JBF’s Chefs and Champagne: Out of the kitchen, but still in the heat
It was hot or, perhaps more accurately, as Matthew Broderick quipped in Biloxi Blues, “It was Africa hot.” Of course, that would be acceptable if we were in Africa, but as we were in The Hamptons, it was less so. Much less so. But despite the record-breaking heat index, chefs and event goers soldiered on and had a wonderful time at The James Beard Foundation (JBF)’s annual Chefs & Champagne event.
Arriving early, we availed ourselves of the Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or 1999 and, glass in hand, set off in search of the best bites. We kicked it off with Richard Grenamyer of Jacksonville, FL’s The Blue Fish Restaurant and Oyster Bar. His soy- and ginger-glazed tuna with wakame and wasabi cream provided a touch of heat, which went beautifully with the Champagne as did Marc Forgione’s Chile lobster with local corn and lemon verbena.
Among the more notable chefs and their corresponding cuisine was Shea Gallante of Ciano with his yellow Basinga tomato gazpacho soup with Maine lobster, watermelon and basil. This dish was amazingly tasty and refreshing, providing welcome respite in the heat. I asked him if he had consulted the Farmer’s Almanac before submitting his menu, but he explained that previous experiences with these types of events had taught him to stick to cold food.
Perhaps braver for braving the heat, John Doherty, formerly with the Waldorf=Astoria and now ambassador for Certified Angus Beef, offered prime steak and eggs, but didn’t seem too wilted at the grill.
Pitching in to help colleague Spencer Minch (Emeril’s Delmonico), event honoree Emeril Lagasse himself handed me a plate of gulf white shrimp with traditional rémoulade.
Another JBF Award Winner, Marcus Samuelsson (Blue Parrot and Red Rooster) doled out chilled corn soup with marinated bass and tomatillo-cilantro purée, which was a definite crowd pleaser.
A few pastry chefs were also on hand, including Jennifer McCoy of Craft, whose olive oil cake with raspberry-lavender jam was the perfect ending to the evening, with its lightness and combination of savory and sweet.
As part of The James Beard Foundation’s scholarship fundraising event, three scholarships were awarded to local students, including the Christian Wölffer Scholarship, particularly poignant since the event was once again held at the late Christian Wölffer’s winery in Sagaponak, NY. Next year, the JBF will offer a $5,000 scholarship in Emeril’s name.