Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chefs & Champagne 2012: A Review

It's been a whirlwind weekend for me, friends!

First off, I drove to Central Jersey on Friday for a work training event.  Yeah, I got that 9-5 to think about too. Friday evening, the roommate and I drove up to Poughkeepsie to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday/going-away party.  Since what happened that night will stay within the 4 walls of the The Orient, I will just leave it at that.  The next morning we all had brunch, and then I was on my way to the Hamptons for this year's James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne Event.

My friend Ya-Roo took me and another friend to this event for the first time last year and we had an amazing time.  We had so much fun that we decided to go back again this year!   To sum things up, JBF Chef's & Champagne is an annual tasting event with small plates created by celebrity and well-known chefs.  For the most part, the chefs are all affiliated with restaurants in the NY/Philly area.  This works out well for me, as I spend a lot of time in both locations and thus have the opportunity to visit these restaurants.  Last year and this year, I fell in love with new restaurants that I never would have even known about if not for this event.

Here's a photo collage of my food journey.  I'm hungry again just putting this post together!

Beautiful sky on the way out to Cooper's Beach in Southampton

Cooper's Beach.  My friends and I stopped there for about an hour before the C&C event.

Beach bummin' it

That was just a teaser.
Now on to the MAIN EVENT!
Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison & The NoMad) - Strawberry Gazpacho with Guanciale and Basil.
This gazpacho was cool and sweet, almost like a strawberry daiquiri but really smooth and with the added flavors of fresh basil and bacon!

Christopher Lee (Huntington Social) - Steamed Mussels in a Coconut-Curry Broth.
So yeah, this was one of my favorite tastes of the night.  I could drink that broth as-is.
PS - Chef Lee is opening a new restaurant in the Philadelphia area!  Since this is somewhat near to where I work, so I will be visiting in the near future!

Cesare Casella (Salumeria Rosi Parmacotta) - Spiedini de Mortadella 
Parmacotta al Balsamico di Famiglia
The name is a mouthful.  But this was the best sandwich of the night.  OK, it was the only sandwich I had that night, but it had fresh ingredients alongside melted cheese.  I'll take another please.

Jeremy McMillan (The Bedford Post Inn) - Puglian Mozzarella with 
Charcoal-Grilled Tomatoes, Nigella, and Fresh Pollen
This is essentially a very well-done tomato and burrata salad.  I should have taken all of those plates.

Aliya LeeKong (Junoon) - Spiced Crab Salad with Smoky Curry Leaf–Corn 
Pudding & Cucumber–Mint Lassi
I only got a picture of the Cucumber-Mint Lassis.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  However, in all fairness, I'm not a huge fan of cucumber flavors in beverages, so I still think you should give it a shot.  I really liked the edible flower sitting on top of the lassi.  Pretty things.

Seamus Mullen (Tertulia) - Grilled Octopus with Summer Squash, Sun Gold Tomatoes, 
and Olive Vinaigrette
Truth: I didn't have this.  My friend did.  She liked it.  Octopus is not for me, but I posted this picture since I figure at least one of my 5 readers might be interested in this.  And I think it's pretty.

Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming (The North Fork Table & Inn) - Zucchini Rolls with Summer Vegetables, Tomato Emulsion, and Goat Cheese "Egg"
I had a love-hate relationship with this amuse bouche.  It was a bit difficult to eat because it was too large for one bite.  And since we were walking around instead of sitting at a table, I couldn't really cut it in half.  I am also not a fan of emulsion, as it always feels like the foam on top of a beer to me.  In spite of this, I just love zucchini and goat cheese, so I still enjoyed this taste.

After all this excellent food, we finally indulged in a glass of champagne.  Brut Rose, baby!

I also got to hobnob with some famous celebrities such as Ted Allen, Marcus Samuelsson, Aaron Sanchez, and Alex Guarnaschelli.  By "hobnob", I mean this is the closest that I got to any of them.  Sorry for the blur. I tried to get closer to get a better pic but it was a fail.  I blame the Brut Rose.

Time for dessert...

Marc Aumont (The Modern) - Champagne Pate de Fruits
Oh, my word.  I wish I could take all of these Champagne candies and stuff them in my face.  It would be poor form.  It's the only thing that stopped me.  I grabbed a second one just to make sure the first candy was really as delicious as it seemed.

Marc Aumont (The Modern) - Carmelia Milk Chocolate Trifle with Coconut Tapioca
and Mango Gelee
Wow.  I didn't think Marc could do it again.  He made a second dessert that was just as good as the first one! (See above)  I need this trifle in my life on a regular basis.  This deserves a second "wow".  Wow.

Meredith Tomason (Craft) - Tarte Tropezienne with Strawberries and Sicilian Pistachios
I think it's a little unfair for me to judge this since I had just had the most amazing desserts of my life from Marc Aumont.  I'm not typically a huge fan of fruit and shortcake, so while I wasn't bowled over by this, it was still a pleasant dessert.

Ohhhh, so THAT'S where I left my Mercedes.  Silly me.

There were pallets of basil stashed around the tent.  I want this in my apartment...in the 1,000 sq ft Hoboken apartment that I share with my roommate and a cat...

As a compromise, I took home a few of the individual basil plants.  They weren't actually planted in soil.  They were planted in tissues, so I don't know how long they will last.  They're still going strong on Day 3!

My friends and I stayed for the after-party as well, where the chefs get to relax after a long afternoon and evening.  I only got one dark, blurry pic.  Not because I was drunk (I actually had only two and a half glasses of champagne during the entire event) but because I was too busy eating the excellent mini fish tacos at the buffet.  They are perched on limes and figs in the picture above.  Some random man is stealing my tacos. Grrrr...

Us being fabulous at the after-party :)  This means that we were drinking out of fancy little 1/4 champagne bottles and trying to hunt down the Godiva chocolate guys.  I ate too many chocolates that night but they kept handing them out so really it wasn't my fault.

Overall, this night was a great treat.  My friends and I caught up on each others' lives, we stuffed ourselves with food, and then trekked back to NYC late that night.  Aaaand, this totally justified me sleeping in until 11am the next morning.  Chocolate hangovers can throw good intentions out the window.

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