party surrounded by beautiful women, (sorry Chris, you should have come) which I won’t rate like the hors d’oeuvres.
The main dining area is what used to be Beard’s living space and bedroom. Our table was actually in what was once his bed nook, which oddly enough, had fully mirrored ceilings! Flirty.
I will be forced to simply list the courses since there were so many. It is safe to say it was one of the better meals I have ever had and the wine parings were really special. My only real critique was the last main course of red meat was sort of eh. I am not a huge meat eater and after our trip to Argentina, it takes a lot to wow me with steak.
Amuse: Asparagus agnolotti (essentially, a perfect little ravioli shaped like a football)
Paired with 2008 Simpson Vineyard Viognier.
First Course: Georgia wild shrimp, island clams, crab toast fennel and Cherokee leek broth. Yum.
Second Course: Skillet roast tilefish, creamed English peas, roasted Vidalia onions, crisp bacon and lettuces. This was a personal favorite. I had never heard of tilefish but it was very good and the crispy bacon with the fish was a wonderfully surprising flavor. Paired with a 2006 Wile Yeast Chardonnay, which I LOVED, others at the table not so much, but it really opened up with the food.
Third Course: Roast South Carolina pigeon with Riverview farms cornbread and Cruze buttermilk, wild watercress and natural jus. Paired with 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. And the winner is?…this dish. I have had game bird in a few places and never have I had pigeon as perfectly cooked and tasty as this dish. That buttermilk cornbread was like pancake batter and corn pudding puree.
Fourth Course: White oak Pasture beef to ways, pepper crusted and hickory smoked ribeye with short ribs and Appalachian ramps, morel fondue, pickled fiddleheads and marrow. Sadly the best part of this grand finale was the fiddleheads. Nothing really spectacular about this entrée except maybe the short ribs. The pairing of 2006 La Diligence Syrah was an excellent wine.
Fifth Course: Southern Cheese course with The Oracle 2005 a Bordeaux blend was by far my favorite wine of the night and the cheese was very good. We had:
- Sweetgrass Dairy Green Hill
- Blackberry Farm Blue – excellent!
- Spinning Spider Creamery Stackhouse – a triple cream that one of our friends thought tasted like cream cheese, but I loved it for the mildness.
It was also served with smoked blood orange and pecan levain.
Sixth Course: Woodland Gardens’ strawberry shortcake with strawberry sorbet ad mint cream. This was served with an Old Hickory, a rather perfuming but refreshing cocktail of dry and sweet vermouth with orange bitters. The shortcake was some of the best I have ever had, and I love strawberry shortcake.
This was a remarkable night and the chef coming out to answer questions topped it. He was quite approachable and as I left shaking his hand it was as if I had stopped in for dinner at a friends house.